Living in the Future Tense

focus crossThroughout this blog series, we looked closely at Paul’s joy.

However, in today’s verses, we encounter another side of Paul – his tears.

If you read these verses without paying careful attention to the context, you may think Paul is discouraged or has lost his joy. This is far from the truth!

Paul tells fellow Christ followers how he sheds tears over others because of how some believers live.

Paul is broken over people who misunderstand the Gospel and have chosen to ignore the message of the cross.

Let’s jump right into these verses.


“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
– Philippians 3:17-21


A lot is happening in these five verses, but ultimately, Paul is writing to those in the church about the importance of being focused on the cross and eternity rather than earthly things.

As Warren W. Wiersbe explains, “The spiritual mind makes the believer think more clearly and get things done more efficiently.”

By doing so, Paul maintained his joy no matter who was against him or what circumstances he faced.

For this joy-filled series, we are following along with Warren W. Wiersbe’s outstanding commentary of Philippians, Be Joyful: Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy. We encourage you to pick up your own copy to study this book with us. This week we are focusing on Philippians 3:17-21.

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We Are Citizens of Heaven

In these verses, Paul writes, “Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.”

Wiersbe exhorts, “Christians have a dual citizenship – on earth and in heaven – and our citizenship in heaven ought to make us better people here on earth.”

By accepting Christ as our Savior, our names are recorded in the book of life (Philippians 4:3).

We know our future home is in heaven with our Savior. Thus, we are citizens of earth and heaven, and our behavior should reflect this fact.

We are Careful with Our Speech

Our speech reflects our heart.

Those who mind earthly things speak of earthly things.

Earthly speech is not focused on glorifying the Lord.

Just as our national citizenship is often indicated by our language and dialect, our heavenly citizenship should also be evident in how we speak.

Wiersbe points out, “But speaking heaven’s language not only involves what we say, but also the way we say it. The spiritually minded Christian doesn’t go around quoting Bible verses all day! But he is careful to speak in a manner that glorifies God.”

We Obey the Word of God

Good citizens of a nation follow their nation’s laws. Likewise, as citizens of heaven, the word of God is our guide.

Many people like to have a system of rules to follow; however, they are guided purely by intrinsic motivation.

“[These people] may be zealous in their religious activities and even austere in their disciplines, but there is no evidence of the control of the Spirit of God in their lives (Wiersbe).”

In contrast, believers are guided by thinking externally (of others).

When Paul saw believers focused on the things of this world (including themselves), it caused him great sorrow.

We Focus on the Cross

By focusing on the cross, believers live differently than those around them.

By understanding Jesus’ death on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins, we are free!

Paul struggled because he understood what Jesus did, but the “Judaizers were rebuilding that wall (Wiersbe).” They were focused on earthly things.

Paul wept over these men because without Jesus their “end is destruction (Philippians 3:19).”

We Live in Future Tense

The Judaizers were focused on the past and continuously attempted to get others to return to the Old Testament laws of the past.

Those who follow Christ look to the future and know the law cannot save.

Our future hope in Jesus’ return focuses and motivates us to follow Christ.

“If we are living in the future tense, then we will be exercising the spiritual mind and living for the things that really matter (Wiersbe).”

As we strive to “look at earth from heaven’s point of view (Wiersbe),” we will do a better job of deciding what influences us and how we live our lives.

By putting our faith in our future hope, we will live with this future in mind.

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