“Which World Are You Living For?” (Philippians 3:18-21 sermon)

Bill Borden was the heir to the Borden milk fortune. When he graduated from Yale, he was offered multiple well-paying positions on boards of directors of major corporations, and he had, materially speaking, everything that a man could want. But instead he gave his money to missions. And he left to go overseas as a missionary, to an unreached Muslim people group, the Kansus, in China.  One the way, he stopped in Egypt to do some language training, and while he was there he caught spinal meningitis. Within a month, Bill Borden was dead. 

Thousands of people in America knew of Bill Borden, and the sacrifice he had made of his fortune to go on mission. And they tell us that when the news of Borden’s passing was made known in America, there was an outcry from the general public, and that outcry was: “What a waste.” What a waste of a life; of what he might have had, as the heir to the Borden fortune, to give it all up and die in a lonely Egyptian desert. “What a waste,” they said.

Was it a waste? I guess it depends on how you look at it. It depends, I would say, on which world you are living for. If all that matters to you is what you own and possess and enjoy in this life, then what Bill Borden did was indeed a waste. It was foolish to throw it all away. But on the other hand, if you’re not just living for this world; if you believe that there is a world to come, a world which will last for an eternity, compared to which the longest life here on earth is but a speck in time, then Borden’s life was not a waste. It all just depends on “which world you are living for.” 

Our passage this morning really divides up into two sections, in which we see two entirely different mindsets represented:

— it shows us that there is one type of person who “sets their minds on earthly things” (the end of :19)

— and then it shows us in :20 that there is a second type of person who says “our citizenship is in heaven.”

The question each one of us needs to consider today is: Which group do YOU belong to? “Which World Are You Living For?” 

I. Are You Living For This World?

At the end of :19 it says those in this group “set their minds on earthly things.” Those are the people who are living for this world: the money, the possessions, and the pleasures of this life. And the Bible describes them in these verses in several ways. It says in :18b and following

“They are enemies of the cross of Christ;” (Next week, Lord willing, we are going to look at that first phrase, “enemies of the cross of Christ”: what does that mean, and several different ways in which we can be “enemies of the cross of Christ.” But after that it describes the person who is living for this world: “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” 

— They set their minds on earthly things, That is the overview; the summary

— their qualities are two, that:

— their god is their appetite, and

— their glory is in their shame

— and consequently, their END, the Bible says, is destruction. 

Let’s look at each of these qualities for just a minute.

First of all we have the summary: “they set their minds on earthly things.”  People who are living for this world have “set their minds on earthly things.” Things dealing with this present world is all they care about. They are not concerned about God, or heaven, or eternity. What happens and what they get in this life is all they care about.  

In Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson he talks about Lady Bird Johnson, who was the perfect wife and hostess for a politician like Johnson. But although she handled it with grace, her life with LBJ was not an easy one — and it started with her own father.  He was described as “A tall … man, loud and coarse,“ he never talked about anything but making money, and he was tireless in its pursuit. He rose at four a.m. to open his stores, and, after a long day behind the counter, returned home at sundown to spend a long evening toting up accounts and checking the dates on IOU’s.”  (Robert A. Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, p. 295) 

Did you catch that: “He never talked about anything but making money.” That is a man who has “set his mind on earthly things,” who is living for this world. 

And there are millions and millions of people who are just like that: living for this world. Their talk is of this world, their thoughts are of this world; their hopes and dreams are all of this world; there is no thought of God, of heaven, of glory, of eternity. They have “set their mind on earthly things.” That’s the summary. And we see their description continued as it says:

A. Whose god is their appetite 

The word “appetite” here is literally “belly” — that’s convicting to some of us, isn’t it? Is our god our belly?  But we need to understand that this NOT just talking about food; it CAN apply to that, but it means you are living for what “feels good” — to your stomach and taste buds, yes, but really it means that you are just being driven by your desires, whatever they are:

— your desire for food

— your desire for sex

— your desire for money and possessions

— your desire for pride and self-attention.

ANY “appetite” that drives you. Whatever feels good to you, that is what you do, when “your god is your appetite.” 

There is a famous saying in the Book of Judges, where it says repeatedly that “There was no king in Israel, every man did what was right in his own eyes.” It describes a chaotic time in Israel when everybody just did whatever they “felt” like doing. “There was no king in Israel;” certainly not God and His word. Everybody just did whatever — whatever they felt like. And it was a time of total chaos, immorality, murder, atrocities, and destruction. They just did what they “felt” like.  “Their god was their belly.” Do whatever you feel like, right now. That is living for this world. 

A lot of us need to ask ourselves today: what drives the decisions that I make in my life? Do I have a King? Do I find out what my King, God, says in His word and do that — is that what drives my life? Or do I just do whatever I “feel” like doing: whatever I want to eat; whatever I want to make me feel good; whatever will make me look good; whatever will increase my bank account or my “bottom line”?  

What is driving your life? If it’s all about the money; if it’s all about the food; if it’s all about the pleasure; if it’s all about the ego; if it’s all about the pride of ownership or the “shopper’s high,” then what this scripture says is true of YOU: your god is your appetite. 

B. whose glory is in their shame

What does that phrase mean, that “their glory is in their shame”? To “glory” in something means to be proud of it. A woman may be said to “glory” in her hair; because she’s so proud of it. A man may “glory” in his power or position; that’s what he’s proud of. Christians are to “glory” in the cross — the cross of Jesus is what we are to be proud of. But the Bible says that people who are living for this world can be identified because “their glory is in their shame.” In other words, they are PROUD of things that by all rights they ought to be ashamed of.

And that’s not difficult to find in our world today, is it? Many people these days just “glory” in their shame; they are proud of things they ought to be ashamed of. For example:

— I’ve seen people (and you have too) who just “boast” on social media about their drunken debaucheries. They’ll post things like, “Yeah, we went out and got wasted, and so-and-so couldn’t walk straight” and on and on with details that are just shameful. Honestly, they ought to be ashamed of these things, but they just GLORY in them instead; it’s like they’re proud of how drunk they got; they’re proud of how immoral or irresponsible they are. That is exactly what this scripture is talking about; they “glory in their shame.”

— We this what we see in the so-called “Gay Pride Parades.” The Bible clearly teaches — both the Old Testament and New Testament — that homosexuality is a sin. It is a perversion; it is a deviation from what God designed us to be. Christian do not hate these people (no matter how many times they try to say that) but anybody who tries to tell you that the Bible teaches anything other than that homosexuality is a sin, either does not know the scripture, or is purposefully distorting what the Bible clearly teaches. NOTHING IN THE SCRIPTURE COULD BE MORE CLEAR, OLD TESTAMENT OR NEW, THAN THAT HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICE IS SIN. That is WHY this is such a big issue. It’s just that if you can’t believe the Bible when it speaks so clearly on this issue, there is NOTHING in the Bible you can believe. If you choose to follow the gay and lesbian agenda, you are choosing to DIS-believe what God’s word clearly teaches. You are choosing to reject God’s word. You can’t “sit on the fence” on this issue. You cannot be a “Bible-believing practitioner of homosexuality.” You just can’t. The Bible is very clear. 

And Ephesians 5:12 says “It is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” It’s shameful; it’s disgraceful, the Bible says.

And yet, many of these “glory in their shame.” They march in open parades, men dressing as women, women as men, in lewd costumes (I’m told that the press keep the most offensive pictures of the parades off the media because it would be so repulsive for people to see) and proudly proclaim their perversion to the whole world. God’s word says it’s disgraceful to even speak about what they do, but instead they GLORY in it. This is exactly what the Bible is talking about here. “They glory in their shame.”

And let’s be clear: this is not just about homosexuality. It applies to ANYBODY who “glories in their shame,” whatever the sin is: whether it is the man who boasts about sleeping with so many different women, or the college student who boasts about getting wasted every night — or the “respectable businessman” who boasts about ripping people off every day — when we glory in the things we should be ashamed of, we are making it clear that we are living for this world.  

And the Bible says there is a cost to it; and an end to it. It says:

C. “Their end is destruction.”

The word “destruction” here is the Bible word “apollumi;” it often means to “destroy” or “waste” something, but it also has the meaning of being “cut off” from what should have been. The Bible uses this word repeatedly to refer to the eternal punishment of those who will be “cut off” from the presence of the glory of God forever:

— In John 17:12 Jesus refers to Judas as “the son of perdition (this word “destruction”), meaning that he is headed to hell.

— Revelation 17 talks about the Beast in the end times who will go to “destruction” — he will be cast into hell.

— II Peter 3:7 speaks of “the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” The word “destruction” there, again, is “apollumi,” and means that they will judged and “cut off” from the glory of God, in hell forever. 

People don’t like to talk about that these days, but there is coming a real day of judgment, in which those who have rejected the cross of Jesus Christ, and who have lived their lives for this world, will be judged, and they will go to “eternal destruction;” that is, they will be “cut off” completely from God and heaven and everything that God designed to make us happy. That is the end for the life that is lived for this world. 

John Newton, the former slave trader, who USED to live for this world, but repented and gave his life to Christ, and wrote the great hymn, “Amazing Grace,” later wrote: “If you live in the world as though you were created only to eat, sleep, and play, and after a course of years to be extinguished like the snuff of a candle, — why, then, you must abide by the consequences.”

And the Bible says “the consequences” is that “their end will be destruction;” cut off from the glory of God, in hell, forever.  

The question is: does this describe YOU in any way? If so then God’s word says you need to “repent,” turn around, make some changes, TODAY! There is a better kind of life to live, not for this world only, but for heaven. 

II. Are You Living For Heaven?

“For our citizenship is in heaven” (:20)

Now I want to make one thing clear right off: when Christians say that “our citizenship is in heaven,” it does NOT mean that we reject all of our earthly citizenship. It doesn’t mean, for example, that we can’t be a citizen of the United States of America, and love our country, and be subject to its laws. In fact, even Paul himself, who wrote this letter, claimed his Roman citizenship. In Acts 22, when Paul had just shared the Gospel, the Jews were making such a fuss about it that the Roman authorities took him to be “interrogated” by flogging/whipping. When they had stretched him out to be whipped, he said to them: “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman?” And the soldiers stopped, and were afraid, because they were about to do this illegally to a man who was a Roman citizen. So Paul was a citizen of Rome, and he CLAIMED and USED that citizenship. So let’s be clear; saying that your citizenship in heaven does NOT mean that you can’t claim or use an earthly citizenship — or that you are not responsible to your government as an earthly citizen. You can proudly be a citizen of a country here, and also be a Christian, whose citizenship is in heaven.  

But we also need to make sure we realize where our ULTIMATE citizenship is. Our ultimate citizenship is NOT here in the United States. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven. And our ultimate allegiance is not to this earthly nation, but to our heavenly citizenship. Why?

A. #1, because our KING is in heaven.

:20 says “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus is our King, and He is in heaven. 

See, this is how we become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven in the first place: by making Jesus Christ our King. Jesus is the Eternal King of the Universe. John 1 says “everything that came into being, came into being by Him.” And you and I are part of what He created, to love and serve Him. But we rebelled against our King — that is what “sin” is; rebellion against the King of Heaven. We said, “We don’t want to follow You as King; we want to do what WE want to do. We want to be our own ‘kings.’ That is the heart of what sin is. Sin manifests itself in a lot of ways, and there are all kinds of sins, but at heart, sin is that in us which says to God: “I reject You as King; I want to be my own king, and go my own way.” And we have all done that.  We should have all instantly been cast away into eternal punishment for our sin. But our King is merciful. Exodus 34 says He is “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness …”. He was merciful to us; He did NOT give us what we deserve, but the King came down to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, and incredibly, DIED on the cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins, so that if we would repent and return to Him, He would receive us back and we could be saved, and become “citizens of heaven” forever!  THAT is how you become a citizen of heaven: you receive Jesus as your Lord & Savior; your King. So for the Christian, our citizenship is in heaven, because our King is in heaven.

2) Our ultimate HOME is in heaven.

Paul says here in :20, “our citizenship is in heaven, FROM WHICH ALSO WE EAGERLY WAIT FOR A SAVIOR”!  As I said, Jesus died on the cross for our sins, but He rose again on the 3rd day, and after appearing to more than 500 witnesses at one time, He ascended to heaven, where He waits God the Father’s command to return to earth. As the old song says, “The King Is Coming”!  And He is coming to get us, to take us HOME to heaven to live with Him forever. As the old song says, “This world is not my home; I’m just a passing through.” Our King is in heaven and He’s coming back to take us to our ultimate home in heaven. 

So our ultimate allegiance should never be to anything in this world, because when our King comes, all the citizenships of this world won’t matter any more; all the riches and treasures and all the things that so many people are just living for here on earth, won’t matter any more. All those who have lived for this world only, who have built their entire lives around piling up possessions, and popularity, and power — who have spent their entire lives for nothing but those things — will lose EVERYTHING they have lived their whole lives for, in a split second of time. Their gold, their power, their popularity, will be gone, and eternally useless. Talk about a “waste.” THAT is a waste. To dedicate your whole life to something that will vanish in a moment of time.

I’ve shared before about one of my favorite books, Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad: Twain’s travelogue of his steamship tour of Europe and the Holy Land in 1867. At one stop, in Milan, Twain went to the visit the tomb of St. Charles Borromeo, the former Bishop of Milan. That visit left a deep impression on Twain. He said right there open to view, was this decaying body, decked out with a costly robe covered with gold embroidery; a blackened skull, on which hung a golden crown thick with diamonds.  Twain wrote:

“How poor, and cheap, and trivial these gewgaws seemed in the face of the the solemnity, the grandeur, the awful majesty of Death?” He wrote:

“Dead Barromeo preached his … sermon, and its (message) was: You that worship the vanities of earth—you that long for honour, worldly wealth, worldly fame—behold their worth!” (Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, pp. 152-153)

A crown of gold decked in diamonds profits a dead man nothing!  In one flash of a moment, either at death, or at the return of Jesus — all those who have lived for this world, will lose everything they have given their lives for.

But when your citizenship is in heaven; when you are living for another world; the moment of death, or the moment of Christ’s return, is the moment you come into your greatest riches.  I Peter 1:4 says we have “an inheritance, imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, reserved in heaven  for (us)”!  We have a rich inheritance waiting for us in heaven with our King.  You & I, as Christians, are like heirs to a great fortune, who have been living for a short time on very humble means — but in one moment; in a flash of time, the Lord Jesus Christ will come for us. We’ll be changed; as I Corinthians 15 says, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” — and we’ll be in GLORY and come into all the riches of our eternal inheritance. 

And Paul especially talks about our bodies here: he says our bodies will be “transformed into conformity with the body of His glory.”  What a blessing that will be. Aren’t our bodies sad sometimes? Our Sunday School lesson a couple of weeks ago was from Ecclesiastes, where it talked about how our bodies age, and some of Bible study teachers asked the question: “What do you dislike most about aging?” We all have our different things, don’t we? One for me, is, it is so hard anymore to get up off the floor! We were over at Stephen & Kim’s house with some folks the other night and I was telling a story about something (I forget what it even was) bit as part of the story, I rolled off the fireplace ledge, where I was sitting, onto the floor to make a point. Cheryl said: “Now’s the hard part, you’ve got to get up off the floor!”  And she was right; it is SO hard to get up off the floor these days! I never used to be that way. And I know some of you are thinking “just you wait, Sonny, it’s gonna get a lot worse than that!” And I know it. These bodies are sad they’re tainted with sin, deteriorating — but one day soon, they will be CHANGED! JESUS, our KING, is coming, and He will change them, and our humble state will become conformed to the body of His glory. We are going to have glorified bodies like He has: we will be more glorious than the most graceful Olympian!  We’re not that way yet, but we will be, the Bible says — IF we are not living for this world, but living for heaven. This is our hope as citizens of heaven.

I know some of us must have had the thought: “My best days are behind me. I used to be able to do this or that, but those days are gone. My best days are behind me.”  The other day I was watching our ACS cross country team running laps out here by the church. I used to run, and I wanted to get out there and run with them, and just sprint with them to the end, but I thought: “Those days are past; I can’t do that any more.” It’s easy to get into that mindset: “My best days are behind me.” But folks, if you are a Christian, your best days are NOT behind you! Yes, these bodies are deteriorating a bit. Yes, there are some things we used to do that we can’t any more. But our citizenship is not of this world; our citizenship is in heaven. Our KING is coming; and He’s coming for us!  And when He does, He will conform our earthy bodies to the body of His glory — and our best days are going to be AHEAD of us — and our best days will continue to be ahead of us FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER — IF we will live for heaven, and not just live for this world.  

John Newton, whom I mentioned earlier, who wrote “Amazing Grace”, and many letters of help to others, wrote to a businessman, a Mr. John Catlett, and he encouraged this man to think of more than just this life. Here’s what he wrote:

“As I said before, I wish you success in your business. I would propose nothing inconsistent with a due regard to it. But can I bound my desires for you within such narrow limits? Allow me to wish you more lasting riches, greater honours, and better pleasures than this world can afford. Alas! What a poor acquisition to be what is usually called a thriving man for a few years, and the to drop unawares into an unknown eternity. How often do we see that when a man has just … made his fortune, and is about to sit down to enjoy all his heart can wish, he is hastily called away! What contrast between living to-day in affluence and pleasure, regardless of that great God who has made us, and to-morrow perhaps to be summoned away to appear, naked and alone, before his tribunal, to give an account what use we have made of the talents so long entrusted to us! I pray God to impress the thought upon your heart before it is too late.”   (Josiah Bull, ed., Letters of John Newton, pp. 31-32)

What John Newton was telling Mr. Catlett was: Listen, I don’t wish you any ill will in your business; he said, I hope you do well with it. But he said don’t live your whole life that for business. Don’t just live for this world, and neglect God, because you will soon be standing before Him. 

And my prayer for YOU today, would be like John Newton’s prayer for that businessman: “I hope that God will impress this thought upon your heart, before it is too late.”  


“Which world are you living for?”

Take just a minute right now and let God’s Spirit search your heart:

—is your god your appetite? Are you ruled by God’s word, or by what you “feel” like doing?

— is there any way in which you are glorying in something you should be ashamed of? 

— do you know if you’re headed for eternal destruction or to an eternal home in heaven?

— Is YOUR King in heaven? Have you ever really made Jesus your King? If not, you need to do it right now …

— And if you say He IS your King, are you obeying Him like a King? Is there any way in your life in which you are NOT obeying His word? Confess that to Him and ask Him to help you obey Him, and not live for your feelings, or for this world. 

— Are you living for heaven? What does your TIME say, what does your MONEY say, what do your thoughts say, about which world you are living for?

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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