SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 3 April 2022
Sermon Text: Philippians 3:7-16
Sermon Series: “Dying and Rising with Christ”
Watch Sermon Video: (Link will be updated soon)
I. Dying with Christ
II. Rising with Christ
Every December is a time of pure joy in thankfulness and celebration for us Christians because of an obvious reason, that is, Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. But every April which is the month of Good Friday and Easter seems to be different. It is a mixture of sadness with joy, frustration and hope. We feel sad because of the Lord’s suffering and pain and death; we feel frustrated for we as sinners were the cause of His bearing the cross. But our sadness and frustration are different in nature from those of the world. Our sadness is the foundation of our joy as we know Jesus rose from the dead; our frustration comes into full bloom as eternal hope in Jesus because, through the Lord’s rising from the tomb, we’ve been raised from sin and death to life with Him! So, April is with full colours in terms of emotions. In a sense, similar to its seasonal change – I mean, in the southern hemisphere, autumn colours decorate valleys and mountains and, in the northern hemisphere, spring flowers adorn wherever people’s eyes reach. It surely is a time of growth in the Spirit, maturing in Jesus.
For this reason, this new and short sermon series on the theme, ‘dying and rising with Christ,’ is timely, and my prayer with this sermon series is that God may add His grace and wisdom to us all in order that we might rejoice more and hope deeper in Jesus, and share Him the Saviour more with the world.
Beginning this series, we focus on today’s passage and hear God’s message which is Christian’s ‘dying and rising with Christ.’
I. DYING WITH CHRIST
The first part to consider is ‘dying with Christ.’ This subject is familiar to us as we’ve heard this many times since our conversion, isn’t this? We’ve heard that we died with Jesus when we confessed our sinfulness, admitting our deservedness of death penalty and eternal damnation, thus, pleaded for God’s mercy for forgiveness. When God forgave us and cleansed us from all sins and made us His own, we died with Jesus to sin.
Remembering this, a question arises. Isn’t what we’ve heard our ‘death’ with Jesus rather than ‘dying’ with Him? I mean, our death accepted and announced by God was our status, our nature or quality as the consequence of faith in His Son. As Jesus died, our death with Him is a fact, done deal, fait accompli. Then, why is the message we hear from Phil. 3 ‘dying’ with Jesus as a continuing process or progression in our death with the Lord?
Of course, our death with the Lord is an irrevocable truth; it has been declared as a fact by the Judge and Ruler of the universe. But its consummation, its finalisation is still on the way for each of us Christians. Till then, we experience the effect of our death with Christ every day. In other words, we realise our death with Jesus daily and that more deeply and clearly every day.
Our experience of dying with Jesus takes place in two ways. Firstly, we look at sin dying in us. God’s verdict is being carried out in us, and we enjoy watching this work of the Holy Spirit daily. Secondly, we willingly and eagerly work together with the Spirit of God and further the effect of our death to sin daily. The latter is often referred to as ‘mortification’ of sin.
Our text passage for today from Phil. 3 talks about both ways of realising Christian’s dying with Christ. The apostle Paul presents his own life and experience as an example for us to understand this. He talks about counting all he formerly had as loss ‘for the sake of Christ’ or ‘because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.’ In other words, he thinks about what he used to treasure and as he compares them with what he has now in Christ or knowing Him as his Lord, he abandons, throws out all he formerly prized. He enjoys what is given to him in Jesus. He calls it in v. 9 as ‘the righteousness from God that depends on faith’ in the Son. He enjoys looking at God’s righteousness working in him!
At the same time, Paul talks about his willingness to join the Holy Spirit and actively partaking in the process of putting sin to death and furthering the effect of sin’s death in him. So he talks about his suffering in v. 8 and that is to ‘gain Christ.’ We sense in these words the apostle’s joy as he actively works with God to die to sin.
What it means to you and me in our daily life is this; you know that you’re of God and no longer do you belong to sin because you’re Christian – you died to sin, and sin has no dominion over you anymore. But you still struggle with sin. At the end of every day, you get tired of being disappointed by your own sins for the day. You might sigh in your heart and ask, ‘when would this sin be gone from me? Would it ever be conquered and squashed?’
But you would occasionally realise that you’ve become better than, say, a month ago or a year or ten years ago in regard to sinning. Surely you’re a different person now than you were before believing in Jesus. Surely you now read the Bible and understand what it means, and it’s a great blessing compared to you of last year or years before that. Realising it makes you smile and give thanks to God for His grace that works in you. You find God working constantly in you, bringing the death sentence to sin clearer in your life.
At the same time, you sometimes, if not often, realise that your willing obedience to God, thus, rejecting sin’s temptation is a great pleasure to your heart and soul. You feel proud; you feel you’ve presented to God your thanks for His grace. You’d love to repeat it again, and you pray to God for His help. This is your daily dying with Jesus to sin, your working together with the Spirit of God.
One thing you and I must remember from the apostle’s teaching is this that we’re asked to let go of everything we’ve treasured that belongs not to Jesus but to this world. Whatever they might be, we must count them rubbish, we must count them all loss. This is ‘dying with Jesus.’
II. RISING WITH CHRIST
The next point is ‘rising with Christ.’ In fact, Christians die to rise with Jesus. Like the meaning of dying with Christ, the same is true with our rising with Him the Lord. By believing in Christ, His eternal life is given to us. Yet, its final consummation is to be realised.
To describe this aspect, many people use this term, ‘already but not yet.’ It depicts the fact that you and I are already in God’s kingdom, but not yet fully; we Christians are alive with Jesus, but our resurrection life is not yet fully expressed in this side of glory. The apostle Paul in Phil. 3 is a good example of this alongside all true Christians on earth.
Having said, what does the apostle say about ‘rising with Jesus’ in our text passage? While he said in vs. 7-11 that he abandoned, forgot and counted what lied behind or, in another word, things that belonged to the world, as rubbish, he talks in vs. 8-16 about his ‘pressing on, straining forward and toward’ what lies ahead. He sounds like he focuses on what is before him and gives all he has to grab and attain it.
Paul was far more focused on gaining his goal than anyone else. He was one of the intellectuals of the time, having studied under the best scholar; although he was young, he was an active and enthusiastic member of Israel’s highest religious court; one time he was a delegation of that court in breaking Christian churches. In addition, he was one of the true Jews, belong to the tribe of Benjamin by birth, and true Roman, holding its citizenship by birth which was quite rare for a Jew like him. Before meeting Jesus and bowing to Him as his Saviour and Lord, Paul had every good thing of the world.
But he abandoned all, counted them all rubbish – for what? For the goal that is before him – namely, as in v. 11, ‘to attain the resurrection from the dead.’ This is further explained in v. 13 as ‘the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’
What does he mean by pressing on to ‘attain the resurrection from the dead’ or ‘the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus’? The simplest answer I can give you is this that his goal is to know and enjoy the relationship he has with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Paul’s goal is, firstly, to see clearly what the Father had in His divine heart in terms of choosing and saving him, Paul. Even before laying the foundation of the world, God the Father planned for Paul alongside all His elect. Knowing and understanding this love of the Father is the goal that is ahead of Paul’s heart.
In addition, he desires to attain understanding of how Jesus, God’s Son, willingly accomplished His Father’s plan, and made it effective for Paul and all the elect through His death on the cross. He eagerly seeks to know the depth of the Son’s grace and mercy toward him. And that must start from grasping how awful and condemning his rebellion against God and rejection of His gracious offer of life must be to God! In all these, Paul doesn’t want to miss anything but know more of the heart of Jesus. This is the prize he presses himself on to attain.
Moreover, he wishes to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection which the Holy Spirit enacts or achieves in the life of Christians like Paul. He desires to walk with the Spirit of God, experiencing His power and wisdom and holiness. He longs to realise the path the Holy Spirit leads him and know its beauty and glory. More than all these, the apostle yearns to see the end of his walk with the Spirit!
Paul’s heart aims for this prize. There’s no space for anything else like thoughts on how well I should live or how much I should get paid or how firm my retirement plan should be or what to buy and what to wear or drink. Paul seeks to know more of the Father, more of the Son and more of the Holy Spirit in relation to his faith and life.
The process of attaining this goal is ‘rising with Christ.’ The OT prophet Jeremiah agrees with the NT apostle Paul and affirms this as true, saying this in Jer. 9:23-24, “Thus says the LORD; ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD’.” Every Christian should boast in understanding and knowing God because it surpasses in worth all things of the world! It was Paul’s prize and has been the same for many true believers and followers of Christ. So should this be yours and mine in the Lord because it is our ‘rising with Christ’!
For ‘dying with Christ,’ you and I should throw away all things that aren’t of God and Jesus Christ. In our life, family, church, worship and work, we abandon what is not of God to only focus our eyes on the Word so as to know the Triune God and His saving grace more. We ought to desire maturity in knowing the Father’s love, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit as Paul urges in v. 15, saying, “Let those of us who are mature think this way.” After all, such is our ‘rising with Christ our Lord’!
May God bless all His beloved, granting us a desiring heart to die and rise with Christ especially in this season of Good Friday and Easter. ***