Philippians 3: Out of Loss Comes Gain
Jesus said in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the more abundantly.” And in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” If Jesus is the life- if He is our life, then the abundant life is to have more of Jesus and less of what the world has to offer. So Paul is telling us how to live the abundant life by showing us how the thief robs us of our joy and how we can prevent this theft.
Thus far, Paul has described two types of mind we must develop in order to experience the joy, the fullness of the abundant Christian life, Jesus said He came to give us. Paul told us we need to develop the: single mind and the submissive mind. Quite often, we believe the abundant Christian life is a life without trouble or sorrow, but Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world. In this section of his letter, Paul describes the third type of mind we must have in order to rejoice always in spite of circumstances, things going on in our life that cause us to suffer. We must develop the ‘spiritual mind.’
So far we have learned circumstances and people (especially people we love) can rob us of joy, but so can ‘things’. As Christians we are new creatures who are being transformed and with this transformation comes a new value system. And as the praise song tells us: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full into his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
The things of this earth can rob us of our joy. What are those things? Those things are both tangible and intangible. Tangible things are food, clothing, shelter, reliable transportation, and things we enjoy: reading a good book, entertainment, hobbies, vacations, fun things. They are not in themselves sinful, unless they become your main source of joy. God knows we need certain things and Jesus told us in Matthew 6, your Father knows you need certain things in order to live and also to enjoy. Jesus enjoyed getting away with just the disciples. He loved to laugh, he loved children. He enjoyed his family and friends. He enjoyed eating with his friends. Listen to this verse: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (I Timothy 6: 17) God loves to provide us with everything we need for enjoyment. But balance this is the key. Jesus said in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possession.” If we count on the abundance of things for enjoyment we will find this world system cannot produce the inward type of joy Jesus provides. Haven’t you heard – ‘less is more’?
Many people who have an abundance of things that money can buy have lost the things that money cannot buy.
What are the intangible things people seek after? Reputation, fame, success and achievement. It is these things which can rob one of their joy. We can become slaves of these things and as a result a Christian can lose their joy. And an unbeliever can be deceived into believing these are the things that make life worth living. Only to discover with the attainment of each thing- they soon grew tired of that thing and were always searching for the next new thing that would fill the void in their life. No wonder we live in such a materialistic world, a restless world, – where love is over before it even begins. The ‘joy’ void can only be filled by the Lord Jesus.
Paul writes: “Finally, my brothers, 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.” Paul is saying I do not mind repeating the same things to you for it good for you to hear the same truths over and over. Repetition is a tool of teaching- it is how we memorize and meditate on truths. Many are always in search and curious to hear some new thing. Solomon told us: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl. 1)
Now Paul will take us through this new value system where Paul realizes the worthlessness of those things he sought after- those things he once believed were so important. (When I say new value system, it was new to Paul, but it is as old as the Garden of Eden.) We all know people who are moral, principled people who are well disciplined. The problem is their morality can keep them out of trouble, but their good works and self- righteousness will sadly keep them out of heaven.
In Paul’s case it was not the bad things that kept Paul from Jesus it was the good things. Paul had to lose his religion in order to gain salvation and experience real joy. I believe Saul of Tarsus, (Paul’s given name) was a man driven to build a resume that included good works, keeping the law, and his heritage. Saul would have been the type of student at school all the teachers thought was intelligent, hard working, disciplined, always did everything right, and would be voted by his fellow school mates as ‘ most likely to succeed.’ Of course he would probably be valedictorian also. Saul of Tarsus was driven- because he had to achieve this perfection in order to feel good about himself.
In verses 7 & 8, the NIV uses the word ‘consider’ whereas the KJV uses the word ‘count’. I will defer to the word ‘ count’ as what Paul is doing here is an evaluation, an assessment as he will come to a place in his life where he must re-evaluate everything he has counted as important. He will, like an accountant, open the books, the books of his life to evaluate his spiritual wealth. You see what happened to Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus was what happened to me in that hotel room in Nashville. For although we are separated by 2000 years, and completely different backgrounds, both Saul and I had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God. And we were both changed. Saul of Tarsus, the zealous rabbi, the young man who was on the road to achievement, recognition, reputation and accomplishment would have to re- evaluate his life and what was important and what was not. Both Saul and I would come to the same conclusion- everything we had done up to that time was nothing- it was rubbish. It was the same thing Solomon discovered- it was meaningless.
For both Paul and I had experienced what is the beginning of the most important thing- the only thing that really counts- the saving grace of Almighty God. I went down on my knees in a hotel room a sot, and arose a saint, changed for the rest of my life on this earth and for all eternity. (Might I add- countless times since then I have gone down on my knees one way- and arose a different way having encountered the love and grace and assurance of my Savior)
When Saul of Tarsus opened his books and begin to examine his spiritual wealth- he discovered that apart from Jesus Christ everything he had lived, worked so hard to achieve, was nothing- it was rubbish.
Paul was never one to mince words, and he warns these new believers to ‘watch out for those dogs’ those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. Jews called Gentiles – ‘dogs’; and now Paul calls these orthodox Jews- dogs. These Judaizers taught the sinner was saved by faith plus good works, especially the works of the law. This included, diet, observation of certain holidays, keeping the law and of course circumcision for men. Paul calls them evil workers because they taught works performed by the flesh and not the Spirit were good works. And no man is saved by good works. Theses Jewish teachers taught that circumcision was essential for salvation.
Religious works cannot save a person. Only faith in Jesus Christ can save a person.
Paul then tells us what his evaluation of his life up until the time of salvation revealed about his accomplishments. Certainly he was a boy his mother and father could be proud of- a top student, obedient, hard working, disciplined, a Hebrew of Hebrews.
I believe Paul is reaching out to those Jewish brothers he wants to see come to know Christ. This is Paul’s autobiography he is sharing as he examines his own life and recalls the futility of trying to attain salvation by means of good works.
He was a student of Gamaliel, the great rabbi of his day. His career as a Jewish religious leader was on the fast track to become one of the most prominent leaders. He hated the Christian sect and persecuted them with zeal. And now in his evaluation he looks back and says- ‘if any of you think you have reasons to put confidence in your flesh- I have more- and then Paul describes his life up to the meeting of Jesus on the Road to Damascus.
Interestingly, Paul leads with his own circumcision. Circumcised on the 8th day;
Of the people of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin. King Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and Saul of Tarsus, Paul, was named after him.
He called himself a Hebrew of Hebrews. He parentage was pure Hebrew, could trace their ancestry back to Benjamin.
He was a Pharisee. The Pharisee was the epitome of religious righteousness, who kept the orthodox laws in the most minute details.
As far as his devotion and zeal- Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church like no other in his time. He was like a zealous bounty hunter seeking all Christians he could in find.
As far as keeping the law Paul said he was blameless.
Do you know what was the problem with Saul of Tarsus? He measured his life and accomplishments by the standards set by men, not by God. He compared himself to other men and believed he was successful by their standards. In fact he believed he was more successful than most. When Saul of Tarsus looked at his accomplishments and compared to others- he considered himself righteous.
This all changed on the day he met the Lord Jesus Christ on the Road to Damascus. It was there by faith he received his sight, although it was first necessary that he be blinded physically. The miracle which took place on the road to Damascus is the same miracle of grace which takes place every time a sinner confesses their sinfulness and turn to the Savior by faith.
Now when Paul examines his life up to this point- he can see how it had profited him. He was well respected among the Pharisees, the High Priest and leaders. His reputation was one of a scholar, a man admired for his intelligence, zeal, ambition and hard work. He would have had many friends. All of these were profited him, personally. They brought glory to one Saul of Tarsus- but not to God. They added up to an impressive resume of accomplishments that could take him far in the religious circles and system. He was climbing the ladder of success. Each step carefully noted as another accomplishment lifting him every higher in his own eyes and the eyes of the religious world he thrived in. These accomplishments were gain to him only- and as such- were selfish.
When Paul considered, counted up all his accomplishments to the point of his salvation- he counted them loss for Christ. In essence Paul said, I count my religious activities and the reputation I have built as nothing.
Paul says I count all things but loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (NIV) KJV says ‘for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.’ Notice in both versions is the knowing of Christ, the knowledge of Christ. This refers to a personal relationship not just knowing about Christ, but personally knowing Christ. Salvation is knowing Christ in a personal way.
Now here is why I wanted us to defer to the use of the word ‘count’ rather than consider. Paul was looking as his own record as Saul of Tarsus and discovered because all his righteousness was self righteousness- he was in fact by all accounting terms, when he counted it up- spiritually bankrupt.
Listen to the accounting words Paul uses in Romans 4: “For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” And later in the same chapter: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Impute is an accounting term – as in- the interest was imputed (credited) to the account.
When Saul of Tarsus and Tim Fortner trusted Christ, God put Christ’s righteousness into our accounts. But also we must remember when this transactions occurred, God put my sins on Christ’s account on the cross.
God has promised me and Paul and every believer ever saved- that He would never write our sins in our account ever again. All my sins were paid for- the account of my debts- my sins was cleared and marked paid in full. And in my new account- I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. AMEN!!
Now Paul writes how he wants to know Christ:
- In the power of His resurrection.
- In the fellowship of His suffering.
- Becoming, being conformed like Him in His death.
- By any means attaining the resurrection of the dead.
Paul said if Christ be not risen, our faith is in vain. But He is risen indeed and was seen by over 500 witnesses.
Paul would pray the eyes our heart would be enlightened so we could understand the power that resurrected Jesus from the dead was the same power at work in us.
“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2: 20)
As we begin the second phase of salvation, sanctification, which follows justification, we will encounter the attacks of the enemies as we grow in our knowledge and experience of Christ. Our enemy does not play fair, he fights dirty. He will attack you, your loved ones plus your old nature will defy you that he/she is crucified. The enemy intends this for evil, to harm us- but God will allow this in order to teach us how to walk by faith and not by sight. It is the working out of what God has worked in us that produces the practical experience of knowing Christ personally. Remember if we are crucified with Him, we die to sin, and when we are crucified with Christ- the world is crucified to us.
Paul who had persecuted many, now finds himself persecuted. Suffering is a part of the experience of fellowship. When we love someone- do we not also suffer with them when they suffer? Of course we do. Jesus said to Saul of Tarsus that day- why do you persecute me? When Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church, the Body of Christ, he persecuted Christ.
Suffering, trials, troubles, adversity are what conforms us to the image of Christ. And again Paul who writes these well known verses: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also did predestinate toe be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:28, 29)
If you are living for the ‘things of this world’ you soon realize these treasures must be constantly protected less they lose their value. These are treasures that can be stolen, or else can lose value. But our treasures in Christ can never be stolen or lose their value.
Have you looked in your Spiritual Account book lately?
What things are causing you to lose your joy? What keeps you awake at night?
Paul writes he had learned to be content. What did he learn that allowed him to be content? He realized God has supplied all he needed for his present happiness.
It was this discovery of this new value system that completely turns Paul’s life and thus his goals completely around.
A goal is simply what we do to accomplish an objective in a period of time. We have all been told we should have goals and strategies for accomplishing them.
Purpose is why we do what we do. Goals are what we do.
Purpose is long term- goals are shorter terms. Goals are to achieve our purpose.
What is our purpose? The chief end of man (the purpose) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Here are some hard questions you must ask yourself as you evaluate your spiritual account.
What are you looking for? Where are you looking?
What have you found so far? How is what you found affecting your life?
What is holding you back?
When are you going to do something about what is holding you back?
Something to think about:
If Jesus is the way, the truth and the life- then the abundant life is having more of Jesus and less of those things which we seek to fill our lives with. Today we have larger houses but smaller families. We have more conveniences, but less time. We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. Taller buildings and shorter tempers. More experts and expertise-but more problems rather than less. Wider highways but more narrow views. More knowledge, ever learning but never coming to the truth.