Today we find ourselves in the third chapter of Paul’s letter to this church in the city of Philippi. Throughout this letter of Philippians Paul has confronted these Christians with the need to embrace right thinking! Our thinking affects our living – what we believe, what our minds are occupied with will determine how we view life, and even our relationship with God.
What we value most will become the driving priority in our life – for some of us that may be fame, for others wealth, for others acceptance by the religious insiders of the day. There were many in Jesus day who were His disciples secretly for fear of the Jews.
Since the time of Christ there have been many heresies promoted in the church. The word Heresy may be new to you, it simply refers to a belief or teaching contrary to orthodox biblical christianity. Many of these false teachings center upon the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Let me share a few examples of what I am talking about:
On the Trinity – Modalism, Sabellius (3rd century). What is it? God is only one divine being, who plays different roles at different times. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct persons of the same essence, but different modes or expressions of a single person. Modalism naturally leads to Patripassianism—the belief that the Father literally suffered on the cross. Key text? Philippians 2:6: “. . . being in the form of God . . .”
Where does it show up today? Oneness Pentecostalism believes that God’s three modes of existence can act simultaneously, though God is still only one person. Perhaps the most famous Modalist of our day is Bishop TD Jakes.
Subordinationism – Who taught it? Eusebius of Caesarea (263–339). What is it? The Son and the Spirit are divine persons, distinct from the Father but inferior to him. All three persons are truly God, but they exist in a hierarchy of power and authority. Key text? Matthew 26:39: “. . . not as I will, but as you will.”
Where does it show up today? According to a 2014 LifeWay Research study, 22 percent of evangelicals believe the Father is more divine than the Son.
On Jesus Christ – Arianism, Arius (c. 256–336). The Son as Word (Logos, in Greek) was created by God before time. He is not eternal or perfect like God, though he was God’s agent in creating everything else. Key Text? John 1:14: “The Word [is] the only Son, who came from the Father.”
Where does it show up today? Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is God’s only direct creation, and that everything else was created by Christ. Jesus died for our sins, but he is not equal with God, who is not part of a Trinity.
Paul battled a different Heresy in his day. A group of people known as the Judaizers were on Paul’s heels corrupting the gospel by adding to salvation the requirement of circumcision. For hundreds and even thousands of years circumcision had been the cultural symbol of God’s separated people, the uncircumcised were those who were “heathen” outside the bounds of God’s gracious favor. It was unthinkable to these well-meaning Jewish people that converts to Christianity did not need to be circumcised to be accepted by Christ. So they followed Paul throughout his ministry suggesting to the Gentile converts that they needed faith in Jesus plus be circumcised according to the law of Moses. Paul blasts them in vs. 1-3.
We may be tempted to think in similar ways: I will be more accepted by God if I __________. We may feel as though we must perform or that some achievement will firm up our acceptance with Christ. We may feel that the ritual keeping of certain rules or conforming to certain criteria makes us righteous and therein we find our confidence.
In our text Paul is pointing to the fact that mature Christians realize that Christ is our greatest treasure – we love Him, we relate with Him, we live through Him, we have our all in all in Him alone!
Is Christ your greatest treasure? Three statements to help you evaluate yourself:
Christ is your greatest treasure when:
YOUR CONFIDENCE OF ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD IS NOT IN INHERITED POSITION, HUMAN ACHIEVEMENTS OR EXTERNAL RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES (2-7)
My confidence is not in human credentials or achievements to bring me close to God, or to make me spiritual, or to make me more accepted by Christ.
Note Paul’s list of inherited privileges (4-5)
- Not proselyte from paganism – circumcision, he was an 8-dayer. Insider by birth.
- Racially a pureblood – People of Israel.
- Tribe of Benjamin – only tribe to remain faithful to David, also the tribe that returned to the land after the captivity.
- Hebrew of Hebrews – best education, spoke Hebrew and Aramaic
Note Paul’s list of personal achievements
- Pharisee – separated one, voluntarily committed to keeping hundreds of commands from the oral law.
- Zeal – led a terror campaign against the church
- Blameless – led an exemplary life according to Pharisaic traditions.
All human advantage that I may have achieved is a net loss in gaining acceptance with God (7)
All the above advantages equal zero on the accounting page. The only credit that I have is Christ. My all in all is Christ!
EVERYTHING ELSE HAS THE VALUE OF RUBBISH IN COMPARISON TO HIM (8-11)
His righteousness is the only righteousness that I am concerned with obtaining. (9)
- This righteousness is not found by keeping the law
- This righteousness is found in Christ alone – when I get Christ I get everything!
- This righteousness is appropriated by faith, not by inheritance or achievements like Paul listed above.
- He is the treasure that I am willing to sell everything I have to obtain (Mt 13:44-45)! Imagine renting a field to plant a garden and as you are turing the soil your hoe uncovers the queen’s diamond! Quickly you cover the diamond and rush to home where you begin to sell everything you own, you house, your car, your appliances even your clothes so you can raise enough money to buy that field. You wife thinks your are crazy, you friends can’t understand what you are doing, but you know that if you can just buy the field, the treasure is yours! Jesus is that treasure!
The road leading to the college where I work runs behind a local market. Recently the city place a large dumpster along the road. You can imagine the smell, flies and rotting food and garbage in that dumpster on these hot October days. The other day as I drove past on my way home there was a man sitting on the edge of the dumpster with one leg inside leaning over and picking rotten pieces of food. That is right where we are sometimes – sitting with one leg in the dumpster searching for for significance, acceptance and joy! What are you doing? Why are you dumpster diving when in Christ you have it all?
My obsession is Christ (10-11)
- That I may know Him – Christ Jesus my Lord! Speaks of personal, intimate knowledge of Christ not a casual acquaintance or knowledge about Him. (only time used this way by Paul)
- That I may know His power – in the midst of my weakness.
- That I may share in His sufferings – this identity carries with it opposition by those who reject Christ – what is meant by carrying the cross.
ALL YOUR FOCUS AND ENERGIES ARE CONSUMED IN MAKING CHRIST AND HIS PURPOSES THE EXPERIENTIAL REALITY OF YOUR LIFE (12-16)
Passionate grasping after Christ – Lit. To take by force.
- Forget the past – don’t look back, failures or successes
- Focus on the goal – fixed eye on the finish line
- Strain forward with all energy and effort to reach it
Why do some people fail to press on?
- Diverted by the the world – confidence in the flesh
- Discouraged by personal suffering – Paul’s sufferings, stresses could tempt him to quit, but instead he pressed on. (10, 2 Co. 11:18-29)
- Deceived by misplaced confidences – (12a) I have achieved mentality. Paul affirms that after 30+ years of ministry he has not arrived. He was after all these years still straining to know Christ. (I Co 9:27)
Here is Paul’s conclusion: Mature believers think like Paul thinks! If you don’t think like this then we will trust God to reveal these truths to you. (15)
Is Christ your greatest treasure? If you have placed your confidence and hope of salvation in your family positon, your religion, law-keeping or your zealous good works – recognize this cannot produce righteousness for you. Righteousness comes only through faith in Christ alone.
If you have been striving to be accepted by God – realize that your acceptance is complete in Christ alone.
If you have been living as a Christian in pursuit of other things – pursue Christ alone for He is your greatest treasure! Don’t sift through the rubbish, embrace Christ alone as your greatest treasure.
Press on! Don’t go backward
May we all die running!