Don’t Miss the Joy! Chapter 9


Philippians 3:1-11

What a season this has been!    And if all the other things going on didn’t get you, I killed my first cicada of the season last Sunday…only 999,999 more to go!”.   It is Hurricane Season.  As one meme posted online had it, “Welcome to Jumanji Level 6.”

It all makes us grateful though that our joy does not depend on everything going our way, right?  Philippians is a book that shows us how to have a joy that surpasses our circumstances and transcends even our sorrow and problems.

Joy does not occur because of our circumstances, but in SPITE of them!

Jesus gives us a contagious joy that spreads more effectively than the Covid-19 virus we have been facing.  It is more powerful than the racism and hatred that is tearing our nation apart; more abundant than one million cicadas; and stronger than a Category 5 hurricane.

“In conclusion… (so then) …rejoice in the Lord.” (3:1-2).  How do we do that?

Relating Well to God

The Futility of Religion. (Philippians 3:3-8)

Paul here is painting a clear contrast in the ways we seek to relate to God.  Some try to relate to Him through RELIGIOUS PERFORMANCE.   But that truly does not bring us confidence or joy, no matter how sincere.  There are two contrasting sources of our confidence before God—

Where the confidence of our joy in Christ is NOT found:

  1. In our religious heritage:
  2. In our personal pedigree
  3. In our prideful accomplishments

NONE of those things brought Paul lasting joy.  RELIGION is incapable of doing that.

Religion and Racism

(In the sermon I used a water bottle placed on the platform.  Some letters I could ready, but I could not read what was on the front of the bottle.  I had to “walk around the bottle” to do that).

Hosea 4:6. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

We do not understand.  I am a middle class suburban white male.  I’ll never really understand what it’s like to be black or Hispanic or Asian or another ethnicity.  All I can do is try to get a different perspective.

I do not know the experience of being ostracized  because I opened my home and heart to a child who is not racially like me or of seeing my adopted black son running down the street I live on being chased by a white neighbor with a cell phone videoing.  And I don’t know the pain of burying a child killed because of his skin color.  I haven’t walked far enough around the bottle yet.  I don’t know what it is like to feel the need to take to the street in protest of unfair and unjust treatment and simply to have my pain heard.   I don’t… and I can’t understand those things.  Not standing where I am

What We CAN Know

But I do know some things:

  • Racism a sin problem not a skin problem that resides in our hearts.
  • Racism despises the image of God…every man, woman boy and girl … “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.”  (Acts 17:26)
  • Racism diminishes the Great Commission and the Great      Commandment…If you dislike or distrust people from other races… it is a sin against the One Who made them.
  • Racism detracts from our calling to be ministers of reconciliation
  • Racism distorts the intention of God that “every language, people” and “tribe” be represented in eternity around Gods throne. we will not be just one color in heaven.  (Revelation Chapter 5:6-7)

Racism is Evil

Racism is unvarnished evil that will hide in church buildings and places of worship among those who are religious but who “deny the power” of God.  It is often clothed in righteous garments, but racism is self-righteousness that is sometimes imbedded in churches and sometimes in political systems. It has no place in government, in education or in business.  And it certainly should not be named among those who wear the name of Jesus.  RELIGIONS feed on prejudice and considers an ethnicity or class of people as “less than” they are.

Biblical Christianity as presented in the Bible is NOT a religious system.  IT IS A LIVING AND VITAL RELATIONSHIP with the living God made possible for us through Jesus Christ.  But until we know Him and begin to love Him, it is just a joyless religious performance that amounts to dung.

Where our confidence IS found:

1).  In the PERSON of  Christ: LIVE PERSONALLY. “That I may know HIM….”

It is safe to estimate that almost thirty years had passed since Paul met Jesus on the Damascus Road.  He was still in that eager search to get to know Him!   I think the idea that he could actually KNOW Christ personally was the most radical and life-altering thing that ever happened to him.  He had tried religious performance sincerely.  It left him empty and angry.  And he truly did not KNOW God.

Pam and I were together for 42 years; dating 2 and married 40.  And yet even in all that time… literally a generation together… there were still things I was learning about her, and she was learning about me.  When you love someone, you just want to keep learning about them!  Paul said, “I want to KNOW Him…”.   Some of us are far too easily satisfied with a superficial, casual, Facebook-friend kind of level of relationship with Jesus.  We never get to the joy because we never really get to know much about Jesus.  Paul is saying, in essence, “I want to know Jesus on a deeper, experiential, intimate level.”  And it was to know Him and then keeping on growing in that knowledge.  This is not about research and biographical knowledge.  This was, “I want to know Him on the deepest level possible.”  Right here is where many of us miss it.   We just need to fall in love with Jesus again…or perhaps for the first time.

2).  In the POWER of Christ: LIVE POWERFULLY “…and the power of His resurrection…”

But Paul also wanted to know Jesus through the POWER of the resurrection.  It is the resurrection event that sets Jesus apart from every other religious figure and leader and, in fact, every other person Who ever lived.  Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life….”.  Now. Present tense.  Not tomorrow.  Not when you die.   When you come to Jesus eternal life begins for you and resurrection is assured!

Jesus really died on that Friday at Golgotha.  He really went into the depths of the abyss of the grave.  And He stayed in that place for three days, as “Jonah was in the belly of the fish” as a foreshadowing of the resurrection.

And when Jesus came back from the dead, He not only had the keys of death, and hell, and the grave with Him, but there was more.  Everything changed because of His resurrection.  God changed everything by this one sacrificial and powerful action.   That is why tolerating a sin like racism in our hearts is in such conflict with being a resurrected person.  It just doesn’t fit.

Death was overcome.  The grave was overwhelmed by victory.  Sin no longer had a death grip on us.  Sin’s chains were broken by the resurrection of Jesus.   Paul was saying, “I want to know the power of the resurrection….”. That power.  Not the power that the world brings.  I want to know “the explosive, transforming power of His resurrection.”

3).  In the PASSION of Christ: LIVE PASSIONATELY  “…and share in His sufferings…”

Now most of us, so far, would say “I’m in.  I’d like to get to know Jesus.  I’d sure would like some of that resurrection power in my life too!”. But this part usually slows our steps a bit.  We’re inviting suffering?

Actually, what Paul was saying was, “I want to be united with Jesus in His death so it becomes effective (from Heaven’s perspective) as MY death….to His burial so I can overcome the grave like He did…and His resurrection…that I may walk in newness of life in Jesus.”   But as our brother and friend Nik Ripken reminds us, “There is no resurrection without a crucifixion.”

I remind you here that this is exactly what we are showing when we are baptized.   We are outwardly and visibly showing that these invisible and inward things have happened.  I am identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  As Paul said in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I no longer live…. but Christ lives in me.”  We are showing, not just the passion of Jesus: His death, His burial, and His resurrection—but our fellowship in that; our sharing in it; our being united and one in it.  A oneness or uniting with it as God makes that happen.

Our joy, our hope, and our confidence is found as we become one with Jesus Christ through His death on our behalf….do you believe He died for you?  Through His burial…that He experienced the grave for you?  Through His resurrection…that He overcame the greatest enemy—death—for you?   Our confidence is not in our accomplishments or religious practices, but in His accomplishments and our belief that His victory is ours… His death became our death… and now, His life is our life!

That is where our confidence lies.  That is where our joy comes from…As we live personally in knowing Jesus and powerfully in His resurrection and passionately in our connection with Him.

“That I may know Him…!”

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