Spiritual Essentials for a Joy-Full Life ~ #15 “Living Between Two Worlds” – Philippians 3:17-4:1

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Living Between Two Worlds

Philippians 3:17-4:1

If you would, please take out your Bibles, and turn in them to the book of Philippians in the New Testament, and chapter 3. If you don’t have a Bible, there should be one under a chair in front of you. You can grab that Bible, and in the back portion of it, turn to page 155, and you would find yourself at Philippians and the third chapter.

Part of the challenge of being a follower of Jesus is that we have to live between two worlds. You see we are temporary tenants of earth, and at the same time, our true home country is heaven. At times, I have flashes of what that’s like experientially in my life to live between two worlds because I have a regular ministry, obviously here with the church at Wildwood, but I also have a weekly radio program that broadcasts back in Latvia on Latvian Christian Radio. They’re two very different places, and sometimes I feel a little bit emotionally like I’m living between two worlds.

Now when you think of the world here at Wildwood and Norman, Oklahoma, everyone here gets to see and interact with me. If you’ve been around Wildwood for a while, you would know who my wife is. You would know I have three daughters who attend Wildwood. I have one son who is an intern here at Wildwood.

This part of the world feels more natural for me because I grew up in this part of the world. English is my natural language…my native language. I’m very familiar with the cultural customs that we have. I’m very familiar with the monetary units. I know how to go to a store and buy things.

When I go to Latvia though, things are quite a bit different from that. What is interesting is to think about this…probably a higher percentage of people in Latvia recognize my name than even is true here. Part of that has to do because of the weekly radio program and then the monthly magazine, the journal that comes out. But what’s interesting about that is many of those who might recognize my name have never actually heard my voice because the broadcast that is done is done by Janis Paukstello who basically rebroadcasts my messages there in the native tongue of Latvia.

Most of them wouldn’t know my wife. She has been there two times, but she has not been with me to 24 of the 26 cities where I’ve gone to speak. My son has gone over there once, and so a few people would know my son. My daughters have never traveled to Latvia, so none of them would even know my daughters at all.

When you travel and you go from here to there, there is a little bit of confusion and some tension that goes on because you have to shift your focus. There are just different customs there, even how you handle your Bible and some of what you do with your Bible is a different custom there. I have to start, when I go over to Latvia, recalling the phrases and remembering…Oh, this is what you say then, and this is what you say.

Then I have to reacquaint myself, refresh myself with the monetary units that are different and remember…Oh, that’s what that value is and this is how you buy things there. There are definitely, just in that arena, some challenges and some adjustments in living between two worlds.

But it’s nothing like really the contrast that exists for us as followers of Jesus because we learn from Philippians, chapter 3, that our citizenship is in heaven. You see that is our home turf. We are temporary tenants down here on earth. That brings with it some challenges and some adjustments, and we need to, as followers of Jesus, maintain a right focus in living between the two different worlds.

I think there is help for us in that regard from Philippians, chapter 3, verses 17 down through the first verse of chapter 4, and I’d like to read those verses and invite you to follow along in your Bible as I read what Paul says to us here.

He says, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 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.”

Now the title I have given to the message today is Living Between Two Worlds, and I believe we find, in these verses, we can discover in these verses, four guidelines for how to successfully and effectively live between two worlds. We’re just going to jump right into them. Alright? Four guidelines we’re going to see as we seek to live effectively and successfully between these two worlds.

Guideline number one is found in verses 17-19, and it’s simply this…

1. Choose the right model. There are different models as we live here as temporary tenants we’re going to have. He says it’s important if we’re going to live effectively between two worlds that you choose the right model.

Notice what he says in verse 17. He says, “Brethren, brothers, sisters, oh, spiritual friends, join in following my example.” Literally what it says in the original is, “Become fellow imitators of me.” The terms here are the terms that we get the word in English mimic from. He’s saying, “Mimic me.” Observe those who walk or who conduct their lives. Walking is just a picture of conducting your life. Observe those who walk according to the pattern, literally blueprint that you have in us. See what he’s saying…mimic me. Follow the blueprint that you see in us.

Now some people might look at those verses and they say, “Wow, Paul is on some kind of an ego trip here. How egotistical…saying sort of a self-promotion ego trip thing, ‘Hey, everybody look at me! Look at me!'” But that’s not what he’s doing here at all.

There are at least two reasons why I would say that. Number one, I want you to notice that he is not limiting the model that we are to follow to Paul himself. You’ll notice what it says there. It’s very, very clear. He says, “Observe those (plural) who conduct their lives according to the pattern that you have in us (plural).”

He’s not just saying everybody simply look at me. He would be including, obviously, it seems to me since Timothy and Epaphroditus get mentioned in chapter 2, they would be part of these models we are to follow. It’s really, I believe here, a call to imitate a category of people.

Now there is a second reason why I believe he’s not on a self-promoting ego trip and that is simply his commitment that he tells us about. In 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, verse 1, he says this to those followers of Jesus there, he says, “Be imitators of me…” And here comes the key phrase, “Just as I am of Christ.” The reason why he can say to us, “Mimic me,” is because he is totally focused on mimicking and imitating the person of Christ.

So, what he is really saying here as we live on this planet as our temporary home, we’re temporary tenants, we have a real, true home that is not here. He’s saying the first thing we need to do is choose the right model. In other words, “Look at the servanthood…” he’s really saying, “…in my life. Look at the self-sacrifice in my life. Look at the mindset and focus I have. At all that I do, I want to honor God and glorify Him.”

We need to choose the right model. Why is that so important? Because there are other models out there. In fact, he talks about those other models in verses 18 and 19. He says, “There are many who walk, many who conduct their lives very differently.” And we all know this is true. He says in verse 18, “I have told you about these other models before and now tell you even weeping that they are enemies of the Cross of Christ.”

He has tears in his eyes when he’s talking about these other models. He’s saying that their lifestyle choices repudiate what the Cross stands for, and if you’re going to choose the right model while you’re on the planet, that’s not the model we ought to choose.

Now you might ask yourself the question, “Why is he weeping here when he talks about these poor model choices?” I think the reason why he’s weeping is he has the heart of the Savior just as it says in 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 9 that God does not want anyone to perish.

He says there are poor model choices out there, but he’s not laughing at them. He’s not cold-hearted toward them. Thinking about them even brings tears to his eyes. What do these poor models look like? Well he gives here four pithy descriptions…just four very boom, boom, boom, boom type of phrases. Let’s look at them.

First thing, he says regarding them…it says, “Their end is destruction. Their destiny is not a good destiny. They are headed for never ending darkness. They are headed for everlasting hopelessness. So we might want to ask ourselves this question, “If that’s what their destiny is, why would I choose to imitate and follow their model?” It doesn’t make any sense at all.

He goes on to say, “Their god is their appetite.” What does that really mean? Well these models follow their flesh impulses. They just do whatever feels right to them. They’re into self-indulgence. They’re into pleasure. They’re into sensuality. They’re into erotica because that pleases their flesh. And he says, “As you look at these models, self-happiness is what drives them…self-happiness more than a desire to do God’s will and to honor God.”

Now here is what is important for us to remember. We’re temporary tenants here. We have to live everyday between two worlds, but what happens is these models are all around us. They’re all around you at school. They’re all around you in your neighborhood. They’re all around you at work. We see them coming into our living rooms by the television set. And the culture of the world, the current of all of this has a tendency to sweep us along in it if we’re not careful.

Now the third thing he says about them is this, “Whose glory is in their shame.” They like to brag about shameful things. In Ephesians 5:12, Paul says this, “It is disgraceful to even speak of the things done by them in private.” There are models like that around the world. We don’t even really want to talk about some of what they’re into. And you know, by the way, the news is full of this. It leaks out all over the place all the time. That is a model we shouldn’t follow.

By the way, again a reminder, the current of the culture in this modeling we have going on is so strong…it’s so strong that at times, even those who name the name of Christ can be swept along by it.

Recently my wife returned to Lincoln, Nebraska, for her 40th high school reunion, and you know, when you go to reunions there are always some of the class who makes it and some of the class who doesn’t make it. And usually the people who didn’t make it become a little bit of a topic of discussion. “What about so-and-so [some person]? And what about…have you seen so-and-so [another person]?” And whatever…

Well this happened for my wife, and one of the topics of discussions was one of the people who was one of her closest friends in high school and even during the college years. In fact, when we used to do large Bible studies off the campus there, this former friend of hers used to come to those Bible studies. She got married later and was divorced years and years ago. We hadn’t really heard the most recent version of the story, and so that was part of what was being shared with Janet.

So, this is what has recently been going on in recent times with this individual. She has had a long-running affair. She is unmarried with an unmarried man from another city. And what was happening is this person from this city would come and live with her for a while where she lived and they would live together. Then he would go back home, and after a period of time she would go, and she would live with him for a while, and then she would come back home.

This has been going on for a while. Well this guy who she was seeing had an affair with a married woman. And what this old friend of my wife’s did is she got so mad about that, that her live-in boyfriend had this affair with this married woman that she then targeted the married woman’s husband and went to him and seduced him, all to get back at her live-in boyfriend.

She is telling me this story. I know this person, and I’m thinking…What is with this? This is straight off the television program Desperate Housewives. I mean you have to be kidding me. Someone has that kind of a cold heart that they would do such a thing. And I was thinking about it, you know there are even many pagans who would refuse to do something like that. But see what happens is the modeling and the culture, if we’re not careful, it can just pick us up and carry us along even if we have claimed the name of Christ. That can happen.

There is a fourth description about these models that we don’t want to follow, and that is this…they set their mind on earthly things. The focus of their life is on the earthly sphere. And that only makes sense because they don’t know God. What else do they have? I like the way the New Living Translation translates it here. It says, “All they think about is life here on earth.”

I just want you to pause for a moment and think about your life in the past week. Would that be a good description of you that all you thought about was life here on earth? We’re only temporary tenants here. Our home is there [point to heaven]. That’s our true home.

You know, we now have two grandsons, and from time to time they come over and my wife will watch them. One particular day, my grandsons were over, and my oldest grandson Aiden had been watching TV, and he had it tuned into the TV Land channel. I got home a little bit later that day and the TV was still on the TV Land channel. And while it was still on, this program came up called How’d You Get So Rich? It’s hosted by Joan Rivers, and she goes to all these rich people and wants to know about them and their lifestyle.

This particular day, as this program is running, there is a guy on there by the name of James Goldstein. James Goldstein lives in a 50-million-dollar home that is built on a 400-foot cliff in California. James Goldstein has fresh flowers flown in every week from Maui at a cost of $2,000 a month. James Goldstein spends $300,000 a year, about a third of a million dollars, going to NBA basketball games.

By the way, he made all of his money in real estate. But what really was fascinating to me is that James Goldstein flies to Paris, Milan and New York City every week to buy clothes, and James Goldstein spends one million dollars a year on clothes. As part of the program, he shows that he has this $10,000 python-skin jacket. By the way, his closet was like a dry cleaner. You know, where you have that rack that rotates around, and he just pushes a button and the clothing just goes spinning in a circle. He spent $50,000 on one article of clothing.

Now I know that’s an extreme example, but you see it’s the whole deal. What is he thinking about? All he is thinking about is life on earth, and those are the people we have around us. That is not a model we want to follow. You see, we live in a world that is just sold out to the material and sold out to the physical; to the exclusion of the spiritual. What he is saying is, “If we’re going to live successfully and effectively between two worlds, we have to choose the right model. There is a different model to follow than the model James Goldstein might be living.”

What model should we follow? Well, like Paul and like Timothy. You know, people who ask this kind of a question every day, “How can I advance the gospel of Jesus Christ?” People who have an “others first” mentality just like Jesus did.

Then Paul tells us in chapter 2, that’s the way we ought to be. People whose heartbeat is…how can I honor God when I’m in school, I’m living in my neighborhood, and I’m going to work? That is the kind of model we need to follow. If we’re going to live effectively between two worlds, we have to choose the right model.

Not only, by the way men and women, choose the right model, we have to be the right model. I don’t care how old you are, you are an example. I’ve said this for years; you take elementary school children…who do they most tend to look up to as an example? Kids who are one group ahead of them. They look at middle school kids and they say, “That’s what I want to be like.”

Then you take middle school kids, and who are they looking at? Who do they want to imitate? They say, “I want to be like those high school kids.” Then you take the high school kids and who are they looking to as their models? The college students. Then you take college students, and who are they looking at? They’re looking at the adults, and they’re looking at married people because that’s the next stage they’re getting ready to go into.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard from college students how much they appreciate and how much they learn from being around married people, and the modeling they’ve picked up from that.

How does a person learn about generosity? Do you learn about generosity by taking a course on this or reading some book on this? You know how you really learn about generosity? Someone is modeling it. How are you really going to learn about hospitality, how to take the things God has given to you and use them in a way that will minister and touch the lives of other people? How do you learn that? You learn that from modeling.

See those things are better caught than they are taught, and we are all an example and a model. By the way, that’s why the local church is so important. See the Christian life was never designed to be some solo thing. “Okay, I come to trust in Christ as my Savior. Now I’m going to just do my own thing.” No, it was never designed by God that way because of the importance of modeling. That’s why the local church is critical because you have modeling that goes on. And by the way, that’s why small groups in a church are so important.

Now you can come here every Sunday, and I will open up the Word of God to you and I will explain it to the best of my ability and apply it to the best of my ability. But you don’t see a lot of modeling going on here. See that’s the function of small groups when you break and get connected in that way then you have a chance to observe some modeling from others.

Four guidelines that will help us to live between two worlds effectively and successfully. The first one is Choose the right model. The second one is found in verse 20, at the beginning part, and that is this…

2. Live like who you are. If you’re going to successfully live between two worlds, you need to live like whom you are. In other words, verse 20 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Again, we’re temporary tenants here.

Now that talk of citizenship would really have rung very true in the ears of the Philippians because Philippi was a Roman colony…not all cities were. And they would know that as a Roman colony, you had two responsibilities. Number one responsibility was to promote the interest of Rome, as a Roman colony, and responsibility number two was to lead lives that are worthy of a Roman citizen.

Well our citizenship is in heaven, and that means that part of that responsibility is that we are to promote the interests of heaven. When we’re living out our week, the interest of heaven should be on our mind. It also means that we are to lead lives worthy of a heavenly citizen. When was the last time you even thought about that as you went through your week?

In other words, what he’s saying is that our focus, men and women, needs to be on our true home. We need to set our mind on the eternal, on the things that are eternal…the things in this world that are eternal which would include… What are the things that are eternal in this world? It would include people. It would include the Word of God. And it includes… That’s the end of the list. We need to set our minds on the invisible and on the imperishable.

You know things have changed from when I grew up. I’m getting old now. But when I was in elementary school, and that was more than a few months ago, on a daily basis, we would stand there and we would say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands.” Every single day we took that pledge.

We are to promote the interest of heaven and to live a life that is worthy of a heavenly citizen. So really, in essence, we should be taking a pledge every day. I pledge myself to Jesus Christ and to the kingdom for which He died. That ought to be what we’re thinking about every morning as we launch into our day. I pledge myself to Jesus Christ and the kingdom for which He died.

Some guidelines on how we can live between two worlds successfully and effectively. The first one is Choose the right model. The second one is Live like who we are. The third one is…

3. Anticipate future glory. We see that in the last part of verse 20 and verse 21. He says, notice verse 20, “From which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” He says, “The return of Christ, His second coming, should impact us, should make a difference in how we live our life.”

Now I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but when I was studying my way through this and I came to verse 20, I said, Something there is very different in that verse from what I see today in the Christian community at large. Did you notice it? Did you look carefully at what it says there? He says, “We…” Here it comes, “…eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

When I was reading that and I was thinking about the Christian community at large today, I thought, Hmm, there is a little bit of a contrast. These believers were eagerly waiting for the return of Christ. I said to myself, You know what the prevailing attitude is today about the return of Christ? It’s NBD…no question in my mind. It’s NBD…no big deal. Frankly, that’s where we are. We talk about eagerly awaiting the return of Christ. No, it’s no big deal for most people.

You know, it’s puzzling when you think about it, at least 23 of the 27 New Testament books point repeatedly toward the second coming of Christ. In fact, there is a verse that occurs in Acts, chapter 17, verse 31, and it’s one that just sort of gives me goose bumps and makes me crawl just a little bit because it’s just an awesome statement that God makes. It says, “God has fixed a day in which He is going to judge the world in righteousness.”

Men and women, that’s reality. We just lose sight of that so much. He has already fixed a day that He is going to judge the world in righteousness. And His coming is going to be sudden. It will be sure, and I think it is likely going to be soon.

Well how does all that work together? Well, the potential of His sudden, sure, soon coming is to make a difference in how we live our life. When we do the Monday-through-Friday thing, and even the weekend thing, it should make a difference.

First John 3:3 says, “Everyone who has this hope fixed on the return of Christ…” Do you know what the rest of the verse says? Does anybody know what the rest of the verse says? “Everyone who has his hope fixed on the return of the Savior…” What does it say? “…purifies himself.” It makes a difference in how we live our life.

James Montgomery Boice, a good writer and for many years pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, by the way, he is in heaven with the Lord now, but he just shot so straight [so honestly] on this. I thought this was so good. This is so honest. This is what we need to hear.

He says, “If you are contemplating some sin, perhaps a dishonest act in business, perhaps trifling with sex outside of marriage, perhaps cheating on your income tax return, then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you. If your life is marked by a contentious, divisive spirit in which you seek to tear down the work of another person instead of building it up, then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you. If you first protect your own interest and neglect to give food, water, clothing to the needy, as we are instructed to do in Christ’s name, then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you.”

See it’s to make a difference when we are remembering that He could come back soon. By the way, this goes on here in the description. Not only do we anticipate the future glory of his return, but there is a fabulous future that is out there for us. There is going to be a divine, extreme makeover that nobody would ever want to miss. He talks about that in verse 21. Not only is He going to return, but He 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 to subject all things to Himself.”

There is a time coming when our weak, mortal bodies that are very vulnerable to disease, decay and death are going to be replaced, they’re going to become like His glorious body, which is durable and permanent and perfect. What an awesome thing! And that is to be a motivation to us as we seek to live between two worlds.

By the way, if you’d like to read more about the future body we’re going to have, you can go to 1 Corinthians 15, which is the New Testament resurrection chapter, and read verses 42-44 that will describe that body more in detail.

But here is where all this is important. Now we all know we’re going to die (somewhere out there in our minds), but generally speaking, we tend to operate under the illusion we’re going to live forever. When you operate under the illusion you’re going to live forever, the second coming has very shallow significance. But, if you get cancer, if you have to battle MS, if you have to deal with childhood diabetes, if you have to deal with dementia, if you have to deal with creaking old age, which many of us are beginning to feel the onset of, then suddenly this becomes of utmost significance to you.

Very important guidelines to living between two worlds successfully and effectively. The first one is…if we’re going to do that, we need to choose the right model. We need to live like who we are. We need to anticipate future glory.

Fourth, he says if we’re going to do that successfully…

4. We need to stand strong in His strength. We see that in verse 4. He says, “Therefore my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and my crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord. He addresses the Philippians as his joy and his crown. He says, “You’re my reward for investing my life. The life that I have to live here I’m investing for people like you.” So he says to them, “You need to stand firm. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. Stand firm in the Lord. Our reliance is on Him. He is the secret to the strength that we need to live our life on this planet.”

By the way, there is a very great verse at the end of the resurrection chapter, in chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians. It’s verse 58. It is a verse that is worthy of being memorized. By the way, it’s no accident that this verse comes at the end of that resurrection chapter. Paul says, “Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” Nothing you do for the Lord is useless. Living between two worlds is something we must do every day.

This week as we were interacting over this whole issue of living between two worlds, John Abernethy who is our family and care pastor, sent me an email of a piece that he had written. I want to read it to you now. It starts off saying, “Imagine, if you will…” So I want you, if it helps you to close your eyes, I want you to just hear what this says, and I want you to imagine with me.

He says, “Imagine if you will, you are in another place far away from earth. God is there and is the all-loving, all-powerful One whom we serve. He created the universe and holds it together. And He steps forward and tells you this, ‘I’m going to send you to another place for a few years. I’m not going to tell you how long you will be there, but it will be somewhere between a few minutes and maybe as long as 100 years. While you are in this other place, you will be My ambassador. You are to seek to bring Me glory. You are to live all your time there in a way others will know that you are made in My image. I sent My Son Jesus there 2,000 years ago to die for their sins against Me. Everyone on that planet, including you, needs to place their faith in His death and resurrection as the payment for their sins. He has already returned here to Me, and is preparing places here for all on that planet whom will trust in Him.’

Then He goes on to say, ‘Spend your time there telling others about Me, both with words and actions. Be my representative. I will be doing the work through you. Rely on Me and My power while you are there. I will even have the Holy Spirit live within you to guide you. Don’t waste your time there or get too caught up with wanting the things that are in that world. You cannot bring them with you after you leave.

Don’t worry about your food or clothing needs. I will supply those. Remember, even though you look like those who are there, you are an alien and stranger there. Your true home is in heaven. You may marry there and possibly have children. If you do, please raise them in a way to glorify Me and to continue the mission. You will suffer there and may succumb to illness or persecution. Know that it is producing an eternal weight of glory in you. You may die in this place, but know it is not true death. When you die, you will come back and be with Me forever. So please do not worry about that. Just keep focused on your mission.'”

Then here comes the question…If this were true (and we asked you just to imagine it), how would your life here on earth be different than it is now? How would your goals change? How would you spend your time? How would you spend your money? The point is, men and women, it is true. Living between two worlds is something we have to do every day.

Now we’ve looked at what Paul has to say here, and we want to pull back for a moment with some life response. I want to share with you several questions for reflection. Again, I would always encourage you…write these questions down. They’re excellent fuel for your private time with the Lord. Three questions for reflection…

1. Does my conduct match my citizenship? What a great question to wrestle with, have an open heart before the Lord, and have Him speak to us. Does my conduct match my citizenship?

2. Am I modeling like I should? Wow, that’s a good one. What is it that others are going to catch from me? Does my conduct match my citizenship? Am I modeling like I should?

3. Am I connected with others? I need to learn from other people’s models. Am I in an environment where I can observe some of this up close…where I can learn so I can become a more effective citizen of heaven?

Let’s pray together: Father, we thank You again for this living Book. It is alive. It’s pulsating. It’s almost like I can feel the vibrations of life when my hands are on it.

Father, I admit I struggle with this. I can so easily get caught up in being focused on living life here and I’m only a temporary tenant. All too often, I find myself following the models of this world rather than the model of Christ.

Father, I would pray that You would raise up men and women and young people who realize everyday that they have to live between two worlds. We have to function on this planet, but it doesn’t have to be our focus. Help us to keep our focus on what is our true citizenship and that is we are citizens of heaven and the kingdom of God.

May that focus make a difference in the choices we make even this next week as we go out to live our lives. And we pray these things so that one person gets honored, and that is the One who bled and died in our place on the Cross, the One we love, the person of Jesus Christ. We pray these things in His name, Amen.

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