Wednesday, September 9, 2009

9/9 Philippians 3:18-21 Focus on heaven

(overview of the ruins of Philippi- ruined mall on the left)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Calvin abridged: many do not feel the power of God’s kingdom, but creep and focus on the ground. Earthly things are not outward ceremonies as much as carnal affections. Paul holds them up for spite on this ground—that, being desirous exclusively for their own honor, ease, and gain, they had no regard for the edification of the Church. His “tears” are evidence that he is not influenced by envy or hatred of others, or a tendency to cut down or anger, but by pious zeal as the Church is miserably destroyed by such pests. Paul is speaking not of open enemies but of imposters and fakers who trample under foot the power of the gospel for the sake of ambition or their own belly. People who seek their own interest through the ministry do more injury than if they openly opposed Christ. So we must point such people out, and not ignore or spare them. “enemies of the cross”- means those who pretend to be friends but were the worst enemies of the gospel. 19-“Their destiny is destruction”- this is said so the Philippians may be more carefully on their guard against those who may dazzle the eyes of the simple for a time. The glory with which they are now puffed up will be exchanged for shame. 20- “But our citizenship is in heaven”- Nothing is to be considered of any value except the spiritual kingdom of God. So believers ought to live a heavenly life in this world. We may not be able to separate from them physically (since the wheat is mixed with much chaff), but we should join ourselves to our heavenly Head, dwelling in spirit apart from the world (Mt. 6:21). “Savior” is an appropriate term for Christ in that Christ comes to us from heaven as our Savior, and our minds are on him now. The wicked are turned away from the thought of heaven because Christ comes as a judge for them, but for believers, it is our sweet consolation. Up then, with our hearts that they may be with the Lord! 21- “who will transform”- Paul farther stirs up the Philippians to lift up their minds to heaven, and be wholly attached to Christ—because this body which we carry about with us is not an everlasting home, but a frail tent, which will in a short time be reduced to nothing. “By the power that brings everything under his control…so that they will be like his glorious body”- Nothing is more difficult to believe than the resurrection, so Paul places before our eyes the boundless power of God that we might remove all distrust or doubt about it. When we bear in mind that God, who created all things out of nothing, can command the earth, and the sea, and the other elements to give back what has been committed to them, we can have hope and a spiritual contemplation of the resurrection. “Everything under his control” refers to the right and power of God to raise the dead, but also to do whatever he pleases. This power is assigned to Christ so that his divine majesty is set forth. The world was created by Christ because to be able to subject all things to himself belongs to the Creator alone.

Thought: In our world we have seen sure bets disappear, and the things we thought were secure lose their security. So pension plans have vanished for many. 401ks have been cut to a third of their former value. Those who invested in oil have found it is half of what it was a year ago. Some of the biggest corporations have disappeared (Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers) and some giants have become common size (GM and Chrysler). If this is true of monetary investments and earthly industries, it is also true of our bodies and healthcare. While Americans are living nearly twice as long than those who lives two generations ago, we are consumed with health care debates while the debate about our eternal soul languishes. Ministers preach little of hell and judgment- but the clearest judgment is that this life that so many invest all in- will not last. We should direct our thoughts and treasures toward heaven. Our true security lies there. Again, if you go to Philippi, the fancy shops, the marble buildings are gone. It is a testimony to human vanity and the end of earthly investment. That reminds me of Shelley's Ozymandias (the ruined statue that says- "look on my vast empire"-now covered in sand- "and weep"). The danger with this however, is that if the church gains resources ministers should not become greedy, and the ministry should not draw selfish people to itself. We need God to raise up people like Paul who were sincere- even to tears for his people. But we also need to get over self-absorption with this earthly life focusing on what will last.

Prayer: Lord, help our hearts to focus on you and keep us from the fear and absorption of earthly things.

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