Be An Example For Others – Philippians 3:17:-21

Live Your Life As Paul The Apostle Lived His – Wholly Dedicated To Christ

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you 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 set on earthly things. 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.

Model the Master

Paul led an exemplary life.  Initially hunting down and stoning disciples of Christ to death, his powerful encounter with Christ turned him completely around.  And with the same determination and fervency that he displayed in suppressing the message of Christ, he embarked on preaching Christ and Him crucified.  Jesus indicated that those who have been forgiven much, love much.  And Paul was filled with love.

Paul was taken under Christ’s wing for three years and discipled just as the other Apostles were discipled.  He was then able to join them in their holy appointed quest to spread the word of salvation to all the world.  Paul lived with a singular purpose in mind – to honor and glorify his Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the same way that we are to follow Christ, when we see a fellow disciple leading a righteous life, we are to model how they are living out that righteousness as a living example to us.  And in doing so, we become the next generation of those who will used by God as models of righteousness for His people.

Traitors of Truth

Paul warns us that there are many who live as enemies to the cross of Christ.  Their god is their stomach.  They live to please the flesh, and not our God.  These people go beyond being carnal Christians – they are Christians In Name Only.  They present a front of false piety and, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, they are hungry for their prey.  Many know they what they are, and either don’t care, or actually enjoy it.  We must be on our guard against the leaven of these people.

God has charged us, through Paul, to judge amongst the body.  We are to gently, in love, help our brothers and sisters when they are in sin to come out of it.  We are to encourage them, pray for them, and uplift them in their time of difficulty.  This applies to disciples who respond to correction and mourn over their sin.  We are to restore them once they have overcome.  But we are NOT to judge those who are not of God.  That is His purview, and His alone.  The Law of God judges them.  We are ONLY to judge the fruit of those inside the ekklEsian – the called-out ones of Christ.  So, if someone claims to be a disciple, we have the right to look at their fruit and encourage them in pursuing righteousness.  If a disciple says, “You have no right to judge me!”, they may not understand what the scriptures say.

And when we judge, let us make absolutely certain that we have removed the plank of wood in our own eye before we point out the splinter of wood in our fellow disciple’s eye.  We are to judge in love, with gentle correction.  For those who enjoy seeking and correcting the body, carefully go before God, and ask Him to reveal the source of your joy in this endeavor.  Be sure to be open to His leading, and follow Him in whatever He directs you to do.

And if you are certain it is God who is directing you, find two or three other men (preferably elders in the church) and ask them to pray to God for wisdom, and confirm what God has told you.  If you can’t find two or three men who are living righteous lives in the church, ask yourself if you are in the right place, and if your heart is in the right place.   For it is with great and laboring prayer that we should seek the will of God in all things.

Earthly Enlightenment

The hallmark of those who are enemies of Christ is that they delight in the pleasures of the flesh to their ruination.   God gave us the world to enjoy, but we are to place the enjoyment of His provision in its proper place.  When we desire to fulfill worldly desires more than to listen to our Savior, we have been sucked into a deep well that requires us to seek out someone who can help us back out.

There are some who have an appearance of righteousness on the outside but are full of rot and decay on the inside.  Many of the cult leaders in the past appeared to live wholesome lives on the surface, but inside were corrupted:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

Anticipate His Appearance

Rather than dwelling on the here and now, we should keep our eyes on our true citizenship – for we are citizens of Heaven as the children of God.  When we do that, we should eagerly keep watch for our Savior, who will be coming soon.  God is not slow in keeping His promises, but in everything, He has perfect timing.  We need to be patient for His timing, because as His word has shown, time and time again, His timing is perfect, and everything that He does is executed to be in alignment with His perfect, sovereign will.  Let us not be caught sleeping when we should be working.  As we put our backs to the plow, let us always look forward at our goal to make sure we are plowing in as straight a line as possible.

Tremendous Transformation

And as we work, let us remember that God will transform our bodies from the corruptible into the incorruptible, to His glory and praise.  Eagerly desire this, for it will be the end of sin, temptation, sorrow, pain, tears, and misery.  But we should also keep in mind that when God does execute his righteous judgment upon all the Earth, that those who remain and refused to bow their knee to the King of kings and Lord of lords will be judged at the white throne seat of judgment, to their everlasting imprisonment in the lake of fire.

Because we know these things, we are now responsible for telling everyone about it, and giving them every chance that they could possibly have to give their lives to Christ.  Let it not be said that God had appointed us to tell someone about Him and we refused.  For if that is the case, their final destination will be, in part, due to our sin of omission – not doing what we know we should have done.

And now a word of encouragement from Paul the Apostle, author of this epistle:

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living a life that others would desire to imitate because they see it lived in righteousness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Lord God Almighty, You are holy, holy, holy.  Abba, none can stand before You and see Your face or they will die.  You greatly desire for us to live out the righteousness that you placed upon us that came from the perfect life of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Give me strength today to live a life worthy of the calling that You have placed upon my life.   Give me wisdom, discernment, and guide my ways so that You would be shown to be holy and righteous.  Help me to live an exemplary life dedicated to You.  Show me how to do this in Your word, and help me get the lessons that I have learned from my head to my heart through practicing what I have learned.  Show me new and wonderful things in Your word, for You constantly amaze me.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Identity in Christ – John 15:5 (ESV)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Just as a branch needs the sap of nourishment from the tree, so do we need the same from Jesus Christ.  The branch is attached, and attached tightly; it’s not on the ground, or off doing its own thing.  It is bonded (even if grafted in) to the plant itself.  We should be so firmly bonded to Christ and in Christ, that there is no break between Christ and ourselves.

And Jesus shows us the benefit of this: when we are In Christ, we will bear much fruit.  When we go off and do things ourselves, there may be a result, but it is not bearing spiritual fruit in accordance with the Will of God, for the Purposes of God, in the Timing of God, and to the Glory of God.  Jesus also says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 

This is a sobering thought.  When we are not in/attached to the vine, receiving nourishment and direction, we may be doing things, but not bearing the correct fruit.  It is as if we were a foreign, invasive species of plant trying to imitate the original plant.  Others may think that we are part of that plant, because we have mimicked the original; however, we have no part in the original plant.  Jesus gives us this direction as well:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 

When we have our identity in Christ – when we solely and ONLY identify with Him – we will bear much fruit, receive nourishment from the vine, and find the small gate with the narrow path.  Once we do that, we, like Christ, will be able to say,

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Our citizenship will be solely in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than in earthly things, like race, ethnicity, nationality, religious denomination, Northerner or Southerner, political affiliation, sports team, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, or any other thing on earth.  For when we identify with Christ, all are ONE in Christ.

So, let’s ask the question:  With whom or what do I identify most?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we thank You for the wonderful opportunity to be reconciled to You through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You love us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us on the cross.  Lord God, we have been set free from sin; but we were made to worship and serve.  I greatly desire to serve You and You alone.  Remove from me any and all identity with earthly things that would hinder my walk with you.  You have shown me the small gate and the narrow path.  Guide my feet, my heart, and my mouth, that as they see to glorify your name in and offer themselves as a living sacrifice to You, that my feet would not slip, and that they would not wander off the path.  Bring revival to Your body, that it would turn away from the draw of temporal blessings and set our hearts on Heaven, so that our treasure may be found there.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?