Philippians 3:4-8 (Devotional Thought)

though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  (Philippians 3:4-8 ESV)

Yesterday we talked about how some people have replaced Jesus with a set of rules. To them, Christianity is all about how good you can be… they have forgotten that being a Christian is being a follower of JESUS. Paul knows what its like to live for rules. He used to be that way too! He used to think that God would be pleased with him because he had a great upbringing, he did everything right, and he really kept a lot of rules.

Then everything changed when he met JESUS on the road to Damascus. He realized that for all his “good works” he still weren’t good enough for God, not really. He was still a sinner and he had never really addressed the real problem of the sin in his heart.

Imagine that you wake up and you find yourself in your underwear (I don’t know how you sleep so this may be normal for you), but it’s about time for school to start and you realize that you need to put on some clothes. You have a real problem though, you are practically naked and you can’t find clothes anywhere. Finally in a desperation you run to the bathroom to see if maybe you left some dirty clothes there (after all dirty clothes are better than no clothes, maybe). It’s getting really close for time for school to start and you haven’t found any clothes yet, but in the bathroom you find a can of paint. So as you look in the mirror you begin to paint clothes on the mirror so as you stand just right it looks like you have on clothes. The only problem is that you are still practically naked. The mirror is covered, you are not.

Paul saw that all his good deeds, his up bringing, his rule keeping was just like painting on a mirror… it temporarily made him look good on the outside, but God looks at the heart. Like all of us he still had a sin issue. So he challenged the church at Philippi (and now us) through his own personal story to consider these things as secondary to what really matters… JESUS.

In fact, Paul says that these things were loss to him! He called them “rubbish.” The translators were being nice here, another word for rubbish is “Poo.” Yes, you read right. That stuff that you deal with, pull a magic lever and send on its way without a second thought. Paul says that everything he used to count on he now counts as nothing.

Does that mean we’re supposed to be bad… of course not! It means that we look to Jesus, not our deeds or anything else to make us acceptable to God. Since Jesus is the one who brings us to God, then we count him as supremely valuable, not what we have done.

Philippians 3:1-3 (Devotional Thought)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh- (Philippians 3:1-3 ESV)

Christians should be good, but being good isn’t what saves us. Jesus is the one who saves us. There are people who think that Christianity is all about seeing who can be the best at being good. They like rules and have made up extra rules along the way. They look at how well you can keep the rules and that determine how good of a Christian you are… Paul has a big problem with that, being a Christian isn’t about keeping rules as much as it is about loving Jesus.

You see the whole point of the gospel is that while you are unable to do anything to save yourself, Jesus willingly went to the cross as a substitute for you, died, and rose again from the dead. To be admitted into the kingdom of God by God’s grace you have to receive what Christ has done. You actively trust in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. There isn’t anything that you can point back to and say, “I’m saved because I DID THIS, I KEPT THIS RULE.” You can only look back and say, “I’m saved because JESUS died on the cross for my sin, and rose from the dead! I’m trusting HIM!”

Paul writes to remind the church at Philippi that their joy comes from the Lord. We may get a certain sense of joy from knowing that Jesus changes us. After all you can’t follow Jesus and be the same. But the focus, the joy, comes from a real relationship with Jesus, not in being good at being good.

Think of it this way. I love my wife and so I do certain things that I know she likes. I buy her flowers and small gifts from time to time. I wash dishes so she doesn’t have too. I pick her movie to watch instead of the one I want to see, etc. But what if I became obsessed with how good I was at becoming a good husband? so much so that I stopped actually loving my wife! What if I cared more about doing dishes than actually loving my wife! Something would be wrong. I would have replaced a relationship with my own set of rules.

That’s like what people were doing in Paul’s day. They were going around following the Apostle Paul where ever he went and right after he left they would swoop in and tell the new church he had started that God was all about rules, not a relationship. They insisted that for people to truly follow God that they had to follow their own prescribed set of rules. The problem was that all their talk about rules actually lead people away from JESUS and into trying to live a moral life without Jesus at the center.

Paul reminds the Philippians, “Rejoice in Jesus” (“the Lord” is another way of referring to Jesus). Don’t take your eyes off Jesus. He is where true Joy is found. Don’t be distracted by people who talk about how good they are and how good you can be. Sure when following Jesus you can’t help but become a better person, but its because of the work of God in your life… not because of all the stuff you do.

So here is the deal. You may wrestle with a habitual sin. You think. If I can just quit ____ I’ll be ok. And maybe you do need to quit whatever you struggle with, but don’t let the struggle become your focus and steal your joy. Paul says it’s no trouble for him to remind folks where the real joy is… Jesus.

Philippians 2:25-30 (Devotional Thought)

I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (Philippians 2:25-30 ESV)

Who are your heroes? What did they do to become your hero?

We look to all different kinds of people as heroes. We honor men and women for all kinds of different achievements. We give athletes awards like “most valuable player” and “rookie of the year” we give singers music awards, we give awards to actors and actresses, and we bury men and women who have served faithfully in our military with military honors.

While these awards and recognition are nice, Paul lifts us a different sort of hero to us. To the church at Philippi he held recommended a guy by the name of Epaphroditus. This guy traveled to Paul on behalf of the church at Philippi and he almost died. He got sick, but even when he was really sick, even to the point of death, he was concerned about everyone else. He was still thinking of Paul’s needs and church at Philippi. I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick, I’m not on my A game. I’m usually cranky or sleepy. My fuse can be shorter than normal… but Ephaphroditus was actually concerned that people back home will be worried about him.

So now that Epaphroditus is better, Paul is sending him back home and he reminds the church to honor this guy. We don’t really give out awards in Christian circles. As far as I know there aren’t any missionary honors at missionary funerals, your pastor isn’t secretly hoping for the “pastor of the year” award, and that dear sweet lady at church that is faithful to give above her tithe to missions each month isn’t doing it so she can get a “Widow’s Mite” award… but when we know of people in our midst who put the needs of others above their own, we should be thankful for their example, and we need to honor them.

How do you honor someone who puts the need of others above their own? I think it begins with joy in their presence. You rejoice to be with them. Count it a blessing when you come across someone who is proficient at true humility, you will learn a lot from them. I think you also thank them, especially if they have imparted some gift or words of wisdom along the way. Epaphroditus carried a gift from this church to the Apostle Paul. Obviously he was serving God, but at the same time he was serving those who had partnered together in the gospel at Philippi.

Who do you need to honor today?

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Philippians 2:19-24 (Devotional Thought)

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. (Philippians 2:19-24 ESV)

Every time I say I’m going to cut the grass my son (Who is four at the time I’m writing this) comes running out begging to cut the grass with me. Obviously I don’t really let him cut the grass but he gets his plastic push mower and goes at it just like he is actually helping me. We have several pictures of me mowing the lawn and him coming up behind me with his push mower. I don’t know why he likes to imitate me cutting grass, I’m guessing he just wants to be like his dad and this is something in his mind that he can do. We’re all kind of like that. We learn from the example of others. We learn how to do things from our parents, teachers, and friends. We look for models. We see how people do things and we try to be like them. Maybe someone wears duct-tape on their back pack and we think it’s cool. So we go buy some duct-tape to put on our back pack. Maybe our dad likes baseball, so we like baseball or our mom puts her hair in a pony tail on Saturdays and so we put our hair in a pony tail on Saturdays. We learn from following the example of others. When it comes to spiritual things, the same principle is in effect. We learn from the example of others. We learn to pray through hearing others pray. Maybe you are growing up in a Christian home and hear your parents pray or maybe you are learning to pray in small groups on Wednesday or maybe you still need to learn how to pray. The best way is through the example of someone else. I learned how to have a daily time reading the bible when my mom got me a devotional book and showed me how to use it. I also saw her reading her bible in the living room a few times when I got up early. It made an impact. Paul mentions Timothy here because he wants to set up Timothy as an example. Here is a guy who gets what it looks like to put the needs of others ahead of his own. He genuinely cares for this church at Philippi. Timothy was with Paul and Silas when they started the church in Philippi (Acts 16). He also knows what it looks like to look out for the interests of Jesus. He knows God is at work in his life and he’s joining God in the work to see what God might do. Who do you know that is an example of Godly living? What have you learned from them? Be intentional this week about surrounding yourself with people that will help you mature in your faith in Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:12-18 (Devotional Thought)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)

“Let go and Let God.” Have you ever heard someone say that? This passage actually teaches us something completely different. The Apostle Paul says that if you are a believer God is already working in you and so you should join God by going to work with him.

Think of it like this. A farmer prays to God and asks for a big harvest with lots of fruit. He gets an answer and knows that God will work and cause a great harvest. Does he still need to plant the crops? Does he still need to keep pests away? Does he still need to make plans to get help for the abundant harvest when it comes in? YES!!! He probably needs to work even harder now if he knows that God has guaranteed a large harvest!

In our society we tend to look at Salvation as a one time event like a wedding, but sometimes scripture speaks of it as an ongoing event like a marriage. You don’t show up to a wedding, marry someone and then never see them again (you could, but it would be really weird). You usually marry someone and are continually married. In other words the marriage lasts way beyond the wedding. The way the word Salvation is mentioned here is similar its something that continues past the initial event. It’s like being born and being alive.

So Paul says because we know that God is already doing some cool stuff in your life if you are a believer you need to be diligent to join God at work. We know God is the one who does the real work and who is guaranteeing the results but it still requires us to partner with God to see those things truly come out. It requires us putting faith ahead of our feelings.

So Paul lists a few things here. He says to put aside “grumbling and complaining.” I don’t know about you, but this is hard for me. There is no way I could even think about not grumbling or complaining unless I knew that God were at work in my life already to extinguish these characteristics that really don’t do anyone much good.

He also says that we need to hold fast to the word of life. That means doing what your doing now, getting in God’s word and digging in, allowing God to change how you think and act.

The last part is kind of cool because Paul has a partnership with the church at Philippi. He basically says that if they’ll be a light for Jesus for how they live, then if he does die it won’t be in vain. Even his death will point to how people ought to live for God.

Philippians 2:5-11 (Devotional Thought)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)

Yesterday we talked about being humble and putting others needs ahead of our own. To be humble we don’t put ourselves down, that is a false kind of humility. True humility takes on the attitude of service. When you are humble you don’t make a stink about who you are or why other people should serve you, you serve others and meet the needs around you.

Think about Jesus for minute. He is God! But when he came to earth he did not demand that others treat him like he was God. He left the comfort of Heaven to be born as a poor peasant, to travel the countryside touching sick people, healing them of their diseases, and telling people about how they can know Him. He could have ascended into heaven at any time. He could have called for an angel army to come to his rescue when he was in trouble, but he chose to face the cross. He chose to serve us by paying a price we couldn’t pay for our sins. He chose obedience to the Father above personal comfort. No one has ever been more humble than Jesus and no one is greater Jesus.

We don’t serve, just to serve. Jesus became a servant for a purpose. He didn’t beat death so he could say he did it. He went to the cross to purchase a people who would embrace Him as their King. He paid the penalty for sin and bought peace with God for all who would trust him as their Lord and Savior. Have you trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? The work for you to be saved has been accomplished by Jesus, all that is left is for you to respond to the work that God has done.

So now when we are called to serve others, there is always a purpose. Ultimately the same purpose that Jesus became a servant… so that others might know God! Look around where has God given you the opportunity to serve others so that people might know about God?

Philippians 2:1-4 (Devotional Thought)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)

The church at Philippi had people from different backgrounds. Remember the fashion CEO Lydia, the demon possessed girl, and the jailer? They were all as different as can be. I imagine that they all had different ideas and thoughts about how things should be, or might should go and I’m sure that each one had their own issues or personality quirks.

The Apostle Paul reminds them (and us) that believers are to be a humble people. Humble doesn’t mean poor or that you tear yourself down (this can actually be a weird source of pride). Being humble involves how you treat and think about other people.

Paul gives some clear examples of what humility doesn’t look like. He says don’t do anything out of rivalry. Rivalry is an attempt to outdo someone else. Paul says that we don’t need to be the guy constantly attempting to one-up everyone. A great way to check for that is think back to conversations you have with your friends. Do you find yourself trying to come up with a story or idea to top everyone’s story when you talk? You might want to check your heart for rivalry.

Paul also warns us about conceit. Conceit is tricky. It can sneak up on you. It sits in the back of your mind and it judges everyone around you. You constantly compare yourself to everybody else and you win every time! Of course you tend to overlook the bad things you have done because you know what you “intended to do” while at the same time you judge everyone else’s actions harshly. Take a few moments and check your heart for conceit. Ask God to reveal if you’ve been motivated by either one of these false motives.

So how do you battle wrong attitudes like rivalry or conceit? You count others as better than yourself. This isn’t to put you down, but it does serve to build up other people. I’ve found that It’s very difficult to have these bad attitudes if I’m constantly putting the needs of others ahead of my own and encouraging people around me. It’s hard to try and one-up someone when I take time to genuinely be happy for something cool that’s happened in their life. It’s very difficult to be conceited when I’m constantly giving other people the benefit of the doubt and judging my own missteps with a little more discernment.

If you find yourself guilty of rivalry or conceit, confess your sin to God. Ask Him to give you an attitude of humility.

Philippians 1:27-30 (Devotional Thought)

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:27-30 ESV)

“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel,” have you ever thought through this statement? Have you ever pondered what it means to live worthy? It’s not like we could pay Jesus for what he has done for us. We could never make up for our sin! This verse isn’t asking us to do that, but Paul is commanding us to move forward in the power of the gospel!

I once heard a story about identical twin brothers. As they grew into adulthood they took two very different paths. One was a very moral, upstanding man the other became a drunk, was caught up in illegal gambling, and would often get in fights. One night the less moral brother got into a fight over a gambling debt and killed a man. He didn’t know what to do so he ran to his brothers house in the middle of the night.

“Brother, Brother, what do I do? I killed a man!” By now they could hear the police sirens in the distance and knew that they must be coming for the murderer. The good brother quickly insisted that they change clothes. “Here put on my clothes and I’ll wear your blood stained garments.” The murder sobbed and said, “No, their must be some other way!”

The good brother insisted that they change and soon the good brother was wearing the murders clothing complete with blood stains and the murderer found himself in a nice white shirt and slacks. Just before the police entered the house and began to take away the good brother and the murderer spoke up, “What do I do now?”

“Live like the man whose clothes you wear.” And from that day on he became someone different. He was often tempted to settle into old habits and go back to a lifestyle that he was familiar with, but he reached down and would feel the buttons on his shirt and remember, “I am someone different now.”

We were once guilty of great sin before a holy and righteous God. Jesus paid for our sin by his death on the cross and credited us with his righteousness so that not only are our sins not counted against us, but his goodness is counted for us. Sometimes when we are tempted to sin, we need to remind ourselves that we are different than we once were. The gospel gives us power to live every day different than we were before Christ. The gospel gives us boldness. We used to care what people think but now we care more about what God thinks. It doesn’t mean that at times we won’t be tempted, but the ability to resist the temptation comes from trusting that Jesus is enough. We need to be reminded of the gospel everyday because the gospel is important everyday.

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Philippians 1:22-26 (Devotional Thought)

If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:22-26 ESV)

The Apostle Paul is in pain. He’s been beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead, and mistreated by people like the jailer in Philippi more than once. For Paul, death means that he’ll get to see Jesus face to face in a good way, and to keep on living means that someone else will punch him, hurt him, and make him suffer. He has a preference. He’d rather be with Jesus.

But you don’t become an Apostle by putting your needs, your wants, your desires at the head of the line. Paul has to ask himself a serious question: What is better for the church? What is better for those people who have heard the gospel and believed because of his testimony? What is better for them?

This is what maturity looks like: It’s when you put the needs of others ahead of your own. I experienced it when I got married. I experienced it when I had children and I’ve experienced it as a leader in the local church. This is how the gospel transforms your life. You no longer live as if you are the most important thing in the universe. You live around the reality that Jesus is the most important thing in the universe and you do your best to bring other people into a right relationship with Him.

I’m a pastor and so I often hear people say things like “I’m not getting fed at my church” or in youth ministry someone younger will say that they feel like they belong with the more “mature” group. This kind of thinking isn’t mature. It’s actually babyish. Sorry to be blunt but adults don’t cry to get fed, babies do. Real maturity is looking out for the needs of those around you not abandoning people because you found a group that meets your intellectual needs. When you shift towards putting what you think your needs are at the center of everything, you’ve lost sight of what’s really important.

One of the dangers of immaturity is that we can think we know what’s best, when we really don’t. One time my son had a pair of scissors he had gotten off the table and he went crazy opening and closing them. I immediately told him to give me the scissors. He insisted that he knew what he was doing and before I could stop him he ended up cutting himself under the eye. His immaturity gave him confidence to do something that ultimately was not good for him.

Sometimes what WE need most is to put the needs of others ahead of our own and in doing so we fulfill God’s plan for US and we are used by God to minister to others.

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Philippians 1:18-21 (Devotional Thought)

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:18b-21 ESV)

When I was in the 5th grade my class used to take field trips to the local university swimming pool. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that it had a high dive. By high dive I’m not talking about the big diving board at your neighborhood pool, I’m talking about an Olympic size diving platform!

I was thrilled… then I was terrified. I didn’t get scared until I climbed all the way up to the top and stood out looking over the edge. Somehow the pool got a lot smaller. It wasn’t until one of the older students walked out to the edge with me, told me what to expect, and jumped with me that I ever really experienced my first jump off a diving platform… Then I was hooked.

For some people facing death can be terrifying. (I’m sure it’s a lot more scary than a kid looking down at a pool for the first time.) Unlike my dive platform experience… There is no one who has been there before to walk you through it… Or is there?

Paul is in chains and one of the very real outcomes of his situation is death. Yet somehow he finds a way to rejoice. He rejoices because he knows that he doesn’t walk through this dark valley alone. The church at Philippi is praying for him and of course he has the spirit of Jesus. Paul can’t help but know that Jesus has never left him. He remembers that first day when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Jesus said, “Saul why do you persecute me?” He learned very quickly that Jesus is very much present with his people. Now that Paul belongs to Jesus, Jesus is present with him and Jesus will see him through this to the end.

This gives Paul hope and courage. He knows that God is not far away but He is right there with him. He can be bold because He’s not alone. He can be brave because Jesus has faced worse and will be with Paul no matter what happens. Paul doesn’t know what will happen, but God does and he can rest in that.

Paul has been on both sides of the coin. It’s ironic that we first hear about him when he is going around Jerusalem looking to throw Christian men and women into prison and now we catch a glimpse of him writing from prison accused of the very same crimes he accused those early believers. The persecutor has become the persecuted.

Pray that you will not be ashamed of Jesus today, and that you will have courage and confidence to tell others about him!

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