Sermon: Running Hard After Christ Part 2 (Philippians 3:17-4:1)

Running Hard After Christ (Part 2)

Philip. 3:17-4:1 (ESV)

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  [19] Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  [20] But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  [21] who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

[4:1] Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Last week we learned Paul’s secret to living a consistent Christian life regardless of his circumstances.  His secret was to forget what lies behind and press forward toward the finish line of knowing Christ.  His passion and relentless pursuit of Christ motivated his life.  This week he gives us another important piece of the puzzle.  He shows us in this section of Scripture that running hard after Christ and walking in faith go hand in hand.  Our Christian life is a reflection of Christ living in us.

His first point is the call to imitation…

1. Imitate Real Believers (3:17)

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

There is a pattern for Christian living that the Apostle wants others to discover and then imitate.  This pattern includes selfless sacrifice, not seeking our own interests, caring for others more than caring for ourselves and running hard after Christ.

In light of the next verse it’s important to see here that the Apostle wants us to beware of some people who merely claim to be Christians.  We must understand that not everyone claiming to be a Christian really is one.  The doctrine of perseverance tells us that all true believers will remain to the end, not everyone who claims to be.  It is very likely that many people who think they’re saved really are not.

So Paul comes to us with an appeal to not imitate one who merely claims to be but imitate a person who really is a Christian.  That’s why he writes that we are to… keep our eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Find someone who is the real deal and hang out with them.  Spend time together and observe how they live.  Ask them questions concerning spiritual matters.  Do what they do.  Often new believers especially need an older wiser more mature Christian to learn from.  You need to be careful who it is that you choose.

I remember when I first became a Christian I had a lot of questions.  Our church at the time was without a pastor and the leadership was really weak.  So when I asked questions and looked for someone to imitate I came up empty.  I remember asking one of the leaders of the church about elders.  I had been reading in the Bible a lot and ran across this word over and over again.  So, I asked why our church didn’t have elders.  He told me that they were the same thing as deacons and our church has deacons.  That’s what I thought for a while.  But then I read the Pastoral Epistles and learned that they were, in fact, not the same thing.  The person I chose to imitate led me away from a proper understanding of Scripture so I had to choose another.

It’s also vital that we imitate our Lord and Savior.  Paul has already told us

Philip. 2:5-8 (ESV)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form,  [8] he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Look to godly examples, those people who are living out their faith not those who merely confess with their lips.  Those who only confess must be avoided.

2. Beware of False Converts (3:18-19)

[18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  [19] Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

There was a group of false converts who troubled the Philippian saints.  This group wished to be regarded as Christians but their lives did not line up with their confession.  In other words, they made certain claims to true Christianity but were teaching lies and not living for Christ but they lived for themselves.

There is a great gulf between God’s people and Satan’s people.  Paul brings this out in this text.  Satan’s people are enemies of the cross of Christ because they serve a different god.

These evil false converts served themselves.  In other words, what they were all about was promoting self.  They were not about serving others and promoting Christ.  These people loved the world and all it could offer.  They loved making money and spending it for their own gratification.  I’m sure they were not part of the group who had taken up a collection to help fund Paul’s missionary efforts because these folks would only spend money on themselves.  They were Judases.  They could always find a better use for the money than spending it on the things of the Lord.

John 12:1-6 (ESV)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  [2] So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table.  [3] Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  [4] But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said,  [5] “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  [6] He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Like Judas, these people sounded good and could make a compelling argument to prove their point; however, in the end they were full of themselves and destructive to God’s people.  They were thieves and would steal any thing to advance their own agenda.  They steal the true meaning of God’s Word and pervert it to say what they wish it to say.

You may have run into someone like this?  They sound good on the surface but all you need to do is look below the surface.  Is their Christianity 24/7 or just while attending worship?  Do they talk and argue for their agenda or do they truly care for God’s people?  What do they spend their money on?  These are all indicators that show whether our hearts are for Christ and His flock or for ourselves.

The Apostle very clearly calls these folks enemies of the cross.

I would rather have a church full of sound believers and out right pagans than a church full of self-seeking fakes.

Self-indulgence marks those who follow Satan and self-sacrificing marks those who follow Christ.  Satan is only out for himself and so are his followers while Christ seeks the good of others and so do those who follow Him.

Luke 9:23 (ESV)

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Would you come after Christ?  Would you deny yourself?  Would you take up your cross daily?  Would you follow Christ?

Those people who proved to be only professing Christians rather than actual Christians broke Paul’s heart.

[18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

These men and women were marked by caring more for earthly things than for Christ.  Their god was self and their works were to please their god.

Next, he contrasts true believers, those saved by grace through faith and manifesting salvation as devotion to Christ by declaring…

3.  Our Home is Heaven (3:20-21)

[20] But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  [21] who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.   [4:1] Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Those who walk as enemies of the cross are more concerned with earthly things because their home is this world…for now.  The believer’s home is not this earth and its pleasures but heaven and its pleasures.  True believers must not get too comfortable in this life.  We must not think that this world is to be heaven.  It’s not comfortable or satisfying.  Those things will be met when we enter into eternal life. 

The more we as believers realize these things the less we’ll be attached to this world.  In heaven an inheritance awaits us…

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  [4] to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  [5] who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  [6] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  [8] Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,  [9] obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Do you see how what Peter writes coincides with Paul?  Peter tells us that we have an imperishable inheritance waiting for us, but it’s not here, it’s in heaven.  We rejoice in our salvation which isn’t fully given yet because we’re not in heaven yet.  We rejoice through various trials because we know that these earthly trials will in no way affect our standing with Christ or our eternal inheritance.

This is the attitude of a true mature believer.  This attitude is possible as we realize our citizenship is in heaven.

Not only are we standing firm as we await our inheritance as Peter writes, but, as Paul tells us here, we stand firm awaiting our Savior to appear.  We must remember that we will someday see Jesus.  I’m not sure what he’ll look like.  He will no doubt look like what John saw at the beginning of the Book of Revelation.  We will see Jesus Christ.

So often, I believe, we can drift into theological theory instead of theological worship and adoration.  As we learn more and more about Christ we must become better worshippers not simply fill our heads with facts.

What is going to happen when we meet Christ who will come from heaven?

[21] who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Everything in the universe is now subject to the authority of Jesus Christ.  God the Father has granted God the Son all authority.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This authority is power to accomplish anything He desires to accomplish.  When Christ appears all of the heavenly citizens will be changed.  We must be given new bodies that can withstand the glories of heaven.  Jesus Christ has the power to transform all believers.

On the basis that all this is true, Paul tells us to Stand Firm…

[4:1] Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

When I read in the Bible these words, stand firm, I often think of the reporter on the Weather Channel as he tells about the hurricane.  He’s trying his best to stand firm in the midst of 100 plus mph winds.

That’s how we are to be as we endue trials of this life.  At times we’ll need to zip up our raincoats and lean into the wind and endure.  These Philippian believers found themselves in a storm of false teaching and a storm of Roman aggression.  Paul told them that Jesus is the finish line.  Heaven is our real home.  Jesus is the Savior we wait for.  Stand firm.

I pray we will also apply Paul’s words to our lives as well.  Stand firm!

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