Our Citizenship Is in Heaven | Philippians 3:15-21
Brian Hedges | August 2, 2020
Let’s turn in our Bibles to Philippians 3:15-21.
It was Oliver Wendall Holmes, the 19th-century American poet, who first said that “some people are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good.” Have you ever heard that statement? “Some people are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good.”
But actually, nothing could be further from the truth. History demonstrates that the people in this world who have done the most good are actually those people who are the most conscious of the world to come.
Think of William Wilberforce, that great 18th-19th century statesman in the United Kingdom who almost singlehandedly abolished the slave trade in Great Britain. Or think of men like George Whitefield or Charles Haddon Spurgeon or George Mueller, who were not only great preachers, but also founded orphanages to take care of destitute and abandoned children. Think of Amy Carmichael serving there in India among the poor and the destitute as a missionary.
There are so many examples of people who, precisely because their minds were set on the world to come, because they were so heavenly-minded, they expended themselves in serving the needs of others and in serving Christ.
Well, this morning we’re going to look at a passage that’s all about being heavenly-minded, and it’s actually a passage that gives us a series of contrasts between two kinds of people: between believers and between unbelievers. It’s a very searching passage.
I was just listening to a series of lectures on the Puritans from J.I. Packer in the last week, and he talks about how the Puritans would “rip up the conscience” of their hearers. Well, this is a passage that rips the conscience. It’s very heart-searching, and I think as we see these contrasts and what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, with a certain way of thinking and a certain perspective on this world and on the world to come, we will find it heart-searching for us as well.
Let’s look at it, Philippians 3:15-21. Paul begins with a series of exhortations, and then begins to give these contrasts. He says,
“Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
This is God’s word.
What I want you to see is that in this passage, even though Paul is giving a series of exhortations to believers, when you look at the language and you look especially at verses 19-21, you actually have a series of contrasts between those who follow the example of Paul, and for that matter the example of Jesus Christ—those who adopt this way of living that he’s been talking about in the previous passages—there’s a contrast between them and those whom Paul calls “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” I just want to draw out the series of contrasts; there are four of them. These contrasts relate to:
I. Your Walk: How Do You Live?
II. Your Mindset: How Do You Think?
III. Your Worship: What Do You Desire?
IV. Your Destiny: Where Are You Going?
Let’s look at these four contrasts.
I. Your Walk: How Do You Live?
First of all, there’s a contrast in walk. The question I want to ask—I’m putting this both in terms of the word that gives us the contrast, but then also questions, because I just want to push down into application in our lives—so the question here is, How do you live? How do you walk?
Look at verses 17-18; you see the word “walk” in each of these verses. Verse 17, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”
Now, if you know Paul’s letters at all, you know that “walk” is a key word in Paul’s letters. He’s frequently talking about how we are to walk as believers. Sometimes he’s saying to walk in the light, or he’s saying to walk in the Spirit. Here, he’s talking about walking after the example that the believers have in Paul, as well as in others.
In fact, if you just go back to chapter 2, you’ll remember that he’s already given us the example of Jesus Christ, and the humility and the self-denying, self-giving humility of Jesus Christ, who was obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Then he gives the example of Timothy and his self-denying service, and Epaphroditus and his risk-taking love and faithfulness to the ministry. Then Paul gives us his own example in chapter 3, where he says that is willing to count all as loss for the sake of knowing Christ and gaining Christ, and how he wanted “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Last week, we saw Paul as he talked about how he’s not yet reached perfection, he hasn’t yet attained this final goal, but like a runner running for this race, running for the prize, he is stretching forward, he is pressing on for the goal of the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.
Those are the examples, and now he’s saying, “Walk this way! Walk in this kind of way, follow this example. Imitate me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Follow the example of those who follow Jesus Christ.” That’s the exhortation.
In contrast to that, in verse 18 he says, “For many, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” You see here there is two kinds of walk. There are those who walk after the example of Christ and of Paul and of believers, and there are those who walk as enemies of the cross.
Now, in what sense are they enemies of the cross? I think there are two things probably implied here. They’re enemies of the cross in that they’re opposed to the message of the cross. These are those who stumble or are offended by the message of the cross, that it is through the cross of Jesus Christ, and only through the cross, that we can be saved. It’s only through Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, his atoning sacrifice, that you can be saved, can be made right with God. These people that Paul’s talking about are enemies to that message. They are at enmity with that message. They don’t like that message. They reject that message.
In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul talks about this, doesn’t he? He says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” He says, “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Listen, here’s one of the very first tests to know whether you’re a true Christian or not: Are you offended by the message of the cross? Are you offended by the message that says you can do nothing to save yourself; only Christ can save you, and he saves you by taking your place, being condemned on your behalf, dying on the cross as a substitute for your sins. Are you willing to completely abnegate all self-righteousness, to turn your back on all the good deeds that you have done and to say, “This is worth nothing in comparison with knowing Christ, and it is Christ and Christ alone who must save me.”
Enemies to the cross of Christ reject that message. I think that’s the first sense in which Paul means.
But I think there’s something more, and this is a little more subtle and more heart-searching. It’s not only that they are enemies to the message of the cross, they are also enemies to the way of the cross, which is the way of discipleship.
Paul’s whole point in this passage is not just to give us the message of the cross, although he does that, but it’s to say, “This is the way to live. Jesus gives you the example. He gives you the example by going to the cross.” It’s the way of humility, it’s the way of self-denial, it’s the way of service, it’s the way of sacrifice. It’s the way of counting everything as loss. That’s what Jesus did. He did not count equality with God something to be grasped. And it’s what Paul did; he counted all things as loss for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ.
That’s the way of the cross, and Paul is saying that we are enemies to the cross of Christ if we are enemies to that way, if we refuse the terms of discipleship, if we do not walk in the pattern of humility and of servanthood and of self-denial.
You know, it is possible for us to affirm the doctrine while denying the power and the application of the doctrine to our lives. Paul warns of this, doesn’t he, in 2 Timothy 3. He warns of those who have the form of godliness, but deny its power.
I remember years ago hearing Leonard Ravenhill, that great revivalist of the 20th century, who used to say, “Your doctrine can be as straight as a gun barrel, and your life just as empty.” It’s possible to say, “Yes, I believe in the cross,” but the cross has had no impact, no transforming implications in your life. If that’s the case, then I think Paul would also say you’re living as an enemy to the cross of Christ. If the cross does not inform how you live, if it does not change you, then you’re living as an enemy to the cross.
The question is, how do you live? What is your walk like this morning? Are you walking in accord with the cross, or are you walking against the cross? What’s the key to knowing the difference, and how do you learn to walk as a disciple in the way of the cross?
Here’s, I think, the key thing we get from this passage. The key to learning to do this is having good examples. You see that in verse 17? He says, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
A little over a week ago, the leadership team of our church, the staff and elders of our church, met together for an entire day of retreat and planning and looking ahead. One of the things we did during that retreat was watch a video, a sermon, that was just kind of for our own spiritual growth. It was from Ray Ortlund, who’s a great pastor down in Nashville, Tennessee.
The whole talk was on finishing well. How do you finish well, especially in ministry? Ray Ortlund gave three points, and point number three was essentially, read biographies. He talked about the impact that the biographies of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards and St. Augustine and others have had in his life.
I want to give you that exhortation this morning. Read biographies. It’s not just for preachers, it’s not just for church leaders. This is something that I think every Christian needs. We need good examples. If you’re not a reader, listen to biographies, okay? There are all kinds of audiobooks of great biographies. Or you can listen to great lectures that have been given that are biographical talks. John Piper has a wonderful series of these, 20 of these talks, and so in about 80 or 90 minutes you get kind of the substance of some great person’s life in church history, with lessons. He’s done St. Augustine, and he’s done Jonathan Edwards, and he’s done lots of the missionaries, like Hudson Taylor and John Paton and many others. Listen to these or read the biographies—men and women—George Whitefield, the Wesleys, Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliot, Fanny Crosby (the great hymn-writer).
Find your heroes, find your examples. I think what you will find is this, that as you learn the lives of great examples, both living and dead, as you learn their stories, it will humble you (you’ll see how far you have to go), it will also encourage you as you see how they persevered through struggle and difficulty and the process they went through, and it will inspire you to dream big and to seek great things from God. Walk. How do you live? That’s the first contrast.
II. Mindset: How Do You Think?
Number two, there’s a contrast in mindset, and the question here is, how do you think, or maybe, what do you think about?
Again, I want you to see the key words here in the text. First of all, in verse 15, “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”
When Paul says, “Those who are mature think this way,” you have to remember what he’s just said. He’s just said that he’s pressing on to reach the goal of the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ. Now he’s saying, “Now I want you to think this way. I want you to think this way; I want you to have this mindset, the mindset that’s looking ahead, that’s counting all as loss for the sake of gaining Christ, and that is persevering for the prize. I want you to think this way.”
This word “think” is a key word in Philippians. We’ve already seen it, but it’s been a few weeks. I think it was in the second sermon in this series that I drew attention to this word. It’s the word phroneo (φρονεω), and it’s a key word in Philippians. Walter Hanson in his commentary says it refers to the “interior thoughts, attitudes, and feelings that motivate exterior directions and actions.” It’s the word Paul uses in chapter 2:2 when he says, “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind.” Anytime you see the word “think” or the word “mind” in Philippians, it’s either phroneo or its a cognate of this word.
It’s what you have also in chapter 2:5, which kind of heads up the whole body of the letter that we’re in right now, when he says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which his yours in Christ Jesus.” Have the mind of Christ, the mindset. Again, it’s this key word.
Now he comes to it again when he says, “Let those of us who are mature think this way,” have this mindset. What is the mindset? It’s the mindset of Christ that’s been exemplified in Timothy and in Epaphroditus, and now in Paul himself. He’s saying, “Have this mindset. Let this mind be in you, the mind of Christ.”
But notice how he contrasts this in verse 19 with the mindset of the enemies of the cross of Christ. In verse 19 he’s talking about these people, enemies of the cross of Christ, and he says, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” There’s the contrast.
You have the mindset of Christ, and you have the mindset of the enemies. You have the mindset exemplified in Christ and in Paul and in others, and it’s a mind that is set on the prize, on the goal, on the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. It’s a mind set on spiritual reality, eternal reality. It’s a spiritual mind.
In contrast to that, you have a mind that is set on earthly things. It’s a worldly mind. What does it mean to have your mind set on earthly things? It means that your absorbing, consuming thoughts are about temporary, this-world concerns: work, money, pleasure.
Now, this is tricky, because we have to think about some of these things, right? You have to get up and go to work on Monday morning, and you have to watch your finances. You have to think about some of these things. So, how do you do this?
I find that the Puritans are helpful on this. Jeremiah Burroughs the Puritan wrote an entire book, A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness. If I just read you the table of contents, it would probably be convicting. That’s how the Puritans were. So I can’t give you everything Burroughs said, but one thing Burroughs said that I think is helpful is that an earthly-minded person approaches even spiritual things with an earthly mind. He says, essentially, he goes to church and he listens to the word and he prays, but he doesn’t have any heart in it. That’s not really where his heart is. He prays as if he didn’t pray.
But, he says, a spiritually-minded person is the opposite of that. A spiritually-minded person attends his work with a spiritual mind. He’s doing his work not just for the sake of the bottom dollar, the bottom line; he’s not doing it just for profit in this world; he’s doing it in obedience to God, he’s doing it for the good of others, he’s doing it to glorify and honor Christ.
Burroughs says that a person with a spiritual mind is more heavenly and spiritual when he’s about his calling, even though it’s the lowest calling, like digging ditches or swinging his axe or his hammer—he’s more spiritual at these than an earthly man is when he’s praying or hearing or receiving the sacraments. I told you this is convicting stuff! This is convicting, this is heart-searching. Where is our mind set? Where’s our heart set?
Let me give you another example. As many of you probably know, J.I. Packer passed away recently, so I’ve kind of been digging into Packer, who died a little over a week ago. Packer was a great love of the Puritans, and his expertise was in the Puritan Richard Baxter.
Richard Baxter was a devotional writer. Now, get this: his writings comprise ten million words. These guys just blow my mind. Ten million words! He was a pastor in Kidderminster in England; it was a little village. He was there for 15 years. He evangelized the entire village, and almost everybody came to Christ.
He wrote a classic book The Reformed Pastor. It’s perhaps the most convicting thing any pastor could read about ministry, and shows how far we all fall short. Here’s the amazing thing, is that Baxter lived with chronic sickness and with pain, and there are quotations from his autobiography where he said that he would often go days on end where he would only have an hour or two every now and then where he was free from pain. Yet he was just laboring away, laboring away for the kingdom.
He was sick at one point; he was so sick that the doctors thought he was going to die, and he was just kind of locked away in this cottage for some time, so he started meditating on heaven, and he wrote a book called The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, 672 pages of meditations on heaven. It became one of the best-selling classics in the 17th century.
So Packer writes a lot about Baxter, and there’s a great essay that Packer wrote called “Heaven, Hope, and Holiness in Richard Baxter.” This is what he says about Baxter. I’m going to give you one quote from Packer and one quote from Baxter, because I think this shows us what it means to be heavenly-minded as opposed to earthly-minded.
Packer about Baxter says, “As a man living at death’s door, he practiced assiduously two habits. The first habit was to estimate everything—values, priorities, possessions, relationships, claims, tasks—as these thing will appear when one actually comes to die. The second habit was to dwell on the glory of the heavenly life to which one was going.”
This is biblical, isn’t it? In Colossians, Paul says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” That’s the same idea. That’s the word phroneo.
That’s what Baxter did. He evaluated all of life in light of what it would look like at the moment he came to die, and he knew that death was just a step away. He lived with chronic sickness and pain, and he set his hope on heaven. Here’s how he did it. Here’s a quotation from The Saints’ Everlasting Rest. He is counseling here those who find their hearts full of dullness and deadness when they seek the Lord.
He says, “If you would have light and heat, why are you no more in the sunshine? For want of this recourse to heaven, your soul is as a lamp not lighted, and your duties as a sacrifice without fire. Fetch one coal daily from this altar and see if your offering will not burn. Light your lamp at this flame, and feed it daily with this oil, and see if it will not gloriously shine. Keep close to this reviving fire, and see if your affections will not be warm.”
What Baxter did is spent 30 minutes to an hour every day—every single day—meditating on heaven, which is why he was able to write 672 pages about it. You know, most of us—myself included; I’m convicted—I just don’t think this way nearly to the degree that I should. I’m convicted; if you’re convicted, we’re all in the same company this morning, but let’s be inspired by these models, and let’s apply this mindset to ourselves. Is our mind set on things of the earth, or is our mind set on eternal realities?
III. Worship: What Do You Desire?
There’s a contrast in walk, there’s a contrast in mindset, and now, number three, in worship. I have to speed up; I’m going to run out of time. The question here is, what do you desire?
Again, look at verse 19, this description of enemies of the cross of Christ. “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
What does that mean? “Their god is their belly.” It means that they worship their appetites. That’s what it means. “Their god is their belly.” It means that they just live to fulfill their appetites. They glory in their shame. Their values are upside-down. Their worship is disordered. Here are people who are living for self, “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Their worship is all wrong.
In contrast to that, in verse 20, you see what Paul says. He says, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s what he’s worshipping! That’s where his worship is focused. He’s already said this in Philippians 3:3 when he says that we “worship by the Spirit of God and we boast in Jesus Christ, we glory in Jesus Christ.” Contrast with those whose glory is in their shame.
The question is, what do you desire? Do you govern your appetites, or are you governed by them, and is your desire set on Jesus Christ? Is he the source of your joy?
I love the words of this song that we often sing (we sang this last week):
“Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion;
Now there’s nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy.
“Christ my all in all,
The joy of my salvation;
And this hope will never fail,
For heaven is our home.
Through every trial,
My song will sing,
No turning back;
I’ve been set free.
“Christ is enough for me,
Christ is enough for me;
Everything I need is in you.”
That’s the voice of worship. Those are the words of worship, where our desire is set on Christ, and we say, “Christ is what I need. I’m satisfied in Christ.”
What Paul is saying here in this passage is that for those whose citizenship is in heaven, Christ, the King of heaven, the King of glory, Christ is their desire, Christ is their reward, Christ is their prize. It is Christ that they worship.
We have to remember that Paul is writing to the believers in Philippi, and Philippi was actually a colony of Rome. So when Paul says, “We’re citizens of heaven,” “Our citizenship is in heaven,” this really would have landed with them, because, as people who lived in Macedonia, about 800 miles from Rome, I think it was (they lived in this town of Philippi), they lived as Roman citizens in a Grecian/Macedonian area.
What that meant is that they had Roman laws. We know from archeology that even their legal documents were written in Latin, not Greek. They dressed like Romans, they had Roman architecture. They were trying to bring a little bit of Rome into Philippi, because their citizenship was in Rome, even though they lived in Philippi.
It’s a wonderful picture of the Christian, whose citizenship is in heaven, but we live on earth, and our ambition, our goal is to bring a little bit of heaven to earth, so that we have this alternate city, this colony of heaven. That’s what the church is called to be. In fact, it’s through the church that we learn to embody and to live out the values of the kingdom. It’s in the church that worship forms us and shapes us.
Let me just give you one insightful quotation from James Smith, who wrote a wonderful book, You Are What You Love, one of the most formative books on worship that I’ve ever read. Smith says, “The church is the place where God invites us to renew our loves, reorient our desires, and retrain our appetites.” That’s all about worship, right? “Christian worship is the feast where we acquire new hungers for God and for what God desires, and are then sent into his creation to act accordingly. Discipleship is a kind of immigration from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. In Christ we are given a heavenly passport, in his body we learn to live like locals of his kingdom. Such an immigration to a new kingdom isn’t just a matter of being teleported to a different realm; we need to be acclimated to a new way of life, learn a new language, acquire new habits, and unlearn the habits of that rival dominion. Christian worship is our inculturation as citizens of heaven, subjects of kingdom come.”
It’s so important what we do when we gather here week to week. It’s a reset, it’s a refresh, to remind us of the values of the kingdom to which we belong; to get our minds on heavenly things and to reorient our appetites and our desires, our worship, so that they are trained on Jesus Christ.
IV. Destiny: Where Are You Going?
We’ve seen our walk (or a contrast in two ways of walking; how do you live?) mindset (what do you think?), worship (what do you desire?), and then, finally, we come to destiny (where are you going?).
You see two possible destinies in this passage. For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ, Paul says, and he says it with tears in his eyes, like Whitefield, who could not preach on hell without weeping. He rebukes me that I can. With tears in his eyes, he says, “Their end is destruction.” The word “destruction” means ruined, it means wasted.
I thought of an illustration; I forgot to put the picture up. We recently kind of a disaster in our kitchen. We had a leak that we did not see, so it damaged a lot of the subfloor, and we had mold damage—all kinds of stuff. So we’ve been almost without a kitchen for about seven weeks. We finally have everything back together now, thanks to the help of AJ Newell and a lot of work. But I had a picture of what that kitchen looked like when the mitigation company came in, and the best word for it is “destroyed.” It was an absolute mess. Much of it was irretrievable; it was unredeemable. They had to tear out lots of the floor, and there was nothing that could be done with it be thrown in the garbage.
Well, what Paul is saying here is that if you live as an enemy of the cross of Christ, the end result of that kind of life is ruin. It’s wasted. It’s garbage. You’re thrown on what some people have called the garbage heap of the universe, and that’s what hell is. That’s what hell is.
If that sounds severe to you, maybe C.S. Lewis will help. I’m going to use two illustrations from Lewis, as we’re close to the end here, from his book The Great Divorce. You should read it, The Great Divorce.
It’s the story of these people—they’re ghosts from hell—who get kind of an excursion into the borderlands of heaven, with a chance to go if they will so choose. One by one, all but one choose not to go.
It’s an amazing book, because it gives you case studies of sin and how sin affects the soul. For example, there’s this one woman who’s a grumbling woman. She’s just a grumbling, complaining woman, and she’s incapable of giving up her complaining spirit. This is how Lewis comments on it in the book. He says, “It begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it, perhaps criticizing it. Yourself in a dark hour may will that mood, may embrace it. You can repent and come out of it again, but there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood, not even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever, like a machine.”
That’s what sin does. Sin reduces you, strips you of humanity, so that you are formed by the sin instead of formed and shaped by Christ, and it ruins the soul. The Great Divorce just gives you multiple vignettes of people who are ruined by sin who could go to heaven if they would just give up their sin, but they won’t. Powerful, powerful story. “Their end is destruction.” That’s what happens for anyone who’s an enemy of the cross of Christ.
What about those who are in Christ? What’s our destiny? The answer is, transformation—not destruction, but transformation. Look at verses 20-21. He says, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Transformation and glory: that’s the destination of the believer.
Notice how Paul says this. He says that when Christ comes, what he’s going to do is transform this lowly body, this vile body (to use the language of the King James)—he recognizes that redemption is not complete yet! He recognizes that we still carry about this mortal frame that is tainted with sin and the flesh. But he’s saying there’s coming a day when that’s no longer going to be the case. You’re going to be changed, you’re going to be transformed.
Didn’t you just love the words we sang awhile ago? “Oh that day when, freed from sinning…” I can’t remember the rest of the line, but that’s our longing. It’s the day when we are freed from sin and we are transformed, we will be made like Christ. Listen, believer, that is your destiny.
Lewis pictures that as well in The Great Divorce. There’s one ghost who is afflicted with this lizard that sits on his shoulder (some of you have heard this before). This lizard sits on shoulder, whispering into his ear seductive lies. It’s kind of an incarnation of lust.
He doesn’t want to give up the lizard, he doesn’t want to kill the lizard. The angels are telling him, you know, that “if you’ll just let us kill it, if we can just kill the lizard, you’ll be free.” There’s page after page of argumentation as he’s wrestling with whether he should do this or not. It’s so painful to him, the idea of giving this up, of giving up the sin.
But when he finally submits, when he finally breaks down and says, “Oh God,” and then asks for them to kill it, they do. They kill the lizard, they throw it down to the ground, and then an amazing thing happens. The man, who’s a ghost—this oily-looking wraith, a human stain, as Lewis describes—begins to transform into a solid, glorious human being. The lizard on the ground actually begins to transform into this glorious stallion, and the man climbs up on the stallion and he rides off into the heavenly country.
It’s a picture of the transformation that is available to those who are in Christ, who do not make themselves enemies of the cross of Christ, but who follow that path, who follow that way, and who live as Paul describes in this passage.
Listen, Christian: if you will embrace the cross, the cross for your justification and forgiveness, and the cross as the path of discipleship, as you follow Jesus—if you will do that, then you will be shaped and formed in the image of Jesus Christ, and glory, transformation will be your destiny.
Listen to these words from 1 Corinthians 15. I’ll close with this. Paul says, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed [transformed], in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” Let’s pray.
Gracious Father, this is our desire. By your grace, we desire to be like Christ, to be set free from sin and decay. We desire to set our minds on heavenly and eternal realities, not on the things of this earth, and we desire to be more like Jesus. Lord, we ask you this morning to orient our minds towards this truth, we ask you to change us by the power of your Spirit.
Lord, we confess that we are unable to change ourselves, and that all of our resolutions are worth nothing apart from the power of your Spirit. But Lord, by your Spirit we can be changed, we can be renewed, and we can become and live as citizens of heaven. May that be true for us. I pray that you would work.
As we come to the Lord’s table, may this meal be a foretaste of that final banquet, the marriage supper of the Lamb, that great, eternal feast that we will be welcomed into when Jesus comes again. May our participation in this feast retrain our appetites, so that we’re not governed by the appetites of the flesh, but we desire eternal things and we desire Christ himself. So, Lord, help us, and draw near to us. Give us strength and give us grace, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.