Philippians 3:17-4:1 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. 4 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! In the name of Jesus Christ, whose cross was occupied to accomplish our salvation and is now empty because of his victory, dear Christian friends, It is easy to look at today, unless you are watching online. It is front and center for those here in person. It is taller than any of us. It is the cross that hangs on the wall behind the altar. It grabs our attention each time we enter this house of worship especially because of its size and position, but hopefully also because of its symbolism. It is to remind us of why we are here and why Jesus was once there (on the cross). But are there times when you don’t notice it? Are there times when you look right past it because you have seen it hundreds and even thousands of times? Are there days when you have so much on your mind that you don’t see the cross right in front of your nose? Many things in our life can distract us from looking at— and remembering the importance of— the cross of Christ. Satan intentionally places temptations before us. Others accidentally detract our attention away. We apathetically choose to plant the cross lower on our list of priorities. As we look at these God-inspired words of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we are taught to LOOK AT THE CROSS OF CHRIST WITH LOOK AT THE CROSS OF CHRIST WITH DETERMINATION! I. Be sad because of the enemies II. Be glad because of the eternity 2 DETERMINATION! I. Be sad because of the enemies and II. Be glad because of the eternity. Who detracts your attention away from the cross of Christ? Who in your life can be described in this way— their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame…their mind is on earthly things? Is it your Little League coach who decides you will sit on the bench if you choose to skip the Sunday morning practices because you want to go to church? Is it your college professor who accuses you of being a moron because you hold to what the Scriptures teach? Is it your spouse whose poor example of Christian living begins to rub off on you and the children? And those are just the people close to you! What about the Hollywood celebrity who flaunts his/her sexuality for all to see or the professional athlete who uses his/her popularity as a soapbox for non-Christian values or the world leader who chooses power and prestige over care and compassion? Do they cause you to turn away from the cross of Christ and focus on things self-centered and shameful? How sad that people choose to be like this! They reject Jesus. They rebel against his holy will. They revel in their own voracious appetites and sinful desires. This, the Apostle Paul says, brought him to tears. It might do the same for us— and with good reason— because these are people who give every indication that they are going to hell. This is not something we want for them, or for us, because it is not something Jesus wants. But that is what will happen if they, or we, put our mind on earthly things. Then they, or we, will be distracted from looking at the cross of Christ and will become his enemies. The end result for us will be the same as for them— their destiny is destruction. Eternity in the fires of hell, co-habiting with the devil, separated from God forever is not a pleasant thought and something for all of us to avoid! How important, then, that we continue our focus on what Jesus has done for us through the cross! It won’t be easy because of the many distractions Satan, our sinful self and the sinful world set before us, but others have successfully looked at the cross of Christ with determination and continue to do so! Here the Apostle Paul says, Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. Earlier in this letter, he wrote that he “considered everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (3:8). Sounds like he had his focus on the cross of Christ! Consider the wonderful example set by the Prophet Jeremiah. In today’s first reading, we are told how he was apprehended by the church leaders and brought in front of the government leaders to be condemned. In spite of this threat to his life and his livelihood, Jeremiah remained faithful to God and to the message he was told to share. While Jesus had not yet come to this earth or gone to the cross, still Jeremiah was not distracted from the promises of God concerning a coming Savior. See the contemporary example set by our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ who gathered last week to worship and sing “In Christ Alone”, even though their 3 country is under enemy attack. They did not let bombs or bullets distract them from meeting together and praising Jesus. Look at the immediate example of your fellow church members who have committed their lives to Jesus. View their firm faith. Watch their love for Jesus shine through in their demeanor and deeds. Listen to their uplifting words. See their acts of service. They are not perfect, but they are faithful! The one who is perfect has also set down his example for us. Today we heard of Jesus looking at his own cross with determination. He said, “I must keep going…” (Lk 13:33). This was his mindset when he left heaven to come here to earth. This was his attitude when he was tempted by Satan, when he was threatened by the Pharisees, when he was bullied and bloodied by the soldiers. He would keep going until he reached the cross of Calvary where his battle with Satan ended with a resounding victory over sin, death and hell. Jesus would not veer off the path his heavenly Father set down for him. He would not stray from his goal of saving us from our sins. He kept looking at his own cross with determination so that he could accomplish our eternity of heaven. With that, we can be glad! We can say confidently with the Apostle Paul, But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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. Because of Christ and his cross, we eagerly and gladly anticipate our Savior’s return from heaven to earth on Judgment Day, as well as our own entrance into heaven where we will receive a God-blessed body transformation— from one filled with sin and decay to one filled with perfection and glory. The terms the Apostle Paul used to describe the Philippian Christians are the same terms Jesus uses for us who believe in him. We are his brothers (and sisters), we are love(d) and long(ed) for, we are his joy and crown, we are his dear friends! Such a status puts us in a position of his favor and makes us glad! And, of course, we want to remain as such, so as the Apostle Paul directs, we are to stand firm in the Lord. In order to do that, keep looking at the cross of Christ with determination! See the salvation he secured for you! Enjoy the eternity he earned for you!
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