One challenge of preaching from texts like Philippians 3:1-11, is that it is so familiar to most, that it’s hard to look at it with a “fresh set of eyes.” This text is by far my favorite in Philippians and it’s been one of those life-altering texts for me through the years. I am grateful that the Lord gave us this passage, to look into Paul’s intense passion for Jesus and his desire to know Jesus more intimately. And I’m grateful that this past week, as I studied it, the Lord gave me that “fresh set of eyes”, to help me see Jesus more clearly in this text. I hope that came out in the sermon.
Things that stood out to me:
- I have longed wondered why Paul was so obsessed with Jesus. I don’t mean, like “why did he love Jesus so much?”, but “WHY was Paul obsessed with Jesus?” He seemed to always be “on” in his heart for Christ…I’ve wanted to know WHY?, because I want that same thing. I want my heart to burst aflame for Jesus, like Paul. This text, like no other, shows us this.
- Vs. 9, really came alive to me in a fresh new way this week. Here’s what Paul wrote: “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…” See, this really is the heart of this text and the heart of why Paul was obsessed with Christ. He believed that the only way to get the righteousness of God was to be found in Christ. He could have a “righteousness of his own”, but it wasn’t good enough. Only Jesus could gain, what Paul longed for, which was the righteousness from God.
- Now, the reason, it seems to me, that Paul longed for the righteousness of God, was because Paul valued being right with God. I think this is one thing we miss, when we think of other religions or even some, like Paul, in the 1st century…they sincerely wanted and want to please God…they just don’t know how to please God or don’t know what truly pleases God. I don’t think a devoted Muslim or Mormon is insincere in their desire to please God…but according to the Bible, they’re putting their “confidence in the flesh” to achieve that. Paul, the 1st century’s Osama Bin Laden, deeply wanted to please God. But the revelation of Jesus upon his heart and mind was that his own righteousness, by his own standards (or Jewish standards), was not enough! Only Jesus could do that.
- The other issue on this that hit me hard was the fact that there is a “righteousness of my own that comes from the law.” Just think about this: we can have a “righteousness” that comes from some standard…as a matter of fact, up against any law in the world, we can be “righteous”, depending on that law. Some of you, are “righteous” according to our speed laws; most of us are “righteous” according to the murder laws; and some of us are “righteous” on cultural norms or cultural laws (like not wearing jorts or listening to Boy George and the Culture Club:). But you get the point…this is where I was taught freshly by the Lord…this is why so many people have a hard time with the gospel of Jesus. They believe they have a “righteousness of their own”…and certainly they do (or we do). However, when held up against the standard of God’s righteousness, the “righteousness of our own”, looks like filthy rags.
- Now, all of this shows us why Paul was so obsessed with Jesus…only Jesus had the answer to what Paul was looking for…only Jesus was righteous enough for God…and only those who put their trust in Jesus, were found in Jesus…and only those found in Jesus, receive the righteousness from God, that leads to eternal life.
- Finally, and I hit on this at the end…this shows that Paul valued God’s righteousness so deeply, that He valued Christ so deeply. This made me ask myself: “what do I value?” “What am I obsessed with?” And I thought…what goes on in my heart and what comes out of my life, reveals what I value. What causes me to be anxious, fearful, angry or impatient? How does that reveal my treasure or what I value? What I saw in my heart was that too often, I am valuing things that don’t last and I’m valuing the wrong things.
Quotes I left out:
- “All this, Paul applies to himself, to his Philippians and to us when he says that we are the true circumcision: we are the chosen recipients of the promises of God. His words are, if anything, stronger than rsv allows them to be, for the word ‘true’ is not in Paul’s Greek: ‘We are the circumcision’—not the true as compared with the false, or whatever, but the only ‘circumcision’ there is. We are the only ‘Israel’, the sons of Abraham, the children of the covenant, the chosen inheritors of the promises”. J.A. Motyer
- ”But of what promises in particular? We saw that Genesis 17 stressed one aspect of the divine oath: a promised spiritual relationship between God and Abraham and, thereafter, Abraham’s children. This came to be seen as the essential heart of the covenant promise and the most quoted verse in the Bible: ‘You shall be my people, and I will be your God.’ Paul, the Philippians, the whole company of Christian believers down the years—we are the chosen people of God, individually born again, individually and collectively heirs of the Lord’s purposes of grace. It is as though Paul said: We may be sure that God has set his personal seal of choice and ownership upon us, for we are the circumcision.” J.A. Motyer
- “If it is true that we are God’s people only because the Spirit of God has quickened us from the dead, what ground is there for self-praise? If Jesus alone is worthy to be boasted of, what room is there for self-glory? If the energy of the flesh can only consign us more and more certainly to the wrath of God, of what use is self-reliance? Flesh sums up what a person is apart from the grace of Christ—the human being as yet unchanged by God’s regenerating and redeeming work. Christ is not all their boasting; the church and its ceremonies take a quota; the self and its efforts bear a part. ‘Beware’, says Paul. Danger lies that way!” J.A. Motyer
- “Dogs were not lovable, huggable pets and companions in Paul’s Jewish culture. They were regarded “as the most despicable, insolent and miserable of creatures.” Dogs were despised because they would eat anything, including dead animals, human corpses, and their own vomit.34 Enemies of Israel were insulted by being compared to and called dogs.” J.A. Motyer
- “We learn that Christ does not become ours by effort but by rejection of effort. No-one had ever striven for righteousness as did Paul, and yet he does not see Christ as the prize standing just above the top rung of the ladder of self-advancement. He cannot have Christ until he has totted up all his works of righteousness and admitted the answer to be loss.” J.A. Motyer
- “There can be no salvation unless God is satisfied. Christ might die (may we say it reverently) a thousand deaths; sin might be cleansed away a thousand times; but if God is not satisfied with what has been done, then it is all a waste of time, effort and suffering. If God will not have us back, then every effort to bring us back is misconceived and pointless. But here is a salvation for sinners with which God is satisfied. It is a righteousness which ‘proceeds out from God’.” J.A. Motyer
- “Here is the simplicity and freeness of this salvation. Gone are the exertions of law-keeping, gone the disciplines and asceticisms of legalism, gone the anxiety that having done everything we might not have done enough. We reach the goal not by the stairs but by the lift. Faith means that we abandon works and efforts, and God pledges his promised righteousness to those who will stop trying to save themselves.” J.A. Motyer
From the Cheap Seats:
- For the pessimistic Cowboys’ fan (which is only me, I believe)…a 3-0 start means nothing. We’ve beaten the downcasts of the NFL…up next: New Orleans Saints and Sean Payton…
- I love watching the Eagles get beat (sorry Philly fans). After 7 dropped passes yesterday and the last one by Nelson Agholor, you’ve got to watch this news clip, from a burning building outside of Philly, and listen to this guy talk about “catching…unlike Agholor”: https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/video/eagles-fan-catches-kids-burning-building-unlike-agholor. Unreal…
- 8-0…those of you who know what I’m talking about…stunning soccer score.
- And finally, from the Rugby World Cup…All Blacks 23 – Springboks 16…that’s New Zealand vs. South Africa, in case you were wondering. Just for kicks some time, watch 2 series: Amazon Prime All or Nothing: New Zealand All-Blacks and Invictus.