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Philippians 3:12-4:1 | Happiness & Effort


Debrief offers an abridged outline of the Sunday sermon for individuals or Community Groups alike, to re-engage the content of the Sunday sermon. This outline is far from complete, but serves to give a track or road map to walk through the content of Sunday in another context during the week.

Naturally ability is the foundation for any kind of progress. But natural ability sees it's most fruit when its employed and accompanied by effort. This is not only true in the natural, but in the spiritual:

New Natural Ability

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

New Spirit Empowered Effort

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling….. – Philippians 2:12

This is another one of those tensions in the Christian life. There is nothing we can do to Earn our sanctification, but we can, we must, give Effort to it.

As with any tension, this tension gets stretched to one extreme or the other.

  • Legalism: everything depends on your effort.; “God helps those who help themselves.”
  • Liberalism: nothing depends on your effort, so don’t make any; “Let go and let God.”
  • Love: This is the correct posture held in tension. Nothing ultimately depends on your effort, but on the effort of Jesus, so give your effort as He gave His, out of love for Him.

The entire context for out time together this morning is the context of Relationship. NOT rules, regulations, rituals, requirements, religion…..

BIG IDEA: The happiest Christians on earth are the ones that employ the most effort in knowing Jesus, not in legalism or liberalism, but in love, out of love and for the love of Jesus.

Happy Christians Give Their Effort to Self-Examination (Phil 3:12-14)

  • Paul was contrasting himself to the false teachers in what it means to be perfect.
  • The false teachers saw perfection in the context of Rules
  • Paul says perfection in the context of Relationship…….becoming more and more like Jesus, the Perfect Man

Paul’s gave his first effort to self-examination and repentance (Phil 3:12-14)

Have you found that the happiest Christians are the ones that see themselves for who they are, and are more thrilled with Jesus for who He is?

Two Extremes: (1) Self-Loathing (2) Self-Infatuated Loving

How do you avoid these extremes?

Bishop Handley Moule (1920) Bishop of Durham

  • Pitching your tent always between the empty cross and the empty tomb 

How can I give some more intentional effort to self-examination?

  • Prayer of Recollection (Right Now)
  • James 5:16 Friends
  • Reading books on the Cross (ie, “The Cross” by John Stott)

A happy relationship takes both people constantly examining their part in the relationship. How have you been at examining your part?

Happy Christians Give Their Effort to Self-Discipline (Phil 3:13-16)

The Discipline to Not Look Back

  • We don’t mean not looking back at God’s grace in our lives.
  • We don’t mean not looking back to learn from the lessons in our lives
  • We mean not looking back in a longing way to the days past in legalism or liberalism……in religion or rebellion
  • Paul was saying that he is forgetting the way he tried to EARN God’s approval or affection, while at the same time giving all his EFFORT to knowing Jesus more deeply out of affection for Him

The Discipline to Look Forward

We’re not perfect, but we should be in a passionate pursuit of the one who has made us perfect in the sight of God – Jesus

The Christian life is an upward call……a constant life of growing in our knowledge of and relationship with Jesus. Higher and Deeper.

We give our best effort in our relationship with Jesus, because He gave his best effort, perfect effort, to bring us into relationship with Himself

Paul resisted the subtle temptation to coast spiritually. There is no coasting in our life with Christ. We are always moving forward, going deeper, pressing in closer.

This is the mature outlook on the Christian life. Maturity as a Christian doesn’t mean anything other than moving higher and deeper in our relationship with Jesus.

Happy Christians Give Their Effort to Seeking Godly Examples (Phil 3:17-19)

Paul was saying that as an Apostle, as someone who had been with Jesus, that the Philippians could follow his example of one who was becoming increasingly like Jesus. Paul’s life was a visible picture of the truth of Scripture.

The Philippians didn’t have the entire New Testament yet, so Paul was literally the a living picture, or reflection, albeit distorted, of what the life of Christ looked like. We are to be that similar kind of example. And we are to constantly pursue these examples – seeking out others who know Jesus more deeply than we do.

“Keep your eyes on”: mark; spy out; target Keep your eyes on people who are knowing Jesus more and more so you can know how to know Him more and more as well.

Keep your eyes off: “Many” – there are many who walk as enemies of the cross and of Christ, not as friends of the cross and of Christ

Enemies of the Cross

  • Their lives are marked by self-destruction and damnation
  • Their lives are marked by self-indulgence, and their selfish appetites dictate their daily lives
  • They make themselves, not Jesus, the moral authority in their lives. They glory in things they should be ashamed of.
  • Their minds are on earthly things…..possessions, position, prestige

Happy Christians Give Their Effort to Seeing The Future (Phil 3:20-4:1)

Our life in the days to come is a preview of what our lives should look like in the days present. The hope of a resurrected body and presence with Jesus reminds us that we can live with resurrection power today in relationship with Jesus.

Diving In

Diving In offers a few questions to help you re-engage the concepts from Sunday. Feel the freedom to use all of the questions, or to simply camp out on just one. These questions aren't intended to answer all the issues that surface through the thrust of this weeks' message, but to simply raise them and allow you time and space to process them, ideally in the context of your Community Group.

  • How often do you spend significant, quiet time in self-examination? How have times of self-examination deepened your love for Jesus? Explain.
  • What is the hardest thing about engaging a time of self-examination? What are the things that keep you from more times of self-examination?
  • On a scale of one to five, what kind of effort would you say you have been giving to knowing Jesus more deeply? What kind of spiritual disciplines have you been employing (Scripture reading, silence, solitude, prayer, fasting, self-examination, worship, fellowship, etc)? How might the Spirit be convicting you to put more effort into your relationship with Jesus?
  • Who are the godly examples you have 'marked' in your life? Do you have an intentional mentoring relationship in the faith with someone who knows Jesus more deeply than you do? If not, what has been keeping you from marking that person and making an intentional effort to connect with them?

Deep End

The Deep End is a short and simple formation exercise you can use to dive deep into your heart before God. Feel the freedom to divert from the directions if that makes it easier for you to connect with Jesus in this exercise.

  • First, quiet your heart before the Lord. If you find yourself distracted by various thoughts (things on your “To Do” list, etc.), don’t “fight” the distractions, but rather spend some time praying over those things. Hopefully soon your heart will quieted down and you will be able to hear the Lord speaking to you.
  • Next, spend some time engaging a Prayer of Recollection exercise. When you're in the most quite place at the end of the day, set aside 15-30 minutes to 'walk through' your day again with Jesus, in the quite posture of prayer.
  • Begin at the first moment from your day that you can remember. Begin by asking the Spirit to reveal to you if there were particular offenses you failed to recognize and repent of through the day. Work your way through you day in a prayerful posture, continuing to ask the Spirit this question at every 'stage' and in every 'encounter' of your day. When you recognize one of those instances, stop, agree with Jesus it is sin, confess it to Him, and repent before Him.
  • Make a commitment to engage the Prayer of Recollection three times in the coming week.

My hope is that these simple exercises in The 60 will help what we discovered during this week be distilled, and deepened in your heart and life with Jesus.

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