Every fall I am reminded of the time that I loaded my small car with most of my worldly possessions and headed west to Seminary. There were a few other students there from Southern Ontario. Once in a while at supper we would sit together and talk about home. Some of us were very homesick. Right before Christmas there was quite a lightening of mood among us and we began to talk excitedly about going home for Christmas. Some were planning marathon road trips. If you had four people who could drive all night the trip took less than 24 hours. Others excitedly got plane tickets to Toronto. The day before we left when exams were done was a joyous time for us. My Brother-in-law went to Briercrest and told us about a tradition where, 24 hours before the holiday was to start, someone would yell out in the dorm – “Only 24 hours until Christmas!” This happened every hour – no matter whether it was the middle of the day or the middle of the night. The next year, he hoped that it was all forgotten about. However, at midnight that night he heard the door to his hallway creak open and someone yell, “Only 24 hours until Christmas!”
The thought of going home brought us students much joy. I felt bad for the few who could not go home or, quite frankly, had no home to go to. One of my friends was estranged from his family and spent the entire holiday in the dorm.
All the time I lived out west I could not forget home and I found homesickness to be a sweet sorrow. It was good to remember home. In our passage, Paul is encouraging us to remember our home. He is not encouraging us to remember any earthly home we might have. He is encouraging us to remember that we have a Heavenly home.
I find it easy to forget that I have a home in Heaven. There are many reasons for that. One is that I get so caught up in my business down here. It is easy to forget eternity in the busyness of day to day living. The second reason is that I have difficulty getting the reality of Heaven cemented in my mind. Maybe you have the same problem. We’ve never been to Heaven. We have not seen its rewards and glories. The popular conception of Heaven as a place where we float around all day strumming harps doesn’t help us look forward to Heaven. In many cartoons of Heaven the characters are bored and uninteresting. That’s not what the Bible teaches about Heaven. The common idea of Heaven is actually a satanic lie. In the book of Revelation we read that the Satanic empowered beast does this:
6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven (Revelation 13).
And so Satan slanders Heaven to make it look like a place we really don’t want to go. He slanders Heaven so that we are not motivated to live for it. He blinds us to how wonderful it really is so that we do not fully commit our lives to gaining it. In so doing, he blinds us to a reality that would give us great joy.
And in our Scripture reading, Paul seeks to remind us of the joy of the reality of our heavenly citizenship. Do you want your eyes opened to this reality? I do. I do because I know that if I get the reality of Heaven deep down into my soul that my life will change for the better. I know that if I get a firm grasp of the glories of Heaven that I will become more joyful in the present.
I. I know that if I were to fully comprehend my Heavenly citizenship that I would be more inclined to want to obey Paul’s first command that we find in our Scripture reading:
17 ¶ Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
A. He is urging his readers to a life of obedience by following his example.
We underestimate the power of example.
We underestimate the power of a good example.
We underestimate the power of a bad example too.
I once heard a visiting speaker talk about how many children are given a steady diet of roast church for Sunday dinner. They listen to their parents complain about church. The parents then wonder why their children don’t want anything to do with church. Look at the example.
We must realize that more is caught than taught, especially in matters of faith.
One thing we have to realize as well is that if we wish to be an example to others, we should present not only a good example but an APPEALING example.
A person can be an upright and moral follower of Jesus, and yet be gruff, and judgmental and joyless and generally someone others don’t want to imitate. We are called to be APPEALING examples.
II. Why is it so important both to be and to follow good examples?
18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
A. The simple answer is that people so desperately need good examples of Christ followers.
Philiippians is a book about joy, but here is one place in the book where Paul is in tears. The fate and the state of people without Jesus Christ bring him to tears here. When he describes them, he is not being judgmental. He is simply giving us some sad realities of a world without Jesus Christ and why the world needs to see people who pattern their lives after Jesus Chris.
Their destiny is destruction –in other words, people without Christ have no hope.
We don’t like to talk much about hell and eternal punishment. The Bible teaches that it is real and that it is something to be avoided.
But in Christ there is hope. Let me read to you a story from Charles Swindoll.
I shall never forget one such letter from a young woman who had reached the absolute end of her rope. She had checked into a motel, planning to take her life. Throughout the night she sat on the side of the bed and mentally rehearsed her miserable existence. She had endured numerous failed relationships with men and had had several abortions. She was empty, angry, and could see no reason to go on. Finally, just before dawn, she reached in her purse and pulled out a loaded pistol. Trembling, she stuck it in her mouth and closed her eyes. Suddenly the clock radio snapped on ... and the musical them of “Insight for Living” filled the room. The uplifting sounds startled her. ... She heard my voice and found herself strangely attracted to the message of new hope and authentic joy that she had never heard in her entire life. Before the thirty minute broadcast was over, she gave her life to Jesus Christ. When she contacted us to tell what had happened, she said she could still taste the cold steel from the gun barrel she had pulled from her mouth.
There is a way to destruction – a very broad and easy way. The terrible, sad truth is that many people are taking it. The terrible sad truth is that not everyone will find eternal life. The terrible, sad truth is that there are some people whose destiny is destruction.
This lady found hope and didn’t become one of them. You don’t either. That’s why Jesus came and died on the cross – to take the punishment of sin and to give us the hope of eternal life.
Their god is their stomach.
Paul is not just referring to gluttony here although gluttony certainly is included. It is even more than a desire for sensual pleasure – although that is included as well. When we make our stomach our god we are letting ourselves be driven by our own appetites, desires and needs that come from the core of our self.
Larry Crabb, a noted Christian Counsellor, talks about how every human personality has a “hollow core.” - a void, an empty space that longs to be filled. This “hollow core” can become a monstrous power that relentlessly controls the core direction of our lives.
I am not saying that this “hollow core” doesn’t long for legitimate things. It longs for things like security and significance. It longs for things like love, and peace and happiness and respect. We go off track when we make gods out of them. We go off track and make our stomach our idol when we refuse to trust God to meet those needs and we let that hollow core control the direction of our lives. We go off track when we seek to meet legitimate needs in an illegitimate way. When that happens, we usually pursue sinful things in an attempt to fill that hollow core.
The good news is that Jesus promises this:
37 ¶ On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7)
Here, Jesus promised that if we trust him, he will not only slake the thirsts of our hollow core, but he will fill it with His Holy Spirit so that we will be able to minister to the needs of others.
And so we have a choice. We can trust Jesus Christ to fill our innermost needs or we can let those innermost needs be the driving force of our lives.
Their glory is in their shame.
Facebook is an interesting thing. It allows us to share things about our lives much more easily than before. Because of Facebook I have seen pictures of friends’ new babies only hours after they were born instead of the weeks or months it used to take. I have been able to see wedding pictures of weddings I was not able to attend. I am able to see pictures of my friends’ proud moments.
Why is it that some people choose to post pictures of them doing things that they would have kept secret only 20 years ago? Why do people post pictures of themselves getting drunk or doing drugs? Why do they post pictures of themselves in very little clothing or in obviously sexual situations? Why do they share vulgar pictures and videos or fill their updates with foul and abusive language? Their glory is in their shame.
Some people wonder why Debra and I don’t have cable T.V. One reason is that so much for passes as entertainment these days is full of sexual innuendo, biting insults that pass for wit and sordid storylines that pass for drama. Thirty years ago do you think that the networks would have gotten away with “Sex in the City” as the title of a show? Our airwaves are filled with images of people whose glory is in their shame.
People brag about how much they drink. Some men brag about how many women they have bedded.
Isaiah talked about this when wrote:
0 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, (Isaiah 5)
Their mind is on earthly things.
Some people indulge in shameful behaviour because they think that this is all there is. They are not thinking outside the box. Their imagination does not stretch beyond space and time to supernatural realities.
In a way, we can sympathize. This world is not such a great place. Life is short. If this is all there is, why not try to get all the pleasure you can out of life? Life is uncertain, eat dessert first! Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. He who dies with the most toys wins.
This is what life is if you choose to be an enemy of the cross of Christ. It is not very pretty. It grieved Paul. It should grieve us.
And that’s why Paul encourages Christians to be examples to the world. Christians need to show people that they don’t have to live that way. They don’t have to live without hope. They don’t have to be driven by their internal desires. They can find glory in truly glorious things. They can find meaning to life because this world is not all that there is. There is a better country – Heaven.
III. Jesus Christ bought us a different kind of life and we can be citizens of that better country.
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
1 ¶ Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
A. It is trite to say this, but to the follower of Jesus Christ this world is not our permanent home. We have a different citizenship. We belong to another country - Heaven.
Someone has said that while in Rome, do what the Romans do.
To some extent, I agree. And yet, there are some places that, if I were to visit them, I would sooner live like a Canadian in them because there are aspects to their culture that I just can’t agree with. If I were forced to live in India, I think I would rather treat a member of the untouchable class as an equal rather than as the lowest of the low. I would rather see cows as useful animals rather than as sacred. Our Canadian Culture is not perfect, but there are aspects of it I would not want to give up if I lived elsewhere. I am a citizen of Canada and I want to live like one.
Folks, we are citizens of Heaven, and Paul is admonishing us to live like it. He is telling us to think outside the box of this world and of time and space. He is telling us to live like there is more than just this world.
He is telling us to look forward to Heaven and to live like citizens of Heaven and to fix our eyes on the unseen realities of the eternal.
Jesus said that we are in the world and not of it. Peter tells us to live our lives as strangers here with reverent fear.
And there is joy in this heavenly citizenship.
We look forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the transformation of our bodies.
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul says this:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
We do not belong to this world that is temporary and passing away. When we die, we won’t lose everything. We look forward to eternal treasures and eternal pleasures at the right hand of God. That is a joyful thought, isn’t it?
As a follower of Jesus Christ, keeping the fact of our heavenly home foremost on your minds will not only be a source of joy but a source of great motivation. Specifically, it will be a great source of motivation to live according to your calling. Paul calls you here to both follow and live as an example to others. By living as followers of Jesus Christ, you can show the people around you that there is hope. You can show the people around you that they don’t need to let their appetites drive them but rather that they have a loving God who has a much better way of filling their deeply felt needs. You can show people that there is a much greater glory to live for than glorying in shameful things. You can show that this world is not all that there is but that there is a heavenly country waiting. You can show the world this joyful news.
This is a message that the world needs to hear but the world also needs to see! We might not all be able to preach the Word, but we can all live the Word. We are much more likely to live this message, if we keep the reality of Heaven before our eyes and firmly fixed in our hearts and minds.
C. 2012 by Rev. Steven Brown. You are free to use portions of this message but please do not pass this off as your own.