Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. (Philippians 3:17)
We are influenced by our peers. I am a Bible preacher. I love to take a text, expound it—often preaching through books of the Bible. That is what my mentors did. It was how I was taught. Sometimes we refer to peer pressure in a negative way because the influences are not good role models. We have seen many a young life go off the rails from imitating those given to iniquity. Paul is talking about the power of influence in Philippians 3:17-21.
There are those—Paul and others—who have established a pattern for us to follow (v.17). They are pioneers of the faith who have blazed the trail for us through the wilderness of this world. We need heroes—I mean real heroes—not like most of what we see today. The world’s heroes are often promiscuous and profane. Role models exert a strong pressure that helps shape our thinking and lifestyle. If Hollywood stars and not holy saints have a greater influence, then we will not resist the cultural current of our day, but go with the flow. The Apostle Paul, however, now there’s a hero! Other than Jesus whom I worship—and is far more than any man—this is the greatest man to have ever set foot on this planet. Others have done similarly. We are told to “note” them—to study and scrutinize their lives. How? Through Bible study, reading Christian biography, and being in fellowship with mature Christians in the church.
Having an eye on eternity is the driving force behind those who set an example for us and how we can become that kind of model for others (v.20-21). We are to behave as those under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, living according to its laws. The Philippians would have grasped this for their city was a Roman colony which meant that they were governed by Roman law although living in Greece. They were to extend Roman influence through those about them. We make a difference by being different. As you walk in this sinful world are you behaving as a citizen of the heavenly realm?
There are those who would lead us astray (v.18-19). These have chosen to walk according to the course of this world. They are not overt in their opposition from outside the church, but those who subvert inside the church. Old Vance Havner used to say, “The church has never been so threatened by woodpeckers on the outside as termites on the inside.” These walk into church like saints on Sunday and then walk into the world like Satan on Monday. They are not enemies of the cross because they contradict the Gospel in doctrine but they compromise the Gospel in deed (v.19). They worship sensual appetites and serve them. The way to kill such ungodly passions is to starve them. We feed them by the movies we watch, the magazines we read, and the music we listen to. C.S. Lewis, “Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get neither.” Such boast of what they should be ashamed of! They call it liberty but it is licentiousness! Their creed is tolerance. They advertise how open-minded they are. Follow that path and you are on the highway to hell.
What kinds of examples are you following and what kind are you setting?