Jesus accused the religious leaders of his day of hypocrisy. What he meant by that was that they would tell people how to live, yet they would not live by those rules themselves. Jesus had a distaste of making faith difficult and legalistic; just another set of rules to make life difficult and hard to live be. He warned the religious leaders that it would be better for them to have a heavy stone around their necks and to be thrown into the sea than for them to cause others to stumble. (Luke 9:2)
In the gospels Jesus says over and over again; if you want to be my disciple, follow me. Follow my teaching, follow my example. Follow the way I live my life before you. The verse that precedes our reading today in Philippians says this: Let us live up to what we have already attained. Live the life. Practice what you preach. Live up to the testimony that resides within you.(Philippians 3:16)In other words, let your faith practice catch up to your intellectual understanding of the Christ walk. If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? Experience Christianity. We experience our faith in the way we live it out in front of others.
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have seen in us. (Philippians 3:17) I will make a commitment to this congregation that as the leader of your church, I will do my best to practice what I preach before I preach or teach anything to you, that I will try to put into practice to the best of my ability, before I bring it to the pulpit. If anyone is going to follow my example, like Paul asks us to do, then doggone it, I better have a good example or pattern to follow or imitate. Now I know that I have worked at being perfect, and I’m pretty darn close, even though Naomi will tell you otherwise. Actually, we all know that none of us are perfect. If you ever find a perfect church, then you better not join. Because if you join it won’t be perfect anymore.
The message from the letter to the Philippians today is this: Live what you preach. Walk the talk. If you’re not living out your faith in your daily life, how are you going to be a witness to others about the good news and how wonderful it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Our citizenship is in heaven. We are reminded as all Christians have been reminded for almost 2,000 years; this world is not our home. Our citizenship is in heaven. As we say together in the Lord’s Prayer: Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We are looking toward Easter. We are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.(Phil. 3:20-4:1)
Living the Christian life is not all about us, and it is not all up to us. It is a joint venture between you and God. God wants to walk with us, hand in hand. It requires a partnership. You are the willing receiver and the Holy Spirit transforms your life from the inside out. It’san inside job. When we agree to pattern our life after the examples set down by Jesus and His apostles, we agree to allow the Spirit to transform our lives. It’s a mutual agreement, walking in step with the Spirit, hand in hand. We make the effort and God follows through. Our responsibility is to allow the resurrected Christ to be a testimony in our lives.
When we pattern our lives after the examples set to us by others, Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, John and perhaps your Uncle Fred and Aunt Mabel, others will look at our example and pattern their lives after ours. That alone should give us pause! That’s a scary thing to me. We want to make sure we are living the life. Walking the walk, not just talking the talk, as we are encouraged by the Apostle Paul to set our affections on the things above where Christ sits, and not on the things of this old world. Set your affections on things above. If you have been risen with Christ, then your affections on the things above and not on the things of this old world. (Colossians 3:1-2)
During this Lenten season we are reminded from our gospel readings that Jesus is headed for Jerusalem. He knows what is waiting for him there. And, in our Christian journey, we are encouraged to be examples to others along the way, and that the power of God that resides in our heart to set us free will encourage others to follow our lead. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are just passing through as pilgrims on a journey. I will close with the lyrics from the old gospel folksong, made famous by the Carter Family recording in 1931; This World is not my Home
This World is Not My Home
This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures and my hopes are all beyond the blue
Where many friends and kindred have gone on before
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Over in glory land there is no dying there
The saints are shouting victory there’s singing everywhere
I hear the voice of them that I have heard before
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you.
If heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from heavens open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
(Sung by the Carter Family, Author unknown)