ES/PHIL/22 Philippians 3:7-8
1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 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; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 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 on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
What is the most important thing in our lives? I naturally assume we are going to say that Jesus is but perhaps He is not so this needs to be rectified soon. I hope it was not the football for it is now all over! At least until Swansea play their first game of the season. Jesus is the One who needs to be first – He does not need it, we do – Jesus, on the other hand, commands it. So, let me ask a further question: What are the most important things in our lives? We have gone from what is the single most important thing to a list of the things which are most important.
Jesus talked about counting the cost.
25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. 34 “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Someone who does not count the cost will likely, in due time, dilute what it is to follow Jesus. We cease to be useful for the Kingdom of God – men will throw you out and any message you claim to have.
Did we see verse 33 there? ‘So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.’ This is no easy Christian life of easy-believism – coming to faith in Christ is easy – it is by faith alone – but the life expected thereafter is one of full, dedicated, unbridled commitment to Jesus leaving behind anything that does not help to serve Him and the Kingdom of God.
There is no room for anything other than Jesus in our lives.
Whilst Paul did not hear Jesus directly preach the message of the cost of following Him, He was, nevertheless, doing so. What does Paul say? Found in verses 7 and 8:
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.
What was Paul counting loss? All his accolades, all his heritage, all his triumphs, all his academic credentials, all his religious leanings. All this loss was, before, the very life of Paul.
And the terms that Paul uses are accounting terms: to count, loss and gain. These are rudimentary terms about profit and loss. For indeed Paul then goes on to say:
8b for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
For Paul the scales balanced in favour of Christ. All the losses on one side of the scale and Jesus on the other tips it over completely towards Jesus. And if we were to add up all the things we could lose for following Jesus how would the scales tip? The gains Paul had were really a loss, a disadvantage to him. And if this is the case then why not lose them? He could have boasted about his heritage and life and were, in fact, once his boast. Yet with his list of 7 so-called gains on one side of the scale there was only One on the other side of the scale and made the other side a loss.
The One outweighed the many, Paul thought of that divine one, that brother of our souls who was born at Bethlehem, the Kinsman, Redeemer of his people; Christ, the living, loving, bleeding, dying, buried, risen, ascended, glorified Christ; this was the glorious person whom he placed on the other side of the scales.
Friends, it is a grand thing to have led an upright life: it is a matter for which to praise God to have been kept in the very centre of the paths of morality: but this blessing may, by our own foolishness, become a curse to us if we place our moral qualities in opposition to the righteousness of our Lord Jesus, and begin to dream that we have no need of a Saviour. If our character is in our own esteem so good that it makes a passable garment for us, and therefore we reject the robe of Christ’s righteousness, it would have been better for us if our character had been by our own confession a mass of rags, for then we should have been willing to be clothed with the robe of righteousness which divine love has prepared. Even if we had led a sinless life both outwardly and inwardly we would not be worthy. Remember that Adam fell through one sin and lost Paradise and lost us all. Spurgeon, C. H. (1877). Edited for this sermon by Thomas, I. M. and quoted throughout this sermon (2014) The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 23, p. 316-24). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
The curse of sin has infected the whole human race. People today blame God and ask why there is so much pain and suffering in the world and we can point back to Adam. Today people reject Adam too as having no historical basis rejecting God and His creation and so do away with the explanation that Adam and we are to blame for the world’s troubles whether by war or by famine or by exploitation or by earthquake or by hate or by tsunami – the human race is to blame not God whose commandments we despise. But the One whom we discard is the very One who sent His own Son to pay the price of sin.
It may seem very cold indeed to sit down and calculate whether following Jesus is worth it but unless we are willing to lose everything for the cause of Christ then we have not yet truly decided, there will always be something we’ll hold back. Jesus, who said ‘count the cost’, was willing to lose all who were following Him at that very moment for He does not compromise the terms in which we can come to Him.
Are we ready to turn back? Is the cost too much? If we have put our hand to the plough will we keep going straight or veer off when we are tempted by what this world has to offer? Is there something we have to lose to keep following Jesus? It is right to think about these things. If we cannot give 100% in time, money, gifts, heart, body and soul then we cannot be His disciples. We are asked to weigh up the temporal and the eternal? Which shall it be? Are we tempted to follow Christ no matter what? Have we worked out this is something we are willing to do, for sure, with no reservations? Are we willing to be considered fanatics for Jesus?
Of course, there is always going to be an enduring conflict in us. The battle between the flesh and the Spirit. So, every day we need to decide to follow Jesus. It needs to be a daily, and perhaps hourly, conscious decision. There will be days and times when we really do not want to and what will pull us through? But the decision is always ours. And God is ready to help us:
13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Often we just need to remember who God is and remember He is love and His ways are best and He has made a way through Jesus for us to know Him.
So, Paul now re-emphasis his stance. He has been a Christian for at least two decades by now and those things he counted loss for Christ is now being re-evaluated: In verse:
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.
Yet indeed just adds more weight to the former statement. In fact he goes further than before. The list of seven items is not enough – he now says I count all things loss. He’s saying: ‘If I missed anything out because of my heritage or life or accomplishments then add these to the list too.’
And here we see it is so much more personal. It is for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. My Lord. Knowing Him is better than anything else. Nothing else can compare. Our divine Lord is better loved as he is better known. For Paul, and for us, the knowledge of Jesus is better than anything else. He knew that Jesus was his Saviour who had saved him. For us this is what we need to know too. The more we know Him the more we love Him, the more we love Him the more we know Him.
What is it to know Jesus? It is to know His love for us and others. To know His care for those whom He had created. To know of His zeal for His Father. To know His self-sacrifice and readiness to die on our behalf.
All other knowledge added up together will come nowhere near the knowledge we have when Jesus is our Lord and Saviour and Friend and Redeemer and Brother. The One whose name is love is all that matters.
Jesus demonstrated His love for us by doing what He calls us to do. He laid down His life so that we could live. And now we are to lay down our lives for His.
An illustration by Spurgeon shows what it is to suffer loss:
It reminds me of a ship in a storm. When the captain leaves the harbour he has a cargo on board of which he takes great care, but when a tremendous wind is blowing and the ship labours, being too heavily laden, and there is great fear that she will not outride the storm, see how eagerly the sailors lighten the ship. They bring up from the hold with all diligence the very things which before they prized, and they seem rejoiced to heave them into the sea. Never men more eager to get than these are to throw away. There go the casks of flour, the bars of iron, the manufactured goods: overboard go valuable bales of merchandise; nothing seems to be worth keeping. How is this? Are not these things good? Yes, but not good to a sinking ship.
Paul couldn’t wait to get rid of the stuff that would get in the way of the righteousness that can only come from Christ. His own prized possessions are worth nothing in comparison with the knowledge of Jesus Christ his Lord. There is nothing in our background or life that is of any value when considering what Jesus has done for us. A hymn by Isaac Watson puts this in verse:
1 NO more, my God, I boast no more
Of all the duties I have done;
I quit the hopes I held before,
To trust the merits of Thy Son.
2 Now for the love I bear His name,
What was my gain I count my loss;
My former pride I call my shame,
And nail my glory to His cross.
3 Yes, and I must and will esteem,
All things but loss for Jesus’ sake:
Oh may my soul be found in Him,
And of His righteousness partake!
4 The best obedience of my hands
Dares not appear before Thy throne:
But faith can answer Thy demands,
By pleading what my Lord has done.
Isaac Watts, 1709
We may not have consciously worked out the cost of following Jesus but it is something we should do. Work out whether it is worth holding onto other things besides Jesus and see the value of it in the light of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Whether this life is more precious than the next.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
That’s why, for Paul, he counts all things loss, to gain Christ.
It is time to re-evaluate, to recommit; in return for the gift of life He has given us to serve Him with spirit, soul and body: are we up to this pertinent, uncomfortable challenge?
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”
12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”