forrest short

Awaiting Christ

Philippians 3:17-4:1

The concept of nations and super powers are not simply a 21st century reality. There have been many nations throughout history who have conquered lands and people for the sake of greater power. Rome was one of the most successful conquerors in history. Rome was able to keep its power due to the colonization of Roman citizens in a conquered area. Rome would plant colonies so that Roman education, arts, and law would permeate throughout the conquered lands. During this time in Philipi, loyal Romans would burn incense at the temple to declare that Caesar was their lord. It is during this time that Paul declares to the Roman power that there is another king, besides Caesar, who was crucified. Paul affirms that those who follow Christ as Lord find their citizenship in Heaven; thus, eagerly waiting for Christ’s return when he will redeem all things to himself.

“There is a greater kingdom in which we have been invited into. There is a truer reality. Your true citizenship is in Heaven not the governments in this world.”


The gospel calls us to declare our allegiance to Christ rather than the façade kingdoms of today.

When we are looking for false kingdoms or Caesars of today, we must ask two questions:

1. What seems to hold power over us apart from Christ?

2. What is our allegiance to that power?

The Caesars of this world could be anything from a sinful mindset to sinful acts of the heart or an allegiance to a government. If there is anything in our lives that takes the place of Christ it is a false authority.

A Desperate Blindness: Enemies of Christ

Paul warns the church to watch out for those who are enemies of the cross. There are those who are not yet awakened to the reality of the lordship of Christ and his kingdom. There is a desperate blindness among those who are only capable of seeing the world that is right before them rather than Christ’s redeemed kingdom which has been brought through the cross.

Paul warns us to watch out for four markers of those who are not living in the reality of Christ’s kingdom:

1. Their end goal is destruction

The end goal for Christians is the resurrection, but destruction is the end for those who are enemies of Christ.

2. Their god is their belly

This marks those who are overcome by the authority of their bodily appetites including food, drink, and sex.

3. They glory in their shame

It is natural for those who do something wrong to hide their shame from others. But those who are enemies of the cross will gloat about their indiscriminate behavior.

4. Their minds are set on earthly things

In Colossians, Paul describes “earthly things” as: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, idolatry, anger, wrath, slander, and obscene talk. The minds of Christ’s enemies are set on earthly things and are consumed by these vices rather than seeing the true reality of the redeemed kingdom given to us by Christ.

Paul contrasts the two realities of those who succumb to the destruction of the false kingdoms of this world with the hopeful reality that our true citizenship is in Heaven where we eagerly await our savior.

A Hopeful Reality

Paul points to a deeper reality in the midst of the church’s persecution under Roman rule. Paul reaffirms that there are two aspects which lead us away from destruction and pushes us towards the hope we see in Christ.

1. We are citizens of Heaven

2. We are waiting for our Savior from Heaven

It is important to recognize that when Paul talks about Heaven, he is not simply talking about a future destination that we go to when we die. Heaven is the dwelling place where God’s presence uniquely dwells, thus all is as it should be. Scripture tells us that Heaven is a real place that believers go to when they die, but it also declares that Christ will bring Heaven to earth. This is good news for us because that means that what we do on earth matters. As we join Christ in his work some of that endeavor will be redeemed into eternity.

“We are called to join God in His work to make all things new.”

Our ability to stand firm in the saving reality of Christ rather than being consumed by the false kingdoms of this world is directly correlated with our understanding of Heaven. We must be reminded that we are citizens of Heaven and we are waiting for our savior from Heaven which should affect how will live in the here and now. Without this understanding of our current reality we begin to live within the earthly operation which Paul warned against.

We no longer need to fear whether the purposes of God will come to fruition. We no longer need to wonder if there will be justice for suffering or relief from pain. We do not have to wonder if there is salvation for the lost. Christ’s kingdom declares that sin and death do not have the final say. Christ is the one who rules in righteousness and he is bringing his kingdom to earth where all will be redeemed to him. It is in this reality that we can hold on to hope.

“We have been redeemed by the finished work of Jesus Christ;

the one who rules in righteousness.”

Are we allowing the Caesars of this world to have the final say over our lives? Or are we living under the citizenship of our righteous ruler who makes all things new?

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Fulfillment in Christ Alone

WHAT WE WERE CREATED FOR

Humans are fundamentally searching creatures. We are constantly seeking validation and fulfillment outside of ourselves to satisfy a longing deep within each one of us. Even children are searching for connection through experiences of tasting sweets or watching movies that they have seen a multitude of times. As we grow, we continue to seek out what gives us purpose, value, and inner joy. If left to their own devices, humans naturally begin to stuff their lives full of things that break, get lost, or get old and rusty in the hopes that something will satisfy the longing of their hearts. The heart is so complex, deep, and intricate that its desire to be known cannot be satisfied through imperfect desires or people.  Unless we find our place in Christ all other longings will leave us wanting more.

“Because you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless

 til they find thy rest in thee.”

 -Augustine

Jesus points us towards what we were truly created for when he says: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then, in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field” (Matthew 13:44). We must realize that the good things that leave us momentarily satisfied are simply glimpses of the reality which our hearts truly long for. The reality that only exists in the Kingdom of God. When we find the reality of the kingdom, and kingship that we are searching for, we will sell all we have in order to gain it. However, we must be wary that we do not settle for achievements of the flesh which fails to accomplish true confidence.

THE WRONG KIND OF CONFIDENCE

  1. Putting our trust in religious behavior rather than the work of Christ

  2. Attaining salvation through our own desires or giftings

  3. Becoming watch dogs of heresy rather than shepherds of truth

Paul urges the church in Philippi to be cautious about putting their confidence in anything other than the saving grace of Christ. It is too easy to place one’s confidence in deeds, works, titles, or relationships. But Paul emphatically denies the notion that any of these can offer fulfillment for oneself or favor with God. We have no confidence in the work of the flesh. It’s not through circumcision and law keeping that brings about salvation, but it is the circumcision of the heart through Jesus Christ who came to fulfill the law. The mark of a new believer is not physical circumcision, but the spirit of God, at work in us.

THE RIGHT KIND OF LOSS

It is important to note that it is not ambition or the celebration of hard work that is wrong. However, we must never lose sight of that fact that compared to Christ all is rubbish. Nothing can come close to the importance of one’s identity solidly planted in the restorative nature of God himself. Paul is not saying that all human achievement is worthless, but he is saying that compared to Christ, and without Christ, it is worthless.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss, because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake, I’ve suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, in order that I might gain Christ.”

 Philippians 3:8 

HOW DO WE LIVE OUR LIVES IN THE RIGHT KIND OF LOSS?

  1. Recognizing that everything that comes our way is an opportunity to gain more of Christ

    Everything that comes our way in life is our opportunity to move towards Christ. In everything that is pleasant, we give thanks to Jesus. In everything that is difficult, we lean on him for strength. We constantly live in the tension between thanks and dependency on Christ. This is counting all things as loss.

  2. Hold things gently

    As we interact with the things of this world, we will consistently demonstrate that the achievements of the flesh are not our ultimate treasure. Everything we achieve in this life will be given its value based on the value we have in Christ. This means that we will hold everything loosely because compared to Christ it is not something worth holding on too tightly. Those who hold the spoils of this life loosely will find that generosity is a natural outpouring. When we refuse to hold tightly to the temporal nature of things that rust and corrupt, we become generous.

  3. Trust that we will not lose our joy

    Experiencing loss in this world is an unfortunate side effect of the fall that we all must face. We will experience it. But, even in the loss of all things we will not grumble because our joy is Christ. This is the kind of loss that leads to life and what we were created for.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who do not have hope.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13

THE BEST KIND OF KNOWING

In order for us to move past the wrong kind of confidence and push forward into the right kind of loss we must have a personal knowledge of Christ. This is not simply a knowledge of the historicity of Jesus; rather, this is the kind of knowing that makes us say that Jesus is our lord and our savior. The kind of knowing that becomes a fountainhead from which the rest of the aspects flow.

KNOWING CHRIST

  1. Biblically

    Christians are Bible people; thus we know the grand story of redemption and the reality of Christ through scripture. It is not simply a book that we read but it is the very essence of our lives. We are tethered to scripture because it is how we come to know who we are in Christ.

  2. Theologically

    We come to know Christ through the theological truths of the Christian faith which include: salvation, the trinity, humanity, and even scripture. It covers the basic theological truths because without these truths we cannot truly know Christ.

  3. Personally

    If all we have is knowing Jesus theologically and doctrinally, we reduce knowing Christ to the legalistic snare of avoiding error. Personally knowing Christ is more than orthodoxy and articulating the correct theology or doctrine. Knowing Christ personally means we commune with him as we learn from him. The love we have for him begins to grow and mature as we think of him and talk with him. We find that in Christ we are home. The longings that exist deep inside of us find rest and fulfillment in Christ alone.

“We can’t have confidence in the flesh and gain right standing before God. We have right standing before God, because he has found us.”

DOES CHRIST LOOK SO GOOD TO US THAT EVERYTHING ELSE, BY COMPARISON, SEEMS EXPENDABLE?

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript-Lent Guide