SERMON – Living to Know Jesus (Philippians 3)

Yesterday I preached at Jubilee and thought, as usual, that I would share my notes and the audio here. But before I get to that, since it’s Monday and my habit in “normal” times is to share a quote with you from Doctor Martyn Lloyd-Jones, this quote is a good one to begin with as, in many ways, it sets the scene for what I was preaching on.

“What should we be seeking? We should always be seeking the Lord Jesus Christ himself, to know him, and know his love and to be witnesses for him and to minister to his glory . . . The Apostle Paul says that the height of his ambition is ‘that I might know him’. Not that he might have experiences, but that he ‘might know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings’ etc…. We should seek to know him and his love. You see, we are told of the Spirit, ‘The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.’

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-JonesNow take that great term again, ‘shed abroad’. Do not put your little limit to it and say, ‘Oh yes, I love God’. Paul says that the love of God is ‘shed abroad’ in great profusion, overwhelmingly, in our hearts. Now that is what we should seek. We believe in God, in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the doctrines of salvation. All right! But the question that confronts us at this particular point is not that of believing, but love! A belief that does not lead to love is a very doubtful belief, it may be nothing but intellectual assent. The emphasis of the Bible is always upon love …. ‘What is the first and the chiefest commandment?’ Not that ‘thou shalt believe in the Lord thy God’, but that ‘thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy mind, and all thy strength’ ….

There is nothing that will enable a man to do that but the baptism of the Holy Spirit. You can believe and in a sense have a measure of love; but the thing put before us is not just a measure of love, it is an abounding love …..

Here, then, is the question—to what extent do we know this love of God to us and how do we love God? We are meant to love him with the whole of our being and there is nothing that can make us do so but the love of God shed abroad in our hearts ….

This is New Testament Christianity! New Testament Christianity is not just a formal, polite, correct, and orthodox kind of faith and belief. No! What characterizes it is this element of love and passion, this pneumatic element, this life, this vigour, this abandon, this exuberance—and, as I say, it has ever characterized the life of the church in all periods of revival and of reawakening. That is what we must seek—not experiences, not power, not gifts. If he chooses to give them to us, thank God for them and exercise them to his glory, but the only safe way of receiving gifts is that you love him and that you know him.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joy Unspeakable, The Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Ed. Christopher Catherwood, Kingsway Publications: Eastbourne, 1995, pp. 360-361.

You can download my sermon or listen to it right here:

Philippians 3 is a great passage. In some ways, it’s one of my favorite passages, one God has kept bringing me back to over the years.

The Apostle starts this passage with the phrase, “Finally, REJOICE in the LORD” — and he is going to come back to that, but as he says that, he almost gets excited and goes off into a bit of a tangent, a diversion that will be our subject today. It’s almost as if that word “Lord” triggers something in him, because for him the Lord is, of course, Jesus. It excites him and he starts to think about our subject today. He starts off by saying, “Look, it’s good for me to remind you of these things.” And sometimes I think when we hear God’s Word, especially if we’ve been Christians a long time, we think, “Oh, yeah, I know it all” — and, in a sense, there will be nothing new today. So why does he say these things?

Paul gets angry. Preachers get angry. Why? Because TRUTH MATTERS. He has strong opposition to false teaching. Urges them STRONGLY to avoid DOGS—not talking about pets here! Talking about “street dogs,” dangerous dogs, potential killers. But can be disguised to look like sheep. Watch out for those who mutilate flesh. Outwardly appear on God’s side. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. So Paul then asks what are the marks of living as a true Christian?

MARKS OF LIVING AS A CHRISTIAN

  • Christians have the “real circumcision” i.e. HEARTS cut out, new heart, regenerated, devoted to Jesus. It’s not about externals— circumcision, clothing, hair styles, etc. (verse 3).

  • Christians are worshippers, every moment of every day, looking for opportunity to give God glory (verse 3).
  • Christians worship by the Spirit of God — no confidence in the flesh, not man-empowered. Christians are Spirit-empowered (verse 3).
  • Christians glory in Jesus—the one we honor, delight in. Paul could have written our church motto “It’s all about Jesus.”
  • Christians have no confidence in human ability/qualifications (verse 3ff) Paul was the Jew of Jews. Thought killing Christians was serving God. You can be sincerely WRONG! He was religiously blameless, but a murderer!! Hypocrisy of religion knows no bounds. But we are not looking for holy people here, rather people who know they need God. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous, but for sinners.
  • BIGGEST mark of living as a Christian is simply this: LIVING TO KNOW JESUS

WHAT DOES “LIVING TO KNOW JESUS” LOOK LIKE? WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?

A DECISION — everything is DUNG compared to the SURPASSING WORTH of knowing him, the risen, ascended, glorious, loving King. COUNTS everything unimportant. Do the math! (verses 7-8).

A LOSS — of everything! “I have suffered the loss of all things …” (verse 8).

A GAIN — “… that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (verse 8).

A HIDING PLACE — from the world “in Christ” and from God’s wrath (verse 9).

AN ALIEN RIGHTEOUSNESS — a righteousness that comes from outside of ourself, a goodness. But it’s only those who know Christ. “Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (verse 9).

But notice this! It doesn’t stop there! There’s a goal, not just that your sins will be forgiven, as glorious as that is. Not just that I might feel better, or not feel guilty anymore. Danger of turning gospel into merely something that deals with our felt needs. Rather, A PRECIOUS RELATIONSHIP — THAT I MAY KNOW HIM!!!! We were made to have a relationship with Jesus. He wants us to know him. That’s the goal! It’s not merely about being religious!

A POWERFUL FORCE — the power of his resurrection (verse 10). Christian
s should be conscious of the glorious power of the resurrection pulsating through their bodies. This is the heritage of the Christian. [Jonathan Edwards' quote—See below.]

A COMMUNITY OF SUFFERING — Not all glorious, however. Don’t want to deceive. We share also with him in his suffering Become like him in his death (verse 10).

A GLORIOUS RESURRECTION — But also become like him in his resurrection. A glorious resurrection to come, but also experienced even in the here and now. (verse 11). “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” — a perfect relationship with Jesus in heaven. But God says in this passage you don’t have to wait until heaven for “pie in the sky” when you die. There is cake on your plate while you wait! There is an obtaining, even in the here and now. Live the resurrection empowered life—know the power of God at work in me, experientially today to foretaste what will be mine in perfection in glory (verse 12ff).

Paul finishes the chapter by talking about an example for others to follow — “Imitate me, follow me, keep your eyes on people who are walking this way, copy them.”

Example not to follow: those who are enemies of the cross. But Christians don’t glory in the damnation of anyone. Don’t have enemies we are angry with, but have enemies for whom we weep. The belly is their god (their desires), running after flesh, whether food, sex, new clothes, etc. But for us, our bodies will be transformed, become like Jesus. They glory in their shame; we glory in our Saviour. Their end is destruction; our citizenship is in heaven. Not of this world (verse 17ff).

Background Quote

“Once, as I rode out into the woods for my health in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God as Mediator between God and man, and His wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens. The Person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour, which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud . . . I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust and to be full of Christ alone; to love Him with a holy and pure love; to trust in Him; to live upon Him; to serve and follow Him and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure with a divine and heavenly purity.” (Jonathan Edwards, cited by Martyn Lloyd-Jones in An Exposition of Ephesians 1, God’s Ultimate Purpose, p. 275)

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and part of the leadership team of Jubilee Church, London for more than ten years, serving alongside Tope Koleoso. His book, Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything was published by Crossway, January 2010. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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