The Book of Life

The home stretch has arrived.  We embark on the last chapter of Philippians this week and as our first series together I hope you, like me, have marveled at the glorious doctrines of Christ, his church and his glorious return. 

One item of significance for me has been the flavor of eschatology in Philippians. Philippians tends to have an extra measure of direction toward the exalted and returning Christ and our glory in the consummation of all things.  Sometimes it is very prominent such as Paul talking about his eagerness to obtain the resurrection from among the dead and ultimate perfection (3:10-12). Sometimes it is a simple statement such as found in 4:3 that the fellow workers in the gospel are written in the “Book of Life.”

If we were to stop and think about the book of life we might realize why these three little words give such heart-warming encouragement. This book has one author who is God.  He knows every name and if our name is found in his list, it is a permanent ink of sure hope in a glorious future of restoration and perfection. There is a shared prize for all those who are written in the book. If we share a prize for all eternity, certainly we can look past our differences in this temporary world.

God knows who is in his book but in our finite human position we can only guess at the names of those we know by their confession and fruit of faith in Christ. The book of life is the universal church. Have you ever thought about that? The church known as the invisible or universal church is spread throughout the world as those who are pilgrims in this foreign land.  The local church that we are more familiar with is completely visible to us. The universal church is no less the church but we don't see it in front of our face. God has those names in the book of life and they are gathering in their local settings all across the earth. Every regenerate believer is in the book of life and it signifies our eternal salvation and reward in Christ. The book has no fake Christians in it.  It is a book that records only the names and every single name of those who will live in the new heavens and earth.  If your name is there, it will always be there. There is nothing better.  

Sometimes even good things can make us think less of our presence in the book of life. Jesus reminded the 72 witnesses of this when they returned from mission. In Luke 10:20 Jesus reminded them that even though they witnessed manifestation of power in their mission (demons obeying them), physical displays of power should be nothing to them today compared to simply knowing that their names are in the book of life. Jesus makes it very clear that there is no priority even close to whether or not we are written in that book. There is no earthly concern even close to knowing whether or not someone has come to repentance and faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. The gospel is the key to the book of life and that life is eternal. This one priority allows all other difficulties and differences in this world to pale into insignificance.  Just ask Euodia and Syntache (4:1-3).

See you Sunday.

A Priceless Imitation

In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul has just given us an understanding of what Christian maturity entails. It is seen in someone who is very aware that they have not yet arrived at the final state of completion in Christ.  The mature Christian presses on toward the goal and the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul places himself in this category which certainly removes any of our temptation to say that we could be any better. I am no Apostle. 

In verses 17-21 Paul begins by saying that the Philippians should imitate him and take note of any who are like him in the way that they exhibit Christian maturity. Some might think Paul to be a little proud to expect people to imitate him. When we understand the context, we understand that all pride is removed.  We imitate Paul when we pursue Christ with a relentless passion.  Paul doesn’t want worship, he wants to be a human pointer toward worshipping Christ. We are to imitate the way Paul loves Jesus.  Paul uses this same call two times in his first letter to the Corinthians (4:16, 11:1). His request for the church in Corinth to imitate him comes after him already telling them not to follow humans such as himself, Peter, or Apollos, but to only follow Christ.  Only imitate a human who is running after Jesus as his prize. 

Why is imitating a mature Christian such a good thing to do? Because “imitate” is a “do” word. When we see a Christian pouring over the Scriptures, adoring Jesus, loving others, praying without ceasing, enduring suffering, boldly witnessing, dying with dignity, finding satisfaction in Christ, and displaying the fruit of the Spirit, we are compelled to put these things into practice in our own life.  We are not merely called to read that Paul does these things and say, “That’s nice.” We are called to imitate. My father in-law is a man who shows tender grace and gentleness to people.  In him I see a wonderful godly attribute that I recognize in my Savior.  I am attempting to imitate him as he imitates Jesus. This is something that is growing in me and I have by no means arrived, but this man gives me a godly attribute to follow.  I see the way he practices it and the words he uses and how his actions align with what the bible says.  I am thankful for him and God has used him to help me grow in this area as I practice and discipline myself. 

When we are at our best, we are living in the light of Christ and helping each other to grow in being more like Him. Those who do not care to imitate the godly lives of others may also be those who have no desire to call themselves into action in practicing holiness and living out life in our Redeemer. When we do not care to be discipled by another, we are really saying that we have already arrived, there is nothing more anyone else can add to me. Even worse, some of us may even be guilty of desiring to only be a discipler, rather than ever being discipled. Are you one who is always looking for opportunity to disciple others but never seeking to be discipled yourself? This is dangerous. Let me remind us again and again - We Have Not Arrived!  We press on together helping each other in the upward call of God in Christ and we await eagerly the day of His return in passionate activity as we imitate godliness. 

Who are you looking at? What attributes do you see in them that you would like to develop in yourself? How do they show you Christ in action as you read the Scriptures? What are they doing and saying that you can imitate in pleasing Christ? Have you asked them some questions? Have you asked them to help you?

When Paul commends the Thessalonians for imitating him in suffering (1 Thes 1:6), he encourages them in the power of the Holy Spirit also to be an example to the believers in Macedonia (where Philippi is located). Let’s imitate so that we can be one who others can imitate. Imitate me, only in as far as I imitate Christ and pursue Him alone! 

Enjoying Good Things God's Way

This week we consider Christian maturity as we look at Paul’s one-track devotion to living for Christ. 

Paul says, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

As I was looking into this text I started thinking of anything that I need to put behind so to look forward.  It amounts to pretty much everything.  When we hear that, it is all to easy to jump to a wrong conclusion.  Does it mean I need to abolish every activity in my life other than the Christian disciplines of studying the bible and prayer and serving in my church community, etc? No…. But please do those things.  

When we have what Paul calls “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” we have a platform by which to approach every part of our life here on earth.  Of course, we can enjoy many different things in this world.  There are many wonderful and good things that can be enjoyed right here and now.  The mature Christian is one who can enjoy those things without being distracted and diverted by them to take our eyes off Christ.  In fact, the mature Christian is able to consider how we might do and enjoy all things to the glory of God.  Of course, this means saying no to temptation and sin and I am definitely not promoting the engagement of sinful use of pleasures. Even so, many of those pleasure (eg. sex, food, arts) are enjoyed by those who love Christ to the glory of God within the confines of what he has ordained for their use.  

Perhaps you have heard of the word “asceticism.” It is defined as “severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.” (Paul seems to address the issues of asceticism in his letter to the Colossians.) When Paul tells us to forget what is behind, he does not mean for us to abandon living in the world and enjoying the resources and gifts that God has provided for us. It is the way that we enjoy God’s good things that is important.  In 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 Paul says that “we make it our aim to please him, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for the things done in the body according to what we have done whether good or bad.” The mature Christian enjoys all good things to the glory of God to please Christ in all that we do.  That in itself is a lifelong ambition. None of us do this perfectly, but then, none of us have yet arrived in the New Creation. 

What did you do today to make each of your duties glorifying and pleasing to Christ? In each of your activities and enjoyments, what did you do to make it a point of worship? How did they help you to become more like Jesus? How did they help you love God more? This is the one-track mind of the mature Christian.  Perhaps you could just take one thing at a time over the next day or so and consciously ask yourselves these questions before doing or enjoying. 

Stop Kicking Against the Goads!

This week we will be considering the power of the resurrection of Christ in our life.  For the Christian, the resurrection is of vital importance.  Paul makes it very clear in his letter to the Corinthians that if the resurrection did not happen, then everything in the Christian life is in vain.  There is only hope for us in the future if there is indeed a risen Christ. We should also consider, however, that the resurrection is not just something that gives us hope for the future, but it gives us great power in our life today. In a sense, there are two resurrections for the Christian.  We are raised from spiritual death and we will be raised physically on the final day.  Our resurrection is not something that we simply look forward to but we also live a resurrected life right now.  We have already in Christ gone from death to life (romans 6:4).  This is exactly what baptism indicates when believers visibly state that they have been crucified, buried and raised with Jesus.  We have gone from death to life and in baptism we are identifying visibly with all those who have also come to the saving knowledge of Christ through his death, burial and resurrection. We are new creations and belong to a new family.  

Paul had exactly this experience on the road to Damascus.  He was the Jew of Jews and the Hebrew of Hebrews. In his mind, he was an avid defender of the faith and a relentless observer of God’s law. But Paul was dead. He was a lifeless corpse as one who had rejected the resurrected Lord Jesus.  In his condition before Christ he had seen Christians proclaiming Jesus as the one who had vacated his tomb and ascended in triumphant victory over death and sin.  He hated every word of it and was happy to see Stephen lose his life for testifying of such blasphemy. I am sure that Paul was ever frustrated that the so-called dilemma of the empty tomb was never answered. At least not for him and at least not until he met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. 

I don’t know about you, but when I hear or see something that I do not like hearing or seeing, it’s like getting pricked with a sharp object - it stings.  We never go out of our way to stand in a pile of thistles. Hearing about the resurrected Lord was to Paul like being poked with a sharp object.  It was an annoyance to the degree that it must be eradicated.  Yet there is one more aspect to Paul’s annoyance.  He was the one in error. Therefore, every time Paul heard about the resurrection of Christ he was fighting a losing battle.  The sharp pricking objects were not going away and his wounds from them were only hurting more and more all the time.  He was in a spiral of destructive, and self-abusive error. We can all be like this. The longer we build up sin and anger the more it spirals into our own self harm and hopelessness. 

In Acts 26:14, Paul testified before Agrippa about his conversion experience.  He accounts that Jesus called out to him and said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Jesus used a common saying that refers to oxen that kick against the sharp implements that are used to keep them in line. The more the oxen kick against them, the more it will hurt them until they comply. What an absolutely accurate picture of what sin does to us. It reminds me of the verse in Proverbs 13:15, “The way of the transgressor is hard.” It takes a resurrected new life to get out of such a deathly rut. 

That day on the road to Damascus the resurrected Christ raised Saul from the dead and gave him new life.  He got a new name, became a new creation, and had a new vocation as a preacher of the gospel.  This is something that happens to every single Christian.  We encounter the resurrected Lord. We trust in him alone, and we are crucified to this world and risen to new eternal life.  Even so, we all eagerly await the final resurrection when we will see him face to face and be given new bodies and live in perfection in a new creation. 

This has two messages for us.  Christians should live lives of utter gratitude, praise and obedience to the one who gave us life.  Christians should also be people who have utter compassion for a world that is kicking against the goads. We should desire to introduce people to the resurrected Christ. 

Jesus, Our Contentment.

With last week’s passage still resounding in my mind, this week we turn to a passage where we find Paul considering the very best of his former life as absolute rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ (Phil 3:4-11).  Surely this leads us to a question.  How much do we value Christ? Is he everything? Is he our sole source of contentment? I spent some considerable time today thinking through contentment as a complementary subject for this week’s sermon.  Paul is content to give up everything for the sake of Christ. His contentment is totally bound in the work of the cross and the love of his savior. 

What is the nature of contentment? Being satisfied in Christ is what happens when our joy is found in Him alone.  God is holy and our transformation in Christ into his image is everything. Being satisfied in Christ is actually the greatest riches one could ever consider. It is the gain in my life that keeps me seeking in full satisfaction at every moment along the way.  Christ always satisfies and I am never left empty in him - Not now and not in the future. This means that contentment in Christ actually destroys worldly want. In Christ I am not left unsatisfied.  I am not left without rest and peace now or in the future. Contentment spans time.  We cannot say we are satisfied now but left wanting in the future.  No.  In Christ I can have satisfaction right now and I look forward to an eternal ever increasing satisfaction. If not for an eternal focus, we would end up dissatisfied and without joy. Contentment even in this sad sin cursed world also brings joy.  Even in the sorrow we can have joy because Christ is our everything and has solved our greatest need for all eternity. We are never contented in misery but Christ turns us from misery into joy. Christ loves me and rescued me when nobody else could. To be content I must look to the object of my contentment.  The more I see Christ, the more I see that I am not content in anything else.  Only Christ. 

Humans all across this world are looking for contentment and not finding it.  The atheists think they are content in their belief that when they die there is nothing.  The Buddhists believe they will find contentment in nirvana which is achieving the state of nothingness.  How can there be contentment in nothingness? This can only be an absence of discontentment (and in their error will find the greatest discontentment for all eternity).  To be contented you have to be consciously that way.  You cannot be unconsciously content. You have to be content in an object that is the very source of eternal joy and actually know it. Only the Christian knows a source of eternal joy and blessedness. Only we in Christ can know an everlasting spring of living water bubbling up to eternal glory. Contentment produces a realm of gratitude in us for the esteemed privilege of being elect. As I think upon my contentment in Christ it only causes me to enjoy that contentment more as I desire him more. So if today you are discontent, contentment is right in front of you - its name is Jesus. Think about the qualities of contentment in Christ - joy, love, comfort, peace, holiness, glory, inheritance, needing nothing, possessing everything, a clear conscience, forgiveness, and eradication of worry, and worldly dissatisfaction. 

There is no comparison for true contentment because there is no claim for eternal satisfaction in this world outside of Christ. The object in which we have contentment can only be that which is truly and eternally complete.  And here is Christ.  He has done it.  He has fulfilled all that we could not fulfill. He is ruling and reigning.  Yet there is still a day coming in which our contentment will be fully satisfied for all eternity in the removal of death and the distraction of sin. But even that is a certainty we can be content in today. We are content now, and not yet. This is why Christian martyrs were so willing to go to their death. Stephen was stoned in total contentment. Paul was beaten and imprisoned in utter contentment.  The Philippians were encouraged to face their Roman and Jewish oppressors in utter contentment.  And today, we can face our burdens, our sicknesses, our difficulties, our rejections and our haunting past in utter contentment.  Jesus has saved to the uttermost.  He is our all in all. 

Jesus Plus Nothing

As you prepare yourself for the week ahead, this week we move into the first few verses of Philippians ch.3. In these verses Paul introduces us to dogs, evildoers and mutilators. These seem to be Jewish false teachers who were requiring circumcision and works of the law for right standing before God. These Jewish influencers are possibly similar to the “Circumcision Party” who even intimidated the Apostle Peter. There seems to be good reason for Paul to warn the Philippians about them.

In Acts 10:9-16, Peter had a specific vision from God teaching that the things he once deemed unclean as a Jew were now made clean.  The vision showed many different animals that would cause offense for a Jew to eat. The vision that Peter saw does not simply mean that it was now ok for him to eat a non-kosher hot dog. It meant that salvation in Christ for the Jew was also the same salvation in Christ for the gentiles. "Peter, I am making the Gentiles clean in Christ.” The very next event was the salvation of Cornelius. We might assume that Peter’s world got a little bit bigger that day.  Everyone is the same at the foot of the cross. There is no Jew, there is no Gentile, there is simply saved and unsaved. Christ is everything (Gal 3:27-29). 

What would you then say if you found Peter fearful of eating with Gentile believers on account that he might be persecuted by Jews known as the “Circumcision Party?" Would you call him a hypocrite? In Galatians 2:11-19 this is exactly what Paul found his dear friend and brother doing. Peter had backed away from his Gentile brothers in fear of oppression from those who deemed Gentiles unclean. Paul then delivered some tough love because he saw Peter’s conduct was “not in step with the truth of the gospel.” Paul then made it very clear to Peter exactly what his actions were teaching.  Paul said “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Gal 2:15-16) In his letter to the Galatians Paul also explained that works of the law are essentially works of the flesh. Anyone putting their confidence in their own righteous acts are turning to the “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world.” (Gal 4:8-11). Peter did not believe that we are saved by works of the law, but he was acting hypocritically in fearing those who do (Gal 2:13). Peter learned a valuable lesson that day.  He already knew that salvation is a narrow road by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  His hypocrisy was evident in that he seemed to be more concerned that the Circumcision Party might associate him with those unclean Gentiles who have nothing but Jesus. Wrong?….Yes!  Peter was more worried about his appearance than having confidence in Christ. But let’s not be too quick to judge lest some of those fingers are pointing right back at us. I am sure that Peter himself was also horrified and repentant of his unfaithful actions. 

As we approach this Sunday I wonder if we could meditate on a lesson we must never tire of speaking or hearing.  Don’t put your trust in anything other than Christ.  Don’t let any pressure take you away from living out your confidence in Christ alone for salvation. No “good work" will ever pay the cost of our sin. Let’s not even give the appearance that we would think that. There is nothing we can add to Christ. Let’s live in the confidence portrayed in the words of this song…."Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.” In Christ there is no Jew. In Christ there is no gentile. In Christ there is only Christians; forgiven, hope filled, confident Christians who know only one Person in whom to place all our trust.  And he is enough!

The Practical Example of Christ

As a church, we were five weeks in the passage of Scripture between Philippians 1:27 and 2:18.  This is an important section of Paul’s letter because it is one whole piece that starts and finishes a major theme in his letter.  It is about living out our heavenly citizenship in one mind and putting aside self to serve each other as we stand fast in a world of opposition to the gospel.  

Paul warned the Philippian Church to be careful about disputes and the potential for division among them. If they were to stand fast in an antagonistic Roman culture, they needed to be united.  They needed to be less about self and much about the interest of others. They need to be united in their thinking and action. Anything less would weaken their ability to stand strong as they faced a real threat of persecution. In pride they fall but in humble unity they stand. Their greatest example for strength in humility is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 2:5-11).  Jesus exemplifies how humility ultimately wins.  In humility Jesus saves us by becoming one of us and dying on the cross for us.  Because Jesus displays and enacts the very nature of God in humility, the Father exalts Jesus to the highest place and he is proclaimed as Lord. In the example of Jesus’ humility the church has everything we need to dispel our disputes and stand firm together in the world. Someone might object that there are no real practical directions to deal with disputes in the example of Christ.  In the letter of James, however, we find many practical directions for dealing with quarrels and divisions.  His directions seem to exactly correlate with the very nature of Jesus’ example. 

James deals with fights and quarrels in chapter 4 of his letter.  In James 4:1-3 we find that quarrels and fights come from the desires and passions within us.  The first point James makes is that we are led by our wicked hearts rather than principles that lead to reconciliation and unity. Our selfish desires cause fights. When we look at the example of Jesus in Philippians 2, Paul tells us to have this mind among us that is also in Christ Jesus.  What we see in Jesus is supposed to instruct our mind with principles to bring about humility and unity to keep us from quarreling and fighting. Our hearts will cause division because we are selfish but in Christ we see a selflessness that brings reconciliation. This is a selflessness that is to instruct our mind to emulate the humility required for unity. As a result of Jesus’ humility in reconciling us to God, Paul tells us that Jesus was exalted to the highest place.  James says “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.” (4:6). James also says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.” (4:10). James 4 shows us that resisting our selfish desires to draw near to the humility of Christ is the answer to divisions among us. 

The book of James is known to be an intensely practical book for Christians, but we should understand that there is nothing new in the practical exhortations of James that we cannot also see in the example of Jesus and his work on the cross. More than this, Jesus not only gives us practical applications from his example, but through faith in Christ we are saved and being transformed into his image. The practicalities of the book of James are only possible because of the example of Jesus and it is only possible for us to live out those practicalities because of what Jesus has done for us and in us. 

The example of Jesus is simply spectacular and this week we get to see it one more time as we look at Timothy and Epaphroditus who act a lot like their Savior. 

Unobstructed Light

This week our journey into Philippians (2:14-18) calls us to be lights that shine so bright that we imitate the contrast of stars against the black curtain of space. In the Lord's timing, this week we also enjoyed the hype of a solar eclipse.  As the alignment between the moon and the sun took place, there was a darkening of the effect of the sun. Even if you were not in the perfect viewing spot, you could tell that the light of the sun was obstructed. 

God, in his great mercy and grace, has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the wise. He has used earthen jars to contain his treasure. We undeserving Christians have the great privilege of carrying the most powerful light in all the world; the Gospel of Christ. It is an awesome responsibility to be Christ's ambassadors. There are, however, times we can bring obstruction to that light.  The world may look at us and see grumbling, complaining, disputing and our light is dimmed. We can let ourselves get in the way and cause our own eclipse of the SON. 

Paul helps us to see that a visible church shines at greatest contrast with the world when it is a united church. We are to be Children of God who are not grumblers but who live in the contentment of our very faithful savior. He reminds us that as children of God we are representing the King of the universe in a generation that seeks only for self and opposes the idea that sinners need salvation. When we grumble and complain we look and sound just like the dissatisfaction of a self seeking society. But Christ calls us to the contrast of his beautiful light.

The contrasting light of the gospel is not just the words of the gospel but also the obedience to every implication of the gospel (Phil 2:12-13). As we, the local visible church, reach into the community of Cincinnati, we are reminded that light needs a clear path.  It reminds me of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.  We need to let our light shine and not hide it under a bush (perhaps even the covering of our own sin).  We need to keep the salt fresh with the great consistent flavor of the gospel in our lives. The gospel needs to shine without obstruction and maintain the flavor of salvation. And we have the greatest reward to look forward to in completing our great commission task in the best possible way.  We look forward to the Day of Christ. That day when the brightest shining light will blaze consummation glory into our lives as he brings us into his perfection for all eternity.

Why then shouldn't we desire to be his stars and to see his light penetrate into the hearts of those who may hear his good news and believe? How many future shining stars are out there who we have not talked with yet? 

Indicatives and Imperatives in Scripture

I hope you, like me, have been pondering the great humility of Christ’s condescension this week. Obviously there is no way we can attain his perfect standard and example of humility. But, never the less, he is our standard. 

 

As we approach our next message in Philippians 2:12-14, I would like to ask us to consider the complimentary nature of “indicatives" and “imperatives" in the Scripture. Let me first define what these words mean:

 

Indicative: An indicative can be considered to be a simple statement of fact. It can denote a particular quality or representation.  For example, holiness is indicative of Christ.  It is a representation of His character.  This past Sunday we considered many indicatives as we considered the very nature of Christ in his condescension—coming in human form and being obedient to death on a cross.  Sometimes we see indicatives in Scripture that help us to understand what we have in Christ.  For an example of this, look at all the “in Christ” statements in Ephesians.  We have forgiveness in Christ, blessing in Christ, an inheritance in Christ, and much more. Indicatives are sometimes understated in many pulpits because they are seen as simply informational and impractical.  I would suggest to you that this could not be farther from the truth. 

 

Imperatives - Imperatives are the statements that we believe we can all touch and feel.  They are commands that sound like “be this” or "do this.”

When we hear an imperative, we instantly say to ourselves, “Now that is something practical I can do.” 

In Scripture we can basically see that an indicative is what Christ has DONE for us and an imperative is what we must DO. 

 

In Scripture, indicatives are the power behind the imperatives.  We have already seen this many times in Philippians.  We have a common joy of sharing in the gospel of Christ (indicative); therefore, we are commanded to love the Church (imperative). We have an eternal promise of salvation in Christ (indicative); therefore, we must live for Christ whether by life or death (imperative). We have been saved into the Kingdom of Christ (indicative); therefore, we must live out our heavenly citizenship (imperative). Salvation in Christ sheds light on the destruction of those who hate God (indicative); therefore, we must persevere and even suffer for the sake of Christ (imperative). We have comfort, participation in the Spirit, affection, and consolation in Christ (indicative); therefore we must not seek self but the interest of others (imperative). AND we have a perfect example of humility in the Lord Jesus who has emptied himself and been exalted by the Father above every name (indicative); therefore, we must think and act in imitating the very mind of Christ in humble unity (imperative). 

 

As we approach our next passage of Scripture this week, may I ask us all to ponder how each of these indicatives empowers us for the imperatives.  Without the work of Christ in our lives, obeying any imperative from him is absolutely impossible. Therefore, both indicatives and imperatives are intensely practical. This is what we will find as we dig into Philippians 2:12-14. 

 

The Condescension of Christ for Us – Philippians 2:5-11

I want to ask you a question this week and wonder if you might ponder this as you read the Scriptures and as we approach our gathering together.  What is the mind of God?  Can we as Christians actually know the mind of God?  Is the answer yes, no, both yes and no, or I don’t know??  I would submit to you that Philippians 2:5-11 at least gives us a special insight into the very mind of God, and it is stunningly beautiful. It is exhibited in Jesus. 

Do you find Jesus beautiful? Do you find him stunning? If you are answering “no,” I want to encourage you that it is possible to see the stunning beauty of Jesus only by carefully reading your Bible. So often in our world we are told to look within ourselves to answer questions like this. But for those in Christ it is completely the opposite.  If we are to find any beauty within, it is only because Christ might be changing us to be more like him. But introspection (looking intently into one’s self) has us only looking at that which is imperfect and marred by sin. We see unhindered beauty only when we look at Christ. We see Christ only in the Scriptures. So this week, I put to you that in the scriptures we see Christ, and he is stunningly beautiful, and in Christ we see the mind of God. Christ is the visible example of the very nature of God communicated to us in the special way that he became flesh and walked among us. Jesus IS the special revelation of God.  So…do you want to know what is in the mind of God? Do you want to know God? Look at Jesus. 

The Comparison of Worldly Citizenship to Heavenly Citizenship

Lets compare Paul’s argument for living out heavenly citizenship with worldly citizenship. Lets look at how the qualities we have manifest in what we pursue. 

The World: The Bible tells us that the qualities of worldly citizenship are as follows: we are dead in sin, have a fate of destruction, are given over to lust and anxiety, and have no idea of the definition of love or an example of true love. The world has no mercy. As a result, there is no desire to complete the joy of others but only a pursuit of own happiness that is never satisfied. This pursuit of the happiness of self seeks its own ideas, it’s not about unity but about individuality, it lives in the authority of relativism, the authority of self. Individualism! It is prideful and ambitious, seeking own ideas and own glory. It ends up being just like Satan.

Now let’s see the opposite argument in Phil. 2:1-4 and the example in Christ in verses 5-11. See if you can see the difference.

Be encouraged as you realize the great privilege we have in living in the kingdom of Christ!

Being A Citizen of the Kingdom of Christ. 

Philippians 1:27 “Let your manner of citizenship be worthy of the Gospel.”

We have a permanent citizenship in heaven through Christ. This is a citizenship that means we are not passing through or allowed to stay—we are not immigrants. We, right now, have all the benefits and protections in Christ our King and every blessing that comes under the power of God in that kingdom as those who have been given the right to be sons and daughters of God. There is a homeland—it is our homeland now, and not yet. We eagerly await the day of consummation.

The kingdom is established in the cross of Christ where victory was gained over every power of evil and death in the whole of creation. We use the thoughts of our heavenly citizenship to remind us that we are not of this world, that there is an eternity, that we are currently exiled in a foreign land, that one day the fullness of the kingdom will be realized, that one day we will only dwell in all perfection with true citizens of the heavenly kingdom. We use the thoughts of our heavenly citizenship to realize that it is the only citizenship of true hope and destiny, and we desire greatly for others to leave the scaffolding of this world and enter the real building, the great city of God, the everlasting people of God.

We remind ourselves of the qualities of the kingdom that we are to enjoy and represent. Eternality, power, beauty, righteousness, victory, grace, mercy, justice, holiness, love, joy, peace—the very character of the King of the kingdom. We remind ourselves that even though we are born with a citizenship certificate (our national birth certificates) in this world, that our entry into heavenly citizenship is also by birth—we must be born again. This is the message we seek to take into this world that our fellow humans might be born into a new hope in Christ.