At the posting of this blog it will be just a few short hours until a brand new year begins. We’ve all gone through the experience again and again (95 times for me!). January 1 marks a new period of time, the old is gone and the new stretches out before us as yet unmarred by mistakes. Hopefully it reminds us all that as believers we are to live in a new and different way. In Philippians 3:20-21 Paul writes of our heavenly citizenship and how it changes our outlook on the way we view life. While we have nothing to do with the passing of time – that’s entirely in His hands – we are very much involved in changing our lifestyle in view of the fleeting nature of time.
The two groups that Paul compares are those who belong to this world and those whose citizenship is in heaven. The god of the first is their “bodily desires” (TEV). Their wanton exercise of a supposed “freedom” that has no boundaries allows them to live as they please. The God of the other group is “the Lord Jesus Christ” who redirects one’s concerns to the life that lies beyond time. The question is, “To which one have you turned over the control of your life?”
In a world without absolutes you can do what you please. One’s time on earth consists of an extended sequence of episodes driven by earthly desires, concentrated on the here and now, and involving no shame. That sounds good until you come to the end and realize that “destruction “ will be your eternal home. The other option is to have heaven as your home. While you are still here, you wait with eager expectation for the return of your Savior who will transform your present body into one that is like his glorious body. I see the two as a sort of “concerned father / rich uncle” story. The rich uncle would gain your affection by giving you stuff right now – whatever your old nature might crave. The responsible father, however, withholds certain things because he knows they will work against your best interest down the road. One lives in a fantasy land, the other in reality. Since wisdom is the awareness of unintended consequences, the father is wise and the uncle is a fool. In either case you will become like the one you to whom you give your life.
It is interesting how certain truths have a way of staying in one’s mind. I remember a SS class some 60 years ago when the teacher, my friend Dave Hubbard, taught that the only “restrictions” God places on the believer are those that, if pursued, would bring heartache and sorrow. God’s “laws” are for our benefit. They are gracious warnings designed to show us the better way.
The new year has come; let’s allow God to make it a genuinely NĖW year.
In the race of life Paul, runs directly toward the finish line. He knows why he is here and where he is going. In Philippians 3.14 he identifies that goal line as ”the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The metaphor pictures life as a foot race in which the winner is called up to the judge’s stand to receive a trophy. In the race of life the winner is called up to heaven for a heavenly reward.
Against this background Paul encourages the believers at Philippi to adopt a winner’s attitude in their own race of life. He is saying that this intense desire to live for a goal that is yet future is what it means to be a mature Christian. And then in the middle of v.15 he adds the highly significant point, “and if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (NIV). This means that if, in your Christian walk, you are diverted somehow from the right goal, God will call it to your attention.
This basic truth has relevance for every part of life. During my years of teaching in a Christian college I remember that a major question for so many students was what was the will of God for their life. What profession has God in mind for me? Has He chosen this girl, or that girl, to be my wife? I used to tell students that Philippians 3:15 guarantees that the committed Christian can not make a mistake in those decisions because, as the text says – “God will make this clear to you” (TEV). What a great privilege for life! If you have adopted a Christian world-view you simply can’t go wrong. He won’t let you.
So one of great benefits of a mature Christian life is that you never need to question whether something could be out of God’s will for you because if it is, he’ll warn you about it ahead of time. Looking back I have to confess the mistakes I did make were not accidental but because I intentionally did/said what He said I shouldn’t. It’s wonderful to have a friend who will always warn you in every situation whether a proposed act is right or wrong. All we have to do is pay attention and follow his warning. This allows you to consider anything you want to because if it is against his will he has promised to tell you. If you are surrendered to God you never have to sin again!