though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for 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; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:4-8 ESV)
Yesterday we talked about how some people have replaced Jesus with a set of rules. To them, Christianity is all about how good you can be… they have forgotten that being a Christian is being a follower of JESUS. Paul knows what its like to live for rules. He used to be that way too! He used to think that God would be pleased with him because he had a great upbringing, he did everything right, and he really kept a lot of rules.
Then everything changed when he met JESUS on the road to Damascus. He realized that for all his “good works” he still weren’t good enough for God, not really. He was still a sinner and he had never really addressed the real problem of the sin in his heart.
Imagine that you wake up and you find yourself in your underwear (I don’t know how you sleep so this may be normal for you), but it’s about time for school to start and you realize that you need to put on some clothes. You have a real problem though, you are practically naked and you can’t find clothes anywhere. Finally in a desperation you run to the bathroom to see if maybe you left some dirty clothes there (after all dirty clothes are better than no clothes, maybe). It’s getting really close for time for school to start and you haven’t found any clothes yet, but in the bathroom you find a can of paint. So as you look in the mirror you begin to paint clothes on the mirror so as you stand just right it looks like you have on clothes. The only problem is that you are still practically naked. The mirror is covered, you are not.
Paul saw that all his good deeds, his up bringing, his rule keeping was just like painting on a mirror… it temporarily made him look good on the outside, but God looks at the heart. Like all of us he still had a sin issue. So he challenged the church at Philippi (and now us) through his own personal story to consider these things as secondary to what really matters… JESUS.
In fact, Paul says that these things were loss to him! He called them “rubbish.” The translators were being nice here, another word for rubbish is “Poo.” Yes, you read right. That stuff that you deal with, pull a magic lever and send on its way without a second thought. Paul says that everything he used to count on he now counts as nothing.
Does that mean we’re supposed to be bad… of course not! It means that we look to Jesus, not our deeds or anything else to make us acceptable to God. Since Jesus is the one who brings us to God, then we count him as supremely valuable, not what we have done.