KEEP YOUR HEAD UP Philippians 3:17-21
Dr. Jerry A. Collins
Frequently, I have to remind myself to keep my head up while hiking in the woods. The terrain can be demanding and pitfalls plentiful. So the tendency is to keep looking down so as to avoid trouble as you hike. Unfortunately, it is easy to miss so much of the landscape or nature’s surprises in the process. That is not unlike our hike through this world. We can become absorbed with events swirling around us and find our heads down, plowing through it all, or hindered by the waste we wade through or the harassment we endure. Sometimes it is the fear or cares or worries or discouragement we link ourselves to that force us to drop our heads. That is not the posture a Christ follower should demonstrate. We must keep our heads up as we hike our way along. What does that mean and look like?
BE A PERSON WHO IMITATES CHRIST SO BY FOLLOWING YOU I IMITATE CHRIST
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things (v 17-19). There is a process of reproduction at work here. We all have a responsibility to set this process in motion so that 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 at work through our lives.
Your Life Must Imitate Christ’s Life
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us (v 17). The command is to be imitators together with me. We could say “you are commanded to take it upon yourselves to keep on being—an imitator together with me.” The first word is a lot like 1 Corinthians 11:1 be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. But here Paul adds that they are to join him in being a “fellow imitator” or an “imitator together” with Paul. Mnay others were doing so already observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. Be one. Live our spiritual and personal lives in such a way that people can imitate it and thus be imitating Christ’s life. It is not expecting to have others follow every single area of our lives, but to relentless strive and pursue the life of Christ.
Don’t Reproduce Your Life After Fake Examples
For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ (v 18). Here then is the reason for this command. There are many who are not walking or hiking this way. They are fake, actually enemies of the cross. In fact, Paul said he has often told you, but now tell you even weeping. Notice the genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of these people. We are not told if these were Christians or not, but this is such a serious threat that every book in the New Testament except Philemon has a warning about false teachers. The pattern of their lives is the exact opposite of Paul’s, otherwise they would not be enemies. They are a false example. Following them will never get you to your goal of imitating Christ is the point.
Imitating Fake Examples Will Only Bring Ruin
Whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things (v 19). Most of what Paul has to say about these enemies concerns their judgment. They will ultimately be judged and experience judgment. Since they are enemies they will be treated like enemies in the end. These individuals caused the apostle much grief because they misled Christians. Whether unbelievers or believers their end is destruction. For an unbeliever that is eternal consequences at the Great White Throne. For the believer its the experience of discipline, and even premature physical death as discipline, if they continue to resist the will of God. So you better have enough discernment to understand who they are, what they teach, and what God will do with them.
Paul has two significant descriptive comments about these fakers.
(1) Their God is their belly. Their appetites and addictions motivate the way they live. Physical appetites deceive us in two significant ways: they tell us they will satisfy us, and they tell us we can’t live without them. Just do it and you will have what you want. That characterizes how these enemies live. For example, romantically “falling in love” is a sexual addiction. One day you are fine; the next day you absolutely cannot live without someone. You become convinced your relationship will be satisfying and that you can’t live without it. The same is true for other appetite addictions: food, drugs, alcohol, hobbies, etc. Then Paul adds that the false glory of appetites is in their shame. The very over indulgence they promote is itself shameful. Romans 1:28-32 says pagans who are 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.
(2) Their minds are 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. The environmentalist hat which says our job is to take care of the planet. The social gospel hat which says eradicate poverty. The political hat which says make America Christian. The prosperity hat which says God wants you to be wealthy. All of these are earthly-minded false teaching. Watch out! This is the fastest growing church emphasis in American evangelicalism. The emphasis is on this-life, this-world Christianity. Beware!
PT: Imitating Christ is doing that in the world, living our lives, interacting with people. Its kingdom compassion, and love of the truth. Its your character, attitudes, ambitions, priorities, decisions, affections. And such, that people imitating you are imitating Christ—the Christ of which the Scriptures testify.
IMITATE CHRIST WHO WILL COMPLETE THE TRANSFORMATION WHEN HE COMES
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself (v 20-21). The reality is we do not belong here. Keep your head up. Make sure you are not being influenced by others who only live for the here and now. Everything in our world is motivated to motivate you to live as if this is all there is.
Keep Your Head Up Because Your Citizenship is in Heaven
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (v 20). Paul may be intentionally using the citizenship metaphor because Philippi was a Roman colony with Roman citizenship, which was rare for a city outside of Italy. But, whether it refers to their Roman status or not, the point is the same, this world is not our home, we are just a-passin’ through. We live here on earth where we raise our families and do our business, but we must not imitate the world for our citizenship is in heaven. This sojourn is brief.
Since believers have a heavenly citizenship we look with keen interest for the Savior’s return from heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The word eagerly wait 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 an entirely different orientation than what the enemies of the cross want to peddle. 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 waiting with anticipation. We are waiting for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and all that entails in connection with that description and name.
PT: 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 do all of that while anticipating something much grander than anything that can be offered here. Vance Havner 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.”
Keep Your Head Up as You Await Your Complete Eternal Transformation
Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself (v 21). At the Rapture of the church Christ will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. These diseased infested decaying bodies will be exchanged for ones completely transformed into the image of Christ’s resurrected body (1 Corinthians 15:50ff). Our natural body is earthly. Our resurrected body is heavenly. 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. And how will this transformation take place?
He will conform us completely into his image by the exertion of the power that He has. This final transformation will not be gradual but sudden, immediate and eternal transformed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:52)! The principle here is that our body will conform to the image of Christ’s resurrected body. With it, He could eat, be touched, and appear in rooms without coming through the door. It also apparently looked a bit different.
By the way, this is the same power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. The power to perform this final and complete transformation is the same power Christ uses to uphold everything in the universe so its sustained, not out of control He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). The same power that brings all to an end. The same power transforming us today on the inside. And when he comes for us he will come in power and we will never be the same again!
PT: Imitating Christ is adopting the character of Christ as one’s own. That requires two things: (1) understanding Christs character and commands and (2) applying His character diligently everywhere.
· 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.
· Do not lose site of your ultimate transformation into comprehensive Christlikeness because that will motivate you to pursue that now while you live here.
· Be around people who focus on the character of God and heavenly things, and avoid people who focus on this world and its appetites.