Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Two Ways to Live: Phil 3.17-4:1 (Part I)

Article Text – Philippians 3:17-4:1
Suggested Article Title: “Two Ways to Live” Part 1
We close out this week in a section of this letter in which the Apostle Paul is pressing home to Christians how to live the Christian life. He’s saying, having been saved by grace through faith, this is how you live. Paul makes this clear by what he’s said in the passage previous to this.

If you’ll remember Tuesday, as looked at Philippians 3:12-16, we said that Paul almost summarized the Christian life in three mottoes, the first of which was “We’re not there yet”: We haven’t arrived at perfection.

The second motto was “We’re pressing on”: We’re not satisfied with being where we are, we want to be more like Christ.

And then, the third motto was “we’re reliant upon God’s grace.”

In this week’s passage Paul is warning the Philippians about a kind of professing believer and teacher that is in their midst influencing them in the wrong direction, and he says about them, “Their minds are set on earthly things.”

This is crucial, because worldliness is one of the great problems of evangelical Christianity in our time. Worldliness is a word that sometimes can strike us as a little bit quaint. If you’re my age or older, you know a definition of worldliness that goes like this: Worldliness means “drinkin’, smokin’, dancin’, and playin’ cards!” That’s worldliness, but that is not what Paul is talking about here!

Now let me say that some of those things do manifest worldliness, but worldliness is a matter of heart.

The Puritans were always so concerned not to be caught up in worldliness, so they had sayings to help us fight against worldliness such as, “Love the Lord, but use the world.” Their point was that what the believer really treasured was the Lord. The believer appreciated all the wonderful things that the Lord gives us in this world, but prefers the Lord over those things…so that they love the Lord and used the world. But the worldly person does what? Loves the world, and uses the Lord to get it.

Worldliness is soul-destroying and joy-robbing because it tricks our hearts into seeking satisfaction in what can never satisfy us, and thus it slowly strangles us of the experience of being fully alive to God.

Now, in the religion all around us we are actually being encouraged to be worldly. Do you understand that in 85% of the things that are on the Christian best-seller list are giving you this message: God can get you what you want better than anybody else: God can get you your best life now. What is being promoted on television and in Christian books and television is “Use the Lord to get the world.”

Now, that’s not Paul’s message. That’s not Jesus’ message. It’s not the Bible’s message. It’s not Christianity’s message. But that’s being pumped into our ears and our hearts by people that claim to be Christians all around us. And if you buy into it, it will destroy your soul.

But there’s another message that’s being pumped in, young people especially are vulnerable to this. Many young Christians are under enormous pressure to conform their faith to what the world says is valuable, to abandon right beliefs for simply doing right things. Now, it’s important to do right things, but those deeds must flow from right beliefs.

Paul tells you four things that you fight these ideas in this passage: Act like me; worldliness kills; homesickness helps; stand fast. What do I mean by that? I’ll explain the first one today and the rest next week on Tuesday (there won't be a post on Monday, July 4).

Notice that in those four things you’ve got two exhortations. The first and the fourth things are exhortations: Act like me, and stand fast. In between, the second and the third thing are actually explanations or reasons for why we ought to do what we do: Worldliness kills; homesickness helps.

He says that we fight against worldliness by carefully following godly examples, by recognizing worldliness when you see it and knowing that it kills, by remembering who you are and where you’re from.
I. Act like me.
Do you remember the basketball player, Michael Jordan? Gatorade had a whole advertising campaign built around Michael Jordan. It was called “Be like Mike.” They’d show Michael Jordan, dunking over the back of his head and this and that and the other, and then they’d try and sell you some Gatorade! Well, let me tell you what. All the Gatorade in the world wouldn’t have helped me be like Mike! And that’s why I love what Paul says here.

Paul’s not saying ‘Now you become endowed with the kind of gifting that I have’ because let me tell you what, we’re all going to fall short!

But Paul himself has emphasized in verses 12-16, ‘I am not perfect. I am struggling in this Christian life, too. Look at how I refuse to allow worldliness to get a grip in my soul.’ Paul says, ‘Look, Christian: You need to find examples of people who are not buying into the prevailing wind of worldliness around them and follow them.’

Paul is saying to you, ‘You open your eyes and you look around. You look at the people that are acting like me, and you act like them, because they’re showing you how a believer resists worldliness and thinks and wills and desires like a Christian.’ They’re not perfect and I’m not perfect, but by God’s grace, they’ve learned how to resist worldliness, so learn from them and you too resist worldliness, by His grace.

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