These next 2 chapters of Paul’s letter to the Philippians have several passages that I’ve memorized and I cling to daily. Every day we face not just the struggles of life, but attacks to our Christian faith. There is no way that we can get through them — to persevere — without standing firm in our salvation through the grace of our generous God. Knowing that we are citizens of heaven — that this earth is not all there is (thank God!) — gives us a confident hope that cannot be shaken.
I’m taking these next 2 chapters section by section to help you grasp the power of God’s Word. I pray that the Lord will open your heart to understand what He’s trying to tell you in this letter…
Philippians Chapter 3
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.
Here again he tells us — “whatever happens” — that’s like v. 1:27 — no matter what — in every circumstance — “rejoice in the Lord.” How can we be joyful when we’re struggling through life? How can we be joyful when we watch the news or get on social media? We must focus on Jesus. We focus on our confident hope. Paul says that he never gets tired of telling us — just like we should never get tired of reading the Bible. We need to read the Bible daily to safeguard our faith!
The more we read the Bible — the Word of God — the more the truth is ingrained in our hearts. Then we can more easily and confidently deal with the evil in the world as well as recognize false teachers, which he covers next…
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.
Paul here lists his credentials as an official Jew and a Pharisee who followed “the strictest obedience to the law”. That must sound familiar to Catholics. I can say…
- I was baptized at 6 months old
- I made my first communion when I was 9
- I was confirmed around age 12
- I went to confession every Saturday and Mass every Sunday
- I was a loyal Catholic – following the rules
But, was I saved? No. Now, I agree with Paul and I realize that what the Roman Catholic church teaches is false — all lies! …
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 (or Catholic rules); 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!
Pressing toward the Goal
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.Philippians 3 NLT (bold emphasis mine)
Citizens of Heaven
True, born-again Christians are Citizens of Heaven. We do not belong to this world. Thank God! We eagerly wait for Him to return as our mighty Lord and Savior, surfing in the clouds. He’ll call us up and take our weak, mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own! We’ll have no more pain or sorrow! Then He’ll bring everything under His control.
To dig deeper, I’m quoting two sources that are pertinent to this lesson. The first is from a Bible study plan found in the free YouVersion Bible App…
If any mere human being could have merited God’s blessings by keeping the law, it was Paul.
But the truth of the matter is that no fallen human being can be good enough to merit God’s blessings of salvation and eternal life. And so, Paul refused to rely on his earthly merits and depended only on Christ’s merit, which God credited to him by means of faith.
At the same time, he also made it clear that merely professing faith is not sufficient to guarantee our salvation. On the contrary, we must also persevere in faith in order to obtain eternal life. We must maintain our faith, and we must live holy lives, or else we prove our faith to be false…
Clearly these enemies of the cross of Christ were not believers. Nevertheless, they were in a position to threaten the church, perhaps because they spoke persuasively, or because they were influential in the church.
In any case, Paul insisted that believers reject the false teachings of Christ’s enemies, persevering in pure Christian faith and practice. The desire to avoid trouble and suffering was not a sufficient reason to lose faith in the gospel, and persuasive arguments were no substitute for the power of the Lord.Third Millennium
This next one is from Dr. Jim Denison, whose “Denison Forum” I read daily…
…if you believe that Christianity is about attending church and being religious, you will miss all that the living Lord Jesus wants to do in and through your life today.
[Oswald] Chambers encourages us to, “Never allow anything to come between yourself and Jesus Christ, no emotion or experience; nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.” When you are connected to the living Lord Jesus, “you will find that God has nourished in you mighty torrents of blessing for others.”
This is because, when we encounter Jesus, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Commenting on this astounding statement, Craig Denison notes: “When we spend time alone with God, the Holy Spirit longs to lead us into direct, tangible, and transformative encounters with the glory of God. Christian spirituality is all about direct connection with our heavenly Father and not about engaging in religious practices just because we feel we should.”
You might be thinking, “But you don’t know my failures and mistakes. You don’t know all the ways I am unworthy to experience the holy God.” You’re right. You are not worthy to experience God personally. Neither am I. This is one reason so many Christians settle for religion about God rather than an intimate relationship with him. It’s why we read the Bible, pray, and attend worship services, but when we’re done, we are the same as we were before we began.
Here’s the amazing good news: you do not have to be worthy to experience God, for he has made you worthy. As Craig explains, “The death of Christ has made unveiled encounters with God completely available to you whenever, wherever.”
All across the Gospels, whenever and wherever people chose to trust in Jesus and stepped into a personal relationship with him, he changed their lives. And he is still the same today as he was then (Hebrews 13:8).
As a result, let’s close with two questions.
First, when was the last time Jesus changed your life?
When we read the Bible with the prayer that Jesus would speak to us, he will. When we pray with the desire to speak to him and hear from him, he meets with us. When we worship for the purpose of connecting with the living Lord, we do. When we serve in submission to his calling and power, we experience him as we partner with him.
So, I’ll ask a second question: When next will Jesus change your life?Dr. Jim Denison, Denison Forum
We’re Supposed to Follow Jesus!
We’re not supposed to follow a church, nor a pastor, nor a priest, nor Mary, nor the saints. ONLY JESUS!
Jesus didn’t suffer and die on the cross so that we could have religion! He died so that we could have a personal relationship with Him!