Lessons from the Book of Philippians



            Greetings precious people, I do hope that you are doing well today and enjoying the goodness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As you know, Christmas is just a short time away. I want to take this time to encourage you to not get caught up in all the trappings of the world’s version of Christmas. The world’s version is filled with buying, rushing around, worry, expectations that are not met which add up to a lot of stress, disappointment, and depression. At the birth of Christ, the Heavenly Host proclaimed, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Peace will never be experienced by way of the worldly version of Christmas, only through knowing the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. I encourage you to set your focus this Christmas season not upon presents, parties, and the mad rush, rather upon the true reason for the season, Jesus Christ the Lord.

            We will now continue our study in the Book of Philippians. As we began chapter three last week, we saw the Apostle Paul warning a bout false teachers that had come into the Church at Philippi bringing with them a number of false teachings. The major point of their teachings were telling the people to place their faith and hope for salvation from sin in something more than “just” Jesus and His finished work upon the Cross. Faith in Jesus is good, but not enough. They said that man must do something also, some work, right, and ritual. This all amounted to a work of the flesh.

            Beginning in verse 4, Paul tells us if anyone had reason to trust in some act accomplished by the flesh, it would be himself. In Philippians 3:3-6 we read, “And have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

            In the short time in which Paul had been alive, he had accomplished what few men have ever been able to do. He was a self made and self-righteous man. According to every standard (except the one that really mattered, God’s) Paul was perfect or at least as close to as one could get. And he was quite proud of it and wasn’t ashamed of telling you so.

            Paul had arrived at this estimation of himself from his misunderstanding of the purpose of the Law of God. Like many before and after him, he believed that he could become “righteous” (right with God) by and through the Law. He did not understand that the Law was never given to make one righteous, rather to show us that we are not righteous, not even one.

            It wasn’t until he met Jesus Christ one day on the road to Damascus that he realized not only that he was not all that he thought he was, but that he, like the rest of us, was a rotten wretched sinner. He would come to realize this to such a degree that he would later write such things as, 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.  However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

And, Romans 7:18-25, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Also Romans 3:19-20, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

            As man attempts to establish his own righteousness, he only adds to the greatness of his sin. He does this by rejecting both what God has said in His Word, the Bible, and His provision for righteousness that He has made through His son. It is never a good thing to call God a liar or reject Him.

            It was the grace and mercy of God that brought Paul to the realization that his own attempts to make himself righteous with God couldn’t amount to anything more than a heap of filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind,

have taken us away.”

            Because of the mercy of God (God not giving to us what we deserve) and the grace of God (God giving to us that which we do not deserve) Paul not only realized his need of Christ but also the true state of all his own attempts to be right with God. In Philippians 3:7-9, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”    

            There are a number of important truths presented in these few verses. I want to draw your attention to two of them. First, righteousness (that which makes us right with God) comes only by faith. Not faith in yourself, a method, works, a system, or faith in faith, rather faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. Read what is said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Man has such a difficult time with this because it is a blow to his ego. We don’t like to think that we are helpless and incapable of doing something of our own to earn salvation. This is a humbling thing for man, yet this is just what God requires of anyone that will be saved. Namely that we humble ourselves under the Mighty hand of God and come to Him on His terms, not our own.

            The second truth is how Paul came to view all his own works he had accomplished at becoming righteous. He viewed them as loss. Paul uses this term “loss” three times. Unless anyone get the wrong idea, Paul is not complaining about the loss of these works for he goes on to describe them as rubbish. The King James Version uses the word “dung” to describe his works at righteousness. Think with me for a moment, how upset could a person get at the loss of garbage or dung? Are traumatized every time you throw garbage in the trash can? Of course not! You have come to realize that it is no good, of no value and rotten. You are happy to get rid of it, especially if in return for your garbage you receive an invaluable treasure.

            This is just what occurs when a person repents of their sin, turns to Jesus Christ in humility, and asks Him for forgiveness of their sin, and that He come into their life and be their Lord and Savior. You throw away all of your own attempts at being made righteous and receive the invaluable righteousness of Jesus Christ.

            Have you done this dear reader or are you still holding onto your own attempts to be righteous? Know this, that if you choose to cling to your own works for righteousness you will be sadly disappointed come the Day of Judgment. You will be found lacking and without hope. Turn to Jesus Christ today, discard all of your own attempts at being righteous and accept the righteousness that is found in Jesus Christ.

If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or e-mail ccalpine@juno.com or visit our web site at www.calvarychapel.org/alpine/index.htm

Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine