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Sermon on Philippians 3:17-4:1

Title:  Patterning

Theme:  Pattern your life after those who pattern their life after Christ.

Goal:  to encourage Christians to be faithful in following the pattern of life of those like Christ

Need:  It is much easier to find patterns to follow in the rest of the world, and it is much more difficult to find the patterns of the life of Christ.


          There’s nothing like that good ol’ beginning of the school year cold or flu, is there?                 

The beginning of the school year always brings closer interaction with the people around us. 

          I know it was pretty much inevitable when my wife Angela was teaching, in the first couple of weeks after school started she would have a cold.  You gather hundreds of children together, pack them into classrooms, have them share the same washrooms and the same desks and all those different things, and one child who comes to school with a cold can begin the spreading of that good ol’ monochlorophobulosis or the rhinovirus all around the school.

          When you kids are in school again, you probably don’t realize it but every day you come into contact with different households.  A child is never just an individual.  None of us are just an individual.  We always will have ingrained in us some of the things we learned from watching our parents do things.  It might have never been one of those sit down lessons.  “now look here son, when you get angry make sure you storm out of the house.  That’s just what us men do.”  Children absorb it from following the pattern of life.

          When children interact with other students, their worlds are colliding together.  I remember those first sleepovers at friends houses when you realize… hey they are different than my family.

          That following of the patterns of our parents probably is the most apparent when you move in with new roommates at school, and especially when you get married..  You find out suddenly that there isn’t some sort of ideal standard of how to put the dishes away that everyone lives by.  Its about the patterns that we have learned from way back. 

          Paul gets into that sort of talk in the passage that we have for today.  Paul concerns himself with the life that this church leads.  Like any good shepherd he cares for his sheep, and he gets alarmed when the pattern of their life walks completely the wrong direction.

          Many of us don’t need to use our imagination.  We know first hand how hard it can be to watch a loved one follow the wrong pattern of life. 

Aren’t we all just a step away from that at some points in our life?

The persuasive power of the devil always taps at our heart.  Come on, come with me.  You need to make more money.  You need to show your power over people.  You need to battle it out with others to the bitter end because to back down shows weakness.  Your way is better than anyone elses, you makes sure everyone knows that. 

Paul warns about following that pattern of life.  Verse 18-19 says, “18For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

          Paul hits the point right on.  He says those who don’t follow the pattern of Christ’s life battle against the truth of the cross.  Enemies of the cross.  What final resting place will they have?  Destruction.  Their god is nothing but themselves and what fills them up.  Because they have rendered faith in Christ pointless, haven’t they just rendered themselves pointless.  Their minds can see the stars and the sky, but they can’t see further than that.  Their worldview doesn’t include Jesus Christ as the guiding principle of their whole life. 


It has Paul in tears.

          Grief leads Paul to cry out to these people.  He has invested so much of his life in them.  The rest of the passage calls the Christians in the city of Philippi to return to following the correct pattern for their life, and stand firm in that.

          A couple of days ago I got a flier in the mail.  It’s from a company that I have ordered a few Bible commentaries from in the last several years.  Christian Book Distributors.  Do you know how many Bibles they offered in the pamphlet. 

          In Paul’s day they didn’t have oodles of bibles where they could read about the life of Christ.  Christians didn’t read about Christ’s life until later when the apostles and other historians started writing down all they could about Jesus.  What does it say about the power of unbelief when in our day and age when we are surrounded by Bibles, we still have trouble following Christ’s pattern for life?

With the beginning of Sunday school classes and faith instruction we have materials that we order that helps us instruct our children about Jesus Christ and how to live following him.  Paul didn’t have that.  He didn’t have well laid out curriculum for PhD’s in education.  But he did have one incredible way to teach the people what Christ’s life was like that would stick with them long after he was gone.

          Patterning.  Follow the pattern of Paul and you will be following the pattern of Christ.  It’s the closest example he could give these people.  Listen to verse 17.  17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

          Paul knows they didn’t get to see Jesus live his life.  All they can do is try and live the way that Paul showed them how to.  He reminds them that he lived the way Christ calls all people to live.  He reminds them of the importance of taking the old pattern of life, no matter where you learned it from and getting rid of it.  Its time for a new pattern.

          I heard on the radio a critique of the phrase “quality time.”  For a while now “quality time” shot to the top of the most important things to do with our family.  Go to the beach, do a project together, just spending some quality time together.  The person critiquing this said that it might be the special moments that a child will remember on into adult hood, but it is the every day interaction, the every day pattern of their life, that contributes the most to the way that child develops.  Vacations are memorable fun.  Walking the pattern you want your children to learn ingrains patterns of truth and goodness into their lives.

          This is especially true for parents and for the teachers of kids in the younger grades.  Its good for children to learn the Bible stories and hear how the can be applied to their life, but that stuff just doesn’t sink in very deep at that age.  It’s a building block for the future.  But what will make sense is when they see their teacher living out the example of love and kindness.  They will understand it better when they see mom or dad doing something over and over again.  It becomes ingrained in their pattern of life already from an early age.

       Paul ends the passage with a beautiful reminder of why its so important to follow Christ’s pattern and to be the pattern of Christ for others.  This is why its important to follow Pauls pattern.  This is why it will benefit us whether we are parents trying to raise our children, teachers trying to influence young lives to be close to Christ.  Or even if we are living out the call for all of us to go and make disciples of all nations.  We do it all because we are assured of what is to come. 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

          I can stand and proudly say. My citizenship is not of this place.  My citizenship is is in the United States.  Oh wait no.  The idea is the same.  We might be living comfortably here, but remember we belong somewhere else.  If we follow the proper pattern of life we will be able to stand firm as citizens of heaven.  We will be able to weather whatever hurricanes of trouble come in our lives.

          Let’s be confident of that.  Let your worldview always tell you we don’t belong to this place, follow Paul’s.  Let others follow your example of faith.

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