Philippians 3:17 NASB
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to
the pattern you have in us.
Isn't That Rather Arrogant?
It is very common to hear someone tell you, "don't do
as I do, do as I say." Most of us are painfully familiar with the fact
that we do not necessarily make the best example possible. So it might seem
that Paul's request that his disciples imitate him would be something rather
arrogant. Opposed to this we may quote the great American philosopher, Leo
Durocher, "it ain't bragging if you can do it." Paul knows that we
will follow the visible examples before us; the question is simply which
example. He knows that he is already being followed – see the phrase "join
in." So it's already something that people are doing. Here again we find
the concept of an exemplar. The pressure that being an exemplar exerts on a
human being must be quite intense or not noticed at all. Parents often find
this to be somewhat amusing, amazing or distressing. You are an exemplar to
your children, whether you like it or not. But it is entirely another thing to
tell someone to follow your example. If you do that, you had best be prepared
to set an example to be followed. People are very good at sniffing out
With the exception of formal academic studies, most of the
things we learn in life we learn by example. It makes you wonder who made the
first parachute jump.
One of the keys to success therefore would be selecting the right exemplar.
You're going to have one anyway; make sure you get the right one. For many
people an example in front of them is far more influential than the reading of
the Scripture when it comes to changing their behavior. Every Bible teacher has
experienced the frustration of teaching a lesson, hearing a student agree with
what he said, and then going off and doing the exact opposite. (If you think
not, speak out on the subject of divorce and adultery.) Perhaps one reason that
we have so many problems with this is that the exemplars don't realize the
standard to which they are being held. It's one reason that James counsels us
that not many should be teachers.
Chain of Imitation
In another location Paul qualifies this statement by
explaining that he follows Christ.
It reminds the old soldier that leadership is something that is done from in
front of the platoon, not from the back of it. This is how a Christian leader
should be. All we have done in this is to extend Christ's command of
"follow me" down through his disciples. This is called
"successive imitation". The principle objective is for you to select
your leader based upon the Scripture, follow that leader — but always remember
he's a sinner too. Then remember that you are a sinner, and somebody may be
Enemies of the Cross
Philippians 3:18-19 NASB
(18) For many walk, of whom I often told you,
and now tell you even weeping, that they are
enemies of the cross of Christ, (19) whose
end is destruction, whose god is their
appetite, and whose glory is in their
shame, who set their minds on earthly things.
Worship the Appetite
Have you ever experienced the great desire to try every
desert at the buffet line? We have a buffet restaurant near us which features a
wide variety of everything. That includes dessert. Being something of a chow
hound myself, I consider it fair game to select two desserts, or three if they
are particularly small portions. They have about 20. It's a small example, but
if you have to have all 20 desserts you have a problem with your appetite.
The example Paul gives us here has to do with our physical
appetite, but what he is really hitting it here is our friendship with the
things of this world. Appetite always means you want more. That might also be
more cars, more money, more women or more prestige. The way you get those
things is to cozy up to the way the world does things; you get along by going
along. The Christian knows that this is friendship with the world, and is
forbidden. With our current emphasis on being absolutely radically thin, this
is not as much a problem as it used to be. At least, where it concerns food —
but ask the same question about sex, and you will get a different answer. It's
called gluttony with food, greed with money and possessions. The key thing to
look for is that the desire for more that is never satisfied.
Glory in Their Shame
We have witnessed in our time the death of shame. We have
reached the point where psychiatrists consider guilt to be the disease. If you
feel guilty about something, you should go to your psychiatrist and have them
cure you of the feeling of guilt. After all, you've never done anything to be
ashamed of, have you? Do you see what happens when you kill shame? What then controls
your behavior? The only thing left is desire, and we need not explain that.
(Do you see that the concept of sin has vanished too?)
Indeed, people today are proud of their "enlightened
views." For example, homosexuality was (in my own lifetime) considered
such a horrible sin that it was never even discussed. It was something that was
laughed about in the locker rooms. Now, however, people are proud of being a
homosexual. If you are a homosexual, you are the intellectually enlightened
one; mere heterosexuals are those with neither intelligence nor imagination. As
the psalmist put it:
Psalms 12:8 NASB
The wicked strut about on every side When vileness is exalted among the sons of
I submit that it is intuitively obvious to the casual
observer that the wicked are strutting.
End Is Destruction
One feels a bit embarrassed to bring this up. At every turn
when you make this lesson effective, you will be accused of being an old fogy,
a backwards thinking person. You will not get the usual debate, but you will
usually be ignored. The enlightened ones know that the matter is settled. You
get the privilege of being "a voice in the wilderness." It is an old
and honorable profession.
The Scripture is not at all ambiguous on this point. It is
clearly prophesied that those who enter the church and deceive its followers in
the following the wicked are doomed to the same destruction as Satan and his
Of course, it's entirely possible that those you are opposing deny the
existence of hell or Satan. What's scary is that very often the same people are
the ones who proclaim the Bible as their guide to truth. And as Pontius Pilate
once said, "what is truth?"
Just how in the world do we wind up in such a situation?
Paul tells us elsewhere
that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. If there is one thing that
this author could convince his students of entirely, it would be the existence
of Satan. It seems that we just can't believe in that fellow in the red suit
with a pitchfork and tail, and therefore we don't think Satan exists. The Satan
with the tail doesn't exist. Satan the deceiver does. Satan is not the ruler of
hell, but it is his destination. And those who deliberately deceive the church
are going there with him.
So how do we determine if this is going on? The answer
usually given is that we measure our leaders against the standards given in the
Scriptures. This has one slight difficulty: it presumes you read the
Scriptures. The most magnificent example to the contrary would concern the
Roman Catholic Church at the end of the Middle Ages. The average layperson in
the pew had no real idea what was written in the Scriptures. Catholic policy
was to make sure that most people never read them; rather, they should get
their instruction from the priest who ultimately got it from the Pope. This
worked just fine as long as the Bible was a hand copied book. When the printing
press made it readily available to most people, and people were instructed to
read it, the Reformation took place. It is no coincidence that the leaders of
the emerging church movement disparage and discourage the study of the Bible.
If you want to introduce bold new thinking to your church, you have to get rid
of the old, bold truth.
The Christian's emotions to any particular circumstance are
to be trained by the gospel. To a teacher who has studied the Bible for many,
many years the first reaction to such a situation is one of anger. There is a
sense that you ask yourself, "How can they do this to my church?" But
look at Paul's reaction here: he weeps. Can you not see that this is a more
powerful response? The anger response is something that is personal to me;
weeping I share with Christ. The driving factor in your response to a situation
like this is simply that somebody is going to go to hell for what they think is
a good reason. And if that isn't something to cause tears, what is?
So what should you do about it? Assuming that you are not in
a position to correct it yourself, perhaps you should take Christ's advice as
given in the parable:
Matthew 13:24-30 NASB
Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The
kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
(25) "But while
his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went
away. (26) "But
when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.
(27) "The slaves
of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your
field? How then does it have tares?' (28)
"And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!'
The slaves *said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?'
(29) "But he
*said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat
with them. (30) 'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the
time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares
and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my
We must recognize that Christ will sort this out at the last
judgment. We must do our best while we can, but the ultimate solution belongs
to Jesus Christ.
Citizens of the Kingdom
Philippians 3:20-21 NASB
(20) For our citizenship is in heaven, from
which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (21) who will transform the body of our humble state
into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that
He has even to subject all things to Himself.
What Does It Mean?
My kingdom is not of this world, said Christ. This has some
implications for the citizens of the kingdom of God:
It means that we're just passing through this world. Our home,
the reward for our accomplishments, and all that really matters do not belong
to this world. This makes things difficult for the world when it tries to
understand the real Christian. One thing that this does is to feed the various
conspiracy theories about Christianity. These people can't love each other,
obviously, so they must be making money out of it somehow.
It also means that our primary loyalty is to Jesus Christ, not to
any political or military organization of the day. This is a key factor in the
reason we have the fight with the humanists and socialists of our time. From
their view, there is no God and thus the citizen must place his ultimate
loyalty with the state. Anyone who doesn't is clearly a traitor to that
particular state — and thus fit to be persecuted. This has been so since the
beginning of the church.
Now you understand why it is that the state presses for
complete control over the Christian. Let me give you an example: pharmacists are
legally required to give abortion drugs to anyone who asks for them. The
dictates of their consciences mean nothing to the state which has proclaimed
the "sacred right to abortion." You will recall that Bill Clinton
ordered all Army gynecologists to perform abortions — even in countries like
Spain, where abortion is forbidden. Satan is willing to have you go to church
as much as you like — as long as your first loyalty is to the government, or
the revolution, or the spelling reform movement. The principle is as simple as
ABC: Anything But Christ. So the question arises: how does the Christian resist
this? What is there in Christianity that says it should be resisted and that
there is reward for such resistance?
Transformation of the Body
Perhaps you've wondered why the church teaches about the
resurrection body. It seems so distant, hardly a doctrine that would influence
your behavior today. But consider the implications in dealing with the state
which claims first priority over all the Christian does. That state will
attempt to woo its citizens into compliance, but if that fails force is
available. And the most potent force available to the state is death. I hope
you see that by controlling death the state says, "We have the supreme
power." It is not supreme power; the power of the resurrection is greater.
And it is that power, by the Holy Spirit, that the Christian has in his life.
Look at the history of the church: is filled with examples of those who would
rather die then follow along with the evils and sins of the state. How is it
that people would do a thing like this? After all, don't you know you can get
killed for that? Yes, they know. But because they know the power of the
resurrection, they are not afraid of death.
What do we know about this body?
First, we know that it is an imperishable body. It is not one of
subject to the rules of getting older and decay. It is eternal, for Christ is
It is a glorious body. One author said that if such a person, in
that glorious body, walked into the room right now the temptation for all of us
would be to fall down and worship. How does that work? I don't know.
Like our Lord's resurrection body, it is a powerful thing. He
seemed to be able to walk through walls, disguise we was, and yet was clearly
physical in the disciples' sight. The physics of this must be very interesting.
It is said to be a spiritual body. The fact is the human being is
not complete nor fulfilling its designed role without a body. To be human means
to be a spirit in a body. So what's a spiritual body? I don't know.
As you can see, the phrase "I don't know" is very
useful in discussing the transformation of the body at the resurrection.
One of the recurring troubles in apologetics is the
existence of evil. The argument goes something like this: you tell me that God
is all powerful. You also tell me that God is all knowing. To that you add that
God is love. So how can a loving God, with all knowledge and power, allow pain
and suffering and evil amongst his children? To give you the formula answer:
he's either not powerful or not loving or not finished.
Indeed, he is not finished. He will return to judge the
living and the dead. That judgment is taken in both the civil and criminal
senses. That means that he comes with his reward as well as his punishment. So
that those of us who have performed well, even to a limited extent, will be
rewarded for our efforts. Those who reject the message of Christ and lived the
evil life will receive their reward as well. It's just that it's not so
pleasant. So where do people that here the wind up on the scale of really bad
to really good?
Look at it this way: in his life on earth, Jesus Christ got
angry with only one group of people. There is only one group of people that he
ever took a whip to. Scumbag tax collectors, adulterers and prostitutes were
usually met with the phrase, "your sins are forgiven." He came to
seek and save the lost. It is the Pharisees and the people who made money out
of God in the Temple who were the recipients of his furious wrath. So then, who
do you think he will punish most when he returns?