Date: 10/03/04
Text: Philippians 3:17-21
Title: A Call to Imitate
Theme: As we follow Christ and pursue to know and be like him, we are also challenged to follow and be examples to others.

Einstein was the cover story in a recent issue of the Discover magazine. In one article it writes that many scientists try to follow and imitate Einstein. To some, if they can even imitate his mistakes, this could make them successful scientists.
Whether we know it or not, we are constantly seeking role models. Some turn to entertainment or sport celebrities, others to politicians. Until this year, Martha Stewart was considered a role model for many women. Christians may look to those with special experiences and try to imitate them. Pastors may look at other pastors as role models.
We also remember our disappointment when our model failed. We felt angry and betrayed and decided that we are never going to look up to another person anymore. We tell others and ourselves that we should only look to Jesus and not men. This certainly sounds reasonable, but is this biblical? This is the subject we want to explore this morning. In the passage we read, there is a simple truth: As we follow Christ and pursue to know and be like him, we are also challenged to follow and be examples to others.
I. In our pursuit of spiritual maturity, we’re to have role models before us.
In vs. 3:8, we learned of Paul’s single minded pursuit to know Christ, to have Christ, to be like Christ. The controlling principle in his life is to be Christ like, to be gentle and humble. He is willing to forsake everything that he used to consider as precious, in order to know and have Christ.
Now in vs.17, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.弟兄們,你們要一同效法我,也要留意那些照著我們的榜樣而行的人。” Paul knows that it is difficult to have that single minded pursuit of knowing and becoming Christ-like. So he said, imitate me. Learn from me. Let me be your example and role model.”
As I reflect upon my own life, I want to thank God for those who have influenced me. I think of Francis Schaeffer, C. S. Lewis, and John Stott for shaping my theology and helping me to know how to treat people with dignity and respect. There are no little people in God's kingdom. I think of many ministers who have helped me to understand the biblical teaching on pastoral ministry.
There are some questions I want you to consider: Do you have someone you can imitate in your pursuit of spiritual maturity? Are you a loner? Or could it be your pride that forbids you to learn from others? We need someone to be our examples, to help us in our pursuit of maturity.
II. In our pursuit of spiritual maturity, we are to be examples for others.

Please note that is vs.17, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 弟兄們,你們要一同效法我,也要留意那些照著我們的榜樣而行的人.” Paul is saying that besides me, there are other believers you can imitate. He is bringing out another biblical truth: yes, we imitate others, but we are also to be examples and role models for others. Yes, you hear it right. You and I are to be examples for others to follow. We say, don’t look at me, don’t look at men, look at Jesus Christ. Yes, this is important, but the Bible doesn’t stop here. We are to be examples to others.
An NBA star was asked about the effect his immoral off-the-court behavior had on young admirers, said, “Hey, I didn't ask to be a role model.” But to the believers, we have been asked to be role models. Jesus told us to be the salt and light of the world. We are to be seen by others. Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.不要叫人小看你年輕,總要在言語、行為、愛心、信心和純潔上,都作信徒的榜樣。” Scriptures clearly tell us that we are to be examples for others. Others can imitate us in how we pursue to know and have Christ.
Parents, are we an example to our children in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity? Dear brothers and sisters, are we examples to others in this church and out of this church in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity? Nothing hurts me more than to see someone who leaves the church, or drift away from the faith when they see other Christians’ unbecoming behaviors. “Look at so and so. I want nothing to do with this kind of belief.” No, God wants you and me to be examples for others in speech, love, faith, conduct and purity.
III. In our pursuit of spiritual maturity, we are to avoid the negative examples

Having urged the believers to imitate him, Paul continues to explain why. In vs.18, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.我常常告訴你們,現在又流著淚說,有許多人行事為人,是基督十字架的仇敵” Paul was almost like pleading with them, if you don’t follow my examples, you will end up following another group of people. We are constantly influenced by others. Calvin wrote that we are more prone to follow the bad examples than the good ones. Here, Paul urges us to avoid the influence of a certain group of people. They are called the enemies of the cross of Christ. Paul weeps when he sees this group of people influencing the believers.
These enemies of the cross have several characteristics.
1. They worship their sensuality.
Vs. 19b, “…..their god is their belly,….他們的神是自己的肚腹..” In the NT context, belly or stomach is often a reference to sensuality, sexual lust. The enemies of the cross worship their lust, their sensuality.
Recently I read the following abstract in a Chinese newsletter. The cat says, since you give me food, water and take of me, I must be God. The dog will say, since you give me food, water and take care of me, you must be my God and master so I will be loyal to you. When we continue to feed our lust, give in to our sensuality, they become our gods. What has it to do with the cross? Jesus told his disciples, “….if anyone wants to follow me,,,, take up his cross and follow me..” If we follow Christ, we are to deny, to put to death, those lust and behaviors not pleasing to God. When we cave in to them, then they become the object of worship.
We notice that Paul did not give us any particulars. If so, we can say, oh, I don’t have this or that problem. Instead, he is giving us a principle. When we let our needs, especially the sexual needs drive us and control us, we are worshipping them. They’ve become our gods. When we refuse to nail them on the cross, we have also become the enemies of the cross.
2. The reversal of moral standards.
Vs.19c, “…and they glory in their shame..他們以自己的羞辱為榮耀” Again, we notice there are no particulars, just a basic and simple principle. The enemies of the cross call evil good and good evil. They glorify in what is supposed to be shameful conduct. It is about the reversal of moral standards. If we look at the present world, you probably won’t notice much except confusion. But if we turn our heads to your left, and look at that light representing the 1960’s, then look where we are now, you will be shocked.
Nowadays in certain cities in China, going to a dinner party with your girlfriend instead of your wife is considered fashionable. Here and around the world, homosexual, promiscuous sexual life style, abortions and homosexual unions are considered basic rights. Marriages are not expected to be a life-long commitment. What was abnormal is now considered as normal, normal has become abnormal. What was once considered shameful is now being glamorized and glorified by TV shows and celebrities.
What about the cross? On that cross, our sins, our abnormalities were put on Jesus Christ. Sins did not become normal, rather they were nailed on the cross. On the cross, there was an exchange. Christ bore our sins and God put Christ's righteousness, what is good and holy upon us. On that cross, sins did not become normal, but was forgiven. Therefore those who continue to glory in shameful things are enemies of the cross.
3. Earthly Minded.
The 3rd characteristic of the enemies of the cross, vs.19d, “…with minds set on earthly things.所想的都是地上的事..” What was the driving force in their lives? Sensuality and materialistic world view. They pursue wealth, health, success, fame and prosperity. Their world is what they see, feel and touch. They live for the present moment.
What is their destination? 3:19, “Destruction”; meaning, eternal separation from God. That is, hell.
Paul says, stay away from these people. Stay away from people who let their lust and senses control them. Stay away from those who have the upside down moral standards. Stay away from those whose lives are driven by the materialistic world view. If you follow them, you will end up like them. Instead, imitate me. Imitate me in the way I pursue Christ, to have Christ and to know him.
IV. In our pursuit of spiritual maturity, we are to remember our identity as citizens of the heavenly kingdom.

When we imitate Paul and other godly examples, it will steer us away from those enemies of the cross. Now Paul continues to explain why we are to imitate him and other godly examples. Vs. 20a, “But our citizenship is in heaven…但我們是天上的公民” They are the enemies of the cross. How about us? By inference, we are friends of the cross. But Paul goes one step further by saying we are citizens of the heavenly kingdom. The enemies of the cross have their particular characteristics; so are the citizens of heaven. What are they?
1. Looking to Christ.
Vs. 20b, “….and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.切望救主,就是主耶穌基督,從天上降臨;” The enemies of the cross look to their belly, their lusts and sensuality. But the citizens of heaven looked to Jesus Christ. We wait and look to Jesus Christ returning to this world.
Yes, the world as is is confused and abnormal. There is the reversal of moral standards, we’ve let our senses control us, we are driven by a materialistic world view. In a recent email I received, the writer wrote, “I've come out of the psy. hospital (where she is doing some counseling practicum) wanting to throw up so many times, absolutely disgusted at the evil in this world.” It is a very broken world. The world we live in is like Narnia, in a cold and frozen winter state. With the white witch ruling, the entire Narnia is under a spell. It is winter forever. But then there is the news that Aslan has landed. Yes, it is winter now, but Aslan is here. The snow will soon melt, things will be different. This is what the scriptures teach us. Yes, our world is like a winter land, it is abnormal, it is frozen, but we look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ. When he comes, he will bring justice and judgment. When he comes, the abnormal will be replaced with normal and right. When he comes, he will bring healing to the broken lives and his children will be with him eternally. To the enemies of the cross, their destiny is eternal destruction. To the citizens of heaven, our destiny is eternal presence with God. This is our hope. This is why we look to Jesus Christ and not our belly. We look forward to the return of the Lord of the universe, our savior. Our lives here on earth are not driven by sensuality but by the return of the King.
2. He will change our body.
As citizens of heaven, we look to Jesus' return. When he comes, he will in vs. 21, “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.他要運用那使萬有歸服自己的大能,改變我們這卑賤的身體,和他榮耀的身體相似。” The body we have now is physical, broken and full of pain. When Jesus Christ returns, he will transform this body to be like his. This lowly body will be changed to be like his glorious body. The enemies of the cross glorifies in what is shameful. But for citizens of the heavenly kingdom, we look forward to the day when our body will be glorious as Christ's.
This hope drives us to pursue Christ and to be like him. This hope drives us to imitate others, and be examples to others; so that we point others to Christ and help each other to grow into spiritual maturity.
In a survey done 3 years ago, about 41% of church going youth said that there are no role models they respect. In this broken world, having seen the fall of so many well- known individuals, many have given up on role models. We may also be discouraged and disillusioned with church leaders. We don’t want to follow anyone anymore; so we tell ourselves and others; don’t look at men, but look to Jesus Christ.
We know that we should look to Jesus, but we also yearn for a Jesus with skin on, that we can see and touch. You and I are the Jesus with skin that others can see, touch and imitate.
In closing, I would like to suggest two things:
First, pray that God will bring you to someone you respect and can be an example for your own spiritual growth and maturity.
Secondly, pray that God will enable you to become an example to others. Ask God to help you to be an example to your family members and those in this church in speech, faith, conduct and purity.