Philippians 3:1-11 – Gain and Loss Part 1 The Holy Spirit is relentless. He is not prone to letting up or letting us out of consequences. Sanctification is one of those unique experiences that allows us to feel the freedom from sin as righteousness is imputed to us in Christ, but it also allows us to feel the weight of still waging war against our own, very personal sin. Sanctification is the epitome of bittersweet. Paul is describing his own experience with sanctification in the opening passage of Philippians 3. He dives headlong into the depth of his past and drags us to the bottom with him. He builds out his sandy foundation of heritage, self-righteousness, and blind zeal and then drops the bomb in verse 7, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Boom… down goes crowning achievement of Paul’s life. There are few of us who could spout off the rap sheet that Paul does in verses 4-6. Many of us were lawbreakers from our childhood. We stole, fought, and lied straight out of the womb. Paul may have been a lawbreaker as a very young child, but you never know what the household of a Pharisee training a Pharisee looked like in the first century. Regardless, Paul’s boast is in what he had made. Paul’s list of external success is staggering. Paul’s rights as a Pharisee, Hebrew of Hebrews, and citizen of Rome would have made him extremely successful and powerful in his day. And the cherry on top was that he had done it. He had accomplished it. He had made his own way. I often look back on my life and examine the things I used to take pride in. I used to be a good athlete. I have a box full of awards, medals, and plaques from my high school career. I have three ridiculous rings from state championships in football and baseball. I can still remember wearing those rings to school and feeling very proud. All those things represent a lot of time, a lot of sweat, and a ton of work. It has been easy for me to look back and glory in what I had accomplished. It didn’t take long for God to dismantle the tower to heaven I had built for myself. I don’t say that as if I had anything to do with the dismantling. God faithfully knocked my off my horse in college and it took a few more years for the scales to finally fall off after that. What does your tower look like? What have you accomplished? What do you wear as your badge of honor in your community? I want to be very clear here, there’s nothing wrong with working hard and accomplishing something. Paul was just as zealous for Christ as he was for Judaism. There are things that God has put into us that can bring glory to His name in dozens of ways, but how do you view your gifts? What is at the heart of your pursuits? Is it to be seen and recognized? Do you often pursue after money and toys of this world and then thank God for them when you’ve got them? Has your life been changed because of Christ or do you just add His name as a tagline to the things you’ve always pursued? Let’s think about it this way, what would have happened if Paul would have had the “salvation” experience like so many of us might have had? What if Saul was sitting in the synagogue and Peter gave an altar call, and Saul went finally went forward and asked Jesus into his heart. Saul finally decided that he should do things for Jesus now. So instead of persecuting the Christian church in his zeal, Saul turned his resourcefulness to pursuing the Jews. After all, the Jews were the ones who were blaspheming now. So Paul set out, doing exactly what he had always done, but now he had Jesus attached to his cause. This may be a silly, over dramatized example, but it fits how most of us view our relationship with Christ. We generally view our lives as being just fine before we accepted Christ, so there’s little change that really needs to take place. We just need to stop cussing, stop drinking alcohol or smoking, and be nicer to our spouses and that’s about the extent of how “bad” we were before Christ. Paul teaches passionately against this. There is something that radically changes in us when Christ saves us. We don’t see things the same way we did. We don’t want the same things we wanted. Everything is different. Salvation for us is not about how we finally chose Christ, but how He finally chose us. Everything changes when we have been confronted with the perfect love and grace of Christ. All the motivations that drove us before look disgusting to us now. This is what it looks like for what we once thought gain to become loss. I’m not saying that we all have to change our life path when Christ rescues us. The change is not always total. Meaning you may not have to completely change your job once you get saved. It’s our motivations for doing what we do that changes. Our jobs are no longer about making money or gaining success but about Christ’s glory. Our homes are no longer about comfort and status but about Christ’s glory. Our vehicles, family, accomplishments, money, savings, hobbies, time, and resources are no longer about us but about Christ’s glory. It’s the heart that changes. Some of you should change careers, sell your house, downgrade your car, or a number of other things when you realize the beauty of Christ as Paul did. It is the Spirit who leads you in deciding what you need and what you don’t need. Trust Him. It is my hope that Christ would wake us up to the glory of who He is and to the inglorious state of our hearts when we choose our self-made accomplishments over Him. I pray that we would count all things as loss for the sake of Christ. May He teach us how to join with Him in our sanctification for the glory of His name. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace, JOT
Philippians 1:18-26 – To Die is Gain
This has by far been one of the most difficult blog entries I’ve had to write. I’ve rewritten this three times which is unprecedented for me. I usually just sit and write the entry in one take, no rewrites or corrections unless my wife reads it and decides to help me correct commas and typos. Each rewrite has had a different angle to this passage. Each sounded really good to me, but I kept having this unsettled feeling as I’d get closer to finishing it. I think I was over-stating what should not be over-stated. Paul uses one key sentence to essentially sum up the entire life of a disciple of Christ, and I wanted to wax poetic on the subject. So without further adieu, let’s get to the point.
“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (v. 21) This is the heart of the Christian walk. If we breathe, we are Christ to this world. We are broken, He is perfect. We are earthen vessels, He is glorious beyond all comparison. We are rebels struggling to kill what is blasphemous within us, He died that rebels might come to know true freedom. We have no desire for the things that do not last in this life if Christ is truly our life. We don’t chase what the world chases. We don’t speak with the language of the world. We don’t hide our imperfections like the world. We don’t lie to ourselves that we are more than we are as the world does. We are more than what this world sees because it is Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20).
If this is where we find ourselves – if Christ is our life – if we have detached ourselves from the world – then the only place we can land when it comes to death is to count it gain. I cannot stress to you enough the value and worth of battling over this in the depth of your heart. Would death be gain to you? I am not asking would death be easier for you – that’s not the question. If we see our lives as worthless in our time on earth, we have at best missed a large part of the Gospel message and at worst we’ve missed it altogether. The question could be rephrased like this: Have you so enjoyed Christ in this life, whether in suffering or prosperity, that the prospect of leaving this shadowy plain to receive His fullness is the greatest prize you could seek to attain? This is the heart of Paul. Can we see death as gain?
It would be easy for most of us who have loved the Lord to answer this question with a resounding “YES!” We have tasted the goodness of the Lord and are ready to see Him face to face. But we must ask ourselves another question if we say we agree with Paul – a question that often goes unasked or is avoided. Are we living like death is gain for us and damnation for others? You see the truths that are set before us in following Christ allow us to rejoice in our salvation while longing for its fulfillment, and yet we too often forget the other end of that spectrum. We forget that our justification makes us salt, light, and life into a flavorless, dark, and lifeless world. So few of us who would claim that death is gain are willing to speak about it with others. So few of us are willing to sacrifice our comfort and peace in order to spread the Gospel we have been given.
The biggest difference between most of us and Paul is that we have not lived a life fully surrendered. We may have given up a weekend or two during the year to devote to evangelism or discipleship, but the majority of our time is fixated on ourselves. We don’t see Christ as being gain enough to share, we are usually content to sit on it until its comfortable or time to cash it in. I fear some of us may have missed it altogether if we approach the Gospel this way. This life is war. We must battle our selfish desire to obtain this great treasure of Christ only to hoard it within ourselves until this life is over. I cannot tell you what this really looks like for you in your walk. It is for the Spirit to lead and guide. It is my prayer that we don’t become lazy in our faith; waiting for death to take us, unwilling to share the great gift we have been given. May our souls awake to the desperate need around us for the Gospel, and our role in sharing it where we have been placed. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,