"OUR CONVERSATION, OUR EXPECTATION"
1. If someone were to ask me, "Pastor? What single personality characteristic is most conducive to spirituality, to Christian growth, to effectiveness in service to God, and in demonstrating Christ likeness?" The answer I would give would be a slam dunk. No contest. Itís humility.
2. Listen carefully. There are a number of things that we are to do toward others, but humility is something you do to yourself as a state of mind. It is a posture you assume relative to others. It is an attitude you take that makes you receptive to the blessings of God. Itís the opposite of self sufficiency and pride.
3. The Lord Jesus Christ humbled Himself and became obedient to the death of the cross. During His earthly ministry He taught that whosoever humbled himself would be exalted. James and Peter both instruct believers to humble themselves before the Lord. Paul urges his readers to put on a humbleness of mind, and described himself as a man who served the Lord with all humility of mind.
4. Do you think much about the grace of God that is needed for conversion? Youíre saved by grace, you know. But what of the verse that declares that God resists the proud and gives grace only to the humble? Is it any surprise that proud sinners donít get saved? And what about those genuinely saved? They who are saved, as well, stand in need of Godís constantly supply of grace, obtained at the throne of grace during prayer, but not given to those who are too proud to ask of God or too proud to receive from God.
5. It should be no surprise to us, then, that when Paul became aware of the breakdown of unity in the Philippian Church he immediately recognized its cause. The people were not as humble as they had previously been, for there is a direct correlation between spiritual unity among people and their sweet humility.
6. Paul recognized, as you need to, that no one is without his faults and rough spots. And it is a tragic reality of this fallen world that we live in that people who come together in a Church to worship and serve God will bump and jostle each other, will sin against each other, and will do all sorts of things. My friend, the only way a Church can survive the bringing together of such disparate people as we have here, with our different backgrounds and experiences, is if we are humble. And when we are humble, itís only by Godís grace. So, humility is a wonderful barometer of spirituality in a congregation.
7. Recognizing that they were suffering in the humility department, Paul sought to provide good examples of humility for the Philippians to look to because he knew that they would have plenty of bad examples of pride and arrogance masking as spiritual superiority. But it is in our text for today, Philippians 3.20, that Paul provides for his readers some reasons for humility that are surprisingly different from some of the reasons given elsewhere in Godís Word.
8. So, with your Bible turned to Philippians chapter three, letís stand and read verses 17-21: "17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. "
9. You Church members here at Calvary Road Baptist Church, letís take Philippians 3.20 to heart. Letís respond to the prompting of the Spirit-inspired apostle Paul. Letís recognize that humility is appropriate.
1A. HUMILITY IS APPROPRIATE IN VIEW OF OUR CONVERSATION
Notice how Paul begins the verse. "For our conversation is in heaven." This is quite a contrast to those people he has just referred to "who mind earthly things." Do you see the difference, here, between those who are saved and those who are not saved? You can tell where a person is headed by where that personís head and heart are. Special attention needs to be paid to this word "conversation." The Greek word translated here, which refers to a commonwealth or to citizenship, appears only here in the Greek New Testament, and itís an interesting word that has connotations from several different perspectives. Let me describe for you three different contexts to better understand what Paul was alluding to here.
1B. First, The Roman Context
1C. In the Roman Empire everything was related, not to the nation of Rome (there was no nation of Rome, per se) but to the city of Rome. Citizens of the city of Rome had rank and privileges above those enjoyed by anyone else.
2C. One of the ways Rome would spread her influence throughout the empire would be to establish colony cities, which were actually little Romes, here and there. The citizens of those colony cities were Roman citizens and their allegiance was to Rome in a way that none of the surrounding cityís inhabitants were, because of the special privileges they enjoyed.
3C. Philippi was just such a colony city. And since colony city inhabitants were expected to promote the capital cityís cause and interests above their own, for Paul to point out that the Philippian Church memberís "conversation" or "citizenship" was in heaven was a reminder to them that their duty was to promote the interests of heaven above their own.
2B. Next, The Jewish Context
1C. It wasnít just Roman colony cities who had a special relationship with the city of Rome. Astonishingly, so did Jewish people wherever they happened to live in the empire.
2C. Though they were a conquered people living under foreign domination, the Roman Empire quickly ascertained that the Jewish population was different than any other they had ever dealt with. For them to try and force the Jews to adopt their system of religion and conform to their style of life, like they forced everyone else they conquered, would mean the Romans would have to kill every last Jew. They were unwilling to do that because of the financial benefits the Jewish people brought to the empire, not to mention the unseen hand of Godís providential protection of His covenant people.
3C. So, after a pattern somewhat similar to the colony cities like Philippi, the Roman Empire allowed the Jewish people to be somewhat autonomous and self-governing wherever they happened to live, even in Rome. That meant Jewish people could live in groups among themselves, could obey their Sabbath day observances, and didnít have to serve in the Imperial Roman Army. It was this relationship with Rome that gave rise to what we now know as Jewish ghettos.
4C. Now, although there were unlikely to be very many Jewish Christians in the Philippian Church, since there were few Jews in the city when Paul established the Church, the unique relationship enjoyed by the Jewish people wherever they lived throughout the Roman Empire would be known by one and all. So, even from this perspective, Paulís reference to commonwealth or citizenship in heaven would mean something to his readers. It would be a reminder that they, like the Jewish people they were all familiar with, were to be separate and distinct from the general population, subject to different principles and obligations.
5C. You folks who are members of Calvary Road Baptist Church. You are supposed to be different, peculiar, with different loyalties and moving in different circles than those you live around and work with. You see, ultimately, your citizenship is not the United States or any other country, but heaven. You are to advance heavenís cause. Amen?
3B. Third, There Is The Church Context
1C. There is no way the Philippians could escape the thrust of Paulís comment here. They were like a boat in the water which was allowing too much water into the boat. Their failure to see themselves as a distinct people from the unsaved world around them, with different allegiances and a higher calling, had caused them to subtly adopt the worldís thinking.
2C. The world, you see, lives for the here and now. The world is proud of their accomplishments and arrogant in their independence from God. And if you spend so much time with the worldlings, not trying to bring them to Christ but socializing with them, you begin to think like them, you want to fit in with them, and you adopt their value system.
3C. The result, of course, is pride. Pride which ignores heavenly citizenship. Pride which ignores heavenly responsibilities. Pride which thinks little of Godís people and Christís Church because those relationships are acquired in humility and are maintained by humility.
4C. So, humble yourself, my friend, because your conversation is in heaven. Isnít it?
2A. HUMILITY IS ALSO APPROPRIATE IN VIEW OF OUR EXPECTATION
As there was a stark contrast between the heavenly conversation of the Philippians and those whose example Paul urged them to follow and the earthly minded pretenders he sought to warn them away from, so, too, was there a contrast in expectations. Look back at Philippians 3.19. Not only should you be humble, following the example of those whose citizenship, like yours, is in heaven, but you should also humble yourselves because of where you and Paul and Timothy are going, as opposed to where those religious frauds are actually going. You see, their end is destruction. Donít be like them.
1B. Look At The Anticipation
"From whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ."
1C. A Christianís anticipation is both what and Who. But notice, please, that in Paulís scheme of things the anticipation was always Who before what. Why is this? Because itís all tied up in the Savior, isnít it?
2C. Everything is related to the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the real anticipation for Paul, that word "look," isnít whatís going to happen when Jesus comes, though he does get around to dealing with it in verse 21, but is focused on Jesusí coming.
3C. My friend, humble yourself. Why? Jesus is coming again. And the proud and the arrogant have no part with Him either now or when He comes. So, humble yourself.
2B. Look At The Realization
1C. Perhaps because the Romans always referred to Caesar as their "savior" Paul did not use the Word "savior" in his letters to describe the Lord Jesus Christ until his Roman imprisonment. But beginning with Ephesians, and then here in Philippians, and then in his pastoral epistles, he uses the word "savior" to describe the Lord Jesus, but in a way different than the Romans could ever have imagined.
2C. In a number of passages in the Old Testament God refers to Himself as "savior." But remember, references to God in the Old Testament are usually undifferentiated references to all three members of the Godhead, not just God the Father. That is, when God is referred to in the Old Testament, even when He refers to Himself in places, He is usually referring to the entire Trinity. It is not until we get to the New Testament that further revelation shows us that it is the Second Person of the Godhead, specifically the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, Who is the Savior.
3C. That truth is an important portion of the Gospel message. People need to understand that in order to be converted, because no man cometh unto the Father but by Jesus, John 14.6. But itís not until our anticipation is actually realized, itís not until the Lord Jesus Christ actually comes from heaven for His Own, that the fullness of salvation is actually experienced by those who are saved.
4C. When you come to Jesus you are saved from the penalty of sin. Throughout the course of your Christian life, as you walk in the Spirit, you are being saved from the power of sin in your life. But itís not until Jesus comes for you from heaven that you will experience the fullness of your salvation. In other words, until then you have not arrived. What a good reason to be humble. Amen? You have not yet arrived.
1. Humility. How different from the world could we possibly be than to be humble? And how much more like our Savior could we possibly be than when we are humble?
2. Because of your professed conversation in heaven, and because of your professed expectation to see your Savior, my friend, humble yourself.
3. Only by means of humility can God give to us the unity we need to be effective in our service to Christ in winning the lost of this world to Him.
4. Now, as brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song before my sermon, letís stand and sing.
1. My friends, we live in a time of terrible spiritual apostasy. The departure from the faith that we see in Churches around us is so complete that people actually think things are wonderful. But are things wonderful?
2. How can things be wonderful when the most prominent spiritual leaders in the world are men who would have been tossed out of Churches 200 years ago for being heretics? How can things be wonderful when Godís Word says that men should not enter the ministry because of greed for filthy lucre, but that is precisely the reason so many really are in the ministry? How can things be wonderful when there are so many pastors who are adulterers, who are liars, who are drunkards?
3. We have Bible colleges that are jokes. We have seminaries that are laughable. We have Churches that are ridiculous imitations of the Hollywood entertainment industry. People claim to be Christians who get drunk, who fornicate, who never pray or read their Bibles or participate in a Church ministry or tithe.
4. Forgetting that God shows us in His Word that He deals with a faithful remnant, a very small minority, most people have fallen into the Satanic trap of thinking that most people who claim to be Christians are, that most "churches" really are Churches, that most "preachers" really are preachers. But they are not. Most "Christians" are not saved. Most "churches" are Churches in name only, but bear no resemblance to the Churches of the New Testament era. And most preachers wouldnít know the truth that sets men free because they, themselves, are not saved.
5. As Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 11.14-15, Satan has transformed himself into an angel of light and has transformed his ministers into ministers of righteousness. But because so few people are familiar with Godís Word, because so few people have any real concern for pleasing God and not sinning against the holy One, it continues apace.
6. From time to time, however, a sinner becomes concerned about his soul. When he hears about the wrath of God coming upon the unrighteous it rings as truth in his ears. He knows that something is not right, that all is not well with his soul, that he is not yet prepared to meet his God, that there is a coming day of reckoning when he will have to give an account of himself, and he knows he is not ready for that day.
7. Who can say when such a sinner will walk into this Church? Who can say when a sinner already in this Church will suddenly be troubled in his conscience and become spiritually sensible? Who can say that there are not several of you here today who have that nagging and gnawing suspicion that you are condemned already, and that Hell awaits you with openmouthed hunger?
8. Because of the apostasy that we live in these days, there is no longer any cultural memory of things spiritual, of things Biblical, of things Christian. Used to be, when a sinner was aroused in his soul he knew, to some degree, what to do. He didnít know how he knew what to do, and he didnít know everything necessary to get saved most of the time, but he did know some things, because even if he had never been to Church in his life he had picked up enough snippets of information from the saved people around him that he would know what to do to do his wretched soul some good.
9. But thatís no longer the case in the culture you and I live in. If you are here today and you are not saved you do not know what to do. You have no idea. You are clueless. You are in such spiritual darkness that you have no idea what questions to ask. You are so spiritually ignorant that you think the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a personís life is to make him feel good and not feel bad. But you are wrong. His ministry is to convict you of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come.
10. So you see, your ignorance of even the most basic spiritual truths in the Bible is profound. Not only are you spiritually helpless and completely hopeless, but itís likely that even these truths have escaped you. So, what Iím going to do this morning is to give you some advice. I recognize that advice not asked for is generally advice not taken. But if you want to be saved from your sins and escape the wrath of God in Hell, this is advice you would do very well to heed.
1A. PIECE OF ADVICE #1, LISTEN TO ME
1B. First Corinthians 1.18 and 21: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. . . . For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." I Am A Preacher. I Preach The Gospel. I Am A Rare And Dying Breed. There Are Very Few Of Us Around Anywhere In The World Today. Thatís Too Bad. My First Piece Of Advice Is That You Listen To Me Sunday Morning, And That You Listen To Me Sunday Night, And That You Listen To Me Wednesday Night. Why Should You? Letís Read These Two Verses Again: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. . . . For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
2B. Romans 10.14-17: "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The Way A Sinners Gets Saved Is Through Faith In Christ. But The Way A Sinner Gets Faith In Christ Is By Means Of Preaching. There Are Other Ways, But Preaching The Gospel Is The Primary Way, The Preeminent Way, The Most Pronounced Way. The Old Ones Used To Write Of What They Called The Means Of Grace. They Were Referring To The Means That God Used To Reach Down And Stir The Hearts Of The Lost And Draw Them To Christ. My Friend, Preaching Is A Means Of Grace, And Itís A Self-Destructive Fool Who Misses A Chance To Hear The Gospel Preached.
3B. Acts Chapter 2. Weíll Not Read Simon Peterís Sermon, Because We Donít Have The Time. But Let Me Comment On The Objections Sinners Have To Preaching. "Itís too loud. Itís too personal. It makes me feel bad."
1C. As to being loud. Thatís what preaching is. The Greek word for preaching "khrussw," means to proclaim as a herald. When you arenít energetic and loud you arenít preaching.
2C. As to personal. Peter was very personal in his Pentecostal preaching. Everywhere in the Bible preaching is personal. If it isnít personal it isnít real preaching.
3C. As to making you feel bad. Acts 2.37. They were pricked in their hearts. Acts 5.33. They were cut to the heart. Acts 7.54. They were cut to the heart. And on it goes. Preaching doesnít make good people feel bad. It shows sinners the way they really are, and they donít like it. My advice? Listen to me; tonight, Wednesday night, next Sunday morning. Donít miss a single service.
2A. PIECE OF ADVICE #2, LEARN GODíS WORD
1B. I Urge You To Study Godís Word, Not To Discover The Way Of Salvation, For I Am Convinced That Very Few Will Have Success In That Endeavor, But To Learn About Your Sin, To Learn About Godís Character, And To Learn About Eternal Torment.
2B. Acts 8.30-31: "And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him." The Passage This Man Was Reading Was A Passage Describing The Lord Jesus Christís Saving Work On Behalf Of Sinners. Notice, He Didnít Have Much Success Deciphering Scripture. Thatís Because It Is Generally Godís Plan To Use A Man To Win A Man To The Savior. Thatís What I Do In My Office, Provide Direction To Seeking Sinners.
3B. But On Your Own There Are Things You Must Do. Luke 13.24 Is A Command The Lord Jesus Christ Has Given To Lost People: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Okay, How Do You Strive To Enter In At The Strait, Or The Narrow, Gate? Mark 12.34: "And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." This Said The Savior To An Unsaved Young Man. But Notice That The Young Man, Who Was As Lost As Lost Can Be, Was Told By The Lord Jesus That He Wasnít Far From Salvation. How So? Partly, Because He Was A Student Of Godís Word And Tried Hard To Obey Godís Word. He Knew What God Commanded And What God Demanded And That He Himself Had Fallen Short. You Should Do The Same.
4B. In Addition To Listening To Me, Then, Learn Those Portions Of Godís Of Godís Word That Describe Your Problem. Learn The Sinfulness Of Sin. Learn The Consequences Of Sin. Discover What Scripture Says About The Damage Of Sin And The Seriousness Of Sin. My Friend, Open Up Your Bible And Find Out What The Problem Is And Let Me Show You What The Solution Is. Thatís My Advice To Someone Who Wants To Be Saved.
3A. THIRD PIECE OF ADVICE, LEAVE YOUR SINS
1B. Do We Know That Christ Died For The Ungodly, Romans 5.6? Yes, We Do. Do We Know That Salvation Is Not Of Works, Lest Any Should Boast, Ephesians 2.9? Yes, We Do.
2B. But Let Us Also Know That If You Do Not Get Saved The First Time You Hear The Gospel It Is Good For You To, In Addition To Listening To Me, In Addition To Learning Godís Word, Leave Your Sins. John 6.44 Shows Us That No One Comes To Jesus Except The Father Draws Him. And Sometimes The Drawing Of Sinners To The Savior Is Gradual. So, Should You Become Concerned About Your Sins, Should You Become Aware Of The Condition Of Your Soul, Donít Be So Foolish As To Think You Can Continue In Wickedness Until You Get Saved. You May Not Get Saved. Discard The Marijuana And The Fornication And The Pride And The Bickering And The Pettiness Now.
3B. Will The Discarding Of Sins Stand You In Good Stead With God? Not At All. Everything You Do Will Be Tainted With Sin, Even Your Attempts At Self-Righteousness. But Few Sins On Judgment Day Will Be Better For You Than More. And It May Be That The Discarding Of Your Sinful Practices Is An Evident Token Of The Spiritís Conviction, John 16.8: "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment."
4B. Some Will Object To What I Say By Claiming That If It Doesnít Do Them Any Good To Stop Committing Certain Sins, Why Should They Stop? First, Because All Sin Is Committed Against God. Do You Really Think God Will Be Disposed To Save You While You Recklessly And Arrogantly Continue To Commit The Vilest Of Sins Against Him? Second, Sin is Wrong. It Is Always Wrong To Do Wrong. It Is Always Right To Right. And Although Stopping A Pattern Of Sin Will Not Commend You To God, It Will Not So Much Provoke His Wrath As More Serious Sins Provoke Him.
5B. So, Leave Off The Booze And The Drugs And The Illicit Sex. Go To Church And Read Your Bible And Tithe And Invite Others To Church. Why? Itís Less Sinful For You Than What You Otherwise Would Do. And Should You, In Fact, Not Get Saved, It Will Go Easier For You On Judgment Day To Have Fewer Sins Than To Have More Sins.
4A. LISTEN TO ME. LEARN GODíS WORD. LEAVE YOUR SINS. AND FINALLY, TAKE MY ADVICE AND PLEAD WITH GOD FOR YOUR SOUL
1B. You Know, Some Of You Donít Really Get It. You Play Your Little Religious Games With God, And You Dictate Your Terms To Him, And You Get Into Your Childish Moods And Have Your Silly Spells. You Have Such An Inflated Sense Of Self-Importance That You Must Imagine God Pleading With You To Be Saved, Begging You. As If God Simply Canít Get Along With You.
2B. But You Have It All Wrong. God Meets No Need Of His Whether You Are Saved Or Lost. You See, He Is Self-Sufficient And Sovereign. The Right Attitude Was Displayed By The Poor Publican In Luke 18.13: "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." Understand That This Occurred Prior To Christís Crucifixion And Before The Revelation That Christ Is The Exclusive Approach To God Was Made Known To This Man. But The Lord Jesus Christ Used Him As An Example Of The Right Attitude By A Sinner. Apparently, Having Gone To The Temple And Having Offered His Sacrifice To Atone For His Sins, The Man Is Now Pleading With God To Be Merciful. My Lost Friend, I Suggest That You Start Pleading With God.
3B. From John 9.31 We Are Told That God Heareth Not Sinners. From Isaiah 59.2 We Know That Your Iniquities Have Separated Between You And Your God, That Your Sins Have Hid His Face From You, So That He Will Not Hear When You Cry Out To Him. In Other Words, You, Sir, Have No Standing Or Ground By Which To Approach God. But So Long As You Are Only Mildly Uncomfortable With Your Sin, So Long As You Are Something Short Of Desperate, Youíre Not Going To Be Saved.
4B. You See, Until Youíre Willing To Plead For Your Soul Youíre Not Going To Be Saved. You May Not Even Be Saved Then. But Itís Been My Observation, And Itís Been The Observation Of Others Who Are Concerned About Seeing Sinners Really Saved, That Those Who Plead For Their Souls More Often Get Saved Than Those Who Do Not.
1. Most people whose thinking has been more shaped by this apostate culture we live in than Godís Word think that sin is a bad thing, but not a terrible thing; an unpleasant thing, but not something to grieve and agonize over. And if you just pray a little prayer and ask Jesus into your heart everything will be okay and you will live happily ever after.
2. My friends, that is wrong on all counts. Sin is a terrible thing, a soul damning thing, a wrath deserving thing. And a little prayer is not going to make it go away. Only people who have not listened to Bible preaching, who have not read Godís Word and studied what it says about sin, think thatís any solution at all.
3. As a lost man you are really lost. Totally lost. And you will not be found by yourself. Those who are found to the saving of their souls, generally, listen to Gospel preaching, and listen and listen and listen. Dr. Hymersí mother got saved from because she attended every service at his Church for 23 straight years before she got converted.
4. Those who are found to the saving of their souls are those who know what God says about sin, what God says about damnation, what God says about the lake of fire and Hell, and about how right and proper and appropriate it is for them to go there to be punished for their sins.
5. Those who are found to the saving of their souls are sometimes saved right out of the middle of gross wickedness. But most of the time, especially if the conviction of the Holy Spirit goes on for any length of time at all, you will see sinners leaving their sins behind. Not because they think that will save them, but because they have become sick of their sins, tired of their wickedness, weary of being a soul estranged from God.
6. And then, finally, read the many accounts of conversions in days gone by. With men who were really saved the Bible way. So often there was a heartís cry out to God for relief, for salvation, for mercy, for grace. Not that they expected to get saved any other way than by coming to Jesus, but this was the cry of their soul over the wretchedness of sin.
7. Are you willing to take this matter of sin and salvation seriously? Even as a child, I expect you to take these things seriously. Of what benefit is it for you to come here Sunday after Sunday and store up wrath for the day of judgment if you have no serious interest in being saved from your sins? Do you come here to have fun? This is no place to have fun. Magic Mountain is for fun. Church is not for fun.
8. This is a place for conviction, for concern, for weeping and wailing over sin, for praying for the lost, for listening to the Gospel being preached, and perhaps, for occasionally rejoicing over a hopeful conversion.
9. If you will listen to me, and if you are willing to learn Godís Word, and leave your sins, and value your soul enough to plead to God for its salvation, then step into the conference room after the service and when itís your turn we can discuss guiding you to Christ.