Having just described how he had abandoned all trust and pride in human lineage or achievements (vs1-7) so that he could place all his trust in Jesus Christ and progress in knowing Him better (vs7-11).
Paul then clarifies that he knows that he hasn’t arrived yet. He knows that he hasn’t finished his faith journey but is pressing on to lay hold of all that Jesus laid hold of him for (vs12-16).
Then he says some thing which can sound out of place to the modern ear; “Brothers, join in imitating me” (vs17).
He urges the Philippian believers to imitate him in all that he has just described regarding his personal faith journey.
This is not the only place Paul says things like this;
- Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
- to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (2 Thessalonians 3:9)
- What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)
Paul unashamedly calls people to imitate his followership of Jesus. Essentially he says, imitate me, don’t be like those who ‘walk as enemies of the cross of Christ’ (vs18) who’s god is their desires, who glory in their shameful acts & who’s minds are fixated on earthly temporal things (vs18-19).
There are plenty of examples of people around us who deny the power of the cross. They live as though Jesus never died for them, they live as though Jesus is not the King of kings or that He ought to be loved, worshipped and obeyed.
As a result, such people live to satisfy their own desires and so celebrate whatever feels good to them regardless of how shameful such things might be. Because they deny the truth about God, they can only see the present (vs19b), but in so doing, they fail to see where the path they are on is leafing – destruction (vs19a).
Paul doesn’t want the Philippian believers; God doesn’t want you and I to be like such people. And so we are called to imitate Paul, to imitate his faith and his walk with Jesus.
All around us, people are looking for a sense of identity and belonging. But we who have believed in Jesus can be secure knowing that we belong already, that our identity was secured the moment we believed in Jesus.
We who have believed in Jesus all have dual citizenship. We belong to the country of our birth or our adopted country & we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven (vs20).
This world, therefore, is not our home forever. We are visitors here; we are passing through. However, the best is yet to come. We have incredible hope in Jesus; we have something to live for! We belong to God and His kingdom.
We know that Jesus is coming back and His second coming will usher in a new era. There is a day when God will declare; ‘behold I am making all things new’ (Revelation 21:5) and that bright future is ours as believers in Jesus (vs20-21)
So don’t lose heart. Remember who you are and who’s you are. Remember that this life is just the dress rehearsal for the main event – eternity. Don’t undervalue eternity and in so doing make some monumentally bad decisions because your timeframe was way too short.
Find someone to imitate. We shouldn’t place people on pedestals but we ought to imitate the faith we see in others so that we can learn how to have robust faith and so that we don’t walk alone.
Who are you going to imitate? Why don’t you speak to someone today? Or who are you going to say; ‘imitate me’ to? Who are you going to invest your life and faith journey into? This doesn’t mean you’ve arrived, just that you have made some progress and if you want others to mentor you, you should be willing to mentor others too maybe.