Part 5: Joy Going Forward
Pastor Terry Inman
Where does real joy come from? What gives us a sense of fulfillment? What do we consider our attainments? Today Paul talks to the Philippians about their attitudes toward their gains and aims in this life.
We are not called to convert people to our culture. We are called to lead people to Christ.He warns them about the Pharisees who took pride in their religious performance--their perfection of rules and rituals. In chapter three Paul mentions the word “things” 17 times. What is our attitude toward things like material possessions, personal achievement, and spiritual attainment?
When we experience Jesus Christ our values change.
The bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5.17 NIV) So what is our source of JOY GOING FORWARD?
The first verse of chapter three could be the conclusion to chapter two. It could also be a hint that Paul is wrapping up this letter by repeating some previous themes. We’ll label this chapter, “JOY GOING FORWARD”!
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. (Phil. 3.1 NIV)
Like many of us pastors Paul doesn’t mind repeating himself. “Finally” doesn’t mean its over either. There’s another whole chapter to go. So “finally” may be better translated “further” or “furthermore”.
Paul comes back to his main theme in this book of joy--a reminder to “Rejoice in the Lord”. He is about to address some unpleasant issues so all the more reason to maintain a joyful spirit in the Lord.
He doesn’t mind being repetitive as a safegurard or precaution. In chapter one he warned them about opposition. He told them to “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” (Phil 1.27-28 NIV)
Now he gets more specific. He warns them about the Judaizers. These religious extremists that opposed him were now attempting to convert the new gentile believers in Philippi to their legalistic version of Judaism.
Jesus was not enough. These leaders insisted that gentiles become Jews and practice all their rites and traditions, like circumcision.
We are not called to convert people to our culture. We are called to lead people to Christ.
When it’s Jesus and something else it can easily become cultish.
Paul spent much of his life climbing the religious latter until he encountered Jesus. He had his fill of self-made righteousness.
He warns them, “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.” (Phil. 3.2-4 NIV)
Jews called the Gentiles dogs. Here Paul turns it around on his opponents. He says these Judaizers are like vicious strays. They dogged him everywhere he went. They insisted that gentile Christians undergo the religious rite of circumcision and become Jewish. Paul says these knife-happy circumcisers, like dogs, are evil mutilators of the flesh.
Real faith is not about religious radicalism, it’s about genuine relationship with Jesus.
Today circumcision is practiced for health reasons, not religious status. But according to Paul the “spiritually circumcised” worship in The Spirit, glory in Christ, and have “no confidence” in these rites of the flesh.
(a.) Worship by the Spirit of God: Jesus told a Samaritan woman, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4.24 Followers of Christ are spiritual. Supernatural and natural! They are real!
(b.) Glory in Christ Jesus: The rules and regulations of external religion call attention to our attainments. Genuine worship glorifies Christ by what’s on the inside not on the outside.
Paul wrote to the church in Rome. “He is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the law; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Rom. 2.29 NIV)
(c.) Paul says the circumcised of heart put “no confidence in the flesh”. Sinful humanity has no grounds for confidence before God, because man unaided is powerless to achieve righteousness before God. As believers, we put all of our trust in Christ alone. This removes any grounds for human pride or boasting.
If any one had bragging rites it was the Apostle Paul. He had all the religious credentials…“If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Phil 3.4-6 NIV)
Paul was no proselyte he was born a Jew. He was from the revered tribe of Benjamin. He was pure Hebrew through and through. He was a law abiding Pharisee--so devoted that he prosecuted the followers of Jesus.
Paul considered his religious trophies a loss.
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” After his dramatic encounter with Christ on the Damascus road, Paul learned to count such “advantages” as liabilities. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. (Phil. 3.7-8 NIV)
In this world it’s what you know, whom you know and what you have. But for Paul knowing Christ was everything. His life had been driven by religious performance. Now true greatness was living in and for Christ.
Christ is far superior to any and all previous gains. Compared to his intimate relationship with Jesus his religious achievements were trash.
I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Phil. 3.8,9 NIV)
This translation, “rubbish” tones down the term Paul actually uses. KJV says, “dung”. The original word includes waste material or refuse thrown to the dogs. This fits with his censure of his critics that he called dogs. Their self-made righteousness smelled like something you wouldn’t want to step in. The higher you pile it the more it stinks!
The apostle Paul had an impressive resume. This premier missionary daily risked his life to get the Early Church on its feet. He wrote half the New Testament. Yet, here in v.8, Paul calls all his accomplishments, “dung.” That’s right: manure. He was saying, “Jesus is the King; I’m nothing.”
Experiencing Christ and growing in our relationship with him over time changes all our values. What we thought was achievement or advantage can become a liability. Attainment takes on a whole new meaning.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3.10-11)
Paul wants to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection. Not just the incredible power that raised Jesus but its effect in our lives now. This is the source of our new life.
For Paul this new attainment, resurrection life in Jesus Christ was a life-long pursuit. It included suffering. It required a death to the self-life. It was not something acquired by knowledge or skill but by submission.
Paul never felt like he had arrived. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Phil. 3.12 NIV)
Paul has been talking about attainments. Here “take hold” is a word that means to attain, reach or achieve. He says, I have not arrived, I am not perfected but I am pressing on to attain what Jesus has attained me for.
This is expression can also mean “to seize”. Carpe diem, is the latin idom for “seize the day”.
Are we seizing what Christ has seized us for? Are we capturing the moment in Him or are we striving in with our own agenda.
Paul’s spiritual transformation brought a new assessment of his goals.
It gave him an overwhelming passion to know Christ ever more fully. His life became a pursuit in this new direction. He is not claiming that he has crossed the goal line.
Paul understands clearly that he has a continuing responsibility to pursue the purposes Christ had chosen him for. Like an Olympian runner lunging forward Paul see’s spiritual progress as the goal.
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3.13-14 NIV)
The consuming passion of our lives is not religious performance and perfectionism it is an unrelenting pursuit of Jesus Christ and his purposes.
According to Paul our past failures or even present talents do not dictate future success. We don’t totally ignore or forget the past but we don’t let failure sideline us and we don’t let success deceive us. Even when we fail in Christ we are falling forward.
The goal or the prize is our heavenly calling. God has a unique call and a purpose for all of us not just those that appear to have attained some spiritual success. The bible often uses the term “calling” for faith.
We may have a job or a vocation but Jesus is our full time occupation. Runners would step to Caesar’s reviewing stand to receive their prize.
We receive a prize, a crown, a spiritual metal for this race toward grace.
Paul says if we don’t totally get it yet, hang in there we will. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Phil. 3.15-16 NIV)
God is not holding us to someone else’s standard. We have been seized for success. We will reach it just like Paul says, by experiencing Christ, suffering with him, dying to ourselves, and living a resurrected life in him.
Last week I mentioned Paul was a model, mentor and multiplier.
He concludes this section with a personal invitation to join the race. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. (Phil. 3.17 NIV)
Sadly many are still motivated by “things” or personal attainments.
Paul says, “For, as I have often told you before and now say 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 on earthly things. (Phil 3.18-19 NIV)
If our goals, gains and aims are only in the “things” life we may attain much and achieve human success but we will fail to seize God’s highest purpose in Christ.
According to Paul earth is not the finish line heaven is.
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. (Phil 3.20-21 NIV)
Like he often does Paul excitedly goes into a celebration of all that we attain in Jesus Christ. He simply wanted to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. He was willing to partner with his sufferings, to somehow attain that resurrection life.
So what do we want to attain, what do we want to gain, where is our aim?
What give us JOY GOING FORWARD?!