All through the book of Philippians Paul drops us some huge pearls of wisdom on how we ought to live as a people in love with Jesus and in chapter three he mentions one particular thing that is huge when it comes to standing in a world that’s filled with religion.
Have you ever been in a church and looked around and then thought, “Where is the joy?” Not in the sense of looking around to see if everyone is happy and enjoying themselves but actual TRUE JOY that can’t be explained but is highly contagious. For years I didn’t know there was a difference but then I started to read how the bible describes joy, I realized that I was missing something. (1 Peter 1:8, James 1:2-4, Psalm 16:11) I then started to ask myself, “Why aren’t churches the most joyful places on earth? Why aren’t Christians the most joyful people on earth?” It was passages like Philippians 3 that began to open my eyes to a lie that the enemy has crept into the church for years.
Pride and Joy cannot coexist. In the same way, Religion and Relationship cannot coexist. Religion and Pride are based on performance and self-righteousness. Paul says,
“It’s true that I once relied on all that I had become…concerning the righteousness of the Torah, no one surpassed me. (v. 4-6)”
As a man who persecuted Messianic Jews, Saul was one who found his identity in what he did and the title he held. Persecuting those who did not believe the way he wanted them to, he was very familiar with the difference between religion and relationship.
He begins this chapter with a declaration,
“My beloved ones, don’t ever limit your joy or fail to rejoice in the wonderful EXPERIENCE of knowing our Lord Jesus!”Oh what an experience he can testify to! In this moment he champions us to rejoice in our own! He goes on to say, “All of the accomplishments that I once took credit for, I’ve now forsaken them and I regard it all as nothing compared to the delight of experiencing Jesus Christ as my Lord! To TRULY KNOW HIM means letting go of EVERYTHING from my past and throwing all my boasting and all that I THOUGHT made me better than others on the garbage heap…My passion is to be consumed with Him and not clinging to my own “righteousness” based in keeping the written Law. My “righteousness” will be His, based on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ- the very righteousness that comes from God. (v.7-9)”
In the best way he knows how, Paul explains that the pride he once had in his religion is worth absolutely nothing compared to the joy he experiences through his relationship with Jesus.
Complete joy is only found in having a relationship with Jesus. In John chapter 15 it is recorded that Jesus said,
“REMAIN in MY LOVE, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”
[Keep in mind that Jesus said this just before He was about to give His life up for the sins of the world] Complete joy is not found when things around us are going just how we planned. Our joy overflows when we realize that is has nothing to do with our circumstances but instead everything to do with us remaining in the Father’s love and trusting Him no matter what happens.
I have to remind myself of this truth daily. When I set my gaze on reality and the world around me I identify with what I am and what I am not. However, when I set my gaze on the Lord nothing else compares. I become fully delighted in knowing that I am His, He is mine, and as I trust in Him to lead me I do not have to fear anything.
Paul reminds us in this chapter that we are not yet perfected and being in process means every day we have a choice to run the race set before us. Some days may be harder than others but we hold fast to Truth that each day we have access to the True Joy Giver and as we remain in His love He transforms us from glory to glory.
My prayer is that in every nation and tribe the children of God would be known as the most joyful people in all the earth. Will you let that prayer be answered through you?
-Have you ever experienced true joy? If so, when was it? Ask the Father to take you back to that time and remind you what your relationship with Him felt like.
-Is there something you are holding onto that promotes pride instead of joy or religion instead of relationship?
-What are some things you could do every day this week to remind yourself to remain in Father’s love and experience full joy?
*All of these references are from The Passion Translation Bible.