June 7, 2015
Why is it that things captivate us for a relatively short time? Think about it. Sometimes we are captivated by something until we outgrow it. A child might be captivated by a small basketball hoop with a child sized basketball, but it won’t be long before they want a regulation sized basketball and hoop. They outgrew the child version.
Sometimes we are no longer captivated by something because we figure it out. Rubik’s cube will captivate for a good long while until you know how to do it. Then it sits on the shelf. As young adults we may find ourselves staring at the picture of our boyfriend or girlfriend, but once we marry the person the pictures are put away and eventually the captivating thrill gives way to a settled love that at times can seem a bit boring.
As Christians we are captivated by Jesus. Is that true or not true? Or perhaps what is more likely is that when we first understand the good news about Jesus and turn to Jesus to be saved from our sins, we are excited and captivated by Jesus. But as time goes on it is so easy to lose that first love for Christ. In Philippians it is clear that Paul’s life was captivated by Christ. Jesus Christ had taken hold of Paul and Paul never let go. Are we captivated by Christ? O that Christ would fully captivate our lives.
I. REJOICE IN THE VALUE OF KNOWING CHRIST. 3:17
Over the 56 years that I have been a Christian, I have found that there are seasons in which the Christian Faith can look and feel more like a burden than a blessing. And while there may be any number of reasons for this, a basic reason for why the Christian life can feel like a burden is because we lose the value and joy of knowing Christ.
For example, it is very easy to get into a performance mentality when it comes to living the Christian life. If a congregation is legalistic, the Christian life is reduced to following a list of burdensome rules. After all, in 1Jn.2:5-6 we read, “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he [Jesus] walked.” Who can do that? To be like Jesus means we must die to ourselves and this can seem like a burden.
And not only are we to become like Jesus in our character and conduct, but we are reminded that as we follow Jesus we may experience suffering. Jesus tells us that if the world hates us, we are to keep in mind that the world hated him. And in 1Pt.2:21, it says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” And in Philippians we see that the believers in Philippi were experiencing persecution for their faith in Christ. There’s no two ways about it, when we follow Christ we should expect to be treated as he was treated. Suffering for Christ is a burden.
But that is not the sum of our life in Christ. Paul tells us in Col.1:14 that in Christ we have the forgiveness of sins. And he tells us in Phil.3:9 that Christians are those who through faith in Christ have received a righteousness that is from God. Well, how cool is that! Being in a relationship with God in his kingdom is not based upon my performance. Yes I put forth every effort to walk as Jesus walked, but my standing in the kingdom of God is based upon trusting in Christ.
And in Phil.3:10 Paul tells us that we have received resurrection power through our faith in Christ. We are empowered to follow in the steps of Jesus, becoming like him in his life, and even in his death. So even though we are called to become like Jesus in life and death, through faith in Christ we have divine enablement as God is working in us to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Or consider that the Christian life does not only promise eternal life in heaven when we die, but in Christ we are already living resurrection life. We are already in the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus says us in Jn.11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” We are already living forever.
And then let me just add Rm.14:17, where we read, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” I don’t know of any other religion that offers this kind of life? Do you?
So in v.17 Paul says, “Join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Because the Christian life is challenging and even burdensome, as we live our life in relationship with Jesus, it is helpful to learn from the example of other believers who, like Paul, are walking in the way of Christ. And in Philippians we know that the way of Christ is the way of faith, obedience, humility, love, and selfless service to others.
Nobody is perfect. Paul was not perfect, but Paul followed Christ. For Paul, to live was Christ.” Men and women, one of the purposes of the church is to encourage each other to follow Christ. In Heb.3:13 we read, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The word, “exhort” means to come along side, to encourage one another. We need to remind one another of the wonderful value and worth of knowing Christ so that we may all stand firm in the faith, walking worthy of the gospel of Christ, who captivates our lives.
II. REJECT THE TEMPTING ALLURE OF THIS WORLD. 3:18-19
In v.18-19 Paul refers to many people who do not walk according to the example seen in Paul. Rather they walk as enemies of the cross. We don’t know exactly who these people are. It is suggested that they may be traveling teachers who have made a profession of faith in Christ, but who, in their actual living do not walk in obedience to Christ. No matter how much a person may claim to be a follower of Christ, if they do not walk in the way of Christ, which is the way of faith, humility, obedience, love and self-denial, that person is an enemy of the cross whose end is destruction.
Notice how these people are described. “Their god is their belly.” They live to satisfy their desires and appetites. This is the way of selfish ambition and conceit. It is the way of sensuality, living for pleasure.
Paul says they glory in their shame. In other words, the things that should bring them shame are the things they boast about and find joy in.
Do not misunderstand what Paul is saying. Paul was not someone who was anti body. He did not think the body is evil. But when we live to gratify the body and indulge our desires we make the body into our god.
Do you remember the story of the rich man in Lk.12? The man was very rich and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ’I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” The only problem was that this man laid up treasure only for himself. He thought nothing about God. There are professing believers who are Christians in name only. They do not follow the way of the cross of Christ that Paul describes in Phil.2.
Paul also says that these folks have their minds set on earthly things. That is a good summary of the kind of person he is talking about. In 1Jn.2:15-16 we read, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life–is not from the Father but is from the world.”
Paul is describing a worldly mindset. It is an approach to living life. We live life in view of all that this world has to offer. It is essentially living life apart from God.
If the world and all that if offers were unattractive there would be no problem. But the world is very attractive. For one thing it is tangible and we live in it. We can see it, taste it, feel it, and own it. Until we come to know Christ, the world and the people in it are our primary conscious source of life. We are born as citizens of the world. However, it’s beauty and allure is only skin deep. Not only that. When our hearts and minds are captivated by the world, it is not long before desire spins out of control. We are never quite satisfied. Why? It is because we were not designed to be satisfied only by the things of the world. We were designed to be satisfied in knowing and loving God. It is only when we know God and seek first his kingdom that the world can take its proper place in our lives.
When I was young and we attended a somewhat legalistic church, it seemed that we were pretty good at pointing out worldliness in the lives of others. Women who wore pants to church or too much make-up were worldly. Men who flashed their wealth around were worldly. Anyone who went to movies or who danced were worldly. Things have changed. We don’t judge each other by those kinds of standards anymore. So how does a person know if he or she is worldly minded?
Well, it involves self-evaluation. What is it that has a grip on your heart and mind? What is it that opens an easy pathway into temptation and sin? Is there anything that is more important to you than knowing Christ and being faithful to him? These questions must be answered prayerfully and carefully. And if you find that there is a worldly way in you then you must forsake it, and let your heart be captivated by Christ.
III. SET YOUR HEART ON THE COMING OF CHRIST. 3:20-21
In v.20 Paul writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” When we first began these messages out of Philippians it was pointed out that Philippi became a Roman colony. As a colony of Rome, everyone who lived in Philippi became citizens of Rome with all of the privileges of citizenship. As citizens it was expected that at public events, incense was burned in honor of Caesar and Caesar would be worshiped as Lord and Savior. Of course Christians could not do this because we worship the only true Savior, Jesus Christ. This may be the reason believers in Philippi were being persecuted.
In this verse Paul makes it clear that Christians hold their primary citizenship in heaven, in the kingdom of God.
Go into any city and you will find ethnic neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods are predominantly Polish or Mexican or Chinese or other ethnicities. Those neighborhoods have the flavor of that particular ethnic group. The language that is spoken is different and the restaurants that line the streets have ethnic foods. Different holidays might be observed and common holidays like Christmas or Easter might be observed differently. These neighborhoods are like little colonies of these various countries.
Well, one might say that the church represents a little colony of heaven on earth. Just as citizens of Poland or Greece have their own ways of looking at things, so those of us who are citizens of heaven have godly ways of looking at things. Our primary allegiance is to Jesus Christ our Savior and King and this shapes how we live in this world.
As citizens of heaven living on earth, our goal is to live in such a way that others see how wonderful it is to live life in the kingdom of God. We want others to see that life with Christ is the best possible life one could ever live. So we seek to be like Jesus and do good, and speak about Jesus and sometimes it will involve the humiliation of suffering for Jesus.
Of course we have always lived in this world. This world is our first home. But since coming to know Christ, our citizenship has been transferred into the kingdom of God. Now the kingdom of God has become our home of choice. Now we are living as aliens and strangers in this world, and we are eagerly waiting for Jesus Christ to return. He is our Savior who will take us to be with himself. And not only will we be with him, but he is going to transform our bodies so that they are like his resurrection body.
Paul was completely captivated by Christ. Once he met Christ he was never the same. He longed to be with the Lord. Do you long to be with the Lord? Are you eagerly waiting for the coming of the Lord? Few of us will ever have a vision of Jesus like Paul had. But as we fill our heart and mind with Jesus by reading the New Testament and as we call upon God in prayer, our hearts and minds will be more and more filled with Jesus.
This morning we will be observing the Lord’s Supper in small groups around the sanctuary. The number on the back of your bulletin will tell you which group you are in. When you get into your group here is what I would like us to do. First as a group introduce yourselves to each other. And then, whoever is comfortable speaking, share how long you have known Christ and a reason why you value knowing Christ. After a few minutes pass the tray around and someone in the group can give thanks for the bread and the cup. Whoever takes this upon themselves remind the group that the bread represents the body of Christ and the cup represents the blood of Christ and then invite everyone to eat the bread and drink the cup. Let us rejoice in the Lord together as we share in the Lord’s Table. Amen.