December 20, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Philippians 3)

Submitted by John L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 3:1-11

·       In contrast to these legalists (“those who mutilate the flesh”), Apostle Paul gives a picture of the true Christian – those “who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (v. 3).  In what ways does my life resonate with this description?

The picture of the true Christian that Apostle Paul describes here highlights the fact that my worship and relationship with God is not based on what I do or some spiritual pedigree I can place my hope in, but through my connection with God through Jesus Christ. What is not described is the fact that through Jesus Christ, I have received God’s grace, forgiveness, and salvation – and none of this is by any deed that I have done, but rather, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and by what God has done for me. God has forgiven and I have been united with Christ and adopted as son and heir with Him. That is the basis that I live my life, not some list of spiritual deeds and I have done and can check off on a list of what a Christian ought to do. It is absolute folly to think that my relationship and connection with God has anything to do with some legalistic list of spiritual deeds, because when I look at my life, I am an absolute failure and stand guilty and fall short of the standard that God sets for me. I still struggle with my pride, greed, and ego and list of sins that characterize my life far outweighs anything that I do that can be considered ‘good’. I think there was a point when I was younger when I did think that through my effort, I can somehow get ‘better’ and earn some credits with God. But reality of my sinfulness has only confirmed what is written throughout the Bible – that there is no way that I can approach God with anything except guilt and failure. I thank God that He receives me not based on what I can do or have done for Him, but because in Jesus Christ, He has adopted me as a son and I don’t have to base my acceptance by God or my life on what I have done. I cannot place any “confidence in the flesh” because by that criterion, I am hopeless. Nevertheless, because of God’s grace and love for me, I still strive to be faithful and do what is right before God, but the spiritual disciplines and acts of service I do through ministry and serving at church, I do out of my desire to please God and to seek to do what He desires me to do. But thank God that He doesn’t base his acceptance of me on what I do for Him because I can only stand guilty and as a failure.

·       What is the relationship between counting “as loss” worldly sources of confidence and “knowing Christ Jesus”?

The worldly sources of confidence is in conflict with “knowing Christ Jesus” because the more sources of confidence someone has in worldly sources, the stronger the temptation to place his hope and trust in the world. In the end, the worldly sources of confidence indeed become a “loss” because it hinders me from “knowing Christ.” This speaks so personally to me because the desires for the glitter of the world has pulled my heart away from God throughout my life, especially when I was younger, and it pulled my heart in opposite direction from knowing Christ and trusting that He has my life under control. The glitter or worldly sources of confidence for me was to rise up in my academic field and become an accomplished expert, respected by my peer and publishing in top journals. Yes, it’s the desire to be top nerd among other nerds, but nevertheless, the pull to have this sense of success to fall back on pulled my heart away from God and conflicted with the call for me to fully place my hope in “knowing Christ Jesus.” I remember being counseled a few years back, that despite giving 90% of my life to God, the 10% I was holding back was making me miserable and preventing me from getting closer with God and the people of God. This was so true and that conversation always come back to me when I examine my life or when I feel that I need to accomplish more – because it’s so true how the worldly sources of confidence is truly my loss in knowing Christ Jesus and growing in my trust in Him.

·       What are the things I have deliberately lost for the sake of Christ since becoming Christian?  What does this reveal about who Christ is in my life?

The things that I have deliberately lost for the sake of Christ since becoming Christian are my own ambitions for successes, letting go of the control over my career and the comforts that I desired to attain through doing what society around me told me how I ought to live – that is to take the best job possible, move upwards, relocate if I must, and that the number one priority is my career and perhaps family. More recently, I had the privilege of actually living out my commitment to go where I’m called to go, by joining our church plant here in Minnesota. Not that I had attained or could have attained huge success and I was giving up a lot, but the societal pressure and to a certain degree, my own insecurities, urged to me to continue securing a certain level of comfort and security in the Bay Area. And this desire and taking actual steps to fight my own worldliness is what I got to set aside to follow Christ. And this pull towards the world was what was pulling me away from knowing Christ or becoming Christian earlier on in my life. But as I let go and experience greater freedom from ambitions, desires for comforts, and moving up in the world, I experience the freedom and peace that comes through Christ, who not only rescued me from death but also from my never ending greed for the world.  Jesus Christ reminds me that He knows what is best for me and that He has and continues to provide for my family and for me.

Philippians 3:17-21

·       Note the different characteristics of those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” and those whose “citizenship is in heaven.”  What difference has my identity as a citizen of heaven, and hope of resurrection (“transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body”) made in my life?

Those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” end in destruction, their god is their belly, glory in their shame, and set their minds on earthly things. But those of us whose citizenship is in heaven “await a Savior…who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” The clear difference that I see are those who see that their beginning and end is this life only, and they seek to maximize their pleasure and fulfillment now vs. those who trust in God and await heaven and the resurrection as the fulfillment of their hopes and desires. Apostle Paul exhorts us here to be like him, despite the difficulties and even persecution of this life, to set our eyes in heaven because that’s where our citizenship is and our hope lies in that resurrected life. For me, this challenges me to look beyond the slight discomforts and challenges I face in living my life and to embrace the call I have received to be His minister and servant. I don’t have to filled with insecurity or uncertainties about my social standing or whether I am secure in my work or whether I’m doing well according to the standards of the world because I’m not here to earn their praise. When that day comes, I hope I can say that I’ve lived my life to be faithful and had lived with hope in life in heaven, not for the comforts and pleasures of this life. As I reflect on this, I’m reminded of a younger brother who set aside a prestigious career in law to work full time in ministry. His father’s response was ‘what a waste’ but our heavenly Father must have been so pleased with that decision of faithfulness. I pray that I can be as bold and faithful as God continues to lead me and I can place my hope not in this life but in heaven.

Personal Prayer

Father, thank you again for reminding me that you called me out, to live a life of faith, and that my hope is not this life now but in heaven. As I face different temptations and challenges, help me to always to see clearly that I’m not here for temporary pleasures or accomplishments but to share your gospel message with others.  Help me to set aside all that hinders me from following you faithfully and trust in your guidance, even when it may be hard or difficult or foolish in the eyes of those around me. But may I seek to live a life that is pleasing to you. -Amen

Submitted by Kaitlyn L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 3:1-11

·       In contrast to these legalists (“those who mutilate the flesh”), Apostle Paul gives a picture of the true Christian – those “who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (v. 3).  In what ways does my life resonate with this description?

This passage challenges me to look beyond the external things and assess my Christian life with painful honesty to see whether I am really responding to the Spirit of God in the day to day decisions.  Today the surface issue that gives rise to false confidence would no longer be circumcision, but in a similar way, I can look to church attendance, showing up at all the expected meetings, even serving in various capacities, or even pointing to my spiritual disciplines – as a way to feel confident about my Christian identity.  But Paul says we can’t put any kinds of confidence in the flesh because that will inevitably lead to a self-boasting, godless religiosity.  To worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus means I need to be honest and responsive to what the Spirit is prompting me on a day to day basis – which is often the things done (or not done) in secret which the Spirit convicts me about, how I choose to respond to some sin or mistakes I’ve made, whether or not I choose to be selfish and demanding in the subtle decisions.  When I choose to be honest and respond to God, which often means humbling myself and admitting my sins in its various forms, that’s when I glory in Christ Jesus because it is only by the power and mercy of Christ that I am saved and continuously given mercy in the sanctification process.

·       What is the relationship between counting “as loss” worldly sources of confidence and “knowing Christ Jesus”?

Unless I count “as loss” the things that give me some confidence in myself, I won’t really “know” Christ Jesus fully because the message of the gospel is so fundamentally ego-devastating.  When I think there is something that I have done (academic achievement, title at work, services at church) or something about me (my personality, talents) that makes me a better person, more likable, have something to offer, it’s because I haven’t yet fully embraced the depth of my bad-ness, that’s been curbed by circumstances.  The truth is that there is nothing good about me, and if the circumstances were changed, there would be no depravity that is beyond me.   Unless I see this, that the real me is not the decent church-goer, law-abiding citizen, mostly loving wife and mother that’s only been an accidental result of the good fortune and gracious protection and circumstances that God’s given me, I’m not going to appreciate the enormous and completely undeserved grace of the cross.  I’m going to think that I have some hand in being the “okay” person that I am, when my true self is probably more horrific than I can ever truly comprehend.

·       What are the things I have deliberately lost for the sake of Christ since becoming Christian?  What does this reveal about who Christ is in my life?

One thing I’ve had to deliberately lost, and it’s still something I struggle with, is my sense of being a fundamentally decent person.  Growing up, I had an easy life, with a mild temperament, was the only child, the jewel in my parents’ eyes.  This meant I didn’t have any need to rebel in any dramatic way, I had no one around me to elicit any intense jealousy or envy, and it meant I grew up with a deep-seated self-understanding that I’m generally a friendly, easy-going, good person.  So even after becoming a Christian, it was easy to isolate my sins as individual incidences rather than letting those reveal the truth about who I am as a person.  Through the help of people who were willing to speak the truth in love to me, I am able to honestly confront who I am a bit more.  I’ve learned that the façade and demeanor I put on of being a “nice” girl is just a very thin façade, as life gets more demanding and complicated, I’ve learned to not quickly excuse or push aside the instances when the true, not so nice, not so generous, not so pleasant self erupt, but to see those as glimpses of the raw self inside.  Through this process, I’ve had to deliberately lose my desire to put forward a certain image before others, my desire to hold onto my pride and ego.  Even though each time this is still very difficult for me, I am appreciating more the grace, mercy and unconditional love I receive from Christ, because I see that with each additional layer that is peeled off and a more horrific “self” emerges, God doesn’t recoil or put his foot down and say “enough is enough,” but he covers me with more grace and assured me over and again that his love never changes.

Philippians 3:17-21

·       Note the different characteristics of those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” and those whose “citizenship is in heaven.”  What difference has my identity as a citizen of heaven, and hope of resurrection (“transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body”) made in my life?

The difference is that the unbelievers are living for this world only, and are ruled by the desires of the flesh and the things of this world, and ultimately facing destruction; but the believers are looking forward to a world beyond this one, when Christ will finally fully transform us to become his glorious image, which is not simply a solution to death, but it’s a full restoration to become what God has intended for us to become.

As I grow as a Christian, my identity as a child of God and the vision that God has for me have also grown and become more real.  I once was living for the dreams and pleasures of this world only – my dream was just to have a comfortable, indulgent life, being able to travel to where I wanted and buy what I wanted, to have the people in my life pamper me.  And like those who lived as enemies of the cross, I knew what I was facing was ultimately death and I knew if I had to give an account of my life to God, I would have a lot of sins of omission and commission to answer for.  But though I knew all that, I could not will myself to live a different, nobler life because I was enslaved by sin.  After I became a Christian, slowly and with many ups and downs, God’s slowly changed my tastes and aspirations.  I used to never think that I could live like one of the staff, but now I actually want to because I’ve tasted and experienced the joy of giving myself to the one who is worthy of worship, I’ve experienced the freedom and joy of no longer clutching onto my life but offering it up to God and seeing God multiplying my meager life and actually using me to be a source of love for others.

Recognizing that I am a citizen of heaven and one day God will complete the work he started in me, also gives me courage to continue living out my Christian life despite the many failures I face.  I know that though in this world I stumble along and my motives are often mixed and it feels like three steps forward two steps back, but that my identity as a child of God is secure, that in this life, it is God’s faithfulness which will guide me along, and that finally in heaven is when God will completely restore me.  This gives me hope to persevere and not get overwhelmed by what I perceive as a lack of progress.

Personal Prayer  

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for always being a God who insists on the truth and for desiring that genuine, personal relationship with me.  Please forgive me for all the ways I place false confidence in the external things, things that I do, when I refuse to confront the truths that you are prompting me to face and own up to, when I refuse to “lose” the foolish and false badges I cling to rather than choosing to really know you and be known by you.  Would you please give me the courage to lay down all my filthy rags again, to come to your cross empty handed, guilty and contrite, and to be amazed all over again by your compassion, mercy, grace and love.  Please help me to live as a citizen of heaven, knowing that this life is fleeting and temporary, and not to be afraid to set my mind on the higher, better, more secure things of heaven, knowing that again, it is not by my own effort or merit, but it’s by your faithful promise to me.

Submitted by Michelle Y. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 3:1-11

•                In contrast to these legalists (“those who mutilate the flesh”), Apostle Paul gives a picture of the true Christian – those “who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (v. 3).  In what ways does my life resonate with this description?

The legalists were the Judaizers who found confidence and false righteousness in being circumcised and following the law.  Apostle Paul said that those things do not save you or make you right with God.  Instead he says that the true Christian is the one who worships by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—in the things you can do.  It wasn’t about doing a bunch of religious things to earn righteousness with God, but Apostle Paul was adamant to point out that righteousness with God comes through what Christ has already done for us (namely, death on the Cross) which is why he says that all that he had gained (his credentials and successes) are counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  He understood that true righteousness came only from God.

Over the years, I see more and more that being a Christian isn’t about the things that I can offer, what I can bring to the team, what I can do well, how much I can accomplish, but being a Christian is about relating to God and understanding His heart.  Being in ministry has really helped me to see this truth of what it means to be a Christian as I see over again that often I make mistakes, often I can say the wrong things and do the wrong things, but thank goodness my salvation and righteousness does not depend on what I can do, and laws that I can perfectly follow.  Rather, it’s about God’s grace and what Jesus has already accomplished for me through the Cross so that I can say being a Christian is about worshipping by the Spirit of God and glorying in Christ Jesus (that through the Cross I am considered righteous before God) and putting no confidence in the flesh (do not rely on works to earn my rightfulness with God).

•                What is the relationship between counting “as loss” worldly sources of confidence and “knowing Christ Jesus”?

It’s impossible to hold on to worldly sources of confidence and to also know Christ Jesus.  Apostle Paul says, “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (verse 7) and “I count everything as a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  It’s evident that the relationship here is such that to know Christ, there will be a “loss.”  Knowing God is more than just having a personal relationship with God and feeling his presence.  In the commentary it states, “To know God in the biblical sense is also to be aware of his will and to be willing to obey him…especially living in faithfulness to God and his word day to day.”  Thus, in order to really know God is to faithfully obey God’s will and put aside my will.  My will that is so much dictated by the “worldly sources of confidence” found in approval from man, social status, skills/abilities, titles, and outward image.   These are sources of confidence that I am inclined to invest energy and time into because it gives me that seemingly secure notion that I am in a “good spot” in my life and in my relationship with God.  However, as I recount on how I once lived driven by these worldly sources of confidence I can attest to the truth that it was impossible to obey God’s will and live in faithfulness to God.  I was trying to follow what it meant to be a “good” Christian and turned that into a little act of trying to find righteousness of my own.

•                What are the things I have deliberately lost for the sake of Christ since becoming Christian?  What does this reveal about who Christ is in my life?

I remember when I first became a Christian my junior year in college, there were many things I immediately cut off and “lost” because I knew that they were displeasing to God or a waste of time for me especially as a Christian.  One of those things I “lost” was my Facebook account because it had become one of the centers of my life.  I remember always checking my status about every 15 minutes and comparing how many “friends” I now had compared to other people I knew.  It felt good to see that I had many connections and “friends” on Facebook.  However, when I became a Christian I was convicted that it was a time sink and that I was meant to relate to people face to face and enjoy life-on-life fellowship with other Christians and live in real community.  I could not do that if I was content with my Facebook friends list and wasted time browsing people’s Facebook pages, so I disabled my account and spent time investing in my peer relationships and in volunteering in the church.  And I am glad I did that because I got to experience the thrill of being able to participate in something larger than myself with people who shared the same heart and vision.  So that through the latter half of my college years, I really experienced what it meant to be a disciple as my peers and I had opportunities to outreach to the freshmen and be a part of a seeker small group where one of the students became Christian and is co-laboring with us today.  I would have missed out on this if I was still living in my little Facebook world.

I also “lost” my shopping online activity as I saw how that was another time sink and it took my heart away from more important things in life such as using my money to benefit others and setting my heart on heavenly things and not worldly things.  These were some small things that I lost for the sake of Christ, but as I grow older in my Christian walk with Christ I do feel God calling me to let go of greater things.  For example, volunteering to be a part of the church plant team here in Minnesota was a difficult decision because I was holding on very tightly to comfort, familiarity, and my own plans as a young person in my early twenties.  It was a struggle to “lose” all of this for the sake of Christ as I thought about all of the plans I’d had to forego, the familiar faces I would no longer see on a day to day basis, the comfort of being physically surrounded by a lot of brothers/sisters who share the same heart for the gospel, having my peers around, having leaders who ministered to me since my freshmen year and finding encouragement from knowing that they are only a few minutes away.  However, as I reflected on my spiritual journey and what the leaders of our church “lost” (career advancements for Pastor Ed as a lawyer, Kelly as a software engineer, Pastor Jonathan as a chemistry professor, Pastor Timothy as a mechanical engineer, to name just a few—all of these people could have become very successful people in their respective fields, but they “lost” all of that) for the sake of Christ so that someone like me (a wayward, hollow, and broken girl chasing after the false hopes in this world like academic GPA, romance, materialism, approval/recognition, respect and social status) might find living water and be reconciled with God, I found encouragement.  The decision to “lose” the comfort, familiarity, and whatever plans I had for my life to come to Minnesota and be a part of the team that builds this church to be the same beacon of light and hope for so many students made the decision to “lose” my life easier.

I see that the more I lose for Christ’s sake, the bigger and more real God becomes in my life.  Of course, I still have a lot to work on and there are certain things in my life that God is asking me to let go of but I find that as I release more and more for Christ’s sake, I have greater confidence in God.  And these things that God calls me to “lose” initially seem like such big things, but in the end they are incredibly rubbish compared to knowing God and finding true fulfillment and real joy that comes in obeying God when He calls.

Philippians 3:17-21

•                Note the different characteristics of those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” and those whose “citizenship is in heaven.”  What difference has my identity as a citizen of heaven, and hope of resurrection (“transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body”) made in my life?

The characteristics of those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” are: their end is their destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  They are focused on instant gratification, the here and now.

The characteristics of those whose “citizenship is in heaven” are: awaiting the return of Jesus our Savior, with hope that he will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, with the same power that he will use to subject all things to himself.

In the NIV commentary it notes, “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.”

A citizen is someone who promotes the interests and maintains the dignity of the city.  There are times when I find that I am tempted to promote my own interests because of selfishness and pride.  After a long day of teaching (which are many), I want to be physically and emotionally comfortable and just keep to myself in a little bubble where I do not have to be concerned by others.  When I see that I should lovingly point out a truth, I don’t want to do it because I’d rather not rock the boat and keep things in “peace.”  When a truth is pointed about me, there’s the initial desire to push it away because I don’t want to deal with the hideous reality of my heart’s condition.    I see the same recurring sins and how I fail to love people because of my impatience and lack of empathy.

These things can easily tempt me or discourage me but as I find myself alongside the brothers/sisters here who are my fellow citizens in heaven, I am reminded of my identity and the great reality that I am a citizen of heaven.  Leading a freshmen girl’s life group this past semester really pushed me to take my eyes off my own interests and invest in promoting heaven’s interests to the girls as we met up weekly.  Over the course of a semester, I got to see some participate in the freshmen discipleship class, take Course 101, or become more opened to the Gospel; and there are some who are also going to attend our Winter Institute in January.  I see them opening up their lives and getting more comfortable with each other even within such a diverse group of girls.  It is really amazing to me that I find myself here as a citizen of heaven, where God lives, and that I get to promote God and the truth that is able to set people free and transform lives.  I saw that as I embraced this identity as a citizen of heaven and let go of my own interests, I found greater joy and encouragement as I got to experience all the ways that God worked and is working in people’s lives which far outweighs what I would have experienced if I held on to my own little life.

Apostle Paul also says to have hope in the resurrection—when my lowly body will be completely transformed and be like Jesus’ body, sinless.  It goes back to what God has already done through Jesus and what Jesus’ death means for every believer.  I am encouraged by what Apostle Paul says in verses 12-16, that he hasn’t been made perfect, and he has not taken hold of it, but he forgets what is behind and strains toward what is ahead.  He presses on forward because of what awaits him ahead—the prize which God has called him heavenward.  Apostle Paul’s main goal is to know Christ; not to impress Christ or other Christians, not to find reasons for boasting when he finishes, but to know Christ when he reaches the finish line.  It is that desire that fuels Apostle Paul to embody his citizenship in heaven and gives him hope.  It is this same goal that I commit to investing my energy in, instead of turning to my interests and discouragements.

Personal Prayer

Father God, I am thankful that my righteousness is not based on what I can do, offer or contribute, but simply in the truth that I have been made righteous through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I confess that there are times when I am tempted to find my own righteousness.  I am thankful for the clear reminder that false righteousness is rubbish compared to knowing You and experiencing the fullness of life and joy that comes from knowing You.  I confess that sometimes I am tempted to not fully embrace my citizenship in heaven because of my own selfish interests, but I thank you that I am surrounded by fellow citizens of heaven where I am reminded of who I am and the joyful work that I can partake in because of the Cross, which enables my citizenship and is the hope that I have.  I commit to embracing my identity as a citizen of heaven and holding on to the hope that I have, with greater energy and zeal.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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