Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:17-21, NKJV).
The apostle Paul was a gutsy guy. Many today would describe him as lacking nuance. I've been around a lot of nuance in my lifetime, and after a millisecond or so of it, it gets old. Stale. Nuance is a nuisance. It seems being definite today is a handicap, unless you side with the current popular fashion, then its OK to be definite, and loud, and intolerant. Otherwise, those who disagree with you will leave no stone unturned in order to trip you up with the crippling accusation of hypocrisy.
Paul did not care what others thought of him. He put, not just his reputation, but himself, on the line all the time. He does it here: Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. How many of us today have the courage to promote ourselves as a standard or model of Christ-like behavior? How many of us have a Christian walk that is worth following? Don't get his motivation here wrong, either. He was not seeking fans. He was seeking converts. He desired people to follow him because he followed Christ. When those in the church of Corinth started to form a denomination around him, the apostle soundly criticized their foolish intentions, and openly derided their thinking. He purposely set himself up as an example because he knew he had influence. Empowered teachers of the Word of God always do. And his life was proof that he not only taught, but lived what he believed. His only goal was to live and teach in such a way as to bring others into the Kingdom of God. That is what we are all supposed to do.
Another reason he promoted himself as an example was because he knew there were others who named the name of Christ for either selfish gain, or to manipulate people, or to wield influence and garner prestige. He summarized these anti-Christian scoundrels as having four common characteristics. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things. Headed for eternal death; slaves to fleshly lusts; who call evil good and good evil; and who seek the acclaim and acquisitions of the world. The apostle was vehement in warning his flocks about such men and women, weeping and pleading with them to be aware of the dangers posed by these evil workers. And he proposed himself as the antidote. "Follow me, and those like-minded," he writes, "because we are the pattern provided for the church by the Holy Spirit."
If Paul were not the real deal, this would be a dangerous proposition, indeed. As a teacher of God's Word, he would receive double judgment, first for his own error, and then for the others his misdirected influence caused to go astray. Of course he was cognizant of this fact, and lived his life "as God is my witness", and in "fear and trembling" precisely because he understood the stakes. He pleaded with the church to set their minds on things above, and to understand the schemes of the enemy.
Then, as he does in all his teachings, he provides the motivation and reasoning behind his exhortations. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Look, we are citizens of Heaven before any nation on this earth. In fact, we are not only citizens, but Ambassadors of Christ and His Kingdom, operating behind enemy lines until we either depart from this Fallen world, or the Lord returns in His full sovereign power. As such, we are His representatives. Think on that for a second and you will tremble as Paul did. Or you should. What an honor! What a sacred responsibility! You carry His banner in the world, and you should do so humbly serving your God and desiring above all else to be true, not to yourself, as the blinded world preaches so stupidly and incessantly, but to Him.
You desire to do this because you know He is coming back. It is your primary motivation. It is why you want to be found as a good and faithful servant so that you may hear loving words of commendation on that Day of the Return of the King. You long for Him who saved you, and will perfect you, and resurrect you, as a lost child longs for his parent, or as someone in dire need longs for a Rescuer. We who know the truth have hearts whose eternal life's blood flows to the rhythm of "Your Kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!" "Maranatha!" and "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!" Any other cry of our heart that drowns out those calls to Heaven makes our faith a pretense, a sham, and full of nuance. May it never be so among us!
And this One we eagerly wait for has all power and authority in Heaven and earth. He is able to transform each one of us from this crusty terrestrial shell into a glorified eternal mansion modeled after His glorious body. This is the promise of eternal redemption, for which we have received, as yet, only the downpayment of His Spirit within us. If you believe in anything less, you have misread the Bible or have been misinformed. It is as simple and un-nuanced as that! His ability to perform this glorious transformation is not surprising. He spoke and the Universe leapt into existence at his mere command. He knows all the stars by name. He created everything out of nothing, and most miraculously of all, He condescended to become one of us, to die on the Cross of our sin, in our place, so that we can live forever with Him in His Kingdom. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and will one Day subdue all things to Himself, finally and completely.
For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11, NKJV).
Walk in the Light as He is in the Light. Let your words and deeds match. Walk as if He were walking right next to you.
For know this: He is.