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The Apostle Paul often refers to the Christian life as a race and the Bible is full of stories of men and women of God, who began the race well, but failed in the end because they disregarded God’s rules for the race (see 2 Timothy 2:5). As a Christian if you don’t follow the rules, you don’t lose your salvation, but you miss out on the rewards (see 1 Corinthians 3:14-15).
In 2 Corinthians 5:10, we read that every believer must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we will be called to give an account for how we made use of our spiritual gifts and the calling of God on our lives.
Paul writes in verse 15, “Let those of us who are mature think this way…”
Spiritual maturity is not perfection, but it is daily making progress towards holiness and purity in our lives. The plan for our lives this side of heaven is progress not perfection.
Paul continues in verse 15, “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
The Christian life must be one of consistency, holding on to the ground that has already been taken as we grow in the Lord.
There are two primary reasons why people do not grow and mature in their walk with the Lord.
- They assume they are already mature. A person who makes a decision for Christ is not mature, they are spiritual infants. In this life spiritual maturity is a journey and not a destination.
- They are not willing to pay the price for maturity. Maturity comes at a cost. We must give up things that hold us back. There is pain involved in growth and we naturally shy away from pain. James 1:1-4 explains the common process of spiritual growth.
To mature as a Christian, we need role models, mature Christians who have walked the road ahead of us, that we can look to for inspiration and encouragement. Paul writes in verse 17 that the Philippian Christians should imitate him as an example. As Christians our life is what other people scrutinize. What kind of role-model are you for a younger Christian?
If that sounds intimidating, we need to be reminded that this is the design that God has for the church.
But then in verse 18 and 19 Paul describes a group of people that we should not follow as role-models. These people were in the church, members of the church in Philippi. This is why he says that he is writing with tears, it grieves him.
Paul says that these professing Christians are actually enemies of the cross, and he lists 4 rebukes against these people:
- “Their end is destruction” – These people are playing at being Christians, but they are wasting their lives.
- “their god is their belly” – They are driven by sensual appetites, this doesn’t mean that they are all gluttons, rather they run after every desire they have without self-control. Living for the moment and they have no concern for their eternal destination.
- “They glory in their shame” – People give themselves over to their passions and their appetites and then try to find a way to justify their actions, even declaring that what they are doing is right and good. God’s standard never changes, but the world and sadly many churches today have so embraced sin, even celebrating sin, “They glory in their shame”.
- “with minds set on earthly things “– Much like the modern Western church, we are programmed by materialism and the present world full of entertainment. One of my goals is to have an eternal perspective on everything and one of the goals of my ministry is to convey that passion to others.
Can you imagine the impact a church could have on the world if we saw everything we did and every dollar we spent through the lens of eternity?
Paul picks up that theme in verses 20 and 21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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.”
As Christians, we are under the rule and the authority of the kingdom of heaven. The people of Philippi grasped this easily, because even though they lived in Greece, they were under Roman rule. They submitted themselves to the higher authority of Rome. While we are here on the earth, living in the United States of America, we are subject to the laws of the land where we live. But these laws are temporary, this land is temporary, but our citizenship in the kingdom of God is eternal. So, while we adhere to the laws of the land, where those laws conflict with the laws of the eternal kingdom we must submit to the higher authority.
Paul has an eager expectation of Jesus coming again, this is what it means to have an eternal perspective. Our residence here is temporary, the things we spend most of our time stressing about are temporary (see 2 Corinthians 4:18).
Everything we have is temporary, but what will endure is the lasting effects of a life lived for Jesus, how you spend your time, how you spend your money will determine the eternal rewards that Jesus has in store for you. Are you living with an eternal perspective?
Are you living as a true follower of Jesus?
Are you a citizen of heaven or are you an enemy of the cross?