Sermon

Pay Attention (Philippians 3:17-4:1)

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Choose your friends wisely. Author Greg Trimble wrote an article recently entitled, “The Most Dangerous Temptation That Faces Our Youth.” In it, he admits, “For me, almost every single not-so-holy thing that I was exposed to in my youth came by way of my friends. And if you think back into your past, you’ll likely come to the same conclusion.” In Computer Science, this principle is called “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. If you input bad/flawed information into the program, you will receive bad/flawed information from the program. In real life, if you surround yourself with good friends, you are most likely to have good conversations, relationships, and decision-making. But, if you surround yourself with bad friends, you will most likely have bad conversations, relationships, and decision-making. It is important to choose your friends wisely and pay attention to how those with whom you associate live their lives.

Pay Attention to Those Who Walk Well

Having instructed the Philippians to “hold true to what we have attained” (3:16), Paul then encouraged them to “join in imitating me and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (3:17). As we press on towards Christ, we should pay attention to one another in order to encourage each other to be more spiritually mature. We are to take note of and pay attention to the godly men and women around us and imitate them. We should keep our eyes on those who live faithfully. This is not just a recognition of words but actions. It’s not just accepting a profession of faith but noticing a new way of life that results from a possession of faith. Pay attention to men like Timothy who was “genuinely concerned for your welfare” (2:20). Honor such men as Epaphroditus whom Paul said was, “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need” (2:25).

Pay Attention to Those Who Don’t Walk Well

Paul stressed the importance of paying attention to those who live faithfully because there are “many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:18). Why does Paul call them enemies of the cross of Christ? Paul isn’t warning about people outside the church because no warning would be necessary. Tragically, those whom Paul are describing are in the church. They are similar to, in Paul’s day, the Judaizers who claimed one must keep the Law of Moses to be a Christian. They are people who claim to know Christ and follow Him but deny both claims in their actions. They are those of whom Paul warned Timothy to avoid because they: “have a form of godliness but deny its power” (2 Tim 3:5). Pay attention to but do not imitate ungodly people, regardless of their profession of faith (18-19). Paul is warning, through tear filled eyes, that there are wicked and immoral people in the church who seek to lead others astray.

These people may have professed faith in Christ, but they do not possess faith in Christ. They say they have faith, but their works do not demonstrate genuine faith (James 2:26). They may have proclaimed faith in Christ, but they dislike the cross of Christ. They want the blessings the cross of Christ brings, but shrink back from the surrender the cross of Christ demands. They want to be saved and go to heaven; they want the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.), but they don’t want to deny themselves and take up the cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34). They think it’s important to save their own life (Mark 8:35). They think losing one’s life for the sake of the gospel is a waste (Mark 8:35). They think it is better to gain the whole world because they don’t believe Jesus when He says that will cause them to forfeit their soul. (Mark 8:36). Paul described them thus: 

  • Their end is destruction. They think they have eternal life, but they are lost due to their lack of faith. 
  • Their god is their belly. They say, “Jesus is Lord.”, but they are controlled and consumed by their lusts, passions, and desires. 
  • They glory in their shame. Rather than repent of their sin, they immerse themselves in it like a pig wallowing in the mud. 
  • Their minds are set on earthly things. They make selfish decisions to benefit themselves here and now. It is very difficult to get them to see past their own feet. 

Paul’s point is that far too many people consider themselves to be Christ followers, but walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. They want the benefits but despise the cost. If we fail to live godly lives, then we have given up our daily fight against sin. If you do not hunger and thirst for righteousness after your conversion, can you truly call it a conversion? If you do not have new passions and desires, can you truly call yourself “born-again”? God cares about the way we live, what we think, what we say, and how we act.

Pay Attention to Who & What is Coming

In contrast to those who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ, true Christians boast in the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14). Genuine Christians do not have their minds on earthly things but set their minds “on things that are above” (Col 3:2) because their citizenship is in heaven, not on earth. We live on earth, but this earth is not our home. From heaven “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (3:21). We rejoice that Jesus Christ; our Lord is coming back for us just as He promised (John 14:1). 

When Jesus returns, He “will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body” (3:21). The weak body we have will be cast off and our new glorious body will be put on (2 Cor. 5:1-5). The power that enables Jesus to bring this about is the same power He uses to reign over “all things” (3:21). Christians have before them the glorious day when our glorious Savior will give us a glorious body and bring us to a glorious land. Christians have before them the completion of their salvation: Glorification.

Choose your friends wisely. Who you choose to associate with reveals a lot about who you are, what you want, and where you are going. Pay attention to those who live faithfully and pursue holiness. Imitate godly people and walk according to their example. Let us love one another and encourage one another in our actions. Let us continue our daily fight against sin and “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33)