Summary: An expository message based on a series preached at Immanuel Baptist Church, Elgin, IL
The Characteristics of Christian Citizens
17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)
A sister and a brother in a Christian and patriotic family were playing together, and their words were overheard by their parents. The boy recited at the end of the mock church service, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The girl continued in a strong voice, “and the republic for which it stands.” Their playing church illustrates well, I think, an issue that we as Christians face. The fact of our dual citizenship.
Of all the temptations, the temptation to become comfortable in this world, to settle down in it-- this may be the most difficult to resist. Christians have always wrestled with how to be in the world and not of it—to hold a dual citizenship with our highest allegiance to the kingdom of heaven.
The Philippians could relate to the idea of dual citizenship. Though Phillipi was some 600 miles away from Rome, it was still a colony of Rome. Though they lived in Philippi in Macedonia, these people were citizens of the Roman Empire. They didn’t want to speak the language of Macedonia; they wanted to speak the language of Rome. When they put their children in bed at night, they did not tell them stories of Macedonia; they told them stories of the glory of Rome.
We receive our mail at 321 Julie Lane, Hampshire, IL But that’s just our temporary address. Our permanent address is heaven. We’re just passing through here! Here we are, resident aliens, trying to establish a beachhead on someone else’s turf. We are an island of Christians, surrounded by an ocean of non-Christians.
Paul is talking about these very things in Philippians 3:17-21. He’s telling the Philippian church and us what are the characteristics of Christian citizens living temporarily in this world.
He tells us 3 important truths:
1. Spiritually-minded Christian citizens imitate
excellent Christian role models. (Verse 17)
2. Spiritually-minded Christian citizens shun
worldly values. (Verses 18-19)
3. Spiritually-minded Christian citizens consider
their primary citizenship to be in heaven.
which incidently makes them good citizens in
this world.) (Verses 20-21)
1. Copying other spiritually-minded believers - Vs. 17 tells us to follow the example of Paul in Godly living and those who are also following his example. Paul and others were not perfect, but still they were excellent role models.
In my limited understanding of 12-step programs, whether a person is recovering from eating disorders, gambling addictions, co-dependency, or alcohol problems, a person cannot recover from their dependency unless they have a sponsor. A sponsor serves as a motivator, an encouragement, and a source of accountability. Likewise, Christians cannot grow properly unless they have a mentor or guide. We call this discipleship. Unfortunately, discipleship is a lost practice in the church. We need a mature Christian to help us in our journey here on earth. I have a mentor who prays for me, encourages me, and challenges me. Without him, I would be stunted in my growth as a Christian. Thus Paul writes in v. 17 “Brothers, become imitators together in following my example and pay attention in the same way of those conducting themselves who have a pattern in us.”
Paul is not a braggart here: He has just told us in the Philippians 3:12 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on. Paul is saying to those prone to follow anybody who “sounds” good or “looks” good that they should follow people who “do” good, like himself, Timothy or anyone else who imitates the life of the crucified and risen Lord.
Can we offer ourselves as a pattern, asking others to follow our lifestyle? There are no Bibles like human Bibles. There are all kinds of bibles: pulpit bibles, teachers’ bibles, children’s bibles, women’s bibles – all kinds of bibles. But there is only one Bible the unsaved are taking time to read and that is the bible characterized in your life and mine. If our unsaved neighbors and friends do not see the Lord Jesus Christ in us, in all probability they will never see Him. What do they read when they look at our lives? What do they see? Are we examples of the God of grace and glory who has sacrificed everything for us?