Everybody always wants to be somebody by imitating anybody who has become somebody. We used to play fast pitch rubber ball in our neighbors yard. We had a strike zone taped on the side of the house, which we used as a backstop while pitching to one another. We had markers staked out in the yard for singles, doubles, and so on. But each of us would imitate our favorite professional baseball pitcher as we played. I was always Luis Tiant of the Boston Red Sox with his fuman chew and unorthodox windup that faced 2nd base before turning to the plate to pitch. And this kind of imitation is also true of the spiritual life. We must imitate Christ but I imitating you imitating Christ facilitates that.
BE A PERSON WHO IMITATES CHRIST SO BY FOLLOWING YOU I CAN IMITATE CHRIST
There is a process of reproduction at work here. We all have a responsibility to set this process in motion so that the impact of Christlikeness is reproduced through us in the lives of others. So while we are living out our lives here on earth there is an eternal dynamic that must be at work through our lives.
1. Paul tells us to join him in being a fellow imitator together with him as others are doing (Imitators of Christ) vs 17
The command is to ‘be imitators together with me’. This is not an option for us. In reality we all must live our spiritual and personal lives in such a way that people can imitate it and be the same as imitating Christ’s life. (1 Cor 11:1). He indicates that there are others already doing this and the Philippians can join these together as they all follow Paul’s example of following Christ. So it is not expecting to have others follow every single area of our lives but to relentless pursue the life of Christ I emulate. To strive and press on toward this is the idea. I think we would rather often say ‘do as I say not as I do’ but our impact is built upon ‘do as I do’. That is what governs our impact.
2. The reason for this imitation is that many are living as enemies of the cross of Christ vs 18
Here then is the reason for this command. There are many who are not walking this way. They are actually ‘enemies of the cross’. In fact, Paul says he has told them this very often and now again but while weeping. Notice the genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of these people. The pattern of their lives is the exact opposite of Paul’s. This is such a serious threat that every book in the New Testament except Philemon has a warning about false teachers. They are a false example. Following them will never get you to your goal of imitating Christ. But what kind of enemies are these?
3. Those living as enemies destined for destruction vs 19
They will ultimately be judged and face judgment. Since they are enemies they will be treated like enemies in the end. They will not be annihilated but they will be ruined forever, separated form God and then eternal judgment. So you better have enough discernment to understand who they are, what they teach, and what God will do with them. That is why so much is said about them in the New Testament. You do not want to be impacted or influenced by them.
4. These enemies have specific characteristics vs 19
There are three further descriptions of these:
(1) Their God is their belly. Their appetites and addictions motivate the way they live. Physical appetites motivate and deceive by telling us they will satisfy us. Just do it and you will have what you want. They also deceive us by telling us we cannot live without them. It says you got to do that—you can’t live without it. That characterizes how these enemies live and how they will impact you to live.
(2) Their glory is their shame. This reminds me of Romans 1:28-32 where pagans unwilling to acknowledge God not only practice such things worthy of death but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. There is no shame and they hang their hat on the shameful things they do—much of it described in those verses.
(3) Their minds set on earthly things. This seems to be one of the growing influences in the church in America. It is this emphasis on life here in this world kind of Christianity. This emphasis wears several hats. There is the environmentalist hat that says our job is to take care of the planet. The social gospel hat that says we must feed the hungry. The political hat that says we must make America Christian. The prosperity hat that says God wants you to be wealthy. All of these are earthly-minded false teaching. Watch out!
Instead be a person who imitates Christ so others following you can imitate Christ. Make His your standard. Watch out for what you are reproducing. Don’t be deceived and then deterred by false teachers. You will suffer the consequences.
IMITATE CHRIST NOW AND HE WILL COMPLETE THE TRANSFORMATION WHEN HE COMES FOR US
The reality is we do not belong here. So stop pretending as if you do. Make sure you are not being influenced by others who only live for the now. Everything in our world is motivated to motivate you to live as if this is all there is in the universe. But for a believer that is never what we are to live for.
1. The reason to imitate Paul’s following of Christ is because our citizenship is in heaven (not earthly orientation) 20
In contrast to these enemies of the cross—salvation, sanctification, glorification, substitution, propitiation, redemption—is our citizenship in heaven. We live here on earth where we raise our families and do our business and live our lives here. But while living here our citizenship is elsewhere—in heaven. This world is not our home. This is not all there is. We are just a passing through as the song says.
2. Our heavenly citizenship means we wait eagerly for the Savior, Jesus Christ, from heaven vs 20
The point is that since believers have a heavenly citizenship we look with keen interest for the Savior’s return from heaven. The word suggests a tiptoe anticipation each and every day—the idea of a child standing on tiptoe waiting for his daddy to come home from work at the end of the day. We have en entirely different orientation than what the enemies of the cross want to give to us. We live our lives in light of this anticipation. We know Christ is coming for us. Many others had been waiting for the rapture before us but death eventually caught up with them and now they are already home. So we who are still here wait this way. I am not interested in speeding my death up. I want to enjoy my life and serve the lord and see my families and ministry future. But I am doing all of that while anticipating something much grander than anything that can be offered here. It is my life with God and his people forever. So live in light of that now. It will give you wisdom with which to conduct your life. Vance Havner once said, “If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world trying to get to heaven; you are a citizen of heaven making your way through this world.”
3. He will transform our earthly bodies to conform to his body of glory vs 21
At the Rapture of the church Christ will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. In other words, we will exchange these disease infested decaying bodies for ones completely transformed into the image of Christ’s resurrected body (1 Cor 15:50ff). Our natural body is earthly. Our resurrected body is heavenly. Our natural body is perishable. Our eternal body is imperishable. This body is seeded with decay, imperfect and weak. It will give way to a perfect and powerful one. Our new bodies will be spiritual ones. They will be material bodies directed by the Spirit not dominated by our flesh as they are now. It does not mean our bodies will be immaterial and invisible. Our new bodies will be supernatural ones. They will originate from a supernatural source making them eternal and imperishable bodies. Death will not longer have meaning. And how will this transformation take place?
4. He will conform us completely into his image by the exerting of his power vs 21
This final transformation will not be gradual but sudden, immediate and eternal. We will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet and we shall be changed 1 Cor 15:52! Then we will be conformed to Christ’s resurrected body. With it He could eat, be touched, appear in rooms without coming through the door. Jesus who spoke the creation into existence will use that same power to transform our bodies. It will be no problem for Him.
5. This is the same power he has to subject all things to Himself vs 21
So we know that the power to perform this final and complete transformation is the same power Christ has to uphold everything in the universe so that it is sustained. It is the same power that brings all to an end. It is the same power transforming you and me today on the inside. And when he comes for us he will come in power and we will never be the same again!
1. The most significant thing you can do with your life is to pursue your own Christlikeness. Then anyone following you will also be following Christ. How you doing?
2. Do not lose site of your ultimate transformation into full Christlikeness because that will motivate you to pursue that now while you live here.