KNOWING CHRIST

                                                   

 Philippians 3:10-12

 Brief Intro: 

As I mentioned in my last post, we would have to come back, camp out, if you will, a bit longer in verses 10-12, because there is so much Paul is expressing that, on its face, honestly, it just doesn’t make much sense, at least not concerning what we know about Paul’s life and conversion.

Those statements about “knowing Him,” “fellowshipping in His sufferings,” “conforming to His death,” etc., what’s that all about? We tend to glide past statements like this a-s-s-u-m-i-n-g we get it. We presuppose meanings to such things that may or may not be correct. We all do this at times, don’t we?

So, initially for myself, and now hopefully for your edification, I started digging to see what I have been missing by assuming too much in my own cursory reading of this Epistle.

So my aim in this post is simply this: to shed light on these statements of Paul and hopefully give you a much more precise and more applicable understanding of Paul’s heart, which he lays out to these believers in Philippi in these verses.

FOCUS ONE:

1.   To Know Christ 

What does this mean? If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have learned what you know about Jesus mostly from Paul. He wrote about His death, burial and resurrection. He explained the meaning of the gospel and revealed to us this “mystery” called the church. He “knows” and understands these things better than anybody else. So what does he mean when He says that he wants to know Christ?

Paul says in verse 10, those very words, “I want to know Christ.” This statement seems to assume his thought back in verse 8: there is an “Infinite value in knowing Christ.” Compared to everything in his life, his history, as he expressed in verses 5-6, to know Christ more personally, more intimately, here-now is to Paul of greater worth than anything else the blessings and honor of this world have to offer.

He is not just seeking a greater cognitive knowledge of facts about Jesus, things learned from books or mentors; no, what Paul was seeking was an intimate relationship with his savior born out of the daily experience of walking with Him!

Through the joys and sorrows, the ups and downs, the good and the bad; through the trials and tribulations or the blessings and comforts; whether being persecuted for the faith or experiencing the heights of spiritual success in serving Christ, Paul knew that in these things he would learn more about Christ. He knew that walking through life’s twists and turns in humble obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ would be the catalyst for such an abiding relationship.

The word “know” in verse 10 has varied meanings in our English language, just as it does in other languages and just as it does in our bible. For example, it can mean “to have learned something by serious study.” Or to know something by experience. It can refer to intimate knowledge between two persons, and even deep personal intimacy and contact between two people like, such as with Adam and Eve as in Genesis 4:1. But as Dr. Boice comments, “but because this is what knowledge between persons is—deep, intimate union, Paul having been saved wholly and solely by Christ, wants to enter into the deepest possible union with Him.” Dear reader, that union is to be forged within the fires of our own human experience.

Much of our western Christianity has a mindset far from what we are reading here. Much of our Christianity is influenced by our parents, culture, and church, or the various churches we have attended over the past many years. 

What do I mean by that? I mean that some Christian’s Christianity is based more on family influence, beliefs, and example than on God’s word. The greater impact in their lives has been the various churches they attended and their particular ecclesiastical structure. But even more predominant than those two things is the influence and affect our culture plays in our individual and corporate walk of faith!

So, as we look at Paul’s words, I want you to think about how much of YOUR Christianity is BIBLICAL Christianity and how much of it comes from our culture and family backgrounds?

Ask yourself these questions as you think through this:

A. Is your love for God more an “emotion,” than it is a commitment?

B. In light of the incredible love God manifests to you at Calvary, are you extending similar love, mercy, and justice to those around you?

  1. We believe that Jesus died on the cross as an atonement for our sin, an act of incredible love. Our only appropriate response to our merciful savior is to submit to Him as Lord in all things. Are you submissive?

We can know Him personally and intimately. Jesus is not someone far removed from us. Our bibles tell us that He is near to us, with us, acquainted with all our ways. Don’t you desire to know Him more personally?

Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg! For most of us, the reality of being able to know Christ more personally and intimately in our daily lives is sobering and challenging enough. But Paul doesn’t stop here. Paul also wants to know His power.

FOCUS TWO:

2.   To experience His mighty power

Paul says: “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection.”

He is not only speaking of the divine power that raised Christ from the dead but of the power of the resurrected Christ now operating in his life. That power enables believers to “live a new life (Romans 6:4).” Because they have been raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2,5,6)

Ephesians 2:5,6: “Even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead, (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved). For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:1 “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”

Paul says that he wants to experience that power in his redeemed body, that “new creation” body that 2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks about. As Paul sets his sights on the realities of heaven, as he walks in this promise of “newness of life,” he wishes to experience that power more personally, more experientially in his limited time on earth.  But how? How did he wish to experience it? 

Boice again: “Above all, in the living of a godly life. Paul knew that a life lived with Jesus meant a life of holiness. But he also knew such a life was impossible if it depended upon his own natural powers. He had learned by experience his own inability to live as God intended; Paul longed for such a deliverance,{ as he expressed in Rom. 7:19, 22-24}, through Christ’s resurrection power.” 

The Greek word (Dunamis) used in verse 10 means power, especially inherent power. All the words derived from its stem (Duna) have the basic meaning of being able or capable. In other terms, Paul means having the ability to overcome resistance!

Since Christ died and rose again, overcoming the powers of death through the Holy Spirit, as Paul stated in Romans 8:11, he knew that same power, that same Holy Spirit, was able to help him overcome the resistance of the world, flesh, and the devil.

Dear Christian, Paul was sensitive to this power, are we? Are you? We should understand and believe that a life of holiness is impossible in our natural abilities. You and I desperately need this resurrection power to live a life where we can more wholly, more intimately experience a deeper relationship with our savior. 

Perhaps you are reading this, and these things that I have been talking about so far make no-sense-at-all-to-you, well, hold on because I have a few more things to say that you probably won’t understand either. This is because the things I am talking about are not “taught by human wisdom,” but taught by the Holy Spirit. A person who has not received God’s grace through His Son Jesus will see these things as foolishness and won’t be able to understand them because they are spiritual truths for His children, something that you presently are not!

But the good news is that even though you have sinned countless times against your creator, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and rightly deserve His condemnation—God in His love sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus, to take on human flesh and die in the place of sinners like yourself, like all of us. He accepted the sacrifice of His Son as full payment for your sins and evidenced that by raising Him from the dead. He now offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to everyone, including you dear friend, if you but turn to Jesus in repentant faith. You cannot earn something as wonderful as this. It is God’s free, unearned gift to those who genuinely trust in the finished work of Christ at Calvary.

The third thing Paul speaks of is “fellowship in His sufferings.”

FOCUS THREE:

3.   To suffer with Him, being conformed to His death

“I want to “know” Him, and the “power” of His resurrection and the “fellowship of His sufferings.”

Again, what does he mean, right? Paul does not mean that he wished to suffer for human sin as Christ did because only Jesus could do that to the Father’s pleasure and satisfaction. So, Paul is speaking in a different sense. 

Paul wished, as one commentator expressed better than I could: “to stand with Christ in such an individual union that when the abuses and persecutions that Christ suffered also fell on him, as he knew they would, he could receive them as Jesus did. He wanted to react like Jesus, because he knew that abuse received like Jesus would actually draw him closer to his Lord.” Receive rightly and react rightly!

Paul earlier expressed this back in 1:29: “for to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” In 1 peter 4:12-13, Peter said: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”

Paul knew that to be a Christ-follower and to walk in a holy manner before this world and His redeemer meant that trial and tribulations, suffering in varying degrees, would come part and parcel with his new allegiance. He knew there was a right way and a wrong way to “run the race set before him,” and he accepted that fact humbly and wanted to receive and react appropriately to the sufferings that God would allow to fall on him, “for His names sake,” as we saw in 1:29. 

He knew that through such sufferings a deeper, more intimate relationship- or “knowing” of the Lord was possible, and he counted the cost and decided that the surpassing value of knowing Christ was worth it all! (3:8)

This fellowship of Christ’s suffering is won at a high price….the price of loyal, intentional obedience (vv. 13-14)!

Christian, are you like Paul desiring to receive and react humbly and obediently to our father in heaven no matter what He allows to come your way?

Or do you count hardship and suffering in your life as something strange and to be avoided at all costs?

Do you realize that there is a biblical way and a worldly way of thinking about sufferings? Which theology do you hold?

These statements of Paul explain why he desires to know Christ more personally and experience His power and fellowship in His suffering because he wants to “attain” or experience the resurrection from the dead.

FOCUS FOUR:

4.   To attain (experience) the resurrection from the dead

Talk about complex statements. If the others were a bit hard to comprehend, what about this one??? 

Does it mean that Paul was afraid of his eternal security? No, not at all. The man who wrote Romans 8:38-39 and Philippians 1:6 is not a man who fears that. Paul is obviously, speaking of something different.

Paul is not thinking in these terms; one commentator writes: “he is thinking about something else. Actually, he is saying that he wishes to be so much like Christ in the way he lived that people would think of him as a resurrected person EVEN now, even before physical death.”

Dr. Kuiper agrees and, in his thinking, has said: “The word resurrection literally means to ‘place,’ or ‘stand up.’ To the Greek mind, living people were standing up, and dead people were lying down. So, making a Greek pun, Paul says, “I want to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings that I may give the spiritually dead a preview to (eternal life in action) as I am standing up outstanding among those who are spiritually on their backs—spiritually dead.”

Brothers and sisters, is it our desire to be so living for Christ in this world that we would appear as a resurrected person living among the dead?

Conclusion:

With so much said and much to think upon, what’s our summarized takeaway from these scriptures? I believe it is this:

What Paul is expressing is biblical Christianity. Vile sinners are forgiven by grace, forsaking their own perceived righteousness and receiving Christ’s, now pursuing their savior. Laying aside what is behind and counting it all a loss to grasp hold of something more precious, something of greater value, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, “laying hold of Christ Jesus!”

Is this our Christianity or are we holding on to some other definition of Christianity that is not biblical, or perhaps comes from our culture, upbringing, or something else?

TASTE AND SEE

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EXTENDED READING: PSALM 34

DEVOTIONAL READING: VERSE 8

“O TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD; HOW BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO TAKES REFUGE IN HIM.”

As fall had begun, my mind took me back to a day when I was offered a slice of sweet potato pie rather than the pumpkin pie I loved and was accustomed to. I politely declined the kind offer but was quickly met with a forceful, “O, just taste it, and see how good it is.” With some reluctance, I tasted the pie. AND I LOVED IT! Since then, I have not stopped telling others about sweet potato pie.

This memory got me thinking about this verse and what it means to “taste” something. This psalm is a call by David to the whole assembly to praise the Lord for His goodness. For hearing him when he cried out to the Lord, deliverance from his fears, and for delivering the lowly from their troubles (v.6).

The Lord shows His goodness towards us as well, repeatedly, and that should compel us, as it did with David, to tell others about His goodness to those who trust in Him.

The word “taste” is used in two senses in the old and new testaments—the experience of the taste of food. And figuratively, the conscious experience of a different reality. This call is an invitation to turn to God and experience the benefits of a right relationship with Him.

I L-O-V-E sweet potato pie, and I encourage you to try it. BUT there is nothing that compares to having a right relationship with God through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. His “goodness” was made evident on the cross, where: “He should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).

PRAYER: Just as David did, so do we. We praise you for your unending goodness to those who trust in you. Thank you for being faithful when we struggle, for meeting our needs over and over again, and for saving us from our sin. Those who look unto you will never be ashamed. Amen

WHERE IS YOUR CONFIDENCE RESTING?

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Philippians 3: 1-10

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the [a]false circumcision; for we are the true [b]circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and take pride in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself could boast as having confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he is confident in the flesh, I have more reason:circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss [c]in view of the surpassing value of [d]knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, [e]for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and [f]the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

“Confidence is something that comes from believing. The Apostle Paul was a person of confidence. He wasn’t always right, but he was absolutely sure about his experience with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

BRIEF INTRO:

In chapter 2:19-30, Paul had written about his hope to send Timothy and Epaphroditus to these Philippians. Timothy, because he was the only one who was “one souled,” a “kindred spirit,” and in whom he felt would genuinely care for their welfare. Epaphroditus because the Philippians were worried and sorrowful in hearing that he was very sick. Paul had sorrow upon sorrow (27) and wanted them to rejoice at his return. So, in expressing his hope in sending these men to these people he loved so deeply in Philippi, Paul laid before them two men as examples. Men who denied themselves for the sake of others and the gospel! Men who had the “attitude of Christ” as mentioned in 2:5-8.

In our text this morning, Paul, in love and with patience, reminds these believers (wants them to understand) of the danger of those who preach Christ plus anything for salvation. Nothing, as we will see in a bit, according to the inspired word of God, brings the righteousness that saves and justifies except faith in Christ Jesus alone. We will also observe that the justified Christian, saved by faith, then perseveres, by that faith, in pursuing Christlikeness, knowing that he

will not attain it in this life but certainly will in the one to come.

Paul begins this part of his letter by encouraging them to be “joyful Christians.” Don’t miss that he says, “rejoice in the Lord” (vs.1). He wants them to be joyful no matter what happens in their lives, good or bad. Considering what he is about to warn them of (False teachers in verse 2), Paul wants them to understand that rejoicing in the Lord should be a constant reality in the life of a believer, no matter what their circumstances.

Paul seems to write these words as a reminder of things he had previously told them. Perhaps he speaks of what he told them about in 1: 27-30 (their opponents, the conflict). It seems that false teachers, the Judaizers, were in their midst trying to lead these folks into a works-based system -faith in Christ (plus) being circumcised- faith in Christ (plus) following the Law. However, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of these believers turning back. But they were struggling with this false teaching in their midst.

So, with that false teaching before us, let’s dig in and listen to our man Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and what the Holy Spirit divinely led him to write down in this letter.

FOCUS ONE:

Put no confidence in the flesh (2-7)

Verses 2 and 3 reveal a H-U-G-E contrast between what is true and false concerning Circumcision. Paul here calls those who teach a false circumcision some pretty degrading names, doesn’t he? I mean, dogs, evil workers, the false Circumcision are pretty pointed, no holds barred, adjectives in describing these people who are seeking to lead these folks astray.

The word used here for dogs is not that of our everyday household pet, in which we think of loving, joyful companionship, but of the prowling wild dogs of that day, without a home or owner. They were scavengers, and they were vicious, attacking everyone who passed them by. So, in using these terms, Paul refers to the false teachers who boasted in their religion, who trusted in their human attainments (instead) than divine atonement. They had a works-based religion, and so they perverted the gospel by adding something else to the justifying blood of Christ.

They were evil and manifested it through their false teaching. They were “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” as Jesus said in Matthew. 7:15. Paul refers to these people as not being a part of the “true” Circumcision (vs.3), but instead classifies them as a part of the “concision,” as those merely mutilated. Listen as I read from Paul’s other writings to help clarify this for us.

28 “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is Circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and Circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).”

9 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made [a]complete, and He is the head [b]over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the Circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Colossians . 2:9-11).

And herein lies the fundamental problem of such false teaching! In the Bible’s view, Circumcision is a divine work of God in the hearts of men, NOT an external rite to be observed. This was and (is) a severe issue for the church. This teaching that faith alone cannot save you. See, soon after the gospel began to spread among the Gentiles, some Jewish men who also claimed to believe in Christ began teaching the Gentile converts that they could not be saved unless they also were circumcised according to the Law of Moses (see Acts 15:1). They did not deny that a person must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, (but) they added to faith in Christ the keeping of the Jewish Law, especially Circumcision, as necessary for salvation.

The issue was debated and resolved in Jerusalem at a council of the church leaders, where it was decided that Gentiles do not have to become Jews or be circumcised to be saved; but that every person, Jew or Gentile, is saved by grace through faith in Christ alone (Acts 15:1-29).

But that decision did not cause Satan to give up his efforts to pervert the truth of the gospel. He continued to work through a group of men known as Judaizers. They followed Paul on his missionary journeys, infiltrating the new churches and teaching their (subtle error) that faith in Christ was not sufficient if a person did not also keep the Law, especially Circumcision. Paul wrote Galatians to refute this error. He contends there that these men were preaching a false gospel, and he states, rather pointedly, that those who so pervert the true gospel should be accursed, anathema (Galatians . 1:6-9).

The Judaizers are the men Paul is warning the Philippian church about in our text. The three terms in 3:2, “dogs, evil workers, and false circumcision,” all refer to one group, the Judaizers, who were promoting a counterfeit Christianity.

While the Judaizers no longer exist under that name, the core of their teaching is still quite prevalent. And that makes our text this morning extremely important in helping us discern what true Christianity is – – and to reject any counterfeit version.

So beware of having confidence in the flesh for salvation (v. 3).

To sum this up, one commentator says: “Circumcision has no spiritual value in itself. There were those who followed the Law, but had (no heart) for God. They substituted Circumcision for the new birth, and rested in the rite (without the reality), and trusted in the sign without having the (substance) (which is Christ).”

Where is your confidence resting? Most likely, it’s not in Circumcision as we are reading here. But if you are hoping to be “good enough,” you are trusting in the same system as these people Paul is exposing. You are trusting in your own righteousness, works-based righteousness, not Christ’s. You may also be in a place where you believe in Jesus. You believe He can save you, BUT you also have to follow this or that rule, eat or not eat certain things, observe this or that particular day for God to welcome you into His heaven. All of these things cannot make you any more acceptable to God. Only one thing, one person, can do that -Jesus Christ!

So, where is your heart today? What may you be substituting or adding to faith in Jesus Christ alone? Are you resting in some sort of rule or rite to save you while lacking the substance of God’s salvation, Jesus Christ?

In these verses (2-3), Paul is contrasting those who place confidence in the flesh and those who put NO confidence in the flesh for salvation. So, let’s look at the opposing side of the contrast for just a bit.

If the “false circumcision,” or false believers walk by faith plus works, how does the “true circumcision,” or true believers live?

FOCUS TWO:

Read again with me verse 3-6

  1. True believers have NO confidence in the flesh!

Paul cannot make it anymore clear. Notice the contrasts between- true and false and placing confidence in the flesh and putting no confidence in the flesh in these verses! Paul now is presenting the “true” position of a biblical Christian. Those who believe in Christ alone for their salvation are the “true” Circumcision! They have received a divine circumcision of the heart, something spiritual not physical-inward, not outward—as one has said: “a reality, not a rite.”

They worship in the Spirit of God. In other words, they worship and serve their savior by the power and aid of the Holy Spirit, who indwells them. This type of worship, this type of service, is sacred and inward, not regulated by various rules or traditions.

They “glory in Christ Jesus.” That is their satisfaction, their joy, their strength, and hope is found in Christ alone. In awe and humility, they marvel and find Him worthy of any sacrifice (because of) His sacrifice for them on the cross. They “put NO confidence in the flesh.” The word for flesh is (Sarx), and it refers to what man is outside of Christ. I quote Homer Kent: “Outside of Christ sinful man has no grounds for confidence before God, because man unaided is powerless to achieve righteousness before God. The true believer, however, puts all his trust in Christ and so removes any grounds for human pride or boasting.”

And that is what Paul is expressing in verses 4-7. If anyone had grounds to boast in the flesh, it was Paul, not these false teachers. Read again with me what he says.

Paul was circumcised on the eighth day or when he was eight days old. He followed in the footsteps of John the Baptist (Luke 1:59) and Jesus Himself (Luke 2:21). Why? Because there was a covenant given and the sign of that covenant was Circumcision, something that came directly from God (Genesis 17:9-14).

He was a pure-blooded citizen of Israel, and he did not purchase the right. He was a member of the Pharisees who demanded the strictest obedience to the Jewish Law and get this, in it, in that observance, he obeyed without fault. In other words, he was blameless. Paul was a zealot and persecuted the Christians because he thought he was doing God’s work.

Paul thinks upon all his human achievements, his pedigree, his zeal, his righteousness. He comes to the divinely given understanding that all that he lived for in pursuit of being “good enough,” or meriting divine favor is all worthless. It has no value. Years and years of pursuing a righteousness of his own fall to the ground as garbage! But notice what he says next: (7) “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.”

Friends, no matter how good you think you are, you’re not good enough to get into God’s heaven. No matter your pedigree, religious background, or zealous efforts, it’s all of no value if you do not have Jesus as your savior.

Paul is teaching that:

The greatest danger we face is not the changing world around us which can only affect us outwardly. Personal finances can change, but that only raises or lowers our standard of living. The decline of social morality may make it more challenging to live a holy life, but it can not change who we are. The political climate can vary, but that will only increase or decrease governments’ intrusion into the daily business of life. Even if direct persecution comes upon us in the future, that can not change our eternal destiny. What is most dangerous to us are those things that can affect us internally.

One commentator put it this way: “Sin is deceitful itself, but self righteousness is the most deceptive of all sin because it gives you the illusion that you are doing what is right and true and good before God, yet the whole time you are an abomination to Him. Consider the Scribes and Pharisees. We have often spoken against them, but by most standards, they were good people. They were kind to other Israelites. They taught their children about God and the Law of Moses. They were often generous to the poor. They followed all of the moral rules of their society, and they were zealous for God.

Consider the Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus, later called Paul the Apostle, who writes these things to the Philippians. He says that he persecuted the church out of his zeal for God and that he was blameless according to the righteousness found in the Law according to the Pharisees (Phil 3). He was sincere and zealous in his pursuit of what he thought was pleasing to God, yet he was wrong – dead wrong, and except for God’s extraordinary saving grace, he would have died as (sinful Saul) rather than (holy Paul), the servant of God made righteous by Jesus Christ.”

FOCUS THREE:

Our confidence can only be in one place, and that is:

In The Son (Jesus) (8-10)

Paul says, everything he lived for, even though much of it was good things within a proper context, is worthless because of what Jesus Christ has done. Jesus paid the debt he owed (Col. 2:14), He was the “total” and complete satisfaction (propitiation), 1 John 2:2. It was His finished work on the cross that appeased God the Father, that enabled us as sinners to regain God’s favor and not suffer His wrath against our sin because Christ suffered it for us!

In verse 9, Paul says that when Christ Jesus opened his mind to understanding, he understood that no matter how good he thought he was, no matter how many good things he has done, his supposed “goodness,” was not good enough. He needed something outside of himself, he needed an”imputed” righteousness, a goodness or righteousness that is credited to sinners based on the finished atoning work of God’s one and only son, Jesus!

Folks, “this is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be a sacrifice to take away our sin (1 John 4:10).” “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God THROUGH Christ (2Corinthians . 5:21)!”

The word “righteousness,” in our day, has lost its meaning to many people. Even Christians are confused about what righteousness is and how to receive it.

A layman’s definition of righteousness is “right standing with God.”

Righteousness is the condition of being in a right relationship with the Lord. This can only happen through TOTAL faith and dependence upon Christ. There is no other way, and we can add nothing to obtain a right relationship with the Lord (Romans . 11:6).

One of the things that blind people to a proper understanding of righteousness is confusion about how we become right in the sight of God. Righteousness is a gift that comes from the Lord to those who accept what Jesus has done for them by faith (Rom. 5:17-18). The gift of salvation produces a changed heart that, in turn, changes our actions. Actions cannot change our hearts. It’s the heart of man that God looks upon (1 Sam. 16:7), and we must be righteous in our hearts to truly worship God (John 4:24).

The Bible instructs us on what genuine salvation is: those who put their faith in Jesus and what He did for them get what they deserve. On the other hand, those who do not put their total faith in Christ will ultimately get what they deserve. That is not what they want. Religion has subtly instructed people to trust in their goodness instead of God’s. This will never work. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans . 3:23).

Jesus was in right relationship with God as no one else can be. He is the Son of God. He is God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy . 3:16). He is holy and pure and without sin, yet He became sin for us (2 Corinthians . 5:21) through no wrongdoing on His part. He took our sin in His own body on the cross (1 Peter . 2:24). And as was read earlier in our scripture reading: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah . 53:4-5).

In return for Jesus taking upon Himself your sin, those who put their faith in Him get His righteousness instead of their own. It’s not our actions that make us acceptable to the Father. It’s our trust in Jesus that imparts the righteousness of Christ into our regenerated hearts that makes us in right standing with God.

Listen to our man Paul, the Apostle, Paul says that righteousness is a gift that God gives to those who have faith in His son (8-9). “But Paul does not stop there. Having died and risen with Christ, he wants to go on and “experience” in reality, in his life here on this earth, what this means—death to sin and selfish desires, and a new life of constant victory through the living power of the risen Christ within him. He is encouraged to keep moving towards this goal by his knowledge that final victory over sin, suffering and death is certain, when Christ returns for His own (Bridgeway).”

Friends, if you were camping or at a bonfire, and you were to place a dried leaf into the fire, what would happen? You would notice that the fire immediately would consume the leaf in a matter of seconds. The fire must consume the leaf because of its very nature. Even if the fire did not want to consume the leaf, it wouldn’t matter, it still must consume it because their natures are opposed to one another.

Deuteronomy 4:24 of the OT and Hebrews 12:29 of the NT describe God as a consuming fire. By His very nature God must consume anything and everything that opposes His nature. You must, dear friend, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, or you will be consumed by the ever-pure burning holiness of the King of kings. He will act in justice and give to each one what they deserve. Please do not go another day without forsaking your own perceived notions of righteousness and turning to Jesus, who for “the joy set before Him endured the cross,” so that you may have peace with God through Him.

Dear reader, I agree with Paul in his statement in verse 1. Reminders are very beneficial to us and often needed. So, I hope this post has been a powerful reminder to you of the incredible victory that was accomplished for us on the cross by our Lord Jesus Christ.

I also hope it proves to be a safeguard to you as you listen to audio sermons, watch TV, and read books from others professing Christ. That you would, as Paul writes in Romans 12:9, “abhors what is evil and cling to what is good.”

False teachers and teaching should not be taken lightly. Not only will they slowly and subtly lead you astray from sound teaching, But (souls are at stake) as well! People’s eternities are at stake. People you know and love need you to be above reproach and steadfast in your understanding and application of sound doctrine.

So, let us, as Paul, discard everything else so that we can gain Christ and know Him more wholly! Amen

LIGHTS IN THE WORLD (part 2)

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BRIEF INTRO: In my last post, we studied Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians regarding their obedience to the revealed Word of God and his plea for them to “continue” in such obedience. In verse twelve, we saw words of affirmation, “just as you have always obeyed”. . . “much more in my absence,” and, words of exhortation, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

 In this study, we are going to continue to focus on what Paul is telling these people in regards to their salvation and, I believe, answer some questions that some of you may be struggling with currently as you seek to “rightly divide the word of truth.” 

So, welcome back. Let’s dive in! Are you ready?

13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure 14 Do all things without complaining or arguments; 15 so that you will [a]prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you [b]appear as [c]lights in the world, 16 holding firmly the Word of life, so that on the day of Christ I can take pride because I did not run in vain nor labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

FOCUS ONE: GOD’S PART (13)

What a great thought, “God is at work in you,” Christian!!

Paul said this much back in 1:6 (He began a good work in us and will perfect it).

The writer of Hebrews said: (13:21 that “He is working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.” So, Christian, be encouraged! You are not alone; even if you feel that way sometimes, God is working in you!!

Now, in our text, we see that Paul states two ways in which this is true. First,

To Desire or to Will, depending on your translation. God reveals His will unto us and coaxes us into adopting His will as our own.

Second, we read, “to do OR work.” Not only are we energized to know His will, but we are empowered to do His will as well. (The Holy Spirit is the key – John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, (Paraclete, one who comes alongside) that He may be with you forever. (God works in, through His Spirit, so that we can work it out!)

God doesn’t just save us and leave us to sort out His will. He moves in our lives and brings us into His work. Before we were saved, God worked on us, John 16:7-11. Now that we are saved, He works within us, John 16:13. The Holy Spirit gives us understanding as to what the will of God is for our lives, and He creates within us a desire to carry out that will.

 One commentator makes this point: “That is how the Christian life operates! God reveals His will to us, and we follow Him in obedience, John 5:19-20! The Christian life is not one of passive involvement. We don’t just sit around watching God do all the work. No, He places within us a desire to be involved in that work. God shows us what to do, and we go and do it. That, after all, is why He saved us – Ephesians 2:10! God saved us to work, and He has equipped us for that work, 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11. Obviously, then, there should be natural reverberations of this in our daily lives.

Such reverberations manifest themselves in private and corporate living – living out our salvation in our daily lives. Reread 14-16.

  1. Becoming—blameless and innocent, cr. 1:10 (crooked, perverse generation).
  2. Being—-lights in this world (gospel witness)

Both of which have a strong emphasis on our personal and corporate testimony for Christ. Christian, our testimony of Christ, should be uppermost in our thinking so -as- to affect all our attitudes and behaviors.

Is that true of you and your testimony?

A. Are you careful how you speak to others?

B. Are you mindful of what you do and do not participate in? 

C. Are you a complainer?

“Complaining seems to be the American way of life. Most conversations are complaints about the government, the economy, the taxes we pay and even about the weather. Among Christians, we hear complaints about the sermon – too long, too dry and too pointed. Or there are complaints about the congregation – too large, too cold, too small, too emotional or too impersonal. Complaining is not just an American pastime. It is a human race pastime because all men do have a sin nature which tends towards the negative rather than the positive. Complaining is a spiritual problem and it has to be dealt with and spiritually defeated.” (Arnold)

The Philippians were commanded not to be complainers (14). They were not to complain about the difficulties they would experience or the persecutions that will come upon them as they worked out their “own salvation in fear and trembling,” in carrying out God’s good pleasure in their own lives.

They were to live their lives in such a way that no one would be able to criticize them. Their lives should be clean and innocent before a watching world!

A specific Old Testament passage is behind Paul’s words. In Deuteronomy 32:5, in the song of Moses, in referring to the grumbling and unbelief of the children of Israel in the wilderness, Moses says, “They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation.” Paul here refers to them and all Christians as “children of God.”

Paul turns that around here and says that we are God’s children, living amid a crooked and perverse generation. So we must be careful not to grumble and dispute, as Israel did in the wilderness, (because) as God’s people we are supposed to shine forth in this dark world as lights, holding forth the Word of life, the gospel of Christ.

Paul says in 2:16: “Holding firmly (fast, forth) to the word of life, then on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.”

Now, in case you missed it, the gospel is central to all of this! It is the gospel and the Jesus of the gospel that saved them. It is the gospel that produces godly behavior in them. The gospel makes any fruitful witness to a lost world (1 John 1-4).

These dear people whom Paul loves so much, whom he brought the “word of life” to, this healthy church is to offer the Word of life to the lost souls around them, and for that to be effective, their lives need to be conformed to the gospel. They are to imitate their savior!

1. Obedience

2. Reverence

3. Self-less-ness

4. Sacrifice

5. Put sinners above Himself

Friends, Jesus Christ, left the splendor of heaven, temporarily laid aside His privileges as the Son of God, to take on the body of a human being. Humbling Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, to publicly be the propitiation for sinners, like us, by shedding His lifeblood for the forgiveness of our sins. You see, we are all dead in our trespasses and sins until God, being rich in mercy and because of His great love for us, took our place and paid our debt. Jesus took upon Himself our sin so that we can, by faith, receive His righteousness!

It is by His grace that anybody is ever saved and forgiven. Do you know of that grace, dear friend?

So, it seems for Paul that if these folks would continue in their obedience

And pursue Christ-like-ness, faithfully living out and sharing the “word of life” Paul’s joy would be complete (vs.2), and he would have cause to rejoice that all his sacrifice and service for these people was fruitful and not in vain or purposeless.

Such a life. Living by faith, walking humbly and obediently before the Lord daily, serving others, shining as lights in a sin fallen world is not easy. There is a price to pay as a faithful follower of Christ.

FOCUS TWO: Cost of our salvation (Read 17-18) (not salvific, but that which is incurred daily living it out).

a. Sacrifice

b. Service

c. A joy

What does Paul mean by being poured out as a drink offering, and what does that have to do with His exhortations up to this point?

The first recorded occurrence of a drink offering was given by Jacob in Genesis 35:14, right after God changed his name to Israel. Drink offerings were also included with burnt and grain offerings in God-ordained sacrifices, including the morning and evening sacrifices of Exodus 29:40. A drink offering was common in Jewish worship. There was a primary animal offering on the altar and then the secondary drink offering, which was poured out, usually on top of the primary offering.

At the writing of this letter, the Apostle Paul was waiting for the verdict from the Roman court as to whether he would be executed or set free. The possibility of being martyred was very present for him. Paul sees his own life possibly coming to an end, and it is a picture of this drink offering that is poured out on top of a sacrifice. He sees the faith of the Philippians being a sacrifice, and he sees his own life being poured out (sacrificed) on top of it.

He views the shedding of his blood secondary to the Philippian’s primary offering of sacrifice and service, which flows out of their faith in Christ. Their service and sacrifice for Christ were more important than Paul’s martyrdom. Yet, Paul rejoiced in the privilege and honor of dying for Christ if he was called upon to do so.

Paul, In 2 Timothy 4:6, used this metaphor as well. He sensed the end of his ministry, again compared his efforts to wine poured out of a vessel onto an altar. Paul sees his own “pouring out” as a thing of joy, a good thing, something that might be sweet to God. His testimony for Christ was paramount in his thinking and affections. Paul was showing true humility in that the service of the Philippians was more important than his death. He tells the Philippians that such sacrifice should be counted as joy, and they can rejoice in it together!

Dear reader, our testimony of Christ should be uppermost in our thinking to affect all our attitudes and behavior, whether that is unity in the church or a faithful gospel witness to a lost world. It will shine brightly when we are filled with joy, even amid trials.

Are we ready to serve the Lord even to the point of imprisonment and death if the Lord should ask it?

Are we ready to sacrifice everything if the Lord should ask us to reach the world with the truth of Christ?

If your answer is “yes,” then you have the mind of Christ in the area of service.

But if your answer is no, what has to be confessed, put off/on, what has to become a priority in your life for your answer to become a “yes?”

Dear Christian, our obedience to the Word and Will of God, is the difference between:

Unity or disunity within the church 

Selfishness or self-less-ness

Humility or arrogance

Complaining or praising

Holding fast the Word of life or neglecting the Word of life

Being lights put under a basket or lights placed on top of a stand to shine forth Joy rejoicing or grumbling and complaining

How will you walk away from this post today after hearing God’s Word to us?

LIGHTS IN THE WORLD

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Phil. 2:12-18

NOT SO BRIEF A RECAP:

Paul has written this letter to a group of believers in Philippi whom he loves dearly. There is a fond affection from them, for him, as well. These believers participated in gospel work with Paul from day one (1:5). He says they are “partakers of grace’ with him (1:7). He calls them “brethren,” a term of endearment (1:12). “My beloved” another such term (2:12). He mentions there “proud confidence” in him (1:25). One cannot miss what he says about these folks in (4:1). He uses the terms “dearly beloved” twice, “brethren,” “longed for,” “my joy and crown (to Paul they were both a reward and a blessing).

From the first day, he says in 1:5, reflecting on his second missionary tour and first act on European soil, which we read about in (Acts 16: 12-40), they shared his interests, made his suffering their own, twice sent him money at Thessalonica (4:16), once at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:9) and now again at Rome (4:18). We read of their love for him (1:9), and that love was reciprocated in full measure (1:7,8).

We also took notice that “There was a pronounced lack of any doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was no doctrinal deviation. These folks had not gone astray in terms of theology. So, they didn’t need to be corrected. No immorality in the congregation is confronted in the epistle. So, what we saw, generally speaking, was that this is a quality group of people. They were a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.

But, despite all of that, there was hanging over that church a troubling cloud, and that cloud was dripping drops of disunity, discord, and conflict, within their fellowship, and Paul is greatly grieved over that.

This is what is burdening Paul; unity and the lack of it in this otherwise GOOD church. Let me remind you that Paul frames the letter with that issue in mind. For example, in the first chapter, he speaks of it, verse 27, when he says, “I want you to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In chapter 4, the last chapter, he speaks of it in verses 1 and 2 when he says, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. And I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”

So, in chapter 1, we see an urging toward one mind and one heart. In chapter 4, another urging toward one mind and one heart, And then in the middle is this second chapter, and the opening verses also deal with the issue of unity in the church. This is a plea for unity.

The following verses that we will be looking at follow the flow of the theme of unity begun in 1:27. The plea, based on the results of salvation in their own lives (2:1), the various elements involved in it, and the excellent example of Jesus for our atonement (Vv 5-11).

1. Obedience

2. Reverence

3. Self-less-ness

4. Sacrifice

5. Put sinners above Himself

6. Exaltation

We should take notice that these verses (12-18) begin with “so then,” or “wherefore.” In other words, Paul is saying, because of all that was just said, do this or conduct yourself in a particular manner. After verse 5, which is in the imperative or a command, Paul spoke in the indicative, relating facts or truths. But the facts or truths are to have repercussions in the Christian life. And that is what he is expressing in verses 12-16.

So, let’s jump in! 

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure.

FOCUS ONE:

Working out our salvation 

Paul begins by mentioning their obedience in spiritual things, not just when he was present but even MORE SO in his absence. In 1:5, he says their obedient,

faithful participation in the gospel from the very beginning. In 4:15, he mentions their obedience and faithfulness in supporting his ministry from day one while no other churches did!

This is a very commendable thing, obedience, isn’t it? As parents, we appreciate and praise God for such obedience in our children, don’t we? What a joy it is to our hearts to know that our children do what they are supposed to, EVEN when we are not there to oversee them. It is good they obey when we are there, but so much more pleasing when they follow our wishes when we are not. Amen.

So, with that strong accolade mentioned, Paul now exhorts them to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (vs. 12).”

Let me be clear. Paul does not mean that they have to work for salvation – Eph. 2:8-9. These people were already saved – Phil. 1:1. We see in verses 12 and 13 that there are two parts to this appeal, and we need to hold them in proper balance, or we can easily be deceived in our thinking on what sanctification is and how God uses it in our lives as Christians. In verse 12, we hear about our part, and then in verse 13, we read about God’s part.

So, this word, work in v. 12, means to bring to full completion, and along with the following verse, it also means that God gives us the energy to do His will. (We do not and cannot do it alone!) Paul is evident on that!

Our-part

Paul says, “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” Many Christians are busy trying to “work” out everyone else’s salvation. It’s that ole speck and log issue Jesus told the people about on the Mount back in Matthew 7:1-5. Christian, we cannot work out anybody else’s salvation—–BUT we must, according to the inspired word of God—work out OUR SALVATION!

At first glance, this doesn’t sound quite right. Let’s look at what Paul is saying a little more closely:

“…First, let’s take the phrase “your own salvation.” What a great possession! The only reason salvation is mine is because it was His first! He planned it! He purposed it! He pursued it! He paid it! And He pressed it upon my heart! Salvation became mine, and it became yours when we placed our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This salvation, when received, one writer says: “buries the past, changes the present and insures the future! What a great salvation we have in Jesus!”

Friends, we don’t work “for” our salvation, or “toward” it, or even “at” it, but we are to work “out” our salvation. Remember, Paul is writing to the Christian community, and he uses the plural pronoun for “you,” meaning he is addressing the entire church. This means that we are to live out what we know to be true.

Since we are saved, we must behave as believers, as “citizens of Heaven (3:20).”

The word “work” means to “work fully to the point of finishing the job.” The Romans used it for “working a mine” ultimately, getting out every piece of valuable stone. Likewise, we are to mine the depths of our rich redemption that was granted us by His grace.

God deposited a wealth of blessings into our lives; Paul mentioned some in verse 1(in his appeal), now we must go down deep to experience and enjoy what we’ve been given.

Charles Spurgeon explains it this way: “To will and to do, He gives the whole ability. It is by the grace of God which inclines the will to that which is good: and then enables us to perform it, and to act according to our principles. ‘You have wrought all our works in us,’ Isa. 26:12. Of His good pleasure, as there is no strength in us, so there is no merit in us. As we cannot act without God’s grace, so we cannot claim it, nor pretend to deserve it. God’s good will to us is the cause of His good work IN us…”

Application?

You and I cannot do righteous works without the aid of the Righteous one.

We have no strength, no will for holiness without God’s grace.

What you and I accomplish along these lines is solely in accordance with the kind intention of His will working within us.

We are to live out daily in our lives what we know to be true as God has revealed to us in His Holy Word, and He graciously provides the desire, will, and results!

FOCUS TWO:

Added to this warning is a qualifier, “with fear and trembling.”

The phrase “fear and trembling” helps us see that we must never take our faith lightly. One commentator says of this: “Fear” describes fright or terror and reverential awe. We must have such a reverence and respect for God that we will be afraid to sin, coupled with a strong desire to please Him.” That’s what Exodus 20:20 states: “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Friend, If you find yourself sinning all the time and not being bothered by it, it could be because you have lost your fear of God. The word “trembling” means “to quake with fear.” Isaiah 66:2 tells us that God wants us to have this kind of attitude when we approach Him: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Psalm 2:11 brings both fear and trembling together: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.”

We can revere God and rejoice in Him, “Believers should have a serious dread of sin and a yearning for what is right before God.”

After all, think about it for a moment. The Philippian believers, just like believers today, do not know, and cannot possibly know, all the sacrifices required of them in doing God’s will.

God’s will for the Philippians involved conflict (1:30), For Jesus, death (2:8), For Paul, imprisonment and possible martyrdom (2:17), for Timothy, costly sacrificial service (v. 20), and Epaphroditus, physical illness, near unto death (v.27).

When we contemplate our lostness, our deep depravity, and our inability to save ourselves, we can’t help but tremble at the thought of getting what we deserve.” We must get serious about our salvation, and as God’s redeemed, we must live responsibly and obediently for Christ.

So, Christian, are you living for and serving the Lord each day in fear and trembling? Or, have you noticed that those elements to your daily walk of faith have diminished or disappeared altogether?

IN THE FACE OF CHRIST

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Are you longing for a friend?

Who’ll stick by you till the end,

Can there be one that will suffice?

Only look in the face of Christ.

Have you ever been betrayed?

Heart wide open and on display;

Believing love is merchandised,

Oh, please look in the face of Christ.

Are you burdened by your sins?

Can’t bear the guilt you feel within;

The debt you owe is a costly price,

Only look in the face of Christ.

There is one who cares for you,

Cleanses, pardons, and renews;

And His love can’t be jeopardized,

Oh, please look in the face of Christ.

The face of Christ, God’s only son

Prince of p-e-a-c-e, Emmanuel 

The one who pardons and relieves

Only look and you’ll believe

Only look and you’ll believe

Written by : Larry Stump Jr.