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Sermon 20181118 Ross Woodhouse

Philippians 3:7-11

Lose the Rubbish, Gain Christ

Let’s first establish…Who is God? A few excerpts from Job to best address this question.

Job 36:26-31 NIV

How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.  “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams ; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind.  Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion? See how he scatters his lightning about him, bathing the depths of the sea.  This is the way he governs the nations and provides food in abundance.

Job 37:14-16 NIV

“Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders.  Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash?  Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?

Job 38:4-7, 18 NIV

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?  Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.

Who is God?[1]

The twentieth-century writer A. W. Tozer made a stunning claim: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us”. More than our gender or sexuality or ethnicity or family heritage or the town we grew up in or where we went to school or our financial status, we become like what we worship.

Tozer goes on: “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God”. In other words where we derive our truth about God, what we think about God, what we believe about Jesus will determine the extent we will give our lives to him. We cannot know everything about God, but we can be 100 percent committed to the pursuit of knowing him more each day.

Society with all of its worldly deviations and self-preoccupations does not inform us of who God is. God is God. God is holy and does not flex with the moral change of the world. What we think of God, how we think he should act and behave doesn’t change who he is. Otherwise we end up with a God who looks an awful lot like us.

We cannot think or believe or imagine Jesus into being anything like us, we cannot bring him down, but only continually lift ourselves up to him. He cannot be anything other than who he is; Saviour and Lord.

God loves us…but he wants us to love him back

In this morning’s passage of scripture Paul approached everything he thought was great and important – things he believed about God, the way he acted toward God, particularly his wealth, heritage and status – to say they have one thing in common: compared to knowing Christ each of these things is valueless. All their worth, in comparison to knowing Christ, is like taking these examples and throwing them out onto the garbage heap.

When we look at our lives, and consider right now what our greatest assets are, “where our treasure there is our heart also”, what our greatest love is, what or who gets our greatest affection…who or what does? We have uttered the words Jesus I love you, I worship you, you are my Lord, but have our actions, and affections followed this?

We’re reminded today that following Christ is not a concoction of old and new, it is the old made new. Remember Peter and Andrew, closely followed by James and John (Matt. 4: 19, 22) Jesus called them… “at once…and immediately they followed Jesus”, leaving behind their livelihood, and their family.

Anything that keeps Jesus from being our number one, love, is a liability. It has no value compared to knowing Christ.

It took Paul being face to face with Christ to put all his formerly important things behind him to count them as valueless; all of his personal advantages aside for the sake of Christ. He came to a point where anything and everything he did, was for God, for his glory and for his benefit.

This series is all about engaging in the Immeasurably Moreness of God. Believing God can, trusting God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, and stepping out and into, that. We will only be able to move forward in this, to the extent we are able with the help of Holy Spirit to lose the things we consider priorities, for the sake of Christ.

”leave behind your nets”…., for some it will be some other obstacle, attitude, or affection. Any one of us will find it difficult to see the new thing/s God is doing by constantly looking in the rear-view mirror, get in the driver’s seat, step on the faith pedal and see where God will take you.

The intention of the letter to the church at Philippi was about encouragement, what being a genuine follower of Jesus looks like, how we grow in the power of Christ in difficult circumstances. The passage focuses on the idea that even the most admirable, most moral and ethical of human achievements fall short of what God requires from us in the end for eternal salvation. On its own humanity is incurably sinful, and God is holy and holy means perfect. We’re sinful, God is perfect. Jesus by giving his life, paid the price that was ours to pay, took our sin upon himself, bridged the gap between us and God. Through Jesus we can be right with God.

God in his grace has remedied this situation through the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Cost to us? Free. How then do we live life in light of this unimaginable free gift?

READ Phil. 3:7-11

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 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 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.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

What is underlined in the text above gives us a clue about who Paul’s priority was.

Paul’s heart in all his letters was to encourage genuine kingdom living; reverence for Christ in the church and discipleship as it really should be. Not a fake, superficial religious version. There’s no sugar coating what Paul teaches, here it’s the blunt, unadulterated and uncompromising truth about what following Christ actually means.

I’ve been freshly convicted on this very thing for myself, living in this text for 2 weeks solid, going to bed, waking up with this on my mind. Particularly coming back from our BU Hui and confronted with our brothers and sisters on the mission field, people who literally leave everything including their families in many cases, behind, and glad to do it, because they’re that committed to Christ.

So I’ve been asking myself, what in me, needs to go in the bin, to pursue Jesus?

Blunt yes, but I love the humility of Paul. He had been on the religious/legalistic side of the fence, he had the knowledge, the zeal, lived the law “faultlessly” but then looking from the other side, he’s saying to the church, don’t do what I’ve done, it’s not the way, I got it wrong.

What was at a time considered significant and important – the way he lived, what he believed to be true of God, relating to God, what he thought pleased God – became rubbish.

Being in a committed, surrendered relationship with Christ in the end was all Paul was concerned with.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…

  1. Knowing Loss is Profit

What were Paul’s gains? Look them up in verses 4-6. His lineage, the law and his loyalty

Lineage – born of Israel, a Hebrew. His law – a Pharisee, not just any Pharisee. His loyalty in his zeal of the persecution of the church. Pauls point is, if being right with God were about following the letter of the law, having the appearance of godliness, no one would be more “right” than him, he had the gold medal, badge on his chest, certificate on the wall, he was a top notch religious leader…“as for legalistic righteousness, faultless” he says.

But Paul’s confidence was in what he did, to prove himself, to “gain” God’s approval, works, accomplishments, striving to please God in all the wrong ways

Cue the Damascus Road encounter (READ Acts 9:1; 9:17-23). When he could finally see again he did so with a whole new perspective, which was that human effort, tainted with sin will not gain God’s approval. The notoriety, the position, everything he thought was honouring to God pre-Damascus and pre-Christ, he says here “I counted it all loss, rubbish (NIV), dung (KJV)…when compared to gaining Christ.

He’s saying what I thought was of kingdom value, and what had value, is actually of no value at all compared to the value (the worth) of knowing and following the person of Jesus. Even though these ‘things’ might appear important (gold medal, certificate on the wall), they have no value when compared to knowing Christ, I gladly give it all away for Christ. It means nothing to me, only Christ.

Paul does not want us to confuse what following Jesus means for us…pray the prayer, do good things externally, but internally remain unchanged, unreconciled, and unsurrendered.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Mark 8:34-37)

Though his conversion was about as radical as you get, and change of heart, mind and soul was extreme as you get, Paul models for us what leaving behind the old life for Christ and his purposes looks like. He models what prioritizing Christ looks like.

None of this means we should disregard achieving things, setting goals and doing great things. It does mean that Jesus, by comparison, is our number one priority over and above anything we do.

What “rubbish” do we need to deal with to:

  1. Be right with God or
  2. Before we can effectively move forward.

God would say to us – I believe – I have already shown you what you must do in his word. He’s already spoken. Choose Christ over our own ways and strengths and worldly gain.

For Paul, anything that keeps you from Christ is “rubbish” and “dung” no matter how good it looks to you. Getting rid of the rubbish is leaving behind a way of living, is habits, is sin, is beliefs, is a swapping out of worldly values and priorities that are of no kingdom value. To put Christ first in everything we do is ensuring that he is of the greatest value in our living and working and relationships.

God has given us the instruction, what are we waiting for?

“I want to know Christ” Paul said…

  1.  Knowing Christ …the person

Following Jesus is not a superficial cerebral religious occurrence. Knowing Christ is knowing the person Jesus and knowing that it is a person we follow and trust and honour.

What does Knowing Christ look like?

  1. Is to confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9)
  2. it is a daily intention to love, serve and glorify him in genuine relationship above all things, because of what he’s done for us
  3. It is daily putting aside what I want for what he wills
  4. it is to engage with him in relationship through prayer and worship
  5. It is to live out, with the help of Holy Spirit, the principles and truths that he teaches
  6. it is to grow in our knowledge and understanding of the person we follow, through his word
  7. It is to make him my number one priority in all matters of life
  8. It is to experience his resurrection power and to partner in his sufferings

Let me make a couple of quick comments on these last two: 

His resurrection power

You’ll recall from Ephesians 3: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”

Remember God did not cease to be able to do immeasurably more when the final full stop* was put on the last letter or epistle written, it is his resurrection power that is at work in you and I. Paul experienced that power on the road to Damascus and his ministry that followed.

Something needs to happen in us before we can experience Christ’s resurrection power, what is that? What Jesus himself had to. Death!

His sufferings (see also 2 Corinthians 6:4-5; 2 Corinthians 11:26; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

This doesn’t imply Paul had a weird fascination with suffering or enjoyed pain and suffering. It means he understood the context, he could see the bigger picture of it and for it. It was temporal in light of eternity; in light of the “resurrection” he was guaranteed at the end of his life. If there was suffering there was a purpose to it. Yes, God can heal, yes God can deliver, yes we don’t choose to suffer, but we can choose to accept that though we might suffer, God’s will is still being done. Suffering is NOT an evidence of God being absent or distant. It’s an opportunity to press into him!

There is a sense in which Paul might say to deny the reality of suffering as Christians is to deny the suffering Christ went through. To live as Christians is to participate in the sufferings of Christ. (Acts 14:22)

God loves us…but he wants us to love him back…what are the obstacles to this?

Conclusion

Paul’s vision for the church was for Jesus-centred living, where he has prime-of-place, where he is of greatest value.  What is the garbage we need to get rid of in order to know Christ, because that’s our daily goal!

Any belief, any act, any behaviour, any historical matter, any attitude that opposes the gospel and therefore God, any confidence or security we have in anything else we think will save us or gain us favour with God, when scripture is clear that only Christ does…is rubbish.

We can fill our lives with doing all sorts of worldly things, spend an entire lifetime doing a lot of great stuff “for God” in the name of religion, being a good person, but then, and more critically in the end, we will stand before God and it will mean nothing.

Salvation is only through Christ, we’re made right before God only through Christ. We want the rest of our days on this planet to matter and to count for something, confess him as Lord and Saviour today.

The person of Jesus is real and he’s here. As real as the oxygen you’re breathing. He is not a figment of our imagination; he came as a baby, lived and died a brutal death for each one of us. This is a fact!

Most of you here today will be Christians, the prayer team and I would love an opportunity to encourage you and pray for you if you’ve identified things in your life you know need to change. If you’re here this morning and you have never committed your life to Jesus, I want to say you matter to God, you matter so much he died for you.

The best and most important decision you can make today is to commit your life to Jesus Christ.

Takeaways

  • What rubbish needs a good sort out?
  • Commit to a Jesus-centred life

[1] Adapted from John Mark Comer, Who is God?