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3-13-22 “On Earth as it is In Heaven”

“On Earth as it is In Heaven” (Philippians 3:17-4:1)

David Peterson / General

Kingdom of God/Cross / Philippians 3:17–4:1

Sermon type: Textual-Topical

Proposition: Christianity is a way of being/living that can be imitated. This way of being can be summarized as the way of the cross–a way that shapes our view of God, self, and others.

Introduction

1. A Coke in Germany (Distinctive cultures)

2. Philippi, distinctive Roman Colony in a foreign land (Macedonia)

Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters (Citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:17–4:1))

Of course, many colonists and colonial administrators in days gone by had the best of motives. They aimed to bring healthcare and the benefits of modern technology, not to mention cultural and even spiritual blessings, to those in desperate need of them. But often what the local people saw was their land being taken by force and their own ancient culture scorned and squashed. That’s what many people today think of when they think of ‘colonies’.Philippi was a Roman colony, and it’s likely that many of the local people in that area of northern Greece saw Rome and the colonial administration in much the way I have described. What had happened was this. In 42 BC, about a hundred years before Paul came to the area, Philippi was the setting for one of the great battles in the Roman civil war that had broken out after the death of Julius Caesar. The two victorious generals, Antony and Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus), had found themselves with a lot of soldiers in northern Greece with nothing more to do. They certainly didn’t want to bring them all back to Rome, or even to Italy. It would be dangerous to have thousands of soldiers suddenly arriving in the capital. So they gave them land in and around Philippi, making it a colony of Rome.

3. Jurgen Habermas on Western distinctives

“For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.”

― Jürgen Habermas – “Time of Transitions”, Polity Press, 2006, pp. 150-151, translation of an interview from 1999

I. The Cross Defines Who God Is (Philippians 3:20 “Lord” Philippians 2)

A Historian Examines the Shame of the Cross

History Today magazine took a close look at the shame of Roman crucifixion. The author recognized its reputation: “It was death deserved by the most unworthy of all unworthies; it was death with grim humiliation, ignominy and abasement.”

Other religions had previously believed in a dying god. The Greek god Dionysos and the Egyptian god Osiris experienced violent deaths, but their deaths were quick and completely free from shame. “Christ’s death by crucifixion was by contrast deeply perplexing. Let the Son of God deign to assume a mantle of humanity. But why go to dregs? Why stoop to the deserts of a rogue slave beneath humanity?”

The new theology of a god’s voluntary humiliation was completely alien to Roman thought. One religious group, called the Gnostics, rejected the shame of the cross and believed Jesus only appeared to be crucified.

Today and throughout history, many are unwilling to accept a God who, out of pure love, endured such shame.

Source: Nigel Spivey, “Christ and the Art of Agony,”History Today (August 1999), pp. 16-23

II. The Cross Defines Who We Are

My Favorite Illustrations (Better than My Best)

While I was in seminary Dr. George W. Truett preached on campus for one week. One day his sermon was on grace. I will never forget one statement he made. “I could not trust my hope of heaven on the best second I ever lived!” I thought, “If he has to say that, what about me?” What about all of us!

Timothy Keller

Even our repentance needs to be repented of. Our heart motivations are never pure.

The deeper the realization that I do nothing with entirely pure, unselfish motives, the more amazing grace becomes. You will feel God’s love understanding his grace, and you will get this grace, to the degree you realize your sin.

III. The Cross Defines How We View Others

My Favorite Illustrations (A View of Grace)

We may see a person as an alcoholic, a bum, and a human wreck destroyed by sin. God sees not only what we are but what we may become by His forgiving grace.

Conclusion

Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters (Citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:17–4:1)

But supposing things got difficult for the Roman colonists in Philippi. Supposing there was a local rebellion, or an attack by the ‘barbarian’ tribes to the north. How would they cope? Their best hope would be that the emperor himself, who after all was called ‘saviour’, ‘rescuer’, would come from Rome to Philippi to change their present somewhat defenceless situation, defeat their enemies, and establish them as firmly and gloriously as Rome itself. The emperor, of course, was the ruler of the whole world, so he had the power to make all this happen under his authority.That is the picture Paul has in mind in verses 20 and 21. The church is at present a colony of heaven, with the responsibility (as we say in the Lord’s Prayer) for bringing the life and rule of heaven to bear on earth. We are not, of course, very good at doing this; we often find ourselves weak and helpless, and our physical bodies themselves are growing old and tired, decaying and ready to die. But our hope is that the true saviour, the true Lord, King Jesus himself will come from heaven and change all that. He is going to transform the entire world so that it is full of his glory, full of the life and power of heaven. And, as part of that, he is going to transform our bodies so that they are like his glorious body, the body which was itself transformed after his cruel death so that it became wonderfully alive again with a life that death and decay could never touch again.

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