Sunday, June 14, 2020

"Rejoice in the Lord!" [Matt's Messages]

“Rejoice in the Lord!”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 14, 2020 :: Philippians 3:1-11

I invite you to open your Bibles to the Book of Philippians chapter 3, but before we read it, I want to mark this occasion as special.

June 14th, 1998 was the very first Sunday that I preached from this pulpit as the brand new pastor of Lanse Evangelical Free Church. 22 years ago to the day!

Today, I want to thank the search team chaired by Wally Kephart and the whole congregation chaired at that time by George Leathers for bringing us together, 22 years ago this day.

And do you know what was the first book that we went through together as a church with this brand new pastor?

The first two Sundays I preached from Isaiah 40 to remind us Who our Awesome God truly is. But the first book that I picked up to preach all the way through was the little missionary letter of the Apostle Paul to his beloved church friends at Philippi.

The book of Philippians.

Now, if you had told me in 1998 that I would still be the pastor here 22 years later and preaching a message June 14, 2020 on Philippians chapter 3 “posted” to the Internet on something called “YouTube” and “Facebook” and also to 2 different worship gatherings one where everybody is wearing a facemask and where at both everyone is sitting at 6 foot spacing from one another to mitigate the spread of a virus attacking the entire globe, I would have said, “You’re crazy!”

“There’s no way they’ll put up with me for 22 years!”

And yet, here we are.

In Philippians chapter 3.

And though many things have changed in those 22 years, the Word of the Lord stands firm.

Even though we’ve already made it half way through the book, the Apostle Paul has not swerved from his focus on joy.

Week after week (and this is the 9th week we have studied Philippians this year), Paul keeps talking about joy, joy, joy, joy, joy.

He always prays with joy.
He rejoices that Christ is preached.
He continues to rejoice no matter what happens to him because to live is Christ and to die is gain.
He asks them to make his joy complete by putting each other ahead of themselves.
And He rejoices with the Philippians because he knows that they are going to obey Jesus whether or not they see Paul ever again.
And, last week, he told them to honor Timothy and Epaphroditus and welcome them with great joy.]

So what do you think Paul is going to tell the Philippians next?

Chapter 3, verse 1.

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!”

Now, that “finally” is kind of funny because Paul still has a lot of letter left to go.

This is kind of like when I say, “finally” in a sermon, and there’s still a lot of sermon left to go. Don’t close your Bible yet! “Finally...”

It’s not even the last time in the letter he’s going to say, “Rejoice in the Lord!” This isn’t our Hide the Word verse! That’s in chapter 4.

But Paul is getting back to the main point of his letter. That’s what “finally” means here. He’s done telling them about his plans to send Timothy and Epaphroditus, and now he wants to make sure they. get. the. point.

And he wants to warn them to make sure to get the point.

So he tells them straight up to “Rejoice in the Lord!”

That’s the whole message right there.

If you get that, and you get the reasons for that, and you get the way to that, and you start to do that, you’ve got the point.

“Rejoice in the Lord!”

There’s clearly two parts to that, and they are clearly both important.

Rejoice! This is about our joy. This is about our satisfaction and eternal happiness.

This is about our hearts. That’s where the rejoicing happens.

But he doesn’t just say, “Don’t worry. Be happy. Get your smile on.”

He says, “Rejoice IN THE LORD.”

And he means Jesus.

Rejoice in the Lord Jesus.

Why and how?

Paul goes on to issue a warning to the Philippians.

Because, you see, there is another threat looming over them.

We’ve learned about 2 threats already the Philippians faced.

One threat was persecution. They were being attacked from outside. Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel and might lose his life for it. And the Philippians were not immune from those same external attacks.

But another threat was from inside. The Philippians seemed to be struggling internally with potential conflicts bubbling up in the church family.

And now Paul says there is another threat they have to watch out for, and he reserves the strongest language for this one.

The persecution doesn’t bother him that much. "So you kill me, so what?"

The conflict can be solved by having a Christlike attitude and putting others ahead of yourself. “You before me.” Like Timothy and Ephaphroditus were so good at.

But this threat? It threatens your very soul.

Because it’s a threat to the gospel.

And the answer to this threat is to rejoice in the Lord. Look at verse 1 again.

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.”

He’s said these things before. When he was with them and maybe in another letter we don’t have. It’s no trouble for him to repeat himself, and they need to hear the warning. V.2

“Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.”

Who’s he talking about? They sound bad! That’s some strong language there.

Dogs were not cute cuddly house-pets in that time and place. They were wild, dangerous scavengers. And they were unclean. The Jews often derogatively called the Gentiles, “dogs.”

Which here is ironic because Paul is talking about false Christians who are trying to get the church to go back to Judaism. These “dogs” probably were actually Jewish like Paul was.

It’s the same type of people that Paul was fighting in the book of Galatians. (Do you remember that from a couple of years ago?)

We sometimes call them the "Judaizers." They insisted upon circumcision and following the Law and that to be saved you have to first become Jewish.

Salvation comes through law-keeping.

Now the reason why Paul has to warn the Philippians is that these guys look really good on the outside.

These guys seem like the good guys. They are moral. They are religious. They are straight-laced. They are good citizens. They wear the white hats. They go to church. Their lifestyles look very attractive.

But Paul says that they are “dogs.” They are (truly) men who do evil. They are mutilators of the flesh. He’s talking about circumcision. Their’s isn’t real because it doesn’t get to the heart. It’s just about the flesh.

So watch out! V.3

“For it is we [Christians] who are the circumcision [the true circumcision, of the heart], we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh...”

That phrase “glory in Christ Jesus” is parallel to “rejoice in the Lord.”

That’s what true Christians do. They glory in Christ Jesus. The boast in Him.

They put their faith and find their joy in Jesus.

I’ve got two diagnostic application questions for us to consider from today’s passage.

Two questions (and they are related). Here is the first one:


Where do I put my confidence and faith?

What am I trusting for salvation?

That is such an important question!

Be careful to make sure you can answer it rightly!

Because these guys did not.

Paul says that real Christians (v.3), “put no confidence in the flesh.”

And by flesh there, he means circumcision. They put no confidence that circumcisions will save them. And he also means “flesh” in the broader sense of all human effort, all human ability, all human performance and achievement.

“Flesh” here is shorthand for the actions we do to get right and stay right with God.

Do, do, do.

Especially the religious ones.

Paul says that true Christians put no confidence in the flesh. But catch verse 4!

“...though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”

That’s amazing that he goes there.

Paul says that if this was the way to be saved, he was there.

He had impeccable religious credentials. He was even born right!

And he did everything right (externally, outwardly).

If you looked up “Legalistically Righteous Jew” in the dictionary, Paul’s picture would be there!

Paul was a great religious success.

If you could get to heaven on your own, Paul was the poster child.

And yet, Paul says to watch out for people like he was!

What you are you trusting for salvation?

Are you trusting in your good works?
Are you trusting in your baptism?
Are you trusting in your church-going?
Are you trusting in your generosity?
Are you trusting in your being a good person, a good citizen?
Are you trusting in your family? In having come from a good religious family?

Paul says, “Watch out for people like that.”

Those are the kind of people that Jesus was always fighting with.

And Paul says, “That’s the kind of person I used to be.”

But now I put no confidence in the flesh. I rejoice in the Lord. Verse 7.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

Financially imagery, right? Paul is moving those things from the profit category to the loss side of the ledger.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

All of those things! (And some of them were good in and of themselves but they weren’t trustworthy. They won’t save!)

They are now loss. V.8

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

Everything goes in the loss column. Every single thing that could be trusted in gets tossed over there.

And all for the sake of knowing Jesus.

Here’s the second application question:


What am I trusting in for salvation and what am I thinking is the greatest thing in the whole universe?

You can see how these two question are related. The answer should be the same for both.

It’s Jesus Christ.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

There is no greater thing that knowing Jesus Christ!

And Paul came to believe that.

It’s not just that Jesus is better than those other things.

Those other things are worthless compared to knowing Jesus!

Paul had a complete and total change of mind!

That’s what we call “repentance.”

See how often he used the word “consider?”

He used to consider these things great. Now, he considers those things, “loss.” Worse than “loss;” verse 9.

“I consider them rubbish [street trash, dung, worthless junk], that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

It’s so much better than “do, do, do.”

“It’s done!”

Jesus has done it for us on the Cross and has given us His own righteousness as a gift!

And we just receive it by faith.

That’s so much better!

Do you know Jesus like that?

As your Savior? As the One who gives you His righteousness? Not by your own works, but by God’s gift?

What are you trusting in for salvation? Trust in Jesus Christ and nothing else!

Especially not your good works.

And when you do, you find out that knowing Jesus is the greatest thing in the universe! Being united to Christ, what Paul call, “being found in him,” is the greatest reality in the world.

There is no greater thing.

Paul calls it, “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Do you know Him like that?

Is there something else that you are considering as greater?

What could it be?

We all do. We get our eyes off of the ball.

We start thinking that the greatest thing is some other experience.
It’s some other thing we’re chasing.
Popularity, possessions, relationships, jobs, money, politics, sports, books, whatever.

Paul says, “I used to value all of that.”

But now I know what is the greatest thing in all of the universe. And I just want more. V.10

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

We’re going to look at those 2 verses more in-depth next week, Lord-willing, but I just want to point out that by this time, Paul has probably known Jesus for about 30 years.

And this is what he wants right now in his life.

He wants more of Jesus.

More of His power. More of his suffering (if it means more fellowship with Him), and more of knowing Him forever.

Because there is no greater thing than knowing Jesus.

Do you know Jesus that way?

If you don’t, I invite you to start right now. Change your mind. Paul did. You can, too. Don’t listen to those guys. Stop putting your confidence in your flesh. Don’t try to do a righteousness of your own. Put that in the loss column.

Put your confidence in Christ alone.

And if you do, then see what you have to rejoice in?!

If you have Jesus, you have everything.

For the last 22 years, I’ve been saying it every chance I can get.

If you have Jesus, you have everything.

Rejoice in the Lord!


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "I Always Pray with Joy"
02. "Because Of This I Will Rejoice"
03. "I Will Continue To Rejoice"
04. "Whatever Happens"
05. "Make My Joy Complete"
06. "Your Attitude"
07. "I Am Glad and Rejoice With All Of You"