The Pursuit of Happiness: Labelmaker
Philippians 3.1-11, Audio Download: www.cantonfamilies.org/events
What defines who you are? Often it can be your career, your economic level, your lifestyle, the quality of your kids’ behavior, the quality of your marital relationship.
In this passage, Paul reminds the Christ-followers in Philippi to remain joyful and then he gives a warning: watch out for dogs, evil men, mutilators of flesh. There were other Christians who had Jewish heritage that were going around to non-Jewish Christians (Gentiles) and telling them they weren’t really part of God’s people unless the men were circumcised. Paul attempts to speak against this movement because he recognizes what has happened to circumcision: once, when originally called for by God to Abraham, it was an act of faith on Abraham’s part that God would provide a child to he and his wife who were childless. Now, at the time when Paul writes, circumcision was no longer an act of faith but an act of identifying yourself with the "right" group of people. Paul says that, in fact, people who believe that they are God’s people and saved by Him solely because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit are actually the people of true spiritual circumcision. They are living by faith, and the Jewish Christians trying to require physical circumcision are living by what they do to identify themselves.
We do the same thing today. We want to believe that we are truly accepted, forgiven and loved by God as we are. But there are too many voices around us telling us we’re not smart enough, not attractive enough, not rich enough, not prestigious enough, not respectable enough, not a good enough parent, not a good enough spouse, and on and on. So we learn that we are not acceptable to anyone else, so how could we be acceptable to God. This reality has a very negative impact on our ability to be happy, to be free and to experience the fullness of life. Paul, when he came to know and understand who Jesus was, viewed all his other accomplishments, his pedigree, his intellectual ability, his heritage and his rigorous spirituality as worthless in light of what he understood about himself in light of the good news of Jesus. And he says that this is his pursuit now–to know everything he can about Jesus to experience everything he can of Jesus and to fellowship any way he can with Jesus. Understanding who he was in Christ freed him from living up to everyone else’s expectations for what he should be and enabled him to experience all that God had in store to give him.
This is the call of the gospel: understand ourselves and our priceless worth to God and break free from the slavish life that is always trying to prove itself to someone else or to ourselves. In Christ, we no longer have to prove anything. We are free to become who God has designed us to be without demand, without frustration, without scolding. We are his children and He will grow us as He works out His salvation in our lives.