March 30th, 2016
"Brothers, be imitators of me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ."
Four words are very important for understanding how to apply the above two verses to your life. Read through the list of words and then the short lesson that helps us live out what Paul taught us. (The four Greek words have the English translation in bold/italics print, the part of speech it is and the dictionary definition.)
"be" verb imperative present middle or passive deponent 2nd person plural; “to come into a certain state or possess certain characteristics, to be, prove to be, turn out to be”
"imitators" noun nominative masculine plural; “one who joins others as an imitator, fellow-imitator”
"keep your eyes on" verb imperative present active 2nd person plural; "to pay careful attention to, look (out) for, notice"
"example" noun accusative masculine singular; "embodiment of characteristics or function of a model, copy, image, example"
We have two commands to obey in verse 17. The Lord first gives us the ability to obey His commands and then gives us the commands. All people who have believed the gospel have the power to obey all the commands of Christ.
Paul gives us two commands of Christ: (1) be imitators of himself and (2) keep your eyes on those who imitate him.
The two commands are written to mean we are to do this as a lifestyle. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul commands the Christians to imitate him as he imitates Christ. To make disciples Christ taught the truth and lived the truth. Paul imitated Christ. We are to imitate Paul.
The best way to help our family walk with Jesus Christ is to teach them biblical truth and to live out the truth in their presence. The tendency is to respond to ungodliness with ungodliness while trying to teach the truth. When we do that we are teaching ungodliness. Jesus responded to ungodliness with godly speech and behavior as did Paul and so should we. We have the power to do it.
If we keep our eyes on godly people and imitate them, it will keep us from walking in sin and keep us living an abundant life.
Romans 12:1-2 tells us how to live a life worth imitating.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Compare your life to how the Bible says to live. What changes or growth do you need to make? Attempt to make the changes or growth needed expecting the Lord to fulfill your act of faith with His power.
"Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained."
The mature will think as Paul just taught in the previous verses (3:1-14). Paul taught we are righteous by faith in Christ not by something we do. When a person believes Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin, rose again on the third day and is Lord, then that person immediately is forgiven of his/her sin and made righteous in God’s sight even though no other changes have been made. This is called positional righteousness, redemption, justification or freedom from the penalty of sin which is eternal torment.
Paul realizes that even though in God’s sight he is righteous, he is aware that he hasn’t achieved a sinless life in his day to day living. He states he presses on towards living more and more righteously. The more his mind is renewed by the truth, the more he lives according to the truth, that is, righteously.
In Romans 12:2 Paul taught that we are being transformed continually as we practice truth we learn. Righteousness lived out in our day to day living is called experiential righteousness, sanctification or living free from slavery to sin and living as a slave to obedience which leads to righteousness (Romans 6:16). Paul lives more and more in obedience to the truth by faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:20).
So compare yourself to the scriptures and see if you are mature in your thinking. Do you know that you have been made righteous by faith in the death, burial, resurrection, and lordship of Jesus? Do you press on to obey the Lord Jesus by faith or do you go on sinning saying it will be forgiven anyway?
The mature thinking believer knows all his/her sins are forgiven because he/she was pardoned upon belief in the gospel. The mature believer also seeks to live obedient to the word of God no matter how difficult it may be.
The immature believer doubts his/her salvation. The immature believer does not press on to live obedient to Jesus by learning and practicing the word of God. The immature believer does not look forward to the reward of God saying, "Well done" upon completion of his/her earthly existence.
The job of the mature believer is to teach the truth. The job of the Holy Spirit is to reveal the truth as real to the person being taught. Each believer is to live according to the truth revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Three questions to reflect on:
1. What is God saying to you?
2. What are you going to do about it?
3. Who are you going to share this truth with?
"Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Paul testifies that he has not made it his own. What is "it"? "It" is perfect righteousness in the presence of Jesus.
When Jesus comes every believer will receive a new body that is perfect. Righteousness will be untainted by sin. Paul is telling us that he has not achieved perfection, but he puts the past out of mind and seeks to live more like Jesus each day by being a good steward of the assignment he has from the Lord.
By faith Paul attempts to obey Lord's commands, fully expecting the Lord to fulfill his acts of faith with His power. Paul's obedience leads to experiential righteousness, that is, he is becoming more what Jesus has already made him. Obedience to Jesus yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness in our lives now.
Paul sees himself running an endurance race in this life on his way to be in the presence of the Lord forever. A runner who looks back, slows himself down and doesn't run as good a race as he could have. If we look back at our past failures or successes, we won't run as good a race as we could have.
We need to keep our eyes on the goal of the race, the finish line. The finish line for the Christian is to be in the presence of Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1-3, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Like Paul during the time of his writing, we haven't achieved perfection. We haven't finished our race (our God-given assignments). We have fallen in the race at times. And, we have run some good legs of the race.
Yet, we are encouraged to forget the past and keep pressing on to complete our assignments from God until the day we reach the finish line and are in the presence of Jesus.
What is your assignment from God, the race you are running? Is it parenting, being a husband or wife, your job, being a godly neighbor?
One common assignment for each of us is being a witness for Christ who helps those around us know Him and be saved from sin and its penalty, eternal torment.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."
What has Paul not yet obtained? (Verse 12a)
1. He has not yet obtained a full knowledge of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 3:8)
In 1 Corinthians 13:8 Paul tells us we will not know Jesus fully until we go to be with Him face to face - when we die or when He comes again for us.
2. He has not obtained a perfect life yet. He has been made righteous in Christ, but he still sins now and has not obtained perfect righteousness in his daily living.
What does Paul do? (verse 12b)
Paul presses on to take hold of that for which Jesus took hold of Him. What is that? It is eternal and abundant life.
Abundant life is experienced by living righteously, that is, according to God's will revealed in the Bible. We live righteously by obeying what Jesus taught (Romans 6:16). We obey by faith. Living by faith means we attempt to live according to Jesus words expecting Him to help us do it.
Are you pressing on to live the abundant life?
We need to be daily learning what Jesus taught us and living according to it by faith. Like Paul, we need to press on doing this until the day the Lord takes us to be with Himself. On that day we will know Jesus fully and be perfect.
Like Paul, we can expect many difficulties in this life. Like Paul, we need to share in Jesus' sufferings. The path to abundant life is through the cross of Christ. We are to take up our cross daily and follow Him.
"For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh- 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."
People were teaching false things concerning salvation from sin to the Philippian Christians and claiming it was the truth. Paul gave us an example to follow. He refuted error with Truth. Most of us don't have time to learn all the false teaching, but we do have time to learn the Truth by daily reading or listening to the Bible and learning it.
Paul refutes the false teaching (that we need to be circumcised to be saved from our sin) with the Truth. He says of Christians, "We are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh."
The false teachers instruct people that they are saved from sin by what they do. Paul taught the people that they are saved by what they believe Christ did. Jesus Christ died on the cross as payment for our sins, rose again from the dead as proof He paid for our sins in full, and ascended to His throne to rule as Lord over all.
Paul answers the question, "But what about the people who live a good life?" Paul shares that he lived life better than all others, but it wasn't good enough to gain freedom from the penalty of sin, which is eternal torment. Paul stated that he willingly gave up credit for all he had ever done when he came to know Christ and believed that what He (Jesus) did saved him from the penalty of sin.
Are you trusting your salvation from the penalty of sin comes from what you do or from what you believe Jesus did for you? Our salvation comes when we believe Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross, rose again from the dead on the third day and is Lord of all. Jesus calls us to repent of our sins and believe in Him.
"Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh."
“Look out” is a command given to us that means we are to be vigilant so we are not hurt by dogs, evildoers, and those who mutilate the flesh. It means we are to stand guard so none of the three can sneak up on us and cause us harm.
If I am told to be on the lookout for someone I need to know what I am looking for. Do you know what the Apostle Paul means when he tells us to look out for dogs, evildoers and mutilators of the flesh?
We need to ask two questions to know what Paul is telling us to look out for, “What did it mean to those he wrote the letter?” and “What does it mean to us now?”
First, what did it mean to those he wrote the letter?
In Philippians 3:2 and Revelation 22:15 we learn “dogs” are those “who love and practice falsehood” and say they are Christians.
In 1 Corinthians 11:13-14; 15:12, 32, 33 “evil workers” are those proclaim false teaching that leads to a life ruined by sin and eternal judgment and who claim to be Christians.
“Mutilators of the flesh” refers to false teachers that instruct men to be circumcised in order to be accepted by God or saved from the penalty of sin, which is eternal torment and claim to be Christians. “Mutilators of the flesh” instruct people to obey the Law as taught in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in order to be saved from the penalty of sin, eternal torment.
What does it mean to us today? We are to look out for people who claim to be Christians and teach what is false.
We need special vision to spot the “dogs”, “evil workers” and “mutilators of the flesh”. We get that vision by looking through the lens of Truth, the Bible. If we don’t know the word of God then we will be unable to obey the command given to us by Jesus Christ.
What kind of vision do you have? If you don’t know the Bible, then you will not be able protect yourself, your family, your friends and those in your community.
I would encourage you to start systematically reading the Bible. Start by reading Genesis chapters 1-11. Continue by reading systematically through the New Testament. Start at Matthew and read through Revelation. Do it at least three times and then start over in Genesis and read the Old Testament.
"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you."
What do we do when we want to emphasize something to someone to make sure he knows it and will remember it? We tell him multiple times.
If our teenager is going on a camping trip to the boundary waters in northern Minnesota then we are likely to tell him not to dive into water until the depth and freedom from rocks is first checked out. We tell him this multiple times and say as he leaves, "Now remember, don't dive into water until you have checked it out." We want to keep our teenager safe.
Paul tells the Philippian Christians that it is no trouble for him to remind them again of God's truth so they will be safe.
Why did he need to do this? False teachers were seeking to lead the Christians away from the truth. The truth protects us. False teaching robs us of abundant life.
If we forget the truth that sets us free to live an abundant life in any circumstance, then we become slaves of sin that ruins our life in any circumstance.
The scripture says we are to remind people in our sphere of influence of the truth that sets them free so they won't be enslaved by sin that ruins them. As we look at our life, is it in conformity with how Jesus tells us to live? Are we reminding people of God's truth to keep them safe from false teaching?
If we aren't, then we need to begin now so we can say with Paul, "To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you."
"I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me."
As we read the Scriptures we find people who are examples of how Jesus has equipped us to live and commanded us to live. Epaphroditus is such a man, a man who used the resources he received from Jesus in order to live and serve as Jesus commanded him.
First, how did Jesus command us to live as His disciple?
Matthew 16:24, "Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Luke 14:26, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple”
(In other words, put Jesus above all other relationships.)
Luke 14:33, "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (We must be willing to give up everything to be Jesus’ disciple.)
Epaphroditus put his life on the line to serve Paul, his God-given assignment. He almost died serving. He denied his own agenda in order to serve as the “helping hand” of the Philippian Church.
The Bible gives us an example of how we should be daily living. How are you daily living? Compare your life with Epaphroditus’ life. Are there any changes or growth you need to make? List the changes.
Begin trying to change expecting the Lord Jesus Christ to fulfill your act of faith with His power.
What would happen in your family if you began to live like Epaphroditus? What would happen in the church if the people of God imitated Epaphroditus? The church would make a great impact in the communities we live in.
"I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly myself will come also."
Verse 19 shows Paul was very concerned about the spiritual well-being of those in his care. Are we concerned enough to find out about the well-being of those God has entrusted to your care? How would you prove your concern?
Please list the ways:
Verses 20-21 show Paul sent Timothy to find out about the Philippian Christians because Timothy was a man who was genuinely concerned for their welfare. Would people say we are genuinely concerned about other people, people God has called us to care for? - Or- Would people say of us that we seek only our own interests and not the interests of Jesus Christ? If we truly seek the interests of Christ, we will be concerned about other peoples’ interests.
Verse 22 shows Timothy had proved his worthiness to care for the Philippian Christians by serving Paul in the gospel. How can we prove our worthiness? We can faithfully serve those around us now. Luke 16:10 says, "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” By serving in small ways now, we can be seen as worthy to take on bigger assignments.
When looking at Verses 23-24, notice Paul was waiting to see if he would live or die (see Philippians 1:19-26). He had hope and trust. He trusted his help was still needed and therefore hoped to send Timothy. Do we trust we are still needed? Do we live because we are needed or live to get our need met? The greater blessing is giving of ourselves.
Questions to ask:
"Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me."
The Lord commanded us through Paul to live so we will shine as lights in the world. We do that by holding fast to the Word of life by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in verse 16b that there is a Day of Christ.
What is the Day of Christ? It is the return of Christ to establish His rule and reign on earth.
Paul lived and carried out his God-given assignment so that he could be proud that he did not run in vain or labor in vain. Paul did his assignment wholeheartedly. He gave it everything he had.
He didn’t want praise from man. He was content to be poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of the Philippians’ faith. He was not worried about getting credit from man, but solely satisfied that he pleased Jesus.
He was able to rejoice with the Philippian Christians because of what Jesus was doing among them.
Questions to reflect on:
Are we living to please Jesus Christ alone?
Are we doing everything we can so that we can be proud that we did not run or labor in vain?
Are we willing to be content with Jesus saying “well-done” and not crave the praise of people?
Are we rejoicing in the lives of the Christians around us for what Jesus is doing in their lives?
If we the answer is yes, we are living the abundant life.
If we are not making every effort to carry out our God-given assignment in the home, neighborhood, workplace, community and church, then we are sinning. If we are desiring to get credit for what we did to help others, then we are sinning. If we are not content pleasing Jesus, but want the praise of people, then we are sinning. Ouch.
Sin robs us of abundant life. We deal with our sin by repenting of it, confessing it to the Lord and receiving His forgiveness. Then, we attempt by faith to do our assignment wholeheartedly in order to be proud in the Day of Christ that we did not run or labor in vain.