A Call to Celebration
Grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
Session Ten
  • Find out the names of the places where the people in your group have lived for a year or more.
  • If you like, play the game where one person is sent out of the room, then the rest decide on a leader whose actions they are going to imitate. When the person comes back into the room everyone copies the actions of the leader. The task is for that person to discover who it is that the rest are imitating.
  • In what ways was Jesus in his resurrection appearances different from Jesus before his death? You might like to look up Luke 24:15-16; Luke 24:36-40; John 20:14 and 17; John 20:19.
  • Pass the peace in the group, but before you do discuss an alternative to saying, “The peace of the Lord be with you.” Then use the agreed new wording.
  • Read Philippians 3: 17 – 21 and the accompanying comment.

Philippians 3: 17-21

v. 17 : Each person is unique, but even the most ingenious and original among us do a tremendous amount of copying. In childhood we learn by imitating others – e.g.: parents, teachers, heroes and other children. As we grow we are moulded by peer-group pressure, we follow the example of people we admire, we ape celebrities. We learn from others. We have our role models. We may choose to go to classes where we can learn from acknowledged experts in their field, but much copying is subconscious and involuntary.Our attitudes are shaped, to some extent, by the people with whom we associate. That is one reason we need Christian fellowship. As we associate with others through work, play-group, sporting teams, community associations, etc, our attitudes are moulded by the people in them. A Christian needs to associate with other Christians to be exposed to their influence. Hence the importance of small groups of people meeting to talk about their faith, to talk to God together and to care for one another in the spirit of Jesus.Paul put himself and others who shared his faith and outlook forward as role models. In doing this he challenges us to give attention to the example we set for others. We are role-models whether we like it or not. Others will copy us in some respect or other. We cannot be held accountable for the actions of other people, but we should not be careless about the example we set them.

v. 18 : As Paul said, many people live as enemies of Christ’s cross. He was not thinking of non-Christians when he wrote this but rather of people in the church. Christians living as enemies of Christ’s death on the cross! Can you imagine it? Unfortunately it’s not such a rare event. Church members do, all too often, let the gratification of physical desire drive them rather than the Spirit of Christ. They even pride themselves sometimes on things for which they ought to be ashamed.In his dying on the cross, Jesus demonstrated God’s way of humility and sacrifice and in doing so set before his followers the way they should live. But this is a hard message. We don’t like it. We would much rather a message which says that we can have all we want by way of pleasure, money and power, and also have eternal salvation. However it doesn’t work that way. The way of Christ, because it is the way of love, is the way of humility and sacrifice. To let worldly desires dominate is to place ourselves in opposition to the way of Christ.

v.19-21: If selfish desires rule our lives, our destiny is destruction. It’s a dead end street. We end up on the rubbish tip of life which is often called hell. But as citizens of heaven, participants in the reign of God, we have something exciting to look forward to – life with Christ. What a contrast – life or destruction! How come we find it so hard to choose?Christians live between the times, between the time of Christ’s life, death and resurrection and his coming again. This Second Coming represents the fulfilment of all that he started during his earthly life. Christians look forward to this fulfilment and to living the resurrection life which Jesus demonstrated when he appeared to his disciples after his crucifixion.There any many funny ideas about heaven around, but biblically it is another name for God’s realm, the realm where God’s will and purpose is fully accomplished. Through the impact of the Holy Spirit on our lives we can taste a bit of it in this life, but it is beyond this life that we expect to enter into it fully and completely. Through Christ we are made citizens of heaven now and we are called to live by its standards day by day, but it is from this realm that Christ will come to complete his work. It is in this realm that we shall share with him in living resurrection life. He will do this with us individually in the same way that he will bring all things under his full and absolute control.

For discussion:

1. Role-models in the faith.  (a) Comment on the statement that we are role-models whether we like it or not. How does it make you feel?  (b) Who have been your role models in the faith?

2. Enemies of the cross of Christ. (a) The conduct of some church members drove Paul to tears. What makes you sad about the Church or its members?(b) Christians can undermine the work of Christ. How?

3. Heaven and hell (a) This passage makes reference to heaven and to hell. How significant to you is the idea of heaven and hell? (b) Many of the popular ideas of heaven conflict with the biblical understanding. What are some of these?

4. Always looking forward. (a) How significant to your faith is the idea of the Second Coming of Christ ?  (b) Paul based his belief in life after death on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. On what do you base your belief?

  • Pray for each of the small groups operating in your church.
  • Pray for your denominational leaders and councils.