Philippians 3:17-21 | "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."
Today we are considering the book of Philippians chapter 3, verses 17 through 21: Looking for a Spiritual Mentor or Looking for Spiritual Mentors. Hear the word of God, Philippians chapter 3 beginning at verse 17, “Brothers and Sisters, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables him to even subject all things to himself.”
The subject of spiritual mentoring or finding mentors in this spiritual life is very important to Biblical faith and to Biblical Christianity. And I want to draw your attention briefly to an Old Testament example, an illustration of this. If you go back and look at the life of King Ahaz, King of Judah, he was a very evil king. He committed child sacrifice, he caused his own son to pass through the fire, he was guilty of blatant idolatry, just terrible things that he had done. Well, Ahaz’s son, his name was Hezekiah, and Hezekiah became king, but Hezekiah lived a very different life; he instituted great reforms in the land. And we should ask ourselves, ‘how did this happen?’ If Ahaz committed child sacrifice and blatant and gross idolatry, how did his son, Hezekiah, when he became king, live a very different life and institute great reforms following the ways of the Lord? Here is the difference: The difference was that Hezekiah was mentored by the prophet Isaiah. Go back with that in mind and look at Second Kings chapters 18-20 and Isaiah chapter 37, and you’ll see this dialogue, an interaction and exchange between Hezekiah and Isaiah. And the main principle I want to draw your attention to, is how Hezekiah, who came from an awful home life and situation, was himself transformed and changed by the grace of God, through the ministry of Isaiah, and Isaiah’s mentoring of Hezekiah.
Now, there are many people in the world today who have horrible home lives. They’ve had horrible examples, they’ve been abused and mistreated, they haven’t been given a good understanding of how to work with people, how to relate to people, how to work hard, et cetera. There’s hope, there’s hope, but according to what I was just referring that hope comes from and through the Christian community, strong mentors -- people who will stand strong in the Lord and in the power of His might and take the time, as we will see, to invest in the life of another person, but there is hope. Look at this example in light of your life and then press on. Eagerly pursue people who can help you develop your faith and your walk with Christ.
The first main point is that we need very strong believers in our lives for us to imitate, whose Christian walks serve as examples to us. Verse 17, Paul says, “Brothers and Sisters, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Notice Paul’s language -- imitate me, keep your eyes on those who walk. In order for this to happen, for the Philippians and for us to imitate strong believers, they would have imitated Paul and we imitate strong believers today. We have to keep our eyes on those who walk after and in the way of Christ. That means we have to look at them, we have to observe them, we have to consider them. How do they speak? How do they respond to negative things or bad things happening to them? What kind of relationships do they have with their spouse, with their family members, with people in the workplace? We have to spend time, which is a very critical element, to developing a very good mentor-mentee relationship. You have to be willing to spend time with other people. You have to listen to them as well. Can they impart wisdom? Now, wisdom, we could define as skill in the art of Godly living. We are to be seeking out or pursuing people whose walks are Christ-like, whose walks are godly. That means their life. It’s a very dynamic way of communicating the Christian life. How is their walk? And notice how they’re moving, they’re going somewhere, they’re walking, they’re walking with Christ, the Spirit is within them, and Jesus will meet them at the finish line. This is a walk, this is a movement, this is a direction, a purpose for the Christian life., It’s this whole Christian vision that we have in the epistles and, indeed, all of Scripture. Have these people -- we have to ask -- have they lived faithfully and consistently? Now, notice I didn’t say perfectly. When they live imperfectly and do something they shouldn’t or they’re in adverse circumstances, they’re able eventually to move towards making things right. To imitate somebody who lives well doesn’t mean that this person lives perfectly, so don’t set somebody up on a pedestal, don’t pretend that you need to imitate somebody who’s perfect, and don’t expect perfection. I like to think of it this way, don’t look for perfection, look for direction. Are they moving in the right direction? Are they worthy of you imitating them? And do they long for glory? Do they long to be with Jesus Christ? Are they striving forward, as we saw last time, to press on towards the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus? We have to, secondly, focus on people who are imitating Christ, because there are a lot of bad examples in the world. That’s basically what Paul is saying here. We have our opportunity to imitate people who are walking with Christ or imitate people who aren’t walking with Christ.
Point two: When we are focused on imitating people who are very strong in their faith, this will prevent us -- it should, maybe not totally -- but it will prevent us from imitating and following bad examples: people who are headed for destruction. We have to acknowledge, like the Bible does clearly, that there are people who are headed for destruction, people we should not be imitating, so make the choice. Follow people, seek out people, who are walking with Christ rather than the bad examples.
Listen to 18 and 19 of chapter 3, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame with minds set on earthly things.” Think about people who are bad enemies; they’re walking, they’re living, they’re moving along as enemies of the cross of Christ. And when people do that, their end -- their final destination -- is destruction and it’s eternal destruction. ‘Their god is their belly and their glory is in their shame, their minds are set solely, only, and totally on earthly things.’ Now, as Christians, we have our minds engaged with the things of this world -- that’s what we would call the stuff of earth. We have to make and prepare food, we have to make sure our house is in working order, we work, and care for family. We do and are involved in earthly things, but our minds aren’t set solely, only, and totally on earthly things; that’s the difference. Our mind is set on Christ who has enabled us and called us and given us the responsibility to live in the midst of the stuff of earth and to carry out our earthly responsibilities with Christ Jesus in mind and heart; that’s the difference. But other people who are headed for destruction live totally for this world and only for this world. They care about the future only in that it encompasses their earthly retirement. They don’t care about what happens to them after they die and et cetera, et cetera.
Look for good examples, stay away from bad examples, use your mind daily, be a thinking Christian and understand. Learn to distinguish between good behavior that needs to be emulated and should be emulated and bad behavior that needs to be avoided. This is in the text; this is what we have to consider this morning. Now, the people we imitate, or the people we look to, understand that their destination is heaven. Verse 20, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” They understand this; they know where they are going. Do we know where we are going as Christian people? We are headed for Christ Jesus Himself. Is that your desire? That’s what Paul says here. We should not only know our destination, but this should be our increasing desire. Is our desire Christ Himself? Verse 20: “And from it” -- that is from heaven -- “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” We are waiting for Him and, yet, this isn’t a passive waiting. We’re not waiting by doing nothing. We’re carrying out the things that God has called us to do, enabled us to do, in Christ and by the Spirit for His people, for the unbelieving world. We’re waiting for Christ and that in everything we do we know our end is glory and we’re going to be with Him. That’s what it means to wait for Him without being stagnant and stale in life. We move forward, but we have Christ Jesus in heart and mind knowing that He is our goal. And people we want to imitate also know the future that we have indestructible bodies. “Christ Jesus,” in verse 21, “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” You know what Jesus is going to do? He’s going to take these corruptible bodies, these bodies of flesh and blood that bleed, that cry, that ache, that decay, that deteriorate, and that die and He’s going to replace them. He’s going to transform them. That word, metamorphosis, or metamorphose, as it appears here, is where we get the English word metamorphosis or metamorphao -- it appears in different forms in scripture. That’s the idea. It’s a massive change from a decaying and a destructible body to a body that will never decay, never fade away, and cannot be destroyed. The people who know these things -- that are destination is glory, that our desire is to be with Christ, and that our bodies will never decay but they will be indestructible like Jesus is Himself -- these are the kinds of people we need to follow and I want you to be encouraged in your life not to settle for anything less. People who are fighting the good fight of faith, who are pressing on in the Lord, who are engaging in Christ and by the Spirit, and our battles that really in Christ turn out to be our victories. May God grant us the grace to find wonderful spiritual mentors in Christ. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank you for this truth and the example of Paul, that he sets forth here, that we are to imitate him and to imitate others who follow Christ. Help us to do this, help us to be discerning, so that we choose people who are walking with Christ and follow them and not choose and shun people who are denying Christ and whose end will be destruction. Lord, we pray for grace to walk with you now and always. In Christ’s name, amen.