Paul made a sandwich out of two statements, with the middle portion being the “meat” of his argument.
On either end of his message, he appeals for the church to imitate his behavior.
Philippians 3.17 – Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.
Philippians 4.1 – Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
The only possible way that Paul can challenge his readers to imitate him is because he has fashioned his life after the attitudes and actions of Jesus.
Paul could truthfully say, “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3.8).
When a person makes it their deepest desire to live in a loving relationship with Jesus, we do well to follow their example.
Who Not to Follow
There are people and human inclinations that we should not follow. We will miss Paul’s point in verses 18 and 19 if we don’t see our own wrong thinking as part of the problem.
Philippians 3.18-19 – For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears.
Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.
I want to believe that I would never be an enemy of the one who went to the cross for my salvation. However, to the extent that I make selfish pleasures my “god,” I am one of his enemies.
One author describes Christians who have their belly (desires for pleasure and privilege) as the ruling force in their lives and who have set their minds on earthly things as “traitors in the kingdom of God.”
I think this is an apt description. We all should check selfish pleasure-seeking impulses.
The first Psalm addresses how we should react to people who are enemies of Christ.
Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path that sinners tread
or sit in the seat of scoffers,
But their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night. (Psalm 1.1-2)
We follow Paul’s example because we belong to a different kingdom than the one that emphasizes personal privilege and pleasure.
Philippians 3.20-21 – But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Two of my favorite authors explain the importance of having our “citizenship in heaven.”
Rufus Moseley frequently wrote about “living in heaven on the way to heaven.” We believe heaven will be great, so let’s live like we are already in heaven.
Dallas Willard said we are right to think about going to heaven when we die. However, we need to emphasize our responsibility to bring heaven to earth.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we cooperate with God to bring the reality of heaven to earth.
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be revered as holy.
May your kingdom come.
May your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6.9-10)
The kingdom of God is the effective reach of his power. In heaven, God’s power and authority are recognized as absolute and fully obeyed.
When we pray for his kingdom to come, we ask God to have ultimate authority and power over our lives. In that way, we bring heaven to earth.
Imitate Paul and Jesus
The best way to imitate Paul is to strive like Paul (see Philippians 3.7-16) to live a Jesus-kind-of-life.
We will need to become familiar with the story of Jesus that is found in the Gospels to know what that kind of life entails.
We will need the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit to begin living in this way.
I’m sure you will agree with me that it is well worth the effort.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. You will appreciate Rudy’s insights.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.