The ‘but’, at the beginning of these verses, contrasts two radically different kinds of people – those who follow the Apostle’s teaching and lifestyle with many people who are ‘enemies of the cross’, whose ‘destiny is destruction’, whose ‘god is their physical appetites’, who delight in what is really shameful because ‘their mind is on earthly things’ (Philippians 3:17-19). It may be that the church in Philippi contained both cross-lovers and cross-haters, or that true believers were suffering the slander and insults of Jesus-hating Jews (Philippians 3:1-3), or that the attacks were from both inside and outside of the church (Philippians 1:29).
Paul is challenging all who claim to follow Jesus to set their eyes on the things that please God and resist the pressure to go back to worldly ways. Christians are only temporary residents on earth because they have already been accepted as citizens of heaven. In comparison with eternity, our lifespan is pitifully short, so believers in Jesus ought to be focussing on Him (Hebrews 12:2). Because we are citizens of God's heavenly kingdom (www.crosscheck.org.uk), we should be investing in what Jesus will reward when He returns (Matthew 6:19-21).
In contrast with the world-lings around us who have no option but to set their minds on earthly things, and invent unreliable solutions to the world's corruption, we expect Jesus Christ to reveal Himself and exercise Kingly control one day. The first transformation He will make is to give us new bodies, like that of Jesus after His resurrection. Even those who have been long dead will be given physical bodies with which to rise (like Jesus did at the ascension), so that they can meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Those who are still alive when He comes will join those who have 'fallen asleep in Christ' (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). On that day, the shackles which hold our sinful minds and bodies to the pain and shame of this world, will be snapped. The power of God will liberate the church first; and then the whole creation (Romans 8:18-23).
If that is true, and it certainly is, what sort of people should we be (2 Peter 3:11-12). A heavenly perspective will also transform our daily ambitions as we live in the 'transit lounge' of earth. No longer will we need to keep proving how great we are at work, because we will want to proclaim the greatness of our Saviour. Our appetite for self-glory will diminish as we anticipate the privilege of sharing His glory. The proud, pushy assertion and the subtler manipulation which spoil personal and business relationships, serves no eternal purpose and must be discarded. Not only will Jesus be pleased, but your colleagues will be very grateful for a little taste of heaven as you start to live as though you are going there!
© Dr Paul Adams