I know what you’re thinking. That’s no typo!
Last Thursday, we’re studied the 3rd chapter of Philippians, and the theme of this chapter is about where we, as Christians, want to go.
Paul has already dealt with the subject of suffering and persecution, and the ultimate Christian dilemma: the desire to just get it over with and go to heaven, vs. the passion of winning the lost.
When Paul says to die is gain, but to live is Christ – he’s speaking about this dilemma – and he urges the church to have the same struggle. In the light of going to heaven, both our persecutions and earthly gains become insignificant.
The question of chapter one is, “what are you living for?“
Then, moving into chapter two, Paul begins to encourage the Philippian church to stay strong in the faith and to shine as “lights to the world” in the middle of a dark and perverse nation.
He uses Jesus as an example of extreme selfishness, rejecting the glory of being God and submitting Himself to death for the sake of the lost. In light of His sacrifice, and our desire to work in His kingdom – our passion and purpose revolve, not around ourselves, but around the mission of saving the lost.
The question of chapter two is, “who are you living for?”
Now, don’t get confused here.
- The first chapter is dealing with living for the work of God rather than selfish reasons.
- The second chapter is about living for the cause of saving the lost, rather than our selfish reasons.
Now, here in the third chapter, Paul is framing his letter to encourage and prepare the church.
The question of chapter three is, “where are you living for?”
To this point in time, the church in Philippi had largely avoided heavy persecution (partly because of the Magistrates’ mistakes in beating and imprisoning Roman citizens), and church problems with false doctrine. But, Paul knew it was only a matter of time before that began to happen.
In chapter three, he admonishes the church in Philippi to use him as an example of being spirit-minded over flesh-minded.
To accomplish this goal, he mentions a group of people who are not practicing the truth but are merging the practices under the Law with the new covenant. Paul calls these people dogs, which is rough language but he’s trying to make a very important point – one of which uses his own experiences as an example.
Paul walks through all the credentials he possesses – those who cling to the old practices under the Law would hold Paul in such high regard because of his credentials in Judaism. He was the best of the best in their eyes, prior to his conversion. But now, he regards all those fleshly accomplishments as dung – meaning they were unimportant and something he actually shunned.
Because flesh can’t win the prize – which is making it to heaven.
This is where the theme of chapter three really begins to shine, giving us the third question: where are we living for?
Where does our heart truly lie? If it’s in earthly accomplishments, what happens when we reach those lofty goals?
That’s why Paul says, in spite of all those things he can put on his spiritual resume, he forgets them and presses forward toward the prize, not as though he had already attained it (fleshly-thinking) but that he may finally, one day, apprehend it.
Where does your heart lie today?
When you get up in the morning, what are your goals?
If you thought about anything other than the work of Christ and making it to heaven, you’re Paul’s audience in this letter.
Where are you living for?
If I’m living for this present world, my priorities reflect that reality:
- My career and salary become very important.
- My possessions become very important.
- The social status of those I associate with becomes very important.
- Where I live becomes important.
- My car and clothing brands become very important.
- I might miss church regularly if it means I can meet a professional goal.
- I may move to a new city solely because of a job opportunity.
- etc. etc.
If I’m living to make it to heaven, my priorities reflect that reality:
- My career is less important – a means with which to make a living to support my work for the kingdom.
- My possessions become less important – I’m more concerned with doing the work of God than getting more stuff.
- Social status doesn’t matter.
- Where I live is determined by my calling – where does God want me?
- I’ll drive a lesser car, and cheaper clothes, if it means I can give more to the Kingdom.
- I’ll make church the utmost priority in my life – and even change jobs if it’s keeping me from church regularly.
- I’ll move to a new city because of a calling – and rely on God to supply the right opportunity for me.
- etc. etc.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
– Jesus (Matthew 6:19-21)
Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your life. Even Jesus said he came to bring us abundant life.
I take vacations.
I have fun.
I have hobbies.
I even occasionally buy things I don’t need, just because I want them.
Paul and Jesus are not calling us to asceticism where we can’t enjoy ourselves. But there is a difference in enjoying the blessings in our life and living for the blessings in our life.
When you get up, what “home” do your priorities speak of?
When was the last time you woke up in the morning with the work of God on your mind?
When was the last time you made a decision based on a burning desire to make heaven your home?
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Where are you living for?