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Forsaking All for Christ
The true path of pursuing Christ–Philippians 3:7-8
All of us know what it is like to give up in order to gain. Students give up free time and foods they like to gain strength and speed to play football. Young couples give up sleep, extra income, freedoms in order to gain children. Students give up hang-out time in order to gain the required grade on the test. Fathers give up unwind time in order to gain investment into their children.
Men give up hours of sleep in order to gain the next level on their video game. Many give up cookies and desserts in order to gain weight loss. Christians give up day off options in order to gain opportunities to serve Christ. Many lose a generous portion of their income in order to gain eternal reward.
On a divine level, counting everything loss in order to gain is one of the central lessons of genuine salvation found all over Scripture and is now the main message today in Philippians 3:7 to 8. Let’s read it, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”
Paul is showing how the teaching of Jesus is to be lived out. For example, Jesus said in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Becoming a Christian means discovering Christ (the King) is a treasure chest of holy joy.
He is so awesome, good, glorious and desperately needed, writing “loss” over everything else in the world in order to gain Christ is what authentic believers do. The believer sells all he has so he can buy that field. Luke 14:33 says, “Jesus said, ‘So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.’” In other words, becoming a disciple of Jesus means writing “loss” in big red letters over all your possessions and everything else this world has to offer in order to gain Christ.
Jesus told the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Then reminded His followers in Matthew 19:29, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.”
The Lord is describing you. People who have accumulated earthly wealth, but they find in Christ a treasure far more valuable. So they gladly sell all they have to get that treasure. In doing so, Christ teaches sinners to forsake everything for salvation. In Genesis 22, Abraham was brought to a place where he gave up that which was most important to him–his own son Isaac.
And everyone who is an authentic believer will lose in order to gain–not merely money, but precious children or beloved parents and the spouse you adore in order to gain Christ. Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
Why would Christ require that kind of commitment? Because it’s the commitment our precious Savior made to us. Second Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” You stamp loss on all your possessions, relationships, time, money, all you are and all you have in order to gain Christ. You exchange all that you are for all that He is.
This is what Paul lives out in Philippians 3–and verses 7 to 8 are the spiritual X-ray into the heart of Paul. This is what was going on in the heart of Paul on the Damascus road when Paul met the risen Christ for the first time. These two verses are Paul’s personal salvation testimony. Verses 7 to 8 expose the internal work of God in the heart of a repenting and believing sinner.
Verses 7 to 8 also make accountants giddy, because these two verses are all about loss and profit. Everything Paul thought was a spiritual profit is now placed in the loss column. In fact, Paul discovers all his religious past was actually damning him to Hell–so the accountant in him places all those religious credits he thought were impressing God into the loss column. And now Jesus Christ alone is placed in the spiritual profit column.
This makes for a radical sermon today. Today you will discover the cost of following Christ. Be motivated to treasure Christ above all. Stop valuing lesser things. Repent of distracting, less-than-best, priorities. And begin to rearrange your lifestyle to live Christ. And possibly, if God works in your heart, the Holy Spirit may expose you as a make-believer–an external Christian in name only, a self-righteous phony or self-deceived church-attender and move you to turn to Christ in genuine salvation.
Verses 7 to 8 remind you salvation is a sovereign act of God where He invades a sinners’ dark, sinful heart with the glorious light of His truth, washing them internally. Paul describes in verses 7 and 8 the miracle that transformed him from the inside, turning him from hateful persecutor of Christians into their most beloved leader.
Verses 7 and 8 tell us on that Damascus road day in Acts 9, the living Christ broke through the spiritual blindness of a self-righteous Pharisee named Saul from Tarsus. As a result, Paul’s past reliance in his religious accomplishments was shattered. Read what Paul says and pay attention to the repetition of certain key words–there are two gains, three Christs, three counteds, three losses, and though you can’t see them in English, the dark highlights show you three throughs.
Read verses 7 and 8 again. “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”
Each week I want you to see the author’s intended message–the one meaning of these two verses, then apply it. You are to forsake all for Christ in order to be saved–it is not a work, but an expression of the work of the Spirit in the born again heart. The regenerated heart, the new heart is willing to forsake all for Christ. If you’re authentic, you will continue to forsake all to grow intimate in Christ and treat everything like garbage compared to Christ–past, present and future. Look at . . .
#1 Forsaking all for Christ in the PAST is genuine SALVATION Verse 7
Verse 7 reads like this, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” The most important word in the entire 3rd chapter of Philippians is the word which begins verse seven—“but”. In contrast to all Paul had gained humanly, in contrast to all of Paul’s religious achievements, in contrast to all of Paul’s self-righteousness is Christ and His righteousness.
Imagine being dressed for the most important banquet of your life. You put on your best clothes in your dimly lit room and you are looking fine! But as you walk out into the light for the first time, you discover your Armani suit or your most beautiful black dress is filthy, disgusting, stained, literally stinky—gross. Picturing that might give you a small glimpse of what Paul is describing here.
Paul said, “I had on an Armani suit of self-righteous cool.” Remember last week in verses 5 and 6? Philippians 3:5, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” WOW!
“I was dressed, I was ready, I was looking good–but then I stood in the light of Christ’s absolute perfection. I saw the righteous perfection of Christ, and comparatively I looked and stunk like garbage.” A day came when Paul saw the righteousness of God for the first time. The verse 7 “but” is marking Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus when Paul first saw Jesus and dramatically learned what God’s righteousness was really like.
Before this moment, Paul thought he had attained righteousness by keeping the Law. But when he saw Christ in His glory, Paul knew all his righteousness, all his religion, all his good works, all his efforts to please God were filthy rags. All the heritage, family background, religious zeal–all those sacrifices he thought would help. Paul says it this way in verse 7, “Whatever things were gain to me didn’t help.”
The tense of the verb “were gain” describes continual action in past time. Paul is describing his past. “My entire life before Christ—all of it. All the good I did, all the worship I gave, all the giving I sacrificed. All I did to please God on my own.” Verse 7 adds, “Now all those things I have counted as loss.”
What is this gain and what is this loss? That’s the work of God in a human heart. Paul opened his life ledger book and saw a shocking comparison. He compared his efforts before he came to Christ with his inheritance gained after he came to Christ. And for the first time Paul saw all his religious efforts were actually keeping him from Christ. All his religion was sending him to Hell.
So he took all those religious efforts and placed them where they belong–under the list of liabilities . . . loss, loser, lousy. In contrast, under his new assets, Paul wrote, “Christ alone.” The Greek word for “gain” is an accounting term which means profit. The Greek word for “loss” also is an accounting term used to describe a business loss. The Greek word for “counted” means to reckon or counting.
Paul uses business language to describe the spiritual transaction that occurred when Christ redeemed him. All his Jewish religious credentials, which he thought were in his profit column, were actually worthless and damning. So Paul put all those items from verses 5 and 6 in his loss column after God awakened his heart and Paul saw the glorious, righteous perfection of Christ. Paul says, verse 7, “those things I have counted as loss.”
Think with me, the Greek verb, “I have counted,” is a verb which pointedly tells you this counted as loss is a past completed action that I myself do that continues ongoing with present abiding results. Paul says, “I made a solid, one-time decision to put all those religious actions in the loss category and they continue to remain there as a profit loss. I myself responded to Christ drawing me to Himself, which resulted in ongoing permanent life change. I still disdain all those religious things and only trust in Christ.”
Paul went after pursuing righteous deeds in order to achieve salvation. But when he met Christ, the apostle realized on that Damascus road all those verses 5 and 6 good religious things were actually in the loss column. He exchanged all of them for the righteousness which alone comes from Christ on the basis of faith.
Jesus describes salvation as a transaction–in fact, an exchange of all the sinner is for all that Christ is. All that you are for all that He is–Christ gets our sinful righteousness and He gives us His perfect righteousness. Why should you forsake all? Paul ends verse 7 with, “for the sake of Christ.”
There was a time every spouse here did anything for the love of their life–some of us still do. Un-ball your socks in the laundry bin, wipe up the wet counter, try to eat vegetables–no sacrifice is too great to please the one you love. All of you have labeled things as loss in order to gain in relationship. You chose to lose for the one you love.
Paul did not count all his religious actions as a loss for Christianity, nor for the Church, to look good, or to make a difference. No–Paul gave up all his religious good works in order to personally gain the person of Christ. Commentator Harry Ironside shares thoughts like these. Paul was not simply exchanging one religion for another; it was not one system of ceremonies giving place to a superior system; nor one set of doctrines making way for a better system of beliefs. No–Paul had come in contact with Jesus, the God-man, the once crucified but now glorified Christ. Paul had been won by Jesus Christ forever, and for Christ’s sake Paul counted everything a loss. Christ, and Christ alone, meets every need of the soul. Christ’s work has satisfied God and Christ alone satisfies anyone who trusts in Him. Relationship motivated Paul’s willingness to lose.
And Paul happily considered all his human achievement as loss in order to gain Christ’s divine accomplishment. Paul says, “I made a decision in the past to forsake all for Christ.” Next, in verse 8, Paul makes it clear when that transaction is real in the past, it’ll dramatically affect the present. If your salvation is genuine, it’ll motivate your present sanctification. If Christ has changed you in salvation, He will still be changing you in sanctification.
That is why Paul declares this–not only will a true believer forsake all attempts of self-righteousness (like those in verses 5 and 6) in the past in order to be saved, but a genuine believer will continue in the present to count all his most current and precious accomplishments as loss and everything and everyone else in his life as loss except for knowing Christ.
#2 Forsaking all for Christ in the PRESENT is genuine SANCTIFICATION Verse 8a
Verse 8, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Wow, here is Paul’s aggressive, singular focus. Seek Him first, maintain your first love and do all to His glory. Paul rocks your attention in verse 8 with, “more than that.” You say, “What’s the big deal with more than that?” Well, you can’t see it in English, but this forceful phrase, “more than that”, is an untranslatable string of five Greek particles (literally “but, indeed, therefore, at least, even”) all in a row.
BAM! Paul is strongly emphasizing the contrast between the religious credits which do not impress God and the countless benefits of knowing Christ. Knowing Christ is so great, Paul now says the same phrase about his heart, “I myself I count all things to be loss.” But Paul says this phrase in a different way here.
The first verb in verse 7, “I count”, was describing past completed action with present abiding results. Now the first “count” in verse 8 is present continual action He takes. Verse 7 was past and verse 8a is present. Then Paul adds even more punch to the verse by telling the Philippians that everything current in his life, everything as a Christian, everything as an apostle right now, is loss.
“All things” in verse 8a is all, which in Greek means . . . all? No, it means every pickin’ thing. Think about what Paul is saying. As a believer, all my preaching the Gospel, planting churches, performing miracles, writing Scripture, teaching, hobnobbing with Peter and the other twelve, establishing the New Testament Church—all of it is in the loss column.
God’s view, and in my ledger of what’s important, all of it is a waste—compared to what? Read on, Christian. Verse 8, “in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” In view of is through–through what? It’s a loss, because through the intimacy of knowing Christ, everything else in the Christian life is a loss by comparison. Nothing compares to knowing Christ. Paul says knowing Christ is of, verse 8, “surpassing value”, referring to something of incomparable worth—excelling.
Like the treasure hidden in a field, knowing Christ is worth selling everything to get. In comparison, the best there is in the Christian life is a loss, a negative, comparatively Paul says, to knowing Christ. In Greek there are two main words for knowing–there is the knowledge of facts, and there is the knowledge of relationship and this knowing is relationship. Knowing Christ in relationship makes the best of the Christian life a loss.
Christian, this is why you love worship, praise, communion, prayer, the reading and study of the Word, testimony, even true fellowship, because they are the vehicles to relational intimacy with Christ. Get this–not knowing about Christ, like Jesus is God, Jesus died for me. But knowing Christ personally. Not facts, but in awe of Him as God, overwhelmed by Him as Savior, humbled because He was your substitute. Intimate with Him as your friend. Not evidences about Christ, but experiential intimacy with Christ. Not particular insights, but personal intimacy. Not religion, but relationship.
The Greeks hungered for a special knowledge of God. They corrupted the idea of personally knowing God by making that knowledge exclusive, or sought to explain that intimacy with God through the vehicle of drunkenness or through the vehicle of immorality with a Temple prostitute. But Paul uses gnosis, personal knowledge, as a way to describe intimacy with Christ that all believers experience once they’re born again.
The New Testament describes a Christian as one who knows Christ. John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Not mere content about Christ, but closeness to Christ in all His wondrous glory! What do I mean? Paul says everything as a Christian is loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Some say this means Prophet, Priest and King–but the point of saying “Christ Jesus my Lord” is to describe the vastness of His character. Everything is loss compared to knowing the God who became a man, the God-man, who is the one given “the name above every name” from chapter 2, “LORD”–but not merely the impersonal Master and Creator of all, but Jesus Christ is “my Lord”.
My Lord, the one who turned this persecutor of the Church into a preacher for Christ. Intimacy with Christ is so great, Paul said in verse 7, my past religious efforts are all loss. Then in verse 8a, intimacy with Christ is so amazing my present Christian life is loss compared to Christ. Now as Paul wraps up verse 8, he takes it a step further.
#3 Forsaking all like GARBAGE is worth it to GAIN Christ Verse 8b
Verse 8b, “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Paul has “suffered the loss of all things”—suffered loss doesn’t mean damage or hurt. But all those things which used to be of value in the past before Christ and are sometimes considered value in the present even as a believer.
But pre-Christianity and current Christianity are nothing compared to Christ. If Christ is the supreme value, then what is my past before salvation, and what is my life now in Christianity compared to knowing Christ? Paul says verse 8b, “and count them but rubbish.” How deep is forsaking all? How rich is knowing Christ? The best of pre-Christ and all of current Christianity is rubbish next to intimacy with Christ. I regard them as rubbish.
I don’t hide those things in my room for later, I don’t longingly look back on the good old pre-Christian days. No, I literally flush it, I disdain them–like goop stuck on your hand, I shake it off. All things are rubbish so I might gain Christ. All efforts to obtain salvation through human achievement in the past are rubbish—skubalon. And all efforts to please Christ in my own strength presently are literally manure.
Rubbish literally means excrement, human waste–what you flush down the toilet. In the strongest possible language, painting the most graphic picture, Paul shares his utter disdain for all the religious credits he’d sought to impress man and God. Plus nothing in the Christian life compares to the best–being intimate with Christ. Everything in life is excrement compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ–any and all efforts to earn salvation by being a good Christian.
Each and every other religion in the world which all teach their followers to work their way to Heaven, any so-called Christian sect or instruction which teaches you to follow the Old Testament dietary laws in order to please Christ–all are excrement. Why would I consider all those external efforts pre-Christ and post-Christ excrement? Paul tells us at the end of verse 8, “so that I may gain Christ.”
The Greek word translated “that” means for the purpose of–for the purpose of gaining Christ. Again, accountants shiver with joy, in that gain means to profit. Gain also means gained the advantage. You’ve secured safety, entered into intimacy, found true freedom, and have been shot through with satisfaction–you’ve gained Christ.
To disdain all self-righteousness and embrace Christ’s righteousness, to stop attempting to earn salvation but submit to the gift of salvation, to reject all your goodness and trust only in the goodness of Christ, to gain Christ is to win the greatest treasure in the universe. Spiritually, you’ve won the Super Bowl, the World Series and become league champs. You found the lost treasure and are wealthier than the richest man on Earth. You have gained Christ. Romans 8:31b, “If God is for us, who is against us?”
Forsaking all for Christ is . . .
1 Why you BECAME a Christian
Turning from your sin and putting your faith in Christ is not primarily to rescue you from Hell, forgive your sins, get to Heaven later or give you a new life now. Salvation is primarily so you can glorify God by knowing Christ. John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Forsaking all for Christ is . . .
2 What DRIVES you now as a follower of Christ in this world
Over 75 times, the New Testament describes authentic believers as being “in Him”, which means being super intimate with Christ. Believers are personally intertwined with Christ in an intimate life relationship and bond of love. This affects the way we live in this world. If I count all things as loss and Christ is truly my all, then I will only use the things of this world in ways that draw me nearer to Christ so I might gain more of Christ and enjoy more of Him by the way I use the world.
I will treat the things of this world in such a way that it shows they are not my treasure, but rather demonstrate Christ is my treasure. If I lose any or all the things this world can offer, I will not lose my joy because Christ is my joy. Paul put it this way in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Are you enjoying the best there is in this life, or are you missing out? The Word, prayer, fellowship, ministry, worship, praise, giving, silences, study, application of God’s Word are the means of intimacy. Are you intimate once a week on Sunday, or are you pursuing intimacy with Christ daily?
Forsaking all for Christ is . . .
3 Pointing to a danger you must AVOID as a disciple
Maybe you have lost or are losing your first love. You must repent of your sin, recall where you once were, and return to intimacy with Christ. You could be one who is demonstrating you were never saved in the first place–you have always been trying to earn your salvation with occasional church attendance, random ministry, and leftover giving.
You could be a believer who is distracted, caught up with showy Christianity, while you ignore Christ. The danger is you could be disobedient awaiting discipline, or the worst danger–you could be self-deceived awaiting damnation. If you are distant from Christ today, you must return.
Forsaking all for Christ is . . .
4 Why you want to go to HEAVEN
Being a Christian is not merely fire insurance, it is life with Christ now and eternal life with Christ forever. “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” If you are not intimate with Christ now, nor looking forward to seeing Him face to face, then you don’t have the salvation of the New Testament. Turn from your sin and trust in Christ today.