Unity Comes from Knowing Christ

Steve Viars July 19, 2008 Philippians 3:1-11

 

- This morning I’d like to begin our time together by asking you a question...

- How important is it for you to be a good accountant?...

- is that a skill that every person here ought to seek to develop?...

- now you might say – what kind of accounting are you talking about?...

- well, this isn’t about balancing your checkbook...although you might want to do that every month or so...

- it’s not about knowing the difference between gaap accounting or fund accounting...

- or using an accrual or cash method to bookkeeping...

- but here’s the point...we are all accountants...

- in the sense that there are certain things that we value very much...we consider them to be very important...they are significant assets that we believe serve us well and that we would not want to lose...

- on the other hand, there are other things that we do not value very highly...they are not very important...if they were taken off our balance sheet we wouldn’t be very troubled...

- I am saying that every person walked into this auditorium this morning with a two-columned spreadsheet...

- on one side are the things you value highly, on the other side are the things you don’t...

- and that could include people in your life...it could include possessions...it could include accomplishments...it could include plans, or goals...

- there is a sense in which we are walking mental spreadsheets...

- and the choices that we make proceed out of that...

- and the words we say...

- our reactions...our plans...

- even the way we are functioning emotionally...

- it is all impacted by the way we have done our accounting...what’s important, and what’s not...

- now, let’s bring someone else into this equation...the God of heaven...

- wouldn’t it be interesting to get his evaluation of the state of the ledger sheet?...

- another way of thinking about that is – if God put his mouse on our ledger sheet and started dragging things from one column to the other, how much would be changed when he was done?...

- for example...how often would He say ---

- this thing that you prize so highly...it’s not very valuable in my eyes...

- or this person that you have little time for...he/she should be shifted to the asset column...you should be investing more time there, more love there...you could learn a lot from that person or they from you if you would consider that relationship more valuable...

- see, if we’re all accountants and we are...then how does our method compare to that of the God of heaven and earth?...

- now, you might say – what’s really at stake here?...that’s a good question...

1. for starters...your eternal destiny....

- I talk to people practically every week (and this week is no exception) who believe that they will get to heaven on the basis of their own works...

- in other words, they highly value their own righteousness...

- they count their own works as being capable of earning them eternal life...

- that’s called being “self-righteous”...

- and such persons are sometimes shocked to hear what God thinks about that...

- that is one of the first and fundamental mouse drags that God would make to many people’s accounting spreadsheets if they would allow Him to do so...

- to have an entirely different view of their own righteousness...to take it from being a perceived asset to being nothing but a loss...and to come to an understanding of why self-righteousness is so offensive to both His holiness and His grace...

2. but it goes far beyond that...for people who are followers of Christ...

- incorrect accounting can raise its head in a myriad of ways

- some men and women highly value power...so they manipulate others with their anger or their threats...

- they have to win the argument...they want to be feared...

- having power over others is like a drug...it directs and informs a surprising number of decisions and conversations on a daily basis...

- and just like a junkie, they are on a high when they have it and they are frustrated and terrified and reckless when they don’t...

- yet God’s Word would come along and say – you’ve got an accounting problem...

- Christians live to serve others, not to manipulate them...

- it’s not about clamoring for power, it’s about using your influence to be a blessing to others...

- God wants to do a mouse drag on that person’s ledger sheet...

- you counted that to be an asset but it’s really an expense...

3. this can have dramatic impact in the family...

- it is amazing how frequently overstate the positive things we do for our families while regularly overlooking what others do...

- it looks like this on the spreadsheet...on the “what’s important/valuable column”...

- “our contributions to the family”...

- along with “everyone else’s shortcomings”...

- while on the side – the column that doesn’t get much attention...

­- “everyone else’s contributions”...

- “our shortcomings”...

- that’s called being self-righteous...

- we can make self-promotion and self-justification an art form...

- “I'll be happy when the people around here appreciate me more, and get busier improving their weaknesses...”

- that’s an accounting problem...

- I wonder how many of us might need to hear the Lord say something like – let’s shift that around for a while and see if that helps...more value placed on the contributions of others leading to a thankful heart...and more focus on your shortcomings leading to a humble walk...

- now, when we bring that into the church --- unity among the people of God is dependent to a large degree on as many of us as possible having the same accounting system, and as many of us as possible having the right accounting system...

- for that kind of focus...we’ll need to turn to the Word of God....

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible to Philippians chapter 3...page 155 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- this summer we’re studying verse by verse through the book of Philippians as we are Seeking God’s Plan for Joyful Unity

- this is part of our overall theme this year of Seeking God’s Plan because this is the year where we have the responsibility to come together as a church family and hammer out our next five year strategic ministry plan together...

- this morning we’re going to look at the first 11 verses of chapter 3 which teach that Unity Comes from Knowing Christ.

- the question is – how much do we really value that?...

- read Philippians 3:1-11

- with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 principles to help us avoid the sin of self-righteousness.

I. Self-Righteousness is Dangerous.

- there is no question that Paul makes a marked transition at this point in the letter...

- even though as we’ve said several times, this is a thank-you letter because of the Philippians’ generous love gift for him while he’s in prison in Rome for his faith...that doesn’t stop him from dealing head-on with what could become for them a very serious problem...

- because that’s true, Paul says...

A. Merits repetitive warnings.

- v. 1- to write the same thing again is no trouble to me

- Peter made a similar statement in 2 Peter 1:12-15 - Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.

- so this is such a significant danger to their faith, and danger to their church....that Paul says, it should be repeated over and over and over...

- this too goes along with what Christ predicted about the church...Matthew 7:15 - Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

- Paul told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28-30 - Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

- so this isn’t a discussion from the perspective of “we’re the only ones”...but it is motivated out of a sincere concern about the dangerous nature of false teaching and the assurance that we will face it in many forms from both inside and outside the church...

- we also know it’s dangerous because...

B. Merits stern warning.

- Paul isn’t mincing any words here...

1. by identification.

- Philippians 3:2 - Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;

- and notice the three-fold emphasis of this – beware, beware, beware...

- and even going so far as using terms like dogs, evil workers, the circumcision...

- and you might say – who was he talking about that he was this wound up?...

- the answer is a group of false teachers we refer to as the Judaizers...these were people who had come into a number of churches that Paul and his associates had planted and had begun teaching that faith in Christ was not enough for their salvation...

- they also needed to be circumcised in obedience to old testament law, or they needed to keep any other number of dietary laws or other man made rules in order to secure their salvation...

- and that is the key point – they were teaching a form of self-righteousness...

- and if you say...I’m glad that heresy died out...

- I wish it had...but this is a good example of the truth in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun...

- this kind of teaching raises its head in two very unfortunate forms today...

- one is when men and women are trusting in their own works to get to heaven...

- they believe you get to heaven by being good...and on their ledger sheet – they have counted their righteousness as something that is very valuable before God...

- the other form occurs for those who have trusted Christ as Savior and Lord...or at least say they have but then they quickly revert to some form of self-righteousness in the way they try to live out the Christian life...

- we’re not just talking about working out your own salvation with fear and trembling as chapter 2 discussed...

- the appropriate changes in a person’s everyday practical life that ought to occur after a person becomes a Christian...

- but actually becoming pretty proud of those changes...

- and magnifying those changes...

- and taking credit for those changes...

- and coming up with a bunch of man made rules to impose on everyone else so you can be perceived as being on the top of the spiritual hill...and dozens and dozens of other forms that self-righteousness takes...

- and Paul uses this kind of terminology because of how dangerous the sin of self-righteousness can be...

- now, this isn’t just a warning by identification...it’s a warning...

2.  by contrast.

- that’s how verse 3 fits into this...

- Philippians 3:3 - for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,

- if you were with us last Sunday night during our church family night, we celebrated the Lord’s table and we read, as we always do, from I Corinthians chapter 11 which records Christ’s words about the cup we areto drink... 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 - In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

- Jeremiah 31 tells us that one of the provisions of the new covenant is that believers in Christ would be given a new heart...

- that’s what Paul means here by our being the true circumcision...it is intensely spiritual and focused on the condition of the inner man...

- Jesus said to the woman at the well...John 4:23-24 - But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

- that is why Paul would say at the end of verse 3 – we do not put any confidence in the flesh...

- that is not what we focus on, it is not what we boast about, its not what we trust in or get excited about...we agree with the apostle Paul (at least we should when we are think correctly) that self-righteousness is dangerous...

- Not only that, but Paul goes on to say...

II. Self-Righteousness is Empty.

- you might be here this morning and would say – I have been trusting in my own works to get to heaven...

- or, as a Christian, I do tend to be self-righteous

- Paul’s response would be – that is a very empty way to live...and to be sure that that doesn’t just sound like a judgmental evaluation of them, he says --- I’ve been there, I know...

A. Paul’s heritage.

- he says in verse 4 – I have plenty of reasons to put confidence in the flesh...

- look at that pedigree

1. circumcised the 8th day

2. of the nation of Israel

3. of the tribe of Benjamin

4. a Hebrew of the Hebrews

5. as to the law, a Pharisee

6. as to zeal, a persecutor of the church

7. as to righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.

- in other words, as he looked at his ledger sheet, if anybody had reason to believe he had earned his way to heaven, it was the apostle Paul...

- and he said --- I came to realize that that approach to life, and that approach to God was incredibly empty...

- thankfully he had enough courage to say...then something has to change...

B. His conclusion

- I need a new accounting system...

- Philippians 3:7 - But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

- I took my mouse and I clicked on all the things I thought were so impressive to God...at the top of my asset column...and I drug them over to the other side of the page...

- I counted that to be loss...to be liabilities...to be of no eternal value before a holy God...

- he even makes it stronger in verse 8 – “I count them but rubbish”...

- the Greek word skubala - dung

- that’s how serious Paul was about changing the way he thought about these matters...

- now, maybe it would be wise at this point to just ask straight up – Are you a self-righteous person?...

- or, are there any self-righteous tendencies in you?...

- and, how would others answer that question on your behalf?

- wouldn’t it be great if we had a little self-righteousness quiz? 

- if we had one, would you want to take it?

Self-Righteousness Quiz

(Score 0-10 with 0 being low and 10 being high)

1. I believe I am going to get to heaven because of my own goodness.

2. I often think/talk about my positive contributions in my family, friendships, office, or church.

3. I often think/talk about the shortcomings of the people around me.

4. When I think of religion, I often think about my performance (what I do or don’t do for God).

5. I often judge others because I perceive them to be less spiritual than me.

6. I believe I would be satisfied and happy if the people around me would just be as godly as I am.

7. I am impatient with the shortcomings of others.

8. I am uncomfortable around people with troubled pasts because I perceive them to be dirty or less educated/spiritual than me.

9. I look for ways to let people see that I know more of the Bible than they do.

10. I can go days on end without thinking about what Christ has done for me.

- now, can I repeat the questions we asked a moment ago...

- or, are there any self-righteous tendencies in you?...

- and, how would others answer that question on your behalf?

- now, thankfully, the rest of the passage is devoted to the antidote...that’s where we learn that...

III. Self-Righteousness is Unnecessary

- Paul says – there’s something far better than confidence in the flesh...

A. The value of knowing Christ.

- Philippians 3:8 - More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...

- see, let’s go back to your ledger sheet for a minute...

- what about some of those things that are so highly valued?...

- for example – getting my way...that’s high on my list of assets...

- what if that were replaced with “being drawn into closer communion with Christy” when I wasn’t getting my way...

- do you value knowing Him that much or does there need to be a change in your approach to accounting?

- I have to have the people around me meet up to my expectations right now...

- really...maybe that needs to go on the rubbish pile...

- maybe you need to click your mouse on that one and drag it over to the other side of the page...

- and maybe it needs to be replaced by the joy that comes from growing in your knowledge of Christ as you beg Him to help you grow in patience as you properly respond to the shortcomings of others...

- you say, how do you do that?...

- well, it’s not simply knowing more facts about him intellectually

- know – ginowsko – experiential knowledge, or personal knowledge – shared life with Christ

- Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

- one of the questions every Christian has to ask is – how much do I really value that?...

- and the truth is – the disappointments and shortcomings of others can be a great occasion for you to come to know Christ better...if you value that possibility...

- and did you see the exact terminology Paul used...

- v. 8 – the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

- to get to the place where you can say in your heart --- this situation is going to be hard, but it will teach me more of the joy of submission to the will of my king...and the more I learn that, the more I will be like Christ, and the more I will have learned to depend on Him to make such a life possible...

- at the end of that verse, Paul talks about...

B. The possibility of gaining Christ.

- see, a self-righteous person’s life is all about them...

- and many times that results in a real spirit of pride and boasting---let me tell you what I’ve done, let me tell you what I have...

- Jeremiah 9:23-24 - Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.

- good accountants want to talk less about themselves, and more about their Savior...that’s what they want to think about, that’s what they want to sing about...

- Can I ask you – are there some things in your life that you would to start counting as rubbish in order to gain Christ?...and are you willing to make that transfer of accounts?

C. The security of being found in Christ.

- Philippians 3:9 - and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

- this verse is teaching the doctrine of imputation...

- we had a dear member of our church pass away this week – Don Kaldahl

- moved here in 2000, already had been diagnosed with cancer – given 6 months to live

- made a decision early on that he was not going to complain – Jesus didn’t on the cross, I’m going to ask Him to help me complain – one of the first things Ann said – he didn’t complain...

- a very positive church member – had something to be thankful for...

- Don was a dear man – but that was not what he was trusting for his salvation – when Don took his last breathe Monday night – what was most important was that he was found in Him, not having a righteousness of his own...but that which is through faith in Christ...

- (could also develop that perfectionism also is a form of self righteousness – if your thoughts are always on your failures and shortcomings – that too may seem spiritual but the truth is it’s just another form of self righteousness...)

D. The potential of knowing Him more.

- the beauty of this is, it’s a life-long pursuit...

- Philippians 3:10 - that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video