Peninsula Community Church
July 14, 2019
Philippians 3:1-7 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for 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; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
As we begin this study today let me ask you a couple of questions. In answering these questions you will in essence take a spiritual inventory of your life. How you answer these questions will determine your focus and will perhaps give you some suggestions as to where you need to adapt your life to God’s principles. So, where is your confidence this morning? Is in the possessions you have? Is it in the talents you have been given? Is it in the mental capacity you have to make decisions and solve problems? Is it in your religious activity? Or, is your confidence fully in Christ no matter what comes? I think if we honestly evaluate these questions we will have a sense of where we are spiritually. I trust you agree with the later but the truth is we often give confidence too often to the former things. By the way this is personal evaluation and not an evaluation we are to us against others. With that said let me get into the meat of this passage.
Paul begins with the familiar command to “rejoice in the lord.” There are more than 20 verses that use this phraseology and specifically command us to rejoice in the Lord. Paul does not beat around the bush but he gets right to the point. To rejoice speaks of our focus and what we have set our hearts on. If we focus on circumstances there is not always as much to celebrate and rejoice over, but when our focus is on the King of Heaven we have much to rejoice about. Notice that Paul states that we are rejoice IN THE LORD. We do not rejoice in our circumstances. We do not rejoice in our health. We do not rejoice in our finances. We do not rejoice in our successes. However, we do and should rejoice in the Lord, no matter what.
Secondly, we find that Paul gives us a comparison between those who have a different focus and spiritual mentality and those who are passionate followers of Christ. These marginal Christians focus more on the acts they perform than the condition of their heart. The result is they are driven to do things that force others to believe their doctrinal positions even when those beliefs are not Biblical or godly. These folks in particular had focused their spiritual attention on the rite of circumcision. They overemphasized circumcision and under emphasized salvation through Christ. Their entire spiritual experience was wrapped up in the rite of circumcision. In other words, some people take great joy in their moral and physical achievements. They feel so secure in these things they are just like the Pharisee who thanked God he was not like other men because he fasted twice a week and he tithed regularly (Luke 18:12).
Paul did not soften his qualification of such people. He warns the Church at Philippi that they are like dogs. In Paul’s day this was a very harsh word for people. It was a very derogatory word. He continues to warn them about evildoers and those who mutilate the flesh. They had taken a God given connection to the covenant and used it to manipulate and destroy others. They loved to enact the letter of the law, but they missed the spirit of the law. For them the measure of one’s spirituality was circumcision and the outward expression of faith rather than the change of heart that comes through true salvation. That was a problem in Paul’s day and it continues to be a problem today. We can easily focus on religious acts that are good, but in so doing we can minimize our relationship with Christ. Remember, Christ himself dealt with having a right perspective in prayer, giving, fasting, our works, our worship, and more.
As Paul does so often in his writings while he presents one side of the equation, he then presents a second side to the issue. Paul retorts with For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. Notice here that he does not deny the rite of circumcision but he confirms while we are a people of the circumcision, we are more than that. We worship by the Spirit of God, we glory in Christ, and not the outward expressions of our faith.
This is a reminder of Jesus’ words to the woman at the well as they discussed to whom worship is due and how that should be worked out. In John 4:21-24 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Our worship and our acts of service must be focused in the spirit and truth rather than false self worship and manmade rules.
Paul then makes this incredible statement. He says that he does not put any confidence in the flesh. What he was saying is that while he held to the rite of circumcision, he did not put his confidence in that particular spiritual act. He did not have a confidence in his flesh because he knew that his flesh was not an accurate measurement of his spiritually. Therefore, Paul’s confidence was not in the flesh, but in his relationship with Jesus Christ.
In business one of the important documents that gives a measure of the health of a company or business is a profit and loss statement. This document gives a snapshot of the company’s finances. In this passage, Paul is in essence giving us a P&L statement for his life in Christ. On one side of the report is his family heritage, his education, and his religious resume. On the other side of the report is his relationship with Christ. As Paul reviews all of this, he comes to the conclusion that his goal and passion was to find his joy in his relationship with Christ. That was what was most valuable and necessary for him.
Indirectly, the question he answered was this. What if everything you counted as important was suddenly taken away from you? What if all of your family, friends, job, and all income sources were destroyed and done away with. If we compared these losses with what life has to offer, we would be men and women most miserable. But as passionate followers of Christ we must view this loss in comparison to the gains we have in Christ, realizing that everything in the world without Christ is nothing. While some things are a loss, when compared to our gains in Christ there is no loss at all.
In essence, this speaks to our value system. We can hold onto the world with one hand and in so doing we lose Jesus and we lose more than we bargain for. If we do not have Jesus we have nothing because one day all of this will disappear, will be burned up, and will fade away. But what you have done for Christ and your relationship with Christ will last for eternity and that is what matters most. It is noteworthy that Paul does not discredit any of these things but he calls for us to put these things into their proper perspective and order. It is Christ first and everything else will follow (Matthew 6:31-34). Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
That is why Christ told his disciples not to return and bury their dead once He had called them. Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:18-22).
Jesus was not being insensitive to their need, but He knew that it would be so easy for them to get distracted by the cares of life and concerns over burying their family that they would miss the opportunity to follow Him. In those days, the son was obligated to be with the father and take care of the business until the father passed away and the son received his inheritance. If this is true, then the problem was more about the son getting his inheritance than obeying the command of God to follow Him. In many ways, their intentions were right, but their priorities were wrong.
As we close, what does all of this mean practically? Let me give four things. First, it means that whenever I am called upon to choose between anything in this world and Christ, I choose Christ. Second, it means that I will deal with the things of this world in ways that draw me nearer to Christ so that I gain more of Christ and enjoy more of Him. Third, it means that I will always deal with the things of this world in ways that show that they are not my treasure, but rather show that Christ is my treasure. Fourth, it means that if I lose any or all the things this world can offer, I will not lose my joy or my treasure or my life, because Christ is all.
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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom