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Citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom Work Toward Only One Goal

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

What is your idea of “The Good Life”?  What way of life, or standard of living are you working toward? What end result are you running after? What is your goal? Another way of asking it: what would be the most disappointing thing that you could face? What thing are you trying to gain, or hold on to right now, that if you missed it, or it was taken away from you, would ruin your life. Would crush your hopes and dreams?

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this is the most important question we have to face. What target are we trying to hit? This will determine all of our decision making. Every single choice we make will be primarily driven by this vision of “the good life.”  I’m convinced that this is the primary question we must constantly address in our walk with Christ. What is is that we want more than anything else in the world.

This question is at the heart of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. And we’re going to see today that Paul, very strongly, admonishes that we, as citizens of the heavenly kingdom, work toward only one prize.

REVIEW

  • Paul’s primary concern for the Philippians – That they “Let your manner of life be (Behave as citizens) worthy of the Gospel: stand firm in one spirit, and strive side-by-side for the faith of the Gospel, and not frightened in anything by opponents…” 1:27-28
  • This is Stonebrook’s mission statement: “Walking in The Gospel”
  • Our ministry year theme “Renewal” is all about this! Focus on unity together as a church body, and a renewed vigor for Gospel ministry, both to one-another and outside our doors.
  • Pursuit of Christ-like-ness: courageous, humble, service toward one-another.
  • This acts as an evangelistic sign (v 28), a two-edged sword: of condemnation for unbelief, and the hope of deliverance “you can have what we have, an unshakable love and unity and confidence in the next life”, and a sign of confirmation for Christians, this supernatural love is real.

This vision of “walking in a manner worthy of the Gospel”: standing firm in our unity as brothers and sisters: a church family, and striving for the progress of the gospel: progress in our own hearts, and progress outside our doors, is the result of Paul’s “vision for the Good life.”

The passage we looked at last week starts to get at this point. My summary of last week’s section:

Citizens of the heavenly kingdom suffer the loss of worldly things to gain Christ – We willingly risk and give up our reputation, credentials, physical goods, freedoms, and sometimes our lives in our proclamation of the Gospel because we realize there is something vastly more valuable and important than any of those: The Lord Jesus himself.

Philippians 3:8-11 (ESV)

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

That word “attain the resurrection” is key. Attain. I used to have the wrong understanding of that word. I equated it with “obtain” from verse 12. Which frankly, made the verse a little confusing. Was Paul trying to EARN resurrection? That wouldn’t square with verse 9…. Attain means “arrive at”.

Getting there no matter what

Paul is saying “I don’t care what life throws at me. What I have to go through. I don’t care if I have to suffer like Christ, to be lied about and misunderstood, or be tortured and crucified, whatever it takes to arrive a the resurrection, bring it on!”  Paul had one goal: knowing Jesus and being with Jesus for the rest of eternity. And in the mean time, Paul was going to imitate Jesus, in his way of life, and in his ministry.

Paul. Loves. Jesus.

When we talk about devotion to Christ, following Christ, etc… those can be really churchy words. When we talk about loving Jesus, do we have a sentimental, emotionally driven notion of warm fuzzies?

Or do we love Jesus the way Paul does, such that we are so driven to know Jesus, and to be with Jesus for the rest of eternity, that we are willing to do whatever it takes, and are willing to suffer whatever comes at us, in order to do what Jesus says to do. (Which will put us at odds with the world. They will hate us as they hated him!)

PRIORITIES

Frankly it feels to me like many Christians from my branch of the Christian family tree are more devoted to their kids’ sports, to their career, to home improvement, to gun-ownership rights, or conservative politics than we are to following Jesus’s example and Jesus’s mission. We are distracted. Are we more on mission for the political battle of the day than we are for influencing our friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, and classmates with the Jesus message of repentance?

These inordinate focuses on other things (and don’t get me wrong, there is a place for hobbies and sports and politics) say that we have a different vision of “the good life” than Paul did. We want other things more than we want to lay down our lives to faithfully serve our family and neighbors and live a life that models the gospel to them.

A quick test:

Here’s a thought for you: Go back through your facebook feed and take a look at the topics you are posting about. Go back through your instagram account (your real one, kids…) or your snapchat stories (which i’m not sure if you can even do) and take a look at the subjects you are posting about.  What would someone scanning your social media postings determine is most important you?

That was pretty convicting for me to do actually. Mostly sarcastic humor and the occasional post that amounts to “get off my lawn you darn kids” interspersed with the occasional silly cat photo. Yikes.

Now, I’m not trying to simply make you feel guilty for not loving Jesus enough. Or making you feel proud for feeling like you do, compared to “all those other sinners” (we’ll get to the pride piece in a minute.) That’s not what I’m after here. If you are feeling bad, or guilty, or mad at me for picking on you, maybe do this: make a little note in your bulletin or your Bible “pray about my priorities…”, and move on. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. Righteousness that matters comes from God through faith, not through correct priorities. But faith in the gospel, will eventually lead to a re-prioritized set of goals.

I just wonder if there’s something in the water of our culture that holds us back in our expectation for what a relationship with Jesus looks like, or what participation with His people, the church, on mission should look like in the way you orient your life.

ONLY ONE GOAL

Citizens of the heavenly kingdom work toward only one prize: Christ – Because of the great value of knowing him and the reward we will have for obeying him, we have no other greater goal than to do His will. Every other goal we have is not only below this one, but is actually in line with and toward the end of this greater goal. We aren’t distracted by fame, notoriety, prestige, wealth, or power. We aren’t intimidated by any foe or threat, even death. We stand firm. We don’t get caught up in political movements or economic philosophy debates. Christianity has existed and thrived in every political and economic system man has thrown at it.

We have only one goal, and we will be working on that for our whole life.

3:12–14 (ESV)

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

  • The Apostle Paul was not perfect. He dispels any notion of “arriving” at Christian maturity. We all have growth to be had, and farther to go in this life. Perfection is impossible in this life, its the striving that we’re meant to do here. We arrive at glory, in glory (in heaven).
  • “Forgetting what lies behind” – Paul says it here in the context of perseverance. Because he knows what he is headed for (heaven!) he is not letting past failures make him feel disqualified from the race, or (more explicitly in the context) past successes give him reason for easing up in the pursuit of Christ.  Paul stays at it! And he says to follow HIS example…

FOLLOW PAUL’S EXAMPLE

(of single-mindedness in the goal)

3:15-19 (ESV)

15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 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. 

  • Watch me” – we are invited here to imitate Paul’s way of life, as well as those who share his way of life. This doesn’t mean that all will be apostles or full-time gospel workers, there many many different callings and many many different gifts, but all of them can be oriented with the same primary goal in mind.
  • By contrast, those whose: “god is their stomach”, all about current feelings, appetites, comfort, lack of confrontation, “felt needs”, etc. – “minds set” is language for “vision of the good life” – totally oriented on things of this world, not the next. Paul thought of them with tears, because they walked, not as citizens of the kingdom, but as enemies of it. As we take inventories of our priorities, can it accurately be said of us that our primary concern is our various appetites? That our goals are primarily things that have to do with this life? We are walking as enemies of the kingdom of heaven. Strong language!

Paul says though “that is not who you are! You have received grace! You know the gospel!”

KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE

3:20-4:1 (ESV)

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. 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Notice he doesn’t say “shape up, you sinners!” He reminds them of the gospel, and reminds them of their hope of “the resurrection”, he reminds them of their citizenship. He says that none of us have arrived, but we are to press on to one day when we will be transformed to be exactly like Jesus! But for now, we are to stand firm!

This whole passage reminds us we’re in a war here. We have opposition, an enemy. 

[Story about C.S. Lewis, Screwtape letters, our LG’s observation about what life would be like if we could see the enemy.]

Conclusion: stand firm, stay focused

We are going to experience pressure from the world to be distracted by prestige, power, politics, money, sex, sports, and even the more mundane, less glamorous just keeping up a “normal” standard of living. We’re going to be distracted by discontentment and basic envy.  Stand firm, stay focused.

We’re going to be attacked by those in the world as having backward ideas, as intolerant, unloving, narrow-minded, misguided, deluded. Stand firm. Stay focused.

We’re going to experience spiritual attack in terms of doubt, accusation, temptation to separate from our brothers and sisters. Stand firm, stay focused.

The resurrection is coming. Set all of your hope there. Place all of your bets on it. This place is not your home. The United States is not your primary residence. Our hope is not in harnessing political power, our hope is in Christ’s return.

Discussion questions

  1. What would you say is your goal, your “vision of the good life”, the “prize” you are running after?
  2. Given that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) – and the things we report to be our goals, or the things we know should be our goals, might not be our actual goals. What things might we pay attention to in our life that would indicate what we are really running after as our “prize”?
  3. How can we go about continually re-orienting our hearts toward the goal Paul exhorts the church to have in Philippians?