Celebrating Your Heavenly Citizenship

Dr. Steve Viars April 3, 2022 Philippians 3:17-21
Outline

3 requirements to make ongoing spiritual growth a reality

I. By Following the Right Model

Philippians 3:13-14 - …forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:17 - Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.

A. Someone like the apostle Paul

1. Who clearly understood positional righteousness

a. Not based on his own deeds and goodness

Philippians 3:7-8 - But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…

b. But instead, based on the finished work of Christ

Philippians 3:9 - and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…

2. Who passionately pursue practical righteousness

Philippians 3:13-14 - …forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

B. Not those who are enemies of the cross

Philippians 3:18 - For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ…

1. Whose end is destruction

Philippians 3:19a - …whose end is destruction…

Psalm 73:2-6 - But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains in their death, and their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; the garment of violence covers them.

Psalm 73:12-14 - Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning.

Psalm 73:15-16 - If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight.

Psalm 73:17 - Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end.

2. Whose god is their appetite

Philippians 3:19b - …whose god is their appetite…

3. Whose glory is their shame

Philippians 3:19c - …and whose glory is in their shame…

Romans 1:32 - …and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

II. By Focusing on the Right Citizenship

Philippians 3:19-20 - …who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven…

A. Don’t set your mind on earthly things

Colossians 3:2-3 - Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

B. Choose to focus on your citizenship in heaven

Colossians 3:1 - Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

III. By Longing for the Right Destination

A. We are eagerly awaiting the return of our Savior

Philippians 3:20 - …from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…

B. Anticipating our final transformation

Philippians 3:21a - …who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…

1 John 3:2-3 - Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

C. Trusting His power to achieve His eternal plan

Philippians 3:21b - …by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

- Recently I had the privilege of traveling to the island of Guam with the team of Josh Greiner, Aaron Birk, Dustin Folden, and Frank Oliver…

- Guam is part of the Micronesian Islands in the South Pacific and is 13 times zones different than us here in Lafayette…

- we were invited there by Harvest Baptist Church which has a remarkable number of similarities to Faith… they were started by missionaries in 1975 about a decade after Faith was launched…

- the population of Guam is 171,000 people which is comparable to Tippecanoe County and they have a vibrant church family of 800 people…

- they also have an excellent Christian School that is actually a bit larger than ours …and they have a foster care ministry called Harvest House that is so well-respected that when a child has to be removed from a home anywhere on the island because of abuse, that person is brought directly to Harvest to receive initial care and assessment…

- we were asked to come to provide a biblical counseling training conference because the church is thinking about starting a counseling center for their church and people on the island and also wants these principles to permeate every aspect of their existing ministries…

- they asked us to be sure to thank our church family for making this trip possible because even though they are a US territory, they can feel very isolated because of how far away they are…

- if you like WW II history as I do, you would have enjoyed the history of the island because you may remember that the day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, they attacked and conquered Guam because of its strategic location…

- the Americans liberated the island 3 years later and there are memorials and artifacts and museums in multiple places…

- one of the highlights of the trip for me was interacting with this group of young people…let me play you a portion of a song they sung at the beginning of the Sunday morning worship service where I had the privilege of speaking…and then I’ll explain why this is so significant for them, and illustrative for us…

- a number of years ago the church started a Bible College for young people who had grown up on one of the smaller islands in this part of the world…

- some of these islands only have a few hundred people…they are still led by a chief…conditions are primitive and the education is often lacking…

- so Harvest started a Bible college…which because of the educational challenges is more on an institute level…but trains these young people for 5 years with the goal of them going back to their islands, starting churches, working in the public schools or starting Christian schools, and having a missional focus for the rest of their lives…

- The pastor was explaining to us that often the people on these various islands do not get along with other…

- there are generations of animosities, so the distrust and hatred runs deep…

- that’s part of what makes this picture so significant…because now in Christ, they aren’t citizens of a particular tribe at war with one another…they are citizens of heaven, who choose to love one another…

- and after graduation, when they go back to their island and begin living out their faith on that particular point – it can have a powerful impact for the proclamation of the gospel…

- for example, the island Fais has 318 residents…

- one of their graduates went back and started a church…and it has 80 people…

- the pastor of Harvest was telling us that when he visited there, it was very similar to a church in the states where they keep outgrowing their auditorium…

- so they had a small thatched roof hut [Koyang]…and then a few hundred feet away, a larger thatch roofed hut…and eventually Harvest helped them build a concrete church building…the only concrete structure on the island…

- during typhoons, the residents used to ride the storms out by tying themselves to trees…now the chief is very proud because they have a concrete building in which to find shelter…

- here’s the principle – if you want to make a difference for God, you have to remember where your ultimate citizenship lies…and that’s not just true for an island in the South Pacific – it’s true for people like you and me as well…

- With that in mind, please open your Bible to Philippians chapter 3, verse 17…page ______ of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- our church’s theme this year is Growing in Gospel Gratitude…so we’re dedicating part of the year to studying verse by verse through the book of Philippians, because this is essentially a thank-you letter, from the apostle Paul who is imprisoned in Rome for proclaiming the gospel, to his brothers and sisters at the church in Philippi who had supported Paul as one of their missionaries with their prayers and financial gifts…

- although this is a short letter, it is crammed full of important theological truths…including the centrality of the gospel which is a theme that runs throughout the book…

- and the beauty of the Person and work of Christ which is emphasized in chapter 2…

- and the process of progressive sanctification [Christian growth] which is the dominant focus of chapter 3…

- let’s read through chapter 3 again to refresh our minds of the overall argument – then we’ll lock on to verses 17-21 which helps us to Celebrating our Heavenly Citizenship

- Read Philippians 3:1-21

- So we’re talking about Celebrating our Heavenly Citizenship, and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 requirements to make ongoing spiritual growth a reality.

I. By Following the Right Model

- as we’ve studied through the earlier verses in the chapter the last several weeks – I hope you’ve said in your heart…that’s where I want to be…

- so a passage like Philippians 3:13–14 - …forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

- you’re not going to be the kind of person who goes back to your island of origin and win over 25% of its inhabitants to Christ unless you’re following the right example – the right model…

- and I realize you might say – well, that’s not what God has called me to do…

- that’s true – but it then begs the question, well, what has God called you to do?...life goes quickly…what has he called you to do?...

- and what this portion of the book of Philippians is explaining is that you’ll only get there if you’re following the right model…

- Paul says -- Philippians 3:17 - Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.

- so, be on the lookout for…

A. Someone like the apostle Paul

- now, please think carefully about – how are these negative examples described in the next verses, and how is that different from what Paul has already said about himself?...

1. Who clearly understood positional righteousness

- this chapter will never make sense until we make the distinction between positional truth, and practical truth…

- positional truth is what happens to you the moment you trust Christ [assuming there has been a specific time in your life where you repented of your sin and placed your trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ]…

- that has nothing to do with your performance, nothing to do with your deeds, nothing to do with your works…

- biblical salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone…

- and when that decision is made, the Bible teaches that literally hundreds of things happen to a person…related to the nature of your position before God…

- you’re translated from the kingdom of wrath to the kingdom of heaven…

- you go from being at war with God to being at peace with Him through the shed blood of His Son

- your sins are cast as far as the east is from the west…you are clothed with the righteousness of His Son…

- you’re sealed with the Holy Spirit until the Day of redemption…

- all of that happens at a point in time – it has nothing to do with your effort…it is purely and entirely by God’s grace…

- in order to reach that place, you have to humble yourself…you have to admit your sin and you have to acknowledge that you need help outside of yourself…

- and that means that you need to surround yourself with a person or persons who believe similarly…like Paul, who had already affirmed that his positional righteousness was…

a. not based on his own deeds and goodness

- Philippians 3:7–8 - But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

- the Philippians would never fulfill their gospel calling if they followed the examples of people who believed they could earn their own way to heaven…

- this young Bible college graduate would never impact his island if he had surrounded himself with people believed they could save themselves…

- you and I will never accomplish the plan and purpose God has for us if we surround ourselves with proud, self-righteous individuals…

- we need people around us who understand that compared to the holiness of God, our righteousness is like filthy rags…and that positional righteousness is…

b. but instead, based on the finished work of Christ

- Philippians 3:9 - and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

- see, think about the racism and animosity that exists on those various Micronesian islands…where does that come from?...the belief that I am inherently better than someone else because of my ethnic roots…

- the gospel of Jesus Christ demolishes such notions…

- that’s why it would be wise for you to surround yourself with people who really understand the gospel…from a positional perspective…

- but that’s not the end of the story…

2. Who passionately pursue practical righteousness

- man made religion waters down sin, and it waters down righteousness…

- you could think of it like this – the gospel paints the realities of life in vivid hues…

- the radiance of God’s perfect holiness…completely without sin and completely unable to have a relationship with that which is sinful…

- and the utter depravity of man’s sinful condition…

- and the vibrancy and power of Jesus’ shed blood…

- and the potential and necessity of growing in practical Christ-righteousness after we’re saved…

- mankind wants to dull every aspect of that…

- God is a grandfatherly type who grades on a curve…

- my sin isn’t that bad so I can get to heaven on my own merit…

- I don’t need to work on practical change unless there’s some sort of reward in the here and now for me…

- that’s why the security of Paul’s salvation motivates his growth…and energizes it…

- that what gets him to the mentality we mentioned a moment ago… Philippians 3:13–14 - …forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

- the point is – if you want to make a difference for God, surround yourself with people who understand that their position before God had to be secured solely by His grace, and your pursuit of practical holiness is passionate because of the completed righteousness you anticipate in heaven…

- If you don’t follow that kind of person, what option does that leave?...

B. Not those who are enemies of the cross

- Philippians 3:18 - For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ,

- please think about the power of that metaphor…

- an enemy of the cross…how so?...if you think you can save yourself, you have denied the need for the cross…and if you’re not serious about growing in personal holiness after you’re saved, you’ve negated the purpose of the cross…

1. whose end is destruction

- Philippians 3:19a - whose end is destruction…

- there’s a great example of what this looks like in Psalm 73…that’s when Asaph the writer is authentic enough to admit that he was envious of the wicked…

- Psalm 73:2–6 - But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains in their death, and their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; the garment of violence covers them.

- thank the Lord for a man honest enough to admit that struggle…I think I’m going to follow those kind of people…they’re going to become my models, my examples, my heroes…

- and he even said -- Psalm 73:12–14 - Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning.

- but then he starts waking up -- Psalm 73:15–16 - If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight.

- what was it that turned it around for him?...Psalm 73:17 - Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end.

- that’s what Paul is saying here – the end of these persons who have no place in their heart and life for positional righteousness which comes through trusting Christ, and growing in practical righteousness which comes in response to the gospel…is destruction…why would you want to follow a person like that?...

- yet, how many people who call themselves Christians allow themselves to be entertained by people like that?...that’s who they listen to, that’s who they read, that’s who they emulate, and knowingly or unknowingly, that’s who they follow…

- Paul says…

2. whose god is their appetite

- Phil. 3:19b - whose god is their appetite

- Paul was pressing on for greater Christlikeness while these enemies of the cross were simply feeding their own fleshly desires…

3. whose glory is their shame

- Phil 3:19c - and whose glory is in their shame…

- their consciences were so seared, that they lived like those described at the end of that haunting passage in Romans 1…

- Romans 1:32 - and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

- see, a clear question emerges from all of this – who are you following?...is it gospel saturated people who understand both positional and practical righteousness…or enemies of the gospel whose end is destruction, and whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is their shame?...

- and btw, if someone follows you…which option will they be following?...

- a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking in our Christian High School’s chapel…this is our school’s 25th anniversary…and it gave me an opportunity to explain to the students why I transferred to a Christian High School in the middle of my sophomore year…

- I was attending a public high school and had unsaved friends and we were doing the typical kinds of things unsaved teenagers did but I found it very unsatisfying…

- about that time I met some kids from a local Christian high school and they were entirely different…and I’m not saying that they sat around and read their Bibles all night long…but they could have fun without getting in trouble, and they treated each other with kindness and grace, there was always room for one more, and they really took their faith seriously on a practical level…

- that’s what the Lord used to draw me to Himself…

- it really came down to choosing the right friends…following the right people…and I am eternally grateful that that group of young people was there when I so desperately needed an alternative option to consider…

- Follow the right model, and…

II. By Focusing on the Right Citizenship

- The key to this is embedded in the phrases at the end of verse 19 and the beginning of verse 20…

- Philippians 3:19–20 - …who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven…

- there’s the contrast and is mapped all over this book…

- if you believe you can save yourself by your own works…you’re setting your mind of earthly things…

- if you believe you desperately need a Savior and a Lord who will die on the cross for your sins…you’re setting your mind on heavenly things…

- if you believe you really don’t need to grow because you’re a pretty good person and probably better than a lot of others…you’re setting your mind on earthly things…

- if you believe the goal and standard is Christlikeness, than you’re passionately pursuing Christian growth all of your days because you’re setting your mind on heavenly things…

- if Paul became frustrated and angry because of the inconveniences of his imprisonment, he was setting his mind on earthly things…

- if he focused on the gospel opportunities that his imprisonment provided…he was setting his mind on heavenly things…so,

A. Don’t set your mind on earthly things

- that’s why Paul told the Colossians in a similar passage…

- Colossians 3:2–3 - Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

- going back to those Bible college students…if they just went back to their islands and picked right back up on their generational animosities…what would they be doing?...setting their minds on earth…and there would be no joy there, and there would be no ministry there, and there would be no hope there…

B. Choose to focus on your citizenship in heaven

- Colossians 3:1 - Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

- it’s amazing how many of our worries and anxieties would melt away if we learned to live in light of this reality…

- for example, at the workplace…if you’re constantly upset because things aren’t the way you want them to be…should that really surprise you since we’re living in a sin-cursed world as sin-cursed people…

- how about reminding ourselves – we’re citizens of heaven…and we don’t expect everything to go our way in this life…

- or you’re perpetually upset because things aren’t going the way you believe they should in our country, or our world…

- wait a minute – we’re citizens of heaven…things aren’t going to be right until King Jesus is on the throne…

- Let me mention a way I see this playing out in our strategic ministry planning…

- we really could not be at a better place in terms of how thoroughly the surveys were completed, and the initiatives were generated, and now the initiatives have been ranked…

- along with substantive discussions about various big-rock projects and even a capital campaign to achieve several of those major goals…

- there’s an aggressiveness that characterizes what our church family believes the Lord wants us to accomplish together which is result in significant sacrifice and commitment…

- but it would to me that our church family is saying – bring it on…

- and that could only occur when people refuse to live in an earthly minded way – but instead are saying, we want to plan and stretch and grow in light of our citizenship in heaven…

III. By Longing for the Right Destination

A. We are eagerly awaiting the return of our Savior

- Philippians 3:20 - …from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;

- friend, do you really believe that Jesus could return soon for His children?

- is that an important part of what it means to be heavenly minded?...

- one of the benefits of taking these international trips is meeting the men and women serving the Lord in these various places…

- and that included the senior pastor at Harvest, Pastor Gary Walton…

- I was coming back from a run one morning when he was pulling into work so I was able to talk to him alone for a while…

- and I commented on just how much of a ministry load he was carrying at a place that was far away from where he grew up

- and he said, well, when the Lord returns, I want Him to find me busily serving Him…

- that’s being heavenly minded…sure, there may be some sacrifice, and inconvenience, and pain…but this world is not my home, I’m just a passin through…my treasure’s all laid up, somewhere beyond the blue…the angels beckon me from heaven’s open shore [check this], and I can’t feel at home in this world any more…

B. Anticipating our final transformation

- Philippians 3:21a - who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…

- this goal to which Paul has been pressing will someday be fully and finally realized

- imagine that – delivered from the presence of sin once and for all…

- anticipating that is also part of being heavenly minded…

- and Scripture is clear about that impact that focus can and should have on us in the here and now…

- John said -- 1 John 3:2–3 - Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

- earthly minded people lack an important aspect of motivation to work on practical holiness today…

C. Trusting His power to achieve His eternal plan

- Philippians 3:21b - by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

- it’s interesting that the passage ends this way…

- because earthly minded living focuses on, and trusts in, the limited power of man…no wonder it accomplishes so little…

- heavenly minded living focuses on, and trusts in, the unlimited power of God…no wonder it accomplishes so much…

Authors

Dr. Steve Viars

Roles

Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation

Bio

B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and four grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video