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Series:  Philippians:  A Letter of Life in Jesus - Part Six

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 17, 2003

Please turn with me to Philippians 3.

Does everybody know what’s happening in California on October 7th? The recall election. If people thought Californians were strange this ought to pound the nails in the coffin. 135 candidates. The field includes a few politicians - some actors - including Ahr-nold - former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth - some comedians - a porn publisher - a porn star - a Native American tribal chairman - a discount cigarette retailer - and I like this one - a used car salesman.

Remember the movie, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World”? Some of the greatest comedians of all time racing around California searching for a prize.

The serious issue here is a question of confidence. Whoever will be governor is going to have to make some tough decisions about our budget - who gets the money and for what - what programs will be cut. The question for us is, who will we put our confidence in to make those decisions.

Coming to Philippians 3 - we’re going to look at what Paul writes about confidence. Where we put our confidence and why.

Philippians 3 - starting at verse 1 - Paul begins, Finally - which is humorous since he’s got two chapters go - Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same thing again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Paul is very free with his praise of the Philippian church. Philippians is the only one of Paul’s letters where he doesn’t address some major problem in the church. The only issue here comes in chapter four with this little tiff between Euodia and Syntyche. But, otherwise Paul goes on repeating over and over again, “Rejoice” - “I rejoice.” Things are going great. Ministry is happening. People are getting saved. The church is growing - spiritually.

Here in verse one Paul writes that he’s safe to write to them this way. This church was in such a spiritually healthy state that they could take the praise. They weren’t going to get all puffed up and ego centric and put something on the sign in front of the church like, “The Perfect Church” or “Approved by Paul.” They could handle this praise. If fact it was an encouragement for them.

Verse 2 - now notice the change in Paul’s attitude: Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,

On July 25, 1911 stuntman Bobby Leach went over Niagara Falls in a specially designed cylindrical steel barrel and lived to tell about it. He suffered only minor injuries because he recognized the tremendous dangers involved and had done everything possible to protect himself. Years later, Bobby Leach was walking down a seemingly harmless street in New Zealand. He slipped on an orange peel - fractured his leg - developed complications - and died. (1) Over confidence in ourselves can lead to tragedy. The same is true spiritually.

Last Sunday night we had a congregational meeting. We discussed finances, facilities development, and staffing. Issues that have ripped congregations apart. And yet, there was a tremendous unity expressed in that meeting that can only be because of God’s work in our hearts. This congregation has great potential before God - to serve Him together - to be used for His glory. God has blessed us - facilities - finances - His work in our hearts. Things are going well. Rejoice! Turn to the person next to you and tell them, “REJOICE!”

All of a sudden Paul is agitated - more emotional than any other place in the letter. Red flags are being waved. There’s danger here. Like the Philippians - we need to hear Paul’s warning. Not to panic. But in our rejoicing to be careful of where our confidence is placed.

Paul writes, “Beware the dogs.” Not the cute pets we have around the house. But, vicious packs of dogs that - in Paul’s day - roamed the streets looking for people to attack. This is an insult. Beware of these contemptible vicious people.

“Beware of the evil workers” - people laboring for themselves at the expense of the church. “Beware the false circumcision” - literally - in the Greek this reads, “Beware the mutilators of the flesh.”

There were those - in the Philippian church - who insisted on maintaining the old rituals - the legal standards and performances of the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant - circumcision was a sign of identification with God’s promises and His people. To them, if you were circumcised you were one of God’s people. But, circumcision without a true relationship with God - Paul writes - is just empty mutilation of the flesh. Paul writes, “we are of the true circumcision” - not a circumcision of the flesh - but of the Spirit - because of our confidence in Jesus Christ and all that He’s done for us.

This was given to me by someone in the church. So, don’t hold this against me. A woman pulls up to a red light. She notices the driver of the car in front of her is talking on his cell phone. The light turns green. But, the man doesn’t seem to notice. The woman waits. But, the man doesn’t notice the light change. The woman begins pounding on her steering wheel and yelling at the man to move. The man doesn’t move. The woman is going ballistic inside her car - ranting and raving at the man - pounding on her wheel and dash. The light turns yellow. The woman blows her car horn and screams and curses at the man. The man - hearing the commotion - looks up - sees the yellow light - and accelerates through the intersection just as the light turns red. The woman is beside herself - screaming in frustration as she misses her chance to get through the intersection. Ever been there?

As she’s still in mid-rant she hears a tap on her window and looks up into the barrel of a gun held by a very serious looking policeman. The policeman tells her to shut off her engine and exit her car keeping her hands in sight. When she gets out of the car she’s cuffed and taken by police car to a police station - booked and placed in a cell. All the time the woman is too bewildered to ask why.

After a couple of hours she’s brought out to where the arresting officer is waiting. He hands her the bag containing her things, and says, “I’m really sorry for this mistake. But you see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn and cussing a blue streak at the person in the car in front of you. And then I noticed your “Follow Me to Sunday School” bumper sticker and Christian fish emblem so naturally I assumed you had stolen the car.”

To too many people, Christianity means the outward things of our relationship with God: coming to church services (most Sundays) - bringing the kids to Sunday School - putting money in the offering - maybe serving on a committee or even teaching a Bible study - living a morally upright Bible inspired Christian lifestyle. We define commitment and worship and what God wants to do in our lives according to what makes us feel good about ourselves before God. We offer all this up to God - confident that He’ll be pleased with it all. Confident that we’re doing what He expects of us.

Paul warns us - our confidence is not in what we do for God - the outward things - the cutting of the flesh. Our confidence is in what God in Jesus Christ has done for us.

Verse 4. Look at how Paul illustrates this from his own life. Verse 4: I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more;

Verse 5 - Paul lists the things he’s placed confidence in. Paul was circumcised the eighth day - which means that Paul didn’t convert to Judaism. He was born into a practicing Jewish home - circumcised according to Levitical Law and the instructions given to the patriarch Abraham.

He’s - of the nation of Israel. Paul wasn’t the product of mixed marriages. The pure blood of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob flowed through him.

Paul is of the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was the favorite son of Jacob - born of his favorite wife. Jacob’s right hand man - his walking stick in his old age. From Benjamin came Israel’s first king - Saul - perhaps the Apostle Paul’s namesake. Benjamin was the one tribe that remained faithful to the Davidic throne when the kingdom was divided.

A Hebrew of Hebrews - linguistically and culturally there was no one who was more Hebrew than Paul.

as to the Law, a Pharisee - the most conservative - orthodox - most “right on” of the religious sects.

as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; Zealous in the practice of his faith - even to the persecution of heretics such as Christians.

as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. Meticulously Paul keep the Mosaic Law - all 613 of God’s commandments and the over 1,000 Pharisaic laws prescribed to keep oneself righteousness. According to the outward standard - Paul was blameless. Perfect when judged by man.

His point comes in verse 7: But whatever things were gain to me - whatever things I may have put my confidence in - those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

Pause here. Because we may have heard this list before we’re tempted to gloss over these and think, “Well, of course he set these aside.” But, this is an impressive weighty list. These are not little things. But, major achievements - educationally - religiously - politically - worthy of respect. Achievements that bring fame and recognition and standing in life. The kinds of diplomas and awards that we frame and put on a wall. The kinds of things we put our confidence in.

So its significant that Paul says they’re no longer the goal. He no longer takes pride in them. In fact - now they bring a sense of loss - sorrow - at how much time and effort was wasted pursuing the wrong things.

So, what do we put our confidence in? How do we avoid the dangers that Paul warns us about? Paul gives us a different “confidence” list - starting in verse 8. A significant list.

Would you read this with me? Verses 8 to 11 together out loud. I realize that we have different versions. But, that’s okay. Its important that we get these verses - Paul’s point - fixed in our minds. Let’s read together and then we’re going to come back and look at 3 points of application.

Verse 8: More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law - all the outward things I was doing for God - but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to his death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Look again at verse 11. Paul’s new purpose in life - his goal is to attain resurrection from the dead - eternal life with God. Whatever he is going to put confidence in is going to gain for him that eternal life.

In verse 8 Paul begins “More than that” - what is more important than all the things I’ve put my confidence in - in the past - more important is this: Application point one - we are to put our confidence in The Surpassing Value of Knowing Jesus.

Whatever things I valued - those things - have been tossed out like trash because of Jesus Christ. What is valuable is “knowing Christ” - “gaining Christ.” Jesus is the prize to run after.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:14: “The love of Christ controls me…” - it compels me - binds me. When a husband and wife are married they’re jealous of that relationship - nothing - no one - intrudes. If we want to be where God wants us to be we must eagerly seek first the things of God.

The basics of our faith are important - Bible study - prayer - fellowship - worship - evangelism. We need to make choices - what to fill our minds and hearts with - what we watch - what we listen to - what we read. Are we eager for those things that deepen and protect our relationship with God. If they don’t bring us closer to Jesus - throw them out.

Look at the people around here who are here Sunday after Sunday - eager and early for worship - who are here for prayer - for Bible Study - who seek out Christian fellowship - who live with a deepening - inward - heart surrendered - commitment to Jesus Christ. Not that their lives are any easier than where the rest of us live our lives. But, they’ve got an inner strength and peace - confidence - in the midst of things. That comes from putting Jesus first.

Paul says, any other priority is garbage - worthless for the things of life and eternity.

Second point of application - we need to put our confidence in Being Found In Jesus.

In verse 9 Paul writes that He pursues Jesus in order to be found in Him - in Jesus’ righteousness. To be found in the righteousness of Jesus is to realize that God Himself has reached to us - to save us from our sin and separation from Him. No greater self-effort on our part - or confidence in some other saving work - nothing else is needed.

The priest Samuel writes, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices - all the outward things we do for God - as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22). David writes, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

When do our hearts break before God? When do we realize that all the things that we do for God - that are not from Him - they’re rubbish? God wants our hearts broken - our lives laid open - in faith - in trust - in sacrificial surrender before Him - trusting in Jesus alone for our salvation. So that we can be found in His righteousness and not our feeble efforts to please God.

Third point of application - the confidence of Knowing Jesus’ Resurrection Power.

So many people on this world are asking the question, "What is my eternal destiny?" "Is this all there is?" They have no hope - no purpose - no reason for their lives. They’re searching - filling their lives with emptiness. Eating at the buffet yet never finding satisfaction.

In verse 10 Paul writes of knowing Jesus and the power of His resurrection. In Jesus Christ - in the reality of His resurrection - there’s a future hope - the reality which is incomparable to any other. No other philosophy - no other religion - no person - IRA - Keogh - or retirement plan can offer the security of our eternal destiny that Jesus does.

No other purpose makes sense of life - than living with Jesus and sharing Him with others - the significance of life which He gives to us and the hope of our eternal destiny which can only come from Him.

These days in Merced property values seem to be going up. People are moving here. And why not?!!? Homes are investments. No one - who valued their home - no one would think of trashing that house. Kicking holes in the walls. Ripping up the carpet. Breaking the windows. In a sense that’s what Paul is warning us about. Beware - don’t trash the investment of God in your life.

Paul writes, “I count all things” - it’s a mental exercise - a thought process. We have an opportunity this morning to take a survey of our lives. There are some great things happening. Rejoice! But we need to be careful. Where is our confidence?

1.  www.infoniagara.com

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.