Imitate And Observe

September 6th, 2023 – Early Wednesday Evening

“Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” ~Philippians 3:17-19

In briefly reviewing the preceding verses to our passage today, it is easy to see the single-minded focus Paul had cultivated and put into practice: He diligently and relentlessly put knowing Christ as his top priority – over and above even life itself; there was nothing more important to Paul than knowing Jesus, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. Paul didn’t see the race of life as an easy sprint or a walk in the park, either; rather, he knew it to be a difficult, yet joyful, marathon that must be run with persistence and abandon.

In our passage today (and continuing in the next devotional, Lord willing), Paul calls on the Philippian church to join in following (be imitators of) his own example [of pursuing Christ and the upward call of God]. In addition, they were to observe (fix one’s eyes upon, direct one’s attention to) those who were already walking (living) in like manner to Paul and Timothy. Here again the attitude that Paul is espousing is not a casual or leisurely “stroll through the woods”, but an intentional way of life that involves choices and decisions and costs and eternity.

The reality described by the second part of this passage is really quite sad and is even accompanied by Paul’s tears: The only alternative to imitating Paul’s example (of pursuing Christ and the upward call of God) is the way of destruction; the only alternative to a mind set on earthly things is a mind set on Jesus. There is no middle ground and the consequences really are that severe; those who do not join in imitating the example of Paul (and others who are pursuing Christ) are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction. To put it another way, those who do not live the surrendered life [to Christ] are living a life focused on the here and now, which results in eternal misery. This reality is the cause of Paul’s tears.

What about now? What about us? Are we living a life that is following the pattern of Paul, Timothy, and those who are committed through and through to Christ? Are we cultivating a walk that is overflowing with the Spirit of God and His fruit in our lives? Are we giving attention to those who are running the race for the glory of God or are we pursuing the things that gratify the flesh?

Father, help us to walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called!