Read Philippians 3
Have some joy in your life!
Our joy is not dependent upon our circumstances but is in the Lord. Rain or shine, flood or drought, abundance or famine our joy is in the Lord.
Paul made and would continue to make a point of this many times in many letters. Our joy is in the Lord.
While Philippi was in the continent of Europe, it was close to Asia and apparently those preaching Christ plus circumcision were trying to have some influence. While not nearly the discourse that he took with the Galatians; Paul admonished these believers not to place any confidence in the flesh.
That included a sign in the flesh and the accomplishments of the flesh. These are not the things that bring glory to God. Those who are led by and live by the Spirit of God do not hedge their bet by the things of the flesh.
Paul used his own life as an example. In what would have been a great PowerPoint presentation, Paul enumerated his standing according to the world.
· Born into the people of Israel
· Tribe of Benjamin
· Circumcised on the 8th day
· Subtotal those three and you get a genuine Hebrew
· A Pharisee—a doctorate in the law: A lawyer
· Enthusiasm—maxed out to the point of persecuting this rebellious church
· Subtotal these three and you get the best of the best, legally speaking.
· Grand total all these and you have a man born into God’s people and who lived by God’s law to its very letter.
Paul said if there ever was a man to want to stick to the Law of Moses it is me; but everything that I once regarded as important is just rubbish to me now.
We must take Paul’s statements at face value.
Paul considered all of these things that afforded him some standing in the world, especially the Hebrew world, as dung—manure; yet these were valuable things.
When Paul visited a city, he entered the synagogue if there was one available. He addressed the people. Why not? He was Hebrew and in fact he was a highly educated Hebrew who could speak from or to any of the scriptures.
When Paul received Christ as his Lord and Savior, he had incredible knowledge of the very scriptures that not only revealed the coming of the Christ but the grace contained in the heart of God as well.
Paul having come to follow Jesus had access to treasures old and new.
Especially as we come into the season of graduations, understand that these things were not bad. Paul is not discounting education and training or even enthusiasm for what you do.
He is saying that as far as being right with God is concerned, there is only Jesus.
Accepted Christ, he’s right with God.
Accepted Christ, she’s right with God.
Oh! Great resume, yeah that will work for being right with God. Not!
You can enjoy the fact that you are an Okie. You can enjoy the fact that you graduated from high school or college or have half a dozen advanced degrees and certifications. But you know that the only thing that makes you right with God is your relationship with Christ.
All of that other stuff is fantastic if you use it to the glory of God but it won’t bring you into right standing with God.
In that equation, it’s just manure, dung, worthless, rubbish, nothing of value. These things are not profit. They are loss when it comes to right standing with God.
Only Christ counts for right standing.
People ask for many things when planning a funeral. As they sort through a lifetime of photos they also try to remember favorite songs. One time a few family members asked me if they could play Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.
I said, “Sure as long as you all know that’s not how it works. You cannot buy a stairway to heaven.” You can’t buy, you can’t earn, and you can’t manipulate right standing with God.
There’s Christ and there is everything else.
So is Paul saying that there is no point to getting an education or working hard at what you do?
No. He is explicit in saying that those things do not bring you into right standing with God. They are worth zero points on the righteousness scale; but please remember that you can use all of these things to bring glory to God as you work out—live out your salvation.
The things that we do can’t get us to our salvation, but everything that we do living out our salvation should bring glory to God.
So go ahead and get that diploma, get that degree, get that certification, be the most exuberant employee where you work but do it all not to attain right standing with God but to live out the right standing that he gave you, and bring him glory.
Paul next provides counsel that is for everyone in every age, and I would think especially in this time and place that we know today.
Quit living your lives looking backwards. Just as our human birthrights and titles don’t bring us into right standing with God; neither does dragging our history around with us bring him glory or bring us joy.
Whether we carry around every mistake we ever made or we keep thinking back to those glory days, we are not fully living unless we are moving forward. Paul said press on towards the goal, strain forward, take hold of what is before us.
Real, abundant, and eternal life is before us.
Press on, strain forward, take hold are all very strong action phrases. They have some strong verbs here. You can only use this sort of challenging language with people of purpose.
If you are looking to be content in your Christianity, then these words may be offensive to you.
Now Paul does what Paul does and his thing is to explain things in the God’s already done it but I’m still doing it mode.
God has already made us right with him, pure, holy, and blameless in his sight; but we are still moving towards realizing what it is to live that way.
We are citizens of heaven living in these bodies of flesh in a world that does not know God, but it is our citizenship that governs here.
Paul writes, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.” God granted us right standing with him through the blood of Jesus Christ. Now let us live up to that right standing.
Paul understands that not everyone gets this concept: God has already done it but we are pressing on to live as the people that God has already made us to be. He simply notes that in time you will understand God’s incredible revelation to us.
In the mean time, quit looking back and lean forward. The author of Hebrews would add, “and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.”
Paul noted that there were some in his time and we should consider that there are those in our time who seem to be working against us. We take Christ to the world with eyes fixed on Jesus. Those fighting against us answer to God. They are not our burden.
We lean into our salvation and take love to the world.
We press on towards the goal of realizing who we have been made to be.
We strain forward—we grow in grace.
We might learn to be content in our circumstances but we should never be content in our growth. We are constantly striving to be the people that God made us to be.
He has already done it but we must be on our way there. We are always growing in God’s grace.
Paul loved this church at Philippi. He wanted them to know the fullness of their salvation and really be the people that God made them to be.
Paul could have been writing to us. We love the grace that we know in God and we need the occasional challenge not to become complacent but to press on to being the people that we have already been made to be.
One day we will give up these earthly bodies and get the new and improved version. We can all look forward to that. Most of us have some things from our past that keeping reminding us of the race that we have already run. Some of those things hurt.
Pain—no matter how intense—is temporary. We will have new life in new bodies—new glorious bodies. But while we are on this earth in these bodies, we press on towards the goal of becoming the holy and blameless people that God made us to be.
We strain forward to be more like our Master.
We lean into our salvation to bring glory to God in all that we do.
Occasionally we share a story from our past to help someone going through a trial. Occasionally we meet with old friends and celebrate the glory days of touchdowns, homeruns, medals, trophies, and homecoming queens.
But for the most part, we leave the past in the past and live going forward to the glory of God. If we are following Jesus we profit from our past experience and grow in grace.
We discount—count as loss—trying to convince God to accept us as the people that we think we need to be and whatever pedigree comes with that. We accept and embrace the people that God has already made us to be and press on to realizing what it is to live as those people.
So let’s lean into our salvation and press on towards the goal of being the very people that God has already made us to be.