In the first place, we need to understand that growing in heavenly-mindedness and the pursuit of Christ happens by learning in community. In verse 17 Paul writes, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example.” The growth in heavenly-mindedness does not happen in isolation. Growth in grace rarely, or never, happens in isolation. Rather, growth in heavenly-mindedness happens by learning from the examples of other godly saints. This does not mean that our faith is grounded upon the lives of others. God forbid! There is an inherent danger in following the lives of other saints as examples. Many have run aground the ship of their lives on this point, holding forth others as the only example they must follow in order to attain the standards of God’s righteousness. But in spite of this inherent danger, Paul is clear that the examples of other saints as they pursue Christ are a great encouragement in promoting heavenly-mindedness, and so we shouldn’t ignore the examples of other saints simply because some of them have abused this point of the Christian life. Didn’t Paul urge this in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”? Paul qualifies it by showing that Christ is the prototype, the primary example whom we are to follow. As Christ becomes imprinted in the lives of other believers, we have a great source of encouragement in the example of the lives of the saints in our own local congregations. In the growth of heavenly-mindedness we are urged to find and follow other examples of godly men and women, both from the past and in the present, who will prompt us in the growth of this orientation to heavenly things and Christ for application in the present. Philippians 3:17 says, “Mark them which walk so.” In other words, we are to scope out the Christian community, to take out our binoculars, as it were, and look within our communities, past and present, for godly examples. As we find them, we learn from these godly examples so that we might set our minds on heaven even as we walk in this earthly pilgrimage. This is how the holiness and the Christlikeness of others becomes a help to us in cultivating heavenly-mindedness.
When was the last time you scoped out your church for a godly example you could pursue? Is there an elderly saint that has been loosed from the things of this world that can help you grow in heavenly-mindedness? There is nothing like sitting at the bedside of a dying saint to help you to grow in heavenly-mindedness as you ask them questions. In our congregation there is a beloved saint of God who spent her lifetime with her husband, translating the Bible into the language of the Mexicali Indians in Brazil. Sitting at her bedside, I was listening to her winsome testimony of how God has made her useful. A few weeks ago, she was being transferred from her apartment to assisted living. I prayed with her, and as I finished she began to pray spontaneously. As she moved to assisted living and saw heaven approaching, this was her prayer: “Lord, make me useful as I go to assisted living.” This doesn’t deny the difficult reality of moving to assisted living and being dependent on others for the last leg of the race that was set before her. As heaven loomed, her desire was to be useful. What a lesson!
Growing in Grace
By Maarten Kuivenhoven
Edited by Joel Beeke