June 30, 2010 David Balzer

Philippians 3:1-11: Our Profit and Loss Statement

Weddings are pretty JOYFUL occasions. But sometimes people can take all the JOY out them – just by trying to HELP. DJ’s who play the wrong music. Or Uncle Bert who’s M.C at the reception, but who tells all the wrong sorts of jokes just to lighten things up a bit. Or the wedding photographer who bosses everyone around, takes over the ceremony and the reception. And ruins it for everyone.

Although I’m sure none of that will happen at any of the three weddings WE’VE got coming up.

Like Mike and Tracey. They’re getting married in November. And they’re busy making plans. And if the PROPOSAL is anything to go by, the wedding and honeymoon are going to be UNFORGETTABLE.

And even though I don’t know Mike’s MATES, my guess is that he’s not letting them have ANYTHING TO DO with the arrangements. Either the wedding. OR the honeymoon. Even if they ARE just trying to help.

Just imagine his workmates, or soccer mates, or even his old school mates. One says to another, “We all used to have such FUN. Wouldn’t it be great if we went on Mike’s honeymoon too? The more the merrier.

And the other one answers “Yeah, those were the days. I’m sure Mike would LOVE that. To spend his honeymoon re-living those experiences! Going out with the boys. Mucking around. Just like the old days.”

No way! When Mike decided to get married, he’s saying NO to all that stuff – even if it was fun at the time – because married life’s going to be so much better than all of that.

In fact, to KEEP holding onto those things, will actually make the honeymoon LESS special.

Imagine his mates turning up on the honeymoon. “Okay Biff, we’ve got a schedule worked out. Monday you can spend with Tracey – we’ve booked the honeymoon massage and facial package for you both. Monday night, you’re hitting the town with us. Tuesday is golf. Tuesday night you can have dinner with Trace – as long as it’s over by 10 pm. That’s when the all-night poker game’s starts.”

If Mike had anything to do with that, Tracey would out of there faster than a keg of Mike’s home brew disappears.

To get the MOST out of the NEW, (to REJOICE in it) he has to GRAB it with both hands. And LET GO of the old. In fact, to hold onto the OLD things will actually mean LOSING the NEW things.

1. New things, not old things (1-2)

And that’s the lesson that Paul’s learned. (New things, not old things) When it comes to his OLD way of life as a Pharisee. And his NEW life as a Christian. To hold onto the OLD things/ will actually mean LOSING the NEW things.

You see for most of his Christian ministry he’s been fighting against people who think just like those imaginary friends of Mike’s. “Just mix the OLD way of life/ in with the new, and it will make the new EVEN BETTER.”

They said you had to ADD something/ to faith in Jesus. FAITH -PLUS. It’s not JUST believing Jesus died for you. That’s all too simple, they’d say. You’ve got to ADD something. DO something.

These were Jews. Perhaps even believers in Christ. Who felt that faith wasn’t enough. You ALSO had to be circumcised. Obey the food laws. Only eat kosher. All the things a good Jew still does even today. Paul sums it up by saying they PUT CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH.

And you can read about the fights he was having in Acts 15. (page 783). Listen to v1.

(Acts 15:1-2 NIV)  Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are CIRCUMCISED, according to the custom taught by Moses, YOU CANNOT BE SAVED.” {2} This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.

You see, Paul knows it doesn’t WORK like that. It makes him so angry when he hears that argument, his boils. Because that sort of thinking actually puts your whole salvation at risk. You risk trusting SOMETHING ELSE, rather than GOD/ for your salvation. Putting confidence in the flesh, rather than in God. And to grab hold of something ELSE, you have to LET GO of God.

And you can see how annoyed he gets by the language he uses. Look at v2. He’s talking about people like these Jews.

(Phil 3:2 NIV)  Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.

Dogs. Evil-doers. Mutilators. It’s tough talk! And the word for mutilator is a PARTICULARLY nasty one. The Jews would CIRCUMCISE baby boys. And THAT word -peri-tome – literally means “around cut”. (I don’t think I need to explain anymore.)

But the word Paul uses for mutilator is kata-tome – to cut UP. Or slash. To make people’s salvation DEPEND on circumcision, or anything else that’s human for that matter, is actually HARMING the person. Not HELPING THEM. Because that’s NOT how you’re saved.

Let me be clear about this. Paul’s not saying there’s anything WRONG with circumcision. Only with the ATTITUDE that goes WITH it. The attitude that says you HAVE to do this if you want to be a Christian.

In fact, back in Acts, in the very next chapter. Ch 16. Paul comes across a young Christian named Timothy. And Timothy has a Jewish mother, but a Greek father. And when Paul decides to take Timothy with him on his missionary journeys, listen to what he does! Verse 3.

(Acts 16:3 NIV)  Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, SO HE CIRCUMCISED HIM because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

For the sake of the non-Christian Jews he’s preaching to, Paul has Timothy circumcised. It’s not important. Neither here nor there. (Although my guess is TIMOTHY might have had a few second thoughts about it)

Paul’s removing any stumbling block from people becoming Christians. Being ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN.

But it’s NOT because Timothy HAS to do it to become a Christian. He’ll fight to the to wipe out THAT sort of argument. The ONLY way we’re saved is to accept God’s GIFT. There IS nothing you can DO. Once you try to PAY for it. Or EARN it. It’s not a gift anymore. And you end up LOSING what you’re trying to GAIN.

It’s not the ACTION ITSELF that’s right or wrong. Just the self-confident ATTITUDE that goes WITH it.

And there’s plenty of things TODAY where people have that same attitude.

People who want their baby CHRISTENED. Or to be married in a church. Because they think THAT’s the way to get in God’s good books.

Or doing good works. Giving money to charity. Attending church. What could be wrong with that? After all, you’re just giving yourself a leg-up. Helping to grease the heavenly wheels.

You’ve only got to read the Obituaries in the newspaper. Full of all the good things the person did in their life. All the deeds they did. The people they helped. All reasons God should look favourably on them.

2. Internals not externals (3)

And they MIGHT be very good actions. Worthwhile, beneficial. The problem comes/ with the self-confident ATTITUDE that often goes WITH them. An attitude that’s focused on EXTERNALS. Rather than INTERNALS. On REAL change. A change that affects the HEART.

And it’s this INTERNAL change that characterizes TRUE Christians. Look at v3. Rather than being confident in the EXTERNAL sign of circumcision. It’s Christians themselves who ARE the CIRCUMCISION.

All the way through the Old Testament, God says “It’s the INTERNAL change I’m interested in. Not the PHYSICAL sign of circumcision. I want circumcision of the HEART. Repentant hearts. Changed attitudes. Undivided loyalties. Like in Jer 4.

(Jer 4:1-4 NIV)  ” O Israel if YOU WILL RETURN TO ME,” declares the LORD. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, {2} and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’ then the nations will be blessed … {4} CIRCUMCISE YOURSELVES TO THE LORD, CIRCUMCISE YOUR HEARTS, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire

And it’s no different for the Christian church. In the New Testament. Like in Col 2.

(Col 2:11-13 NIV)  In Christ you were also CIRCUMCISED, in the putting off of the sinful RE, NOT with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,

Internals, not externals.  And as well as being the circumcision, Paul goes on to say that Christians WORSHIP BY THE SPIRIT. That’s worship that comes from desire and love, not from obligation. Worship that’s a DELIGHT, not a DUTY. A CHOICE, not a CHORE. Internals not externals again.

And Paul’s third description is that Christians are those who GLORY IN CHRIST JESUS. Rather than glorying in our own achievements. Our own worth. It’s thankfulness to Christ which excites us. Our boast is in Christ. Again – it’s concentrating on INTERNALS, not EXTERNALS.

And he sums it all up with the last phrase in v3. It is the TRUE Christian who puts NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH. In the externals.

But that’s the opposite of the FALSE TEACHERS. Who’re putting CONFIDENCE in the flesh. And that’s what gets Paul hot under the collar.

3. Look at me! (4-6)

But why does he take it so personally? Because that’s just what PAUL used to be. And so to prove his point. He uses himself as an example. Look at me! (Just like Kath and Kim – look at moi, look at moi!) V4.

(Phil 3:4 NIV)  If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I HAVE MORE:

And then he LISTS them. All the boxes he ticked as he grew up as a fine, up-standing Jewish boy.

  • circumcised on the eighth day, TICK
  • of the people of Israel, TICK
  • But even better – of the tribe of Benjamin, TICK
  • a Hebrew of Hebrews; – had the language, and customs, and the regulations down-pat – TICK
  • in regard to the law, a Pharisee; – trained by the strictest and most academic professors – TICK
  • as for zeal, persecuting the church – I was no slacker – TICK
  • as for legalistic righteousness, faultless – no stone unturned, nothing left to chance –as THOROUGH as I was ENTHUSIASTIC – TICK.

One thing after another. Building up his heavenly bank balance.

And as his list of achievements grew. So did his confidence. Confidence that if ANYONE was going to be alright at the judgment – it’d be him!

4. Profit and Loss (7-8)

That is, until the HEAVENLY AUDITOR paid him a visit. Until he met Jesus. And he realised that everything he thought was getting him CLOSER to God. Was actually leading him further and further away.

What he thought was getting him further and further into CREDIT. Was actually getting him further and further into the DEBT. V7.

(Phil 3:7-8 NIV)  BUT … whatever was to my PROFIT / I now consider LOSS for the sake of Christ. {8} What is more, I consider EVERYTHING a LOSS compared to the SURPASSING GREATNESS of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I HAVE LOST ALL THINGS. I consider them RUBBISH, that I may gain Christ.

But why rubbish? It all sounded so attractive. A pretty impressive list. The answer’s in the very next verse. V9.

(Phil 3:9 NIV)  and be found in him, NOT HAVING A RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MY OWN that comes from the law,

The problem with Paul’s list / was that it was DO-IT-YOURSELF righteousness. And when it comes to the crunch, DO-IT-YOURSELF just doesn’t stand up. It’s just RUBBISH.

To begin with, there’s something attractive about DO-It-yourself. There’s the value for money. You get a lot more renovation for your dollars. Get a bathroom built for half the price. Or get twice the deck for your money.

And then there’s the pride. The sense of achievement. Food tastes so much better on a table you’ve built yourself. A beer tastes much better resting on a verandah railing you built yourself. A shower is much more satisfying in a bathroom you’ve TILED yourself.

That is until things start to go wrong. The legs of the table become wobbly. The wood on the railing warps. The shower starts to leak. Every squeak in the floor boards is a sign that the brick piers you laid are about to fall over.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, there’s the constant worry of whether you’ve done it WELL ENOUGH. Whether it will LAST.

And it’s the same with do-it-yourself righteousness. For a while, like Paul, you might be pretty proud. A full list of achievements. Things that will set you apart from everyone else when you stand before God.

But then something happens. Maybe a moral slip-up. Or you catch a glimpse of the white-hot perfection of the holiness of God. And you realise just how shaky your do-it-yourself righteousness really is. A wobbly, out of plumb, D.I.Y. stairway to heaven. That runs out of material along way from the top. You’ve got the measurement wrong. And come up short.

It’s the negative side of DIY. The constant worry of whether you’ve done enough. Have your GOOD deeds outweighed your bad deeds? The constant threat of performance review.

Andrea’s told me that Muslims have to do SEVEN TIMES as many good deeds as BAD. No WONDER you don’t see too many happy Muslims!

5. God’s righteousness (9b-11)

And it’s all of THAT / that’s Paul’s happy to leave behind. Because he’s got something MUCH BETTER INSTEAD. God’s righteousness. Look at the rest of v9.

(Phil 3:9 NIV)  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 and is by faith.

This isn’t some righteousness slapped together by a weekend handyman. It’s been assembled at GREAT COST. By the Master Builder himself. The MASTER craftsman.

God makes you RIGHTEOUS. Blameless. Faultless. Innocent. Through faith in his Son.

And it’s a righteousness that’s ROCK SOLID. Jump up and down on it all you like. It’s not going anywhere.

That’s GAIN. That’s PROFIT. That’s the SURPASSING GREATNESS of KNOWING Christ Jesus. And anything else is RUBBISH.

And that’s how v1 fits into his argument. Rejoice IN the Lord. Don’t rejoice because the sun’s shining. Don’t rejoice because you’ve done your good deed for the day. Instead, rejoice that the relationship you have with God is ROCK SOLID. Because it’s been built by Christ.

You see, there’s NO rejoicing in DO-IT-YOURSELF religion. Because you never know whether you’ve built well-enough. It’s only when we trust in Christ’s work COMPLETELY that we can TRULY / rejoice IN the Lord.

Because the relationship we have with God as Christians/ is like that of Christ himself. His righteousness has become OURS. God looks at us, and sees the pure, white goodness of Christ instead.

No wonder Paul said that everything else is rubbish compared to GAINING Christ, and being FOUND / IN/ HIM.

Listen to how he puts it in Colossians 3. Describing why the Christian rejoices.

(Col 3:1-3 NIV)  Since, then, you have been RAISED WITH CHRIST, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. {2} Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. {3} For you died, and YOUR LIFE IS NOW HIDDEN WITH CHRIST IN GOD.

How wonderful is that!? How safe and secure and rock-solid is THAT! REJOICE in that. Rejoice IN the Lord.

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