Life in Reverse (Philippians 3:1-10)


Some of the best things in life are reversible:

–          Phone lookup (how do you think telemarketers/ or our church gets your #?)

–          Instant replay to reverse referee mistakes

–          Clothing (makes double the wardrobe)

–          Hair loss (can you say rogaine? hair club for men?)

–          Belts (brown & black)

–          Boxers (only if you’re a boy middle school or college would you know of this)

–          Death is reversible through the resurrection not personal resume of achievement

EXAMINE           Philippians 3:1-9

Paul is writing a letter to a group of people called the Philippians. He is warning (them of people who seek to mix-up the true message of Christianity. These are people who want to add to the gospel. In other words, they say you have to believe in Jesus + _______. Some of these additions were legalistic rules which we will explore in some detail to follow. The key point is Jesus + Nothing = Everything! Paul explains this principle by telling his life story. He gives his personal resume of where he felt he had confidence before God. But what is significant is he shows how all these things are REVERSED in that they fail to give him assurance, only what God has accomplished through Jesus Christ gives hope.

Christianity is not a matter of your Race (3:4-5a).

Paul could boast of his heritage as a circumcised Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. Circumcision was the first requirement of the law for Jewish males as it was an external act symbolizing an inward obedience to God of removing sin; additionally it was an act of hygiene. His ancestry was enviable and pure (no proselyte!) being a Hebrew and of the tribe of Benjamin. The Benjamin Tribe played significant role in Israelite history producing Saul (Israel’s first king – and also the original name of this apostle). They had a reputation as being warriors and experts with the sling (Gen 49:27; Judges 20:16). Being part of a tribe of God’s special people the Jews was enough for many to take pride in before God. However, in the end, even this did not give him any lasting confidence.

Race is often a central issue two millennia later. People view other races differently and unfortunately some with a negative connotation. Paul’s point was that race, though important for personal heritage, is not a final identifying factor before God. Ultimately, there is no supreme or master race, there’s only one race – the human race that God created. We all stand with the first man, Adam, as a sinner needing grace. So, Christianity is not a matter of your race.

Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” 

Christianity is not a matter of your Religion (3:5b).

Paul could brag that he was a Pharisee, one of the strictest sects of Judaism. A “Pharisee” was a “separated one”. They were separated to rigorous study the law and away from those who were unrighteous. Their belief was that obedience to law and righteous acts allowed them to approach God. They wore boxes that contained written Scripture on their foreheads. They were so zealous for obeying the law that they even gave a tithe (tenth) from their spice racks (Mt 23:23). Jesus said they were like “white-washed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones” (Mt 23:27).

Religion can be good but honestly, deep down it is just as empty as anything else. Being religious means a person is good at checking boxes – the boxes of attending church, perhaps being baptized, giving money, staying busy in the church, etc. People often pride themselves in being Baptists, Presbyterians, etc. only to neglect the motivation and purpose of religion which should point toward God. Without Jesus, religion is empty.

Amos 5:21-23 “I hate, I despise your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. 22 Even if you offer Me your burnt offerings and  grain offerings, I will not accept [them] ; I will have no regard for your  fellowship offerings of fattened cattle. 23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.”

Isaiah 1:14-1514 I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with [them] . 15 When you lift up your hands [in prayer] , I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen.”

 Isaiah 29:13 “13 The Lord said: Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip–service — yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship [consists of] man–made rules learned [by rote]”

Christianity is not a matter of your Righteousness (3:6).

Paul could brag of his zeal for serving God. He claimed to be righteous under the law, even blameless. Others could examine Paul’s life and find no moral fault in his life. This is not saying he was perfect, only that he was above reproach. His zeal for righteousness even led him to judge and persecute others who did not believe as he did. Of course, this persecution was carried out even to the point of murdering Christians. It is a wonder how many people have been killed ‘in the name of God’. 

Many compare their personal actions or lifestyle with others. They think, “I’m not as bad as so and so.” In this thinking we set up a human balance of good and bad, hoping that our good outweighs the bad and God will give us His approval. The problem is two-fold:

1)       Even one bad deed makes us guilty before a holy, perfect God.

Matthew 5:48 “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

2)       Even our good deeds are for personal attainment.

Isaiah 64:6 “all our righteous acts are like filthy (menstrual) rags…”
Philippians 3:8 “I count them as rubbish (dung)”

Christianity is a matter of Jesus’ Resurrection (3:9-10).

Paul understood that his race, religion and righteousness all fell short of God’s perfect standard. As if on a ledger column, he counted all these things as loss and nothing was to his credit before God. This is exactly the point where Jesus enters in. Paul said that knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior is a surpassing worth than anything combined on his resume. Knowing Jesus means to know Him in his death and resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection proves His identity significance over any other person thereby granting Him authority and the right to be worshiped. Therefore, all race, religion and personal righteousness must be connected to Jesus. You connect to Jesus “through faith, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (3:9)”


3 final ways to approach God:

1)       Do Nothing- stay in disbelief

2)       Do Everything- try earning your way

3)       DONE- know you’re a sinner needing forgiveness, rest in Christ’s finished work

*Living life in reverse is realizing that you will never measure up to God’s standard of perfection. SO, you give up- surrender your life to God. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (3:7). You give God your sin, he gives you his righteousness… what an amazing exchange! Are you ready to approach God through His finished and sufficient work on the cross and resurrection? You do so by grace through faith…

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