Philippians 3:17-4:1 Heavenly Citizenship

Philippians 3:17-4:1     Heavenly Citizenship                      WC McCarter

I do not usually plan sermons around any kind of occasions. For the most part, I like to preach through books or passages of Scripture. I would like to point out how God, even in the midst of preaching through a book, often orchestrates the situations so that we have a word from Him on the subjects we need at just the right time. Today’s sermon is about heavenly citizenship, and after the Supreme Court’s ruling concerning so-called “same-sex marriage,” what a great reminder it is that we do not belong here. This world is not our ultimate home. We are in the world but not of the world. There is a new heaven/earth to come in which we will dwell forever, and we are already citizens of the place. Also, this morning we received news that one of our sisters has passed away and that another is in critical condition. Without the hope of heaven, we would have no hope. Yet, we have promises from a faithful God for life after death. We have hope in the future that although we die, we will live.

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Patterns of Behavior (17-19)
(v17) is about mentoring, again. This time, however, our mentoring/discipling is not necessarily done directly but rather indirectly. Parents should be setting an example for their children, leaders should be setting an example for the flock, older folks should be setting an example for younger folks, and Christians should be setting an example for all those who are around us. We need to look to those who model Christ, and we need to strive to represent Christ well in all we do.

(v19) What happens for those in their sin, outside of Christ, is that they begin to turn things upside-down and inside-out. What should be shameful they glory in. Not only do people commit such abominations, but they also teach others to do so (Rom 1:32). The phrase “whose god is their belly” could possibly refer to the Judaizers insistence on food regulations, but most likely refers to those who seek all things having to do with sensuality; their wants become their desires, their cravings, and their god. Their end is simply put: destruction.

Heavenly Citizenship (20-4:1)
“Citizens of Philippi, a Roman colony, were automatically citizens of Rome, sharing all the rights and privileges of Roman citizens.  The Philippians knew what it meant to be citizens of a far-off city and were proud of that fact.  Although most of them had probably never been to Rome, they knew what it meant to belong to it.  They were now learning that they belonged to an even greater city, a city “that is above” (Gal 4:26), “that can not be shaken” (Heb 12:28), and “whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10).

The last note of this section comes in (4:1): “So stand fast in the Lord.”
It must mean several things:
          1. Stand fast in the relationship we have with Him (vv9-11)
          2. Stand fast in the knowledge we have of Him (vv8, 15)
          3. Stand fast in the pursuit of Him (v12-14)
          4. Stand fast in the hope of Him (vv20-21)

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) You can be like those hypocrites who like dogs interested in dung head toward destruction because they trust in themselves.  Or, you can be like Paul and all true believers who are headed toward heaven by trusting in the cross of Christ. There’s always the two options, the two ways. The Lord allows us to choose a sandy foundation or a solid one; the narrow ways that leads to life or the wide path that leads to destruction; we can hear the criticisms/attacks of our culture today and worry or even crumble in our faith or we can stand fast in the Lord trusting Him all the more.

(2) How do you view your heavenly citizenship? I love our country. However, God is the God of the globe. He is looking to gather people from every nation, tribe, and language. We may spend a few decades in America, but where will you spend eternity? Hopefully, it will be heaven.

Philippians 3:12-16 Press Toward the Goal

Philippians 3:12-16      Press Toward the Goal                     WC McCarter

Moses was a man that knew God but wanted to know more.  Some of my favorite passages in all of the Old Testament are the narratives following the golden calf incident.  Look with me to Exod 33.  Verse 13 says, “Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.”  This was not the first time Moses spoke with the LORD and surely he had already found grace, yet he wanted more.  Furthermore, in verse 18 Moses says, “Please, show me Your glory.”  We must be people that have walked with the LORD for many years, seen marvelous things, known Christ, experienced His faithfulness, and still desire MORE of Him!  What we need is a longing for more, for greater, for something higher . . . for God in Christ Jesus.

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Frustration and Hope (12-14)
The Apostle had gained the knowledge of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the power of Christ, the fellowship of Christ and the glory of Christ, but says that he was not finished.  There are great blessings given to us when we first are united with Christ, but that is only the beginning of what is life eternal studying, loving, worshipping, and treasuring Him.  To become a Christian is a wonderful thing, there would be nothing better than to see some of you commit to Christ today, but that is only the beginning.

(v8) shows that the Apostle deliberately chose one phrase over another. Instead of saying “these things” he used “all things.”  All things that could rival the surpassing greatness of Christ, including what has previously been named, can in no way be put in the same category.  All things are rubbish in comparison to Christ.  In verse 10 he says that he wants to know Christ.  Well, Christ has already been made known to him.  What does he want now?  He wants to know more of Him, he wants to know Him better, more fully, all of the power of His resurrection and His death and His life.

The future belongs to those who persevere!  And so we reach out for the future knowing that Christ has already reached out to us!  You see, Paul may have been correcting a perfectionist idea in Philippi.  It may be that the Philippians were defending themselves against the Judaizers by claiming that they needed no works because they had already gained perfection.  They needed to defend themselves, but not with that claim.

(v14) The question is, what are we reaching forward for?  What is the prize?  What is at the end of the race?  The answer is Christ Jesus!  He is the goal and the prize, He is at the end of the race.  He offers salvation, life, love, blessings; all of the treasures of God are hidden in Him.  Paul, and all of Scripture, views Jesus as having riches bound up in Him that are endless (Col 2:3).  We will spend all of eternity getting to know Him better and the better we know Him, the better we know God.  The upward call of God is possibly the picture of a winner being invited to the elevated stage to receive the prize.  God stands in the person of Jesus and ushers us into His presence—into the winner’s circle, onto the champion’s platform.  I have always been one of the most avid sports fans, but I haven’t kept up with any of them over the last couple of years.  Yet, I did watch the NBA Finals (I love basketball), and I was thrilled to see that standing on the podium were several bold Christian men.  The most notable player, a North Carolina native, was the regular season MVP and made clear that Christ is his Savior and Lord.  The Finals MVP was another man who knows Christ as Lord.  How awesome it was to see them stand on that podium as champions.  Yet, there is another podium that we all can stand on and that far exceeds any victories on earth.

We all have a past that is filled with both short-comings and accomplishments, but we should not let either control us.  If we are constantly revisiting our faults we will never progress into the future with any sort of joyfulness.  If we exult in the successes of the past and never work into the future, we will never know that there are greater victories ahead.  Now, does this mean that we blot out our pasts?  Certainly not!  We should let our past mistakes teach us and our past successes encourage us, yet we are fully aware that there are better triumphs ahead.  “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

2. Growth through Obedience (15-16)
Those who are mature should be in harmony with what Paul has just said.  We have to leave our minds open to God’s leading through His word.  How many do you think come here on Sunday morning open to the instruction of the Lord?  Maybe not as many as we would like to think!

We must all live up to what we already know.  If you don’t fully understand the treasures of Christ now, continue to seek knowledge of Him, continue to seek the power of His resurrection, continue to seek to fellowship with His sufferings, and the Scripture says that God will clearly reveal to you the beauty of His Son, the splendor, wonder, and riches that are only found in Him.

Conclusion and Christian Application
It is a mistake to think that once Christ has been made known to you and that you have responded appropriately that you have been made perfect instantaneously.  With this mind you will not hunger or thirst for anything.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  The apostle says in our text, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected,” and then “I do not count myself to have apprehended.”  Something more is needed.  A hunger and thirst for something more . . . a righteousness beyond ourselves.

There are loads of anxious activities that fill gaps of time and steal our attention, but these things can never satisfy our souls.  What we need something different, something better.  We need to cultivate our relationship with Almighty God.

In a day and age when people know less and less about the Bible and the things of Christ, we do not need less of the Word of God; we need more.  How well do you know the Bible?  Listen, we have three services on Sundays, which are our only services for the week, and I am not willing to have less than three.  Still, most of you are not taking advantage of the opportunities that you have to be in these services and to have your kids in church.  Is one hour a week doing the job?  Are you saturated with the Word of God?  You know that we live at a point in American history when we are under attack.  There are pressures, persecutions, and enemies at every turn.  I’m telling you now, you need to gear up for what is to come.  You need to forget what is behind and strive for what is ahead.  The best way to do that, really the only way, is to spend more time in the assembly of the saints, not less time; more time in the Word, more time in prayer, more time strengthening one another in the church.

Some of you think that you are spiritually above and beyond everyone else and that you do not need to strengthen your faith.  Let me encourage you to follow Paul’s example and strive ahead not thinking that you have already arrived.  Others of you have allowed one thing after another to distract you from the things of Christ.  Family is good, but it must not come before God, especially some of the petty things we find ourselves doing.  Work is good, but it is not more important that God.  Recreation is cool, but what about your faith?  Do not let anything get in the way of worshipping the Lord, getting to know Him better, trusting in Him, treasuring Him, being held accountable by other Christians, and, in turn, supporting and encouraging your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us. . .
1. Commit ourselves to Christ, His cause, and His church.
2. Have a willingness to take risks (faith adventures).
3. Develop our spiritual gifts so that we can serve better.
4. Dream out into the future of how we can use our lives to glorify God.
5. Have a willingness to sacrifice in the present for a prize in the future.

6. Be satisfied and yet not satisfied at the same time.

Philippians 3:7-11 That I May Know Him

Philippians 3:7-11        That I May Know Him                     WC McCarter

We have been talking about unity in recent weeks, and there are several things that bring us together and put us all on the same level.  One of those things that unites us—whether we are old/young, wealthy/poorer, black/white—we are all poor in spirit.  All of our righteousness is like filthy rags before God.  Listen to what Jesus says in Matt 16:25-26.  You must be willing to give up all that you have gained in this life, by the effort of the flesh, in exchange for the salvation of your soul.

The passage for the sermon today tells us what it means to “treasure Christ.”  Here, Paul is passionate, honest, and raw about his theology.  In these few verses we find his philosophy of life and it is the essence of the Christian faith.

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Spiritual Bankruptcy (7-8) Gain/Loss Metaphor
It would be easy to say I count all the things I’ve gained as loss if you hadn’t gained anything.  Paul “had plenty of moral and legal achievements.”  He had not failed in Judaism.  Yet, these things meant nothing to him compared to Christ.  He renounces his blamelessness as to the righteousness of the Law.  It was merely a fog, here one minute- thick, consuming, real, and then it was gone the next.  It was a false hope, an ungrounded satisfaction because it was built on a weak set of fleshly achievements.

Now Paul broadens this thought from Jewish advantages to any conceivable thins that could be set up against the excellency of Christ, “I count all things but loss…”  The knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord (Paul here says “my”) is far exceeding anything that opposes period!  For Him to be your Lord means that you are already bowing and confessingàalready enjoying Him and the excitement of the prospects/challenges of growing in that knowledge/relationship. SEE Col 2:3

Those things actually meant less than nothing: rubbish/dung (KJV) – compared to Christ.

SEE Isaiah 64:6. “Gain Christ”= SEE 2 Cor 3:10; Matt 16:26; Matt 13:44-46
We must say that Paul hungered and thirsted for righteousness!

Spiritual Wealth (9-11) To Gain Christ
Being “found in Him” is to be united with Christ by faith—permanently bound to Him.  It is eschatological.  On that Day we want to be hidden in Him on whom the wrath of God has already been poured on and satisfied.  SEE Col 3:3
Only in Christ do we have a righteousness that matters to God.  We can stack up achievement upon achievement, good deed upon good deed . . . and never reach God.  He is holy and just, perfect in all His ways.  All of our work is useless, even condemning.

To “know Him” is an important Biblical theme.  It is to know him personally and intimately, not simply head knowledge.  SEE Jeremiah 31:34 of the New Covenant.

Conclusion and Christian Application
Jesus told two brief parables in Matt 13:44-46 that highlight what we have discussed today.  Listen to what He says.  We do not have anything as valuable as Christ’s righteousness.  Let me urge you to give up all that you have in exchange for the eternal that Christ offers.

Notice how Paul talks about treasuring Christ.  We need to help each other trust Him like this more and more.  He counts all things as lost. . . .
          1) for Christ
          2) for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord
          3) that I may gain Christ
          4) be found in Him
          5) that I may know Him
          6) if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead

              (All these things forever!!!)

Philippians 3:1-7 Beware of the Flesh

Philippians 3:1-7          Beware of the Flesh                         WC McCarter


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Paul on Offense (1-3)
Paul, again, commands the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord (1:26; 3:1, 3; 4:10).  This is the theme of the letter.  This is the theme of the Christian life.  No matter where we are or what we are going through, we rejoice in the Lord.  Even when we are faced with adversaries, we rejoice in the Lord.  Paul has been gracious and loving.  He has been personal and joyful.  But now he aggressively goes on the offensive against false teachers.  He tells the Philippians in verse one that repetition is a good thing.  Christians need to hear some of the same things over and over again.  He says that it is not tedious for him, or he does not have reason to hesitate in sharing the same things again.  On the other hand, to repeat himself is a safeguard for the church.  An enormous part of pastoring is reminding!  I am always glad to hear you tell me that you have learned something new, or you have never looked at an issue “that way,” or that I gave you something else to think about.  Those are wonderful words.  But, for the most part, I am sharing with you things that you already know.  I am reminding you, week-after-week, some simple things.  There is no reason to hesitate in sharing these things again because it is a safeguard for the church.

So, Paul tells them again what he probably already told them when he was with them—that false teachers would come, that wolves in sheep’s clothing would come, that there would be folks that would seek to lead them astray.  Paul lashes out in righteous zeal for the church in verse two.  This verse is emphasized in the original language.  Each phrase begins with the word “Beware!” or “Watch out!”  Each phrase also has alliteration with the “k” sound.

Paul carefully chose his words for intense irony, not derogatory speech: (1) Dogs- outside of the true religious community (Gentiles); scavengers, unclean; (2) Evil Workers- word play on legalism; although they professed to be workers of righteousness Paul says that were the opposite; and (3) Mutilation- Paul’s rhetorical way of saying circumcision, they wanted men circumcised simply to lay claim over them.

“For we are the circumcision,” that is, the true/spiritual “circumcision” (3 vs 3): (1) Worship God in the Spirit- sounds like John; (2) Rejoice in Christ Jesus- theme of the letter; and (3) Have no confidence in the flesh (human credentials).  Here is a true believer, a true child of God.  Christians are those who do not live, trust, or worship merely outwardly.  We are spiritual.

Mock Boasting (4-6)
For the sake of argument, Paul adopts one of the Judaizing attitudes—confidence in the flesh.  He does this to mock those who boast in the flesh, that is, their religious performance, all the righteousness that can be mustered up from human effort apart from divine intervention.

Paul doesn’t choose to not rely on Jewish credentials because he doesn’t have them, but because they are nothing before God ~ non-meritorious.

Paul’s credentials according to the flesh:
          1) Circumcised the 8th day- as Lev 2:2-3 commands
2) Stock of Israel- son of observant Jews, possibly both parents Jewish
3) Tribe of Benjamin- Traces to Jacob, not Esau (son of Rachel, beloved of Jacob, Saul, the first King was same tribe)
          4) Hebrew of Hebrews- thoroughly and outstandingly Jewish
          5) Pharisee- highly educated, respected, devout
6) Zeal- persecuted the church (SEE Gal 1:13-14)
          7) Righteousness of Law ~ blameless
On the one hand he had done everything, on the other it wasn’t enough.
According to men’s judgments (flesh)—outward conformity (not sinlessness)
          Think of the rich young ruler from Mark 10:17-27

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) We must be willing to name false teaching.  False doctrine can injure and even destroy the church.  This is of utmost importance in our own local congregation, but we must also be willing to point it out among other churches.  We do not want to point out the speck in another’s eye when we have a plank, and we do not want to belittle others for the sake of truth, but when there is unbiblical teaching that threatens the Faith, we must be willing to speak against it, resist it, and disown it.  There are different levels of falsities, I think.  Some folks come to wrong conclusions from the Bible, but they are teaching and believing things that they think to be true.  Others are in it for themselves and lead people astray for power, prestige, money, and other reasons.  One of the great travesties of the American church is the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” which says that you can live your best life now, God wants you happy above all else, God wants you to flourish financially, etc.  Although this teaching represents the exact opposite of what the Scriptures teach and what we know about church history, it is not only believed by millions in America but is being spread like a disease throughout the world.  People are promised health and wealth, so they “come to Jesus” but they never really put their faith in Him.  And the first time something awful happens in their life, they realize that this teaching was not the truth.  I have personally known people that taught/believed that if we have enough faith, Christians will not get sick.  It is really awkward when they get a cold, or the flu, or worse.  So, watch out for who you are sympathizing with.  There are many who lead believers astray.

(2) You cannot trust in yourself.  God does not care how much education you have or how much money is in your bank accounts.  He does not need anything from you.  Paul could brag about his old life to those false teachers if he wanted to, and he could outperform them; his resume was much more impressive than any of theirs.  But remember, Paul made that his “old life” for a reason.  He gave up worldly accomplishments and took Christ’s accomplishments as His own.  This is what it means to become a Christian.  You come to the realization that no matter how much good you do or how much you may be able to impress other people, it is never enough to pay for your own sins.  We are not who we want to be much less who God expects us to be.  He is high, holy, and just.  He is perfect, and we have sinned against Him.  Therefore, we forsake the world and the things of it, and we take Christ’s achievement as our own.  We throw out our resumes and take His as our own.

Matthew 5:3 Theirs is the Kingdom

Theirs is the Kingdom

Over the last couple of weeks in these devotionals we have discussed the first beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  To be exact, we have talked about what it means to be “poor in spirit.”  After pondering that phrase for a while, we may now turn our attention to the second part of the beatitude.  The “poor in spirit” are those who are “blessed” because of the promise “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Now, we should say first that the word “heaven” is a respectable substitute for “God” in Jewish thinking.  Matthew, being a Jewish Christian, was sure to use the reverential term.  The two phrases, “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God,” mean the same thing.  They are interchangeable in New Testament vocabulary.  Thus, Jesus is referring to the righteous reign of God.  The word “theirs” is placed at the beginning of the phrase in the original language, not following normal structure, which emphasizes the word.  The kingdom belongs to the beatitude kind of person, the one who is poor in spirit.  Also, notice that this is in the present tense.  The Lord does not say that the kingdom will belong to the poor in spirit.  He says, “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  This is a here-and-now reality.

God had prophesied, as revealed in Daniel 7:13-14 and 27, that there would be an everlasting kingdom given to the “Son of Man” which would, in turn, be given to the people of God.  Listen in to what Daniel shares: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!  He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed. . . .  Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.  His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.”

When a person realizes and confesses their poverty of spirit before God and puts their faith in Jesus Christ, the kingdom of heaven is given to them.  The Lord says of the kingdom in Luke 17:21, “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”  The kingdom belongs to and dwells within the people of God.  The kingdom will one day spread over the entire globe, but it is already a present reality in the church as the Lord sovereignly reigns in the hearts and lives of believers.  So, what is the blessing of the first beatitude?  The one who is poor in spirit is the one who already knows the King of kings.  How satisfying it is to have the Lord directing our path!  How wonderful it is for the work of God to spread to the nations through us—His people!  We are to be envied because we are completely satisfied in and fully approved by God.  Yours is the kingdom!