Title: Be Imitators, by keeping your eyes upon Jesus!
Text: Phil. 3:17-4:1
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
4:1Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
The great architect Frank Lloyd Wright was given the challenge of building the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, one of the most earthquake-prone cities in the world. Wright’s investigation showed that a solid foundation could be “floated” on a sixty-foot layer of soft mud underlying the hotel, which would provide a shock-absorbing but solid support for the immense building. Shortly after the hotel was completed it withstood the worst earthquake in fifty-two years, while smaller buildings fell in ruins around it.
Today in the Word, March 1989, p.6
The foundation of our faith is grounded on Jesus.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
This call of imitation from the Apostle Paul is a good word for the church in Philippi and for you and me as well. Look to those, he tells them, who have a life lived in the Spirit of Christ and keep your eyes on them. They are a good example for you and me and one that will make your walk with Christ better and more joyful.
Now you may think, who should I model myself after? Who would be a good example? Should I look to someone in the church who has the appearance of faith life and model them? Well, I’m sure that there are a number of people here who would be good examples.
But Paul brings up a few things for the Philippians to consider:
18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Boy, that’s hard to hear. Many people in the Philippian church have become, because of their walk, enemies of Christ. Not walking in the ways of the Lord. We see and know this as well.
19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
The question Paul, wants to know is why? Why place your trust in things of this world and in things that will not endure when there is a gift in Christ that brings the bliss of heaven to those who only deserve death and condemnation?
But in spite of our failures: Jesus is our hope!
Glenn Chambers boarded a plane bound for South America to begin his ministry in missionary broadcasting. But he never arrived. In a horrible moment, the plane carrying Chambers crashed into a mountain peak and spiraled downward. Later it was learned that before leaving the Miami airport, Chambers wanted to write his mother a letter. All he could find for stationery was a page of advertising on which was written the single word "WHY?" Around that word he hastily scribbled a final note. After Chambers' mother learned of her son's death, his letter arrived. She opened the envelope, took out the paper, and unfolded it. Staring her in the face was the question "WHY?"
Matthew records in his gospel:
17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Matt 20:17-19
Paul now reminds the Philippians:
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Their citizenship is in heaven. Why? -Because of Christ and His sacrifice, and the gift of faith in His all sufficient death, for you. But, Paul here is calling those in the church to walk as imitators of him who is called by the Lord Himself to be Christ’s representative.
Now, Paul is speaking as he wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And so, his words are God’s words. In the same way, preaching today speaks forth God’s words to you in our day, so that you can hear from God and live out your faith according to God’s desires.
Now, what are those desires that God wishes for you and me? What is the work of God in the life of the believer? What is it that God wants for you and me and all whom the Lord our God will call to do?
29 “… that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29)
Belief and faith and trust … are gifts to you from our heavenly Father.
I’ve mentioned Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the past and the wonderful biography about his life and ultimately his death by Eric Metaxas at the close of WWII.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested in April 1943 and imprisoned in Berlin. After the attempt on Hitler's life failed in April 1944, he was sent first to Buchenwald and then to Schoenberg Prison. His life was spared though, for a time because he had a relative who stood high in the government; but then … this relative himself implicated in anti-Nazi plots. On Sunday April 8, 1945, after he had just finished conducting a service of worship at Schoenberg prison, two soldiers came in, saying, "Prisoner Bonhoeffer, make ready and come with us," the standard summons to a condemned prisoner. As he left, he said to another prisoner, "This is the end -- but for me, the beginning -- of life." He was hanged the next day, less than a week before the Allies reached the camp.
His confession, and the confession of all who trust in Christ, is made possible, not because of our will, but because of the working of the Spirit of Christ in the life of the believer.
… our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body (after death) to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Christ will glorify those … just as He was glorified. So, Paul is making the appeal to them and to you and me, to stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Those who stand firm do so because: We are Imitators of Christ by keeping our eyes upon Jesus!
Christ Jesus by His Spirit working in us makes us imitators of Him, though so imperfectly. We fail and fall short, but by the Spirit of God working through the word we are being made into his image, being sanctified and being made Holy. Christ, by His all sufficient sacrifice, has made peace with God for you and now will conform you into His image by the Holy Spirit in you who points you to Christ and leads you through the word into Holy living.
Be Imitators, by keeping your eyes upon Jesus!
As godly people and imitators of Christ we can have the fullness of his Spirit working in us.
As Psalm 84:12 reminds us:
12 O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
By the power of the Holy Spirit we who are his children trust in Him. God be praised for his glorious gifts to His children now and forever!
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit