A Step Into the Wilderness

Philippians 3:17-4:1 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.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.Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.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.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.

Paul is writing this letter from prison. Even though Paul is in prison, he explains that he has good reason to be joyful. At the beginning of the letter, we get the crux of theme of the letter in chapter 1 verse 21: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Death is a very real possibility for Paul as he writes these words. 

What sounds like the epitome of vanity from Paul when he says, “Follow after me as I follows after Christ,” is actually confidence in the transformation that has taken place in his life because of Christ. Example used there is typos in the Greek, which means a blow that leaves a mark, so instead of example, impression might be the better translation just like leaving a mark or an imprint in wet cement or clay.

Emmanuel made an impression on me the minute I walked through the doors. I knew that there was something special here and that it was not going to be just another pulpit supply gig. I knew that I was called to be your pastor and hoped and prayed that the pastor search committee would see I was called to be your pastor as well.

When you called me to be your pastor, you asked me help you find a vision and we found it together. You asked me to help develop partnerships and we did that together securing both corporate and nonprofit partnerships. You asked me to help reconnect you to CBF SC and CBF global. We did that and learned through a generous grant that CBF SC was invested in Emmanuel’s success even more than we might have thought.

My call to Emmanuel was to help you see yourselves and the assets you have as God does. My call was to help you stand taller and straighter and more confident that God can use anyone who is willing to serve. Can I say confidently you should follow after me because this transformation has taken place?

I can’t unless I continue to follow after Christ, which means it’s time for me to move on. My call to you, Emmanuel is completed. I wouldn’t be a good example of following after Christ if I stayed here beyond what God called me to do. This does not mean your story is completed. This means that there is someone else to lead you in what comes next.
Oh this following after Christ thing is difficult. It means leaving people who have supported you and affirmed you. It means leaving people who have ordained you and set you apart as a minister of Christ. It means leaving people who have loved your family deeply. It means denying yourself, your wants, your desires and taking up your cross daily. It means you know what you must do and what you must do is difficult and complicated.

It’s means taking a step into the wilderness.