While it’s true that a marriage can last a lifetime, the success of a strong marriage isn’t about the number of years; it’s about the depth of the relationship. There are plenty of long marriages that have survived solely on routine. The couple is just used to being together. That’s not the defining characteristic of a strong marriage. A strong marriage isn’t surviving on routine. It’s thriving on relationship. Every change and challenge the couple faces is a new adventure, something they face together.
Why am I bringing this up here in our look at Philippians? Because Paul’s admonition in Philippians 3:17-4:1 shows us his deep concern that his readers never forget what it is they have in their relationship with the Lord. The last thing Paul wanted was a bunch of believers just “doing Christianity” because that was just what they did. He’d come out of a group like that. They were called the Pharisees, a bunch of people who were more concerned with how they were perceived by others than how they were received by God. Jesus called them out for “laying aside the commandment of God” and holding to “the tradition of men” (Matthew 7:8). Their understanding of God and how to connect to Him had all been boiled down to routines. “These are the things you must do to be a good Jew.” There are lots of churches that do that today. “These are the things you do to be a good Christian.” There is so much focus on “how you’re supposed to do church” that they’ve lost focus of how you’re supposed to walk with God.
I’m putting Philippians 4:1 together with the ending verses of chapter 3 because technically they belong together. Leading up to that verse, Paul reminds the Philippians that their “conversation [walk, citizenship, national identity] is in heaven” (3:20) and he puts this in the present tense, not future because as believers, we are already citizens of heaven. That is big picture thinking, the kind of thinking that makes us realize that being Christian isn’t just a label. It’s a relationship. When I trusted Christ and became a Christian, Jesus didn’t hand me a membership card. He gave me a standing in heaven based on my relationship to Him. My position in Christ is not theoretical. It’s actual. It’s just awaiting complete fulfilment.
Paul quickly adds, “from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Why is that so important? Because when that day comes, our relationship will no longer be faith, but sight and our sin-wracked bodies will be changed “like unto His glorious body.” Consider what the apostle John saw when he first laid eyes on the glorified Christ in heaven. John was one of the three who had witnessed the Transfiguration and that was fantastic enough, but when he saw Christ for the first time in heaven, what he saw there surpassed what he saw at the Transfiguration! How God will glorify us, or exactly what our glorified bodies will be like when we finally get to heaven we’ll only know when we get there, but Paul tells us for that reason at least to “stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved” (4:1).
The problem is, as human beings living in physical bodies in a physical world, the distractions are many. I mentioned yesterday how Paul mourned for those who had lost sight of the heavenly prize (3:18-19). Fearing the same fate for his Philippian brethren, Paul reminds them not just of what they will have in Christ, but also of what they have already. Because the only way to resist the distractions of this world is to actively work at our relationship to Christ and to remember the big picture.
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