Sermon of Philippians 3:17-4:1
2nd Sunday in Lent
You’re Almost Home (so)
1. Keep your eyes above
2. Keep your feet firmly planted
Text: Philippians 3:17-4:1
In the summer of 2005, Becky and I went on the vacation of a lifetime. We had been married for one year, I was in between seminary school years, and we had no children yet (those were the days!). A friend was getting married in Seattle and instead of buying plane tickets and renting a car, we figured we would take a road trip and see the country. The trip became a little bigger than first anticipated!
That summer we visited 15 states, drove 7,700 miles, and finished the whole trip in only 17 days! That little red Saturn we own has been to places like Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Every other day we would travel 12 hours to get to a destination. We would site-see for a day and a half and then travel another 12 hours! One day we even left Yellowstone at 4:30am, made it to Salt Lake City by noon, did power site-seeing for 2 hours, and then drove all the way to Seattle that same day.
Needless to say, we were exhausted toward the end of the trip! It was so much fun, but it was also a grueling grind! Finally, when we were in Rocky Mountain National Park we had enough. We were supposed to stay the night, but we just wanted to get home. So after an entire day of site-seeing at 15,000 feet we drove 15 hours straight home through the night. That was the most difficult journey of all. We were tired, worn out, exhausted. We had to try really hard just to stay awake driving through the middle of Nebraska in the middle of the night. But we held on tight, we focused, and we made our way for home. The closer and closer we got, the more excited we became. Finally after this long and difficult journey, we made it home.
How has your road trip been? Our trip was somewhat impressive—7,700 miles in 17 days. But many of you have been traveling a lot longer than that! Some of you have been on your journey for 30 or 40 years now. Others have been traveling for over 50 years, and still others 80 years or more. How has your trip been?
I’m sure you have had a few bumps along the way. You’ve probably taken a number detours. You’ve probably made quite a few wrong turns. Maybe you’ve even had a few breakdowns along the way. Are you tired from traveling? Are you exhausted? Worn out? Do you sometimes just wish your journey were over? Then good news! You’re Almost Home.
If the apostle Paul were alive today, he might just be the kind of guy that watched ESPN every day. He seems to have had a real appreciation for athletics. Even if Paul didn’t like sports, he at least knew that most other people did. So Paul would often use sports analogies in his letters. Some might be familiar to you. He wrote about things like fighting the good fight, running a straight race, and winning a crown of victory. In his letter to the Philippians he uses another sports analogy. Here’s what he says just before our lesson today, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Like an athlete at the Greek Olympic games, Paul pressed on toward the prize at the end—his home in heaven. So then, in the following verses which we have before us today, Paul encourages the Philippians and us to press on toward our goal, too. Heaven is our home. We’re Almost Home. Here’s how we can press on toward that goal:
Verse 17 says, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” There are certainly many people that we can use as examples of godly living. Maybe you have a father or a mother, a brother or a sister to pattern your life after. Maybe there is a pastor you once knew. Or best yet, we can follow the examples of those in Scripture. Follow the examples of Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, Peter, James, John, and more. Their journeys were filled with all sorts of bumps and detours and wrong turns along the way. Each and every one of them was a sinner. David was an adulterer and murderer. Paul used to be a persecutor of Christians. Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times. Yet each of them pressed on toward the goal of heaven with faith in their Savior and his forgiveness. They all knew they had a different home, a heavenly home, to look forward to.
Follow those examples as you press on toward your goal, and watch out for bad examples along the way. Look at what Paul says in the next verse: “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, 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.”
Do you know people like that, people whose God is their stomach? To follow your stomach doesn’t mean you eat at McDonald’s or Pizza Hut every day. To follow your stomach means to follow after all your inner desires and passions. It means to indulge in what feels good and to satisfy your cravings for more. Do you know people like that? People who indulge in their pillows instead of coming to church. People who use whatever filthy language they want because it makes them feel cooler or more powerful. People who are gluttons when it comes to food and drunkards when it comes to alcohol—but they don’t care about the abuse of their bodies because it feels good. These are people who go overboard when partying and don’t really care about praying. These are people who read what they want, watch what they want, listen to what they want, and say what they want without thinking or caring about God’s opinion of those things.
Do you know people like that? We don’t have to go far. We’ve all done things like that. We’ve all had times when our stomachs—our passions and desires—have become our god. But Paul warns us about these kinds of people and these kinds of sins. “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”
To help prevent us from following our stomachs or setting our minds on earthly things, Paul gives us an important reminder. “Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Philippians cherished citizenship. Though Philippi is in Greece, it was considered a Roman colony. Many retired Roman soldiers lived there. The people dressed like Romans, they acted like Romans, they considered themselves to be Romans. They knew they had a more important citizenship elsewhere. Americans value citizenship, too. Being a citizen brings certain rights and privileges to all of us.
Paul reminds us though that while earthly citizenship is important, we have a more important citizenship, too. We have rights as citizens in heaven. They are rights we don’t deserve though. The rights to live in and inhabit heaven certainly don’t belong to a bunch of sinners! But rather, they were won for us by our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He left his home in heaven to come to our home on earth. He left the comfort and glory of his home to suffer and die in ours. As his life and death paid for all our sins—including all those times that our stomachs have been our god—he saved us from that sin and gave us the right to be citizens in heaven. There, where our bodies will be transformed to be like his perfect and glorious body, we will finally be home. You’re almost there! You’re Almost Home, so keep your eyes above on your heavenly citizenship.
Philippi is a city that has suffered through many earthquakes in its history. From minor tremors to big quakes, the Philippians have experience it. Knowing that, what Paul says in verse one of the next chapter has a special meaning and significance. “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.” Telling people in Palm Coast Florida to stand firm is appreciated encouragement. But telling people in Los Angeles California to stand firm would have a special significance. In the same way, telling these earthquake veterans of Philippi to stand firm would be a memorable encouragement. Firm standing is something they always wanted to do! But did you catch the key phrase in that verse for the Philippians and for us? We are to stand firm in the Lord.
There are certainly times in life when we face our share of shakeups. Sometimes they are little tremors like a problem at work here or there. Sometimes we suffer through major earthquakes like cancer. Sometimes we endure little trembles as we experience sickness and disease. Sometimes the Richter Scale is broken when problems just pile up—loved ones pass away, family problems, financial problems.
But Paul’s encouragement still is to keep our feet firmly planted and stand firm in the Lord. Christ has already overcome our greatest problem, sin. He destroyed sin and death; he defeated Satan. He who has saved us also has power to help us. He has promised to always be with us and to never leave us or forsake us. He will always be our help in time of need. He will always be our sure foundation for standing firm. You’re almost there! You’re Almost Home, so keep your feet firmly planted and stand firm in the Lord!
I went away from my home in Milwaukee to go to college in Minnesota. Martin Luther College was a six hour drive through the middle of nowhere Wisconsin and Minnesota. Over four years of going back and forth Becky and I had a lot of experiences. Let’s just say we saw a lot of snow, a lot of corn, and a lot of cows!
One thing I always knew though. No matter what—how long I had been away, whether our basketball team won or lost, whether I got straight A’s or straight F’s (thankfully never happened!)—no matter what my mother and father always had my room ready and prepared for me just the way I left it. There was always food in the refrigerator. They hadn’t changed the locks. I knew I could always look forward to going home.
Jesus once said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
This life is a long journey. There are lots of bumps, detours, and wrong turns along the way. Some of you have been traveling a long, long time. But stand firm in the Lord. Know your citizenship is elsewhere. You’re just a stranger here. Heaven is your home. So take heart, your room is ready and You’re Almost Home!
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