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Who Am I?

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Everyone stand with me for a moment. I’m going to ask a question and if this is NOT true of you, sit down. So our first question is going to be I am a human. If you are a human then remain standing. If you are NOT a human then by all means sit down. And while you’re at it roll over.
Okay question #2. I was born in the United States of America.
Now I want to point out something right now. If you are really engaged in this you might be feeling something right now. Some of you might be feeling this in the fiber of your bones. Those that sat down might feel different, awkward even. Don’t worry you’ll have other friends sitting in a moment.
Question #3. I was born in the awesome state of Missouri.
Question #4. I was born in the awesome state of Missouri.
Question #4. I was born in Northeast Missouri.
Question #5. I was born in Perry, Missouri. Wait…I have to sit down too…I was actually born in Hannibal, Missouri.
Now there are a couple of points I want to make here. The first is that heritage is God-given. I did not choose to be born in Northeast, Missouri. Nor did you choose to be born where you did. Or even did you choose to be born as a human and not a butterfly. This is what Paul points out in .
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, ( ESV)
Do you see what Paul is saying there? God determined before the foundation of the world what time period you would live in, who your parents would be, where you would live, what the world would be like when you lived, so on and so forth. Your heritage is God-given.
The second point that I want to make from our illustration is that heritage is necessarily connected with culture. This is the dictionary definition of heritage: the traditions, achievements, beliefs, etc.,that are part of the history of a group or nation. We’re going to see in just a moment what Paul says about his heritage. The words he uses in this passage have cultural things connected to these words. In just a moment you’ll hear me read, “circumcised on the eighth day”. That means something culturally. It means he is a set apart man.
We can see this in our own lives as well. I’m from Northeast, Missouri. If you ask anyone else from Northeast MO what the superior sport is they are likely to tell you the correct answer. Baseball. It is clearly superior. But when I was pastoring in Indiana there was mass confusion. Their heritage—their very wrong and foolish heritage—will tell you that it is basketball. You see culture is inevitably attached to our heritage. But there is something else that I just did and you might feel it in your gut. I just implied that my heritage is superior to another’s.
Let’s see how this relates to what Paul said in . There were certain cultural things connected with these words. Circumcised on the eighth day means something culturally doesn’t it? It means that he is a set apart man. He isn’t like the Gentiles. Paul was a good Jew and so he lived like a good Jew. There were things that he ate and did not eat because of his heritage.
We can see this in our own lives as well. I’m from Northeast, Missouri. If you ask anyone else from Northeast MO what the superior sport is they are likely to tell you the correct answer. Baseball. It is clearly superior. But if you go to Indiana there is mass confusion. Your heritage—you’re very wrong and foolish heritage—will tell you that it is basketball.
You see culture is inevitably attached to our heritage. But there is something else that I just did and you might feel it in your gut. I just implied that my heritage is superior to yours. At least those of you that would say that basketball is better.
That’s part of what is going on here in America with all of our division. We are now made up of multiple cultures. And multiple generations. We’re finding ourselves in cultural competition. I believe you see this in and 11. You’ve got the table of nations in and then in the Tower of Babel. The two, I don’t believe are chronological. But there is something that you’ll pick up as you read through that section. There are different cultures in each one of them. And it’s no stretch of the imagination—especially as you consider war and such—that humanities quest to “make a name for themselves” is not obliterated when the nations are scattered and the languages are confused. Instead what happens is we want to make a name for ourselves in the groups that we find ourselves in. We want to be the best. And we’ll go to war and arguments and everything else to show this.
Now I could do something else here to show this. I could have all of you stand up if you like country music. And what would happen is you would feel a certain affinity. A certain connectedness…a sense of belonging…to those that are like you. Who likes heavy metal? Who remembers Ronald Reagan? Who liked watching Care Bears? Who agrees with me that Skeletor is the greatest villain to ever live? Who has no idea who Skeletor is and feels a little bit disconnected and wondering what I’m even talking about? Who watched Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series? Who likes to eat sushi?
We tend to get a sense of belonging from our heritage and our culture. And let’s not pretend that this isn’t divorced from our drive to be the best to be superior and to even attach moral meaning to things that are not necessarily moral. I know that I’m superior musically to all of you country music fans. In fact I might even be a little morally superior.
So here is what we’ve said so far. Heritage is something that is God-given. He determined where we would live and when we would live and what culture we would find ourselves in. And heritage is necessarily connected with culture. Your heritage is not culture neutral. Being born as a white man in 1940’s America means something just as it does being born a Hispanic woman in 1980’s South America. There are many things attached to those heritages. And we—in our fallen state—find ourselves in cultural competition. And from this we also gather a sense of belonging.
It’s important for us to consider this as we engage this text because this is what it would have been like to be a first century Jew. There was a superiority there. A religious superiority. They would have felt some of the same emotions that you felt as we engaged in these questions. The pride that you might feel on the 4th of July is the same type of pride that a 1st century Jew would have in his culture and heritage. The problem for them wasn’t to have “pride in their heritage” as much as it was that his was how they determined their righteousness—this was how they decided they were basically good people.
What is your fundamental identity? Who are you? That’s the question that we are attempting to answer this morning. And it’s absolutely vital that we realize who we are.
And
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Don’t you love how Paul says, “Finally” in verse 1 and then doesn’t really pick up his thought for another chapter. It’s like us preachers who say, “In closing” and then go on for another 10-15 minutes. So when I do that, “it’s biblical”. Some, who like to question whether or not the Bible is true, have said, “Well, this must be a later insertion into the text”. It doesn’t seem to fit. But there is no need to go there. Paul is just doing what he has been doing this whole time. He has been giving positive and negative examples the whole time. He just spoke of Timothy and Epaphroditus and now he’s giving us a model of those not to follow.
The first two chapters has been Paul explaining the expansion of the gospel. Now in chapter 3 he shifts gears and discusses those who might oppose this gospel.
What is probably happening is that while Paul has been in prison a certain group called the Judaizers has been gaining much popularity and they are preaching their gospel all throughout the places that Paul had been preaching. Their gospel is actually no gospel at all. It is not good news. Their gospel is that Jesus is not enough. If you want to be saved then you must have Jesus plus Judaism. You need to have Jesus and you need to be circumcised, you need to become a Jew and you need to start following after the Law. The Judaizers “gospel” is Jesus plus. They did not deny that having Jesus was a good thing—they denied that it was a sufficient thing.
And so Paul has some very strong words for them. Dogs were those on the outside of culture. Scavengers. It’d be like calling someone a buzzard today. But for them it was even stronger because a “dog” marked someone as not part of the family. It meant they were outsiders—on the outskirts of society. They didn’t belong. He goes further and calls them evildoers and mutilators of the flesh. These are biting critiques of a Jewish person. Circumcision was such an identity marker for them. It was their identity. And he was saying, “you shouldn’t be taking pride in this. You’re actually wounding people. What you are doing means nothing.” Why does it mean nothing? Why is he speaking so strongly?
He is defending the biblical gospel and answering those who believe you have to have Jesus plus, in order to be saved. What was happening with the Judaizers is that they were overvaluing their heritage. And it was a stumbling block to them coming to Christ. Their righteousness, their identity, was found in the wrong thing. If I overvalue my heritage then what is going to happen is I am going to be given to boasting and prejudice because of my culture.
There is also a self-reliance that I believe can happen as an overvaluing of our own heritage. I can handle this I’m an American. I can handle this I come from this family. We are always successful. My daddy was successful, his daddy was successful, therefore I’ll be successful. And of course this leads to a ton of pressure does it not? My grandfather did this and so did his grandfather before him. My dad followed suit and so I must follow suit as well. I can’t be the first loser in my family.
Of course this works the other way too doesn’t it. You can undervalue your heritage. I did this with writing for quite some time. I didn’t put myself out there for fear that my Perry, Missouri would show. What I mean is that the folks in Perry aren’t known for sterling grammar. People say things like, “We was going to the li-bary but the tornader stopped us before we-uns could gets there.” And you are laughing because you think I’m telling a joke. It might be only a slight exaggeration.
I spoke like that too. In fact I still find myself making grammar mistakes and such that would cause people to not take me serious as a writer. It took a good amount of encouragement and time for me to believe that the Lord could use a B-C student from Northeast Missouri for his glory in this area. And that’s another thing that can happen when we undervalue or perhaps overvalue I’m not sure—our heritage. We can assume that the Lord can only use us in missions in a certain area. What in the world would I know about doing ministry in Mexico? How in the world could God use a hillbilly from the Ozarks to minister to hipsters in Portland, Oregon?
And that’s another thing that can happen when we undervalue or perhaps overvalue I’m not sure—our heritage. We can assume that the Lord can only use us in missions in a certain area. What in the world would I know about doing ministry in Mexico? How in the world could God use a hillbilly from the Ozarks to minister to hipsters in Portland, Oregon?
In verse 3 Paul says that we as Christians are the “true circumcision”. Or to put that in other words, we as Christians are the “true Israel”. Or again to even make it more modern, “we are the true church, we are the true followers of Christ, and we are the true worshippers of the Lord”. Then Paul begins to use his life as an example. How do we really count our righteousness? Where do we really get our identity?
What Paul does now is put together a good resume. He’s playing a game with them. He’s identifying with them…becoming all things to all men…he’s saying okay, I’ll play your game. Paul is then putting on paper his resume for being a good Jew, that was their standard and Paul was saying that he not only met their standard but he far exceeded it.
“circumcised on the eighth day of the people of Israel.” This means that he was circumcised according to strict conformity to the Law. He wasn’t circumcised like Ishmael (when he was 13) but he was circumcised like Isaac. Nor was he a like a convert from paganism that came into the camp later. No he was born into the people of God. Even anyone qualified for privileges of God’s people it was Paul.
“Of the tribe of Benjamin.” This had a special privilege attached to it. Benjamin was the only son born in the promised land. Furthermore he’d remained faithful to the house of David. Jerusalem was within her borders and so then was the temple. Not only is he from the best people of all the peoples of the earth but he’s of the best tribe among that people.
“A Hebrew of Hebrews”. This is likely Paul mentioning that he spoke Aramaic. He spoke the language. He wasn’t one of those Hellenized Jews that no longer spoke the language. (For something similar you might see a debate in some Catholic churches—“we still speak Latin”). Paul is a Hebrew of Hebrews. Not only Paul but also his parents had not given in to Gentile corruption. He was pure. So he’s from the best people, of the best tribe, and he’s of a family that hasn’t sold out to Gentile influence. If anyone can brag in his heritage—it was Saul the persecutor…or as we know him…Paul the apostle.
He is saying, “If the requirement is to be a good Jew then ethnically, culturally, physically, I am a Jew through and through, you do not get more Jewish than me”. Perhaps you have some of these positional or hereditary things on your list as well. “Raised in a Christian home, baptized, good American, served in the war, Southern Baptist, my dad was a Baptist, my grandpa was a Baptist, and I’m a Baptist. You can’t get any more Christian than me.”
I want to avoid going into a lengthy discussion of each of these points. So, please allow me to only summarize them for you. In essence what Paul is doing with his statement, “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews”, is boasting in his hereditary accomplishments. He is saying, “If the requirement is to be a good Jew then ethnically, culturally, physically, I am a Jew through and through, you do not get more Jewish than me”. Perhaps you have some of these positional or hereditary things on your list as well. “Raised in a Christian home, baptized, good American, served in the war, Southern Baptist, my dad was a Baptist, my grandpa was a Baptist, and I’m a Baptist. You can’t get any more Christian than me.”
Paul not only lists his hereditary, positional achievements, he also lists his personal convictions as a reason for boasting. Paul says as far as the Law of Moses is concerned he was a Pharisee. He observed the Law so strictly. He would have been like one of those that Jesus spoke of, that would go through such great lengths not to eat anything that was considered unclean that they would even strain all of their food and drink so as not to accidentally swallow a gnat. Paul was a Pharisee, and as a Pharisee he kept the letter of the Law. Furthermore he was zealous. He was zealous (passionate is another word for this) about being a Jew and about observing the Law. It was no mere head religion to Paul. He put it in practice. He was in fact so passionate about the Law that he sought to drive out these new Jesus followers. In fact we read that Paul was at the stoning of the first recorded Christian martyr; Stephen. He was “breathing out murderous threats” against Christians as the Bible says. Paul was passionate about upholding the Law and he was so zealous that these infidel Christians must be stopped. Paul was no hypocrite either. He was not just meticulous in keeping the letter, nor was he zealous for others to obey yet he himself did not. Paul says that as far as obeying the Law is concerned he was indeed blameless.
So how would we normally count this list? Paul is giving them his resume. He gets positive points for all of these things. That’s what we do when we are stacking people up culturally. When we are competing. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a boomer, a millennial, a hipster, a staunch Republican a west-coast liberal, or any other label I could put out there. We all stack up this way. We just use a different measuring stick.
John Calvin spoke this way:
…miserable men do not rise above themselves as they should, but measure him by the yardstick of their own carnal stupidity, and neglect sound investigation; thus out of curiosity they fly off into empty speculations. They do not therefore apprehend God as he offers himself, but imagine him as they have fashioned him in their own presumption.
We judge people this way because we judge God this way. By our own measuring stick. And Paul says, “I did that too”. And I was winning. I was knocking it out of the park. But something happened and now I count different. Listen to what Paul says in verse 7, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ”. I want you to notice that it is not merely that he counts them as 0. It is not as if you can say, “well in the grand scheme of things my righteous deeds actually do not count as anything”, therefore all of my bad deeds are then subtracted from 0 and every time I am going to come up with 0”. Actually our guilt runs even deeper than that. Paul says that he counts all of those things that once were in the gain column as a loss. That means they are instead of positive, negative. So rather than counting each of your good deeds as a positive and then subtracting your bad deeds from that number, you are actually going to add up all of your good deeds and then add them to your bad deeds and then put a big fat negative in front of that.
In verse 8 Paul more emphatically states this fact that no self-righteousness will count as anything before Jesus Christ. But this time Paul goes even further. He says, “I consider all things, which I might place my fleshly confidence in to be positively harmful.” People trust in all sorts of things besides their religiosity. People in Paul’s day trusted in their Roman citizenship. Today some might trust in their American citizenship or Baptist membership to assure them a place in heaven. What Paul is saying to us is this: If it’s not from Jesus Christ then it is dung, it is garbage. Everything on your “bad list” and everything on your “good list” should be in the loss column. If your sentence does not start with “because Jesus” then it’s not His righteousness it’s yours and it counts as dung.
Notice why in verse 8, Paul says that counts all things as loss. He counts them loss “in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. Everything of our own self-righteousness is a “loss” compared to the infinite worth and beauty of Jesus Christ. I want to ask you a math question. What is infinity plus one? It is still infinity, because you can not add to infinity. What is infinity minus one? It is still infinity. I understand that does not make much since, but when did math ever make sense? You can not add anything to infinity nor can you subtract from it.
Jesus Christ is infinite in His being and in His person. He is infinite in His beauty and He is infinite in His splendor. That is why everything is a loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ. You can not add to the righteousness of Christ with your own, nor can you subtract from the righteousness of Christ by your lack of it. Either you have one column of losses, or you possess the infinite gain, which is Jesus Christ.
Paul is saying one main thing in this text—you are either totally, infinitely righteous or you are not righteous at all. Let me oversimplify for a moment. This is one of the things I do when I present the gospel to someone. Pretend that in order to get to heaven you need a ticket. On that ticket is the word righteousness. To be counted righteous before God is to be considered without sin. That is his standard of righteousness. You will not be declared righteous, innocent, justified whatever word you want to use—on that day unless you are absolutely 100% sinless and also 100% actively righteous. Now, if we understand that God’s standard is not our standard. And we understand what we have from this text in Philippians that all of those “good” deeds that are based in self-performance and self-righteousness are actually negatives we quickly come to realize that we are nowhere near a 100%. Yet, righteousness must be written on our ticket; as it says in Scripture “Without holiness no one will see the Lord”.
Now what has Christ done on the Cross? Well, listen to what this text says in Philippians. Look at verse 9, “and be found in Him (that is Christ) not having a righteousness of my own that comes through the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”. How is Paul made righteous he is made righteous by that which comes from Christ.
Christ not only takes away our guilt and our sin—Christ also gives to us his 100% active righteousness. If I am united with Christ, or to use Paul’s language here, if I am found in Christ then through my union with him I have all of His righteousness. Simply put if I am found in Christ—if I possess Christ—or rather if Christ possess me and I am in union with Christ then I have something of infinite value.
Human culture is not big enough to sustain us. In fact, I want to submit to you this morning that every human culture is fundamentally apostate. But over against this God gives us a culture a heritage and that is called the church.
Notice the contrast in and . They wanted to make their name great. Do you hear the cultural identity—the heritage identity? Hebrew of Hebrews. That’s me. #1 baby! But notice what the Lord says to Abram in —I will make a name for you. And this is what the Lord has been doing for centuries since then.
THABITI PRO-BOWL ILLUSTRATION.
The beauty of the church isn’t that we are all alike and have the same opinions and such. No the beauty of the church is that we are captivated by something much better. We are no longer driven by the team on our helmet. We aren’t fundamentally driven by our last names or our socio-economic status or how our heritage informs the way that we ought to do church when we gather. No, we are united around Jesus Christ.
Our identity is now as the bride and body of Christ. We have been united to Christ. The church is multi-ethnic but it is not multi-cultural.
Our identity is now as the bride and body of Christ. We have been united to Christ. The church is multi-ethnic but it is not multi-cultural.
That is the picture that we will be seeing in a moment when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. We are visibly communicating that we are one with Christ and also one with another. This is why we are told to fix breaches in our relationships before coming to the table. Not because that somehow makes us unworthy to receive Christ---we are never worthy to receive Christ. But we fix those breaches in relationship so that we can truly experience and proclaim what we are supposed to at the Lord’s table. Unity and oneness.
There is something to see here that is beautiful about the local church. When we gather together as a group of believers that have covenanted with one another. We see that we move from sheep to a flock. There is a big difference between those two. The Lord’s Supper is not fundamentally an individual activity. It is something that we do together as a community.
This is why we ask that you be a believer before you take of this. You need to be united to Christ first. You cannot be united to the body of Christ before being united to Christ Himself. A moment of repentance and belief.
Your righteousness is found in the perfect righteousness of Christ—that righteousness that is not your own. And lastly for the unbeliever, and also for the believer. Imagine yourself standing before God. And he asks you that question—why should I let you into heaven. What do you say? Do you give him your list? Do you give him your good and your bad and let him weigh it out? Do you say because of my faith? What do you say? I love this Mark Dever quote, and with it we will close.
“A Christian, therefore, knows that if he were to die tonight and stand before God, and if God were to say, ‘Why should I let you into my presence?’ the Christian would say, ‘You shouldn’t let me in. I have sinned and owe you a debt that I cannot pay back.’ But he wouldn’t stop there. He would continue, ‘Yet, because of your great promises and mercy, I depend on the blood of Jesus Christ shed as a substitute for me, paying my moral debt, satisfying your holy and righteous requirements, and removing your wrath against sin”.
How do you count this morning? Do you have infinite righteous in Christ and are you living in that and rejoicing in that? Or do you have negative righteousness in yourself?
Notice the contrast in and . They wanted to make their name great. Do you hear the cultural identity—the heritage identity? Hebrew of Hebrews. That’s me. #1 baby! But notice what the Lord says to Abram in —I will make a name for you. And this is what the Lord has been doing for centuries since then.
Of course this works the other way too doesn’t it. You can undervalue your heritage. I did this with writing for quite some time. I didn’t put myself out there for fear that my Perry, Missouri would show. What I mean is that the folks in Perry aren’t known for sterling grammar. People say things like, “We was going to the li-bary but the tornader stopped us before we-uns could gets there.” And you are laughing because you think I’m telling a joke. It might be only a slight exaggeration.
I spoke like that too. In fact I still find myself making grammar mistakes and such that would cause people to not take me serious as a writer. It took a good amount of encouragement and time for me to believe that the Lord could use a B-C student from Northeast Missouri for his glory in this area.
And that’s another thing that can happen when we undervalue or perhaps overvalue I’m not sure—our heritage. We can assume that the Lord can only use us in missions in a certain area. What in the world would I know about doing ministry in Mexico? How in the world could God use a Hoosier from Indiana to minister to hipsters in Portland, Oregon?
The first two chapters has been Paul explaining the expansion of the gospel. Now in chapter 3 he shifts gears and discusses those who might oppose this gospel.
What is probably happening is that while Paul has been in prison a certain group called the Judaizers has been gaining much popularity and they are preaching their gospel all throughout the places that Paul had been preaching. Their gospel is actually no gospel at all. It is not good news. Their gospel is that Jesus is not enough. If you want to be saved then you must have Jesus plus Judaism. You need to have Jesus and you need to be circumcised, you need to become a Jew and you need to start following after the Law. The Judaizers “gospel” is Jesus plus. They did not deny that having Jesus was a good thing—they denied that it was a sufficient thing. As Paul answers their legalism hopefully he will answer our legalism. Listen as the Lord speaks through Paul to the Philippians that are tempted to embrace legalism:
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