“IT’S NOT MY RIGHTEOUSNESS” Phil. 3:7-11
INTRO – Let me start this morning by jumping right into this passage. Philippians is an awesome little book in the NT. It’s a letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian believers to encourage them in their walk w/ Christ, to challenge them to be a unified body of believers, & to thank them for their generosity in providing a monetary gift in support of his ministry. He was in prison in Rome when he wrote this little letter, probably somewhere around AD 60.
Right here in the middle of the letter, he issued a stern warning to them to “look out for the dogs…the evildoers…for those who mutilate the flesh” (v. 2). The people that he was referring to were false teachers, Jews who taught that salvation came through keeping the requirements of the Law, symbolized by circumcision, which is what he was referring to w/ the mutilation of the flesh comment. Calling them “dogs” was an especially strong comment. Dogs were not viewed in the same way in their world as they are in our world. You would never see this or this or this in that day & time (slides). Dogs were hated & for Paul to call them dogs was to say that they were a ravenous pack of religious scavengers.
These false teachers were pompously emphasizing all their religious accomplishments & credentials. It was all about THEIR righteousness, or, at least, their ATTEMPTS at being righteous. Their confidence was in their “flesh” (v. 3) & in their legalistic keeping of the Law. Paul took just a minute to make it clear that if anyone had bragging rights & confidence in their flesh, he did! He had it all – circumcised according to the Law, born in the tribe of Benjamin, a devout Pharisee, & a faithful adherent to the OT Law. Paul was the man when it came to Jewish Law requirements!
“BUT” – When Jesus came into his life, everything changed b/c Jesus is in the transformation business! Let me give you 4 quick points about this transformation that happened in Paul’s life:
The Greatness – v. 7-8a – There is simply nothing better or greater than knowing Jesus! Everything that Paul COULD have rightly bragged about, he put in the loss column. There was simply nothing that can compare w/ knowing “Christ Jesus my Lord.” Not just knowing facts, but knowing Him personally, intimately, passionately. Wesley when he got saved: “Feel like such a weight has been lifted off my shoulders!” The surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus means that, no matter what the circumstances of your life are, having Him in your life makes all the difference!
- Vicki’s cousin, David Smith. Diagnosed w/ cancer. Began to ravage his body. Evident that he was not going to be alive much longer. His goal was to make sure that every person who came into that hospital room heard about Christ before he breathed his last breath.
The Garbage – v. 8b – Paul takes it up a notch here in the next part of v. 8. Not only are all those religious accomplishments in the loss column, he said that they are nothing more than garbage. Or to put it more literally & more graphically, he considered them to be “skubalon,” or dung, or human excrement. Yes, that’s right – Paul said that all of his accomplishments were nothing more than a pile of stinking ________ – you fill in the blank. When you compare all the “good” things we try to do w/ the “great” thing of knowing Jesus, our good stuff just stinks!
The Gain – v. 8b-9 – Against that explicit backdrop, Paul exclaims that he has let all of that old stuff go so that he might “gain Christ & be found in Him.” The greatest gain anyone can incur is the gain of the knowing Jesus Christ as Savior & Lord. The greatest place that anyone can be is to “IN” Christ. Our salvation is not based on our performance; it’s based on His promised gift of eternal life! Let me illustrate it this way: Take a single piece of paper & a book. Open the book up & place the piece of paper right in the middle of the book, then close the book. The paper represents your life & the book is Jesus. You’re not just close to Jesus, or beside Jesus. You are “in” Christ. That’s what salvation is. When you close that book w/ the paper in it, you can’t see the paper – you can only see the book. When God looks at you, He doesn’t see you; He sees Christ. He doesn’t see YOUR righteousness; He sees Christ’s righteousness!
Let’s take the truth of “righteousness” apart a little bit right here. There are 2 facets of righteousness that are important for us to know:
EVERLASTING RIGHTEOUSNESS – “We ARE righteous.” – To be righteous simply means to be right w/ God. That doesn’t come by our good works, but by faith alone in Christ alone for our salvation. On the cross, Jesus exchanged our sin for His righteousness, so that one day, when we stand before the Lord, He will not see our sin, but only the perfect, holy righteousness of Christ! As the sermon title says, “It’s Not MY Righteousness!” When we place our faith in Christ alone for our salvation, we are MADE righteous, & it’s an everlasting righteousness! His righteousness is credited to us, imputed to us, placed on our account by the grace of God. We are accepted by God as righteousness, not based on what WE have done, but based on what CHRIST has done FOR us!
- 2 Cor. 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
- (Baptism robe) God wraps us in the robe of His righteousness – Isa. 61:10 – “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation & draped me in a robe of righteousness.” (NLT) And that robe will never come off!
EVERYDAY RIGHTEOUSNESS – “We LIVE righteously.” – As a result of our being MADE everlastingly righteous w/ the righteousness of Christ, our lives will reflect that righteousness in how we live. In other words, His everlasting righteousness will be seen in our everyday righteousness.
- 1 John 3:7 – “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.”
- 1 John 3:10 – “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
When I put this robe on, it usually means that I’m about to baptize someone. That’s the purpose of this robe. I wouldn’t go play football in it, or wear it to go deer hunting. I wear it for a reason.
Listen: You & wear Christ’s righteousness for a reason – 2 to be exact:
- The preeminent reason for Christ’s righteousness covering us is to MAKE us right w/ God.
- The practical reason for Christ’s righteousness covering us is so that we might show Him to the world. As 1 Peter 2:9 says: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a [special] people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies [the wonderful deeds and virtues and perfections] of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (AMP)
Which leads to the final point:
The Growth – v. 10-11 – Paul’s desire was to “know Christ…becoming like Him in His death…” The Christian life is a life of progressing in knowing Christ, in becoming more & more like Him. When you are “IN” Him, you’ll want to know Him & become more like Him. Look at how Paul continued this thought in v. 12-14. If you don’t have a passion for that in your life, you may not truly be “in” Him. You may not be saved. Or if you are saved, you’re not in fellowship w/ Him like you should be or could be.
The goal of our life as a Christ-follower is simple: to grow to be more like Jesus. I want to BECOME more like Him. I’m not there yet, but I want to become more like Him. John Newton, the pastor who wrote the hymn, “Amazing Grace” in the 1700’s, said this: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”