Published by Jason Taylor on Sun, 17 Mar 2019 19:00

A sermon based around Philippians 3:17-4:1  read bible text

Join in imitating me

The Christian faith is not immune from the cult of celebrity; John Piper, Rick Warren, Smith Wigglesworth, Tommy Tenney and Philip Yancey are just a few that came to mind ー you can no doubt think of others. It is tempting when you find someone who says the sort of thing you find helpful & inspiring to put them on something of a pedestal.  I can remember, when I was a student at LBC getting withering looks from half of the room when after someone had said "John Stott said such and such about this" I said "that doesn't necessarily mean he was right though, does it".

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says "if you must imitate anyone imitate me" (a bold proposition to make). He goes on: "keep your eyes on those who live as we do." Copy me and if you are tempted to copy anyone else first check that they are living the same way we do.

You see, it's easy to SAY the right thing and if you are a charismatic enough person, to convince yourself and others that you've got everything worked out; it is much harder though to constantly DO the right thing. You'll recall the words of Jesus here: Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers (Luke 6).

Paul tells his readers that many of those who were Christian celebrities of their own day have now fallen from grace; and not just that, "they glory in their shame."

But our Citizenship is in heaven
We are not like them, Paul says. They live according to the world but we are citizens of heaven; earth is not our real home.  Because my Mum was Irish I have recently obtained Irish citizenship and an Irish passport - I'll let you guess why! With citizenship comes rights and obligations; as citizens of heaven we are called to live to a different standard than the rest of the world.

Heavenly citizenship means we have to consider our words and actions, how we spend our time and money, how we treat others and what is really important. But living that way is hard when the culture around you is constantly pushing the other way. Paul encourages his readers by saying: We eagerly await a Savior from there [heaven], 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.

As Paul himself has said elsewhere, there is a great reward for those who finish the race set before them. We are not doing this for earthly rewards or praise, God knows we'll never get that if we truly live out our faith. We're doing it for the eternal reward promised us in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Stand firm
We are guaranteed to come into conflict with the powers and principalities of the world when we live like Jesus told us to. Sometimes it's going to seem we face impossible decisions or odds. What do we do when that happens? (4:1) We stand firm in Jesus. We believe what he said is true and we don't budge. Note that we don't need to go on the offensive, Paul doesn't say "attack", he says "stand firm!"

We all have our struggles, and they may similar but in some ways they are all uniquely ours. Nobody else can know how we feel and nobody can give us any instant solutions. To paraphrase Jesus, "Trouble is a given for Christians!".  Whatever you are going through, whether it is you personally or somebody you love, remember Paul's words: imitate me and stand firm.  I love what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his 2nd letter, it has sustained me through much:

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor 4)

This will pass and then you'll see it will all have been worth it!

I'd like to finish with some words by Wendell Berry:

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

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