Summary: As champions of the cross we are to lift high the cross of Christ.
Champions Of The Cross
Text: Philippians 3:15-21
1. Illustration: British Pastor and Scholar John Stott, in his book The Cross of Christ, wrote about the centrality of the Cross in the Christian Faith. He wrote, "...the cross transforms everything. It gives us a new worshipping relationship to God, a new and balanced understanding of ourselves, a new incentive to give ourselves in mission, a new love for our enemies, and a new courage to face the perplexities of suffering" (17).
2. The cross is to Christianity as the flag is to our nation.
a. Just as we defend the flag out of a sense of patriotism, we should defend the cross out of a sense of discipleship.
b. We are called to be champions of the cross.
3. According to Paul, Champions Of The Cross...
a. Emulate Good Examples
b. Avoid Bad Examples
c. Live In Eager Expectation
4. Let's stand together as we read Phil. 3:15-21
Proposition: As champions of the cross we are to lift high the cross of Christ.
Transition: Champions of the cross...
I. Emulate Good Examples (15-17).
A. Pattern Your Lives
1. Mark Twain once said that "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. However, Paul says quite the opposite. Hey says we should strive to follow a good example.
2. First he starts out with the idea of being spiritually mature. He says, "Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you."
a. Agree on these things probably refers to the whole narrative, including the rejection of his Jewish past.
b. But it especially includes his "participation in Christ's sufferings by being conformed to his death" and his eager pursuit of the heavenly prize.
c. But then Paul makes a surprising qualification: And if on some point you disagree, I believe God will make plain to you.
d. Although some have seen here a hint of conflict between Paul and some in the community, that is most unlikely since Paul's tone carries not a whiff of the odor of controversy.
e. Indeed, his words are almost nonchalant ”a kind of "throwaway" sentence” which makes one think that no great issue can be in view.
f. That not all of them would necessarily see things his way is implied, but that much has been implied throughout the letter.
g. Most likely this is another matter to be understood in the context of friendship.
h. But throughout the letter he purposely avoids any hint of this kind of superior-to-inferior expression of friendship; in fact he goes out of his way to make sure that their friendship is understood (Fee).
3. Paul then shows the necessity of moving forward in our spiritual walk when he says, "But we must hold on to the progress we have already made."
a. Paul seems to be calling them to live in keeping with how they have already followed Christ, before they ever received this letter.
b. Given his longtime and loving relationship with this church, and his frequent stops there, it is hard to imagine that in this letter he is telling them anything new.
c. In fact in 3:1 he has said quite the opposite, that it is not burdensome for him to "write the same things" again as a "safeguard."
d. Thus both the Christ narrative, which is foundational for his, and his own story are not new; rather they tell the "old, old story" all over again.
e. This is what he and they have already attained, even if some are now slacking off in some way and for some reason.
f. The best explanation of the "why" of all this is the one suggested before, that in the face of opposition and some internal dissension, some of the Philippians have lost their vision for and focus on their crucified and risen Lord, including his coming again.
g. Even in a Roman prison Paul has not lost his vision; here he urges them to follow his example and to see their participation in Christ's sufferings as Christ's way of "conforming them to his death," so that they, with Paul, may joyously gain the prize of his eternal presence (Fee).
4. Paul then confidently tells them to follow his example. He says, "Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example."
a. For Paul correct thinking must lead to right living.
b. Paul used these two key words for discipleship: pattern and example.
c. Paul challenged the Philippians to pursue Christlikeness by following Paul’s own example and the examples of others whose lives were based on his.
d. This was not egotism on Paul’s part, for Paul always focused on Jesus Christ and urged the believers to also follow the example of others who followed Christ.