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The priceless value of knowing Christ
Today we are continuing in our series from Philippians and we are looking at chapter three. The title of my message is “The priceless value of knowing Christ”. So far, we have seen…
So already we have seen a lot. We have also got a big glimpse of Paul’s heart and his love for the church at Philippi. Today we will see three more main points.
Bible Reading – Philippians 3:1-21
1 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.
2 Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved.
3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort,
4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!
5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin–a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.
6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ
9 and become one with Him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith.
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death,
11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you.
16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.
17 Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.
18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.
19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior.
21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control.
Today I want to share three main points.
1. The priceless value of knowing Christ
My first point today is the “Priceless value of knowing Christ”. It is found in verses 3:1-11.
In the first part of chapter three Paul shares the idea that knowing Christ is everything. This is something he held dear and he taught to others. In verse 1 he says, “I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith”.
Why would he say he wants to safeguard their faith? In verses 2-4 Paul then talks about people wanting to get them to live under the old ways. Things like circumcision and following the Law in their own strength to make them right with God.
It seems in our reading of the New Testament that often when Paul went and planted churches, people would follow his path and try to pervert the truth. Often this meant turning people back to old Jewish customs and ways of living. Some Jewish converts could not just let go of the past. Some deep down wanted to work for their salvation. Some wanted to hold on to power.
Paul knew and understood this way of living. In verses 4-6 he lists his long list of achievements as a Jew and a Pharisee. Paul described himself as a Hebrew of Hebrews. This means both his mother and father all the way back was Jewish. There were no other nations mixed in his heritage. He also says he lived out the Law without fault, he persecuted the early church with a passion and he was a member of the tribe of Benjamin. The Tribe of Benjamin was the only tribe that stayed faithful to God when the Northern and Southern Kingdoms were divided. This tribe also gave the nation its first king, whom Paul/Saul was named after. So, in his own eyes he really thought he was serving God as good anyone could possibly do.
The Pharisees were a strict religious sect that numbered about 6000 in total at the time of Christ. They were lay people who were middle class merchants that devoted themselves to the observance of the Law of Moses (first five books of Old Testament as we know it) and they also paid special attention to laws that were interpreted by the Rabbi’s to protect and apply the law to everyday life. There were laws 613 in total.
In many ways the Pharisees saw themselves as religious purists who were enthusiastically committed to preserving and obeying the law and they were keen to encourage others to do so. To ensure they kept ritually pure the Pharisees had a number of strict rules in regard to washing, eating, tithing, the Sabbath, divorce, oaths and clothing.
Why did the Pharisees think keeping the law was so important? For the Pharisee their religion was not just a profession it was more of a way of life. The strived hard to follow the law and keep ritually pure to be “right” with God. The Pharisees wanted Israel to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. They also believe that once Israel had remained pure for a time then the Messiah would come.
So back to Paul. In light of what a Pharisees is and Paul’s list of “achievements”, if anyone had the right to be proud of his efforts it would be Paul. But as we see in verses 7-8 he had a change of heart and life…
“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ”.
Paul realised that knowing Christ and being known by Christ was all that was needed to find salvation. As he says in verse 9, “I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith”.
All the things that Paul thought very priceless and valuable, became like garbage to him. His family line of being a Hebrew of Hebrews – garbage. His belonging to the Tribe of Benjamin – garbage. His standing as a Pharisee – garbage. He discarded them all.
For us as Christians today there is a priceless value in knowing Christ too. We can’t save ourselves. We can’t work for our salvation. It is all accomplished in what Jesus did for us on the cross. He made a way, where there was no other way.
Not only is our salvation priceless, but our lives now are priceless too. We live this life now knowing that we are valuable to God and we are a key part of His continued mission in this world. We have a job to do. We have a part to play. We serve God with our gifts, we love and encourage one another, we reach people with the love and saving message of Christ. We make disciples.
So today let us hold firmly to Christ and put all our faith and hope in Him. He alone makes us righteous and right with the Father. Christ is all we need and there is priceless value in knowing Him.
2. Pressing towards the goal
Me second point comes from verses 12-21 and is “Pressing toward the goal”.
In verses 12-14 Paul says, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us”.
As I was reflecting on this I read the notes in the Life Application Study Bible for verses 12-14. It is interesting and explains this section well…
“3:12-14 Paul said that his goal was to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ had in mind for him. This goal took all of Paul’s energies. This is a helpful example for us. We should not let anything take our eyes off our goal—knowing Christ. With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training, we must lay aside everything harmful and forsake anything that may distract us from being effective Christians. What is holding you back?”
I think the first line says it all – to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ had in mind for him”.
This idea is much deeper than coming to Christ for our salvation and knowing we will go to heaven when we die. It is all about knowing Christ, growing to be like Christ and being disciplined like an athlete to be all you can be for Christ.
In the same way, Paul tells us to be disciplined like an athlete. We need to put time and energy into our relationship with God and our growth in our faith. Spending time alone with God in prayer, reading our Bibles and fellowship are things that Pastors, Elders and guest speakers talk about often. This is because they work. They help us to press on towards the goal of knowing Christ and becoming like Him.
3. We ARE citizens of heaven
This is the second time in this short book Paul has talked about being citizens of heaven. In Philippians 1:27 he said…
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News”.
In verse 20 of today’s text her says, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Saviour.”
In chapter one verse 27 he calls us to live a life worthy of being a citizen of heaven. In this verse he reiterates that we are citizens of heaven.
Again, as I was researching I found the notes in the NLT LASB had some good thoughts. It said this on verse 20…
“Citizens of a Roman colony were expected to promote the interests of Rome and maintain the dignity of the city. In the same way, citizens of heaven ought to promote heaven’s interests on earth and lead lives worthy of heavenly citizenship. Too many Christians have failed to transfer their citizenship to heaven. They still seek earthly pleasures and treasures instead of heavenly ones. Paul told the Philippians to remember that they are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. Have you transferred your citizenship? How are you promoting heaven’s interests?”
Not only should we live lives worthy of our new citizenship, but we need to remember we ARE citizens of heaven. As I have said before, our passports are not stamped with just an entry visa, our passports are brand new heavenly ones issued from the throne room of God.
So, in summary today I just want to summarize Paul’s heart from chapter three.
By Dave Quinn
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