This morning we looked at Phil 3:10-21, seeing the need to continue to grow in Christ throughout our lives. This can be done by fixing our eyes on Jesus and also by following the example of those who follow Christ (see also 1 Cor 11:1, Phil 3:17, Eph 5:1, 1 Thess 1:5-6). We all need role models, people who are not perfect (since no one is sinless, as 1 John 1:8-10 reminds us) but who are authentic, whose lives match their beliefs. Eugene Peterson calls this ‘congruence’, saying “The Christian life is the lifelong practice of attending to the details of congruence—congruence between ends and means, congruence between what we do and the way we do it, congruence between what is written in Scripture and our living out what is written, congruence between a ship and its prow, congruence between preaching and living, congruence between the sermon and what is lived in both preacher and congregation, the congruence of the Word made flesh in Jesus with what is lived in our flesh.” – Eugene H. Peterson, ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God’ (New York: Waterbrook, 2017), xviii. The Message version’s translation of Rom 14:23 captures what this means: ‘If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.’
Many of us are quite good at living wildly divided lives, without really thinking about how odd this is! We say we believe God, but the minute an impossible situation crops up in our lives, we collapse internally and start to look for ways we can manage without Him. We say we trust God, but when we face redundancy or unemployment, we panic about how the bills are going to get paid without thinking about His promises to provide for us. We say God is our healer, but when the first ache or pain hits us, we reach out for the painkillers or doctors to help us. Our lives can survive such inconsistencies for many years, but they make life much more stressful than it needs to be and they diminish our witness, because people are ultimately drawn to authenticity and integrity. We need to learn how to move from ‘holey‘ (with holes, sins or imperfections) to ‘wholly’ (entirely given over to God) to ‘holy’ (set apart for God.)
Paul reminds us that we make this progress by realising our citizenship is in heaven, not earth. (Phil 3:20) We have an eternal hope to look forward to, the transformation of our lowly bodies into immortal ones (see also 1 Cor 15:37-40). God is in control and is able to bring everything under His control (Phil 3:21), and therefore we have an eternal hope that will never perish or fade.