Reaching Forward to What Lies Ahead: Striving for God’s Righteousness in 2021

Philippians 3

A doctor receives a phone call from one of his
colleges, “Hey, we need a fourth for poker.”

The doctor replies, “I’ll be there.”

His wife asks him, “Is it serious?”

He replies, “There’s already three doctors there and
they need me.”

2020 is almost over! It’s been a crazy year, one we will
likely never forget. As I was praying and searching the
Scriptures for what God wanted me to preach today, He
directed me to the 3rd chapter of Philippians. As I prayed
through and took notes on the chapter, God showed me
a common thread through the chapter –
God’s Righteousness

In November I started thinking about what direction God
was taking our church for the next year. I felt God was
leading me to discuss the Faith of the Fathers – Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob – and how God counted their faith as
righteousness. So, next week we will start a new sermon
series in the OT examining the Faith of our Fathers.

Now, back to today’s message.
Follow along as I read
Philippians 3
Paul starts with a kind reminder that he isn’t bothered by
writing the same thing to the church at Philippi again.
But then the tone of the letter changes. He warns them
to beware of the dogs, the evil workers and the false
circumcision.

Righteousness Comes from God

It’s not noticeable in the English translation, but notice
the Greek word for false circumcision – katatome
And the Greek word for true circumcision – peritome
Paul calls it mutilation sarcastically, what he is implying is
that there is no good reason for a Gentile to go through
the act of circumcision. It’s not about the physical act,
it’s about what happens in the heart. The prophet Ezekiel
describes it this way in Ezekiel 11:19 “And I will give
them one heart, and put a new spirit within them.
And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh
and give them a heart of flesh.”

God initiates the change in our heart.
And when we have been changed,
we worship in the spirit of God and
give glory to Christ and
we don’t boast in the flesh.
It’s all about what Jesus has done on the cross.
We aren’t changed because we are good people.
We aren’t changed because we deserve it.

We are changed because God chose us and loved us first.
We are changed because we accepted God’s grace and
forgiveness! Jesus did all the work on the cross at
Calvary.

Righteousness is the gift of God.
It’s not something we earn or create in ourselves

Next, Paul mentions all of his credentials.
He has plenty of reasons to boast in the flesh.
Many of the proselytes had been converted later in life.
He was born a Jew and was circumcised according to the
law of Moses.
He was born of the tribe of Benjamin.
He was educated by Gamaliel, who was very highly
esteemed among all the teachers.
He had plenty he could boast about, but he understood
righteousness.
He says he counts it all as loss for the sake of Christ.
More than that, he says he counts all things as loss
compared to knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.

Righteousness is about Relationship.

Self-righteousness is about following rules.
God created us for relationship.
Paul understood that and points out that he didn’t want
to have a righteousness of his own derived from the Law,
but righteousness that comes from God through faith in
Christ.

You might recall Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8 “For by
grace you have been saved through faith; and that
not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a
result of works, so that no one may boast.”

You may also recall Paul’s words to the church at Rome,
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in
that while we were yet sinners. Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8
I found this quote by Frank Stagg in his Philippians
commentary in the Broadman Bible Commentary ,
“a physician accepts a patient , but not the disease. He
accepts the patient with a view to freeing him of
the disease. God accepts the sinner with a view to
making him righteous.”

Righteousness comes from God and He brings us into
right standing with Him through the Son.

Paul then mentions knowing Jesus and the power of His
resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.

That’s quite a lot to unpack.
Knowing Jesus comes by grace through faith.
When we have faith we begin to grow in righteousness.
Why does Paul mention the power of the resurrection?
The resurrection is the most important part of the
Christian faith. Without the resurrection our faith is
useless and our preaching is in vain.

The fact that Jesus is alive separates us from every other
religion that serves a dead god, one created by man.
Jesus is at the right hand of God who is the creator of
heaven and earth and everything in it!!
What about the fellowship of His sufferings?
Jesus told His disciples that they would be sure to face
trials in this world, but they would be blessed because of
it. They hated Him first and those who identify with Him
will also be mistreated. There is no promise that following
Christ will make your life great or free of problems.

Meghan and I were talking this week about her
mission trip. She was able to hear the testimonies
of several of the students who went on the trip.
Every one of them talked about how they were
desperate and stuck in sin, but God stepped in and
saved them. None of them said their life has been
perfect since. We all face trials and troubles in our
life, the difference is that when we trust God for
salvation he promises to never leave or forsake us.
The Bible tells us that unbelievers God gave them
over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that
their bodies would be dishonored among them..

Next, Paul writes about his focus on the future.
This should also be our focus as we prepare for 2021.
Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what
lies ahead.

This is not one of those self-help sermons where you
hear that you can do anything you want and you just
need to tell God what you want and He will give it to you.
This sermon is about righteousness and seeking it above
all else.
Paul acknowledges that he hasn’t attained it already. He
is in the process like all of us. But he isn’t dwelling on
the past. He’s shifting his focus to the future.

The Righteous Live out their Faith

He’s pressing on toward the upward call of God in Christ
Jesus. He knows life is about growing closer to God and
having the same attitude as Christ.

Notice Paul’s words
Have this attitude – one of pressing on to the prize,
being heavenly minded, seeking the things of God over
the things of the world
Keep living by that same standard – not boasting in
self, boasting in Christ
Join in following my example – Paul showed them how
to live, he set an example of living for Christ.

The Righteous Look Forward to Heaven

Paul writes about the citizenship of believers being in
heaven.
We are ambassadors here on earth living lives that bring
honor and glory to God. As we live righteous lives we
show others a glimpse of heaven.

We are awaiting our Savior. He is coming back to take
us to the place He went to prepare for us.

Remember the story of the 10 virgins. Only 5 of them
were prepared for the bridegroom’s coming. They
brought extra oil for their lamps knowing he could be a
while. The others weren’t prepared and they begged
from the prepared virgins.
We have to be living our lives looking forward to heaven.
He has promised us that He is coming back and we know
that God always keeps His promises.
What are you doing right now to prepare for His coming?
Are you looking forward to His return?

APPLICATION

Focus on Righteousness

It’s not of ourselves, it’s the gift of God.
Ask Him to help your focus and to give you the desire to
seek Him with all your heart.

Understand that you can’t do it on your own.
God is the one who makes us righteous.
Ask Him with sincerity and He will give you the desire of
your heart.

Avoid Self-Righteousness

We aren’t any better than anyone else.
When we begin to think we are special or better than
others we are misusing our position in Christ.
God made all of mankind in His own image and He loves
us all equally.
That is why God commanded us to love Him and love
others.
We have to have the proper view of ourselves.
Jesus told us to put others’ needs above our own.
Live humbly!