At Gateway Church in Austin, we are going through a series called Emoji: ManageYour Moods.
Here is an overview of the series:
The life of the Apostle Paul is one of hardship, pain and uncertainty, and yet his letters to the early churches are filled with expressions of peace and joy! How did this man, who endured so much, encourage so many to have joy in all circumstances?
This week Ted Beasley spoke on “Confidence In What Matters” at Gateway North, and I spoke at Gateway South.
Click for the Next Steps for this message.
Here is the audio of the message I shared:
Here are the notes from the message:
We’re in a series called EMOJI: Manage Your Moods. Why? Because we feel like it!
Seriously though, how can we get past that mentality? How can we get past letting how we feel sabotage us? How can we avoid letting another person’s bad day turn into our bad day? How can we keep from allowing one bad day to turn into a bad week or into a bad month or even a bad year?
In chapter 1, Paul makes reference to a constant irritant in his life and ministry. Paul was often criticized for his message, his preaching and how he did ministry. There were rivals and competitors in the 1st Century church, guys who wanted power and influence among the churches. They enriched themselves with their preaching, and they made it their aim to knock Paul down.
15-17 I am well aware that some people out there are preaching the message of the Anointed One because of jealousies and rivalries. Their motives aren’t pure. They’re driven by selfish ambitions and personal agendas, hoping somehow to add to my pain here in prison. And I also know there are others who are preaching the Anointed from true goodness, motivated by love. They wish me the best because they know I’m here in prison in defense of the gospel.
18 So what do we do then? Listen. What matters is that in every way, regardless of the motives—whether pure or shady—the great story of the Anointed is a cause for joy. I will continue to rejoice…
– Philippians 1:15-18
Don’t you love his attitude, even when others are trying to tear down his accomplishments and character? Paul says, “My joy isn’t defined by my résumé, by what I do and what others say about it.”
This morning, I want you to consider your spiritual résumé. Just as we look at Paul’s resume. All good resumes include the following:
- OBJECTIVE – determining what you are looking for in your career
- EDUCATION – lets the employer know whether or not you have sufficient training.
- EXPERIENCE – your chance to talk about the amazing things you can do.
- REFERENCES – your chance to let others speak on your behalf
We are going to turn this into a spiritual resume because ultimately, your satisfaction in life comes down to how you answer four questions. At the end of our lives, nobody ever wishes that they had better bullet points on their resumes. Joy is found in how you answer:
- Am I accomplishing something of meaning in the world?
- Do I know God?
- Was a good person?
- Are others impacted by my life?
Let’s soak up the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 3, as he explains how he found the answers to those questions, how he built his spiritual résumé. And I’ve kind of organized these questions around sections in a résumé, and let’s start at the bottom of the resume.
Usually the last thing a potential employer checks are your references.
#1 References: Are others impacted by my life?
Remember in Philippians 2, Paul is reminding the church community reading this letter that we find our life by losing our lives in serving others.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4
Paul begins Philippians 3 by admitting, “I really cannot give you the formula for success. But I can give you the formula for failure. It’s this: Try to please the wrong people.”
2 Watch out for the dogs—wicked workers who run in packs looking for someone to maul with their false circumcision.
3 We are the true circumcision—those who worship God in Spirit and make our boast in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King—so we do not rely on what we have accomplished in the flesh.
4 If any try to throw around their pedigrees to you, remember my résumé—which is more impressive than theirs.
– Philippians 3:2-4 (The Voice)
These dogs to whom Paul was referring were a religious group within the first-century church known as the Judiazers. Christianity was born out of Judaism, and some Jewish Christians believed it was essential for any Gentiles who want to be Christians to follow the old ways. God intervened in some pretty miraculous ways early on in the history of the church to show Christians that there was no need for them to follow all of the laws of the Old Testament in order to please God. Judiazers hated this and made Paul’s life difficult. He would travel on missionary journeys to different Gentile cities and he would spend time there and start a church of new Christians. When he would leave that city, these Judiazers would roll into town and start imposing strict Jewish standards on the new Christians. One of the biggest issues for the Judiazers was circumcision. Circumcision was a ritual instituted in the Old Testament in Genesis 17 to serve as a physical marking that a Jewish male belonged to God. These Judiazers come to this church that Paul started in Philippi and told the mostly Gentile male population that if they want to be real Christians, then they need to be circumcised. In these verses, Paul says that the Philippians don’t need to do that (probably much to the relief of the adult male population of that church). Paul says, you don’t need the approval of judgmental people. Part of the secret to real joy for Paul was deciding he did not live for the applause of others.
Whose applause do you live for? What person have you placed on a pedestal? Whose words of praise inflate your ego? Whose criticism crushes you? A father who withheld his blessing. A big sister who always seemed to be good at everything? A boss who regularly reviews your performance? The mom down the street with perfect clothes and perfect kids and a perfect life? It’s wired into us from childhood that we impress people by being strong and competent.
Who have you been trying to impress when it comes to your career or your marriage or your lifestyle or even your spirituality? Choose wisely, Paul says.
#2: Experience: Was I a good person?
By good person, the idea is making decisions so that how we live our lives matches our faith.
Here comes Paul’s résumé in verses 4-8.
4 If any try to throw around their pedigrees to you, remember my résumé—which is more impressive than theirs. 5 I was circumcised on the eighth day—as the law prescribes—born of the nation of Israel, descended from the tribe of Benjamin. I am a Hebrew born of Hebrews; I have observed the law according to the strict piety of the Pharisees, separate from those embracing a less rigorous kind of Judaism. 6 Zealous? Yes. I ruthlessly pursued and persecuted the church. And when it comes to the righteousness required by the law, my record is spotless.
7 But whatever I used to count as my greatest accomplishments, I’ve written them off as a loss because of the Anointed One, Jesus. 8 And more so, I now realize that all I gained and thought was important was nothing but yesterday’s garbage compared to knowing the Anointed Jesus my Lord. For Him I have thrown everything aside—it’s nothing but a pile of waste—so that I may gain Him.
-Philippians 3:4-8 (The Voice)
What a Jewish résumé! He had birthright privileges: he was a native Israelite, of the tribe of Benjamin, which was one of the most honored family lines in the country. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews – both of his parents were Jewish, and his two family sides had never intermarried with Gentiles. He had some major religious achievements: he was a Pharisee, which meant that he was an expert lawyer. Not only that, he had been trained by the pre-eminent lawyer of his time, a guy named Gamiliel. And not only did he know the law, but he kept it to near perfection. His zeal and determination even drove him to persecute the Christians. Here is a man who had done everything required by his faith and more. If a person could be right with God based on human achievement, Paul would have been God’s best friend. But, that’s not the way it works. In Acts 9, you can read about the story of Paul’s sudden conversion on the Damascus road when he was blinded by God. After that point, Paul’s attitude towards his past accomplishments changed. Previously they formed the basis of his confidence that on judgment day, but now Paul sees all of those gains as losses compared to the new life that he has in knowing God. Righteousness, or being found blameless before God, has nothing to do with what Paul does or doesn’t do. It is something that God gives a person when they put faith in Jesus Christ.
Notice what he says about his spiritual CV? I consider everything a loss. I consider it garbage. The Greek word here for garbage, which was the language Paul writes it in, is skubala, a word that is difficult to translate. Most Bibles translate it rubbish, dung, or excrement, words that are too polite and really don’t capture Paul’s true feelings. You know what word Paul’s saying. It’s that one word we shouldn’t say in church. Can I say it?
Skubala is the best biblical Greek word EVER. It’s more like a bumper sticker word – Skubala happens. Skubala was happening in the lives of the Judiazers. They thought that if they observed a few outward rituals, then they would be okay with God. Skubala was happening in Paul’s life. He spent the first half of his life believing that God was getting a pretty good deal in him for all of his ability to keep the rules. Skubala happens in your life and mine. Anything that is currently keeping you from living in grace – no matter how good it might otherwise be – is skubala. It’s excrement, it’s trash, it’s a waste of your time.
Anything that you would attempt to prove your worth in this life is a waste of time. By instinct, I feel like I must do something in order to be accepted. But God cannot be impressed by our achievements or the good stuff that we do. Isaiah 64 says that our righteous acts are like filthy rags to God. In other words, we can’t do enough good things to make up for the sin in our lives. God asks only that we recognize the skubala in our life and appeal to him for his grace. And when that happens, we receive grace.
Listen to this definition of grace from Timothy Keller:
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us….
It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you.”
– Timothy Keller
Your worth, Paul says, is based on the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus and being found in him. Right now God looks at you sees the righteousness of Jesus. When we come to Christ and gain him, he wraps you in his righteousness and presents us, faultless, before his father, before God, who is a holy God with justifiable wrath against sin. I wouldn’t stand a moment before him in myself, but I get access to the holy God because I am wrapped in Jesus. If you’ve gained Christ, there’s nothing more in this world you can earn. There’s no way you can impress any further. You have already accomplished something meaningful in life because you have been found in Christ. Doesn’t that feel amazing?
#3: Education: Do I know God?
We put a lot of value on education, what we know. Millennials are the most highly educated in America history, but 28% of recent graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. That’s why 36% of Millennials still live with their parents.
Let’s pick our text back up in verse 9. Paul has said my own education as a Pharisee is excrement. It doesn’t make me a good person.
What makes me good is to gain Christ . . . 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. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
– Philippians 3:9-11
How do I have confidence that I’m a good person? Paul says it doesn’t come from knowing the law, the rules of religion, or even keeping them all. It’s about faith. When you have faith, God makes you righteous. He gives you the righteousness of Jesus. You’ve gained Christ. You’ve been found in him. You’re a good person. You’re saved Paul, is that enough for you? No, he says in verse 10, I want to know Christ.
Does anyone find this weird? He wants to know Christ. Don’t you want to say, Paul, I think you already kinda know him, buddy. If we were to have some contest on stage today to see who knows Jesus the best. Would you want to go up against Paul? Has Jesus ever struck you blind and talked you for 10 minutes about his calling for your life? Can anyone compete with Paul on that? Or we know from 2 Corinthians 12 that Paul says, “14 years ago, I was lifted up into the third heavens where no man has ever gone before, and I spent a whole season with Jesus in the third heaven with the resurrected Christ.”
Not only that, check out the book of Romans sometime. Nobody writes with a deeper, richer understanding of all the facets of Jesus than Paul does. But Paul, of all people says, at the end of my life, the goodness I want to be known for is that I wanted to know Jesus. He’s clearly not talking in a biographical sense. And yes, at a church like Gateway, some of us are pretty immature in our understanding of what Jesus did and said in the Gospels. And you need to pick up your Bible and start reading. And Paul’s not talking in a theological knowing sense.
Paul says knowing Christ is something even deeper than that. “At the end of my life, I still have this passion to know him.” That’s when you start knowing him the right way. You never get enough of him.
At the end of his life, after striving to be a good person, after all of his spiritual accomplishments, Paul says: “I still long to know Jesus.” And the Greek word here is not about intellectual knowledge. It’s experiential. I want to take steps to be more intimate with him. I want to go deeper into worship. I want to listen for his voice and respond to his leadings. I want more. Knowing him is about pursuing an experience with him. Are you following your longing to go deeper?
#4: Objective: Am I accomplishing something meaningful?
A résumé begins with an objective, what you are trying to achieve. What’s your priority? What are you orienting your life around? How do you know what your priority is? Jesus says, in Matthew 6:21: The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Your Next Steps document this week challenges you measure your God priorities versus where you are spending your attention and time and money. It will guide you through this week to do a quick audit of your calendar app, your bank account and your social media feeds. Nothing these days tells us more about what’s important to us that what we are posting. Just step back and take a look at what these three areas of your life are saying about what’s most important.
Paul wraps up this section by talking about his priorities at the end of his life.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
– Phil. 3:12-14
Despite all of his accomplishments. Despite his education and his knowledge. Despite what a good person he’s been, look at what words he’s using. I’m pressing. I’m still taking hold. I’m straining forward. Paul’s saying, I can do more.
Isn’t that weird. He’s like Oscar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s list. Remember that scene. All of the Jewish people he rescued from the concentrations camps are lined up and thanking him. And this great man who risked everything and devoted his life to saving people, breaks down crying uncontrollably. “I could have done more. I could have sold my watch. I could have auctioned my car. I could have given more of myself.” Great people of faith are like that.
Did you read Mother Theresa’s autobiography? In it, this Nobel Prize winner, this glorious example of Christian charity wrote that one of her daily prayers was, “Lord, may I truly obey you, starting today, to be a courier of your love and your grace to a hurting world. Because up to now, I really have done nothing.”
Henrietta Mears is one of my heroes of faith. She was this funny looking gradmotherly lady who work weird dresses and big funny hats back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. But she devoted her life’s work to teaching young people about their Christian calling. And God blessed her work. And she influenced great leaders like Billy Graham and all kinds of famous ministers and missionaries. More importantly, she taught young business people who went on to impact the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of hundreds of millions of people. Henrietta fully lived her calling, but at the end of her life, in the days before her death, a journalist asked her, “Ms. Mears, if you could do it over, what would you have done differently.” Do you know what her response was? This great woman of the faith said, “I would have trusted God for more.”
Do you have that wish right now? Maybe it’s even a regret. It’s not too late to trust God for more! In this section of Philippians, the Apostle Paul wads up his spiritual résumé and tosses it in the rubbish pile. He says I just want to be found in Jesus. I just want to know him. And I’m not done yet. Even though I’m old and facing a death sentence here in this Roman prison, I still have life to give. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Let me wrap with this, Paul’s advice is solid. If you live to know yourself, you’re going to bored to death. You’re not that special. Seriously. Nobody is enthralling or entertaining enough to keep themselves awestruck for the rest of their life. Philippians 3 can totally shift our mindsets on this. There will always be someone smarter than you are, more successful in the eyes of the world than you are, more eloquent than you are, more powerful than you are.
It is exhausting to measure myself against the world’s standards. I’m tired of wondering what people think about me. I’m sick of needing to know I did a good job. It took me way too long to figure all of this out, but I just want to know Jesus. “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Are you with me?