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Philippians 9

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Philippians 9.

You may recall, that the last part of this letter [P] we were looking at was dealing with personal details and arrangements – Paul was telling the church how he was going to send Timothy and Epaphroditus to them, and then come himself. Now he suddenly changes tack, from these personal details, to instructing them and encouraging them. The instructions that follow here are based more on their situation than on his, which is one reason his tone changes. He starts off saying: “Finally my brothers ….” – he then goes on for another two chapters! Some preachers have taken this as justification for preaching long sermons – they say “finally” giving the congregation hope that it will soon be over, then they go on and preach for another hour! But the word translated “finally” is translated elsewhere as the rest or others – it just signals that he is moving on to other matters; it does not mean this is the last thing he has to say. So let’s read [P] [Philippians 3:1-9 Finally,(or “to move on”) my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me (he’d already told them to rejoice, and will do so again), and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 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, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.] So this is a new section but it’s the same thing he has already said! Like a cracked record: “REJOICE!” [P] Back in [Philippians 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, ] and in [Philippians 2:17-18 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. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.]. And in (Phil 2:28) Paul was sending Epaphroditus to them so that they may rejoice. I think Paul wants them to get the message! He keeps on about rejoicing. Why is rejoicing so important to Paul? Does he just want us to smile and be happy for Jesus? Just look at the contexts where Paul has talked about rejoicing – they are not happy situations; these statements are found in the midst of hardship. Rejoicing is not dependent upon circumstances; it is an activity we choose to do; it is not an emotion [P]. If we choose to rejoice, it means we are choosing not to do something else. Paul here gives us a key insight into life that we cannot afford to miss. [Habakkuk 3:17-18 Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, (things are not going well!) yet I will exult in יהוה, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.] It is a decision of the will. It is not simplistic Pollyanna-like attitude – let’s be happy in mindless disregard. It is not just rejoicing – it is rejoicing in the LORD [P]. God, is sovereign, He is in control of all things. In infinite wisdom, He ordains things to work a certain way; often in situations that we would not choose: difficulties, problems, hardship, suffering. How are we going to respond? Do we truly believe God is working things out according His will which is good, acceptable and perfect? That He is GOOD, that His loving-kindness endures forever? Is my situation from God? Or has He lost control? Do I complain about what comes my way? My house changes from green to red zone – how do I respond? If we are truly rejoicing and thankful for God’s provision, we cannot complain or be resentful. My circumstance is by His design. What comes out of our mouths (for better or worse) is an indicator of what is going on in our hearts [Matthew 15:18 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart. Luke 6:45 “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.] What do our words say about our attitude, our heart, and focus? If we focus our efforts on rejoicing in God and in His provision, we are at the same time guarding against things that rob us of our joy. This is why Paul talks about rejoicing as a safeguard [P]; he understood how God has wired us. It’s like the old saying that “the best defence is a good offense.” Choosing to go on the offensive by rejoicing in the midst of hardship is the single greatest defence from the things that make us turn away from God. Rejoicing is one of the most critical things we can do to guard our hearts against discouragement. It’s not just a good idea, it is a safeguard specifically designed by God for this purpose. How does it work? If I am choosing to rejoice in the Lord whatever my circumstances or situation, I can’t be grumbling and complaining about them at the same time! If you’re grumbling, you’re not rejoicing. A natural consequence of truly rejoicing in the Lord about something is the inability to complain about it. By making the choice to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of unpleasant circumstances, we will guard ourselves against fear, doubt, double-mindedness, and the discouragement that comes from opposition. All of these things are barometers for our heart attitude. If we see these things creeping in then we know that our focus is shifting away from God and onto other things. Paul talks rejoicing in the Lord as a safeguard because he is going to warn them about people in their lives who are seeking to rob them of their joy in [Phil 3:2]. Three times Paul tells them to “beware!” – referring to the same group of people in three different terms – he calls them: dogs, evil workers, and mutilators. They were those seeking to bring the Gentiles under the Jewish law, and in particular force them to be circumcised. The next verse implies that these people are not the true circumcision; he claims “we are.” You see circumcision is cutting off a bit of flesh, but you can cut off a particular bit of skin without removing the flesh at all. In fact by insisting on physical circumcision they were relying on the flesh, rather than walking in the Spirit. And flesh and Spirit are in opposition. [Galatians 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Romans 8:5-8 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.] You know what the flesh is, don’t you? [P] You take off the “H” and spell it backwards [P] – SELF! By relying on something done physically to the flesh, they were in the flesh and thus not in the Spirit. They were relying on what they did, boasting in what they had done. They were proud of themselves. The focus was on self – on what I have done. If you are in the flesh you cannot please God. What He seeks is those that worship Him in Spirit and in truth, not the false worship of the flesh [John 4:23-24 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”]. If it depends on you, it is fleshly, it is based on pride and self – it is false worship. The true circumcision worships in the Spirit of God; they boast in Christ Jesus, in what He has done; and put no confidence in the flesh, in themselves and what they have done. The flesh boasts in what I have done. May I ask you: “Are you proud of what you have accomplished?” [P] What you have attained, obtained, your position, your ability, your skill – that is the flesh! It boasts! You can live and trust in the flesh – glory in what you have, are and have done; or you can live in the Spirit, relying on what God has done, glory in what He has done. It is either flesh or Spirit – one or the other. What do you value? [P] What do you esteem? What really matters to you? What is of real value to you? Your house, the things you have, your position, your job, the respect you command, your accomplishments? If it came to giving things up, what would you let go and what would you cling to? Paul reveals his heart, he shows what really matters to him – what is of supreme value. Now boasting on the basis of the flesh is bad, opposed to God, yet in the very next verse Paul does that very thing! Not because he placed any value on the things he goes on to boast about; but in order to demonstrate how worthless they are – to unfold what is of real value. The word that introduces (Phil 3:4) signals that what follows somehow contradicts what he’s just said, not unlike adding a “but if I was gonna do this.…” [P] He takes up the idea of boasting hypothetically, challenging anyone who thinks they can beat him in a comparison of flesh-based titles or awards. Paul sets the stage for one of his most significant declarations by essentially saying we should never do such a thing. Even though Christians are not to put confidence in the flesh, Paul does it anyhow to make the point that in the end, there really is nothing worth boasting about other than being “found in Christ with a righteousness that comes through faith in God.” He says not to do something, and then he does it to excess to make a sobering point about the incomparable worth of knowing Christ. And so he begins a list of credentials that would have made any Jew of his day envious. [P] It’s like he is daring anyone to try and one-up him: “You think you’ve got a claim to make? We’ll just see about that!” What trophies and accolades does he have hanging on his wall, figuratively speaking? Heritage, schooling, zealous exploits—he’s got it all. He was circumcised on the eighth day, just as specified in (Leviticus 12:3)—a full-blooded Israelite. And he’s not just any Israelite, he’s from the tribe of one of Jacob’s two most-favoured sons: Benjamin. As far as religious education, he was a Pharisee – they were the most strict in their interpretation of the Torah, and meticulous in their observance of their customs. Pharisees did it better than anyone else when it came to keeping the law. But even more than being an exemplary Pharisee, he was zealous beyond all others: he persecuted the church – totally consumed with holding up the purity of his religion. His connection to Pharisaism was more than casual; it singularly directed his actions. His lifestyle also bore out his commitment to living a righteous life; a life characterized by strict obedience to the Pharisaic code; and he lived it out blamelessly. If Paul listed his accomplishments, what he had achieved it was an impeccable list of credentials. There was no one more impressive – by the standard of that done in the flesh. But this list of accomplishments is just a set-up; they will all soon be figuratively cast aside on the dung heap. But until that point, he makes his trophy wall sound as desirable as possible—the more envy the better. This survey of Paul’s religious credentials proves that if anyone had a right to claim a favoured status and to wield religious influence over his peers, it was Paul far more than the Judaizers he refers to in (Phil in 3:2). If the Philippians wanted to put someone on a religious pedestal, Paul is the guy who deserves it. Now remember that he clearly stated in (Phil 3:3) that no one was to put confidence in the flesh. So why does he show off all of his accomplishments? He does this to illustrate just how much he is willing to give up in exchange for knowing and being identified with Christ. It shows how much more valuable that is! It’s one thing to say that you would give up everything to follow Christ, and quite another to list and sign over all of your most prized assets. The latter is exactly what Paul is doing. By showing the incalculable value of all that he was willing to give up, Paul raises the value of knowing Christ. He does this in several stages. [P] In the first stage, he essentially says, “You want to know how committed I am to Christ, how important He is to me? You see all these things I just listed, all the things on my trophy wall? I’m willing to write off all these things for the sake of Christ.” These are the things that would have given Paul respect, honour, and influence in his culture, yet he’s willing to disavow them in exchange for knowing Christ. What Paul considers most valuable, he is willing to exchange for knowing Christ. What are the things that you have on your trophy wall? Maybe your education, your job, position, the respect you command, how smart and wonderful your kids are, what a lovely wife you have, your musical or artistic ability, skill in building or fixing things. All of these things in one way or another can build my ego; they’re things that I can beat my chest about and say, “Hey, look at me!” It is self – flesh! Paul counts these things as loss. He is prepared to give up all. Lose them. He is honing in on a million-dollar question: where do we place our value? [P] – what parts of our life in the flesh do we boast about? The answer should be “none.” These are all valuable things, but they are to be used as gifts from God for His purposes working through us. What does this mean for me? If I’m really good at a particular thing I should not use these it to boost my ego. These things should not define who I am. Think about the change in attitude that comes about when this happens. Instead of things to cling onto, all these valuable things are resources to be laid at the Lord’s feet to be used for His good pleasure. In finding my identity in Christ, these other things do not cease to exist; they simply no longer define who I am. It’s a process, not an event as Paul points out down in (Phil 3:12-14). But it all begins by taking those things that we hold dear and no longer finding our identity in them. This is what Paul means by taking his valued trophies and counting them loss. This sounds like an impressive sacrifice, and it is! By giving up his most treasured things, Paul makes a relationship with Christ sound valuable. But this is just the beginning! It’s time for stage two. Paul raises the bar in (Phil 3:8) by saying he’s willing to give up even more: not just his trophies but everything! [P] He’s willing to give it all! We’re talking about everything here, not just his influence and education. He would even be willing to give his life. This is how he can say in (Phil 1:21) that to live is Christ and to die is gain. It isn’t his life anymore. Knowing Christ and being found in Him is worth more than anything and worth giving everything. Jim Elliot echoed this sentiment when he said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” This is exactly the kind of value system that Paul describes here in Philippians 3. He has found something of surpassing value! [P] Paul not only considers his trophies to be worth exchanging for knowing Christ, it’s worth giving everything! Knowing Jesus is the only thing that matters! The Psalmis said: [Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked from יהוה, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of יהוה all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of יהוה and to meditate in His temple.] Knowing Jesus is of supreme value! [1 Peter 2:4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 1 Peter 2:7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe.] To us who believe He is precious beyond price, of more value than anything else. What can compare with knowing Christ, with having His life in you?! Now for stage three. [P] Paul ratchets things up one more notch in the last half of (Phil 3:8). This time he makes us a little uncomfortable. When we have something of value in our culture, say a house or a car, we typically insure it against loss from fire, theft, or various kinds of destruction. We do this because we want protection against loss. When Paul says that he counts all things loss, he is still treating them as valuable. He is simply making the decision not to hang onto these valuable things, but to exchange them for Christ. In this last stage, all this changes. Paul is about to talk about the things we deposit in toilets. We have toilets in our homes, which are connected to sewer pipes that take away the things that have been deposited there. Where? Nobody really cares where, just so long as it is gone. Why aren’t we sad when we flush the toilet? Because we have absolutely no interest in keeping what is deposited there! Now instead of Paul considering all his stuff as “valuable, but worth the trade” for knowing Christ, Paul goes one step further. Knowing Christ is so valuable to him that, in comparison, he considers his stuff to be about as desirable as faeces – that is what it literally says. Most translations are a little more refined and say “rubbish”. What’s left after putting everything on the table in exchange for knowing Christ? How can he raise the stakes further? By saying that, in his view, these priceless things aren’t worth crap, literally – that’s the analogy he uses – in comparison to the value of knowing Christ, Paul’s most prized possessions aren’t worth squat. He devalues the things that the world says we should treasure. He shifts from saying it is worth giving up everything to saying he considers everything but Christ valueless. It’s no longer a “loss”; it’s “good riddance!” Instead of finding his identity in these things, he casts them all on the dung heap. If that’s really what all our stuff is worth compared to knowing Christ, who wouldn’t want to make this exchange? In the final analysis, all that he had is less than worthless compared to the surpassing greatness of gaining Christ! [P] That is the only thing that matters! Knowing Jesus is the only thing of value, having Him, having His life – all else is rubbish. Can I talk a little about rubbish? Do you know that we often treasure stuff that is rubbish? We have just moved house and it is a great opportunity to have a clean out. The room that is the hardest to shift is Hannah’s – it is so full of treasures! Packed with stuff! Most of it is junk. Toys that she had when she was in a bassinette, drawings she did when she didn’t know whether to hold the crayon in her hand or her mouth! Bits of seaweed! Junk! But try and throw it out! They are treasures! What do you treasure? What is of real value to you? [P] [Matthew 16:26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?] We treasure junk! The Bible says [Isaiah 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;] We are proud of our good deeds. Notice that it is not our failures, sins, or things that we are ashamed of but our very best – our righteousness, that which we are proud of and want everyone to notice – and it is filth! The Bible says that it is like a menstrual cloth! That is the Bible talking straight again, so straight that the translators feel they have to tone it down a bit. What we value is only fit to be thrown away. I was given this passage to speak on at the prison – and I spoke about rubbish dumps [P] – Rhoda’s uncle used to run the Cust dump. Do you remember them? Now we have beautiful clean and sanitary rubbish transfer stations, but do you remember the dump on Pages road? – a great hole in the ground with hundreds of seagulls overhead, you could smell it a mile away, literally! You would load up your car and trailer with rubbish and take it to the dump, where everyone else would dump their junk. But there was some good stuff thrown out – I remember Pauline’s Dad picking up a whole “Treasury of David” at the tip. And so you would find treasures at the dump – you could come back with your trailer more loaded than when you went! You thought it was treasure; but really it was rubbish. Now, imagine, there you are coming out of the dump with your arms loaded with treasure/junk; and there at the gate you meet someone who offers you a chest of treasure – this is the real thing, gold, jewels! You can have it for free! The trouble is all the while you have your hands full of that junk you cannot take hold of the treasure chest. Do you know? We need to recognize our rubbish for what it is – rubbish and throw it out. Stop clinging to that junk! Throw it out so that we can take hold of the true treasure! Paul had been talking in (Phil 3:2) of the “dogs” who were insisting on circumcision – following a set of rules and ceremonies to make themselves righteous – fleshly righteousness of our own doing – those filthy rags that Isaiah spoke about. But true perfect righteousness is offered, God’s righteousness is given, it can be received as a free gift but we can only take hold of it once we let go of the rubbish righteousness of our own fleshly doing. Righteousness only comes by faith – that is a vital Scriptural principle that I intend to take up next time. Why do we cling to things when they are rubbish? We have to throw our rubbish out if we ever are going to receive the real treasure that is of surpassing value – gain Christ Himself! [P] You are not going to gain Christ until you count your own virtue and accomplishments as rubbish – throw them out, gain the real treasure! Not that you purchase anything with your sacrifice, rather your values get turned upside down. It used to be the only thing that mattered to me was things to do with aviation – I lived and breathed aircraft. It was a big deal to me, I followed the air-shows around the country, if one was on, I was there. When I returned to the Lord things that I valued so much, no longer held the interest they once did. I remember that there was a Wings and Wheels day out at Wigram airbase, but it was on a Sunday. I had a bit of a battle, should I go to the air-show or to church, but I loved the LORD more and so went to church. There was a wonderful time of worship and I was totally oblivious to the aircraft roaring overhead. At the end of a time of worship the pastor had a message from the LORD – he said something like: “I have seen your sacrifice and it is accepted.” I thought: that is an interesting word, I wonder who it is for – then it dawned on me, it referred to me. But I didn’t realise because it was no sacrifice – I was so lost in wonder love and praise, the thought of watching an aerobatic display was utterly puerile, things I valued were now worthless – I did not mourn their loss at all, rather I welcomed it. I had gained something of infinitely more value – Christ! We used to sing a chorus at Good News club, it went: “Things I loved before have passed away; things I love far more have come to stay. Things are different now, something happened to me, I gave my heart to Him.”

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