Resident or Alien? Philippians 3c
Stephen Caswell © 2004
Abraham & Lot
Because the flocks of Abraham and Lot had increased greatly, they could no longer dwell together. Abraham graciously allowed his younger nephew to have first choice as to where they would settle. Lot chose the fertile Jordan Valley. He pitched his tent toward the wicked city of Sodom and eventually became a citizen of that city. He lost everything when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham, however, dwelt in the more arid land of Canaan. He dwelt in tents considering himself to be an alien or stranger in a foreign land. He looked for a heavenly city whose maker was God. As a result, God blessed Abraham and all the families of the earth through him. Abraham lived for the future and God blessed his faith.
So far in Philippians chapter 3 we have seen Paul's attitude to the past and present. He evaluated his past as an Accountant. He counted all things loss for Christ and all things gain in Christ. He had new values. Then we saw Paul the Athlete pressing on toward the goal for the prize of Christ's home call. He didn't live in the past but pressed on for Christ. He had new vigor. Today we see Paul's attitude for the future. He is not a resident of earth but an Alien looking for His Savior's return. Like all aliens, Paul knew that he didn't belong here. His citizenship was in heaven where he longed to be. He had new vision. Paul contrasts the lives of the earthly citizens with that of heavenly citizens. Earthly citizens live for the present whilst heavenly citizens live for the future. Today we will see two things, The Conduct Of Earthly Citizens, The Conviction Of Heavenly Citizens
Firstly The Conduct Of Earthly Citizens
Philippians 3:18-19: For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
Firstly Paul calls earthly citizens enemies of the cross of Christ. Who are these enemies described in verse 18? Are these people believers? They are folk who claim to be God's people yet live contrary to the Christian life. I believe that this refers to people inside the Christian Church who live worldly lives. Paul weeps for them because they should know better. They have heard the Gospel but denied its power in their lives. Therefore, Paul calls them enemies of the cross of Christ. The cross of Christ was the means of our redemption. The believer has died to the old life and now lives for Christ. God freed his people from both the penalty and power of sin on the cross. When people who hear the Gospel live for earthly pleasures they become Christ's enemies. Because they treat the cross with contempt.
At Cross Purposes?
Jesus is a great divider of life. One must walk parallel with Him or directly across His way. Charles M. Sheldon The cross of Christ divides between the righteous and the wicked. Everything depends upon our relationship to the cross. We will be either God's friends or His enemies.
b. Depraved Phil 3:19b: whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their mind on earthly things.
Paul describes their lifestyle. They eat and drink and indulge in physical pleasure. You might say what is wrong with eating, drinking and sex? Hasn't God ordained a proper use for all of these things? Yes, He has! But it was the abuse of these same things that brought God's judgment in the days of Noah. Matthew 24:38-39: For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
In Noah's day people were eating and drinking and giving in marriage. But that's all that they were doing. They had no interest in the things of God. They gloried in shameful living and filled the earth with violence. This describes life today. Often professing Christians get drunk; some are unfaithful to their spouses. They glory in shameful living. Far too many Christians listen to the worlds music, watch immoral movies and behave like earthly citizens. Do you desire godliness or worldly pleasures?
In chapter 2 Paul commanded believers to have Christ's mind. These enemies of Christ set their minds on earthly things. They don’t God a thought; they live totally for themselves. They indulge in sinful pleasures without considering the consequences. They live for time, not eternity. The enemies of Christ are earthly citizens in every way, body, soul and spirit. James 4:4 warns believers about friendship with the world: Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. The believer must not befriend this wicked world.
c. Doomed Philippians 3:19a: whose end is destruction,
However God has decreed that they will end in destruction. The people of Noah’s day were taken by surprise when the flood came; so too will these be taken by destruction. The word destruction ἀπώλεια means perdition, ruin. It does not mean annihilation, but rather eternal suffering. The enemies of Christ give no thought for tomorrow. They don't consider God's coming judgment day. They think that all will be well. Life will go on as usual and when they die everything will turn out okay. God loves people and He won't condemn them to hell. But they are wrong. God has appointed them to destruction. These worldly citizens will be ruined, separated from God for all eternity. This is the opposite of salvation showing that they were never saved.
Signs of the Times -- Michael Bogart
The May 1984 National Geographic showed through color photos and drawings the swift and terrible destruction that wiped out the Roman Cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79. The explosion of Mount Vesuvius was so sudden; the residents were killed while in their routine: men and women were at the market, the rich in their luxurious baths, and slaves at toil. They died amid volcanic ash and superheated gasses. Even family pets suffered the same quick and final fate. It takes little imagination to picture the panic of that terrible day.
The saddest part is that these people did not have to die. Scientists confirm what ancient Roman writers record -- weeks of rumblings and shakings preceded the actual explosion. Even an ominous plume of smoke was clearly visible from the mountain days before the eruption. If only they had been able to read and respond to Vesuvius's warning! There are similar rumblings in our world: warfare, earthquakes, the nuclear threat, economic woes, breakdown of the family and moral standards. While not exactly new, these things do point to a coming day of Judgment. People need not be caught unprepared. God warns and provides an escape to those who will heed the rumblings.
Are you an earthly citizen? Have you made friends with the world? Have you come to the cross for salvation? Have you nailed your old life and its desires to the cross? Is your heart set on things above where Christ is seated? Whether you are God's friend or enemy depends where you stand in relationship to the cross! Are you a friend of the cross or an enemy?
Secondly The Conviction Of Heavenly Citizens
a. Living For Christ
Philippians 3:17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
Needle And Thread
A native of the Congo prayed thus: Dear Lord, You be the needle and I be the thread. You go first, and I will follow wherever You may lead.
Paul says to the Philippians, brethren follow my example. The words follow my example συμμιμητής mean co-imitator, to follow together. We often hear the expression in jest, Do as I say, not as I do. Not so the apostle! He could hold up his own life as a model of wholehearted devotion to Christ and to His cause. 1 Corinthians 11:1 says: Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. Paul says follow me as I am following Christ. A disciple is one who follows Jesus Christ. The Philippians could follow Paul’s example. He then says mark or take note of others who walk in a godly way and imitate them. Timothy and Epaphroditus were good examples for the Philippians to follow. As soldiers march in single file believers should follow Jesus Christ.
Trials Used To Produce Godliness
Some flowers, such as the rose, must be crushed if their full fragrance is to be released. Some fruits, such as the sycamore, must be bruised if they are to attain ripeness and sweetness. Some metals, such as gold, must be heated in the furnace if they are to become pure. The attaining of godliness—the process of becoming a mature Christian — requires similar special handling. It is often through pain, suffering, trouble, adversity, trials, and even temptation that we develop spiritual discipline and become refined and enriched.
Following Christ demands much more of us than we think. Jesus Christ’s life was one that knew trials and lack. It was a difficult life; but a blessed one too. Paul knew what it meant to follow Christ. He experienced daily the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. This is why he could command believers to become imitators of himself and other godly disciples. Paul encourages Christians to live by a higher standard. The standard of our heavenly captain. Colossians 3:1-2: If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
Deliverance From Carnality
The story is told of Handley Page, a pioneer in aviation, who once landed in an isolated area during his travels. Unknown to him, a rat got aboard the plane there. On the next leg of the flight, Page heard the sickening sound of gnawing. Suspecting it was a rodent, his heart began to pound as he visualized the serious damage that could be done to the fragile mechanisms that controlled his plane and the difficulty of repairs because of the lack of skilled labor and materials in the area. What could he do? He remembered hearing that a rat cannot survive at high altitudes, so he pulled back on the stick. The airplane climbed higher and higher until Page found it difficult to breathe. He listened intently and finally sighed with relief. The gnawing had stopped. When he arrived at his destination, he found the rat lying dead behind the cockpit!
Oftentimes we, God’s children, are plagued by sin that gnaws at our life simply because we are living at too low a spiritual level. To see sin defeated in our lives requires that we move up away from the world to a higher level where the things of this world cannot survive. Paul followed Christ's example not the example of earthly citizens. He was living for Christ's cause. He was totally committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians ought to live for Christ. They must press on to become more like Him.
1 Peter 2:11-12: Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Peter says that believers are strangers here. Travelers just passing through on their way home. Since we are heaven's citizens we must behave like such. This requires us to abstain from earthly pleasures and to live holy lives. We follow Christ and imitate others who live like Him. Are you living for Christ's cause?
b. Looking For Christ Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Looking for the Blessed Hope
I was told of a poor peasant in the mountains who, month after month, year after year, through a long period of declining life, opened his casement every morning, as soon as he awoke, and looked toward the east to see if Jesus Christ were coming. He had not calculated the date of Christ's coming, or he would not have needed to look at all.
He was ready for Christ's coming, or he would not have been in such a hurry to seek him. He was willing for Christ's coming, or he would rather have looked another way. He loved Christ, or He would not have been his first thought in the morning. His Master did not come, but eventually a messenger did, to fetch the ready one home. The same preparation was sufficient for both; his longing soul was satisfied with either. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Heavenly citizens look for Christ's return. They live in the future tense. The people of earth live for the present, for pleasures here and now. Heavenly citizens live for the future. Paul anticipated Christ's return. Such anticipation is a strong motivation for godly living. 1 John 3:2-3: Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Roman Citizens – Heavenly Citizens
The city of Philippi was a Roman colony. In Philippi the laws of Rome were enforced. The people wore the same kind of styles that were worn in Rome. They spoke Latin. Everything in Philippi was like Rome because it was a colonial city. Today, believers, collectively called the church, should be a colony of heaven, and they ought to act like they act in heaven and speak the language of heaven. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, but it should be our goal.
There is tremendous energy in the present power of a future hope. Because Abraham looked for a city, he was content to live in a tent. Because Moses looked for the rewards of heaven, he was willing to forsake the treasures of earth. Because of the joy that was set before Him, Jesus was willing to endure the cross. The fact that Jesus Christ is returning is a powerful motive for dedicated service today. Our names are recorded on heavens record, the lamb's book of life. We don't belong here, but in glory. The word wait ἀπεκδέχομαι means to eagerly await, to wait patiently. It carries the idea of both waiting and looking. The KJV translates it look. The Lord told us not only to wait for him but to watch for him, and he has pronounced a special blessing on those who do watch.
Watch And Wait
The story is told of a small Scotch fishing village where many of the men worked on the sea. After days at sea, the skipper of a fishing boat was bringing his craft back home. As the boat neared the shore, the men gazed eagerly toward the dock, where a group of their loved ones were waiting. The skipper, looking through his glass, identified some of the women, saying, I see Bill’s Mary, and there is Tom’s Margaret, and David’s Anne. One man was very anxious because his wife was not there. He left the boat with a heavy heart and pressed his steps up the hill, where he saw a light in his cottage. As he opened the door, his wife ran to meet him, saying, I have been waiting for you. He replied with a proper rebuke, Yes, but the other men’s wives were watching for them.
Titus 2:13: speaks of this: looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
c. Longing For Change
Philippians 3:21: who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
The Rapture - Transformation
The story is told of an old farmer who brought his family to the big city for the first time. They had never seen buildings so tall or sights so impressive. The farmer dropped his wife off at a department store and took his son to the bank -- the tallest of all buildings. As they walked into the lobby, they saw something else they had never seen before. Two steel doors opened. A rather large and elderly woman walked in, and the big doors closed behind her. The dial over the door swept to the right and then back to the left. The doors opened and a beautiful young lady came walking out. The farmer was amazed. He turned to his son and said, You wait right here. I'm going to get your mother and run her through that thing! At the rapture we'll be taken up and transformed along the way.
Paul was looking for the return of Jesus Christ. He longed to receive his glorified body. He knew that his new body would be far superior to his present one. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44: So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. Paul longed to receive a new incorruptible body that God had prepared for him. He wanted to lay aside the weak, sinful and decayed body he knew so well. He longed for immortality.
He hints at this in Philippians 3:11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. The word resurrection ἐξανάστασις in verse 11 is found only here in the New Testament. It means an out resurrection from amongst the dead. Paul is probably referring to the rapture here. Where the living saints will be changed and caught up with out dying. But they will be caught up with the resurrected saints in the clouds. Paul was expressing his hope that Christ might return in his life time. In fact he longed for this to happen.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Bismarck, speaking with Andrew White, our ambassador to Germany, said of immortality: I do not doubt it, even for a moment. This life is too sad, too incomplete, to satisfy our highest aspirations and desires. It is meant to be a struggle to ennoble us. Can the struggle be in vain? I think not. Final perfection, I believe in, a perfection which God has in store for us.
Are you following Jesus Christ? Are you living for Him? Are you looking for His return? Are you longing to be with Him? Are you longing for the glories of heaven and immortality?
The best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget the presence of Christ. -- William Barclay
Are you a Resident or an Alien? Where is your citizenship? On Earth or in Heaven? Are you friends with God or the world? What is your heart set upon heaven or earth? We can’t have it both ways! We either live for Christ as an alien. Or we live for the world as a resident? We will either live like Lot a worldly citizen or like Abraham a heavenly one!
2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.