Introduction

Our lesson this week takes us further into our living in our true identity as a child of God. We are going to, once again, take a look at a very familiar subject that we have discussed throughout the year: putting God first in our lives and not living with a carnal mindset. We must make sure that we have our priorities in order.

Put Off the World

Before we dive into what Paul said to the Philippians, I want to mention what Christ has said on the subject of putting God first, and having our priorities in order. Jesus taught, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matt. 6:24).” Do you understand what this means?

To live carnally, means that one is choosing to live according to the world. As we discussed in our lesson last week – To Live is Christ – the child of God cannot truly live according to their identity if they aren’t putting God first in their life. When our thoughts and our actions are guided by a worldly mindset, we live as servants of sin. When all we do is consume the riches of the world, our soul becomes what we eat, spiritually.

Paul’s testimony of giving up the world

With this in mind, Paul said here in the opening verse of our lesson that all he had gained he was now counting loss for Christ (v.7). Throughout his letters, Paul admits to once having a place like a Pharisee; he was taught and trained in the ways of the religious leaders, had great knowledge of the law, and worked to enforce God’s law on others (Acts 22:3-5).

So, why did Paul count all he had gained in the world as loss? Well, Paul tells us that those worldly gains were now considered to be rubbish (worthless) to him (v.8). Why did those worldly riches become rubbish to Paul? Paul found the knowledge of Christ to be more excellent (v.8); knowledge of Christ was far more valuable than the riches of the world. Do you agree with Paul?

I can honestly say that I fully understand what Paul is saying because I have come to truly despise worldly riches and the desire to grind and hustle to gain them. It takes a lot of maturing for people to come to such a mindset as we were raised to believe that the world’s riches were of great significance. So, we must sacrifice all of what the world has fed us to believe and be willing to be mocked and scoffed at for moving on from the world’s riches. Many will count those who value their fellowship with the Lord over worldly riches to be fools, but I tell you, there is nothing foolish about being in fellowship with the Lord.

Paul certainly agreed with the fact that there is nothing more valuable or special than being in fellowship with the Lord.  Paul said that he counted all things loss because he much rather be found in Christ and obtain the righteousness which is from God (v.9).  Paul said that he desired to “know [God] and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (vss.10-11).

I much rather those around me call me a fool than the Lord to ever call me a fool! I much rather obtain righteousness and salvation through faith in the Lord, than some imaginary righteousness that some believe they have because of their worldly riches. I feel this way, but what about you? Again, I ask, what is it that you hunger for – desire – out of life?

A Call to Press Towards Righteousness

In the rest of our lesson, we will see Paul urge and encourage others to join him with a mindset to obtain the righteousness of the Lord.

Paul, of himself, said, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me (v.12).”  Paul was making it very clear that he didn’t believe himself to be perfect.  If you have listened to me teach and preach over the years, then you know I always acknowledge that I am nowhere close to being perfect.

One of the biggest misconceptions that many people have who are not of the faith is that Christians are supposed to be perfect.  Sadly, there are many so-called believers that like to portray themselves as being perfect.  Let’s be clear about this, nobody is perfect.  However, when we press towards the salvation and righteousness that Christ has laid up for us, we strive in a manner to where we live as justified sinners.

Throughout his letters, Paul was adamant in how he felt he was chief of sinners, the worst kind.  I am also certain that many people held Paul’s sinful past against him and likely scoffed at him going around as a “holy man”.  Paul, however, did not let his past hold him back!

Paul said, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (vss.13-14).” Paul had done what I preached about a couple of months ago: he confronted himself and because the Lord had forgiven him, he was able to forgive himself. With God’s forgiveness and then him forgiving himself, he could no longer be hindered by who he once was no matter how many likely tried to hold his past against him.

Paul then encouraged, “as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you … let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind (vss.15-16).”  Paul’s desire was for the world and sin to no longer have rule over anybody that desired to attain the righteousness of God.  Paul’s testimony and encouragement, sets both the guide and hope that anybody can attain God’s salvation.

Do you desire to be a heavenly citizen

The question that must be answered by all people is, again, what do you desire in the life you live?  Do you desire the heavenly kingdom or do you desire the riches of this world?  Again, for myself, heaven is easily more valuable than this world and its riches.

Within this passage of scripture, we see a rather sad admission that Paul made to the Philippians about some who he personally knew and had spoken of that were not striving towards righteousness.  Paul stated, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:  whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things (vss.18-19).”

You may actually share in common with Paul this same statement.  Paul spoke of those who had professed their faith, but nothing about their actions spoke of one being committed to God.  Paul personally knew those he was writing about in this verse and he likely desired for them to be pressing towards righteousness.  Yet, it saddened him that those whom he had once spoken of were more committed to earthly things than the way of God.

You have heard me say this before and this is not something I say boastfully and with laughter in my voice because this is honestly a very sad statement:  there are many that come to church every Sunday and go to bible study every Wednesday whose end is destruction.  There are sincere believers and then there are those who are faux; they say they believe in God, but as Paul said, their god is their belly, their glory is in their shame as their minds are set on earthly things.

Paul said, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (v.20).”  Yes, we live in this world but we are not citizens of this world.  Now, this will be confusing to some because they will say, pastor, you’re a citizen of the United States of America; you’re a citizen of the world.

However, I will point out to anybody that my citizenship in this world is only temporary — it is going to come to an end one day.  What Paul and I are saying is that this world is not our home.  The fact of the matter is that this world is nobody’s home as we will all one day leave this world.  

So, our mindset must change when it comes to this reality.  What reality am I speaking of?  This world is temporary; it cannot and is not heaven.  We must give up the thoughts that the riches of this world are more valuable than anything.  If you can never give up this notion, sadly, you will one day lose your soul for eternity. 

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