Summary: To be transformed by God is to show that everything that everything else we have pursued so intensely in life amount to no more than "a pile of dung."
Worthless, Worthless Garbage
Phil 3:1-11 Feb 6, 2011
How many of you know what this is:
I’ll give you a hint: it is the world’s third most valuable commodity, after sugar and coffee. I’ll give you another hint – next week is valentines’ day and millions of pounds of it will be sold to men as gifts which they will probably eat a lot of themselves…
This is a picture of chocolate. Technically, it isn’t chocolate yet. These are cacao pods, growing on the trunk of a tree, but this is where chocolate comes from. But it must be transformed first… The process, as described by wikipedia, is this: “The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried, then cleaned, and then roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because this cocoa mass usually is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar.” (“Chocolate”, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate).
After all that work, those funny looking pods are transformed into something that many of us love – but it takes a lot of change, a lot of effort, and an outside hand. The cacao pod cannot change itself, it takes the hand of an experienced master to transform it.
The last few weeks in our study of Philippians we have been talking about this idea of transformation – of moving from some external, forced attempt to “do what we are supposed to do”, through a place of authenticity where we are genuine and honest about who we are but then remain unchanged (we are authentically sinful), to a place where we receive and experience the transforming love of God that acts on us like the chocolate maker acts on the cacao pods to transform them into chocolate. That theme continues as we begin chapter 3.
There are four parts to the 11 verses we are going to look at this morning. Verse 1 is a general command. Verses 2-4 are a warning, which lead into verses 5-6 where Paul describes himself as a supreme example of one whose own efforts should be enough, and finally verses 7-11 describe how Paul now sees those efforts. Let’s look at these one at a time.
Rejoice (vs 1):
“1 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.”
The idea of “rejoicing” is a theme throughout Philippians, and it introduces this new section of the letter. Here it is a general command, “rejoice in the Lord”. Paul knows he is being repetitive, “I never get tired of telling you”, and this very repetition tells us something important about the process of transformation. And it goes further, Paul describes it as “safeguarding your faith”. What is he saying? How does “rejoicing” work with “transformation”, and how does it “safeguard” our faith? Let’s do a little exercise together. Earlier we shared in corporate prayer – let’s take one of those and see how we might “rejoice in the Lord” in that situation.
As we do, let’s get past the idea that “joy” is the same as happiness. Happiness is a feeling dependent on circumstances; Christian joy is an attitude. From Peter O’Brien, “This is not an admonition to some kind of superficial cheerfulness that closes its eyes to the surrounding circumstances. Rather, the apostle is inculcating a positive Christian attitude of joy that finds outward expression in their lives and that realistically takes into account the adverse circumstances, trials, and pressures through which the Philippians were called to pass. It also recognizes God’s mighty working in and through those circumstances to fulfill his own gracious purposes in Christ.” (The Epistle to the Philippians, NIGNT, p. 349). So let’s pick one of our CP requests and apply this verse to it.
How does that transform us? How does that “safeguard” our faith?
The Warning (vs 2-4):
“2 Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, 4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!”