Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Phillippians 3 - Christian joy's goal

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Last week we did two posts featuring the book of Philippians and the theme of Christian joy:

We are taking time to once again to consider this important theme of "Christian Joy" from the book of joy, Paul's letter to the Philippians.  Today's post will derive from Philippians 3 and will cover the following subject: "Christian Joy's Goal". We can find reference to the theme of joy nearly 20 times in Philippians. In past posts we have also recognized Philippians 3:1 as being the key verse to the Epistle, being that Paul, though in prison, finds His joy in Jesus Christ. 

Today's point of application:
The point of application for today's post will be: The goal of Christian joy is to rejoice in Jesus Christ. How do we do that? by rejoicing in the following three truths about Jesus Christ in Philippians 3 -

a). Rejoicing in what Jesus did 3:1-7
b). Rejoicing in what Jesus will do 3:8-11
c). Rejoicing in what Jesus is doing 3:12-21.

Rejoicing in what Jesus did 3:1-7

When we say to rejoice in what Jesus did, we are referring to the work of salvation the Lord did in bringing us from unbelief to faith and from darkness to light.  A testimony is simply testifying about what one's life was like before Jesus, what took place in bringing that person to saving faith and what Jesus has done since that point. Paul makes a statement defining what is the "true circumcision", which is Jewish way of saying: "this is what classifies a true disciple of Jesus Christ" in Philippians 3:3. First he notes that a true disciple, one who has experienced the "spiritual circumcision of the heart" in salvation (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 2:29) worships in the Spirit of God. Second, a true disciple of Jesus Christ glories in Jesus Christ.  Then thirdly, a true disciple puts no confidence in the flesh.

What Paul does next in Philippians 3:4-6 is catalogue what his life was like before Christ.  Now we won't rehearse his list, but the point is well expressed that in the eyes of men he would had been an "A-lister" in regards to morality and spirituality.  Yet in comparison to what Jesus did for Him in salvation (see Acts 9), all of Paul's past accomplishments were worthless.  Consider his remarks in Philippians 3:7 "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." As we make it our goal to rejoice in Jesus Christ, we remember what He did for us in salvation.  This is what Jesus did. But notice a second way in which we reach the goal of Christian joy - rejoicing in Jesus Christ...

Rejoicing in what Jesus will do 3:8-11
Having recounted what Jesus did, Paul escalates his praise of Jesus by now considering what he expects Jesus will do.  Philippians 3:8 states - "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ."

Paul then expresses his confidence in Jesus by noting how much he trusts in Him for His immediate future in 3:9-10 as well as the ultimate end of time at resurrection in 3:11. Paul lists three great doctrines that reinforce His joy in what Jesus will do.  First he mentions his justification in 3:9, that is, the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to Him at saving faith that provides the basis for His future hope. Next he mentions how he shares in the life and person of Jesus in the here and now (fellowship of His sufferings) in 3:10, and how knowing Jesus more and more grants him confidence both now and for the immediate future.  Then Paul mentions the third major doctrine in 3:11 - the resurrection, which represents that ultimate goal of the disciple - to be like His Lord. (compare 1 John 3:1-3).

The goal of Christian joy is to rejoice in Jesus Christ. We do this by considering what He did do for us in salvation and what He will do in the near and far future, but now notice the third way....

Rejoicing in what Jesus is doing 3:12-21.
Paul makes the following statement which captures perfectly the present Christian life in Philippians 3:12-14  "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 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 to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

We discover that the goal of finding our joy in Jesus is not based only in the past or something that we have to wait for in the future but characterizes the Christian's joy in the present. Paul then reinforces this idea by urging his readers to have this joy in their attitudes (3:15-16); following the examples of believers who have evidenced this same joy (3:17); and being careful of those who focus more on this world than Jesus (3:18-19).  Paul then wraps up the chapter by reminding his readers that they are citizens of heaven, and that their present life is determined by the second coming of Jesus Christ.

When we rejoice in what Jesus is doing, it governs what we do in the here and now.  We can never divorce our present Christian walk from what He did, nor forget the fact that He is coming again.  True disciples of Jesus Christ find their present joy in Jesus by feeding off of His past accomplished work and His second coming.  We find our current strength in what Jesus is doing right now as our advocate in heaven. (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1)  Paul's readers at Philippi would had needed such reminders, being that Phillipi was a major Roman colony.  To be a citizen of the city of Philippi made one a Roman citizen - the premier badge of honor in the ancient world.  Yet Paul's point is that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we don't rejoice in our alliances here, rather the goal of Christian joy is finding joy in Jesus Christ.

Closing thoughts
The point of application in today's post was: The goal of Christian joy is to rejoice in Jesus Christ. We discovered that we can achieve that main goal by rejoicing in the following three truths about Jesus Christ in Philippians 3 -

a). Rejoicing in what Jesus did 3:1-7
b). Rejoicing in what Jesus will do 3:8-11
c). Rejoicing in what Jesus is doing 3:12-21.

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