Lasting Lessons from Philippians 3
Chapter 3 of the book of Philippians contains numerous takeaways. Here are but six.
1) Beware legalism (3:2-3)! Paul is insistent that "we do not put our trust in external things." God is on the lookout for those through whom He can demonstrative the Spirit's power. They are not showing off what they can do. Some people make the tithe the mark of genuine Christianity. In Paul's day that mark was circumcision. There will never be a shortage of legalistic markers, of ways we can flex our muscles and announce what we are doing for God. In an age of legalism, we need men and women who refuse to trust in external ceremonies.
2) "Mere garbage" (3:8). This is the most famous euphemism in the New Testament. Paul uses an expression that carries a highly offensive connotation. Perhaps the best we can do in English is "unspeakable filth." Many people who call themselves Christians have never arrived at the point at calling their assets "debits," or their accomplishments "manure." Our Lord invites us to gain Him and reckon everything else as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable. Paul exclaims, "All I want is to know Him!" God intended that we be more than believers. He wants us to be knowers. What is in view here in an intimate knowledge, like that of a married couple. It is of first importance that Christians learn to relate to their Lord in love and intimacy.
3) We are to "forget what is behind" (3:13). When Cortez and his men landed in the New World, they burned their ships and so eliminated the means of returning to their homeland. Christians must let go of the past. We must burn our boats and our bridges. There is to be no retreating, no wallowing in regret, no glorying in past victories. "Let the dead bury the dead," said Jesus. "I run straight toward the goal to win the prize," says Paul. Both might have agreed with the hymnist: "I have decided to follow Jesus; / No turning back, no turning back."
4) Imitation is the key to education (3:17). "Keep on imitating me," writes Paul. Christian education is likeness education. So taught Jesus (Luke 6:40). Like father like son. Like pulpit like pew. This is a day when education has been reduced to mere information. But our Lord is not content with information; He seeks transformation. We cannot truly grow as Christians without godly examples. True believers always seek role models. Do not be content with facts. Find a mentor -- and then watch them and grow!
5) "We are citizens of heaven" (3:20). There is a lot of misunderstanding today about politics among Christians. A Christian is a citizen of a heavenly commonwealth because he or she belongs to the holy nation of the people of God. America may contain many Christians, but it can never be a "Christian nation." There will never be a Christian nation except the one composed of men and women redeemed by the blood of Christ. It is time for our true patriotism to show. Republicans and Democrats live to show forth the praises of their candidates, but God's people live to show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
6) A change is coming (3:21)! One day "He will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like His own glorious body." One day Christ will gather up all the loose ends and ragged corners and perfect the garment. Cancer? Gone! Pain? No more! This is a great hope. But it should not make us complacent. Let's not postpone to the resurrection what can be achieved in the present body -- even if that means dying for the sake of the Gospel.
August 26, 2011
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.