The Second Sunday in Lent February 17, 2008
Jeremiah 26:8-15; Luke 13:31-35
151(1-4), 419, 421, 181
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 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: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. Therefore, my beloved and longed‑for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
In the name of Jesus who is our Path and Prize, dear fellow-redeemed:
Several years ago my wife and I were attending a friend’s wedding in the Milwaukee area. After the rehearsal at Hales Corners we were supposed to go to Waukesha for the rehearsal dinner. Several cars were going so we simply followed the group onto the interstate. It was night, and soon enough it was difficult to distinguish one set of taillights from the other. I saw a number of cars take an exit and dutifully followed. As we were following this group of about a half-dozen cars, one turned off. A little further on, another and another. The first one didn’t bother me but after about four I knew I was on the wrong road. By this time we were in middle of nowhere. I pulled over to turn around, head back to the interstate, and then to the church if I could find it. I noticed though, that as I pulled over to the side of the road about four other cars also pulled over. A number of other people had wrongly assumed that I knew how to get to the restaurant.
Such is the way that, rightly or wrongly, we follow examples and influence one other in this life. Such is the way that, rightly or wrongly, we strike out on a path. Such is the way that we find out the hard way that the example, path, and destination are all tightly intertwined. Today may the Holy Spirit lead us to this realization and keep us on the right path. I. We influence and are influenced by example, II. Everyone has one of two destinations, and III. Remembering your destination helps you recall the path and set a pattern
In my opinion this is a bold statement made by the apostle Paul at the beginning of our text, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” [v.17] I cannot think of a time that I have said from the pulpit, “Follow my example.” Nor do I think I have ever said this to a member privately. Yet, at the same time, every Christian does well to set a pattern and give an example of Christ in action.
When you think about it, what the apostle was saying was not egotistical or prideful. Was he supposed to say what we are so fond of saying and living, namely, “Do as I say, not as I do.” That’s about worthless. What we do speaks volumes over what we say.
It is also true that there are all sorts of patterns and examples available to follow. The Philippians as new Christians had plenty of pagan influences around them. Even we as not so new Christians have examples of the world in person and then in our cars and living rooms via radio, television, and the internet. How much better for us to find a God-pleasing example. Nobody replaces Christ, obviously, but there are times when we struggle with how to put Scriptural principles into daily applications.
Whether you know it or not, you are influenced by those around you. Whether you like it or not, you are a role model and an example of Christianity. Just as you reflect your family name for better or worse every day, and as you reflect the school you attend, and the congregation to which you belong, so also people learn about Christ through you. Your actions reflect your Savior. There is a world of opportunity to promote what Christ Himself promotes.
Consider the alternative that is always available, namely, the pattern of the enemies of the cross of Christ: “…whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their mind on earthly things.” [v.19]
If your god is your belly that does not only mean that you are a glutton, but also that you are driven and controlled by your base desires. Your body controls you rather than you controlling your body. If a person’s glory is his shame that person looks back with a nostalgic fondness rather than with remorse about sins against his holy God. If a person’s mind is set on earthly things he is always concerned with the present, and pre-occupied with the things of men rather than the things of God. Note that this is the pattern of behavior for enemies of the cross of Christ.
Yet how often is that the example we give? How often do we make our fleshly desires our top priority, or slyly chuckle at our misdeeds of the past, or become pre-occupied with earthly things? This is not the path of Christ. It is the path of those “whose end is destruction” [v.19]
There are only two ends—two destinations—that exist: destruction and glory. There is no place in between, just as there is no middle ground on this earth. You are either for or against Christ both in time and for eternity. The end result when you reject the Lord is eternal destruction and death in Hell.
If only this thought would be foremost in everybody’s mind. Our behavior in the present reflects the future with so many other things. For example, if you know that nachos give you heartburn and will keep you awake through the night, you most certainly avoid them as a late night snack. If you’re allergic to cats you’re not going to cuddle up with one as you read a book. The future directs our present.
How terribly sad it is that such concerns are taken for the body but not for the soul! The Lord Jesus felt this sadness in our second Scripture reading as He looked upon Jerusalem and said, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” [v.34] In our text Paul speaks of the enemies of the cross of Christ and says, “I .. now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ.” [v.18] There are many tragedies and brutalities on this earth but nothing holds a candle to someone losing his faith or rejecting the Gospel message from the outset. That is not a fate that we would wish even on our worst enemy.
But what joy there is to consider the destination of one whose hope is in Christ. The believer’s body will be transformed into a glorious body. We may say with Paul, “Our citizenship is in Heaven!” [v.20] We’re just visiting this earth. We’re pilgrims and strangers here. Heaven is our home. Don’t worry about getting attached to it. This world—even your body—is merely temporary housing.
What a blessing to consider the great lengths that Jesus went to obtain that citizenship for us! Thousands upon thousands of people wish to come to America, but it’s somewhat of an exclusive arrangement to legally become a citizen—even more so to become a citizen of heaven. This was something that Jesus procured for us with His own life. He was willing and able to become the ultimate sacrifice on the cross thereby clearing the way for us to go to Heaven by giving us His own righteousness in exchange for our sin. He was stricken, smitten, and afflicted and we are the recipients of no affliction, but rather the great gift of forgiveness and life everlasting. As a citizen of Heaven your paperwork isn’t going to get lost. Your passport will not be rejected. Even now God knows you as a citizen waiting to come home.
As a citizen of Heaven keep in mind this intertwining of your destination and your path and your pattern. The walk of the enemies of the cross of Christ leads to destruction. It goes directly opposite and directly contrary to everything that Jesus stands for. You are walking away from Him and Heaven when your god is your belly, your glory is in your shame, and your mind is set on earthly things. It would be as if you said you were going east and started driving west.
For your own sake and by the power of the Spirit through the Gospel, “Stand fast in the Lord.” [v.1] Realize that your soul is at stake and cling to your Savior and His Word. Walk in your Savior’s footsteps as a citizen of Heaven. This should be of utmost importance to us so that we are not careless with our salvation but value it as the treasure that it is.
For the sake of those around you set a pattern of godly living. There is not one of us that lives in a vacuum. Everything that we do and say is going to affect those around us either positively or negatively. Just as I inadvertently followed those on the wrong road in Waukesha and then had others follow me, you and I are going to lead people whether we know it or not.
In this vein I now implore you to value the souls of your fellow Christians We have members here who have not been in church or communed for years. It’s a crisis that I as your pastor am working on and that the elders will be addressing as well, but more need to be involved for the sake of those who are straying. People are walking off the path with no one reaching out to stop them.
Things will not get better without an effort. If you know of somebody who needs spiritual help go to that person. Call him. Stop in to see him. Try to get to the root of the problem and do not hesitate. I implore everyone to get involved, not so our attendance figures go up, or things look better, but because souls are at stake. Make yourself the pattern and the example of Christian love and concern. If you don’t do it, who will?
A person’s pattern, path, and destination are intertwined. Let us then as citizens of Heaven walk as such and stand fast in the Lord, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
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