Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 29, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 3:1-11. Today will be our second week in this text. In all honesty we could spend months examining these words of God found in Philippians, for there is so much truth packed into these verses. With that said, let us jump right in this morning.
As we discussed last week, Paul’s purpose in writing this section of the letter to the Philippians was to warn them about the dogs. Verse 2, “look out for the dogs.” We saw that these dogs were people who were known as judiazers. Judiazers were religious people who claimed to love Jesus, but they also claimed that in order to be saved, you had to be circumcised, or maintain the Jewish dietary laws, to continue to celebrate the Jewish festivals. Judiazers believed that Jesus’s perfect life, and perfect sacrifice, was not perfect enough. They believed Jesus didn’t really save anyone, but just got people close to being saved, and it was up to us to walk across the goal-line into Heaven. Judiazers believed that Jesus plus works equaled salvation.
Paul does not call these people Christians. He is not being inclusive. He is not being tolerant. He is creating a clear and important divide between those who trust in God’s grace, and who trust in their own ability. He calls these people dogs, evildoers, and mutilators of the flesh. Paul then goes on to say that true, real, born again authentic Christians put no confidence in the flesh. None. Zero.
So as to make this point abundantly clear, Paul lists his resume, and his resume is impressive: “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.” And what does he say about his resume? Verse 8, “rubbish.”
Paul says that everything he has ever done in his life is garbage. This word rubbish in the Greek is skubalon (skü'-bä-lon). This word skubalon is not a soft word. For it was the word for something that is worthless, detestable, refuse, and the excrement of animals. In fact, the King James Version of the Bible translates this word to dung. Paul uses this hard and graphic word, skubalon to convey his utter abhorrence of the false teaching that you have to add to the Grace of God in Christ.
Paul views all of his religion as rubish and he counts it as loss, and in fact he says that he counts everything as loss. This seems somewhat radical, does it not, to count everything in life as loss. Is this really what Jesus desires? Absolutely, for Jesus says the same words as Paul does in Luke 14:33.
So how does God do it? How does he give us the capacity to lay everything down to gain Jesus? Last week we started to unpack this and we saw that it begins with God. God must begin the work in you. He does this by His Spirit. The Spirit of God blows into your heart like a mighty rushing wind and births you into spiritual existence. The example we looked at last week in regards to this was Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit rushed upon 3,000 people and circumcised their hearts and made them true worshipers, who worship in the Spirit.
Worth of Christ Jesus
However, is that it? Is becoming a Christian just about the Holy Spirit coming into your heart? What about Jesus? How does he fit into the conversion of a sinner? Doesn't he play a role? Absolutely. Lets look at verse 8.
So what did he do? He gives up everything so that he could grab hold of the treasure. He sells everything he has to purchase this jewel. And does he do it begrudgingly? No. He does it with joy. He is exploding with excitement about this treasure. There is no hesitation, he is all in immediately. Why? Why is he so full of joy in the giving up of all that he has accumulated in his life? Because he is exchanging all that he has for something exceedingly better. His sacrifice is no sacrifice because he sees the surpassing worth of the treasure.
Let me ask you a question. Is the man's behavior irrational? Why not? Because this the basic economics of man, is it not? This mode of behavior is what humanity has engrained in them. If you have $1 in your hands and you have a choice to exchange it for $100 do you do it? Of course you do. Why? Because we are designed to pursue what we believe to be the greatest value. This is the will that we have implanted in our hearts. Our will is to pursue what we see as having the greatest value to us. We are slaves to this will. It is not a freedom of will, it is a will that is bent towards certain things. For some your will is bent towards money, for some your will is bent towards sex, for some your will is bent towards security, for some your will is bent towards stuff, for some your will is bent towards sports, etc. You choose those things at the cost of other things because you see greater value in them.
So with this said, what is the treasure. What is this fine pearl of great value? It is Jesus Christ our Lord. When this man's eyes gazed upon the beauty and worth of Jesus Christ, there was nothing left to do but renounce all that he had and grab hold of Jesus.
And this is exactly what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3:8 when he says, “ I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.“ Paul was the man in the field. He was the merchant seeking pearls. He was on the road to Damascus and his eyes were opened to the reality of the worth of Jesus. At that moment the pearls that Paul that were pearls were in fact rubbish in comparison to whom stood before him, the Son of the Living God.
This is exactly what happens at the point of conversion, at the point of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in a sinners life and it is hidden fro their eyes. They do not see the value of Christ. Instead they believe that the pearls of this worlds are far better. They are blind, they do not have eyes to see. But then the Holy Spirit rushes upon them and gives them eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and they let go of everything to have Christ. Why? Because it is the only logical decision.
At that moment their will is going to pursue that which it believes to be the highest value, and because they now have eyes to see Jesus Christ and his surpassing worth, they choose Christ. He is for the first time in their life irresistible, and it was God who made the decisive move to give the sinner eyes to see His Son.
We See Dimly
The question we now have is this, if we as Christians have seen the beauty of Jesus Christ and have let go of all things so as to grab hold of Christ, is this passage relevant to us? I would say yes. The reason for this is that we are told in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
It is true that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ we know the worth of Christ, but we only know his worth in part. Yes, we have eyes to see, but we see dimly. We do not see as clearly as we can. We have not seen the depth of the riches of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul prays in Ephesians 1:17, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”
And if you don't believe me, just look at your life. How many times do you cling to the rubbish of this world, when you should be clinging to Christ? How many times to you run to the fridge instead of running to Jesus? How many times do you pursue the books of your business over the book about Christ? How many times to you stare in the mirror vainly attempting to make yourself beautiful instead of staring into the most beautiful face ever to exist, the face of your King?
Why do we do this? Because we don't understand the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ. We don't understand that Jesus is better than everything. He is better than anything that this world has to offer. He is better than life itself.
The more we see this, the more we will let go. The more we will realize that what we thought were fine pearls are just worthless rocks weighing us down, and it won't be hard, we will drop these rocks with joy in our heart, for we know that Christ is far better.
Pursuing and Treasuring Jesus Christ
This leads us to application. First, let me talk to those of you who are unbelievers, for I know that there are some of you among us.
Your heart longs for treasure. You are designed to pursue what you believe is of greatest value. I can say this with full confidence, your journey to this point has left you unsatisfied. You have pursued the things of this world, and they have left you empty. Perhaps it is time that you stop looking in the world, and start looking at the one who overcame the World. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and see his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Now to those of us who have grabbed hold of Christ because he has grabbed hold of us. Your work is not done. We must work out our salvation and pursue the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We must pursue the glory of Jesus.
How do we do this? Two ways, the Word of God and the Spirit of God. I realize that I am a broken record when it comes to this, but truth is truth. The way be which we see the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ is to read the book about Him. We must gaze upon these pages, and in doing so we will gaze upon Christ. Jesus is on every page, from beginning to end. You will see him as God and as man. You will see him as Prophet, Priest and King. You will see him as Lion and Lamb. You will see him as Savior, Lord, and brother. You will see him weep. You will see him work. You will see his zeal. You will see his compassion. You will see his light. You will see his love. A love that he has for you, and has always, and will always have for you.
And while we read, we dare not do it alone. We must be guided into all truth by the power of the Holy Spirit. His is our counselor, and we must let him counsel our souls. We must pray as we read that God would give us eyes to see the glory of His Son. If we read this book absent the Holy Spirit then we are no better than the Pharisees. It is the Spirit of God that illumines our hearts. It is the Spirit of God who writes the Word, capital “W”, upon our hearts.
If we do this; if we pursue the glory of Jesus Christ by soaking in the Word by the power of the Spirit we will see the surpassing worth of Jesus. It is inevitable. And when we see the surpassing worth of Jesus more and more, we will, with joy, lay down more and more of our lives for his sake. Why? Because Jesus is better than everything.