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An accountant, an athlete, and an alien walk into Philippi… Have you heard that one? As we continue our series, “Philippians: To Live is Christ,” Todd Wagner walks us through chapter 3, teaching us to count everything but Christ as loss, to discipline ourselves like athletes for godliness, and to live as aliens in a foreign world.
Don't Worry... This Message Is for You
An Accountant, an Athlete and an Alien Walk Into a Church
Stars of the Faith
The Song That Changes Everything
How to Make Every Relationship Better
To REALLY Live Is Christ
Philippians - Week 2
The Pastoral Epistle I Would Write
The following blog post contains notes and application questions from our December 2, 2018 message. For more from this series, check out Philippians: To Live Is Christ.
An accountant, an athlete, and an alien walk into Philippi… Have you heard that one? As we continue our series, “Philippians: To Live is Christ,” Todd Wagner walks us through chapter 3, teaching us to count everything but Christ as loss, to discipline ourselves like athletes for godliness, and to live as aliens in a foreign world.
Good morning. It is great to be with my friends in Frisco and Fort Worth and Plano and right here in Dallas and folks who are dropping in online. We are studying the book of Philippians, which has been amazing and such a great thing to do, not just this time of year but any time of the year. If you have your Bibles, we're in chapter 3. Turn there. I think you're going to find it incredibly relevant and helpful to you wherever you are in your understanding of God and your journey with him.
Let me remind you or maybe share with you, for those of you who don't know, I've had kind of an exciting fall. It has been filled with one major life event after another. In August I took my fifth child off to college for the first time. I returned my fourth child to college for her second year. A week later they came back because I married my third child off, and then about eight weeks later, just a couple of weeks ago, I married my second child off, and then about six days ago I moved my parents from St. Louis into my house. So we have had quite the fall. It has been a bit of an exciting series of events.
The reason I share that with you is I want to set something up for you. Just a couple of weeks ago when I married my sweet Kirby at her wedding… This is a picture of me when I saw her in her wedding dress for the first time that day. She was getting ready to go and get some pictures done. Then here's a great picture of her and her amazing new young husband. I could not be more proud to give her that name, Mankin, that she now is carrying as they celebrated that moment when I said, "I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride." It was awesome.
We had an amazing time. What we did is we kind of went out of town. We were just a short hour to hour and a half away from here for the wedding. That means we were together all weekend. It was on a Sunday. That's why I wasn't here. It was a great opportunity to be with the wedding party. Both Kirby and Austin included some folks in their wedding party who had been a part of their lives from different life stages who maybe weren't fully pursuing Jesus at all or in any of the ways they had been.
Then there were others who were along with the journey of faithfulness that these two, Austin and Kirby, had been on for decades. It's interesting. Recently I did a podcast we do for church leaders, which means for you. It's called the ChurchLeaders Podcast. I would really encourage you guys to avail yourself to that resource. They just asked us to do one called "The Leader and His Family." I was on that talking about what it was like for my kids to grow up in a leader of hopefully a Jesus community's house.
Kirby, the second daughter, and Cooper, the third son, were on that with me, and we talked. Kirby was recently asked a question. "What was it like to grow up in this household?" She answered. She goes, "Well, I'll tell you what it was like." She goes, "It was something that set me on a course where right now, as a 24-year-old woman, I have more joy and less scars. That's what it was like. It was a tremendous gift, because I saw people who were fully devoted to Jesus, not just in the house but in this faith community of which I'm a part."
My kids, by the grace of God, all are pursuing a personal relationship and full response to Jesus because they grew up around you. I literally mean that: around you. They saw life change. They saw God invade your life and bring you to a place of radical surrender. They saw you walk with Jesus for the decades they've been alive with full devotion…not just go to church but be God's people. They saw the joy and the meaning and the purpose and the life-giving world that it is to live for Jesus in this world, and they're all in.
Kirby and Austin, because of that… Austin was raised in a very similar family. There is more joy and less scars in their lives, and they're marked by incredible joy. What we did when we gathered together that Sunday morning, because we were together all weekend… We had a little time. I led a devotional, a church service, if you will, for a lot of the wedding party. What I taught on that morning was the five warning passages of Hebrews.
You're kind of like, "What? The five warning passages of Hebrews? Those are some of the most difficult passages in all of Scripture. You're there on a wedding weekend. You have a wedding party. You have some folks who don't really know Jesus, others who were around Jesus for a long time, and it's your daughter's wedding day, and you're teaching on the five warning passages from the book of Hebrews?" Yes, and I'm going to show you why.
The book of Hebrews was written to…guess who: Hebrews. That's why it's called the book of Hebrews. It was written to a bunch of Jews. Most of these Jews had been 98 percent of the early church. In other words, the first people who believed Jesus was God's expression of love and means through which we can be reconciled to him… He was a Jewish Messiah. He was what the Law and the Prophets pointed to. Now we no longer have to use the symbols of God's grace and the symbols of a coming provision. God's grace had come and the provision had come.
There were a bunch of Jews who went, "Oh my gosh! This is what Isaiah was talking about. Those Christmas cards (that no one sent back then because Christmas hadn't come) have come. A child has been born, a Son has been given, and the government will rest on his shoulders. Jesus is the Messiah. He is the Prince of Peace. He is Mighty God, and he saved us."
The book of Hebrews has warning passages five times in it, and it starts with basically saying to you, "Jesus is greater than angels. Jesus is a bigger deal than Moses. Jesus is a bigger deal than the prophets. Jesus is a bigger deal than Joshua. Jesus is a bigger deal than Melchizedek, who Father Abraham bowed to and paid tithes to. Jesus is a bigger deal than the temple. Jesus is a bigger deal than the temple sacrifices. Jesus is the coming Shepherd King, and you don't want to miss him."
At this wedding with the wedding party, I just said, "Guys, what you're sitting in the middle of is a weekend with incredible joy." There was such purity, not just in the dating relationship but the love that was there between the families. There was more joy and less scars. I was just saying, "We cannot lose our focus on this Jesus who got us here."
I took the five warning passages in Hebrews, and I'm going to read you the first one. I'm going to show you how it sets us up for what Paul did to his gathering of friends he was hanging out with in Philippi in chapter 3. This is Hebrews 2:1-3: "For this reason…" Because Jesus is amazing, and he is the center of all things, better than the prophets, better than the angels, better than Moses, better than temple sacrifices, better than everything.
"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard [about Jesus and from Jesus] , so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable…"In other words, God gave the Law, which Hebrews, Jews, thought was a pretty big deal, this thing called the Pentateuch. It came to Moses through intermediaries, through angels. "If the word that was given to us through angels proved unalterable and every transgression and disobedience against that received a just penalty…"
Verse 3: "…how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" In other words, if the picture and the description of the person was a big deal and you weren't supposed to be flippant toward it, when the person is here it's a big deal. Think about how in some unhealthy nation states if there are statues and pictures of ruling dictators, if you somehow desecrate them… If you would walk by and spit on a statue of Lenin, do you think that might have gotten you in trouble in the USSR at a certain point?
Do you think had you thrown some paint on a statute of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and 1990s in Iraq it would have gotten you in trouble? Well, imagine if you were walking by Saddam himself and spit on him. That's kind of the thinking here. Now let me explain to you why I did that. What Paul is doing in Philippians, chapter 3, is he's basically saying, "Hey, listen. This is a really big deal."
People make the mistake and think the book of Philippians is about joy. The book of Philippians is not about joy, and the book of Hebrews is not about warning passages. The book of Hebrews is about the superiority and the beauty and the centrality and the magnificence of Jesus. The book of Philippians is about the beauty and the centrality and the magnificence of Jesus. One of the outflows of knowing the beauty and significance and centrality and exaltation of Jesus is joy.
One guy said joy is the flag that flies in the castle of the heart when the King is there. When you understand that the King has come and that you can know him and that he loves you, it produces in your life this incredible joy. Let me give you a way to understand the book of Philippians, chapter 3. This is basically like a Christian life map. If you're around Watermark very long and we throw you into a Jesus community, into a group of followers who hang out with him and love him, then we're going to, at some point, want you to share your journey, your story.
Chapter 3 is the believer's life map. In chapter 3, verses 1-9, you're going to see a believer's past. There's going to be a word that pops as we read chapter 3, verses 1-9, and that word is count or consider or figure. Then you're going to get to verses 10-16, and you're going to see us look at a believer's present.
Jesus takes care of your past. He makes everything in your past largely irrelevant, and what you should do with your present is act like now he has dealt with the sin of your past and everything you thought was important is no longer important, so in your present you pursue him like nothing. The word you're going to see there is to press on or to strive.
Then you're going to see in verses 17-21 a believer's future. The word there is that you should look or anticipate or hope in. A good way to remember Philippians, chapter 3, is like a joke. Imagine this. If I said to you a joke… A rabbi, a pastor, and something else walk into a bar. Do you know those kinds of jokes? This is kind of the way you can remember Philippians 3. An accountant, an athlete, and an alien walk into a church.
Paul is going to walk you through your past, your present, and your future. Your past you need to figure this way. You need to be an accountant. Your present, you need to be an athlete; you need to work for. You're like an alien because of your future. You're not home yet. You are citizens of another world. You're not surprised that the world you're in is not the world you want, because it's not the world Jesus wants for you. So you look forward to going home.
An Accountant, an Athlete, and an Alien Walk into a Church. Philippians 3. Are y'all with me? I like Paul. He's a kindred spirit, because he says, "Finally…" Last point. Two more chapters. It's kind of like me. "Let me wrap this up. Thirty more minutes, and then we'll be done." "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord." This is interesting. Let's remind ourselves, if you have not been hanging out with us. Paul is in jail, and he's writing to free people.
Typically, people who are free are writing letters to folks in jail, saying, "Hang in there. We know you're innocent. We don't think you're going to be there long. It's going to be okay." No, this is a guy in jail, and he's writing a letter to people who are free and saying, "Hey, listen. Just keep your eye on the ball. Remember, this is where your joy should come from. It's about Jesus. It's not about jail or freedom."
I hear all the time from my friends when they go to El Salvador or Haiti or Africa or they go to places we think are third world or where people have less than we have… I hear the same thing every time. They always come back and go, "I just can't believe the joy these people have. I just can't believe the love and the zeal for life these folks have. They don't have anything we have, and they're so much freer and more joyful than we are."
Here's why: because when you don't have things that distract you from the thing, it makes you have the thing that's going to give you what you think all of your things you're pursuing are going to give you. It's kind of like when you're knocked down and you're lying on your back, the only way to look is up. When you don't have anything else to satisfy you, it makes you look for the only thing that maybe is out there for all of us, and that is the satisfaction.
There is a God who has explained why this world is jacked up, why there's sadness in the world, and how he's going to deal with it, and that he is your hope. It's all you have. When you focus on the one who is the hope and that's all you have, you get more of it. That's where Paul was living, and he wanted to share that with his friends.
Again, the focus of Philippians, surprisingly, is the Lord. It's Jesus. If you want your life to be filled with joy and purpose and meaning, you have to make that the focus of your life. Here's the deal. Maybe you can relate to me, but even though my daughter grew up in a home where we have done all we can to focus on the Lord, I have to tell you, she also grew up in a home where the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the concern for many things continually choke out the Word of God that would push us more toward Jesus.
The more we push toward Jesus, the more joy we have and the less scars we have. Can I just say this to you? If you rejoice in your works, in your righteousness, it's not going to bring great joy to you very long. I'm about to teach on that extensively. If you rejoice in your work, what you do, if you try and find meaning in your work, you're going to find out that life doesn't work out to be very meaningful for you.
If you focus on your children, if you have a child-centered marriage or a child-centered life…my child-centered success, my child-centered academics, my child-centered sports…you're not going to have much joy for very long. How many of you guys would largely define yourself as healthy? Raise your hand if you would say, "Right now I'm largely healthy." I would too, but here's the thing: good health is just the slowest way to die.
You're going to die. All of us at some point are not going to be well. If you try and wrap up your joy in your health, then prepare yourself to be really discouraged. If your joy and rejoicing is in circumstance or in your comfort or in your ease or in your college football team, you're not going to be happy for long, because something is going to disappoint you. All Paul is saying here is "Don't do that. Don't make that mistake."
There's nothing wrong with work. Work existed before the fall. Work was God's gift to us to give us purpose and meaning and to be creators. We ought to be excellent in the way we work. It's part of our testimony, but it's not where we find ultimate meaning. Our meaning is in God, which is why we work differently. Children, the Scripture says, are a gift from the Lord, but they are not the Lord.
Where we get into a mistake is when we start to venerate that which the Creator has given us and make it that which is our ultimate source of joy. No, the purpose of every beautiful and good thing is to show us that the Giver of those things is beautiful, so we love him more. God doesn't want us to be sick. Disease, death, ill health, and cancer… That wasn't God's gift to us; that's a result of the fall. So while you have good health, thank God for it. While you have comfort and ease, thank God for it.
Riches. I hope you are wealthy. I really do. I don't mind that you have a lot of resource. The Bible doesn't say having a lot of resource is a problem; the Bible says you're foolish if you put your hope in it, because money takes wings. Sex. I hope you enjoy sex in every way God intended you to. Sex is a gift from God, but when you venerate sex and make it the reason you're here, it's going to leave you empty. You're going to become a slave to it and perverted in it and never satisfied with it.
God says, "Just know that I'm good. I give you good gifts. I give you sex. I give you marriage. I give you children. I give you good health. I give you jobs. I give you comfort and ease sometimes, but don't be surprised, because there's going to be a lot in this world that's not comfortable or easy, because sin has tainted this world. I'm going to rescue you from it. I've done something about your contribution to sin and death in this world. I'm going to deliver you from that. Put your joy in me. Rejoice in me. So if you're in a tough spot, like jail, falsely accused, hang in there. Enjoy me by faith."
To live is Christ; to die is gain. It's all about Jesus. In effect, everything in life that is not Jesus is designed to remind you it's not Jesus. That's why it's here. It's a gift. It's not bad. The purpose of everything on earth is to remind you that nothing satisfies you ultimately except Jesus and, when you use it correctly, to remind you that Jesus is really kind. God gives us relationships and music and sex and sports and sometimes comfort and ease and the ability to make money, but if we love those things more than him, we're going to pursue things that aren't life-giving.
Honestly, you can shut it down right here. If you'll just believe that and walk out of here and go, "I'm going to be about Jesus," you've got Philippians 3. Rejoice in the Lord. Enjoy other things; just don't put your hope and your life in them. Make sure your life balances the perspective of what is ultimate.
To people who say, "I'm about God first, then family, then work, and then me," I would just say, "No." It's not like Jesus is something you do first and then move on. Jesus is something you focus on in your work, in your family, in your personal use of time, and that's what gives you joy. God isn't first. He's not prominent in your life. If you want joy, if you want the life you want, he has to be preeminent in all things. Got it?
Paul says, "For me to tell you this, to write the same thing, is not trouble for me; it's a safeguard of you." It's why we do church. It's why we write letters to churches. Paul is just saying it's why we gather. We are told in the book of Hebrews to encourage each other day after day, as long as it's called "Today," so that we don't get consumed by the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, or the concern for many things; we don't drift back into religious performance as a means for our righteousness; we don't drop back into relational idolatry, thinking, "If I just got married or this marriage was better or I was married to that person or I had more sex, my life would be full;" we don't drift back into thinking that real life is where real life can be found.
No, real life is with Jesus. We get together every week and, if you're wise, in communities every day, reminding each other of that. We need to be reminded. I have to continually be reminded by other people as a safeguard to my heart, which is an idol factory. My life is always producing idols. "If I was just healthier, wealthier, or wiser, if I was just more popular or rich, more comfortable, had more sex…" I don't know what. Plug it in. My heart is always wooing me. My flesh is always wooing me, and I need to be with you and with this and to be reminded continually.
I don't know if you guys realize this, but there's this thing called the relentless return of the weekend. I work my tail off, as JP and other communicators do, to come here and just try and serve you a little bit, but I want to say this to you: it's no trouble to me; it's a safeguard to you. It's why we gather together: to remind ourselves of the beauty of God.
So here we go. Remember how I told you? Here's the joke: An accountant, an athlete, and an alien walk into a church. Here comes the accountant. Here's what he wants you to do as you look back on your past. First of all, he's going to say this, kind of a setup and almost an introduction. He's going to say three times in verse 2, which tells you there's an enemy out there…
Another way to understand this chapter is there are two major opponents to real joy in your life, to the progress of the gospel in your life, the grace of God working out in your life, and they are the dogs and distraction. Now when you think dogs, you need to think not cute little golden retriever puppies you follow on Instagram. You need to think Cujo. You need to think ravenous nuisance dogs.
When the word dogs is used, it is used not of house pets; it is used of dingoes. It is used of things that you see them and you scoop your children up. You have one place in town. You throw away your garbage so the dogs go there, and you don't want them near you. What's interesting is that Jews called non-Torah people dogs. They called Gentiles, non-Moses-infused people, dogs. Paul is about to use the author's words against him.
One of the things that happened is there were people who followed Paul everywhere he went, and they were called Judaizers. They were people he wrote the entire letter of Galatians to. It's the Galatian problem. Read the book of Galatians. Paul talks about these people who are always nipping and barking at his heels. They're coming in behind this gospel beauty where it says that all that the Law pointed to, all the Prophets pointed to has been fulfilled in Jesus.
God has done for you what you can't do for yourself. All you need is Christ. You don't need the temple sacrifice because Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. You don't need Abraham and Moses and the prophets. Jesus didn't come to abolish them; he just fulfilled them. Center on Jesus. The dogs would come along beside them and say, "No, you need to be Jewish. You need to practice the festivals. You need to be circumcised. You need to act Jewish and have all the external behavior that we think makes us righteous and that you need to do in order to be righteous in God's eyes." Paul said those folks are dogs.
If we know the message of what Jesus has done and who he is, we are evangelists. The word evangelist comes from the Greek word eu, which means well, and aggelos. Euaggelos (evangelist): well-spoken angels, or messengers. That's literally what the word means: well-spoken messengers. What I do is deliver the mail. Everywhere I go I deliver the mail, and the mail is that hope has come, Christ has come. What is the number-one nuisance to mailmen? Dogs.
Let me ask you a quick question. How many of you have had someone barking at you? "Why are you so big on Jesus? What do you mean there's only one way to God? Hey, I am, frankly, okay. I think if my good enough isn't good enough for God, then Pfft! with him. What about the Buddhist? What about the Muslim? What about the Mormon? What about those who have never heard? What do you mean your gospel is the only way men can be saved?"
If you haven't had somebody bark at you about your declaring the kindness of God in his revelation through Jesus, I'm going to tell you there's only one reason that hasn't happened to you this week: it's because you haven't delivered the mail. There is not a mailman in America who wasn't barked at this week, and if you weren't barked at, if you didn't experience somebody going, "Woof! Woof! What do you mean there's morality? Woof! Woof! What do you mean there's binary gender? Woof! Woof! Woof!"
If that hasn't happened to you this week, it's because you have not been delivering the mail. So Paul is saying, "Beware, man, because there are people who want to bark you into silence, and loving people are not silenced." When you deliver the mail, you don't want to be one of those gruff guys who, when you open the door and say, "How are you doing?" go, "Here's your mail!" You don't want to shove it in the mailbox and agitate people.
You love when you have a nice mailman. "Hey, how are you doing? Mr. Wagner, good to see you." You love good mailmen, right? Guys who take care and do everything they can to cover it so it's not wet when it's delivered. At the end of the day, just deliver the mail and be as good of a mailman as you can, but if you're not being barked at this week it's because you are not delivering the mail. It's because you're distracted with other things.
Dogs bark, saying, "I don't want you on my property bringing something to it," and he says, "Beware of these people, because they will bark you into submission." He calls them this in verse 2: dogs, evil workers. These guys think they're doing good by representing God. "God is loving." True. "God wants you to be righteous, so you do these things to be righteous." God does want you to be righteous. Those are not the things that will make you righteous. It's things maybe righteous people would do, but they're telling you you need to do it to be righteous.
They are of the false circumcision. Watch this. I'm going to go to verse 3 real quick. "…for we are the true circumcision…" Paul is going to contrast these folks. "Beware! Beware! Beware!" in verse 2 to "Listen to the true circumcision who aren't dogs, evil workers, and false circumcisers. They are…" Look at verse 3. "…who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh…"
Paul is saying there is a direct contrast to some of the people who are walking into Philippi after he left and trying to mess up the church, and these dogs are going to bark you off your mission. He says, "Be careful." In verse 2 it says the false circumcision. There's also right there in verse 3 the same word circumcision except it's not the same word. In verse 2 the word is mutilators. It's like somebody who destroys their genitalia for some perverse reason.
When your genitalia was compromised, when you crushed a testicle (that's Deuteronomy 23)… If you ever wonder what God thinks happens if you crush a testicle, he says, "You can't serve in my temple courts." That's Deuteronomy 23 and Leviticus 21. You're kind of like, "Why did God say that?" If somebody goes through some fit of frenzy or devotion, either mutilated by men or mutilates themselves because of some perverse reason, God says, "I still love that person, but they're not going to serve in my temple courts."
Why? Because people who serve in God's temple courts he wants to symbolically be able to reproduce, and if you're not reproducing you must not know what's going on in the temple courts. You must be somebody who's going to tell people, deliver the mail, in effect. What Paul is saying (this is important) in verse 2 is, "These guys aren't circumcising you; they are crushing your genitalia. They're mutilating. They're not doing what God wants, which is the true circumcision."
The word in verse 3 is like a pruning. It makes it more useful. These guys aren't coming along and making you more useful to God; they are coming along and destroying your utility to God. So he has a wordplay. Even though in the English it's translated the same way, it's two different words. One of them is heightening your pleasure. One of them is heightening your cleanliness. One of them is heightening your utility. The other one is destroying you.
Paul says, "You want to know who I am? I'm not somebody who puts my confidence in my flesh. I'm not somebody who glories in me; I glory in Jesus, and I teach in the spirit of truth, not in the spirit of error." He's writing a letter to his friends, which is no trouble to him and a safeguard to them, and he's telling them, "Listen." Paul is now going to go through and list out seven things, four of which he had nothing to do with, three which his own conviction pursued.
He's going to say, "If anybody is going to be proud of their flesh, it ought to be me. These dogs that are barking at you? I'm Best in Show. I was the top dog, and I can tell you I was no friend of God. If anybody is a good dog, if anybody has confidence in their flesh, like these Judaizers, the Galatian heresy… These people who thought, 'You're a dog because you don't know the Old Testament,' these people who say the Old Testament makes you righteous…they're the dogs."
He says, "If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more [than anybody] …" Why? " [I was] circumcised the eighth day…" That's what the law required. He goes, "I was born into a family that on the eighth day circumcised." Do you know what's really interesting? I didn't know this, but your OB/GYN is the one who circumcises your child. They circumcise your child now, if you are so inclined, before your kid is out of the hospital with Mama, which is anywhere from two to three days.
I asked my OB/GYN… He and I formed a friendship, having six kids, basically, together… I asked him when my third one came and it was a boy, so, the first one they were going to circumcise (TMI, probably)… I said, "Hey, we're just on the third day. I want to wait until the eighth day. Can I bring him back?" Kind of kidding him. Is there a reason we circumcise kids on the eighth day?
Do you know what he told me? He goes, "Interesting fact, Todd. Vitamin K, which is what causes blood clotting… When we map children, vitamin K spikes on the eighth day." Universally, eighth day out of the womb, vitamin K spikes in a child, and it causes blood to coagulate. Now we didn't know that for years, but there's probably a reason God said, "Don't circumcise your kid until the eighth day, because he'll bleed out if you do it too quickly."
God made the human body, and he knew exactly… "Don't do it before this day." On the eighth day it's okay to circumcise. I go, "Well, then why are you going to chop up my boy on day three?" He says, "Because remember when we took your kid from you right after that? We shoot them today with all kinds of stuff, including vitamin K, so you don't need to wait till the eighth day. Your boy is going to be fine." I watched him get circumcised. He was not fine. Let me just tell you something.
All right. Here we go. "…circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel…""I was born into this place. I'm not a half-breed. I'm not a God-fearer who was grafted in. I'm part of the people God gave the book to." "…of the tribe of Benjamin…" Benjamin is the most beloved son of the most beloved wife Jacob had in his imperfection. Benjamin was the one tribe that never betrayed the tribe God said the Messiah would come from, which is Judah.
When Israel split, when Jeroboam challenged Rehoboam, the descendant of David, to be king, 10 of the tribes took off. One tribe stayed around and supported Judah. It was Benjamin. Paul says, "I'm one of those guys. I'm a Hebrew of Hebrews, man. My mama and daddy… We didn't just go to the temple; we did the deeds." Then he says, "As to me, I chose to be a Pharisee," which is to say, "I made this my career. I studied the law and became the most vigilant student of Gamaliel." We know from Acts 5 that he was the one who discipled Paul, which is like going to Harvard. That's who Gamaliel was.
He goes on to say, "As to zeal, I was the top dog. I used to kill people who believe what you believe, friends in Philippi. As to the righteousness which is found in the law, I'm the holiest man around. There was no Pharisee in the class that was more fastidious, more committed to this book and to the law and to pharisaical practices than me. I was top dog. I killed people who said that external righteousness didn't make you righteous. I was an evil worker and a dog, and I was mutilating the beauty of Jesus."
So Paul says this. Here's the accountant. "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." Paul said, "I had enough morality to make men revere me and to make me look in the mirror and go, 'You're a righteous dude,' but I did not have enough righteousness to get me into heaven and please God, because I didn't know how righteous God was."
"More than that, I count [figure] all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing…" That word knowing is the word yada in Hebrew. Yada means to know deeply, like "Yada, yada." Like let's get really intimate. "I want to know Jesus intimately, not know about." There's another word eido that talks about knowing about something intellectually. Paul says, "I want to gnosis. I want to deeply, intimately experience community with Jesus. That's all I want."
"…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but [skubala] …" The word ballo is the word to throw. You put the little prefix sku in front of it, and it's like to throw to dogs. Paul says, "It's all rubbish." That word rubbish is a much more vile word than rubbish. It's the word for excrement. It was used of a half-eaten corpse. It's used of piles and lumps of manure. It's used for refuse and dung and garbage. It's what you throw to the dogs.
Paul says, "I consider everything I did that makes me righteous… Give that to the dogs. Let them eat it. Put it in the city dump. It is excrement. It is worthless." This is Isaiah 64, verse 6: "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…" There's nothing you can clothe yourself in that you do. It's the word for a sanitary napkin. Paul is saying, "Do you really want to present yourself in that?" Paul is saying, "That's all I was working on. That's all I was trying to do, so I count it all as loss."
In verse 9 he says, "All I want is to be found in him. I want to be by faith in Jesus." "…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…" He gets the glory. There is no résumé I'm turning in. When I stand before the Lord, I'm not going to give him any of my own résumé except this:
"I'm a sinner who, by the grace of God, saw my imperfection in light of who you were, and I availed myself to your offer of mercy for me, that you, even though you were God and are God, you didn't regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but you emptied yourself and became humble, and you took on the appearance of a man, and being found in the likeness of a man you humbled yourself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross for me so that I could be made righteous by you. I don't understand that kind of love and that kind of humility, but it has changed me."
Paul says, "When I see the beauty of this God who loves me so much he would die for me…" Listen to the Christmas carols. Listen to what they're saying. They're declaring that hope has come. Joy has come into the world. God doesn't hate you. He's not mad at you. He wants to rescue you from going your own way. He wants to rescue you from trying to find joy in works and work and children and health and circumstances and wealth and comfort and ease and college football.
He's saying, "Some of those things are my gifts. Use them as gifts, but don't focus on the creation; focus on the Creator. Enjoy some of those things; just don't make them your god." When you understand that God, who you want to focus on… All he does is have your best interests in mind. We're going to move now from being an accountant who considers the foolishness of what he had done and the greatness of what Christ has done to an athlete who pursues more of this God.
Verse 10. "I want to know him even more. I want to know the power of his resurrection." In other words, what he's saying is, "That power that raised Jesus from the dead, the God power that makes dead men alive? I want that power to come into my dead, rotten, money-loving, world-distracted flesh. The power of God that raises men from the dead raised me from my flesh." That's what he's talking about right here.
"I want to know that power. I want to fellowship with Jesus in his sufferings. This is the only life I have. I want more zeal to live the way he lived when he was here. His humility I want to be my humility. His suffering for sinful men I want to suffer for sinful men. I want to know more of the glory and goodness of God so I live more like it. I want to deliver more mail. I want to be bit by more rabid people. I want to be more loving. I want to suffer the way he suffered for the only message worth suffering for."
"I want to be conformed to his death." This is not Paul saying, "I want to die." This is him saying, "I must decrease so he must increase." I want to be as humble as he was, he who did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. I don't regard living for Todd as something to be tolerated. Can I just tell you something? I love to live for Todd. When Todd gets angry I go, "Yes! Todd wants to be angry. Let's be angry." When Todd wants to lust I go, "Good, Todd. Let's lust." When Todd wants to be selfish I go, "Yes, Todd. Let's be selfish."
You know what? I need brethren, for whom it's no trouble to them and a safeguard to me, to remind me of the stupidity of living that way so I can have more joy and less scars. Paul said, "I'm doing everything I can by myself, but I need the church. I'm not sending you Timothy, because I'm keeping Timothy here with me to remind me to rejoice in the Lord, and I'm in the Word continually, reminding myself of the goodness of God."
"So that I might attain…" Somehow, possibly, by the grace of God, I might attain to the resurrection from the dead. He's saying, "That I might live like I will one day in glory." Paul knew he wasn't going to be perfect. He's about to talk about this. He knew he would never be on earth without some level of sin.
He's saying, "You know what I'm doing? I am pressing on to be more like I'm going to be when God gets done with me on this earth where I'm still battling my flesh and the course of this world and the Enemy who seduces me with the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the concern for many things. I want to love Jesus so much I'm like a person who has already been glorified living on earth." That's what he's talking about.
Watch his humility. "Not that I'm already that…" Lord knows I'm not. "Not that I've already become ultimately perfect." "…but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus." Jesus in his kindness… Those he foreknew he also predestined to conform them ultimately to the image of his Son so that he would be the firstborn of many people.
God is going to complete this good work which he began in you (Philippians 1:6). He's going to make you without sin. He's going to make you a glorious person who knows him and is intimately acquainted with him and sin has been eradicated from your life. You're not there yet, but pursue that. Never submit that as your résumé, because you can't, because once you're not perfect you don't have a résumé except "I'm imperfect." So count Jesus as your righteousness. Pursue Jesus today. This is your past. This is your present, athlete. You're pursuing.
Verse 13: "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward…" The word there is like a sprinter leaning toward the tape. The word in the Greek literally means to spread out, to grow, to increase. Paul is saying it's like that guy at the tape. He's leaning forward. He wants more of Jesus.
This "forgetting what lies behind…" I don't want to beat you up too much about this, but people use this like… Sometimes when they've sinned they go, "Well, I forget what I've done. Forgetting what lies behind. I'm just pressing on to what's forward." No, you shouldn't forget what you did. You should agree it was nasty and sinful and hurt that relationship. You should confess it and forsake it and find compassion. Don't forget it.
In fact, what I would encourage you to do when you're here slobbering in my office because you were unfaithful to your wife and your kids lost all respect and you've lost your marriage… Don't forget this. Journal it. Write it down, because what's crazy is in 10 years you'll somehow forget how awful this was and you'll do it again, if you don't write it down and read it every night in horror. Just remember how awful sin is, because we have this incredible capability to eventually be numb to sin and go, "Oh, it wasn't that bad when I did that."
This verse is not talking about forgetting sin; this verse is talking about forgetting every good thing he has done, and he wants more good in his life. What he's basically saying is, "Three missionary journeys? Pfft! Dozens of church plants? Pfft! Wrote the book of Romans already? Pfft! I want more. I want to be more of what Jesus wants for me. I want every word that comes out of my mouth to be God-glorifying, doctrinally pure, church-exalting words."
He's not going to tell you, "I've been so good; give me a break." Paul is going to say, "I've been good; make me better." That's what that means. Forgetting what lies behind, let's go. Let's be more. Let's excel still more. "…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." This is my goal: to be like Jesus. Everything in my life points to this. "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect…" He's talking there about positionally.
He whom he foreknew he predestined to be conformed. You are already justified. You are declared righteous by God. You will be glorified, but be being sanctified right now. "Let us therefore, as many as are [going to be perfect in Jesus and are perfect in Jesus and will be perfect one day] , have this attitude [that I have] ; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you…" He's going to convict you. Why? Because you go to places where the letter is read as a safeguard for you. "…let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained."
I'm going to insert this really quickly. This is my favorite illustration. I have it almost every week to use, and I don't get to use it very often. Let me explain what Paul is doing right here. Like an athlete, that he's going forward. The Rocky movies have kind of come back into our self-awareness right now because of Creed II, which I went and saw last night. I was like, "Man, just show me the fight scenes." You can watch that movie in 12 minutes.
The Rocky movies have been a blast in my life. When that theme song starts… I was with my 15-year-old son last night. When that happened in the movie I go, "That is the greatest piece of music ever written for a movie." It is. I can't hear it without going, "Let's go, baby. Let's go! You want some? Let's go, because I'm ready." You ought to read Rocky into Philippians. That music ought to come into your little head when you're reading 10-16. It's like, "Let's go. You want to go to war, world? You want some, Satan? You want some, dogs?"
That movie is inspired by some events that happened in real life. I can remember as a kid in 1975 (I was 12) listening on an AM radio in my bed to a round-by-round update of the Thrilla in Manila. It's when Joe Frazier fought Muhammad Ali. It was October 1, 1975. It was the third fight between Frazier and Ali. What people didn't know is that Frazier was blind in his left eye.
Do you remember this picture from Rocky? Here's a picture of Rocky in Rocky when it was the fifteenth round against Apollo Creed and his eyes were swollen shut. He said, "I can't see nothin'. You've got to cut my eye. Cut me, Mick. You've got to cut me. You've got to cut me, Mick." Rocky had them, and they show it in the movie. He gets the razor blade out and cuts his eyes, which were swollen shut from Apollo Creed.
What Rocky was saying was, "I can't see him to fight him. You've got to cut my eyelid so the puss oozes out so I can open my eye up." Guess where that came from. This fight. Frazier is blind in his left eye. Ali's jab kept hitting him in the right eye, and this is a picture of Frazier after the fight. You can see that right eye was swollen shut. Going into the fifteenth round, Frazier couldn't see out of his one good eye.
His cutman, Eddie Futch, looked at him, and Frazier said, "I've got to go. I'm going back in." He says, "You can't see." He goes, "Cut me, because I want the heavyweight title." Eddie wouldn't do it. Ali said he has never come so close to dying in his life. He was never so happy to see the towel thrown in, but Frazier said, "I was never so sad that the towel was thrown in, because I want the heavyweight title. I despise the fact that you wouldn't cut my eye."
We hear the word despise, and it means we don't like something. That's exactly right. I value it. It's valueless. I count it as rubbish. What Frazier was saying was, "Hey, cut my eye." "Bro, we're going to have to cut your eye with a razor blade." He goes, "Rubbish. Skubala. That's crap to me in light of the glory of the heavyweight title."
So when it says, "I despise the pain," he's saying, "It's worthless to me." That's an athlete. Fighting for a fleeting title you don't even remember. Paul is saying, "You're fighting for so much more." What is it? Verse 17. Paul says, "Be like me." Who lives like that, by the way? The answer is an athlete.
"Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ…" There are some who have stopped competing. "…whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things." They are distracted, and they have been brought to bay by the dogs. But not us. We're aliens.
"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ [who loves us] ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…" He will. "…by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself." You serve the King. Don't you fear those who can destroy the body; you fear the one who can destroy the body and cast the soul into hell forever. You fear the one who can raise the dead and will raise the dead, the one who has died for you. You love him.
Then the application is, "Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown [my brothers and sisters who love this Jesus with me] …stand firm…" Live in this world in a way that the dogs can't believe you're that courageous, that consistent. In snow, in sleet, in rain, in suffering, in ill health, in persecution, you deliver the mail, because you have a message worth delivering.
You have a glorious future, and you live like this isn't your home. You're like an athlete who wants something so much more than a fleeting heavyweight crown, and you count all your righteousness as nothing, and you count what Jesus did for you as everything. An accountant, an athlete, and an alien walk into the world, and the world was never the same.
Father, I pray that the world would never be the same because of us, because we are your people, called by your name, set free by the Christmas story and song that isn't just a song; it is history, history that will change us. We love you, amen.
Todd & JP walk us through the entire book of Philippians, a love letter from a pastor to his congregation.