Thursday, May 26, 2016

THE ONLY THINGS THAT MATTER: PAUL'S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS

THE ONLY THINGS THAT MATTER:
PAUL’S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR US
A. Brother

“Finally, my brothers….”
Phil. 3:1

Paul is close to the end of his life and knows it.  He is writing some of his favorite, dearest friends in Christ—those brothers and sisters he’s known in the City of Philippi—and giving them final instructions.  Paul is under guard in Rome, under house arrest, and living in his own rented apartment there. 

This letter is marked with sadness and joy.  Paul is sad that he may never see any of his beloved brothers and sisters again, and joy that he will soon be with Christ, his first love.  He knows he is going to die, and this letter holds that knowledge close, and so Paul is writing only the most essential, the most important things, the things that matter. 

So he says, getting down to business, “Finally, my brothers…”, which means “Ok, now that we’ve caught up on other matters, and talked in generalities, I’m going to give you the essentials.  I’m going to give you the most important things so that you will remember them after I’m gone.”  He wanted the Philippian Christ-followers to be focused on what would keep them through the fire and flood of their modern lives.  (Yes—all people have lived in modern times—modern to them!)

“It is no trouble for me to write
the same things to you again, and it is a
safeguard for you.”
Phil. 3:1

So Paul is giving his final instructions to them.  He is telling these modern people what will help them to stand firmly in Christ in their futures.  So nothing has changed, and these are the things that matter for us today.  Paul is writing to us, too, and we must heed his words.

“Therefore, my brothers,
you whom I love and long for,
my joy and crown,
that is how you should stand firm
in the Lord, dear friends.”
Phil. 4:1

Paul sums up what he writes in the 3rd chapter of his letter, what we will look at beginning today, with this capstone truth.  The truth he is telling us is this:  if we want to stand firm in Christ, no matter what happens, then we will listen to and follow his instructions in this section of the letter.

 PUT NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH

Paul first warns that putting “confidence in the flesh” (v.3) is a great danger.  He talks about men who will come among us and introduce heresies to draw us away from Christ into religion.  This “confidence in the flesh” comes disguised as religious fervor.  The men who bring new religious systems, and who design new programs and rules and regulations, or who want to take us back into a system of religious principles and creeds to live by such as the Mosaic law are those whom Paul reserves his harshest words for.

“Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil,
those mutilators of the flesh.”
Phil. 3:2

Paul warns against any and all reliance upon the flesh.  All religions are based on fleshly principles.  All devise systems, no matter how benign and harmless we think they are, that put “confidence in the flesh”.  No religion on earth is acceptable in God’s sight.  Not even religious Christianity. 

Christ Himself condemned the religious among His people, and blasted them with the truth that they couldn’t earn a single bit of God’s favor by their religious works.  That included their attendance at meetings, their religious appearances, their giving, their charity, their prayers, their religious festivals and observances, their religious dress, their religious activities of any kind.  None of it mattered to Christ.  So Paul here reminds us that none of it matters, and never will.

“For it is we who are the circumcision,
we who worship by the Spirit of God,
who glory in Christ Jesus,
and who put no confidence in the flesh…”
Phil. 3:3

So Paul reminds us of the great ruth that religion, and religious fervor, and religious works and observances, can never save us.  In fact, religion is direct disobedience to the Word of God.  Circumcision here represents any of our attempts to outwardly mark ourselves as God’s people.

The true marks of a Christ-follower are the ones Paul lists here:

1. We worship by the Spirit of God
2. We glory (boast) only in Christ
3. We put no confidence in the flesh.

Paul makes it absolutely clear.  Christ is the only confidence of a man of God.  The man or woman of God will worship and live by the Spirit of God in them, and put not one shred of confidence in anything else.  Not religious systems, not worldly things, nothing else.  Not even their own accomplishments or talents, nor their own religious ideas and plans.  Not their money, or status, or job, or friends.  Not one other thing will the man of God boast of except His Lord Jesus Christ. 

This is foundational, and so important that it lays down our understanding of Paul’s summation of his own life. 

Paul was an accomplished, educated man.  He had plenty to boast about in the eyes of men.  Much of his accomplishment was religious in nature, and here he lays it out in detail for us.  In chapter 3: 4-6, he lists the reasons he could have confidence in the flesh if he wants to. 

His religious pedigree was impeccable.  He was a “Pharisee of Pharisees”, in other words, a leading religious figure of his day.  He was even a righteous man in terms of keeping the Mosaic law.  He was zealous for God.  In fact, not listed here is the fact that Paul was also a Roman citizen by birth, which means he undoubtedly came with a worldly pedigree, both a leading Jew and a leading citizen of Rome in the City of Tarsus where he was born and raised.  In other words, Paul had more to brag about, if he wished to, than almost anyone he was talking to.  Both from a worldly and a religious standpoint.

Yet we will find out in the next verses that Paul actually gave no value to these things he possessed.  Instead, he’d found someone of far greater worth.  Someone worth living for, and someone worth dying for.





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