Summary: In our Christian warfare on earth, imitate the example of those like Paul who look only to the cross of Christ, anticipating heaven. Parts: A. Imitating those who, like Paul, are allies of the cross of Christ. B. Anticipating our true country.

Text: Philippians 3:17-4:1

Theme: Stand Firm With Your Fellow Citizens

A. Imitating those who, like Paul, are allies of the cross of Christ

B. Anticipating our true country

Season: Lent 2c

Date: February 28, 2010

Web page:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit shows us what Jesus and his cross have prepared for us is Philippians 3:17 -- 4:1

"Be co-imitators of me, brothers, and watch those who walk in the same way as you have us as a pattern. For many -- about whom I have often been telling you and now also as I weep am telling you -- many are walking as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their god is their belly and their glory is their shame. They only think of earthly things. Our homeland belongs in heaven from where as well we eagerly are waiting the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body according to his working by which he's able to also place all things under himself. Therefore, brothers, my beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved. " (Philippians 3:17-4:1)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

When their country is attacked, citizens rally to stand together against a common foe. Think of the surge of patriotism after Pearl Harbor was bombed or when the hijacked planes destroyed the Twin Towers. On the other hand, when the wisdom or legitimacy of a war comes into doubt or when the danger from the enemy isn't so great, then voices question the country's leadership. The nation as a whole does not stand firmly together. We've seen that as well in our national history. As far as earthly countries and earthly wars go, there's always some doubt. For sinful, error-prone human beings lead earthly countries and make the decisions for war or peace.

But dear Christians, we are engaged in a much greater war. The Apostle describes this war in Ephesians 6: "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). In today's text he describes our opponents in this war as "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18 NIV). And our country, our homeland, is not the United States of America. It's not any of the other lands that our ancestors emigrated from. Our country, our homeland, is heaven. That's where are citizenship is.

So, dear Christians, stand firm with your fellow citizens whose citizenship is in heaven. Stand firm imitating those who, like Paul, are allies of the cross of Christ. Stand firm anticipating your true country.

A. Imitating those who, like Paul, are allies of the cross of Christ

1. Describe Paul's attitude toward his fellow Christians and toward Christ.

As Paul urges the Philippian Christians to stand firm, notice how he addresses them: "My brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown . . . dear friends!" (Philippians 4:1 NIV). He cares for them deeply as he urges them to "stand firm in the Lord" (Philippians 4:1 NIV).

Yes, dear friends, stand firm by imitating those who, like Paul, are allies of the cross of Christ. Imitate their love for Christ and their deep affection for those who follow Christ's cross. "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you" (Philippians 3:17 NIV), the Apostle Paul writes. This isn't Paul saying, "Look at me! See how great I am. Too bad you're not more like me." Such arrogance couldn't exist with the love and long Paul had for the Philippian Christians. It wouldn't call them his joy and his crown. Paul did not glory in himself. He gloried in what God had done in the hearts of the Philippians, that's what gladded him and that's what he counted as important. They were his joy and his crown.

He explains this joy at the beginning of the letter, when he writes, "In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:4-6 NIV). Paul's joy was focused on the work Jesus was accomplishing in the hearts of the Philippians.

For you see, Paul's treasure, his riches, his crown, all centered in Jesus and in what Jesus had done on the cross to make sinners right with God. A few sentences before today's text he writes, "Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a lose compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ -- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:7-9). The righteousness that comes from the cross of Christ -- that was his real treasure.

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