The Three Keys to Enjoying Real Joy | Philippians 3:1-8
June 2, 2019 - Matt Timmons
Please turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Philippians once again. We will be starting into the third chapter this morning. And it is a new section in the epistle. We’ll be starting to deal with a new topic.
Of course, the whole of the letter has to do with the idea of joy. That is the theme that runs through it. But there are different ways he talks about joy. The first chapter you may say is joy in suffering. It is where Paul talks about being in prison and how he is facing certain trials at the hands of men. But through it all he has joy in his difficulties.
Chapter 2, as we have seen deals with joy in submission. We’ve talked at length about the need for humility and service to one another. We can add to our joy by being of one mind and demonstrating the submissive spirit of Jesus Christ.
Here in Chapter three we are going to start a new topic. In this section we are going to see joy in salvation. We are going to be talking about the gospel and the importance keeping a pure gospel. Our salvation is dependent upon the saving work of Christ and him alone. And that is the very fountain and basis of our joy. If we are going to have joy, this is the premier key: We must be saved.
Let’s consider this great joy then as we read the first 8 verses of the chapter.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh-- 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
People often chuckle when they come to this passage because it begins with the word “finally.” However, there are still two chapters to go in the epistle. Some wonder if Paul has a little difficulty bringing things to a close.
I remember back in seminary one of my fellow seminarians was preaching at the evening service of our church. It was unusually long. It was reaching 45 and 50 minutes and you could tell the crowd was getting a little worn down. It was just about the 45 minute mark where he said, “Now I say all that by way of introduction. Now I think we are prepared to get into the passage.” All of us kinda looked around at each other. We thought we had just entered a hostage situation. Thankfully I think he noticed our facial expressions and he did wrap things up soon after.
Some people look at Paul’s finally in that way. They say, “Paul, you don’t really mean what you say.”
I’m actually one who takes it a little differently. The word finally can also mean “moreover” or “further.” I actually think what Paul is trying to say is that this is really important. “I know that what I’ve said so far was for your good, but listen up. What is coming next is especially important and you need to pay close attention. If you don’t hear anything I’ve said, make sure you hear this: 'Rejoice in the Lord.'”
What exactly does that mean? It means that you are to make the Lord the occasion for your joy. You are to find your satisfaction in life in him. You are to savor Jesus Christ. You are to rejoice in the fact that you are in union with him. You are to take joy in the fact that he loves you, and, most particularly, that he’s been gracious to you.
In other words, he’s saying that our joy is to be in the fact that God has saved us and wiped away all our sins. You might say that Paul is bringing us back to ground zero; the very epicenter of our joy. We can lose our focus on Christ, and (should that happen) we can experience a loss of our joy.
It is true that joy is to be one of the main dynamics of the Christian life. Christians have a true and lasting joy; that's what separates us from the rest of the world. The world may experience happiness from time to time, but they do not have that deep rooted, enduring joy that a Christian has.
But even Christians may not be experiencing the depth of joy that they should. Sometimes that joy can be diminished; sometimes Christian people can slip into the blues or become depressed - and really feel robbed of joy. This is a real problem that people face.
And the Holy Spirit addresses this problem here in this passage. What you can find in this passage is that there are three ways we can be hindered in our joy. There are three roadblocks, so to speak; three ways we can experience a loss of joy. And that’s what we are going to look at this morning.
The very first roadblock to joy is this:
I. Your own apathy 
Paul says, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.” I might translate it this way, “keep on rejoicing in the Lord.” The word “rejoice” is a present active imperative. And it has the sense of commanding a continuing action. That’s why I say, “keep on rejoicing.”
What is Paul doing here? Trying to rouse us to personal action. He’s reminding us that this is our responsibility. It is incumbent upon us that we do this and not forget that are to draw our joy from Christ and make this joy in Christ our constant frame of mind.
Why does Paul do this? It’s because he knows how dull we can be to the Lord. He knows that spiritual apathy is a great problem for us. And if there is one thing that we are especially prone to do it is forget the Lord and forget that it is our job to rejoice in the Lord. We can turn our eyes away from Jesus and begin to take joy in other things.
We need to be self starters. We need to make it a point to rejoice in him; that is to say we need to focus our attention on him, find our satisfaction in him, remember the benefits that come through him, take to heart the hope of a blessed future that only he can provide.
I will forever remember the roommate that I had my freshman year of college. Being his roommate was an experience, to put it mildly. Prior to coming to school that year each student was assigned a dorm room and you really didn’t get to pick who you lived with. So that first year you live with who you get stuck with. And I was roomies with Dave Adams.
Now, we all have our quirks, I know. But Dave had one spectacular quirk. He slept late every day. He would sleep until 9 or 10 o’clock every day. And that wouldn’t be that big a deal; I would be cool with that and I understand that some people have different time tables. Some people wake up early, some people wake up later. No big deal. But Dave would set his alarm for 6 o’clock in the morning. And when it went off, he would hit the snooze button. And he would do that for the next 3 hours! Every 3 minutes his alarm would go off with that crazy annoying quadruple beep.
So needless to say, I never got to sleep past 6 o’clock that first semester. But I remember the first couple days that this happened. I was actually trying to sleep, but there’s no way I could. And I got angry and I started punching the bunk above me (we had bunk beds and he on the top bunk.” And I laid into the boards and made those things thunder and I yelled, “Get up already!” The thing is, he would wake up just enough to hit that snooze button and then he’d be out again…for the next three minutes.
But from time to time he would miss his class. The class wasn’t until 10 am, but he would sleep right through it.
This is the best illustration I can think of when it comes to apathy. Here’s a guy who simply would not get out of bed and get going on his day. It wasn’t that he couldn’t get up. He simply wouldn’t. He wasn’t in the habit of doing it and he didn’t much care to get in the habit. It boiled down to his personal choice. And he missed a number of his classes as a result of it.
And that’s how Christians can often be. Oftentimes, there’s no one to blame but ourselves. We simply have not made it a priority. We have not practiced it, or made a habit of doing it. We prefer to focus on other things or maybe we've got caught up in some sinful behavior. We've got distracted from Christ; maybe we are feeling guilty about it and we are weighed down by that. But we have not truly repented and begun to rejoice in the grace that he affords us. If that's the case, it shouldn’t be surprising that we lack joy.
Let me look at it another way. Sometimes people who are older can begin to reflect on their lives. They can look back and think that a lot of their life was wasted. They were not as passionate for Christ as they should have been. They did not live for him the way they should have. They spent a lot of years doing things they shouldn't have or just wasting it away on frivolous things.
That can be a cause for a downcast spirit. Your mind can brood on that or be full of self pity. But remember what the great hymn says, "Grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home." What is John Newton saying there? He's saying that all our lives are covered in God's grace. And that is where our joy must be. That's where our thoughts should run: to His infinite grace that covers all the past acts.
Do you feel that there is something missing in your life? It may very well be that you are not seeking to rejoice in the Lord and really savor His steadfast mercy. Try correcting that and see what happens. It is our responsibility to make ourselves rejoice in Christ. We have to shake off the doldrums, we have to push away the dullness, we have to make it our aim to rejoice in the Lord.
Another hindrance to our joy, along with our apathy, may be our naivety.
II. Your own naivety [2-4]
Whenever our family goes out of town we board our dog with a man just north of Ashland. He has a dog park, as he calls it, and boards dogs for people. One time I was dropping our little pooch off and all the dogs came running up to the fence to greet us. And there was one beautiful bloodhound. He was a purebread redbone bloodhound. He had the most beautiful redish brown coat that shined in the sunlight. He had those adorable droopy ears that are characteristic of a hound. I was instantly infatuated and I attempted to reach through the fence and pet this beautiful creature. Right as my fingers got to the fence the dog barked, snapped, and lurched at me. I thought I was going to lose my ability to type because I thought he was going to take off a couple digits.
I looked up at the fellow who owned the dog park and he simply said, “You don’t want to do that.”
I was completely naïve in thinking that this dog was going to be just as sweet in demeanor as my little coonhound. I didn’t even think that this beautiful looking creature could very well do me a great deal of harm.
And that’s what Paul is saying in verses 2-4. He does not want us to be naïve to the fact that there are false teachers out there who want to divert our attention away from Christ.
Look at the language Paul uses. In verse 2 Paul issues a warning, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” Then in verse 3 he says we do not put any confidence in the flesh—in other words, these false teachers do put confidence in their own flesh (their works).
You see, there was this group of people who were called the Judaizers. They were a group who were saying that it wasn’t enough to just believe in Jesus. They said that in order to be accepted by God, you also needed to be circumcised and follow all the OT food laws and ceremonies. You had to wear the Jewish clothes and you had to cut your hair just right. That’s how you got to be right with God. Yes, you needed Jesus, but you also needed to do the right things and following all the ceremonies.
But what it amounts to is a corruption of the gospel. What it basically says is that Jesus is not sufficient. Christ’s sacrifice didn’t satisfy God’s wrath and you need something more in order to get right with God. You need to contribute something to your salvation. And what that becomes is a gospel of works, which is no gospel at all.
And Paul doesn’t want us to get caught up with these false teachers. He doesn’t want us being naïve and thinking that everyone who uses Christian lingo is kosher. Not everyone who talks about Jesus is promoting Christ. There are some people out there that want to add to the gospel. There are people out there who want to subtract from the gospel. And we need to be attentive to this. If we follow their teachings, we won’t end up rejoicing in the Lord.
III. Your own vanity [5-6]
That is to say, you are not rejoicing in the Lord because you are too consumed with yourself and your own works.
Paul sets himself forward as a prime example of this in verses 5-6. Paul essentially admits that there was a time in his life when he was overly focused on his own presumed greatness.
And there’s no doubt that, by all human standards, he was pretty great. He gives us his resume and we can see that it was a stellar record. He was circumcised on the 8th day. He was not just any jew, but a benjamite which was one of the faithful clans of Israel. When it came to his adherence to the precepts of God’s law, he did a pretty spectacular job. After all, he was a Pharisee, which was a cut above everyone else and Paul recognizes that he was even better than most Pharisees. He says, as to righteousness under the law, he could be regarded by people as being blameless.
What he’s saying is that when compared with everyone else, Paul was head and shoulders above. No one could match how meticulous his obedience was. You would look at Paul and you would say, “He’s a model man!”
And that was Paul’s attitude. He would say, “Look at me; I’m the best. Look at what I’ve done and am doing. Shouldn’t God be proud.”
But that was all his arrogance. As a matter of fact it wasn’t until he came to meet Christ that he found that his righteousness was nothing by comparison. There was nothing to be proud of because the righteousness of Christ was so superior.
He could not rejoice in Christ because, for much of his life, he didn’t know that he needed to. When you think your works are good enough for God, there’s no need to rejoice in Jesus, is there? You can rejoice in yourself.
And any one of us can make that same mistake. When we compare ourselves with each other, we always come out looking pretty good. And some of us can look pretty good in comparison with the rest of the world. We grew up in a Christian family. We had family devotions. We’ve been baptized. We’ve never stolen anything, we’ve supported missions.
All of these can be good things, but they are still not enough. Christ demands absolute perfection. And until we see that his righteousness is far superior to ours and our righteousness is not near perfect, we will never truly rejoice in Christ.
Jesus Christ and the saving power that comes through his righteousness is the ground and occassion for real and lasting joy.
And perhaps this is where there's some real curiosity on your part. Maybe you've been sitting here thinking that you don't even have this joy. Maybe this is a foreign concept to you. If that's the case, maybe you need to put your faith in Christ and be pardoned of your sins. I'd assume that if you don't have any joy, it is because you have nothing to really rejoice in.
Here is the good news for you: The Lord is merciful and will forgive, if you confess your sin and embrace Christ as your Savior. You can begin to rejoice in the Lord today. Don't be vain and think you are fine. Your good works are not enough to earn God's favor. You must have a perfect righteousness; one that exceeds your own. And it is freely offered to you in Jesus. So come to Christ and be found in him.