Checkbox Christianity | Philippians Week - 7 | Dr. Chip Bennett

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Discussion Questions

  1. Where is our confidence really found?
  2. What are some areas in our lives we might have confidence in the flesh?
  3. What does it mean for us to really know Him?

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Sermon Transcript:

You know, people always say, “Chip, you never mention the holidays.” I’m just not great at — you have to understand where I’m coming from. I’m just excited, every time we come in here, to get into God’s Word. So, sometimes, I just miss it. But I do want to wish you all a very happy Fourth of July, and I do want to say that I’m very, very thankful, and, hopefully, you are too, that we live in the country that we live in, and we have the freedoms that we have to be able to do the things that we do. Amen?

So, next Fourth, if I don’t do that, it’s not because I wasn’t thinking about it. It was just that I was excited to teach the Word of God. So, all that being said, I want to start off with this. I want you to just take a moment and think about this with me. You maybe can think of a situation where this is true. Have you ever had anybody that you really wanted to get to know better? Typically, that happens especially when we’re younger and we see somebody that maybe we’re attracted to, and we try to figure out how we can maybe get a little bit more time with that person or whatever else.

But as we grow older, we also know that there are people that we meet who are maybe at the workplace, or maybe somebody who does what we do. Maybe there’s a particular vocation that we have, and we know that maybe they’re a little bit further down the road than we are in the things that they’re doing. And maybe we want to get to know them. But you really, really, really try to go out of your way to get to know them, and rather than them just pushing you aside, or rather than them just saying no, they’re just really, really nice, but they never really allow you to get to know them. And it’s frustrating because it’s like you’re trying, you’re doing what you can do to get to know them, but they’re not just telling you to go away. They’ll smile, they’ll shake your hand, they’ll do whatever, but they’re just not going to let you get to know them. For many of us, it’s frustrating when we do want to get to know somebody and they just won’t let us.

So, I want you to hold that thought because we’re going to come back to that at the very, very end, and I think it will be incredibly meaningful, and hopefully will grow us in our relationship with the Lord.

So, we’re in the book of Philippians. And I apologize. It’s been a little crazy because we had a little bit of an off/on sort of going. There will be no more of that. We’re going to get in here and keep going. We’ll go through that. But the last time that we met together, when I was here, was two weekends ago. Where we left off was in Philippians 3. This was the verse that we sort of ended with. “We are the circumcision.” In other words, Paul is saying, “If you want to know who the people of God are,” — and the people of God, Israel at the time, would say, “We’re the circumcision. The Gentiles, most of them are not circumcised.”

That was the way they sort of had their labels that they had to delineate who was in and who was out. Paul says, “Hey, listen. The real circumcision is not the people that have actually mutilated the flesh or anything like that. The real circumcision, the real people of God, are those who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.”

So, this ending here, this confidence in the flesh, we talked about it just a little bit last time. But what Paul’s going to do from here, through the next many verses, is he’s going to explain what that is, how you and I might somehow not really think about it, but put some confidence in the flesh. And what does that mean? What does flesh mean? All that stuff. I mean, all these words, he’s going to really do what Paul does. He’s going to heap words upon words upon words to make a point. And if you’ve ever read Paul, or if you’ve read anything that He’s written — and sometimes you’re going, “Man, he is going on and on and on.”

He does. So, when we get to heaven, we can be like, “Paul, why were you so verbose?”

But he was, and I know why he was doing that. He was trying to make sure that the recipients of the letter would understand what he’s saying.

So, he says, “Listen, you want to know who the real people of God are? They’re the people who worship by the Spirit of God, they’re the people who glory in Christ Jesus, and they put no confidence in the flesh.”

What does that mean? What would that look like? Because earlier on, in Philippians 1, he said “It would be better if I remained in the flesh so that we could continue to do ministry.”

So, it’s like there’s a good part to flesh, and then here’s this confidence in the flesh. Like, how does that work? So, we’ve got to look at this and what this means. Hopefully, when we get through this, you’re going to be able to go, “Wow. That’s pretty profound.”

Then he says this. Same thought process here.

He says, “…though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.”

Why does he say that? Why does he say, “We don’t want to put any confidence in the flesh, but hey, if anybody had a reason to do it, I could do it.”

Then here’s what he says: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more…”

What’s he doing? He’s doing what we call a rhetorical boast. He’s not a boastful person. He’s not an arrogant person. Paul’s very humble. But what he’s doing is he’s making a point. He’s going, “Hey. Do you think, maybe, you might put some confidence in the flesh?”

Because he knows that, not long from now, there will be people that come into Philippi and will tell them that you’ve got to keep the law, you’ve got to do this, and you’ve got to do this to make sure that you’re right with God. Of course, nobody does that for us today, but many people will say those things. “You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that you’ve got to do this.” And they add all these things. Paul says, “Hold on, now, for a second. The people of God are not putting confidence in the things that they do and the rules that they keep. They’re glorying in Christ and they’re worshiping by the Spirit of God. But listen, if anybody else thinks that he has reason for confidence in the flesh, like if you want to really debate this thing, I’ve got more. I’ve got way more confidence in the flesh.”

But he’s going to tell us, here in a minute, that none of that matters. But he has to set this up. So, what he’s really saying — and I always try to make it really clear. This is what he’s really saying. He’s like, “If you want a dynamite list of why I should consider myself as one of the true people of God based on my own nationality, emotions, and morality, here it is. You want to talk about being the people of God and all the things that you could bring to the table? Let me tell you what I could bring to the table. If we’re saying, ‘How’s God going to love us? He’s He going to accept us? How are we going to know that we really are the people of God? Is it how well we perform? Is it what we bring to the table? Is it being sort of in the right group of people? Is it all of these things?’ If you want to go there — because the true people of God don’t put confidence in the flesh, but if you want to go there and you want to talk about having confidence in the flesh, let me give you my list.”

“Circumcised on the eighth day,”

“Like, you want to talk about getting it right? Eighth day circumcision. Check. I’ve got it. You want to talk about being somebody who could really put confidence in the flesh and say, ‘Look at what I’ve done? God’s got to love me. I’ve got to be the right person. I’ve got to be doing this thing right.”

He says, “Not only that, but I was of the people of Israel. Like, I was on the right time. I was born in the right group. You want to talk about being born in the right nationality. I was. I was born into God’s chosen people, Israel. Not only that, but I was of the tribe of Benjamin. The very first king of Israel, his name was Saul, and I was named after him. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. Not only that, but I was a Hebrew of Hebrews. And just to make sure you understand, as to the law, I was a Pharisee. Like, I kept God’s law meticulously. You want to talk about bringing something to the table that should show that you really are the people of God? Let me give you my list. Not only that, as to zeal,”

And zeal is an emotion. He says, “You want to know how my emotions were? I had all the outward things. Hebrew. Pharisee. Right tribe. Circumcised. I had all that. Now you want to talk about emotions? As to my zeal, as to how my emotions were for God, did I have my emotions tuned in? I was so in tune with God, my zeal was so right, that I was ready to persecute the Church. I was ready to take people out for God because my emotions were right. I was dialed in. I wasn’t going to let anything that was unholy get between me and God, or keep God’s people from staying between me and God. I was ready to persecute the Church. Not only that, but you want to talk about righteousness? You want to talk about morality? As far as that was concerned, under the law I was blameless. Anytime I did something wrong, I offered all the right sacrifices. I did all the right things. You want to bring to the table a list of what it would look like to say, ‘Here you go,’ obviously I am someone that is a child of God. Here’s my list. Do you want to bring your list? Here’s my list. My list is pretty strong.”

He says, “But…”

In the original language, we call this an adversative “but.” What he’s saying is, “I just told you something, but now I’m going to tell you nope.”

Look at this: “But whatever gain I had,”

“Whatever I could bring to the table, whatever it was, whatever bit or morality I could say, ‘Well, I’m not like these people here. I don’t do this here.’ Anything I could bring…”

He says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss…”

These are numbers terms. These are like CPA terms. These are credit/debit terms that he’s using. He says, “Do you know what? When I looked at the bottom line of what it really was, all the credits that I had, everything I had, I actually had to get rid of them. I had to get rid of all that stuff that I could bring to the table and say, “Look at what I’ve done. Look at how good I am. Look at all these stuff.”

These are accounting terms. He says, “Whatever gain I had, all the credits that I had, yeah, actually, I had to get rid of all those credits because it wasn’t a list that made me right. I got rid of all of that because I wanted Christ. I got rid of all of that for the sake of Christ. This wasn’t about keeping everything and doing it. This was about a person. This was about knowing Jesus. All those things, I actually had to just sort of get rid of them because they didn’t really get me to the bottom line in the way that I needed to get to the bottom line. The only thing that mattered at the bottom line was whether or not I had Christ and Christ had me. All those other things were not that important.”

And then what Paul does — and many of you all will remember this. Some of you all may be a little too young to remember this, but back when you really watched TV a lot — some of y’all remember that. It’s like that’s all we had to do. We had sticks and TV back when I was growing up. That’s it. You know? Y’all have tons of stuff. We didn’t have phones and all that stuff. Back then, they would have these people that would sell things on TV. When they would sell things on TV, usually the price was $19.95. Anybody remember that? $19.95.

“Here’s the Ginsu knife set. $19.95.”

And then they always had that phrase: “But wait, there’s more.”

Right? Remember? They would say, “What would you expect to pay for this, the Ginsu knife set? All 37 knives, $19.95. But wait, there’s more. Not only do you get the Ginsu knife set for $19.95, but you get the Canadian snowball ring. You can crack an egg on it. It still shines.”

You know? Whatever it may be. All this stuff. So, what Paul does now is he starts doing, “Hold on. I’m not done. I need to drive this home. I need people to understand because it’s so easy to have confidence in the flesh. It’s so easy to say, ‘Oh, but look what I did. Look at what I’m doing. Look at all the stuff that I do.’ No. Indeed, there’s more. Hold on. I want to drive this home.”

“Indeed, I count everything…”

“There’s not anything I bring to the table. I count everything as loss. All of it. Any credit that I might have, anything, all of it is loss.”

“…because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

This is what it is, folks. Paul is saying, “You want to know? You want to know what it really is? You want to know what it’s like to be the people of God? It’s knowing Christ. It’s Him knowing you. I count it all as loss. All I want is to know Christ Jesus my Lord. In fact, there’s more.”

“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,”

King James uses a nice word that we don’t use that much anymore. Dung. He says, “Anything I could’ve brought to the table was trash because the only thing I want is I want to know Christ. I’ve dropped it all away. I just want to gain Christ. I just want to know Him. I just want to have a relationship. I just want to know Him. This is not about a religion thing. This is about a relational thing. This is about really knowing who Jesus is.”

He says, “…[I want to] be found in him,”

“That’s where I want to be. I don’t want to be found in all the stuff that I do, and say, ‘Look at what I did. Look at what I gave. Look at all this stuff.’”

None of those things are necessarily, intrinsically bad, but Paul says, “Hold on. You can’t bring any of that stuff. The only thing that matters is do you know Jesus and does He know you? I want to be found in Him, not — make sure you understand.”

“…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,”

“That’s not what I want. I don’t want to be able to say, ‘Look at what I did. Look at how well I acted. Look at how much better I was. I don’t hang out with people who drink, I don’t hang out with people that chew, and I don’t hang out with those that do, and all that other stuff.’ I don’t do any of that stuff. I want to be found in Him. I’m not trying to bring something to the table that makes me feel like somehow God’s now obligated to make me one of His kids because I did it better than my neighbor or I prayed a little bit longer than somebody else.”

“…but that which comes through faith in Christ,”

“Which depends upon me reaching out and trusting Christ, that I may know Him. This is the essence.”

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and in the fellowship of his sufferings,”

Like, “I want to know Him so well. I don’t want to know about Him. I want to know Him. Like, I really want to know who Jesus is. I want to have a relationship with Him. I want to know Him in all of His glory, in all of His resurrection power, in all of the things that He can do, in all of the healing He can do, in all of the power works that He can do. I want to know all of that, but I also want to know Him intimately, in such a way that I can share in His sufferings because that’s also who He is. He suffered, and I want to know Him. I want to have intimacy with God. It’s not a performance. It’s not confidence in the flesh. I want to know Him. I want to know everything that there is to know about Jesus.”

“…becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Not that he’s doubting whether he will or not. He’s just saying this is the whole thing.

“I want to make sure because, at the end of the day, I know that this life is not all that there is. I want to be with the Lord forever and I know how that happens. It doesn’t happen by putting together a bunch of credit statements, saying, ‘This is what I did. This is what I did. Hey, check this out.’ That’s not the way it works. It works by knowing Jesus.”

So, I’ve got just two things. I want you to take a moment and allow God to maybe work in our hearts. First of all, where’s our confidence really found? Like, if we were just being honest for a moment, if we were to just push aside all the things that are going on in the world, all the difficulties, or maybe what’s going on — maybe on the way here you were struggling. Maybe you’ve got a lot of stuff going on at work. Maybe you’ve got stuff going on in your family. Maybe you’re struggling in a lot of areas, but take a moment to just go, “Where do I really put my confidence?”

Because Paul said the people of God are not the ones who put confidence in the flesh. That’s just not how they roll. They don’t do it that way. They don’t put confidence in the flesh. Paul says, “I could have. I could’ve given you a great list, but it’s of no avail. It doesn’t matter. I could’ve told you I was circumcised on the eighth day, I was of the people of Israel, I was of the tribe of Benjamin, I was a Hebrew of Hebrews, I was a Pharisee, I had all the physical, bodily, and outward signs of really looking good. I mean, if anybody would’ve been looking at me from the outward appearance, I was in 100%. I was in. Nobody would’ve doubted it. Not only that, but when it came to my zeal and my emotions, man, I was white-hot for God. I was ready to go take people out for God. Nobody could’ve had anymore emotions than me. And morality? Come on. I kept the law. Blameless. I mean, if anybody would’ve looked at me, anybody would’ve said, ‘Hey, that, right there, is the token person for being the people of God.’”

But he says, “That had nothing to do with it. In fact, I had all of those things and I didn’t even know God because when Christ arrested me, that’s when I realized, ‘Whoa.’”

But for us, it’s not that. For us, it’s not circumcision and tribe of Benjamin. I mean, when’s the last time you went out in the lobby and somebody was like, “Man, I’m a really good Christian, man. I want you to know I’m of the tribe of Benjamin. I want you to know I killed some people, last night, for Jesus. White-hot. Ready to go.”

No, no, no. We have other ways in which we put confidence in the flesh. We do it differently. We have our check marks that we like. We like to have our check marks of, “Oh, I’m a Christian. I did this. I’m a Christian because of this, this, this.”

It depends on where you grow up and what tradition you grew up in. Everybody’s got a different list of what it looks like. Let me just give you some ideas here. This may not be your list. It may not be your spouse’s list. It may not be anybody’s, but some of these might be somebody that you know. They might even be somebody that you look at in the mirror on a regular basis.

“Well, I know I’m not like everybody else because I’m here every time the doors are open. I’m not like those parents who have those kids in sports and are only here twice a month. I’m here every time. I know that I’m of God. In fact, I stand up for my soapbox issues in front of everybody because real Christians are going to speak truth. Real Christians are going to tell you, “Those people are wrong. Real Christians, they tell people the way it is. That’s what they do. I know that I’m right between God, and I know they’re not right because they don’t stand up and they don’t talk about those things. They don’t say the things the way I think they should say them, but I know that I have got it together.”

And we go, “Oh, look at that. That’s a great Christian because they’re in church every time, they stand up in front of the soapbox issues, and they tell everybody about whatever it is that they want to tell everybody about. Now, they’ve got 30 other things, like gluttony, idolatry, and all that other stuff, and gossiping — they don’t talk about those things because those really are not a big deal, but this is the big deal and I’m going to tell you it’s the big deal.”

And we go, “Wow, man. I always vote the godly way. Yeah, I don’t really know who the judges are when I vote. I just sort of check those off. And the amendments? I don’t know. I just sort of pick and choose ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ But I vote godly, and at least I’m not like these sinners.”

See, it’s so easy to get into that trap if you’ve got all the outward things checked off. Every one of them. But Paul says that’s all stuff that doesn’t get you to the bottom line. It’s not that, maybe, some of these things wouldn’t be bad. I mean, yeah, it’s great that you go to church, it’s great that you’re here, but that’s not what makes somebody — Keith Green said it really good. He said, “Going to McDonald’s makes you no more of a hamburger than attending church makes you a Christian.”

Because Paul’s going to tell us what it really means. You can’t put confidence in the flesh. And I don’t know what your boxes are, but what are some areas, maybe, that you could just take a moment and say, “Yeah. You know, I do that, Chip. I’m going to be honest with you. I do. I look down upon other people that don’t do it the way I do it. I get nasty towards people that maybe don’t do it the way I do it. Because really, in all sincerity, you’re right. I sort of fall and trap into the check marks.”

Is that really what Christianity is about? Is it really about the check marks? Because, you know, many of you come from different traditions, and your tradition had a different check for things. And then, maybe, you left that tradition and you went to another tradition, and they had other checks that you had to do. And then everybody can just sort of push everybody away and do it. Is that really what it means? Is that the essence of Christianity?

I think, actually, the second one is what we need to think about here, for a moment. What does it mean for us to really know Him? Is it outward appearance? Is it bringing a list of things? Is it making sure that everything is sort of checked off? What does it mean to know Him? Because Paul says, “I want to know Him. Like, I want to know Him. I want to have intimacy with God. I want Him to know me, and I know Him. That’s where my heart is, to know Him.”

And here’s the truth. Let this sink in. Sometimes we just don’t want to get too close to God. It’s easier to treat God respectfully than it is to treat God intimately. It’s easy to do.

“We pray. We don’t ever put anything on the Bibles. We show up. We send our kids here. We do this. We’re respectful. Everything is respectful. We do all the things that are right. When you want us to stand for worship, we stand for worship. When you want us to sit, we sit. I mean, we’re not going to say anything. We’re not going to cuss. We’re not going to do anything.”

But we sort of have a little arm up because, see, what God wants is He’s the one that’s saying, “I want to get to know you. I want to have a relationship with you.”

Sometimes we’re the ones that are respectful. We don’t just tell Him no, but we just put the arm up a little bit. And we go, “I’ve got this right. I’ve got this right. I’ve got this right. I’ve got this right.”

And God’s going, “But I want to know you. I want to have a relationship. I don’t want you to treat me respectfully. I want to have a real relationship with you.”

And what happens — and it’s sad. It’s sad because this is the cycle that so many people who go to church in America fall into. You went to a church, and whatever church you went to — it could’ve been a denomination church, a non-denominational church, it could’ve been whatever. And somebody, somewhere, introduced you to this idea of God, and you said, “I’m in.”

And they had all their things. They had their denominational stances, or they had their creedal statements, or they had their things that you had to stand up and do, or they had their stuff that they went, “You can’t…” — and you just knew it. You knew that those were the things that you could and could not do. I mean, they had the religion thing down. And then you knew to really be right, you just had to check off those boxes. And you had them. You were a good soldier. And because you had those boxes, you knew who was right and you knew who was wrong. You could just know. And then what happened is because you know the boxes, you’re righteous in judging other people. You’re righteous in saying nasty things about them. You’re righteous in saying how — and what happens is one of two things. You either, inside, stay in church and you’re like, “Man, there’s got to be something more. I’ve got the boxes. I sneer at other people. I don’t tell them I sneer at them. I try to smile. I try to be nice. I try to act like I pray. But man, inside, there’s just got to be something more.”

And there are so many people that sit in church who have all the boxes and all the stuff, but what it is is they really aren’t living in any type of intimacy with God. Or what happens is you decide — and this has happened all across America — “I’m done. I’m done with this stuff. There’s got to be more. It can’t be checking off the boxes and just being mad at the people who don’t check off the boxes, because when I moved from one church to another church there were other boxes, and the boxes were weird. They weren’t like the boxes that I had, and now I have to do these boxes, and now the people that I used to think were bad are not bad. These people are the bad ones. Something’s just not right. I’m out.”

God’s not there. Jesus said it this way to His disciples: “I’ve said what I’ve said here in John 13-15. I washed your feet. I did all these things and told you about what I was going to do. I told you about the spirit that was going to come. I told you about all the stuff I was going to do. I told you these things because what I don’t want you to do is fall away. I don’t want you to end up in something that I never intended for you. What’s going to happen is they’re going to put you out of the synagogues. The religious people who have the boxes, who have the stuff, they’re going to kick you out of the synagogues because they’ve got it right. They’ve got their religion down. And not only that, but the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he’s offering service to God. They’ll kill you and say that it’s godly. They will assault you with their words and say it’s godly. They’ll treat you terribly and say it’s godly. But they do these things because they haven’t known the Father or me.”

Oh, they’ve got their religion, they’ve got the list, they’ve got all the credits, but God’s going, “I don’t want a performance. I want you. I want your heart. I want to know you. I want you to talk to me. This isn’t about checking off boxes. This isn’t about telling everybody what — I want to know you.”

And what we see here in these letters that were written in the last book of the Bible called Revelation, letters to churches, letters to people who are Christians — these are not pagans. They’re Christians. They’re people who were assembling and worshiping God. He writes to one church and he says, “This is just not exactly what I want. You say I’m rich, I’ve prospered. I don’t need anything. I’ve got it. I’ve got all the boxes. I’ve got everything I need. I’ve got it all, God.”

He says, “But man, you don’t realize that you’re wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. You don’t see it.”

This same church — and this is shocking. Three verses later, He says, “Hey, you know, y’all are in church, you’re singing songs, you’re talking about the Bible, doing Communion, and I’m actually outside at the church door, and I’m knocking. I’m not going to blow that door down. I’m not going to huff and puff. I just want to come in. I just want to come in to where you’re gathered, and I want to sit down, eat, fellowship, and have a relationship because that’s what this is really all about. It’s not the check marks, it’s intimacy.”

As your pastor, I just want you to know that your Heavenly Father is coming after you at all times. He’s pursuing you. He wants to have far more in your life than maybe you have any idea, but sometimes it’s just a little uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s a little bit easier to just treat Him respectfully than intimately. And I just want you to know that He loves you. He has so much more for you, so many more things for you. He really wants you.