Let’s get right to it: Read Philippians 3:1-11.
Paul starts off this section of his letter by warning the Philippians to watch out for those “dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh”. He’s referring to a group of people known as Judaizers, who were part of the early church but they believed and taught that salvation was earned through a mixture of God’s grace and human effort. They taught that a believer had to first convert to Judaism and follow certain parts of the Mosaic law, especially circumcision, before they could be saved. They didn’t teach that salvation was by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. They thought there was something more that needed to be added to it.
So Paul tells the Philippian church to have nothing to do with these people. He longs for believers to understand that every bit of salvation depends upon the completed work of Christ on the cross and absolutely none of it depends on us! He goes even farther to give them a list of all of the reasons that he could put confidence in his flesh. He basically says he could beat anybody in a contest in righteousness and rule-following. He was circumcised on the eighth day – that shows he comes from a very devout Jewish family. He’s of the people of Israel, God’s chosen people! Not only that but he is of the tribe of Benjamin – the same tribe that Israel’s first king came from – Saul! (Could it be he’s even named after this king?) He is a Hebrew of Hebrews, as Jewish as they come. And when it comes to the law, he’s a Pharisee; he not only knows the law, he follows it and teaches it! He was even so zealous that he persecuted the early church because of their blasphemy against the Law. As far as meeting all of the righteous requirements of the law, Paul had checked off all the boxes. Blameless.
Take a minute and make a two-column chart. Label one side “Righteousness” and list all of the good things you’ve done. Really do it!!! Don’t skip this part!!!
|Adopted two kids|
|Go to church every time the doors are open|
|Play the Piano|
|From a good Christian family|
|Lots of Scripture memorized|
|Lots of good Christian friends|
|No R rated movies|
|Give tithes and offerings regularly|
|Know all the church answers|
|Great godly husband|
|Good advice giver|
|Mentor/Role Model to many|
|Friendly, Kind and Loving|
|Raised sweet (ha!), obedient children|
Now label the other side of the chart “Knowing Christ.” Write in big letters over the righteousness side LOSS.
What Paul is saying here in his letter to the Philippian church is that compared to Christ, every good thing in his life is worthless. The crazy part is that all of these things on my list are good things. None of them are bad! And yet every single one of them is rubbish compared to knowing Christ. None of them count. None of them matter. I could lose every single one of these things and be just fine and dandy as long as I have Christ. The best things I have done, rubbish. The people that I love, rubbish. I could lose them all and it wouldn’t even matter compared to knowing Christ.
I’ve gotta say, I don’t think I’m really at that point. Surely I’m not alone in that.
God would you change our wills? Would you change our desires so that we can look at our lists of righteousness and declare them worthless compared to you? God, help us to want you. Help us to desire you. Help us to know you.
You and I are dealing mostly in hypotheticals here. For most of us up until this point in 2017, we haven’t been asked to give up our list of righteousness. Remember our old friend Job who lost everything he loved, including his kids? He is a great example of one who understood the value of knowing Christ above any earthly thing. But you and I most likely have never been faced with the loss of every good thing we’ve done and everything that we are. We’ve never actually had to count it as loss. Paul had though. Don’t forget that he wrote these words from the inside of a prison cell in Rome. I mean if that’s not righteous, I don’t know what is. He’s writing words that would later appear in the Bible from a prison cell where he has been jailed for his belief and teaching about Jesus Christ. If righteous acts were what it was all about, Paul would have it! But Paul knows that his righteousness doesn’t come from himself or the law. His righteousness comes from his faith in Jesus Christ. He says again to the believers here that he simply wants to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. He wants to be like him in his death and share in his sufferings. For Paul, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Now it’s important to note here that God is not necessarily asking you to give up your righteous acts. Many of those things on your list of “righteousness” are things that are there in the life of a believer because of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. The point is in the comparison. In putting your list of righteousness next to knowing Christ, there should be no contest, no comparison. Knowing Christ is all there is.
Some of you are putting all of your eggs in the basket of righteousness. You’re banking on the fact that you’re a good person, leading a moral life. You go to church or to Bible study and you feel like that has earned you a point or two in your favor with God. You probably have never written out a list of your righteousness before, but now that you look at it, it seems like a pretty good list. You know you don’t have to work for your salvation, but if you did, you’d be sitting pretty right now. But let’s look at what God has to say about that in Matthew 7:21-23.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
God’s response to all that prophesying and demon-casting-out and mighty works in the name of the Father? “I never knew you. Depart from me.”
I can think of no more terrifying words. I never want to be more dependent on my list of righteousness than I am on Jesus Christ. I want Him to be my life, my all, my everything. I want to know Him and be known by Him. How about you?
There’s a great old song that was written from this passage of Scripture called “Knowing You.” Look it up on youtube and give it a listen.
All I once held dear, built my life upon,
All this world reveres and wars to own.
All I once thought gain, I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this.
Knowing you, Jesus. Knowing you.
There is no greater thing.
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord.
Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours.
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All surpassing gift of righteousness.
Oh to know the power of your risen life
And to know you in your sufferings.
To become like you in your death my Lord,
So with you to live and never die.