The apostle Paul traveled constantly after his calling by Christ Jesus, making disciples from Jerusalem to Rome. Paul also wrote letters to the congregations he had begun. Philippians is one of his best, teaching new Christians to pray, preach, teach and live. Paul makes the risky claim that members of the congregation should imitate him, knowing that he is not perfect, but also that righteousness is solely from God.
Do you remember the old question, "What are you giving up for Lent?" We thought we were supposed to deprive ourselves and please God by suffering. Why not instead give up the bad things we say or think or do? Gordon Lathrop, professor emeritus at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, has suggested that we really should call Lent a "joyful fast." Isn't that what Paul is urging the Philippians to do in these verses?
Dear Lord, help us give up sadness, meanness, envy, hatred, cynicism, cowardice, false witness and the like, so that this Lent may be a joyful fast. Amen.
Philippians 3:17-4:1 (NRSV)
17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.
18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears.
19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.