Philippians 3:8-12

More of Jesus

Paul begins Chapter 3 with the exhortation to “rejoice in the Lord.” We can’t always rejoice in our circumstances and at times it would be ludicrous to suggest that we do. But we can always rejoice “in the Lord.” Christ has set 01 more of jesusus above our circumstances with his promise of the resurrection from the dead and an eternal life where the pain and suffering of this life will be resolved once and for all. Therefore we can indeed always rejoice in the Lord regardless of our circumstances. Paul addresses this more specifically latter in the book when he talks about how he’s learned to be content in all life’s circumstances because he has come to “know Christ.” He has made it clear that this is his goal. Philippians 3:10 is Paul’s purpose statement for life; “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection.”

I believe when Paul says that he “presses on” in Philippians 3:12, he’s talking about pressing on to grow in his knowledge of Christ. Why does he want to know Christ more? To know Christ is to know God’s love for us. In Philippians 3:8, Paul made it clear that this was all that mattered to him. It was so important that he cast every other concern aside. He wrote, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Now back to verse 12, Paul makes it clear that there is much he doesn’t know. He says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Notice the final cause statement. Since Christ made Paul His own, Paul couldn’t get enough of His savior.

Once we step out of the darkness of self-righteousness into Christ’s righteousness when He makes us His own, and feel the glory of Christ’s pardoning love for us we will sing with the old Hymn writer, E.E. Hewitt, “More about Jesus would I know. More of his grace to others show; more of his saving fullness see, more of his love who died for me. More, more about Jesus! More, more about Jesus! More of his saving fullness see! More of his love who died for me.” One of the greatest joys of being a Christian is the privilege of mining the glorious depths of Christ throughout our lives in anticipation of finally meeting Him in the next life.

Philippians 2:30

Fearless Joy

Let me go back to the end of chapter two for a minute. I don’t think I’ve ever been in danger of working myself to death. No, I’m not that diligent! My father nearly did that. He was a workaholic if there ever was one. He grew up in the great depression and died young (64), but 22 fearless2I think it was primarily due to a harsh lifestyle rather than overwork. Yet while remodeling the house he had an electrical accident that took his right arm and nearly killed him. So he really did almost work himself to death. We don’t know what happened to Epaphroditus but Paul says in Philippians 2:30, “he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” I don’t think we appreciate the danger believers had in those days. They were attacked on both sides. First the Jewish leaders tried to kill them, and then the Roman authorities wanted to silence them also. It’s possible that Epaphroditus fell into the hands of one or the other and suffered a serious injury which almost cost his life.

Whatever happened, it was because of his work for Christ which was completing the Philippians ministry to Paul. This ministry could very well be the financial gift he brought to Paul in Rome. He had witnessed Paul’s attitude as described in Acts. Luke records Paul’s words in Acts 21:13, “For I am ready, not only to be bound (put in prison), but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (21:13). Paul and Barnabas are described as “Men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:26). Epaphroditus became one with them in being willing to risk his life for the cause. The defining characteristic of the Apostles and their disciples was “fearless service.” They were always ready to face hardship, pain, sickness and even death if necessary for the advancement of the gospel.

John the Baptist’s father prophesied at his birth about the deliverance the messiah would bring and which would be proclaimed and pointed out by John. The Messiah (Luke 1:73-75) would fulfill for us “the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” In Philippians 1:14 we read about how Paul’s example had inspired “… the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” When all fear is gone, true joy can reign freely. John MacArthur writes, “Does your joy ebb and flow according to the tide of earthly benefits? Do pleasure, possessions, prominence, prestige, reputation, comfort, and fulfillment or your own ambitions propel your joy? If they do, your joy will ebb and flow according to the shifting tides of life. But if your joy is tied to the progress of the gospel, it will never diminish. Fix your heart on the progress of the gospel, and your joy will be constant.”

Philippians 3:1

Finally, Rejoice in the Lord

Paul begins a new section at the beginning of Chapter 3. We know that because his hinge phrase throughout the book always begins with rejoice! So in Philippians 3:1 he says, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.” 23 rejoiceThe phrase beginning with “Finally” has been used as an occasion for humor, most at the expense of us preachers. One little boy whispered to his father during the sermon, “What does the past mean when he says ‘finally’ dad?” His father answers, “Absolutely nothing, son.” Paul uses the word to introduce a hinge idea regarding rejoicing again in the middle of his letter. In other words he still has some more to say. He goes on for two more chapters. But the word really doesn’t mean the same thing we mean when we say “finally.” It’s actually a transitional marker identifying the movement to a new subject.

The interesting thing here is that if his readers were looking for something entirely different they would be disappointed. He’s still talking about the joy we experience in living the Christian life together. He’s building up this theme of joy over and over in this epistle. He will come to a great crescendo in Chapter 4 when he says, “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!” He has been talking about joy in various ways in the first two chapters, but this is the first time he connects it with the little phrase, “in the Lord.” As we all know we can’t always rejoice in our circumstances because they are not always what we’d choose for ourselves. We all face trials and struggles in life and during those times it seems almost ridiculous to be told to “rejoice.”

We can always “rejoice in the Lord.” We know that He conquered sin and death and in the end we will all be victorious over the sicknesses, sorrows, and diseases of the world. So, like Job, we know that God is good all the time and that even in hard times we can still rejoice. The better we know our “Good God” the easier it is to “rejoice in the Lord.” He enables us to live above our circumstances not under them. When we come to grips with the love and goodness of our God even in the times of trials it helps make everything else so insignificant. Over the years of my Christian life I’ve let myself become a victim of my circumstances and have sacrificed my joy to the demands and pressures of the world. Yet when I come to my senses, I realize the greatness and goodness of our God and can put the “light and momentary” afflictions of this life into the divine perspective which helps maintain my joy in the Lord.

Philippians 3:1, Nehemiah 8:10

Joy and Safety

It’s interesting to see how many times the idea of “joy” and or “rejoicing” appears in this short little letter. Nearly 20 times! To repeat something over and over like that might seem a little tedious to us. I’m sure that Paul 24 joy of the lordnot only wrote about the theme of joy but had preached about it often in Philippi as well as at every stop in his missionary travels. Grant Richison observes, “To go back and forth over the same truth again and again is to plot and slog slowly through detail. Most people consider this drab, dull and monotonous.” Yet to the Apostle Paul it was not dull, tedious and boring repetition. It was instead something he called “safe.” He says in Philippians 3:1, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” He never grows weary of telling us to focus on the Lord. He is our source of Joy and as long as we keep our eyes on Him we are safe!

It’s common to hear an older experienced man say something like this to a young upstart: “I’ve already forgotten more than you’ll ever know!” Although an exaggeration to be sure, there is some truth in the fact that forgetting begins the minute we hear something. It helps therefore to make a deliberate effort to repeat and review immediately. Repetition will help fix the fact or image in our minds. It seems that this is what Paul is interested in. He wanted his readers to hear about the joy we have in the Lord over and over again so that we won’t forget it. He wants to drive home the truth about the joy of the Christian life. A veteran pastor said, “When I first began to preach I was so afraid to repeat myself. Now I am afraid I won’t!” How much of a message do people understand? How much do they retain?

The Joy of the Lord is truly a safeguard for our lives. It develops in us the strength to stand against the onslaught of the enemy day after day. There is a frequently quoted passage from Nehemiah that rings true in this context. You might know it. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The Joy of the Lord is your Strength.” We often sing about the joy of the Lord. There is safety to be found for you and me in the joy of the Lord. It’s like divine armor or a protective wall around us from the bitterness that surrounds us as we walk together through the valley of the shadow of death. If we can learn to live in the joy of the Lord we’ll have a natural resistance to attacks that often take others down. The true taste of the joy of the Lord makes the tempters offerings bland by comparison. Paul repeats himself frequently. He continually urges us to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoicing will serve as a safeguard through all of life.

Philippians 3:2-3

JOY – The Currency of Faith!

I know it’s Halloween but even the stores are gearing up for Christmas. My passage today makes me think of Christmas Carols, especially “Joy to the World.” The joy of the Lord is our strength! As long as we remain firmly seated in God’s love for us we remain firmly planted in the Joy of the Lord. It keeps us safe from temptations and assaults from the enemy in so many 25 joydifferent ways. It’s a shield to us and it protects us and we find safety under its wings. This is why Paul repeats the idea of joy so often in this short epistle. To the casual reader it might become redundant and a little tedious to hear the idea repeated so often, but Paul said in Philippians 3:1 that he has chosen to camp on the idea of the joy of the Lord and to repeat himself because his constant reminders, if heeded, will keep us safe. There are many, many dangers to our joy in the Lord in this world and in Philippians 3:2 he lists three of them. He writes, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.”

The Jews often referred to Gentiles as dogs because like the wild dogs of the day they fed on unclean road kill and carrion and filth which pictured the unclean in Jewish society. But Paul uses their very term for Gentiles to refer to them. It’s not the Gentiles who were the Goyim (dogs) it was the Judaizers who stood outside the covenant blessings that were promised to Abraham by faith. The Jews considered themselves “righteous” and workers of “the law.” But Paul reverses their charge by pointing out that the Judaizers were actually “evil workers” who distracted others from true righteousness by grace through faith to a works based system which they failed to observe themselves. When Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, he described the self-mutilation that they practiced to call down the favor of their gods. It’s this very term that Paul uses to describe the circumcision that the Judaizers believed separated them from the Gentiles. It was their greatest source of pride. But Paul reverses all their attacks on the unclean Gentiles and points them directly at the Judaizers. It’s Paul’s warnings not only to the Judaizers of his day but to us if we should venture to add legalistic requirements to the Gospel of God’s marvelous Grace.”

Watch out for the newly legalisms of our day; don’t do this! Don’t do that! There are so many it makes our heads swim and robs us of our joy. Trying to conform to the specific choices of others around us we find ourselves losing the joy of the Lord. But there is safety in the Joy of the Lord! Hughes says, “to be so full of joy that no other offers appeal to us, to have tasted what is good so deeply that we have no taste for the allurements of the tempter, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.” Truly Joy is the currency of those “who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:2).

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