Sun. a.m. AGCC 6/1/1997
TEXT: Philip. 3:1-4:1
INTRO: Americans are very
religious people! Poll after poll attests to this fact. But there is a big
difference in being religious and being righteous! In this passage
the Apostle Paul identifies this difference and teaches the joy there is in
sanctification, the true work of God's Spirit in our lives, against the backdrop
of human standards.
Paul showed that before he was saved he was religious. He was religious enough to get into the Synagogue, but this is
different than being righteous enough to get into heaven! Salvation is
NOT knowing about Christ, it is KNOWING Christ!
Too many people today settle for religion instead of
righteousness and never come to know the true JOY there is in God's
sanctifying work in their lives.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us
that there is nothing compared to Christ's saving grace in our lives, and for
those who are constantly being transformed by God's Spirit there is great
I. WARNINGS! 3:1-11
A. Perspective 3:1
1. As Paul starts to wind down his letter, he says, "Finally....REJOICE IN THE LORD!"
a. This is his theme about the Christian life...even in a prison cell!
b. Though it appears this will be his final statement introduced by "finally" Paul suddenly decides to go over some very important issues ONCE AGAIN to insure that they are able to realize this "REJOICING".
2. Paul states that to remind them of things they had already heard before will help them keep the proper perspective.
a. Yes, you will no doubt hear a similar message every now and then.
b. This constant reminder of great truths is necessary for maintaining correct perspectives in life
c. We repeat things with our children as they grow up (How well they know this!) in order to foster their development and help them to understand what are the really important things in life.
3. Without this repetition there is always a danger that the important
things can slip away or get buried by all the new things that come up...the
result can be a loss of proper direction.
ILLUS: When I lived in Atlanta, several years ago, I noticed in the Yellow Pages, in the listing of restaurants, an entry for a place called Church of God Grill. The peculiar name aroused my curiosity and I dialed the number.
A man answered with a cheery, "Hello! Church of God Grill!"
I asked how his restaurant had been given such an unusual name, and he told me: "Well, we had a little mission down here, and we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay the bills. Well, people liked the chicken, and we did such a good business, that eventually we cut back on the church service. After a while we just closed down the church altogether and kept on serving the chicken dinners. We kept the name we started with, and that's Church of God Grill."
This incident is not unlike many churches,
denominations, and individuals who over time, have drifted away from their
original purpose. -- From
Making It Happen, by Charles Paul Conn, p. 95
4. Why do we recite the same great truths over and over again?
a. History is replete with examples of both organizations and individuals who lost their way because they failed to do this!
b. In God's work of sanctification, this process of repetition is important!
c. The danger however is that in repetition we can lose impact and meaning
if we are not careful!
B. Past 3:2-11
1. Paul in presenting his case now issues some warnings to the Church
a. Warnings to be on guard against those who would put more focus on ritual than righteousness.
b. The Judaizers were constantly creating a battle for Paul's ministry by trying to wed empty ritual with exciting faith.
(1. With an interesting use of a term Paul gives a powerful use of irony here: Those Judaizers who thought of uncircumcised Gentiles as "DOGS" Paul now calls "DOGS"!
(2. This must have rankled their feathers a bit! They were being called the very thing they were trying to stamp our...uncircumcised Gentile "DOGS"!
(3. Often excessive vigilante efforts by someone indicates a similar problem within that individual!
2. Paul demonstrates that if human credentials were all that was needed, he would have been a superstar! (see 3:4-6)
a. Paul however considers ALL this stuff as a welcomed loss compared to knowing Christ directly and not just through creeds!
b. For Paul, nothing was as important as knowing Christ, there was no comparison to the "things" of this world (notice how often this word "things" comes up in this passage!)
3. What is it that comprises our passions, this can be a good indicator of whether our faith is rooted in Christ's righteousness or Christian rituals.
a. When faith becomes ritual, the joy is gone
b. When righteousness becomes ritual the values of our life become
ILLUS: Funny how a $10.00 bill looks so big when you take it to worship but so small when you take it to the supermarket.
Funny how reading the church bulletin is a chore, but reading a 30 page newspaper every day is a habit you have grown to enjoy.
Funny how long an hour is spent in worship, but how short it is when golfing, fishing, or attending a ball game.
Funny how we applaud when the ball game goes overtime, but we complain if the worship hour is over the regular time.
Funny how laborious it is to read a chapter in the Bible, but how easy it is to read a 300- page novel.
Funny how much difficulty some have learning the simple Gospel well enough to tell others. But how simple it is for the same people to understand and explain more difficult subjects.
Funny how people scramble to get a front set at the ball game, but scramble to get a back seat at services.
Funny how we cannot fit a Gospel meeting into our schedule with a year to plan for it, but we can adjust the schedule for other events at a moment's notice.
Funny that parents are so concerned about school lessons but are completely unconcerned about Bible lessons.
Funny how everyone wants to go to heaven provided he/she doesn't have to believe, or to think, or to say, or to do anything.
All of this would be funny if it were not so
4. Paul's passion is to so identify with Christ, every part of Christ's life, that everything else will pale in comparison.
a. Is this the joy we take in our relationship to Christ?
b. Does everything else seem dim in comparison to God's work in our hearts and lives?
c. If everything was stacked up, would Christ's life far outweigh the
"THINGS" of this life?
II. WALKING 3:12-19
A. Process 3:12-14
1. Paul now recognizes that all this is of course a process!
a. Even he had not fully arrived at the time he wrote this letter, he was still growing!
b. This of course is the good news, God continues to build our lives and our values, as the Spirit of God is allowed access to our heart, things change as times goes on.
2. This is the process of "sanctification", the progressive work of God's Spirit helping us to become what we already are in Christ....SAINTS!
a. Even our motivation for Christ will grow in time, and this can make a
big difference in our development.
ILLUS: Recently I read a fable about a dog who loved to chase other animals. He bragged about his great running skill and said he could catch anything. Well, it wasn't long until his boastful claims were put to the test by a certain rabbit. With ease the little creature outran his barking pursuer. The other animals, watching with glee, began to laugh. The dog excused himself, however, by saying, "You forget, I was only running for fun. He was running for his life!"
That does make a difference! Motivation is the
most important factor in everything we do.
b. Paul says that to move forward, he would have to forget the past!
c. This is important news to all Christians today that come from a broken past...to move on, leave the past behind!
3. Paul's point is clear: To win the race, you must press on and forget the stumble on the last lap.
a. Paul however is not just talking about the negative things of the past, but also the positive, lest he sit on his laurels and do nothing about now and tomorrow!
b. So, he does ONE THING; forgets everything in the past that might make him become complacent or arrogant...there is much yet to do...so he keeps his eyes on the goal, the prize and keeps running forward!
4. Paul was not only doing this for himself, but to serve as an example
a. he realizes how important his example is to others.
b. our own process of sanctification can have a profound effect on those
around us, so we should run well!
B. Pattern 3:15-19
1. Because there were some sarcastic Judaizer's bragging about their own superior or mature spirituality, Paul now puts them on the spot by saying, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things..."
a. Thus, their failure to agree with Paul will expose them as not too mature, and yet, to agree with him will force the issue of their need to continue to grow themselves!
b. It was a brilliant move on Paul's part to make them aware of their need to be a proper example, to set a good pattern and not a bad one!
c. The truth of the matter is this: our example will effect those around
us, it is inevitable, so we should be careful what pattern we give!
ILLUS: A soap
advertisement depicted a little fellow looking intently at his shadow that fell
across his pathway. The slogan underneath the picture read: "That's the only
thing I can't wash out!" As I studied this clever bit of sales promotion, I was
reminded of the indelible shadow of influence we cast on others by our example.
Wrong attitudes and actions can engrave an impression on their minds that is
impossible to erase. But just as we can leave a permanent mark for evil, so we
can also leave a lasting effect for good. We should therefore strive to live so
that our loving spirit, vibrant faith, and purity of life are never diluted by
2. Paul asks each one to live up to what they have already attained....if we each give a good pattern for whatever stage of maturity we are in, it will help others who follow behind us to grow in their sanctification.
a. Paul actually encourages them to take note of good examples (3:17)
b. He is not embarrassed to give himself as one example either, this was not arrogance, he was simply acknowledging that he is in the process of growth also.
c. Paul mentions all this because there had been bad examples and tragic
losses too...they need to watch carefully for which models they will follow.
III. WAITING 3:20-4:1
A. Promise 3:20-21
1. Paul finishes off this section on sanctification with a carrot on a stick to keep us running toward the goal....
a. he reminds all of us that our citizenship is not here, it is in heaven
b. thus...there is a great promise that awaits us yet!
c. This can help spur us onward..."the best is yet to come" as Corrie Ten Boom once said.
2. What we see and know now will pale in comparison...what seems like
nothing now will have eternal consequences and value some day!
ILLUS: As a lad, James M. Gray had a friend whose father was very wealthy. Having already made a fortune, the man sought to add to it by purchasing a large tract of real estate in upper Manhattan Island. At that time it was known as Harlem Flats. One day Gray's young companion said, "Let's go up and see the land Dad bought." Dr. Gray, recounting the incident years later, said, "I remember how I laughed when we got there. He couldn't show me a single spot of dry ground. The property was completely covered over with tidewater. I didn't see much of an investment in that for anybody. But, of course, his father did not acquire it for what it was worth then, but for its value in decades to come." Today that land has all been filled in and is heavily populated. It represents millions and millions of dollars to its present owners.
What a picture of our redemption!" God sees our
worth and value even when we don't. He looks ahead to the finished
3. We can be encouraged in our race and development spiritually because one day we will reach the final conclusion, the goal!
a. This will include complete sanctification with a new resurrected body!
b. Then we will fully rejoice, but we can even rejoice now, we can take
JOY IN SANCTIFICATION even now!
B. Persistence! 4:1
1. How does one win a race?
a. by constant running!
b. for those who desire the greatest joy, there are no shortcuts to glory!
2. Too often people want the "JOY" without the pricetag, but this doesn't work!
a. We all like the finish line and the trophy, but we must accept the process that brings this too!
b. It will be a persistent effort, but it will pay off!
ILLUS: Gary Player won more international golf tournaments in his day than anyone else. Today he's still winning on the Seniors tour, and winning big. Throughout his career, people have said to him, "I'd give anything if I could hit the golf ball like you."
On one particularly tough day, Player was tired
and frustrated when once again he heard that comment, "I'd give anything if I
could hit the ball just like you." Player's usual politeness failed him as he
replied tersely to the spectator, "No you wouldn't. You'd give anything to hit a
golf ball like me if it was easy. Do you know what you've got to do to hit a
golf ball like me? You've got to get up at five o'clock in the morning every
day, go out on the course, and hit one thousand golf balls. Your hand starts
bleeding; you walk up to the clubhouse, wash the blood off your hand, slap a
bandage on it, and go out and hit another thousand golf balls. That's what it
takes to hit a golf ball like me." -- Dr. Ron Jenson, Make A Life, Not Just A Living (Thomas
Nelson, 1995), p. 11.
3. How's the process of sanctification going in your life...have you
experienced the JOY IN SANCTIFICATION?
CONCLUSION: Sanctification is simply the process of becoming what we are in Christ....saints! Three things should help us through this process: (1. forget what's behind; (2. press on to the goal; (3. REJOICE! We can have joy in the process of sanctification because we know we are becoming more like Christ!