Sunday 25th October 2020

Philippians 3:4-11

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You 

As the autumn nights start to draw in you might find yourself of an evening watching more TV and one of the new series that is on our screens is the BBC, ‘Who do you think you are?’ It promises to be an interesting series as some famous people delve into their past; look at what perhaps makes them who they are today…Our Scripture reading does something similar, as the Apostle Paul reflects on his past, but for us his reflection is more than interesting reading, it is absolutely crucial for our understanding of not only who Paul is, but who we are too…Before we ponder these things, let’s pray together: Heavenly Father, Help us as we ponder Your Word to be open to Your leading, guiding and teaching. May Your transforming Word do its work in our hearts and minds, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Apostle Paul was in chains for Christ when he penned this letter to the Church at Philippi. But even in chains, he continued to champion the gospel and endeavoured through his writing to keep the believers on track. In the verses we consider today, Paul has just issued a stark warning to the believers at Philippi to watch out for people who claimed to be followers of Jesus but whose confidence was not in Christ but in themselves. To such over-confident and self-confident people, it was as if Paul was saying, ‘Who do you think you are? Are you confident in who you are? Well let me tell you who I am and where my confidence lies…’ Paul puts it like this – Chapter 3:4: If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, [to have confidence in themselves], I have more…And then he goes on to set out a sort of CV of who he is, his background, profession, what might be thought of as his qualifications:

  • You think you come from a strong family line – well, says Paul, I come from the right race – tribe of Benjamin – I’m a Hebrew of Hebrews…
  • You think you’re religious! – I was a top-notch Pharisee – top of the tree –
  • I kept the law of Moses down to the last dot.
  • I defended the law –my zeal for the church known far and wide,
  • I persecuted the church – a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law…

If there had been a ‘Pharisee of the Year’ award – Paul could have won it. His CV for being ‘religious’, was absolutely faultless…and that’s where his confidence used to be…But what does Paul say now? Paul holds up his CV before them and says – ‘What do I think of this? Who do I think I am?’  And then he speaks these life-changing words:

Verse 8I consider everything, all this, family line, profession, everything I used to take credit for, a loss, rubbish, garbage…compared to the only thing that really matters…the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord…’

The credentials some in the church were waving around as something special Paul was tearing up and throwing in the bin,

  • Because of Jesus Christ.
  • He had met, encountered, the Risen Christ and that changed everything,
  • He didn’t lose the benefit of his study in the past, didn’t cease to be of the tribe of Benjamin, instead he now saw all these things in a new light, through a new light, Jesus Christ, the true light of the world.

Let’s pause for a moment to think about another Paul; another Paul whose life was transformed by the Risen Christ and who would also have an interesting answer to the question, ‘Who do you think you are?’. This Paul, was a very well-known and successful pop star. You may have heard of him, Paul Jones, once lead singer with a group called Manfred Mann. Now, I’m going back a bit. Do you remember them? Could you name any of their hits?

  • 5-4-3-2-1
  • Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do
  • Pretty Flamingo

Paul Jones, lead singer in Manfred Mann, in his past was a self-pronounced atheist who liked nothing more than a debate with Christians in which he proudly attempted to tear them to shreds. He once famously was in a TV debate with Cliff Richard and felt he had done well…he says he left feeling proud and laughing thinking he’d taken Cliff to the cleaners. As well as a singer he was an actor and on stage met his future wife Fiona. They began living together. Fiona describes herself at that time as someone who believed in God but didn’t know Him. Over time Paul felt his attitudes towards God softening but he didn’t know what to do about it. He felt something was missing in his life; that there was a hole that needed filling, so he filled it with work and things. Fiona one day was out walking in London and wandered into a church just to get a break from the heat and rest a while. [Isn’t it amazing how God works!] As she sat, she picked up a bible and found herself reading: John 3:16 ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…’ She says, ‘I was blown away by that Scripture, where it goes on to say that anyone who believes will have eternal life…

Later she talked it over with Paul and asked him to go to church with her and was amazed when he said yes. They were both welcomed at the church and began to spend time with the minister who answered their many questions. Then one day out of the blue came a phone call from Cliff Richard inviting the two of them to an evangelistic rally.

They went and as the speaker read from the bible Fiona says she felt as though her heart was going to explode. There was a call for anyone who wanted to give their life to Christ to come forward, and Fiona said to Paul, ‘I’m going’, and Paul went forward too, and by the end of the night Paul and Fiona had given their lives to Christ and Paul had asked Fiona to marry him. That was quite an evening! Today Paul and Fiona are well-known Christian speakers, telling their story of the people they used to be and the people, in Christ, they are now…The story of two Pauls, united through committing their lives to Jesus Christ, getting to knowing Jesus and the difference He makes. Two Pauls; filled not with self-confidence but with God-confidence…

So today, what about you? Who do you think you are? There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your family, your traditions, where you come from, things you have by the grace of God achieved, there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but the message of this text is, don’t put your confidence there – put your confidence in Christ: And isn’t that great and encouraging news?

  • That we don’t need to depend on ourselves,
  • What we think we are good at or not good at,
  • Or on what we own, or where we live,
  • We don’t need to dwell on mistakes of the past,
  • Our confidence is in Jesus Christ who knows us through and through; nothing is hidden from Him,
  • He loves us and has already done all that needs to be done to secure our salvation and bring us life now and for ever,
  • And in these challenging times, when we might find our confidence shaken, that is all very good news!

As the autumn nights draw in and as we are all encouraged to keep safe and stay at home as much as possible, you might find yourself watching, ‘Who do you think you are?’ , and as you do what a great time to remind yourself of who you are in Christ: a child of God, loved by God, made right with God through all Christ has done for you – the work of the Cross – and with God at work in your life whatever this autumn and winter brings, you know: He will walk alongside you and bring you through. He can transform your life as He did with the two Pauls…And take time as well to soak yourself in the words of the Apostle Paul as he speaks of, ‘the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ v8…think about what it means for you to know Jesus and ask yourself how you might know Him better. As one of our hymns reminds us, ‘Knowing, You, Jesus, knowing You, there is no greater thing…’

Commit your life to Jesus, get to know Jesus and the difference He makes, be filled not with self-confidence, but with God-confidence; there is no confidence like that which comes from a life centred on Him. Amen.

Take a moment to reflect upon these words firstly from Scripture and then from the hymnbook:

‘I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…’ (Philippians 3:8)

‘Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You, there is no greater thing….’ (From ‘All I once held dear’ by Graham Kendrick)