130224 Philippians 3:17-4:1

Last Updated on Monday, 25 February 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Guest preacher: Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary student, Matthew Rothe
Text: Philippians 3:17-4:1
Theme: Your Citizenship Is In Heaven!

Maybe it's your close friend from Michigan, or your relative who grew up in Southern California. Maybe you're that person; you know, somebody who is extremely proud of where they come from. You know, one of those people! I'm talking about someone who struggles to even call the current place they're living, 'home'. I have someone in mind that longs to go back home someday, and not just for a visit, but to settle down and one day retire there. This is someone who by their speech, their actions, their life reflects an understanding that their citizenship is not where they are living right now, but it is back home, where ever that might be.

The Apostle Paul was one of those people. He had that inner struggle. Sure, he loved what he was doing here on earth. Whether Paul was in Jerusalem or Macedonia or even under house arrest in Rome, Paul was reaching lost souls with the gospel. Yet, in his desire to go back home to heaven he went so far as to say that to die and go to heaven is gain...for to be with Christ is far better. Paul knew where his real home was. He wanted everybody who hears and reads his letters to have the same longing for home also. "Your citizenship is in heaven" he tells you and me. So, while you are away, while you are in this world, follow Christ's examples and as you do anticipate Christ's return!

The believers at Philippi were those people too. They were living in the prominent Roman colony of Philippi. And they were mighty proud of their Roman citizenship. They dressed like they were from Rome. They talked Latin like they were from Rome, and lived like they were in Rome too. Roman citizens had many special rights. They could own property throughout the Empire, Roman citizens were able to appeal decisions made by local governments, and Roman citizens always had the right to a legal trial. The apostle Paul prized the fact that he was a Roman citizen himself. Yes, life was good for Roman citizens.

But living like you were from Rome also meant something else. It meant filling up on the appetites of the filthy flesh: drinking too much cause you can, having sex outside the marriage bed, and acting rude or angry towards your neighbor all in the name of self-expression. Living like a Roman citizen didn't just mean gratifying the desires of the flesh, but also flaunting this indulgent living like it was OK. Living this way meant taking your Christian freedom and using it as a license to sin. The apostle Paul had words of warning about such people. He wrote, "Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things."

A word of warning goes a long way, especially if it comes from an apostle of Jesus; especially if that apostle is so concerned about you his eyes swell up with tears. Paul's had a way out of living this way. His solution to the problem:
 Imitate me! Follow the way I pray. Follow the way I make decisions striving to live a life worthy of the gospel in every way. Follow how I rejoice, giving thanks to God in all circumstances, whether I am with you or in chains for the sake of the gospel.
 Imitate Saint Luke, Paul wrote. Imitate Luke, who valued sound doctrine –the truth- and spent endless hours recording the Word's of God carried along by the Holy Spirit.
 Paul wrote, imitate the Philippian believer Lydia. Imitate Lydia, whose humility and hospitality was unmatched among the Philippians in service to the Lord.
 Imitate Timothy, Paul wrote. Imitate Timothy, who was a true best friend to Paul, who encouraged everyone with the true faith and sure hope we share in Christ.

Paul prays in this letter: "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." Why? Because Your Citizenship is in heaven.

It's no secret that you and I are surrounded by examples of ungodly living. Wherever we go we see people whose god is their stomach, people who are greedy, adulterous, lazy, and arrogant. We see people glorying in their shame as they parade their homosexual lifestyle, as they display their materialistic priorities, as they pride themselves in criticizing others. The people Paul calls the "enemies of the cross of Christ" often are our own neighbors, our own relatives or schoolmates, or coworkers or friends.
And you know what: Isn't it easy to follow these worldly examples ourselves? Isn't it easy to look around and you see people outwardly receiving glory and benefits from doing shameful things, and think, "Ooo, I want some of that too."

- You hear bragging talk, arrogant lies, foolish pride, and too often you give in to that kind of talk yourself.
- You get comfortable with selfishness because, after all, everybody else is so selfish, and how else am I supposed to get ahead?
- You work the system, cheat on your taxes or a test, you scheme your way into this or out of that thinking, " Lots of folks are doing that, aren't they?

There is something appealing in living that way? It seems easier. It's more fun. It's less restrictive. So you compromise. You think, "You know, I'll just be a dual citizen. I can be a citizen of heaven, but ill enjoy some of the perks of where I'm living for now." Yet remember St. Paul's warning: "Their destiny is destruction in hell", he says. You cannot have you're heart – your citizenship- in two places. You live either as an enemy of the cross or as a citizen of Heaven. This is why St. Paul urges the Philippians, you, and me to live like him and the other role models in Philippi. Follow Christ's examples!

- So the Philippians had Lydia. Now who is your Lydia? Who is that Christian role model in your life whom you admire for their constant display of selflessness? Maybe it's your father and mother, your husband or wife, or another member here at St. Matthew's.
- The Philippians had Timothy. Now who is your Timothy? Who is that Christian friend that gives you encouragement and confidence to live as a man or woman made in the image of God?
- Who is your Luke? Whom do you respect for their unashamed love affair with the Word of God? Perhaps it is your pastors or teachers, your grandparents or another relative, or your spouse.

You know where this is going, don't you? Even in Paul's encouragement to follow people's example, the primary focus is neither on Paul nor on the Philippians. Rather, it is on the best example we have – Jesus – whose self–sacrificing love makes us everything we are. In the Gospel of the Day we heard how Pharisees tried to get the God-man's focus off his heavenly mission by telling him a worldly king wanted him dead. "I'm sorry, that's not going to happen", he said to these enemies of the cross, "I will not get off the path that leads to my cross. I got heavenly things on my mind. I got my heavenly citizenship on my mind. I got your heavenly citizenship on my mind."

Jesus Christ shows us the ultimate "pattern" of love. Jesus Christ shows us the ultimate pattern of, a bold, steadfast, life lived for the sake of precious souls like yours and mine. So let us fix our eyes on him, the author and perfecter of our faith, as we follow Christ's example.

- Like Jesus, live a humble life. When the world says makes sure you get yours, reply, "I'm sorry, I'm a heaven bound citizen and I sincerely look to the interests of others first."
- Like Jesus, live a life where you complain about nothing...but instead are found constantly rejoicing!
- Like Jesus, live a life where you let your light shine demonstrating godliness and integrity before men that they may praise God.
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Do this (pause), follow these examples, as you look forward to your citizenship in heaven.

This Past January I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Malawi, Africa for a mission trip. After spending 4 weeks with a very special group of young Malawian Lutherans, the time came to say our goodbyes. That inevitable question was asked, "So, Matt, when will you be getting back to Malawi?" As it was asked, the very real possibility of never seeing these people again swirled in my head. As I was forced to say goodbye to my closest Malawi Friend, he pulled me closer, and said, "Matt, if I don't see you again here in Malawi, I'll see you in Heaven, Brother." Talk about a citizen of Heaven having his mind on heavenly life!

Isn't it fun to think of how many people like our African brother will reside with us in Heaven? But, will we recognize all the Christian friends we've met in this life, or will we need to re-introduce ourselves? I'm really hoping there will be cheesecake in heaven, but do you wonder what food will be on the menu in Heaven? What will our heavenly mansion look like? On earth we know what it is like to praise God, but how will that sound in Heaven? Christians, whose citizenship in heaven is guaranteed, often have these questions on our mind, but in the end, Scripture simply doesn't tell us everything about our heavenly homes and so we trust what God does tell us in his Word.

In Paul's letter to the Philippians the Holy Spirit's writer does mention some specifics – three things, in particular.
First, you can look forward to a great contrast in where you will live.
- Here sinners who glory in their shame surround you; in heaven, you will only know saints, like you, who glory in the love of Jesus.
- Here on earth, citizens are all about voicing their opinion, even if it completely disregards the will of God; in heaven, every citizen's voice will be perfectly in tune with what God desires.
- Here we experience heartbreak and stress; in heaven, we will only experience the heartfelt joy that comes from feeling the reassuring peace of God at all times.
- Here even the people of God may disagree and quarrel; in heaven, we will be perfectly united with one another as we celebrate just how amazing the grace of God is that has brought us here. What a contrast to where we live now!

Second, Paul says, you can anticipate a great change in yourself – namely, a "glorious body." Now, the Bible doesn't answer every question about what a glorious heavenly body will be like.
- But you can know that your body will no longer hunger after sensual pleasures that dis-please God.
- Your body will never hunger for real food either. It will never thirst, never tire, never get sick, hurt, or even soar.
- Your body won't glory in popularity or money or acquiring more stuff than the next person.
- Your body will be glorious. With all its thoughts, all its words, and all its deeds, it will be as it was meant to be: made in the image of God.
Along with Paul and the Philippians, "the lowly bodies" we have now will be transformed "so that they will be like Jesus' glorious body." Just like the apostle wrote. You can look forward to that!

One more thing. St. Paul saves his strongest words for last. He reminds you: Always look forward to the glorious coming of Christ. Citizens of Heaven, eagerly await the One who has made you who. you. are. by a demonstration of the most marvelous ¬¬¬¬¬love that ever was or ever will be. A love that made him leave his heavenly home, come to dwell among earthly citizens, die a death that you and I could not, so that we will live a life with him to heaven. And that love will make him leave his heavenly home once more too. This time to raise you from the grave. To elevate you from above this sin-cursed world. To raise you up to himself so that you can experience that marvelous love of his face-to-face.

"Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord." This is the encouragement Paul gave to those heavenly citizens living in Philippi. This is the encouragement Paul gives to the heavenly citizens living right here.

- Find never ending joy in living lives that are a thank offering given to God as you, "stand firm in the Lord" and never complain.
- Set a godly example for your co-workers, family, and friends to follow you as you, "stand firm in the Lord" and never wander from his side.
- Hold your ground even in the face of the enemies of the Cross, to get that prize of heaven won for you by your Heavenly King as you, "stand firm in the Lord" and never retreat.

This is the life Paul urges us to live. This is the life of a Christian living in the world; the life of a citizen of heaven. Stand firm in the Lord as you follow Christ's examples in great anticipation of Christ's return. AMEN.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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