Here’s a brief summary of what we discussed this week in our Bible study on Philippians 3:15 – 4:1.
What dangers did Paul warn the Philippians to watch out for?
Paul reminded the church in Philippi that everyone was at a different level of maturity. Those who were farther along in their faith-walk had some responsibility to be patient with young believers. He pointed out that there may be differences of opinion on some matters, yet Paul trusted that God would deal with his people. Paul didn’t have to correct everybody all the time on every topic. Maturity takes time and we shouldn’t expect babies to eat a steak.
What was Paul’s bold command? “Follow my example.” (v. 17)
It’s important to note the context of that statement. “Join with others…” Maturity comes in the context of community, among brothers and sisters in Christ. Being a part of a body of believers is crucial if we want to grow up. In fact, if we are not regularly attending a Bible-preaching church or consistently meeting with other believers over the Word, then we are out of God’s will.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says it this way: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” I like that. It wasn’t uncommon for Rabbis in this time period to call disciples to follow them. Even Jesus called his 12 disciples by saying, “Follow me.” To be called by a Rabbi was a great honor. Disciples were under the instruction of the Rabbi, but also lived with their teacher so they could learn his habits, his character, his routines, his prayer life — everything. In the same way, we are to “take note” of people who are pressing on, not in perfection, but in passionate pursuit of Jesus.
We have a dear lady who comes to Bible study — she is 88 years old and has been walking with Jesus for 70 years. And she’s still learning and growing in her faith. She’s an example for the younger women to follow. What a gift!
In the midst of Paul’s joyful letter, he reveals what brings him to tears. “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (v. 18) There have always been enemies of the cross and we shouldn’t be surprised when we face opposition. Who are these enemies of the cross? It could be forces outside of the church that hate what the cross represents, which is — the demonstration of God’s love and power. It could also be people inside the church who depend on legalistic righteousness to earn them salvation based on works. They dishonor the cross and Christ’s sacrifice by saying that what Jesus accomplished on the cross was not enough.
Perhaps Paul’s tears were because he foresaw the coming destruction of lives that stood in opposition to God. He described them as people who were driven by their appetites, doing what they want, when they want, how they want — doing whatever feels good or whatever satisfies temporarily — wrapped up in worldly things.
What makes us citizens of heaven? Our allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom.
Do you know what it takes to become a citizen of the USA? It’s a long process. You have to get a green card, live in the country for 5 years, meet a list of requirements, fill out applications, submit fingerprints, pass tests, pay $640, attend interviews and finally, swear the Oath of Allegiance.
Or get born.
I hope you catch the analogy. Becoming a citizen of heaven is not based on a checklist or passing tests. We are born into the Kingdom — or, rather, reborn, when we give Him Lordship over our lives. We belong to Him, so that makes us aliens, exiles, strangers here on earth. The Philippians would understand this because Philippi was a Roman colony, even though it was hundreds of miles from Rome. In a Roman colony, people dressed like Romans, ate like Romans, talked like Romans, governed like Romans. It was a little piece of Rome in a distant land and the citizens continued to live under the control of and in the spirit of their home country.
Likewise, the church is an outpost of heaven here on earth, and we wait eagerly for our King to call us home. Home will be magnificent. I can’t wait to trade in my lowly body for a glorious one! Thoughts of our future in a renewed heaven and earth should help us stand firm in the Lord! (For a beautiful picture of what’s ahead for believers, I encourage you to listen to the podcast “A Conversation with John Eldredge”, episode “All Things New, part 3”, aired on October 2, 2017)
Blessings on the study of His Word!
(We will take next week off for Thanksgiving and return the following week. Happy Thanksgiving!)