Philippians 009 – Genuine SubstitutesPhilippians 3:15-21 • Dr. Andy Woods • May 31, 2020 • Philippians
May 31, 2020
Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s take our Bibles this morning and open them to the book of Philippians. And if you’re trying to figure out where that is, it’s Go Eat Pop Corn. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. That may help you. And you say I don’t really like popcorn. Okay. God’s Electric Power Company. See, I try to be as inclusive as I can. The Popcorn Eaters and the non-popcorn eaters. Philippians chapter three and verse 15. The title of our message this morning is Genuine Substitutes. You know, there’s a lot in our culture about artificial substitutes, but what we’re running into here as we try to, Lord willing, finish Philippians, at least just this chapter this morning, is genuine substitutes. Because Paul, in this chapter, Philippians three, is telling us to give up something. What he’s telling us to give up is legalism. And what’s very wonderful about the Lord is when the Lord asks you to give up something, he typically has a tendency to replace it with something far better. Have you noticed that in your life? You know, we think, my goodness, if I give up too much to Jesus, he’s really going to wreck my life, forgetting why he came into the world. John 10:10. He came into the world to give us the abundant life. So when he asks us to relinquish something and he asks us to give up something, typically he replaces it with something far better. So these remarks basically are found in a study dealing with the book of Philippians.
The book of Philippians, as we have talked about, is essentially a book. About how a Christian can walk in joy. How a Christian can experience emotional well-being. The joy of the Lord, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, regardless of circumstances. And it’s interesting that many, many Christians never really experienced this in their lives. I mean, these are people that are saved. They’re on their way to heaven, but they’re really not walking in the joy of the Lord. And so the problem is we haven’t really given ourselves to this four-chapter book, which is basically a treatise on how to walk in the joy of the Lord. Each chapter of the book is basically a point in the treatise. Number one, chapter one, we have to learn the mental discipline of seeing positive in the midst of negative.
Anything that happens in your life, even circumstances that we would deem hostile or unfriendly, such as the type of circumstances that Paul was in when he wrote this. We all realize he wrote this from prison, right? This is one of his prison letters. He says, even in the midst of hostile circumstances, we can experience the joy of the Lord. It’s just a matter of learning to look at life through the right grid. Instead of seeing the glass half empty, Paul saw the glass half full. And it’s interesting that false Christian religions have sort of built their house on positive thinking.
As if they are the ones that invented it. The reality of the situation is positive thinking. Having a positive mental outlook is about as biblical as you could get. It’s right out of the Bible. And no matter what Paul went through and he was going through a lot, he saw the positive hand of God. And he traces that through four realities in chapter one. And as he does that, he is explaining to us the mental discipline necessary to walk in the joy of the Lord. The glass is not half empty. The glass is half full. I mean, even in the midst of this COVID-19 shutdown, we have received constant emails from people and they say this: We praise the Lord for the shutdown. Well, why is that? Because we discovered you online. I don’t think we would have discovered you online and your ministry online had we not been forced to do it through the COVID-19 shutdown. And that’s just one example of many that you can cite because no matter what is happening in your life, God is using it for something good. In fact, there are good things happening in your life that God wouldn’t accomplish and probably couldn’t accomplish without the so-called negative thing that’s happening. And so that’s what Paul is developing there in chapter one. The second point in the treatise about how to walk in the joy of the Lord is we have to live a life of servanthood.
Life begins when we start living for things higher than ourselves. In fact, we’ve said many times that the way to spell joy is J- Jesus. O- Others. Y- Yourself. And as long as we keep the order correct, we walk in joy. The word is spelled right. But so many times we take the Y and we insert it somewhere else in the word and the word is misspelled now. And now we’re not walking in joy. One of the reasons we don’t experience the abundant life that God has for us is we don’t see ourselves as servants. We’ve developed a mindset where everything revolves around my holy trinity, which consists of me, myself, and I. And even in one’s Christian life, it’s easy to do this. It’s easy to get priorities out of order. So what Paul does in Chapter two to help his audience, the Philippians, Walk In The Joy of the Lord is he gives four examples of humble service. Jesus, of course, being the highest example that he gives himself as an example and then to other human examples as well. The third point in the treatise in terms of how to walk in, the joy of the Lord is to avoid something called legalism. Legalism will suck the joy right out of your life faster than any single thing I can think of in Christianity, legalism is an idea where you’re getting the flesh to try harder.
You rev up the flesh to achieve holiness and typically the flesh can’t do that. In fact, the Bible tells us that that’s an impossible task for the flesh. And so legalism says, Well, you’ve got to try harder to achieve holiness. And typically what it gets you to do is it gets you to measure up to some manmade code of rules to achieve holiness. And what does that achieve in the end? It achieves frustration. It achieves burnout. Because we’re living the Christian life in a way God never intended. God never intended the Christian life to be lived in such a way that we do it through our own power. What God has given us is resources, gracious resources. And as we learn to tap into those resources, which, by the way, are yours by divine right. It’s part of the grace package God has given you. We’re going to learn about some of those resources in Chapter four. We find that we’re no longer trying to live the Christian life through the energy of the flesh, the power of the flesh, but rather through the power of God. And joy comes right back into your life when that happens. The frustration that we feel, the failure that we feel isn’t there as frequently as it used to be, because I’m living the Christian life the way God intended. So Chapter three is all about getting us out of a legalistic framework and into a proper framework.
So here is our outline we’ve been using for chapter three there in verses one through three. Paul contrasts the legalists, very strong words he uses to condemn them the Pharisees. With the true walk of the Holy Spirit, verses one through three, and then in verses four through 14, Paul gets very autobiographical. He says, I know about legalism, I know about the walk of legalism because I, as Saul, as an unsaved person, was the walking dictionary definition of legalism. In fact, if you looked up legalism on Wikipedia, Paul says, my picture would be right there. I mean, Paul epitomized legalism. His whole life revolved around legalism. And he describes how he changed how God changed him. He talks there after giving a transitionary statement, verse four. He talks about his resume in the flesh verses five and six. And that was an incredible resume that he had. But the problem was these things were produced through human power. And he describes his transition away from the work of the flesh, which was in his powerful resume to his new spiritual priorities. He lists five of those, and we covered those last week. And now having moved away from verses seven through 14, we now have verse 15 through the end of the chapter. And in fact, this unit of thought actually goes up to the first three verses of Chapter four, which we may get to we may not get to today given time constraints.
But what he is dealing with here are the genuine substitutes that came into his life when he relinquished legalism. God never asked Paul to give up something without God replacing it with something better. And so what are these genuine– what are these authentic substitutes that he embraced? There’s four of them here. We’re going to walk through these this morning. Number one, in lieu or as a substitute for legalism, which he renounces, he started to embrace as a goal maturity in Christ verses 15 and 16. Number two, he moved away from licentiousness, verses 17 through 19. Now, that’s very important because what a lot of people do when they’re in legalism. And legalism, they say, is not working for me. They don’t know it’s legalism, but they’re under legalism. And of course, it’s not working for you because God never designed the Christian life to be lived that way. So they’ll renounce legalism and they’ll go right into licentiousness. Licentiousness and legalism are both bad there on opposite ends of the spectrum. Legalism tries to get the flesh to behave through human power and manmade rules. Licentiousness says that didn’t work for me, so I’m just going to go set up a storm. I’m going to let the flesh do what it already wants to do. And that’s a lifestyle called licentiousness. And I run into many people in my Christian life, I’ve run into many people that have told me that they have renounced Christ. And I say, why? And they describe their life in Christ. And now they’re in a sort of in a state of rebellion and they’ve moved into licentiousness.
And what you discover is they really haven’t renounced Christ at all. They’ve renounced legalism. And frankly, I don’t blame them for renouncing legalism, because legalism is a terrible, terrible taskmaster. They’ve renounced legalism thinking it’s Jesus. When in reality all they’ve renounced is a manmade religious system. And so they’ve gone from legalism into licentiousness. And so Paul explains why the life of licentiousness, that’s an empty cistern also. I mean, that’s going to leave you dry and thirsty as well. Just ask the woman at the well about that. Jesus said to the woman at the well in John four, who had had the five husbands. And the one that she was living with, they weren’t even married. I mean, you talk about someone living a licentious lifestyle. Jesus says, you know, if you drink from that water, you’re going to be thirsty again. You drink from the living water that I provide, you’ll never thirst again. So licentiousness advertises itself as the path to fulfillment, and yet it doesn’t produce what it’s promised: verses 17 through 19. And the third thing Paul embraced in lieu or as a substitute for legalism, is he started to develop a heavenly and eternal perspective. Verses 20 and 21.
He starts to disclose that don’t set your mind on the things of the earth. But set your mind on heavenly things. Things that cannot be corrupted. And joy enters our lives as a result of that perspective. And then finally, in the last part of this, which we probably won’t get to today. Chapter four verses one through three, he deals with two people that are saved. One’s name Euodia, the other one is named Syntyche. And it’s clear they’re saved because their names are written in the book of Life. And yet there they’ve gone back into the flesh and they’re fighting with each other like cats and dogs. Can that happen to Christians? Absolutely, it can happen to Christians. Can relationships be strained within Christianity? Absolutely, they can be strained. And Paul deals with that subject in chapter four verses one through three and says you ought to pursue unity with each other. Not this turf war that was going on there in Philippi.
So notice the first authentic substitute that Paul embraced in lieu or as a substitute for legalism and that’s the path into maturity. And notice what he says there in Philippians chapter three verses 15 and 16. He says, Let us, therefore, as many as our perfect have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by the same standard to which we have attained.
Now you’ll notice that word perfect there. What does that mean? Does that mean sinless perfection? No. Paul previously. In this chapter just a few verses later. Earlier, rather, that we covered last week, indicated that until he received his resurrected body, he would not enter into sinless perfection. So then what does perfect mean? Perfect means you reach a state of maturity, not sinlessness, where your trajectory is upward, not perfect, where you’re sinning less rather than being sinless. And that was Paul’s focus. That was Paul’s trajectory, discovering his resources in Christ. Not obeying any longer. A set of man-made rules that simply made his flesh try harder. And this needs to be the goal of Christianity. Christianity and Christians need to pursue maturity. Growth in Christ. In fact, this becomes one of the reasons that God gave us His Word to grow in Christ. First, Peter two, verse two says, Like newborn babies long for the pure milk of the word. So that you may grow. In respect to salvation. They already had salvation. They needed to grow in their understanding of what they already had. They needed their practice to catch up with their position. And so consequently, God has given us His Word. And He has told us that, like newborn babies are to crave pure spiritual milk. If they don’t receive that, they can’t grow correctly. That’s how we are to be with God’s Word and God’s truth.
If there is not a consistent intake of the Word of God into the life of the Christian, then they don’t have the fuel necessary to grow. I mean, it would be like me coming in and saying, you know, my head hurts. I’ve got a headache and gosh, I’m hungry. And you ask me, when was the last time you ate? And I said, Oh, about two weeks ago. I mean, I wish I had that problem. I don’t have that problem, but I haven’t eaten for two weeks. You just sort of slap your forehead and says, well, no wonder you’re hungry and no wonder you have a headache, you haven’t eaten. And you see, how can how can you grow correctly? How can you function without fuel? And yet, how is it that we don’t understand this with the word of God? Job chapter 23, Verse 12, Job said, Your word is as to me as my daily bread. Jesus said, man does not live by bread alone, Matthew four, verse four, But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. How can how can we grow when we’re not fueling ourselves regularly through His Word? Just as the physical man needs physical food to be physically sustained. that’s exactly the reality with the spiritual man. The spiritual man needs spiritual food to be spiritually sustained, and that puts us on the path to maturity. That, of course, becomes one of the great purposes of the local church.
Ephesians four verses 11 through 16, Paul says, and he gave some of his apostles, some of his prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the Body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man. The measure of the stature of which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we will no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceitful scheming: but speaking the truth in love, we are to what? Grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, for from whom the whole body being fitted and held together by what? Every joint supplies, according to the proper work working of each individual part causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Where does this whole process of growth start? It starts with the local church. Spiritual gifts placed in the local church for the purpose of helping the child of God to grow. And if you’re in a church that’s not helping you to do that, then you’re in a church that’s basically missing its purpose. The church, of course, has different purposes, but this would be one of the main purposes.
I mean, if you are exactly the same Christian today that you were a year ago. Then chances are you’re not receiving God’s word, or perhaps you’re in an environment that’s not teaching you God’s word. And even beyond that, you cannot survive spiritually with this little thimble full of milk that we give you on Sundays. At some point, there has to develop a discipline where you’re reading the Bible yourself. In fact, it’s sort of a tragic thing today when you look at statistics and you ask Christians, well, have you ever read the Bible? You mean read the Bible like a book? Yeah, like read the Bible. Most Christians statistically have not done that. They’ve read books about the Bible. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about reading the Bible. And of course, there are countless plans and programs whereby you can read the Bible in a year or two years, there’s a little bookmarks and read this and that and do this amount of reading. And after a year you’ll have read through the whole Bible. I mean, how do you grow as a Christian without reading God’s word? Being in a church teaching God’s word, of course, is part of it. But we have to grow, thereby forget legalism. And pursue maturity through an intake of God’s word. Charles Ryrie on this particular verse says regarding verse 15, perfect means mature. Doesn’t mean sinless perfection.
It means growth. And then he says something interesting, Charles Ryrie. He says in the latter half of the verse, verse 15, Paul says, in effect, If you don’t agree. And apparently there were people in Philippi that really at first blush, at first glance didn’t agree with what Paul was saying here. If you don’t agree, Paul says, God will give you light on the subject. And you see that there in verse 15. Let us, therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude. And if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you. Now, one of the reasons I’m very grateful that this verse, the latter half of this verse is here, as Charles Ryrie points out, is we can waste so much time arguing with people. And now we’ve got social media where you can argue with anybody in the world about anything, any time of the day. And a lot of times we are so convinced that we’re right and maybe we are right about something. That we want, we want to go and convince other people that we’re right about X issue or Y issue. Embarrassingly, I have wasted a lot of time and a lot of energy trying to convince the unconvinced. And at some point, you just have to say, well, okay, rather than go down this trail of constant bickering and arguing and all of the energy that’s spent. You know why not? If they’re not teachable, why not just do what Paul said? If you if you don’t have light on this, then God will show you at some point.
And give the whole thing over to the Lord. Because a lot of times perpetual arguing, the only thing it really does is it solidifies people in their own position. It becomes a matter of pride. Where people, you know, they don’t want to admit, at least on social media, that they’ve been wrong about something. And so they just argue for the sake of arguing and it becomes a pride issue. And Paul here simply says, look, I’m not here to argue with you. I’m an apostle. If you’re not convinced of what I’m saying, then I’m just going to hand you over to the Lord and the Lord is going to convince you. I think we need a lot more of that and a lot less of constant acrimony. Paul the apostle warns Timothy about getting involved in prolonged discussions and arguments with people, most of which don’t produce anything but strife. A lot of these long conversations you get into with people have more to do with generating heat than they do light. And Satan will suck you into that because you want you to waste your mind and your emotions and your energy on something that’s fruitless, that only God can change the heart of a person anyway. Second Timothy two verses 23 and 24. Paul writes to Young Timothy and he says But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
The Lord’s Bond servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all able to teach patient when wronged. You teach something and people won’t receive it. Know there’s always a chance for back and forth about this or that, but once you see things going in a particular direction, you have to at some point adopt the mindset of Paul who said, well, the Lord will talk to you about it. And you know, how do we get it in our minds anyway that we’re the ones that changes people’s hearts? How do we get that idea? I mean, isn’t that God’s job? Constant rancor, constant bickering doesn’t change anybody. God changes hearts. And so you see Paul giving people over to their need to grow in a certain area. If you don’t if you don’t agree with what I’m saying, then the Lord will help you with that. So after discussing this first genuine substitute in lieu of legalism as a substitute for legalism, forget legalism, pursue maturity and Christ. And then he says something else. And verses 17 to 19, he says, avoid licentiousness. Now notice, if you will, second. Excuse me. There is no second Philippians is there for Philippians. Chapter three, verse 17, Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. Now, notice this word, brethren.
That’s actually a big deal. The reason the word brethren keeps showing up here in this book is Paul is not instructing an unsaved person how to get saved. If you want to instruct an unsaved person how to get saved, there’s another book of the Bible that’s set up for that. It’s the Book of John. If someone in your workplace, family member that’s unsaved, comes to you and says, I want to investigate the claims of Christ, what book would you send them to? Most Christians wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what book to send them to. I’m interested in reading the Bible. Where should I start? I’m an unbeliever. You sent them to John because that’s John’s purpose statement. You’ll find his purpose statement in Chapter 20 verses 30 and 31. These things I have written to you the signs that you may understand that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you may have the gift of life. That’s why John is set up to reveal Jesus to an unsaved person. That’s not what’s happening in Philippi. Philippi and the Philippians are already saved. And they’re struggling not with justification and glorification, but they are having great struggles in the middle tense of their salvation. Their progressive sanctification because as saved people, they are not walking in the joy of the Lord. And little clues like my brethren, saved people, show us where Paul’s focus is here.
So he says there in verse 17, Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who will walk according to the pattern that you have in us. Now, is that not interesting that Paul holds himself out as an example to follow? He’s done that in chapter two. Verses 17 and 18, where he’s held himself out as an example of servant hood. In fact, the Apostle Paul said in first Corinthians chapter 11 and verse one Be imitators of me. Just as also I am of Christ. And I like what Charles really says about this. He says, not many believers can exhort others to imitate them. I mean, could you do that? That’s a pretty tough recipe there. You’re talking to people and you’re telling them to grow in Christ and you’re holding yourself up as an example. Follow me as I follow Christ. I mean, Paul took this subject so seriously that he held himself up as an example. He continues on in verse 18 before he describes licentiousness. And he says, for many, walk of whom I often told you and now tell you, even weeping, Paul says. That they are enemies of the Cross of Christ. He’s getting ready to describe a false teaching which is licentiousness. And he says of people out there teaching licentiousness, there are many. First John four and verse one says, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.
Because many false prophets have gone out into the world. You know, as we get closer and closer and closer to the end of the age, the number of false teachers is not going to decrease. It’s going to accelerate dramatically. In fact, if you were to give yourself to studying false teaching, you couldn’t do it in a lifetime. It would take an entire lifetime to learn one false teaching well. If you wanted to be an expert in the false teaching of Mormonism. I know people that are like that. They spend their whole life studying that. And forget Mormonism. What about the Jehovah’s Witnesses? What about Christian science? What about the New Age movement? What about all of the false doctrines coming into Christendom itself? How do you stand up against that? Well, we have finite revelations, 66 books. And as you learn these 66 books, you’ll find that you’ll be able to spot false teaching. You may not know everything there is to know about Mormonism. But when they describe their doctrine of the Trinity, you’ll say something is off about that because I know what the Bible says. Don’t look for false teaching to decrease as we move closer to the return of Christ, look for it to increase. And Paul not only talks about many false teachers, but he says, I’ve often told you about it. Now there’s a mindset out there within modern day Christianity that says this: It’s okay to teach positive truths about the Bible, but don’t say anything negative about a false teacher. Don’t expose false teaching. Positive proclamations of truth are fine, but don’t go negative and expose false teachings and false teachers. May I just say to you that such a mindset is completely removed from the mind of Paul. Colossians one, verse 28, Paul says this in the new King James version Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom. You’ll notice that Paul says in his preaching ministry there was a teaching part of it and there was a warning part of it. We’ve got a lot of teaching today. But we don’t have a lot of warning. We don’t have a lot of unmasking the wolf so people can see the wolf for what the wolf is. And so you’ll notice that Paul was very serious about this subject of divulging false teaching. He says, I’ve often told you about this. I didn’t just teach. I warned. I didn’t just warn. I taught. The two go together now. Is Paul serious about this ministry of warning about the many false teachers on the horizon? Obviously, he is because he says, and now I tell you, even weeping. I mean, this is a man that did this to the point of tears. Paul was a crier. He cried a lot. One of the things that brought tears to his eyes was the prospect of the wolf, the prospect of the false teacher.
Because when he summoned the elders of Ephesus at Miletus. And his speech to them is given in Acts 20 versus 29 through 31. He said this I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, beyond the alert, remembering that day and night for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. Sounds to me like he’s serious about this ministry of warning. He mentions emotion. He says, I did this day and night. I did it for three years. I warned. And I warned. And I warned. And I warned. Paul was a teacher. He was a theologian. He obviously gave forth a positive proclamation of truth. He was he did all that, but he was a warner also. And you see that coming out there, I think very clearly there in verse 18. Why? Why, Paul, why are you upset about this? Because there are people out there, verse 18, that are the enemies of the cross. Their doctrine mitigates what Jesus did. That’s why. If you believe what they say, it will subtract from the provision of Jesus on the cross. That’s why Paul is sort of– May we call it bent out of shape regarding legalism? So what if someone wants to be right with God through circumcision? What’s the big deal? Because you just subtracted from why Jesus came into the world, that’s why.
In Galatians two, verse 21, he says, I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died needlessly. There’s the problem. Gee, Jesus, thanks for your spear in your side. Thanks for the 39 lashes on your back. Thanks for the imprints in your hands and feet. But you know what? It really wasn’t that needed because I’ve got things under control because I’m going to be made right with God through legalism or circumcision. Seems harmless, but you just subtracted from why Jesus came into the world. I mean, if the path to righteousness could be achieved through legalism and the mosaic law, you’re basically saying Jesus died just kind of as a swell act. But it really wasn’t that necessary. That’s what he’s talking about here when he talks about enemies of the Cross. That’s why he’s warning to the point of tears over and over again about false teaching. And then finally, in verse 19, he describes the particular false teaching that he has his eyes on here, and that’s licentiousness, verse 19 Whose end these enemies of the cross, whose end is destruction, whose God is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame– Watch this now– Who set their minds on earthly things. That’s exactly where people go when they run into a brick wall with legalism confusing it with Christianity, they go the other direction and they say, I’m just going to let my flesh do whatever it wants.
That’s what licentiousness is. And let me tell you something. As a Christian, you can become licentious and still be saved. Well, why is that? Because you’re saved by God’s grace, God’s grace and not human works is what got you in the door. And it’s God’s grace and not human works that keeps you in the door. And it is entirely possible, as a Christian, to abuse God’s grace and go right back into a lifestyle of sin. Is it good? No. Is it possible? Absolutely. If it wasn’t possible, there’d be no need for the warning. But once you go that way, you can’t walk in the joy of the Lord. Because you’ve just misspelled joy. No longer is Y at the end, but Y is now first, because you’re living a sort of a lifestyle to please the sin nature. This is why Paul says their end is destruction. It’s an empty cistern. I mean, that’s just as empty as the legalism you’re fleeing from. The woman at the well story reveals that. She’ll be thirsty again. Going this path that she’s on. Proverbs 14, verse 13 says There is a way that seems right, but its end is the way of death. Lots of people out there, lots of Christians, moving into licentiousness because it seems right.
But the Bible is telling us it’s not right. It’s not fulfilling. It’s not rewarding. It doesn’t produce the joy of the Lord. Galatians five, verse 13. Paul speaks as aggressively against licentiousness as he does legalism. For you were called to freedom, brethren; only don’t turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love served one another. Now, why would he say that if a Christian didn’t have the ability to do that? To go into the flesh. Romans 13, verse 14, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Why would he say that if a Christian didn’t have the ability? To go back into the flesh, Romans six, verse 12. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts. Why would Paul say that? If a Christian didn’t have the ability to let sin reign in their mortal body and obey its lusts. And the whole problem with licentiousness is it’s got the focus on self instead of the things of God. Look at what he says there at the end of verse 19, who set their mind on earthly things? That’s the problem. I remember when I was very upset, the Supreme Court came out with one of these rulings that basically created out of thin air, you know, a constitutional right to same sex marriage.
A few years ago, the Obergefell decision, I remember being very upset, wanting to write this or write that, petition this or petition that in an emotional upset state. Righteous anger, of course, Right? I got a call from one of my pastor friends. And he said, In light of this, how are you doing with Colossians three, verse two? Colossians three, verse two. What does that say? I had to look it up. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. Well, that’s quite a rebuke there. Short verse. My mind wasn’t set on the things above. My mind was set on saving America. You want to save America? Not a bad goal. Your mind is not going to be set on the things above, though. We need to rest our mind on the things above. Believe me. Am I saying ignore Supreme Court rulings? Ignore the trajectory of the United States? Not saying that at all. But that’s not the seed of our focus. It’s always on the things above. I remember when I was in Rome and we were going through the catacombs where the Christians would hit hide during the Neronian persecution and persecution under Rome, and seeing all of these graves and vaults of where corpses at one time were, etc., etc., etc., and it’s so easy to just sort of focus on the dead and what they went through. And I remember our tour guide, A Believer, quoted Colossians three, verse two.
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things of the earth. Not a bad thing. The tours, the catacombs and all of that stuff in Rome. But, that’s not where our focus is. Good thing to be aware of all of that, but to put to let your mind dwell on that. That steals joy. And so I was sort of relieved in both occasions when people brought to my attention Colossians three, verse two. Why would you go into licentiousness when licentiousness is as much of an empty cistern as is legalism? You know, this is something that’s always struck me about the Bible is how balanced it is. It says, well, don’t do this, but don’t go over here and go the other way and do that. There’s always a balance in almost any biblical subject that you think about and you see that balance here. What’s the third authentic substitute Paul embraced in lieu of legalism? Is he developed number three, a heavenly and eternal perspective. Look at verse 20. Philippians chapter three, verse 20. Look at this. For our citizenship is where it’s in heaven from which we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the verse divisions sometimes will bifurcate one set of material from the other. But I just want you to see the natural progression from verse 19 into verse 20. Where are the minds of the licentious? Their minds are set on earthly things.
Notice the balance here. God doesn’t just say, Don’t set your mind on earthly things. Let me tell you where to set your mind. Set your mind on heavenly things. Not on the earth. Set your mind to where your citizenship is. Because your citizenship is in heaven. It’s a wonderful transition. From number three– Number two, avoid licentiousness into number three, a heavenly and eternal perspective. And this is where it pays some dividends to understand a little bit about the background of Philippi. Which is why I took you through a lot of that introductory material in our first lesson. You will recall that in Philippi is the area that Paul went to to establish a church. And this is what Acts 16, verse 12 says about Philippi. If you understand Acts 16, verse 12, suddenly the imagery that he’s surfacing there in verse 20 makes a lot of sense. Now, in the 21st century, we don’t really connect the dots like we should, but someone living in Philippi would understand exactly what Paul was saying. Because Acts 16, verse 12 of Philippi, Acts 16 is the chapter written roughly 11 years earlier when Paul founded the Philippine Church, Acts 16, verse 12 says of Philippi and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the District of Macedonia, a Roman colony. That’s just a little thing in the Book of Acts that most of us just skip right over, and yet it completely and totally unlocks the meaning of verse 20.
The issue with Philippi is it was a privileged city. It was a colony. And if you are a resident of Philippi, you receive privileges like you received an exemption from taxation, for example. And a lot of people migrated to Philippi in exchange for what is called the italic right. Which meant that, yes, we are citizens of Italy still, but we are also citizens of Philippi. They were dual citizens. So when Paul takes that meaning, something they would all understand. And then he says in verse 24, Our citizenship is in heaven. Any resident of Philippi living in Greco-Roman times would know exactly what Paul was saying. They would understand him as follows: We are privileged people because of where our citizenship is. They would also understand the concept of dual citizenship. The italic right in the same way. I am a citizen of the United States, but my ultimate citizenship is somewhere else. Dual citizenship. It would jump right off the page to them. And that’s something to understand about our destiny. Because of your destiny, number one, you have privileges that the world doesn’t have. Number two, you are a dual citizen. I mean, the United States could go to hell in a handbasket. And it kind of looks to me like that’s happening. And if you don’t understand dual citizenship, you will fall into frustration.
You will fall into fear. But if you do understand that dual citizenship, you start to understand that what is the United States? It’s just a it’s a wonderful country. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But it’s just temporary. I mean, our ultimate citizenship is in heaven. I mean, my hope ultimately doesn’t rise or fall, depending on who controls the White House. Don’t get me wrong. Be patriotic. Vote. Do all of that stuff. I will too. But don’t let your hope rest in that. Don’t attach your hope to something that could be taken away in a nanosecond. Because you’re a citizen of something that cannot be shaken. What is Paul looking at here for our citizenship is in heaven. What is the call of Abraham? When Abraham was walking by faith, what was he looking for? Hebrews 11 verse ten says of Abraham, then Abram, For he was looking for a city which has foundations whose architect and builder is God. Abraham was looking for that. I don’t think most of us are looking for that as we scour secular news constantly. And that’s why we’re not walking in joy. We just don’t have joy because we’ve attached our hope to something that’s transitory. That can be taken away. Hebrews 12 talks about how we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken. The United States can be shaken. Any government of the world can be shaken.
But not this coming kingdom. And that’s why we need to look. That and for place our hope in what is important and what does he say here for our citizenship is in heaven, for which we eagerly await the stock market to go back up, for which we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now this dovetails nicely with Sunday School. We were talking about the rapture, terrible events coming upon the Earth. But the reality is, before any of that happens, Jesus can come back in the next split second. Paul was not looking, he was describing, but not looking at all of these horrific things coming upon the earth. He was looking for Jesus. Christian, where is your gaze? Where is your focus exactly? Because how? That question is answered largely depends upon whether we’re going to walk in the joy of the Lord or not. Because what’s going to happen at the Rapture? Look at this verse 21. Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of his glory, by the exertion of the power that he has even to subject all things to himself. Why would I? Be so focused on Jesus Christ and is any moment return. For the simple reason that once he does that, he’s going to do something with my body. And my body desperately needs change. First Corinthians 15 verses 50 and 51 describes the instantaneous change of the body when Jesus comes and receives us.
First Corinthians 15 verses 53 through 54 describes the same thing. Perishable will put on the imperishable. You get a resurrected body. And you say, well, what’s wrong with the body I have? Well, look in the mirror. You’ll see what’s wrong with it. Original sin has corrupted our bodies. Did you know that? I mean, it’s kind of interesting. We sit around and if someone dies, we say, gosh, it’s so sad. Someone died. The reality of the situation is we’re all dying. I mean, maybe they crossed the threshold a little faster than us, but we’re all going to the same finish line here. All of us are going to die if we’re not the Rapture generation. Every single one of us is living in a physical body that is physically deteriorating. It doesn’t matter if you drink all that green stuff. Because now you’ve got a bunch of green stuff and a decaying body. Genesis three, verse 19 says, From dust you are to dust, you shall return. Why do we doubt that? Well, because we live in a culture of health and beauty where we’re denying the inevitable. Second Corinthians four verse 16 says, Though our outer man is decaying. And yet what does he say that we’re in store here for? Who will transform the body of our humble state, by the way? That body is groaning. Romans 8:22. Just like all of creation. Romans 8:23. I mean, creation is groaning and its corrupted state.
The physical body is groaning in its corruptible state. That’s why it’s described as a lowly body, a body of humiliation. But what’s going to happen when Jesus comes for us? Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of his glory? This is why Christ’s resurrection is first fruits. First fruits, Jewish harvest imagery guarantees all the other harvests. Because he rose, which is an objective historical fact. You’re on a fast track for a resurrected body. It’s still you. I’ll be able to recognize you. You’ll be able to recognize me. But I think I’m going to look a lot better and you’re going to look a lot better because it’s the body that God intended before original sin. So it’s hard to appreciate this in your twenties, isn’t it? Once you get beyond 50. Wow, this stuff really becomes very helpful. First Corinthians 15, verse 49 says, We shall also bear the image of the heavenly man. First, John three, verse two says, We shall be like him. Now the question is, can Jesus pull this off? I mean, can Jesus really do this? Can he come back and rescue us and can he give us this new body? Well, Paul defends that there in verse 21, who will transform our humble state into the conformity of his glory. Watch this now, by the exertion of the power that he has even to subject all things to himself.
The weight room will not get the job done. The jogging track will not get the job done. All of those torture machines that they’ve got over there at the health center will not get the job done now. Am I against getting on the torture machines? Well, not necessarily. I need to get on those more frequently. But the reality is they can’t reverse the process. They can postpone the day of reckoning is probably the best they can do. So I need a process reversal. And the only one that can pull this off is Jesus, because it says here He’s going to do this by the exertion of his power. Not my power. Does he have power? Matthew 28, verse 18, says in Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to me in heaven, on earth. That’s what you call a mirrorism. All power has been given to him. Heaven and earth, or just the outer bridges of it? It would include everything in between. It’s like when God in Genesis one, one says, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. It’s a mirrorism describing totality. The Prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah, 23, verse 24, says, God in dwells the heavens in the earth. He’s omnipresent when Jesus says here, all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. that’s infinite power. And the day will come where he will channel that infinite power, exercise that infinite power, exert that infinite power, doing something for us that we can never do for ourselves, take our lonely bodies and put them in a resurrected state that won’t even need sleep. Doesn’t get cancer. Doesn’t get broken bones.
And that’s what we’re to fix our hope on. So it’s interesting as Paul describes our blessed hope that when he renounces legalism, he doesn’t just say, get out of legalism. He says these are the true substitutes for legalism: maturity, the avoidance of licentiousness, and having that heavenly and eternal perspective. And you walk like that and those things, how can you not have joy? How could you not have joy, understanding and embracing all of these things? And then next week, we’ll see he says something else there. You all need to get along with each other. Stop fighting like kids throwing sand at each other in the sandbox. Because positionally, you’re already one in Christ. Why don’t you start acting like it? And he’s going to single out a couple of people. That had actually shared his struggle in the cause of the gospel. And he’s so disappointed to watch these saints acting like children. And so we’ll see that next time.
If you’re here today and you don’t know Christ personally, we always like to conclude with the gospel message. It’s the gospel message because Jesus did everything in our place. His final words on the cross were it is finished, which is a translation of the Greek word tetelestai which means paid in full.
There’s nothing left for us to do other than to rest in what he did for us. And becoming a Christian and consequently being tied into these promises is not a multistep process. It’s a single step where one shifts their confidence away from their own religiosity and good works into what Jesus did for them. And in a nanosecond, they’re made right with God. And they have the potential of walking in joy because of these promises. If you’ve never done that, I would encourage you to come talk to myself after the service, if you need more explanation on it.
Shall we pray. Lord, we’re grateful for today. Grateful for your truth. Grateful for your word, written 2,000 years ago. And yet, at the same time, it speaks into our lives with such authority. Help us to walk, Enjoy this week as we rest in your promises. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen.