Philippians 3:12-4:1

Here are the answers to some questions from my recent sermon on Philippians 3:12-4:1.

Question 1

It kind of seemed like you were implying that there are people here at church who are better than others – “Better Christians”. Who are these growing people?

It’s important to remember that all Christians have equal status in Christ. We are all sinners who have been saved from God’s judgment through Jesus’ death and resurrection, entirely undeserved (e.g. Galatians 3:26-29).

However, in this passage Paul is implying that there are certain Christians who are worth following more than others. They are the ones who are living according to the pattern Paul gave them (Philippians 1:17) – i.e. those who, like Paul, are living their lives with the goal of resurrection and eternal life in mind.

How might you recognise them? There will be many things to look out for. They will be people who put serving Christ before other things. People who are willing to suffer for the sake of Jesus. People who think of others first before their own pleasure, their own interests, their own ambition (E.g. Philippians 2:3-4). People who make decisions about education, about jobs, about boyfriends and girlfriends and marriage partners, with God’s glory in mind before their own satisfaction. People who, in social situations, are not concerned for their own popularity or happiness, but for the comfort of others. People who give up their discretionary time to be involved in groups or activities that encourage others to grow in Christ or help to share Jesus with non-Christians. People who turn up faithfully to church and Bible study, week by week, because they care about their fellowship with others and want to encourage them. People who don’t spend their money on trivial gadgets or new cars or get massive house mortgages because they want to be free to use their time and money to serve Christ. The list could go on …

Question 2You spoke about putting ministry opportunities first. What about in the case where your gifts are quite flexible and you feel you could find a useful role in pretty much any church?

This is a great question – because if you’re asking it, it means you’ve already got the important question right. If you are striving for your resurrection life, and seeking to serve God and others in light of that goal, then your attitude and motivation is all in the right place.

However, the question then is, how do I make individual decisions about what to do in life (e.g. which church do I go to), especially if I have a choice? This becomes an area of wisdom, where there are no necessarily easy or cut-and-dried answers (I’d define biblical wisdom as “understanding the shape of the world, and acting accordingly”). Praying for wisdom is a good first step!

However, there are a number of questions that could guide your decision-making in this area.

  1. Is there anything obviously sinful or wrong about any of the choices you could make? This will rule out that choice!
  2. Can you see any possible long-term effects to your own Christian growth or godliness from any of the options you have ahead of you? For example, a church where the Bible is not taught systematically or where you are not challenged in your thinking and Christian life may, in the long term, be detrimental to your own growth and those you are trying to serve. Conversely, there may be an environment where you can grow to serve others more effectively over a lifetime of ministry.
  3. What actual opportunities are there to serve in a given context, and how closely do they match your gifts?
  4. What do others – especially those whom you trust as mature and growing Christians (cf. Philippians 1:17) think about the various choices you have in front of you? Often Christians will be able to think of issues (and even options) that you haven’t considered before – and they may be able to give you more objective advice about your own gifts.
  5. Don’t change lightly – remember that the situation God has placed you in and the relationships you currently have are very valuable (for yourself and others).

And remember that in areas like this, you’re free to make decisions. Rejoice in the choice that is before you, and if you have chosen with godly Christian wisdom, there is no need for regret. God is sovereign, and wherever you are, that is where God wants you to be!

Question 3

I’ve found that sometimes my longing for heaven is selfish. It’s about leaving the ‘crap’ of earthliness behind. I often struggle to find it the right motivation for gospel partnership.

Yeah – Paul had that longing too (Philippians 1:21-22). Often having our hearts fixed on heaven involves “hanging in there”, trusting in Jesus day by day, knowing that he who began a good work in you will faithfully bring it to completion on the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6).

But it’s worth remembering what resurrection actually means. We’re saved to be part of an everlasting, heavenly fellowship (or “partnership”) –

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. (Hebrews 12:22-23)

The Christians you’re with today, you’re going to be with forever – albeit in relationships that are perfect and not full of all the ‘crap’ that often gets in the way of good relationships here. That’s why Paul decided it was better to stay with the Philippians, even though he knew that being with Christ was better by far.