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Rejoice!

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

▾ Rejoice
Grief, worry, and anxiety, when they remain in place, drain away the vitality of life.
▾ Grief, worry, and anxiety, when they remain in place, drain away the vitality of life.
Clearly, the Philippians had plenty of reason for worry and anxiety.
▾ The Philippians had plenty of reason for worry and anxiety.
They were worried about Paul’s circumstances.
They were worried because they thought Paul’s life was about to end.
They were worried that Paul’s absence and death would mean an end to the Gospel.
They were worried because of Epaphroditus’ illness.
Paul assures them:
He is fine, whether he lives or dies: to die is gain, and to live is Christ.
The Gospel is not only being preached, it’s advancing as never before.
Epaphroditus recovered from his illness, by the grace of God, and is with them.
Timothy is coming to them very soon.
Paul expects that he himself will visit them.
Ultimately, this is the world in which they and we live.
It is not a perfect world.
It is not a fair world.
It is not a predictable world.
It IS the world in which God is saving sinners, manifesting His glory, and preparing a people for His name.
And, it is a world over which Jesus Christ reigns as Lord, and in which He works as Savior.
The cure for discouragement and anxiety is to fix our attention on the Lord Jesus Christ, and rejoice in Him.
Now, Paul is not telling us to blind ourselves to the realities of this world. The opposite is true; only Christians can really face the darkest realities of this world and continue to rejoice.
That’s because we can trust that God will prevail over every circumstance, just as He has willed, and we can find peace in the one place true contentment can be found: in Jesus Christ.
So, how can we truly rejoice in the Lord?

Stay Grounded

First, we must stay grounded in the basics:
Philippians 3:1 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.
This doesn’t mean that we focus only on the basic elements of the faith; we must continue to grow in our knowledge of the Word, which deepens our understanding of the grace of God, His glory and majesty, and who we are, and who we are becoming, in Christ.
• This doesn’t mean that we focus only on the basic elements of the faith; we must continue to grow in our knowledge of the Word, which deepens our understanding of the grace of God, His glory and majesty, and who we are, and who we are becoming, in Christ.
But neither do we abandon the foundational truths of Scripture just because we’ve heard them a few times.
• The apostle Paul’s testimony toward the end of his life was not about his tremendous grasp of spiritual truth. No, he wrote Timothy,

First Timothy 1:15

1 Timothy 1:15 ESV
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
• Karl Barth was a German pastor and theologian, who strenuously resisted religious liberalism. No long before his death in the 1960s, he visited America, and was asked to summarize his sermons and books. He said, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” For all of his intellect and grasp of theological intricacies, Barth never lost the wonder that God would love him, that Jesus would die for him, that the Spirit of God would inhabit him.
Paul wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
Karl Barth was a German pastor and theologian, who strenuously resisted religious liberalism. No long before his death in the 1960s, he visited America, and was asked to summarize his sermons and books. He said, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” For all of his intellect and grasp of theological intricacies, Barth never lost the wonder that God would love him, that Jesus would die for him, that the Spirit of God would inhabit him.
These are the words of men whose wonder at their own salvation never wavered, and in fact, grew deeper the longer they lived in Christ.
These are the words of men whose wonder at their own salvation never wavered, and in fact, grew deeper the longer they lived in Christ.
I don’t know anything close to what Paul and Karl Barth knew. My ministry will certainly never be as significant or wide-spread as theirs. But the sweetest truth I know is that Jesus Christ came into the world to say sinners, of whom I am chief. Jesus loves me – this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I agree with John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace”: I remember two truths – I am a great sinner, and Jesus is a great Savior.
▾ The worship song “The Wonder of the Cross” puts it this way:
Let us grow in our faith and understanding, let us continue to read and study the Word of God, let us be men and women of the Bible, but let us never forget that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.
O precious sight, my Savior stands dying for me with outstretched hands! O precious sight, I love to gaze remembering salvation's day. Though my eyes linger on this scene, may passing time and years not steal the power with which it impacts me, the freshness of its mystery. May I never lose the wonder of the cross, may I see it like the first time, standing as a sinner lost, undone by mercy and left speechless, watching wide eyed at the cost; may I never lose the wonder of the cross!
• May we never lose the wonder of the cross; may we always see it just like the first time we saw it, undone by mercy, left speechless, amazed at the cost of our salvation.

Recognize the Difference

Second, we must recognize that, as God’s people, we are distinct from the world, and possess a unique and privileged relationship with Him.
Paul contrasts genuine believers with false believers.
Philippians 3:2–3 ESV
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—
We aren’t supposed to do this in our world. We aren’t supposed to see that people are different. We especially aren’t supposed to believe that many stand condemned because of their sin. And we absolutely must never, ever even think that we have a right relationship with our God through Jesus Christ.
But the truth is that there are some who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and that there are many who are unsaved and dead in their sins, and that some of those who are unsaved call themselves Christians.
• The truth is that there are false believers in the world; not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is. And those false believers can usually be identified by their pride, their rejection of biblical truth, and their self-determined beliefs.
The truth is that there are false believers in the world; not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is. And those false believers can usually be identified by their pride, their rejection of biblical truth, and their self-determined beliefs.
Paul’s description in verse 2 does not apply to all non-Christians, and perhaps not even to all false Christians. But it does reveal the stark difference between those who are in Christ, and those who are not in Christ.
▾ Paul’s description of these men is not merely casual or insulting.
Paul calls them “dogs.” This was an insulting term that Jews commonly used of Gentiles, because Gentiles were unclean. Dogs wandered the streets at night in packs, often threatening people. The true “dogs,” Paul says, are those who change the Gospel of Jesus Christ and substitute traditions for truth.
Paul calls them “dogs.” This was an insulting term that Jews commonly used of Gentiles, because Gentiles were unclean. Dogs wandered the streets at night in packs, often threatening people. The true “dogs,” Paul says, are those who change the Gospel of Jesus Christ and substitute traditions for truth.
Isaiah 66:3 ESV
“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;
Paul calls them “evil workers.” If you listened to them, these men were just trying to live faithfully according to God’s Law. But they had created traditions that had nothing to do with God’s Law, and made those traditions more important than God’s Law. Jesus said that they freely broke God’s commandments in order to fulfill their traditions. Their faithfulness was really rebellion. Their good words were actually the worst sort of evil. Jesus pronounced judgment against them:
Matthew 23:13–15 ESV
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Paul calls them “evil workers.” If you listened to them, these men were just trying to live faithfully according to God’s Law. But they had created traditions that had nothing to do with God’s Law, and made those traditions more important than God’s Law. Jesus said that they freely broke God’s commandments in order to fulfill their traditions. Their faithfulness was really rebellion. Their good words were actually the worst sort of evil. Jesus pronounced judgment against them:
And Paul calls them “the mutilators.” Physical circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham, and it was required of every Jewish male in order to be part of the nation. But rather than seen as a sign of grace and mercy, circumcision became a badge of honor and a matter of pride. They would say, “Gentiles need to receive the blessed sign of circumcision and be brought into the covenant.” Paul writes that they did nothing more than maim others. He wrote to the Galatians about these same people,
Galatians 6:12-13
Galatians 6:12–13 ESV
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
And Paul calls them “the mutilators.” Physical circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham, and it was required of every Jewish male in order to be part of the nation. But rather than seen as a sign of grace and mercy, circumcision became a badge of honor and a matter of pride. They would say, “Gentiles need to receive the blessed sign of circumcision and be brought into the covenant.” Paul writes that they did nothing more than maim others. He wrote to the Galatians about these same people,
On the other hand, Christians are the true circumcision. Christians – whether originally Jew or Gentile – are those who have been born again in Jesus Christ, saved by the grace and mercy of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and spiritually transformed.
▾ On the other hand, Christians are the true circumcision. Christians – whether originally Jew or Gentile – are those who have been born again in Jesus Christ, saved by the grace and mercy of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and spiritually transformed.
They worship by the Spirit of God. The worship of Israel was outward. It was concerned with forms and liturgies. It was tightly restricted to a specific place, the tabernacle. It was specifically limited to specific people, the Levites. Christian worship is not about a particular place but the Holy Spirit. He makes us His temple, and our worship is godly and pleasing no matter where we are. This is worship in the Spirit, rather than worship in a particular place or a certainly kind of building or environment.
They glory in Christ Jesus. The Judaizers, and human religions of every sort, glory in their own behavior and righteousness. Even if they do hang their head and beat their chests over their sin, they take pride in their humility. They say, “WE do this” and “WE do that.” But genuine Christians know that they bring nothing to God but their sin and need, and glory instead in Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who came, Jesus who lived a sinless life, Jesus who gave Himself to satisfy God’s wrath, Jesus who rose in victory and triumph, Jesus who reigns now forever and ever. The message of Christians is never “Be part of us!” but “Be reconciled to God!”
They put no confidence in our flesh. The Judaizers put confidence in their flesh, not only in their circumcision, but also in their good works.
Luke 18:9-14
Luke 18:9–14 ESV
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Earlier I spoke about Karl Barth, who after a lifetime of study summarized his beliefs as “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Barth said that the Christian’s boasting begins where ceremonial and moral righteousness cease, at the point where man, in surrender to God’s Word of grace, does nothing more than believe.
• The Pharisee’s focus is on himself: “I am not like other men … I fast … I give tithes!”
We’ll see next week how the apostle Paul put absolutely no confidence in his own flesh.
• The tax collector’s focus is on God: “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”
• Earlier I spoke about Karl Barth, who after a lifetime of study summarized his beliefs as “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Barth said that the Christian’s boasting begins where ceremonial and moral righteousness cease, at the point where man, in surrender to God’s Word of grace, does nothing more than believe.

Bringing it Home

Faith in Jesus Christ is not a matter of personal achievement; no one has the right to be proud that they are a Christian. We are unique as God’s people. We are specially chosen as God’s people. But we don’t make ourselves unique, and we don’t make ourselves special.
• Faith in Jesus Christ is not a matter of personal achievement; no one has the right to be proud that they are a Christian. We are unique as God’s people. We are specially chosen as God’s people. But we don’t make ourselves unique, and we don’t make ourselves special.
We have joy in Christ because
We have been rescued from our unclean lives.
We have been rescued from our unclean lives.
We have been forgiven for our evil works, and we can live with true, holy purpose.
We have been cleansed from our false religion and human traditions.
We have joy in Christ because
Our life in Christ is not a matter of religious observance, but of personal devotion and faith.
▾ We have joy in Christ because
We worship God in the Spirit, not according to rules and regulations, but according to our new life in Jesus.
We boast in what Jesus has done for us, and never because what we have done, because He has done it all, and we have done nothing to help ourselves, even in the slightest.
And we don’t trust what we can do, but only in what Jesus has done.
This is why we can rejoice in the midst of agonizing circumstances, when we face insurmountable obstacles, when our own weakness – physical, mental, emotional – dominates us.
We have a Savior who is faithful, a High Priest who never stops interceding for us, God the Spirit dwelling within us, a King who is coming for us, a Master who will keep us faithful even when we struggle, the hope of eternal love and peace with our God.
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