Face the Front – Philippians 3
This message is the first in our Joyride series.
This past week I had the chance to travel to Florida and get some really good ministry training. That’s pretty far to go, but the training was close the Orlando Airport and I knew that on a Monday and Tuesday in November, I could easily travel standby. My father retired from Delta, so I can fly standby, not for free, but for a very discounted rate… After the training on Tuesday I got a great cup of coffee then headed to the airport to hop in empty seats on my way home… The Orlando airport is very busy, and the security line was backed. I was surrounded by families that were clearly headed home from vacation… They were wearing Mickey Mouse ears, sporting sunburns, etc. The mood in the TSA line was not great… I had this moment of real clarity…
Happiness is fleeting and fragile.
Over the course of the Sundays in November, I want to help you find something more substantial and more sustainable than happiness, I want to help you find joy.While happiness is fleeting and fragile,
Joy is eternal and enduring.
Philippians is the best book to turn to when it comes to finding Joy. Let me remind you of the scenario from last week’s message. Paul and Silas are in Philippi, they are beaten and arrested, they are thrown in jail and in the jail they hold a prayer and praise service… Paul would later write a letter to those friends in Philipi from the cell of another prison and he would write to them about how he holds onto joy in the worst of circumstances.
I think Paul gives us 4 main themes-
Last week we covered celebration when we looked at Paul and Silas celebrating the changed lives in Philippi. You also see it in the beginning of this letter, by the way.
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with JOY…
Look down at verses 9-11 where Paul kind of gives us the purpose of this letter….
9And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
10That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ;
11Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
So we’ve got celebration and thanksgiving from the get go, from Prison… But I want to take you to the third chapter and talk to you about perspective. Paul doesn’t make that his opening theme because these Philippians have it. He’s not trying to start there… This letter is one of few that isn’t all about rebuke. It’s a Thank You Card.
Philippians is a Thank You card.
So Paul doesn’t start there, and it isn’t the main thrust, but I feel like it’s where we should start. So skip with me to chapter 3.
Read verses 1-15.
When I was a boy, by cousins moved from Oklahoma to Virginia and they stopped over with us in Nashville. They arrived in their large family station wagon and a Uhaul truck. This family was large. There were 5 children. One of my cousins had ridden in the backseat of the station wagon facing the opposite direction… Even as a boy, when they piled out of the back, I thought oh man. That would be no fun. Facing the wrong direction for a couple thousand miles would be brutal. Here’s what I think Paul tells us in this passage, for the ride of this life to be a joy, you need to face the front.
You can’t live a life of joy by looking backward.
Paul says in the opening sentences of this paragraph, be on the lookout for dogs. Paul wasn’t a cat person, he was telling them to lookout for people who would steal the victory and joy from the Philippians lives. He said, look out for evil workers.
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
If you have never read the Bible and are not familiar with the Old Testament covenants that makes no sense to you. Let me help you get what he’s saying. In the first book of the Bible we are introduced to Abraham. God makes a covenant or pact with Abraham. One of the marks of Abraham being a follower of God was circumcision.
Throughout the early church, Paul and other church leaders fight against the persistent notion that to be right with God you’ve got to do the right things, be the right person, say the right things…. Paul is saying, we are the circumcision, we are in the covenant or promise of God, not because we’ve done these outward things, kept these rules, or done anything else with the external, but rather because we have worshiped God in the Spirit.
Then he says, “we have no confidence in the flesh.”
The more spiritual we become, the less we care about the external.
Now, as we become more spiritual the external change, just naturally, organically, but as they’re changing we care less and less about them…
“Whatever is most challenging aspect of your life right now is more spiritual than you realize.” – Chris Hodges
Now, this is a concept that Paul would have covered with them in great detail, and we have other passages elsewhere that really take this to task, Galatians is one of these letters and we preached through that last year. I’d invite you to binge watch or listen to those messages if you’d like to go deeper on this. You can find all of those messages on our website at FaithInChandler.com/Galatians
With an understanding of that concept, we can appreciate what Pauls says next.
4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Paul is saying, if anyone could glory in religious experience and pedigree, it was him. If anyone could take pride in who they are and what they’ve done in religions circles, it was Paul… Paul was super dedicated. He was a zealot. He was a religious extremist. If anyone could have been the poster boy for finding joy and happiness in human effort, it was Paul. However, he walked away from that because he realized it was empty, and he found greater joy and glory in Christ.
Now, Paul doesn’t tell us to live as though the past never happened. He doesn’t take the Lion King’s advice to leave your past behind you and have a no worries approach to life…He clearly remembers this because he’s using his past as a teaching point here…This month we are going to give you an opportunity to look back over the past year and thank God for all that he’s done, so Paul isn’t telling us that the way to Joy to never look back- what he’s telling us is that the source of our joy can’t be in something we’ve done…
If the focus of your life is what you’ve done, you will not have Joy.
Rex Kwondo, Uncle Rico – Uncle Rico’s character lives in the past, meaning he looks at something for his center, for what Tim Keller calls the central sweetness of your life…
It’s what you rest your hopes and dreams upon. It’s what make you feel like the the world owes you something… Some of us feel like the world owes us something because we have not been given what we deserve… Others feel like the world owes us something because the world has taken from us… Those are two sides of the same coin…
Some of you are like Paul and your living off something you did or didn’t do years ago, others of you live off of the idea if something hadn’t happened to you then you’d be happy.. When we gain perspective, we can have joy… Let me tell you about one of the most powerful moments of perspective I have ever experienced…Haven’s test in Indy.
New Life – Process of going through my sins and resentments…
If the focus of your life is what’s been done to you, you will not have Joy.
Always playing the victim….
If the focus of your life is what Jesus has done for you, you’ll be filled with Joy.
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
You know what made a profound difference in my outlook in the security line on Tuesday? I had gotten on my phone on the way to the airport to check on seats. You see, when you fly standby you only get a seat if there’s one that isn’t taken… Delta didn’t owe me a seat. They didn’t guarantee me a seat…. But there was a seat. All I had to do was take it… In that moment I was grateful because I was owed nothing, but I would be getting home that evening. When Paul got over his past, he got over himself.
Paul didn’t feel like he was owed anything.
It’s a liberating and joyful place to be when you realize no one owes you anything…