Living In The Future Tense

 Scripture Text:

17 Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. 18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

INTRODUCTION

I can’t picture Paul as a highly emotional person. I just don’t seem him as the kind that cries at the drop of a hat but he was weeping when he wrote this section. It is obvious that he loves the Philippian brothers very much and that he is concerned with their spiritual welfare. I think his greatest concern is that religion has gotten into the church at Philippi and is threatening to draw the Philippians away from grace. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying, “Nothing threatens God’s grace.” His grace, like His truth, will stand forever. The problem is in our understanding of ‘Grace.’

To be honest, I have always had a problem with Paul’s statement in verse 17, “Pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.” I think you would have a problem with me if I made that same statement. After restudying this passage, I think I have misunderstood what Paul is saying. If we go to 2 Corinthians 11:1, where Paul says, “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” What I have not taken into consideration before is the context of the passage. So I want to lay a foundation for the message by doing a little background.

The Philippian church is a good church but we know that it has been infiltrated by the Judaizers and there is a strong possibility that some Gnostics have entered by stealth also. These two groups of false teachers represent two extremes. The Judaizers are extreme legalistic: insisting that Christians practice Judaism, including undergoing circumcision. The Gnostics are extreme liberals. Whereas the Judaizers were attempting to bring ‘Religion’ into Christianity, the Gnostics were bringing in ‘Philosophy’ which reminds me that my Bachelor of Arts degree is in Religion and Philosophy which is no necessarily a good thing.

Both the Judaizers and Gnostics were enemies to GRACE. True Grace is a salvation embodied in the person and work of the LORD Jesus Christ. It begins with repentance and conversion, it is sustained by the work of the Holy Spirit and it is consummated in the glorification of the body which Paul mentions in the latter verses of this chapter. Religion is what we do for God. It is ‘We do’ instead of ‘Christ did’ which leads to our glory and praise instead of giving all glory and praise to Christ. Gnosticism is intellectual hogwash. It is a form of rationalism where we justify everything we do with the word GRACE. We all know folks that smoke, drink, club, rarely attend worship. If you question them about salvation they come back with “I’m a grace man.” So am I but His grace has a hold of me and although I can sin, I cannot enjoy sin. His grace will not allow be to enjoy sin.

Would you like to know if you are clinking to Saving Grace or Cheap Grace? Is Grace just a word you use or is it a real force in your life? Grace that does not work is not true grace. Paul says in Ephesians 2, God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. So there is a true grace and a false grace: there is a grace that works and there is a grace that has no affect on the way a person lives. Do you want to know if your grace is real? Is it effective? Here are five question you can consider and they will lead you to the answer.

[1] DO YOU GLORY IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST?

Galatians 6:14-16

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.

Fanny Crosby wrote a hymn that expresses the love of a believer for the Cross…

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain—
Free to all, a healing stream—
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and Mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Listen, if you have experiencing SAVING GRACE the cross of Christ is going to be dear to you. Just think about all the things that happened when Jesus died on the cross.

  1. It was the death of Judaism {Religion} and birth of Christianity {Relationship}. The O.T is the shadow, Christ is the Substance. Judaism was the seed–Christianity is the tree/fruit. When Jesus died, the veil was split breaking down the wall of separation between God and man, Jew and Gentile.{Eph.2:14-16} The Judaizers were rebuilding the wall that Jesus took down. Jesus death fulfilled all the OT sacrifices and it marked the end of the sacrificial system. Of course the Jews carried on for the next 40 years as though Jesus death meant nothing but you and I know the truth. They were just going through the motions. They continue to practice a form of Judaism but it is CHRISTLESS and it is hopeless. They have no temple, no altar, no High Priest, no sacrifice and no relationship. Naturally, these Jews were enemies of the Cross.
  2. The Cross exposed our depravity. It brought out the worse in us. Can you imagine our Supreme Court attending an execution and cheering for the death of a condemned man. We did all this and more.
  3. The Cross exalts what the world hates…Jesus
  4. The Cross of Christ is the theme of the bible, the heart of the gospel and the chief source of praise in heaven [Rev. 5:8-10]
  5. The Cross was the place of judgment for our sin. All our sin and same was placed on Jesus. As Paul says in Colossians 2, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.”

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Folks if you don’t love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain, then you are no different from the Judaizers and the Gnostics. If you have experienced true grace, you will love the Embrace the Cross of Christ.

[2] WHO IS THE CONTROLING FORCE IN YOUR LIFE?

Your direction is determined by who is under the wheel. Proverbs 14:12 sums it up, There is a way that seems right to a person,
but its end is the way to death. Either Christ is LORD of our lives or He is not. Isaiah hit the human dilemma on the head in chapter 53 and verse 6, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. So here is the question: are you living His way or your way?

[3] WHAT KIND OF APPETITE DO YOU HAVE?

The Judaizers were practicing the dietary laws of Moses. If Paul was referring to them, their appetite would be much the same as a Pharisee. They would crave praise and recognition. If he was referring to the Gnostic, their appetite was sensual pleasure. Whether is praise or pleasure, they were driven by their appetite. What do you crave? What do you long for?

  • Do you have a daily quiet time?
  • Do you study your bible daily?
  • Have you committed to reading the bible through in a year or two years?
  • Do you have a desire to share Christ with others.
  • Do you look for opportunities to do good to others. {Gal. 6:10, Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.}
  • Do you get joy in praise Christ? Do you have an appetite for worship?

[4] DO YOU BRAG ABOUT YOUR SIN OR GLORY IN YOUR SHAME?

For the Judaizers, their glory was in their circumcision but it would be a shame for them to flaunt it. You can get arrested for showing off your circumcision. This may have been what Paul had in mind or it could be that he was speaking to the antinomian Gnostics who used grace as a license to sin. Their view was that matter is evil and the spirit is good. Therefore the body, being matter, is evil and the soul is good. Since the body is evil and is condemned; it doesn’t matter what you do to the body or through the body. This philosophy lead to all kinds of abuse including drunkenness, adultery, and homosexuality.

No true believer flaunts their sin. We may confess it but we don’t brag about it or try to justify it. When I walked into my Nephews hospital room this past New Years day and saw his frail body [less than 100 pounds], my heart sank. I have been around enough cancer to know when the end is close and so I stood there in shock and disbelieve. He was 52 years old, this could not be happening. Henry had abused his body and he knew it. He said, “Uncle Jack, if I had known then what I know now, could I have stopped my daddy from smoking.” His dad, my brother died with lung cancer and COPD 5 years ago. I said, “I don’t know the answer to that question but I would guess, probably not.” In the last three days of Henry life, I got to know him better. You tell me which sin is greater: Henry abusing his body or me being so preoccupied with my own life that I did not take the time to listen to the child. Henry was sorrowful about his sin and I am sorrow about mine. It is not a good sign when you arrogantly define your unrighteous behavior.

[5] LAST BUT NOT LEAST: DO YOU HAVE YOUR MIND SET ON EARTHLY THINGS?

Are you preoccupied with the cares of this world. Because Abraham believed in a CITY, he was willing to live in a tent on this earth.  It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. {Hebrews 11} Because of the joy awaiting Him, Jesus endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

People amaze me; I am talking about people my age and older. They are still throwing out the flesh hooks to see what all they can amass. I tell them the truth: you don’t need to worry about getting more; you need to be giving more. I do believe that some folks have convinced themselves that they are going to live to be 100. If you factor out infant deaths, I think the average life span is around 80. I’ve help conduct 4 COLS in the last two months: their ages were 67, 92, 76 and 53. There are some realities that we need to except:

  1. This world is not our home, we are merely passing through. The city of Philippi was a Roman Colony. They were Romans living in a Greek world. They were aliens and strangers in a foreign land. Paul said, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”
  2. We cannot take our wealth with us. As David said, “We leave it all behind and have no idea who will spend it.” I know lots of miserable people but none that are looking for an opportunity to help others. There are no happy misers.
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