Further, my brothers and sisters, 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.  Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.  For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have 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; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:1–11

One of the more comical points when you read Philippians in the English Standard Version, is that “Further” from the NIV is translated, “Finally.” It is apparent that Paul is a preacher because he starts the second half, not the conclusion, of his letter with finally. Especially as he reminds them to do the same thing he had been writing and continues to write about. Rejoice!

Now before we begin there is something that needs to be addressed. If you are here this message is for you, not for whoever you think of during the message. If you are thinking about how this applies to someone else and would help them out immensely you may be missing the point. This is about and for you.

This may sound familiar to many sermons and writings that have come over this past year. I hope so. It is no trouble for me to repeat this fantastic truth to you. It is one I repeat to myself regularly. It is a topic we will focus on this entire month. Tis the season as you must know.

Think back to that moment when who Jesus is, became real to you. I mean really became real. Think about when you realized that Him being God meant more than everything else in your life. Think back to that moment when you realized the depth and need for His grace and how nothing else mattered.

That moment of clarity is what I ask you to remember and to reflect on in this moment. As we dive into God’s Word and prepare our hearts and our minds to reflect on His greatness and grace in our own lives let us rejoice in Him. Let us rejoice as He would have us rejoice!

Let us rejoice that there is nothing that can keep us from the love and grace of God. Nothing can prevent us from seeing, from knowing and being known by, God. God has removed any barrier the question remains for us, what does that obvious intimacy do to me and to you?

Finally! Start or Continue to Rejoice in the Lord!

Further, my brothers and sisters, 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.  Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.  For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

Watch out for anyone who adds to the Gospel of Jesus being crucified to save you. Beware of someone adding to the grace given you in Christ. There should be no confidence found, no sense of affirmation, no hope, in anything giving you eternal life. If you come before the throne of grace and are asked why do you enter and say anything other than Jesus Christ crucified and risen, it is clear you are not reliant upon Christ crucified and risen alone, and so you are not reliant upon Christ crucified at all.

This is a harsh and real truth. If you say you are good, you make Jesus a liar. Jesus said in Mark 10:18, “No one is good but God.” There is always something more you can do or could have done. You have failed in a life meant to reflect His good. Yet, His grace covers you and makes you righteous, considers you perfect and worthy of glory, and invites you not only into His presence but to be one with the Father. Jesus spoke boldly about this to His disciples as He prepared to be betrayed to death. “Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:19b-20)

Rejoice! Jesus has made you new (Colossians 3:1-16)! Rejoice! Through Christ’s resurrection you have the hope of eternity! Rejoice! Nothing else in life can compare to the greatness of knowing and being known by God (2 Corinthians 4-6:2)! Rejoice! You have the opportunity to imitate the Lord!

We live not by our own will, rather we live in accord with the Spirit of God that dwells inside of us. Our boast is not in us or our status rather it is in Christ Jesus and His will for us. It is not about you or me, it is rather about God being made known!

We have marked ourselves as different. Physical circumcision was initially meant to mark who was of the covenant and what they were willing to sacrifice for the Lord. But our sacrifice has already been completed. And, believers are no longer marked by physical markings instead believers are marked by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him….These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. – Colossians 2:6-15, 23

Notice Paul’s petition in the text to abound in thanksgiving. What we have in Christ is should enlist in us a form of thanksgiving that nothing should be able to extinguish. You have put this life aside and buried with Christ. You are saying I am raised in new life having been forgiven.

See as well what Paul writes to the Galatians while speaking on the same subject of grace over the law, predominantly circumcision and other laws of the Jewish faith being wrongfully imposed on the believers.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. – Galatians 4:8-11

What appears to define a Christian cannot be simply what we do. What we do should be defined by the grace we have been given. We love because He loved us first. We are kind because His kindness leads us to repentance. We forgive because He forgave us. We suffer for others to be forgiven because He suffered first to forgive us.

Your Joy and Rejoicing is Dependent Upon Where our Confidence is Found.

If someone else thinks they have 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 righteousness based on the law, faultless.

Paul is not one to shy away from who he is. His background is not a small, insignificant, or simple. What is most intriguing is not only what he puts in this section of scripture it’s what Paul leaves out.

Paul leaves out his Roman citizenship a major position of strength for the Philippians, a Roman Colony. He leaves out his lengthy tenure at this point as an Apostle. Paul is silent about the churches that he started. Paul remains silent about the people who now have the hope of eternity because of him. He leaves out his good works.

Paul addresses his worth in accordance with the Law that Jesus came to fulfil so that we do not have to. Paul expounds on his circumcision, a major point for a major division of the Jewish Christian community. He lists off how he was of the tribe of Benjamin, which was the only tribe to stay with the tribe of Judah when Israel split from the promised kingly line of David. The tribe stayed with David even though David took the kingdom from the tribe of Benjamin through Saul.

Paul was of the elite class of the Jewish people in regard to being God honoring. He was a zealous Pharisee the very people who charged Jesus and pushed for His death. Paul was a Jew among Jews. He has every reason to boast according to the worlds perspective.

We the church struggle with this same line of thinking. It broke me when some of my friends in college refused to date girls that did not have great upbringings. They forgot who they were talking to.

We can be distracted by etiquette and lose sight that the one event that is commanded to be shared when the Gospel is proclaimed is when a woman broke a jar of alabaster jar and poured it on Jesus causing the room to go into turmoil Jesus needs to rebuke them. This act led was so frustrating it was the final straw for a friend to betray his Lord to death.

We elevate ourselves based on our heritage. Have you known Jesus your whole life, praise the Lord! But, you will earn the same reward as the man or woman who has betrayed Him to the last moment and repents gaining grace. The reward is the same.

Yet often we forget why we have the reward. The reward and the hope is because of Jesus not us. This grace is so that none of us can boast in anything but Christ and His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). The reward being found in Christ is also our ability to have an infinite and abounding reason for confidence.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5

So, think about it. When you look at another person, how do you compare yourself to them? Do you appreciate the depth to which you both have been pulled from? Do you appreciate the depths to which grace is necessary in your life? Or have you been deceived by the evil one into thinking that your church attendance, ministry prowess, family heritage, and over all quality of “goodness” has defined your confidence in Christ?

What do You Consider of Worth, Other than Being found in Christ?

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Before you state that you consider everything as loss, ask yourself a simple question. When have you last said, “I deserve….”?

When was the last time you were furious, frustrated, or just a little miffed that you were not given the respect you were due? When was the last time you were frustrated with someone because they did not treat you right? Paul was writing this from his chains in prison, alone, and sending those caring for him away to care for others.

Paul’s goal in suffering for Christ and raising again from his own death in Christ was to display Jesus all the more. He had the attitude of sharing the grace of God in his own life at his own cost so that those who may hate and harm him might have eternal life.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews writes something similar after recounting what is affectionately called the hall of Faith.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood…. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. – Hebrews 12:1-4, 14-15

Does your hurt define you? Does your situation determine your joy or more intrinsically your ability to show grace to others? The kindness and forgiveness you give to others is when you have the greatest opportunity to display being in Christ. You have the opportunity with the worst of people who have harmed you and the smallest blemishes in relationships to be made a fool for the sake of grace.

Yes, a fool. How many would consider it wise to give all that you have for the person who just harmed you to gain? Yet, God said I will give you myself of which there is nothing in all creation more valuable. Nothing in all creation is more than God and yet God said I will suffer and sacrifice myself for you to gain.

Such a recognizable truth to the longstanding believer, but one traumatic to live out. Ask yourself, is how much you give to forgive others how you define maturity in Christ? Or is maturity in Christ some other outward whitewashing of your life, that the Hebrew writer calls the basic milk of following the Lord (Hebrews 6:1-4).

One thing that is repeated throughout the New Testament is how God in us empowers us to have joy in revealing Christ through a broken and difficult life. The promise is not that everything works out rather the Christian can trust that when everything is breaking down around you we carry the death of Jesus with us and live in His resurrected life.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. …

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  – 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 17-18

It is no problem to ask again, where is your joy found? If your joy, your rejoicing, is found in Christ and what He has done for you and every person you meet. Then every person who has hurt you is owed the same level of grace you have been shown.

Your suffering at another’s hand does not prohibit the grace they are painfully and costly given by Christ, nor should it prohibit your ability to give them at your own personal cost a restored relationship with you and the Lord. Like our God who gave you more than just being right with Him, He gave you eternal life as a child and an heir, you too must give more than being right with others.

It is not by works or goodness that you are saved nor is it, as a member of the broken body of Christ, others responsibility to be made right with you. It you who now pay the bill for others to be right with you, even if they don’t ask, because that is what Jesus did and you are imitators of Him as a part of His sanctified body.

When you count the world as loss for the sake of knowing and making Christ’s grace known you will be able to shine brighter for the Lord than any amount of works you could build up.

And, it is in this sacrificial suffering that we can rejoice in restoration with others. We can rejoice that we can imitate the God of the universe who was born into the world to be betrayed, to suffer, and to die alone to forgive you and me. We can rejoice that we can be broken so that others can know and see a love unnatural and unrealistic because of the overwhelming power of God residing inside of you through the Holy Spirit.

So, who is whose name causes you to wince. Who is it that has hurt you big or small that you can with rejoicing in your heart because of what God has done for you be broken for them? Remember that great joy and peace when you realized God’s human body is broken for you.

Think about how you could still with joy and thankfulness accept a gift you reluctantly will do for others, and still stand kneel, or even be before the presence of the throne of grace saying, “Thank you, but I will not do for others what you did for me.” Would He not respond, “Depart from me, you never knew me!” “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

So, go out this week, this month, begin the process of forgiving, giving grace, and being broken for those who do not deserve it. You do this because you count everything as loss because of the all surpassing knowledge of Christ crucified and raised for you and for those who hurt you.

           Questions to Consider

-       What causes you to pause or not want to forgive others?

-       What is the most you have ever lost forgiving someone? (Hebrews 12:1-4, 14-15; Colossians 1:24-25)

-       What is the purpose of giving grace to others? (Psalm 19:12, 130:4; Luke 17:1-10; Matthew 18:21-35)

-       Why is it important to share the grace you have received with others? (Ephesians 4:30-5:2; 1 John 2:9, 3:16; John 15:13; Matthew 18:35; James 2:13)

-       What relationship have you seen restored because of grace shown you or that you showed to others?

-       Is there anyone you are unwilling to give grace to if they don’t prove to you something first? (Romans 12; Matthew 5:38-48; Matthew 6:12 & 14)