Where do we Abide?

Where do we Abide?

Philippians 3:17–4:1

 

Jesus, Son and Savior

May your life find its focus in the gifts of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, His mercy, His peace. His love, but mostly, in His presence!

 

The Tears of Paul, the Cry of Jesus 

Knowing His past, the way in which he dealt with the enemies of what he perceived his faith to be, these words of Paul testify to His coversion, the transformation that had occurred in his life, as he came to know the love of God.

Hear them again,


18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

Hear His reaction – it is not one of anger, of lust for revenge, but one of great sorrow, of great sadness.

I say it again with tears in my eyes,

It is the reaction, not of a crusader, but of one who has been rescued from brokenness, whose heart has known the healing of being raised from worthlessness and given life and meaning, who has been called to be loved….

And grieves when he sees others who refuse such a call….to live in Christ
It is the attitude that Paul would encourage us all to imitate – the example he tried to set, even as Paul would imitate the Lord who came to him, and called him.  We hear the same attitude in Jesus’ cry to the people of God in today’s gospel,

34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.

 

Indeed, Paul had become much like his Lord Jesus… and now he calls to us, to become like him, to follow the path of Christ trod, finding our strength in the God’s presence, and looking forward with Joy, even as we dwell now as citizens of heaven, as the people of God, whom He protects and loves and heals…
Do We Know the Price of Condemnation?

Most of us would hesitate before condemning someone to hell, most of us wouldn’t say “Go to Hell” in anger, or “I hope they burn in Hell” even about the people whom we can only see as “evil”, as they practice which is evil.  I have seen similar reactions recently, heard them or read them on internet, against the likes of Jerry Sandusky, or Chris Dorner.

Even while we may not actively hope that others would go to hell, do we passively let others continue on their merry way towards Hell?  Does it bother us, as it did the apostle Paul to the point that we cry over such people?  Even our enemies? Or maybe we don’t want them to suffer eternally, just a period of time we would consider fair and equitable. 

Do we realize that those who oppose Christ, who disdain or passively dismiss the cross are headed for destruction?  Or do we just go about our own lives, going by the old saying, “live and let live?” Do we realize that such a attitude is against what scripture teaches about loving your neighbor?  Is it loving to allow anyone to head towards experiencing the wrath of God?

Paul says these people are heading to destruction.  The word there isn’t destruction as they might lose their house or their job, or that their families and lives will fall apart in this life. It is talking about destruction as in eternal – as in their complete separation from love, and life, and goodness.  Total and complete.  Do we weep for them?

Do we weep for those who oppose the cross of Christ, who deny mercy, who contend with the gospel, who put stumbling blocks in the ways of those who God would have them call out to?  (It is funny that in the context of this passage – Paul is talking about people in the church!)

How many people do we know who are described as Paul describes those he is dealing with?

Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

What a sad way to be described – to realize that our emotions, our “appetites” could have so much control over us. To realize that people can be co confused that they would choose that which is disgraceful over what is good and right and a benefit to themselves and to others, whose choices are selfish and narcissistic and hurt others..

Do we respond to such people in anger?  Or is sorrow and tears, grieving how they have chosen to separate themselves from God’s love and mercy?

Do we fall into a reaction that nurtures our appetites, that speaks the truth without love, which becomes condescending and shameful, and is only about that which occurs here on earth?

How do we learn to react as Paul began to react?  How do we follow his steps, even as Paul learned to walk as Christ had?

Knowing our End, our Destination,

Paul gives us what he found to be his answer, there in verse 20.

20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.

While the focus of those we are to weep for, pray for is on what makes their life here better or easier, our focus is based on whose we are, whose kingdom we are citizens of, to whom we owe our loyalty.

I think we misunderstand this – when we talk of being in the Kingdom of heaven, and for that reason, we’ll talk about it more in Bible Study.  But for now, our answer to not being like those whose lives cause us anger – if we respond inappropriately, or sorrow, if we respond like Christ, is to remember where we live, to remember whose kingdom we belong to, to dwell in Christ, and under His rule.

It is here, in our experience at the altar, that we begin to see this.  If we see this time and this place, not so much as a routine, or a duty, but a meal with our Father, a time where we remember where our homeland is, a time to look forward to our going home.

A number of people have asked me how I liked the food in China.  It’s kind of funny, because the Cajun food was good, the American restaurants were fine, the Italian was as good as in Italy – maybe better!  Even though I worked a with some Chinese nationals, a lot of time was spent ministering to our missionaries, folks who were there with a purpose, but who hearts and lives were lived in view of “home”.  They needed a reminder of where they were from – even more spiritually than physically.

Likewise it is for us, we are here in Cerritos, as God’s ambassadors, as missionaries ourselves.  A lot of our lives is lived in being “homesick” for heaven.  That is why communion becomes so central, so necessary in our lives.  Our communion feast is the “missionary team dinner” at Red Garlic, or up on the Peak at Bubba Gump – a time to look forward to our going home to be with our family, the angels and archangels and whole company of heaven.

Please understand, I am not saying Christ isn’t with us 24/7/365, but that this time is a special one, where we encourage each other, and are encouraged to dwell in God’s presence, where our hearts and minds are re-focused on God’s love, and the extent that His love is there for us, healing us, providing for us.

It is a moment in our week of being home…

Until the time our weak mortal humble bodies are found transformed into glorious bodies… for the same power that is at work then, has been at work, as all things have come into His kingdom, as He reigns and guides and protects, His people…

As we dwell in peace, and yes, weep over those who have yet to know that peace, or who confuse and bind others and prove themselves lacking in it..

This peace is yours, people of God, this peace of our Father, which passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds as we dwell, citizens of where our Lord reigns… and cares for His people.

AMEN?

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God’s saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on February 24, 2013, in Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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