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Where Will Your Beliefs Lead You?

Philippians 3:1-21

Jim Davis

Have you ever contemplated how many people have risked their lives to give you the opportunity to sit where you are sitting at this very moment? Have you ever thought about the innumerable people who have lost their lives taking that risk? Those individuals believed that whatever was worth living for was worth dying for. Those who leave an indelible mark on our world are those who have the courage to cry, "Give me liberty, or give me death." Ultimately, all freedom is bound up in a willingness to die for something worth living for.

Timothy McVeigh was a fanatic who sacrificed himself for his warped beliefs. The thing so striking about his life was that he was willing to boldly lay his life on the line for what he believed. Unfortunately, what Timothy McVeigh thought was worth dying for wasn't worth dying for. But he still staked his life on what he believed. When he was facing death, I thought, how sad it was that he wasted his life. He staked his life on his warped beliefs.

What Are You Staking Your Life On?

Ultimately, all of us are staking our lives on our beliefs. Every person in this audience is staking his/her life on something. You may not be as bold or warped as McVeigh, but you are staking your life on what you believe.

Belief is of such a nature that it requires us to stake our lives on it. You may not boldly proclaim, "Give me liberty or give me death," but nevertheless you are staking your life on what you believe. Have you ever examined what you really believe? If you haven't, you need to, because your life is wrapped up in what you believe. You are giving your life for what you believe. Whether you fully realize it or not. This is the sobering part about all of this.

Whatever you are living for---you are dying for. Whatever you spend today doing, you are dying to do it. You have given one day of your life for it. Make no mistake about it. You will die for what you believe, regardless of what you believe. On judgment day each of us will be judged for what we believe. On that day we will fully realize that we staked our lives on our beliefs. It may be so incremental that we don't realize it at the time; nevertheless it is true.

It is no accident that life in Christ begins with a burial. Baptism is a commitment to die for what we believe. That is bold. To be crucified with Christ. To commit yourself to die with Christ. That is what baptism represents (Romans 6:1-4). It symbolizes dying for Christ. It symbolizes the idea that we are just dying for a new way of life.

This may seem harsh to a modern world. However, I want you to remember that you are dying for your lifestyle regardless of the style of life you have chosen. You already believe that whatever is worth living for is worth dying for. It may not seem to be the case, but that is the truth. You are making that choice consciously or subconsciously however subtle it is.

A drug addict is willing to die for what he/she is living for. Sexually promiscuous persons lay their lives on the line for their lifestyles. How many lay their lives on the line for bad habits daily. Our willingness to die for what we believe may not seem to be as fanatical as Timothy McVeigh's approach to life. But ultimately it is. Whatever we have chosen to live for we must die for. That is the very nature of belief.

You can't live in this world without believing in something. Even if you say you believe in nothing, you believe something. To believe in nothing is to believe. Your belief in nothing will direct your life.

I want to ask you life's most important question. Is what you are presently living for really worth dying for? Are the beliefs that direct your life at this very moment worth dying for?

Do you know how to tell whether something is worth dying for? By asking yourself what difference it will make when you physically die?

Philippians 1:20-24
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (NIV)

Paul's beliefs had a firm grip on his life. Fortunately, his beliefs did not originate from a warped perspective of life. The beauty of Paul's life was that it was so wrapped up in the life and death of Christ that whether he lived or died death was a joy. Will there be joy at your death?

Judas’ body was left upon a garbage heap.

Acts 1:18-20
(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

"For," said Peter, "it is written in the book of Psalms, 'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,' and, 'May another take his place of leadership.'" (NIV).

When the Old Testament spoke of bodies left lying in the street or on a garbage dump, it was an indication that those people failed to live for something worth dying for. Do you remember wicked Jezebel? Upon her death her body was left lying in the street; the dogs came and licked her blood. It was her judgment for living a life wasted upon herself. It was a sign to all Israel that her life was an abomination to God. It was God’s signal to the world about her fateful end.

1 King 21:23-26
"And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: 'Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.' "Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country." (There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.) (NIV)

When they went out to bury Jezebel after her death they could find nothing to bury.

2 Kings 9:36-37
But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. They went back and told Jehu, who said, "This is the word of the LORD that he spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel's flesh. Jezebel's body will be like refuse on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, 'This is Jezebel.'" (NIV)

The judgment of God upon Jezebel and Judas are object lessons for us today. They were visual lessons for that world and ours about the judgment of God. Today we speak of hell, but then they spoke of a wasted life. For a dead body to end up on a garbage heap or to end up lying in a field for vultures to devour was a sign from God.

When you see God's vengeance against the heathen in the Old Testament, you may think that God's judgment upon the heathen world was unusually cruel. You must remember the heathen were cruel people. They burned their own children alive as a sacrifice to Molech. They did this to entreat the idol god for personal gain. Of course, today we don't burn our babies to idol gods. We simply take the morning after pill. Or, maybe we sacrifice them to the gods of neglect and abuse.

God's judgment then is to remind us of the tragedy of misspending our lives for worthless beliefs. It is an object lesson about God's judgment that is to come in the final day.

Timothy McVeigh wanted his ashes to be given to one of his friends. He wanted him to dispose of them without telling anyone the location. No one will be able to say hear lies Timothy McVeigh. In the Old Testament that would be a sign that he wasted his life. That he did.

If you continue to live by the beliefs you now hold, how will your life end?
Will your life end up on a garbage heap?

Where Does Your Confidence Lie?

Our beliefs not only direct our lives but they supply the power for living. Our beliefs empower our world for good or evil. How powerful are the things you are dying for? Can they really give you life?  We know that they will take your life, but can they give you life? How much power do they give you for living a truly victorious life?

We are looking for the strength within our selves. We are told to believe in ourselves. When we look within for the power for victory we are limited by what we believe in ourselves. Suppose someone says, "I know I can do it because I have confidence in myself." What power is that person depending upon to get the job done? Their confidence has mere flesh and bones. How much of our energy for living is derived from looking at life's past accomplishments? We take an inventory of what we have done, then, tell ourselves that we have the strength to do it. Or, we may tell ourselves that we can't do it.

Why not choose to believe in someone more powerful than anything we can imagine. A life in Christ is not dependent upon what we have the ability to accomplish. It is not dependent upon privilege or personal achievement?

Philippians 3:3-6
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh--though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (NIV)

You will never discover Christ power for living until you flush your belief system of everything but Christ. Here’s what I mean. Our achievements are always related to our agenda. Whether spoken or not we all have this destination where we’d like to arrive in life. Our achievements are rungs on that ladder. If you’re pursuing your own agenda you’ll constantly be on the wrong ladder. You dreams and goals and plans must give way to God’s dreams, goals and plans for you.

Paul had no confidence in his fleshly accomplishments. The apostle Paul had accomplished a great deal through privilege, conviction and achievement. The achievements of those Jewish teachers who were trying to denigrate Paul's character were put to shame by his portfolio. They couldn't hold a candle to his faultless legalism. However, Paul realized that his legalism didn't hold a light to what Christ had done for him.

Philippians 3:7-11
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (NIV)

He had to die to all of that so that he could enter into the fellowship of sharing in Christ's sufferings. We share in Christ suffering when we do the difficult thing. Do the unpleasant thing. Do the right thing, because it is right.

To believe in Christ is to place our confidence in what he has done for us and will do for us. It is to reign with Christ in the power of his resurrection. Paul's legalism couldn't begin to give him the power for living that Christ resurrection gave him. To tap into this power Paul had to denounce the privileges and achievements of the past. He put no confidence in the flesh. The purpose of Paul dying to his past was to become like Christ in his death.

That same power, which crushed the forces of darkness at the resurrection, resides within each of us as Christians. Because we have a right relationship to God, his Spirit indwells our beings.

God’s Spirit gives each believer the ability to do supernatural things. We’re all given these things called spiritual gifts. These are God-given-abilities. They are not miraculous gifts but they are directed by God's supernatural power. When we use them in service, the people we serve experience life-change. These gifts are many and varied: teaching, preaching, encouragement, giving, administration, leadership, creative communication, service, evangelism, deliverance … the list goes on and on.

God wants to use you in a powerful way. You will never discover or use your spiritual abilities until you flush your own belief system of everything but Christ.

Surrender and submission to God is the only way to know the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Philippians 3:12-16
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (NIV)

Paul was an achiever, but when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he took a hard look at his life. He concluded what he had been trying to achieve was a bunch of garbage. He decided that he would stop putting his confidence in himself. He placed his confidence in the power of God as he pressed toward God's goal for his life.

Jesus warns us to live for something worth dying for.

Matthew 5:30
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. NIV

Matthew 10:39
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. NIV

Matthew 16:25-28
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. NIV

Luke 9:25-26
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? NIV

If you believe and achieve the world's agenda for your life, will you gain anything in the end?

Conclusion:

The whole tenor of the book of Philippians is that if you want to live a powerful joyous life you will have to discover a life that gives power for living. Paul found that life in Christ.

You have heard the saying, "Get a life!" What kind of life have you got? When you look at your achievements, is there anything literally worth laying down your life for. Is there anything there that will lift you above the ruins of this world? When life is over will you be able to look back and say that your life was spent doing something worth dying for. What is the value of what you are doing in comparison to your life?

How much of our lives are poured into being successful in the eyes of the world? Is what the world or the church expects of us really worth dying for?

Thankfully Paul saw the rubbish pile his life was built upon before it was too late. What about you?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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