What Christians Do
What Christians Do 5.31.20
As I’ve said from the pulpit on numerous occasions: theology matters. It matters what we think about God. As Christians, we have distinct beliefs that mark us off from the world. The Bible is a book that teaches Christians how to think.
However, Christianity is not just about our beliefs. It’s not just about thinking certain thoughts. While thinking is important, living is also important. Christianity is also a religion of action. Just as Christians have a distinct set of beliefs, so also Christians have a distinct set of actions. Christians live a certain way. The act a certain way.
We might understand what I am saying here with this old adage: “How do you know a duck is a duck?” The answer? “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a dick and acts like a dick, the it is a duck.” Ducks act a certain way. That’s one way to distinguish a duck from a non-duck. Ducks acts a certain way. The same is true for Christians. Christians live a certain way. They act a certain way. They live a certain way.
The topic that we will study this is morning concerns this topic of what Christians do. Their actions and behaviors. I’ve titled this morning’s sermon as this, “What Christian do.” This morning we will look at three behaviors that Christians are defined by. Let’s go ahead and open up to Phil 3:3. I will read the whole verse. This is what Paul says:
For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh
As I mentioned last week, in this verse, Paul provides the reasons why the Philippians should “look out for,” “beware of” the Judiazers. In the v. 2 Paul uses some pretty tough language to speak of the Judiazers. And in v. 3, Paul gives us 4 reasons why the Philippians should watch out for the Judiazers. The first reason we explored last week. The first reason was, “For we are the circumcision.” That’s a theological reason. We spent the whole sermon last Sunday exploring what Paul means with this statement. If you did not join us last Sunday, I would encourage you to go listen to that sermon on our website.
For this week’s sermon, we will explore the rest of v. 3. Specifically, we will explore the other three reasons Paul gives for why the Judiazers are wrong in their teachings. Each of these reasons, as we will see, have to do with behaviors. They have to do with how Christian behave and act.
This morning’s outline is very simple. Last week I didn’t really have an outline. This week is different. Three points for you. Each of these reasons will be focused on a certain behavior. And these points naturally arise from the text.
We Worship God
For the first point this morning, write this, “We worship God.” I get this point from the second statement that Paul makes in v. 3. Look with me there. Paul says, “For we are the circumcision.”
He then says, “who worship by the Spirit of God.” That statement, “who worship by the Spirit of God,” is where I am getting this first point from. An easier way to understand what Paul is saying here is if we translate it as, “We worship by the Spirit of God.” Let’s remove that “who” from our understanding and supply a “we.” “We worship by the Spirit of God.”
Now what does this verb “worship” here mean? Verbs are very important for understand clauses and sentences. What does this verb mean?
If you are reading this morning from a NIV translation, you will notice that the NIV doesn’t have the verb “worship.” Instead, “it has the verb “serve.” A simple yet very effective way to study Bible is to compare various English translations and see how they translate. You can always pick up on interpretive difficulties and issues when two good translations render the same word differently. If translations agree, then there is no interpretive challenge in a passage. If they disagree, there is an interpretive challenge. A comparison of the NIV and ESV here shows us that there is an interpretive challenge here. Specifically, should we understand this verb as “worship” or “serve?”
Worship = service || service = worship
What I am going to argue this morning is that we don’t have to choose between these two concepts of worship or service. That is, both English translations of this verb as “worship” and “service” are correct. The reason why the difference between these two verbs doesn’t matter highlights what Pastor Jesse has been teaching us in the past few. Pastor Jesse has commented on several occasions that worship is more than just singing. Worship is an act that the Christian engages in all throughout their day. We never stop worshipping. Worship is not just something we do on Sunday mornings. Our whole existence is a giving of worship to either God or some false God. To “worship” is to give glory, honor, praise to God. It is to offer to him praise. This can be done in a million of different ways.
One of ways we worship God is through serving him and others. By service I mean offering to God some act of sacrifice. Doing something in his name. Usually this service is given to people. We serve God by serving people. Nevertheless, this service to God is worship to God. Service is a way in which we worship. So the choice here between “Is it this or is it that?” is a false choice. It’s both. Worship is service and service is worship.
By the Spirit of God
As Christians “worship” or “serve,” we have tremendous divine help in our endeavor. We do not worship God apart from his aid and power. God doesn’t save us by his power and grace and then say to us, “Now it’s up to you.” No, no, no. The same way we are saved—by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit—is how we live the Christian life. It’s how we worship and serve God.
That is what Paul references when he states that the “worship” or “service” we give to God is done “by the Spirit of God.” Do you see that phrase, “by the Spirit of God?” That’s what Paul
means when he includes it. He is saying that our service or worship to God is done with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is central to the Christian life. Absolutely central. We cannot understand the Bible, church, or the Christian life without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit performs several different tasks for the Christian.
One task he does is that he convicts Christians of their sin. So, take for example this notion of service/worship, let’s say a Christian is not worship God and serving others like he/she should, what the Holy Spirit does is he applies the Word of God to the conscience of the believer and makes them feel guilty for not doing what the Lord commands them to do.
The Holy Spirit empowers us. He empowers us. This point is like the Spirit convicting us. Convicting is the negative side; empowerment is the positive side. The Spirit convicts us that we are not living right but he also propels us towards right living. He convicts us and empowers us. He brings us down and he raises us up. He places godly attitudes and desires in our hearts. He gives us energy, vision, insight, and zeal for the name of our Lord. He changes us from being spiritual couch potatoes to being zealous for the glory of our Lord.
The Holy Spirit also comforts us. We all become discouraged and downtrodden from time to time. Service to the Lord can be discouraging. The Holy Spirit encourages and comforts us. He picks us up when we have fallen. One of the most encouraging things someone can say to us is, “Everything is going to be OK. Everything is going to work out.” When we’re downtrodden, down in the dumps, that’s the message that the Spirit applies to our hearts. He impresses upon our hearts the hope of Jesus Christ. That Jesus is risen from the dead and that means that everything is going to be ok. The Holy Spirit comforts us.
The Holy Spirit also assures us. He impresses upon our heart the truth of God’s word. Let’s say the Lord leads you to share the gospel with a close friend of yours, one that you’ve had for years. This is a difficult task. And let’s say the conversation just really doesn’t go well. Your friend gets really upset and stops talking to you. This happens. And then your left with questions like, “Did I do the right thing?” “What should I have done differently?” Your friend’s reaction causes you to question whether or not you should have shared the gospel. The Holy Spirit, by the Word of God, assures us that we did the right thing. He gives us confidence that our actions were correct, even though our friend responded in a negative way. The Holy Spirit assures us.
We are helpless without the Spirit. Absolutely helpless. Without the Spirit’s help, we are offer God and this world nothing of importance, value, or meaning. We desperately need the work of the Holy Spirit in our service to God.
How are you doing with your worship of God and your service to him? We all need improvement. We all do. Our needs are different, but we all need to improve. Do you need conviction? Do you need empowerment? Do need assurance? Do you need comfort?
The Holy Spirit is sufficient for all of these tasks. It is his job to convict, assure, comfort, and empower us. I imagine your need all of these. You need conviction, assurance, empowerment, and comfort. Whatever it is you need, spend time asking the God the Father to give these gifts to you by the Holy Spirit.
We Boast in Christ
Now we move to our second point. Our second point this morning is this, “We trust Christ.” Look again with me at v. 3. Paul says, “and glory in Christ Jesus.” To understand this, we need to supply the noun. So, we should understand it as, “We glory in Christ Jesus.”
Now you will notice that the passage says “glory in Christ Jesus,” and I have used the term “boast” in my point. How or why am I doing that? The Greek word here means this:
to take pride in something, to boast, glory, pride oneself, brag.
These terms “take pride in, to boast, to glory, to brag” are all referring to the same reality. That which we glory in is that which we boast in. Our source of glory—our value, identity, and worth—is what we boast in.
There are several different ways to boast in something. The most prominent way to boast in something is to speak highly of it. To boast in something is speak highly of it. Boasting comes through what we say, our speech.
What Paul is saying here is that Christians are known by the way they talk about Christ. Christians speak highly of Christ and they speak of him often. By what they say, the glory in him. They communicate their relationship with him through what they say, through their speech.
What this point highlights is that there is a close connection between the state of someone’s heart and what it is they talk about. You can tell an awful lot about a person’s spiritual condition by the way they talk. An awful lot. Now it is possible to hide and conceal who we are based upon what we say. But, more often than not, our lips are a dead giveaway of where our heart is at with Christ.
We get this principle from Jesus himself. He says this in Luke 6:45:
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
This is an amazing principle to consider. Jesus is saying here that the content of what is said is a reflection of what is in the heart. Godless people speak about ungodly matters; righteous people speak about godly matters. Jesus is making it that simple for us here.
Jesus and Paul agree: the content of our conversations, what we say, is an expression of our hearts condition. Christians, according to Paul, are those who speak often of Christ and speak of him in an exalted manner.
In order to apply this point of boasting in Christ, there are some behaviors that I want you to avoid, and some behaviors that I want you to engage in. First the behaviors to avoid.
The first type of speech that I want you to avoid is self-exaltation. Avoid speaking of yourself in a self-exalted manner. It is a tendency of the human heart to let everyone know how awesome we are, isn’t it? All you must do is log onto social media to see so many people boasting of themselves, of their pursuits and conquests. I amazed at how sometimes well-meaning and good Christians do this. Avoid this type of speech.
The other type of speech we want to avoid is gossip. Gossip occurs when we speak maliciously about other people behind their backs. We gossip when we tear others down behind their backs. This is the opposite of boasting in Christ. To boast in Christ is to build others up. When we boast in Christ, our example encourages others to boast in Christ. When we gossip, we bring shame upon others. That’s the opposite of boasting in Christ. We want to avoid gossiping and repent of it.
Those are the two behaviors we want to refrain from. Now for two behaviors we want to engage in to boast in Christ. The first is that we want to be thoughtful and mindful about how we talk. The Bible commands us to be slow to speak. This is a virtue. It is very easy to slip up with our words or to get caught up in the moment and say something we shouldn’t. We want to pay attention to our speech so that we make sure that whatever comes out of our mouths magnifies Christ.
The other behavior we want to engage in to boast in Christ is this: speak of Christ often. In your day to day conversations—with friends, family, strangers—through the various mediums of communication—face to face conversations, text messaging, e-mail, phone calls—Jesus wants you to talk about him. You cannot boast in him if you never talk about him. God wants you to talk about Jesus. Use his name in your speech. And when you do, shower his name with praise, thanks, and honor. I’m amazed that there are so many families who faithfully attend church but God has no part of their communication with each other. The Lord doesn’t want that for you, dear friend. Speak of Christ with everyone you know. Do it often.
We Reject Self
Now we move to our last point this morning. It is this, “We reject self.” First point was, “We Worship God.” Second point was, “We Boast in Christ.” Third point is, “We Reject Self.” Looking with me again at Phil 3:3. Paul says,
[We] put no confidence in the flesh
Put No Confidence
The verb here for “confidence” is very interesting. We don’t have an exact English word that fully captures the Greek verb that is here. I think that “confidence” is the best way to translate it but there is more to this verb than just confidence. This is how it is defined,
to be so convinced of something that one puts confidence in that thing
In other words, the verb here communicates a confidence that has resulted from persuasion or conviction. This is confidence that is based upon persuasion. This is not a confidence that is blind. Let me give you an illustration of what I mean.
In the Flesh
What is it that Paul specifies that Christians do not put their confidence in? What does the text say? Paul states, once again looking at v. 3, we put no confidence “in the flesh.” Paul is referencing two ideas with this mention of “flesh.” What Paul is saying is that Christians are those who realize that “the flesh” will always let them down and is never a source of confidence, security, meaning, or status.
The “flesh” can be understood in two ways. The first is physical circumcision. As I’ve explained the past couple of weeks, the Judaizers taught that for Gentiles to be saved they must be circumcised. Paul is saying, “No. Christians put no confidence in any outward mark that is done to their flesh, i.e., circumcision.”
But Paul means more than just that. Paul means that Christians place none of their confidence for their salvation in any outward work, in any human credential, in any religious affiliation. In the next coming weeks, we’re going to see that Paul has a lot to say about himself in his former religious life as a Jew. And we will see that Paul concludes that his life as a former Pharisee did nothing for him in his relationship with God. His former religiosity did nothing to save him. What is true for him is also true for us. What distinguishes a Christians is their lack of confidence in their flesh, in their religious heritage, in their religiosity, in their own credentials and achievements. Paul is saying, “Those ‘good things’ that we have are sinking sand. Christians are convinced that we are not saved by our own doing. Thus, we conviced that we must reject self, reject any and all thinking that
Bringing all of these points together, this is what Paul means. Paul says that Christians have been so persuaded by the failure of their flesh, so convinced that their flesh—whether it is an outward religious symbol or their own strength and vitality—is a false source of security, that they will never put a confidence in it. In other words, Christians refuse to say that they contribute anything to their salvation. They absolutely refuse to believe or say that we contribute anything to our salvation. Bringing this back to the previous point, we refuse to say or think that we merit salvation and always say and believe that it’s all about Christ. Christ is the reason why I am a Christian, why I bring anything good to this world.
The way I want to apply this point this morning is by comparing the concepts of morality and holiness. What is the difference between morality and holiness? The way I will define morality is this. Morality is the desire to do what is right. Morality is the commitment to live up to godly principles. Principles like responsibility, kindness, sacrifice, love, honesty, etc. Morality is good, dear friend. It’s better than immorality. However, with morality, the way I’m defining it this morning, there is the inclination towards thinking that morality comes from us. We are the cause and the source of our good choices. It is up to us to live right and if we do live right it’s because of us. Morality does not involve a rejection of self. Rather, morality is the belief that we are good because of us. False religions teach morality. False religions teach that you must do right and when you do do right it is because of you, because of your own free will. That’s morality. Morality leads people to hell, dear friend. If you do right and you think that the reason why you do right is ultimately because you are better than other people, you are not in a good place. Bringing it back to Paul’s point in Phil 3:3, what moral people do is the actually put confidence in their flesh. They do not boast in Christ. Moral, religious people say, “I’m good because of me.” That’s morality. That’s bad. That is not what Paul is teaching.
Paul specifically and the Bible as a whole teaches the concept of holiness. Holiness and morality look alike. Both morality and holiness emphasize doing the right thing. Doing what God has commanded. However, morality and holiness are different. Very different. Morality says, “I do what’s right because of me. I do what’s right and I put confidence in myself. I’m good because of me.” Holiness says something very different. Holines says, “I do what’s right NOT BEACAUSE OF ME. I do what’s right because of Christ. It is Christ in me that is good. I am wretch. If you see anything in me that is good, that is Christ, that is not me.” A big difference, dear friend.
Dear friend, this is my question to you this morning, are you moral or are you holy? Paul says to us, “Pursue holiness. Reject morality. Refuse to believe that you are the source of your own goodness. Refuse to trust in your outward religious allegiance, your church attendance, your tithing, your morality, your political affiliation. Refuse to believe that that saves you. Instead, believe totally, fully, completely, unreservedly, that it is Christ that you are right with God.” Christ alone, dear friend. It is all about him.