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Philippians 3:17-21 | Christlike Examples

Sunday, June 21, 2020 • John Cole • Christian Leadership
The church is called upon to follow, and be, Christlike examples. It is not enough for people to learn doctrine alone. Long before the full cannon of Scripture became accessible for Christians as it is today, Christlike examples testified of Christ through oral teaching and faithful living.
Note: The video of this sermon is unavailable due to audio connection issues in the broadcast.



A pastor was visiting in the home of one of his parishioners. A small boy in the home started reaching for the potatoes before the blessing was said. His mother gently scolded him.

The boy was confused. Why were they at the table, except to eat? As the adults bowed their heads to say grace, the child suddenly caught on. As his father started to pray, the boy shouted, "Hey, Dad! Could I be the one who talks to the plate this time?"
There are times when prayers have so little forethought and passion that those who are offering these prayers could easily be talking to their plates.


Careful what you do . . . our kids are watching!


People need good examples.


ILL—Brandon Burlsworth

One example of a young man with faith and determination and who has become an inspiration for other young men was a young man named Brandon Burlsworth.


Brandon Burlsworth was born September 20th, 1976 in Harrison, Arkansas. He graduated from Harrison High School and was a recruited walk-on football player at the University of Arkansas. His awards and his many accolades are numerous but among them are earning a scholarship the first year. He was awarded the All-SEC offensive guard in 1997 and 1998, all conference honors and named 1st team All-American.


Brandon became the first Arkansas Razorback football player to complete a master's degree before playing his final game. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the draft. Tragically, at the age of 22, 10 days after the draft, he was killed in a car accident on April 28th, 1999 while on his way home from the University of Arkansas to attend church with his mom. In the short time Brandon was on this earth he left a legacy and a positive role model that [continues to be] remembered.


Then, Arkansas Razorback Coach, Houston Nutt started the saying after his death, "Do it the Burls Way". A saying that meant do it the right way, even when no one is looking. There are now honors and scholarships given out in his name for doing it "the Burls way."


Adapted from source:


Stand-out examples can make a great impact on another person's life.


Can you think of any example that had a profound impact on you?


I love good, true stories.  For me, it was often stories of sacrifice for a bigger cause. It could have been someone fighting for freedom or someone sacrificing as a missionary. Stories in the Bible, like the stories of Jospeh, Daniel, Paul, and Jesus, have inspired me since my youth.


These kind of examples helped me live right in my youth.


My parents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors, and pastors gave me great examples to follow.


God reveals for us through Paul's letter the need to follow and be Christlike examples.




Philippians 3:17–21

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.



Here we see the church is called upon to follow, and be, Christlike examples. It is not enough for people to learn doctrine alone. Long before the full cannon of Scripture became accessible for Christians as it is today, Christlike examples testified of Christ through oral teaching and faithful living.


Today, we are blessed with abundant access to Scripture and written commentary.


We need a multiplication of Christlike examples!




Vs. 17—"Be followers . . . and mark (look to) them . . ."


Mark whom? Me (Paul) and those who walk as I walk.


Was this prideful or controlling of Paul? No, Paul had already defined his "one thing" purpose was Christ and becoming like Him. Paul is saying to follow him toward that same end.


Paul is offering to help them follow and imitate Christ while running the same race.


In a world full of confusion and bad examples, we need good examples to imitate. We must be careful whom we follow.


Godly  Examples (vs. 17)


This encouragement to follow godly examples builds on the previous examples already described in this letter.


  • Christ's Humility (2:5-11)
  • Timothy's Selfless Mission (2:19-24)
  • Epaphroditus' Honorable Service (2:25-30)
  • Paul's Pursuit of Christ and Christlikeness (3:4-14)
  • Other Christians—"Them" (3:17)


Why is it so important to have godly examples? Can't we just read Scripture, pray, and follow Christ on our own?


Walking in the Spirit within the world demands discernment and obedience. Examples of discerning obedience are to be found within the church to help one another see how to follow Christ within our daily decisions.


Outside the church, and too often in the church, there are bad examples trying to get us to follow them.


Ungodly  Examples (vs. 18-19)


Vs. 18a—"For many walk,"


This is usually the majority—numerous professors


Their "walk" can be tricky. That is the same word often used in the NT when describing Christian behavior and conduct. It seems this group repeatedly found their way into influence in the church. They may have profess to be Christians.


I believe this group was a different group from the Judaizers. The warnings of them were related to ungodly behavior and thinking, not false doctrine. While there can be parallels drawn to these behaviors, this "many" seems to be more like those warned about in 1 John.


Vs. 18b— "of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping,"


There were a reason for frequent warning and sorrow.


They are very persistent. (Ill—Lot in Sodom). The persistence of the ungodly should convict the godly. Christians, are we as relentless about our faith in Christ as those who live in opposition to it?


Paul wept over their way of living and how they seemed to influence Christians. Does ungodly living ever make us weep? Consider Nehemiah.


Nehemiah 1:1–9

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

5 And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.

7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.


What was so bad about the "walk" of these people?


Vs. 18c— "they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:"


The were enemies of Christ. Their lifestyle opposed everything about Christ—His Person, teachings, people, and kingdom.


It is impossible to be benign toward the cause of Christ. We are either enemies or followers of Christ. We either live for His kingdom or Satan's. We either stand for truth, justice, holiness, righteousness, or we are enemies of them. We are unable to just "sit out" of this battle.


They were enemies of the cross of Christ. Not only were these people enemies of Christ, but they were enemies of Christ's central message and purpose of coming to us—the Gospel. The Gospel always becomes the target. It is offensive. Exclusive. Judging. Righteous.


Vs. 19a— "Whose end is destruction,"


This is why Satan and unbelievers oppose the cross of Christ. It judges them. We already know the end of all who oppose Christ.


While we should be prudent peace-makers, we should not fear enemies of Christ. Christ has already won and declared the victory. We overcome with Him by faith.


Vs. 19b— "whose God is their belly,"


Appetite rules this group being described. Literally, their god is their stomach. They don't listen to truth of God. The follow their feelings, wants, and appetites. If it looks and feels good, it must be right for you.


Christian liberty does not permit such sensual and immoral living. Rather, it enables us to live above it! We do so not by law but by grace.


God's people ought to be disciplined in living out Christlikeness. We are called to purity, holiness, righteousness, and goodness. We are not called to claim Christ with our mouth and deny Him with our lives!


Do you ever allow your appetites to have more rule over you than God? We need a revival of disciplined Christians who are motivated by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit to live holy.


Vs. 19c— "and whose glory is in their shame,"


This is all too common—we honor shameful living when we don't want to stop it. You may ask, "Why does the world seem to encourage dysfunctional, dishonoring, and disobedient living?" We give recognition to those things from which we do not want to give repentance. It's called self-justification.


Because sinners glory in shame, sinners perpetuate shame. A mother and/or father who are unwilling to repent and confess sin choose instead to justify it before their children. Then what happens? Children often repeat the behavior. This becomes a shame that passes through generations until someone repents.


It is painful to confess when we are wrong, but it is much less painful than generational shame. For the sake of those who follow us, we need to turn from shameful living today. Don't wait!


If you and I were honest to God and ourselves, would we have any shameful behavior from which we need to repent? This is an important question for us all to ask. We do it for all sort of other things. . . .


ILL—Grooming and Hygiene. We don't reject bathing and try to convince everyone that body odor is the new trend!


Vs. 19d— "who mind earthly things."


This contrasts the proper mindset we see in the next verse and that Paul taught in the previous verses.


An earthly mindset is one that disregards accountability to God and eternal judgement. It lives to build a "Babel" on Earth. For a more in-depth look at what it means to mind earthly things, I invite you to watch and read our teaching through Ecclesiastes. It is all on our website and Facebook page.


We are to be examples and to follow examples of those who mind Heavenly things. Especially our young people need to see joy-filled Christians who live for God's kingdom.


Be  Examples


The best thing you and I can do for this church and community is BE an example. It is not enough to practice religion. It is not enough to watch services online and gather as a church. We must BE the church!


There is always someone watching. Unlike with social media fans, they are often watching years before you know.


No one can be a benign church member either. People gravitate to poor examples because we like to find justifications (glorying) for our shame.


God calls us to live different in this world.




Vs. 20— "For our conversation is in heaven;"


As Philippi was a colony of Rome away from Rome, each local church is a colony of Heaven away from Heaven. Our citizenship in God's kingdom should be obvious.


This does not suggest we need to oppose every fashion and trend and isolate ourselves. Nor does it mean we ought to make it our goal to be odd.


At the same time, we must remember that living as a citizen of Heaven on Earth will be strange to those who deny Christ. We don't have to try; it will happen.


Our heavenly citizenship is also so much bigger than the perspective we gain in our Earthly citizenship. That also means we ought to be the greatest examples on Earth of what it means to love through all ethnic, economic, language, and cultural differences.


Colossians 3:8–15

8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.


The divisive methods of how our world and Earthly citizenship deals with differences and disagreements should not be the example we follow in the church.  As we just read and as has been stated over and over in this letter to the Philippians, let us strive for unity in Christ.


Just because others are wrathful right now in our country doesn't mean we have to be. We should steward our earthly citizenship and promote godliness and justice within it, but we should not follow the example of the wrathful world while we do it. Around the world, God calls followers of Christ and churches to be examples of His kingdom.


Citizens of Heaven are bonded together with love in Christ. May we be examples of Christlikeness.


As examples, we must remember to always point to the One real Example—Jesus.



Dad was tired of hearing his son complain about what his friends had and he did not have. Dad had an idea: set a higher standard for his son. The next time his son began his complaining, the father stopped him: "Is this what Jesus would do? Would Jesus complain about the clothes he had and want to wear the same thing your friends are wearing? Is it so important that you wear just what your friends are wearing? Why can't you be more like Jesus?"
The son waited for his father to catch his breath and then interrupted, "All right, Dad, I give up; just tell me what Jesus is wearing, and I'll wear it too!"


In a more serious and truthful way, that ought to be our mindset: "Just tell me what Jesus is doing, and I will do it too!"


 LOOK   FOR  ONE LORD (vs. 20b-21)


Philippians 3:20–21

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.


Jesus is the Savior.


Jesus is the Lord and Christ.


We live now in the likeness of Jesus' death.


We will live in the likeness of Jesus' resurrection.


As followers and examples within Christ's Kingdom, may we always point to and look for Christ.


Examples are only that—examples.


Churches on Earth are not the end, and they are not perfect so long as we still struggle with sin.


Examples in church are not the end.


The End to Whom we look is only Jesus.


Because of Christ, let us BE godly examples, and let us follow godly examples.


Because of Christ, let us BE godly examples, and let us follow godly examples.

1. Participate with your ichurch

2. Live out the biblical teaching during the week

3. Find an example for you to follow

4. Be an example for others to follow

5. Always lift up Christ


This evening, you are invited to join us in teaching and discussion surrounding this same topic. We will look at Titus 2:11-15, which is an extra I left out of this sermon today.


We are developing Christlike examples within our church by God's grace.


This starters with salvation. We cannot manufacture Christlikeness. It starts with an inward response to Christ's example. Repent from all other examples and ways of living and follow Christ in faith.


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