But our citizenship in heaven has already begun. From where we eagerly await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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.
‘Do what I say not what I do’ A phrase that most of us will have heard or maybe said ourselves. Of course, it means that what I say is true even if I fail to do it myself. But Paul writes something different, he says to do what he does and what he says, probably not something that most of us would be confident to say.
Paul elsewhere writes that he copies the way Jesus showed him and so in imitating Paul we imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). What we do and the way we do it are important, people see it and it affects them, ridicule or honour even imitation, especially with kids. We hear from James, “I will show you my faith by my works” (2:18). The way you live shows people what you care about and what is important to you. Of course speaking is part of that, so don’t be scared to tell others about the help, grace and wonders Our heavenly Father has shown you in your life.
But here in this passage Paul puts up two ways of living, or walking, of going through the motions of life. He first mentions the way he follows and is calling the Philippians, and through the Holy Spirit you too, to imitate, but then goes on the explain the other way. Those who walk as enemies of the crucifixion of Christ. In context he’s probably writing of those who demanded that Christians act according to the old Jewish ways, diminishing the glory and wonder of Jesus’ death on that cross and so may look to themselves rather than God Almighty. Nevertheless, it’s clear from the description and our lives that this way is still followed today. The way that ends in destruction, the people whose god is their belly, who revel in shameful things, whose minds are set on this life, earthly things, and not on Jesus.
That their end is destruction is easily understood, they reject Jesus as their saviour and so reject salvation and life. But the god of the belly is a bit different, we don’t have buildings dedicated to your gut. But in this season of Lent if you’ve given up eating some type of food like me you’ve probably also struggled with that god in your belly, maybe even caved in to it, but this god of the belly all humans have is more than just relying on bread alone. It’s seeking to gratify all your desires, to chase after, yes food, also drink, healthiness, strength, intelligence, sex, wealth, power all these desires that you and I have and with which we are tempted away from God to ourselves, like Jesus, by Satan. But then to be proud of falling to these temptations, is to glory in shame. These desires are all for this world, not for the one to come; they are all for our earthly benefit and pride, but reject our relationship with the one who created it. To chase these is to store up treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves come and steal, to set our minds on earthly things (Matthew 6:19).
Now we can think about people who attack the church from outside and look at how they fit this description, but Paul is writing to Christians. Paul weeps because these people, these enemies of the cross, were part of the church, but then began walking away from the Faith. And so, yes be wary and concerned for each other, how we maybe living; but also examine yourself in what your mind focuses on.
By God’s grace stand firm in the Lord this Lenten season. The grace that forgives all your sins, all your guilt and all your failure. For you, like the Philippians before you, are already citizens of Heaven, your home is not Dubbo, not Gilgandra, not Australia, not truly anywhere in this wide world; you belong with Jesus in the New Creation. And you wait, yes, we wait, it’s been such a long time, still we suffer, but even more still we wait eagerly; eager for the saviour of all to come, The Lord Jesus Christ, who has authority over everything, in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). And with that authority, by His power, He will transform our bodies, weak, mortal and sinful though we be; to be like His glorified body. It does sound a bit like the gospel of glory or the prosperity gospel, but the difference is that throughout scripture we are told that in the end, at the new creation in Jesus, we will be righteous and glorified in Jesus Christ our Lord. This sure hope of salvation, and freedom from sin, death and the devil is the wonderful good news, and by God’s grace He doesn’t hoard it all at the end of time (John 8:36; Romans 6:22; 8:1-4). Rather He gives us little tastes of what is to come, His forgiveness in the absolution; peace in baptism; joy in Holy communion, and transforming our minds and actions now by our hearing and thinking on His Word, these wonderful gifts given by the Holy Spirit. But even compared to the most amazing and deep experience He has given you, there is so much more to come. So stand firm in the Lord.
In our Christian lives there are just two ways to go, either we look toward Jesus, or we don’t and end up walking away. If you were to imitate my living, it would involve much struggle against the god of my belly, my desires for this world, and many failures, but also feeling shame in my shame and turning back to Jesus who I wait for and who forgives me even a thousand times a day. Even if you and I fall into temptation, our end is not destruction, Jesus does not reject you, He remains faithful to you and forgives you, gives you His peace and joy (2 Timothy 2:13). When we sin, we feel that guilt and shame, our willpower is weak, but this is the lowly body that Jesus will transform to be like Him, your sin does not disqualify you from citizenship in heaven, people can only loose that by rejecting it (Romans 8:38-39; Mark 16:16). So stand firm in the Lord not in this world, don’t forget what He has done and who you are because of Him. We could just concern ourselves with the day-to-day mundane world we live, in danger again and again of falling for that god of the belly; much better rather to remember Jesus, who He is and what He has done for you, what He does for you, who you are in Him and also the end of time when you, me and all our brothers and sisters will live with Him forever.
Pastor Joseph Graham