Philippians 3:15-21: Why Focus on Heaven?
June 22, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Paul has been calling the Philippians to a life of joy, to rejoicing in the Lord, utilizing the examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus, and then his own example, to focus on heaven and strive towards heaven. Now he tells them even more explicitly to follow his example, and as he does, he gives two prevailing reasons.
First, to follow his example of rejoicing in God, and of passionate commitment to the cause of Christ, is the path of maturity. All “who are mature should take such a view of things.” How different is this than what we tend to think of as maturity. Maturity does not mean becoming less passionate, less committed, less engaged. It means striving towards what God has for us as he calls us heavenward in Christ Jesus. Paul is quick to point out that along with this passionate zeal that is the mark of maturity, so is a kind of sanctified common sense—not warring over matters that are unimportant. “If on some point you think differently, that God will make clear to you.” That too is maturity: being able to wait until God makes clear the issues over which we might disagree with one another. But, Paul says, at least “let us live up to what we have already attained.” Perhaps we cannot always be pressing forward. But we must make sure that we are not slipping back!
The second reason Paul gives here for why to follow his example is because the alternative is so serious. Many people do not have a heavenly mindset. “Their god is their stomach.” They are living for this world, and “their destiny is destruction.” Many indeed—Paul again warns them “with tears”—live “as enemies of the cross of Christ.” To follow Christ means to long to be with Christ, which means to have our hearts and minds set on the upward call of Christ to be with him in heaven.
Perhaps then you are wondering today whether you really need to give all your life to Jesus. Whether instead there is a more middling, less radical road to follow. But Paul here is warning us that the alternative to a focus on heaven is serious. There are many whose god is their stomach—that is, they are merely living for material or sensual desires and appetites of one kind or another. Don’t be like that! There is a serious consequence, an eternal consequence, to turning our backs on Christ and pursuing sensual indulgence. Plus, says Paul, if you are mature, you are going to want more and more to focus on heaven and strive towards that goal to win the prize for which Christ is calling you heavenward.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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