Summary: This message is an exposition of Philippians 3:7-11. Here Paul offers himself as an example of the changes that occur when a person is truly born again: (1) A Change in Values (2) A Change in Righteousness (3) A Change in Life Goals.
We are in a study of Philippians. Our text today is found in Philippians 3:7-11. We will begin by reading that from the New International Version.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”i
In the verses prior to this Paul has launched a warning to the Philippian Christians about the Judaizers who would try to bring them back under the ceremonial rules and regulations of the Old Covenant. He focuses on circumcision because that is the most important ceremony of Judaism. If circumcision is not required under the New Covenant and it is the most significant ritual, then the lesser rules and regulations of concerning food, feasts, sabbaths, and other ceremonial provisions are not required either.ii In Philippians 3:2-4 he writes, “Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.” He follows that with a list of his own Jewish credentials. Then he begins our text by discounting all that as worthless compared to knowing Christ.
Paul still has this warning in mind as he discusses his own attitude toward the Jewish rituals versus his relationship with Christ. After he gives his personal testimony, he reasserts the warning in Philippians 3:18-20: “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven.” So that is the context of our passage today.
I find in our text three key indicators of a true conversion: signs that a person has indeed met Christ in a personal way and was genuinely born again.iii The problem of false conversions has plagued Christianity since it began. In many ways Judas looked like a true disciple of Jesus. He openly followed Jesus. He was trusted with the treasury. He was heavily involved in ministry, preaching the word, healing the sick, and working miracles in the name of Christ.iv On the surface, he looked like the other apostles. Only Jesus knew Judas for what he really was. In the upper room when Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray Him, nobody said, “It is Judas, I knew it all along.” Instead each one said, “Lord, is it I.”v
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (NKJV). These people were involved in the externals, but they had no personal relationship with the Lord.
Look back over church history and you see vast numbers of false converts. Think about all the people who jumped on board in Constantine’s day. Many claimed Christianity for political advantage. They did not know the Lord. They simply knew they could enjoy an easier life if the professed Christianity.vi Think about the people who followed the rituals and superstitions of the Catholic church during the middle ages. God has always had a remnant who “know Him.” But most of those who professed Christianity during that time were relying on the rituals of the Catholic Church for salvation. They had no personal relationship with the Lord.
Think about the multitudes today who think they are saved and are not! About 80% of Americans consider themselves to be Christians.vii Only about 2% of Americans believe they will go to hell.viii Yet Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”ix In that gap there has to be many false converts. The is no reference to sin in a lot of altar calls today—no conviction of the Holy Spirit, no call to repentance. The call is essentially is come join the Jesus club and enjoy all the benefits. The responses are counted as conversions. I hope they are, but I doubt they are.