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Jesus Over Everything - Philippians 3:1-11

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I want you to go back in time to see little Billy.
Picture a summer day in the 90s.
Nickelodeon is blaring on the TV and Mom just said we are going to McDonalds.
Life is good.
You get to McDonalds, you get your happy meal and lo and behold there it is the coveted teenie beanie baby.
You remember those?
(Don’t act tough I know y’all had that princess Diane bear)
In my young mind I was holding an exceptionally rare collectable that was sure to be worth thousands some day.
The same mass produced toy that me and millions of other children got each day.
Today you can buy that same toy on ebay sealed for a crisp $4.
Isn’t it amazing the things we value?
Look I know collectibles can hold value.
But many of the things we cherish end up becoming junk.
We have a bag at home with broken laptops and chords because maybe just maybe it’ll be worth something.
Hannah hates it.
What do you treasure?
Is there anything of surpassing value? Is there anything that deserves our life-long, passionate pursuit?
The answer is yes.
Paul describes it in verse 8:
Philippians 3:8 (ESV)
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Paul reminds us that nothing on earth compares to knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
You will never regret pursuing Christ.
Here is the big idea today.
Big Idea: Jesus Over Everything!
That’s the point.
Nothing else saves.
Nothing else can hold a candle to christ.
Jesus over everything.
That’s what we will see this morning and it starts with a Threat.
See first The Threat
I. The Threat (v.1-3)
Philippians 3:1–3 (ESV)
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—
Chapter 3 begins to take a swift turn.
The narrative is still rejoice. Yes.
But now Paul focuses on a threat from outside the church.
Much like the rest of the first century world church there is a sinister theology that is making its way to the ears of the Philippians and Paul is having none of it.
It’s the theology of Jesus plus something to save.
The was a group that taught you needed Jesus plus the mosaic law.
Specifically the sign of the old covenant, circumcision.
Paul had apparently told the Philippians to be on guard before but nonetheless he is ready to deal with it again and is seeking to safeguard their joy in Christ.
He says in verse 2 to look out for the dogs.
He isn’t talking about fido, he is talking about ravenous dogs that will bite.
The reference to dogs is striking because the Jews often called the Gentiles “dogs,” since they viewed them as unclean.
What is happening now is a dramatic reversal has taken place through the work of Christ.
Now it’s the Judaizers who must be regarded as dogs. He also calls the Judaizers “evildoers” and “mutilators of the flesh".
They were evildoers because their mission was evil, not good.
Their mission wasn’t heroic, but hellish.
They were proclaiming a false gospel.
This idea is deadly.
That we could somehow add to Jesus’ works.
Paul actually says their call to circumcision isn’t a call to covenantal faithfulness, it’s mutilation.
He is having none of it.
They are not made holy by this act.
Here is what read in Romans 2:25-29
Romans 2:25–29 (ESV)
For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Paul is saying that what truly matters is a circumcision of the heart.
It’s the new heart given to us.
He goes on to say in verse 3
Philippians 3:3 (ESV)
For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—
Paul says they think they are honoring the covenant, nope they are mutilating the flesh and leading people astray.
It’s Christians who are the true believers.
He then gives us three marks of true believers
Worship God in the Spirit
Rejoice in Christ Jesus
Have no confidence in the flesh
He is saying It is not the external things that count, but what has happened and is happening inside.
There is a real threat that happens any time we seek to add to Jesus.
It derails us and places the focus off of Christ.
I remember when this passage came to life for me it changed everything.
You see I never had confidence in Christ throughout my younger years.
Even when I went to Bible College I constantly fought shame and the tension that something was missing.
I’ve told some of you this but I have been baptized 3 times.
I was so unsure and I thought a ritual would save me.
Paul sees that there is a young church that will be pressured into believing a false gospel of Jesus+circumcision and he will have none of it.
He calls the Philippians to see that what truly matters is Jesus.
Again it’s not our performance but Christ’s for us that matters.
But for you and me to understand this we have to understand what needs to be lost in order to gain.
That’s exactly where Paul heads next. Look at verse 4 and let’s consider the loss.
II. The Loss (v4-6)
Philippians 3:4–6 (ESV)
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.
Paul is saying here that if mere religious effort could save people well he’d have that locked down.
You may as well put him at the top of the list because Paul checked that box well.
He is saying, listen if what these guys are telling you is true then I could run circles around them with my accolades.
Impressive Beginning.
First, Paul explains that he had the right beginning. He was “circumcised the eighth day” (v 5).
No Jew could have a better beginning than this.
The Mosaic Law required that on the eighth day, a baby boy would be circumcised.
This ritual signified that there must come a time in which the heart of the individual must be circumcised as well. There must come the reality when that child is set apart by the Holy Spirit unto God.
Circumcision was a religious ritual practiced by Israel with the significance that the heart must be cut by the word of God.
But though Paul states that he, like all other Jews, had received circumcision, the fact remains that it cannot save the soul.
Perhaps you also had the right beginning.
Maybe you were brought to church from the time you were born.
Maybe you were dedicated to the Lord in a special church service.
Whatever might have happened to you in your childhood, none of these things can give you a right standing before God.
Impressive Nationality.
Second, Paul had the right nationality. He was born “of the nation of Israel” (v 5).
Israel was God’s chosen nation, and they were the people who were privileged to hear the word of God preached to them.
No other nation had such an advantage through access to the word of God.
God gave his law, he sent his prophets, and he gave his commandments, all to the chosen nation of Israel.
He made his covenant with them. So to be a member of Israel was to inherit a great privilege.
Likewise, there are people like this today who trust in being a citizen of a nation with a Christian heritage.
Impressive Lineage.
Third, Paul testifies that he was of the right lineage: he was “of the tribe of Benjamin.”
Of the twelve tribes of Israel, Benjamin was one of the two elite tribes.
They were one of the two tribes that remained loyal to King David’s descendants when the kingdom divided; together, they formed the southern kingdom of Judah.
In the land assigned to Benjamin the capital city, Jerusalem, was situated.
So it was in the land assigned to Benjamin that the temple was built, and the sacrifices were made.
Paul was not only an Israelite; he was of an impressive tribe.
Many today presume that the spiritual lineage of their family tree will give them a right standing with God.
Oh my grandad was a pastor.
Impressive Upbringing.
Fourth, Paul adds that he was “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (v 5).
That is to say, he was born of Hebrew (that is, Jewish) parents and was raised according to Hebrew tradition.
He was reared in a Hebrew home and learned the Hebrew language. No one could be any more Hebrew than Paul was. He was a diehard Hebrew.
He was as religiously a Hebrew as anyone could possibly be.
Maybe you can relate to this. Maybe you also had the right upbringing.
Perhaps you were raised in a Christian home and attended a Christian school, and maybe you even learned the truths of the Bible when you were younger.
While these are all good things, none of them are able to save you.
■ Impressive Standard.
Fifth, Paul had an impressive standard by which he lived. “As to the Law [he was] a Pharisee” (v 5).
The Pharisees were those men most committed to the Old Testament Scriptures.
They were Scripture believing, Scripture reading, Scripture studying, Scripture teaching, Scripture preaching people.
They were fiercely devoted to studying the word of God.
Moreover, they sought to keep it with all their might.
So it was with Paul before his conversion; he was a walking, talking storehouse of Bible knowledge. Paul knew the Scriptures inside out.
Maybe you are committed to the teaching of the Bible. Perhaps you know it well.
Perhaps you teach it to others..
But even this, while noble and commendable, cannot save you.
Impressive Sincerity.
Sixth, he had a notable right sincerity.
Paul adds that he was, “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church” (v 6).
Paul was not lukewarm about anything he did, and certainly not about religion.
Paul was not apathetic, nor was he a “half in, half out” type of person.
He was full of zeal and passion for holy things.
He was filled with sincerity, so much so that not only did he love what he believed to be right, but he hated what he was convinced was wrong.
From this sincerity came his violent persecution against the church.
He was a man who was filled with extreme enthusiasm for what he perceived to be the things of God. Compromise was alien to his nature, as much as Christ was alien to his view of God.
Impressive Morality.
Seventh, Paul had a high standard of morality. “As to the righteousness which is in the Law, [I was] found blameless” (v 6).
Had we been there, we would have stood back and looked at the life of before-conversion Paul, and concluded that here was a straight arrow if there ever was one.
He sought to live by the standard of God’s law.
He was outwardly moral. He was extremely upright.
And perhaps you are like this, too.
You are well known as a good man or woman.
You take following the Bible’s commands very seriously.
But this too will not save you.
(Rich young ruler)
In fact as we will see in just a moment Paul says all of this all together is loss.
Coram Deo what are you trusting in this morning?
Let’s look over the whole of our life, what really truly matters?
Paul says if it isn't Jesus no matter how great of a thing it is, in the end it’s rubbish.
My fear is that you would wear the name Christian, but in reality you are trusting in something other then Jesus.
I had a friend who stayed at a nice hotel.
He walked into the hotel lobby and saw a bowl of fruit set out for guests.
He decided to grab an apple.
He bit into it only to discover that it wasn’t real. It was wax.
It was quite embarrassing to bite into a wax apple thinking that it was real and then not know quite what to do with it! Do you put it back with teeth marks on it? Do you steal it and take it with you?
He had mistaken something artificial for something that was real.
It’s possible to have artificial church that looks real.
It’s possible to be an artificial Christian but look real.
Paul looks back on all the things he use to trust and he say’s it’s Junk
Listen to Eugene Peterson’s Paraprase of Vs 7 and following:
The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Chapter 3)
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.
All of this is loss Paul says, but Christ is gain.
Let’s see next The Gain
III. The Gain (v.7-11)
Philippians 3:7–11 (ESV)
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 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— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
I love this.
If you were an accountant and you had a t- bracket
Paul was once a persecutor and on the loss side he had Christianity, Jesus to him was offensive.
ON the gain side was his self righteousness, all his accolades.
The gain and loss columns have now been swaped.
What matters now?
That he gains Christ.
Ever since his eyes were opened on the damascus road he is now focused on one thing, Christ.
Jesus over everything.
In fact he says all that he use to consider gain, all his doing, it’s not just loss it’s rubbish.
The KJV says dung.
The word can mean either.
It’s saying that any striving for something that isn’t Jesus no matter how good that thing is, is ultimately trash.
Verse 9 is extremely important for understanding how you become a Christian—you need Christ’s righteousness.
Verses 10-11 are extremely important for understanding what a Christian pursues—you need to know Christ more and more.
To use theological language, verse 9 speaks of justification.
Verse 10 speaks of sanctification.
Verse 11 speaks of glorification.
If you aren’t a Christian, you need to be justified, counted righteous before God.
Otherwise, you face condemnation.
If you’re a Christian, you, like Paul, need to pursue a better knowledge of Christ in this lifelong process of sanctification, which culminates in eternal glorification.
Let’s walk through these.
Verse 9 changed my life.
Like I mentioned before I was never quite confident in myself before college.
It’s because I was looking to myself to maintain righteousness.
In his list of accomplishments Paul said that with regard to righteousness he was “blameless” (v. 6).
However, he couldn’t live up to sinless perfection.
He, like us, needed someone else’s righteousness in order to be justified before God.
You see, here’s the problem.
Only righteous people are going to heaven.
Yet none of us are righteous.
Therefore, we need another source of righteousness, and that’s why the gospel is good news.
As Paul says here in Philippians 3 and elsewhere, believers have received the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ alone; we call this “imputed righteousness.”
This is the opposite of works-based righteousness or self-righteousness.
That’s all dung.
We need the righteousness of another, an alien righteousness.
We need God’s righteousness.
To the Corinthians, Paul says, 2 Cor 5:21
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
What a glorious exchange!
Christ received our punishment though He never sinned, and we received His righteousness though we didn’t deserve it.
Consequently, we are found in Christ.
That means that God sees us through the righteousness of Christ.
Believers are now protected from judgment, and we can know that we have forgiveness from God and are accepted by God.
No better news exists.
Some define “justification” as “just as if I never sinned.”
But we should add that it’s more than this. It’s “just as if I’ve always obeyed.”
For we haven’t just gone from negative to neutral; we have gone from negative to positive.
We have not just received forgiveness; we have been given the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
Do not trust in your own goodness?
Many people think they’re somewhere between Mother Theresa and Jeffery Dahmer, assuming that God somehow grades on a curve.
Consider Paul: he said as to righteousness under the law, he was blameless, yet he discovered that he was under the judgment of God and needed Christ’s righteousness.
We need this righteousness also.
Today if you know this, then remind yourself of this good news daily by reading the Bible, meeting with other Christians, meditating on good books, and singing gospel-saturated songs.
In verse 10 we find that Paul didn’t adopt an attitude like, “I’ve arrived spiritually.”
He never got bored with knowing Jesus.
As believers, we, too, need to press on to know Him.
Of course, Paul does know Christ, but because of his love for the Savior, he wants to know Him more.
J. I. Packer put it well: “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord” (JI Packer).
What is your main business in life?
Is it to have a lot of success? Is it to make money? Is it to get married? Is it to be entertained?
Everything in life flows from this fountain: knowing Christ.
What do you want to pass on to your kids?
Do you want them to have the same anxiety you wrestle with, the same coldness to the things of the Spirit?
Or do you want them to know the joy of Jesus.
This is Pauls main goal to know Christ.
This is his gain!
Specifically, Paul mentions knowing Christ and “the power of His resurrection” and “the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
Let’s unpack this.
Note first, believers have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (see Eph 1:19).
This power is at work within us so that we may desire to work according to God’s pleasure (Phil 2:13).
This power is at work within us to make us holy.
This power is at work within us to help us understand God’s great love and mercy.
This power gives us strength to endure life’s hardships (Col 1:11-12).
But Paul wants more. At this point, everyone may be “amening”!
You might say, “Yeah, I want to know Christ. Yeah, I want the power of Christ.”
But we may be tempted to skip this next line and jump to the resurrection part.
We must not skip over this line about suffering because we’ll miss something very important.
Paul says he wants to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. Earlier, he told the Philippians that we have been given the gift of suffering for Christ (1:29). T
his flies in the face of prosperity theology, which says if you have faith you will be healthy, be wealthy, and have no trials. Many don’t understand the truth about Christianity.
When I was a young Christian, no one told me about suffering on behalf of Christ.
I was raised with a version of Christianity that adopted a view that one could be a disciple but not look like Jesus.
Paul corrects our understanding and gives us an inspiring example to follow.
To be clear, we shouldn’t read this as if Paul enjoyed suffering in and of itself. That’s not what he means.
Rather, he understands that in following the Man of Sorrows, we, too, will encounter suffering and sorrow, and as we follow along this Calvary Road, we will know the Master better.
Here is the idea we are not told to go look for suffering.
The message of Philippians is to put on the mind of Christ.
We are called to look for someone to serve for the cause of Christ and do not be deterred by suffering.
This is a call to pursue Christ-likeness not misery, but rather joy!
Finally Glorification
We, too, should long for this “glorious end, the final resurrection” when we will see Christ.
Paul concludes this chapter by giving us this hope: Phil 3:20-21
Philippians 3:20–21 (ESV)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
We have a taste of this glory now, but we have not experienced the fullness of it yet.
Paul writes to the Corinthians,
2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
When God redeems a person, He uses the same creative power that He used when He spoke the universe into existence.
He shines in our hearts to give us the knowledge of Christ.
Later, more glory will be revealed.
We await our resurrected bodies, our new home, and an increased knowledge of Christ.
Let this hope purify you.
Let this hope encourage you in your sufferings.
Let this hope help you put all things into perspective.
It’s Jesus over everything
Paul is showing us in this passage that there’s an ocean of glory in Christ Jesus for us to know and experience.
He never grew stagnant or bored with knowing Christ.
Instead, he wanted to know Him better and better.
He traded his self-righteousness for God’s perfect righteousness through faith in Christ.
He possessed Christ’s resurrection power.
He knew Christ better and better by suffering for Christ, and he thus rejoiced in suffering.
He anticipated a glorious resurrection that would enable him to know his Savior even more. Let’s not be content with putting a toe in the water.
Let us pursue a deep relationship with Jesus Christ, and let’s long for the day in which we see Him, the One with scars on His hands, who defeated death through His resurrection.
Nothing on earth compares to knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.
I’ve always loved the Hymn, “Take The World But Give Me Jesus”
It was written by Franny Crosby.
Franny became ill as an infant.
The town doctor was away and a self-proclaimed doctor who later was reveled was no more than a quack essentially blinded here with a bogus treatment.
Her life was a difficult one that included losing her father at a very young age.
Yet she ended up becoming a prolific hymn writer writing more than 8000 hymns.
Hymns like Blessed Assurance, To God Be The Glory, I Am Thine Oh Lord, and on and on.
One day after a service a Pastor game to here and said,
"I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you"
Fanny Crosby responded at once, as she had heard such comments before. "Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”
Listen to the words of Take The World But Give Me Jesus:
Take the world, but give me Jesus; in his cross my trust shall be till with clearer, brighter vision face to face my Lord I see
Oh, the height and depth of mercy! Oh, the length and breadth of love! Oh, the fullness of redemption, pledge of endless life above!
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