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Just By Faith Alone - Part 4

Tom Pennington • Philippians 3:1-11

  • 2004-09-26 AM
  • Just by Faith Alone
  • Sermons


Well, it's already been a wonderful morning of reflecting on the truth, of all that we have in Christ. And I want us to continue that this morning. I invite you to turn again to Philippians 3, as we continue our study of this amazing epistle. And we find ourselves in the heart of what is my favorite section of the book of Philippians, as Paul deals with the issue of justification.

I am sure if you are younger than 20, it's hard for you to imagine that there was ever a time when there wasn't the internet. It has become a wonderful resource. Many of us use it in practical ways like doing our banking, searching for that odd item that you would spend hours running about time trying to find, but you can find fairly quickly on this new tool that we have. But while it's been a wonderful thing, in some ways it has given birth to some strange yet successful children. One of those is a popular site called "e-bay."

Now, if you're not internet literate, and you don't recognize the term "e-bay," let me just describe it to you this way. E-bay is a kind of swap meet on serious steroids. Essentially, anything that you want to find, or that somebody else thinks has some worth, you can locate on e-bay. I was fascinated by some recent purchases that have, or auctions that have been held on e-bay. One of them was wind from Hurricane Francis, caught and sealed in Tupperware. Now several things come to my mind when I read that, as I am sure they come to yours.

One is, what kind of person would be outside during a hurricane, with a piece of Tupperware, trying to catch some wind in it? The other was, who would buy it? I hope the purchaser isn't here this morning. Well, he apparently had some success selling his Tupperware wind, because the same man returned with Hurricane Ivan, and this time he flew a kite in Hurricane Ivan. And he sold, or attempted to sell, on e-bay this kite that he flew in Hurricane Ivan. And then another one wrote, this man actually wrote this in promoting this item that he had up for auction on e-bay. He said, "This toothpick," I'm not making this up. "This toothpick was used by P. Diddy, also known as Puff Daddy," a rap singer, "for about 35 minutes. I was at the game, and sat 3 seats down from P. Diddy during the game, and during half-time I retrieved the toothpick from a napkin on a server's tray." So, if any of you want P. Diddy's toothpick, you could get it on e-bay.

And of course, there is the previously chewed gum of Britney Spears. I don't know if you've heard about it on CNN or not, but this month CNN reports that there had been over two dozen auctions of used chewing gum on e-bay, each claiming that their product has been spit out by the 22 year-old singer. You know, the people chasing her around to get her spit out gum need to get a life. But the sad part of it is, many pieces of these previously chewed gum had actually sold. Some for as much as $100! Proves that Barnum was right. There is one born every day. You know, imagine spending $100 for something you can get for free in most parking lots or under most restaurant tables.

You know, as I read those things I was reminded that they illustrated in a humorous way that we live in a world where the ideas of value and worth are terribly distorted. But as distorted as most people's ideas of value is, in pertaining to the stuff around us, when it comes to what pleases God, what God accepts, people's values are even more distorted, even more twisted. When it comes to what matters to God, they have utterly distorted God's values. Paul puts it this way in Romans 3, that familiar passage in verse 10. He says: "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE,"

And he uses a Greek word for "turned aside" there which was used for deserters running from their posts in the army. They're running for their own welfare, for their own safety. Isaiah puts it this way in the 53rd chapter of his book. He says, "All … [we] like sheep have gone astray, … [We have] turned to his own way;"

We have our own idea of what should matter to God, and we come bringing like Cain, our sacrifices saying, "God, be pleased with these. Accept these." Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that before he came to Christ, he too had a distorted sense of values of what matters to God. He says my entire value system was horribly convoluted and, as he explains this, he uses financial terms like profit and loss, assets and liabilities. In verses 4 to 6 that we looked at a couple of weeks ago, he says there were some things that I considered to be assets, that I considered to be in my profit column. But then there came a point in time when I saw them as liabilities. I put them in my loss column. There was a time when I saw certain things as gaining me acceptance with God. I saw them as spiritual assets. And he goes through that list in verses 5 and 6, that we looked at before. He says I sometimes in the past I thought that religious ritual would make me accepted before God. He said I put my confidence in my ethnic background, in my spiritual heritage, in my traditional lifestyle, in my religious association, in my spiritual zeal, he says. He said ultimately, I put my confidence in my own righteousness. And I said, "Here God, accept these. Be pleased with these. These have value. These are my assets, and I gladly present them to you."

These are the things that he saw as pleasing God and gaining him a right standing, but then something dramatic happened in Paul's life. He had a radical change in his thinking. You know what happened. The event is recorded, the historical event is recorded in Acts 9, where Paul is going to Damascus to arrest Christians and to imprison them, take them back to Jerusalem and persecute them for their faith in Christ. And as he approaches the city of Damascus, Christ reveals Himself to him in the middle of the blazing sun of Christ's glory, Paul realizes how wrong he's been. Acts describes the historical event.

Philippians 3 describes what was going on deep inside of Paul's soul that day, outside the city of Damascus. What was going on in his mind. It's as if he unpacks for us, in verses 7 and 8 of Philippians 3, what the Spirit was doing in his heart that day on the Damascus road. In a moment of time, all those things that he used to consider assets suddenly became spiritual liabilities. They moved from his profit column to his loss column. And he was willing to give them all up, to lose them all. On that day in what was the early 30s AD, the resurrected Christ confronted a proud, self-righteous Pharisee with himself. And in a blaze of glory, he removed Paul's spiritual blindness, and forever shattered his reliance on his own merit, on his own efforts, on anything that was his. Christ brought him to his knees, where he could only cry out like the tax gatherer, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."

Today, we come to that section of Philippians 3 where Paul opens up his heart, and he says here's what went on that day in me on the road to Damascus. He tells us how such a radical change occurred. Let me read this entire portion to you, so you can put verses 7 and 8 in its context. Philippians 3:1:

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 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, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

As I've already explained to you in much detail, the theme of this passage is the doctrine of justification. That declaration of God by which He declares believing sinners to be righteous, to be right in His sight, not based on anything in them, but based rather on the righteousness of another, on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And that wonderful gift of God's grace is received, we're told, by faith alone. Paul's purpose in these verses, in developing that doctrine of justification, is to let us know that justification isn't something you get beyond. You know, a lot of people think justification is good when you're telling someone about the gospel, but then you kind of grow out of that. You move onto other things. Paul says, Oh, no! This is to be the center and focus of our lives as Christians. He's taught the Philippians about this ten years before. And now he's reminding them about it again.

And he says, don't ever let go of this as the central part of your faith. In these verses Paul reminds us of all of the crucial truths about this great doctrine of justification. I don't have time to rehearse them all for you, where we've been so far. I encourage you, if you're interested, to get the tapes, get the CDs and listen. But let me just remind you in verse 1 we saw that justification is absolutely essential. In verse 2, we saw that it is under constant attack from its enemies, those who would undermine it, who add works to it. In verse 3, we saw that it is the mark of all true Christians. All true Christians stand justified before God. In verses 4 through 6, two weeks ago, we saw that justification is the antithesis, the opposite, of all human merit. Paul said, listen, you want to talk about human merit? I have plenty; in fact, I have far more than anyone else will ever claim. But he said I learned it's not about human merit at all.

And that brings us to our passage for today, verses 7 and 8. And the truth that Paul teaches in these verses, let me put to you this way: justification follows a radical change in thinking. Justification follows a radical change in thinking. Notice in verses 7 and 8 that Paul uses the English word "count" three times. In verse 7, "whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss." Verse 8, "I count all things to be loss." The end of verse 8, "I've suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish." That is the key word to unlocking and understanding this passage. The Greek word literally means "to believe," "to think,"' 'to consider." It describes a change in thinking. One writer defined it this way, "it means to arrive at a sure judgment based on a careful weighing of the facts." Paul says, listen, I've weighted everything out, and I've come to this judgment as a result.

You see, what's changing in this passage isn't Paul's assets; his advantages aren't changing. He did not, and he could not, go back and undo the spiritual advantage of having been circumcised the eighth day. He couldn't go back and change the fact that he was born an Israelite; he couldn't change the fact that he was from the tribe of Benjamin, and so forth. All of those things were true and would continue to be true. What changed was Paul's mindset about those things, his perspective about those things. What radically changed was his value system. You see, what Paul wants us to understand is that if we ever hope to be accepted by God, to gain a right standing before God, to be justified before God, we must first have a radical change in our thinking. Specifically, like Paul, our thinking has to change in regard to three things. And I want us to look at those three things this morning. Our thinking has to change in three ways.

First of all, it has to change in reference to ourselves. We have a change in thinking about ourselves. Notice verse 7, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." Paul begins with the language of the marketplace, the language of Wall Street. He says, whatever things were, literally, in the plural, whatever things were gains to me. The word "gains" is a financial term in Greek. It means profit. It means to make a profit. It refers to all of those things that were formerly his spiritual assets that he's recorded in verses 5 and 6. He says all of the things that were in my profit column, all those things that were gains to me, you see, one by one, Paul has carefully counted up his spiritual assets, and in his estimation, they were real advantages in which he put his confidence. He expected to stand before God on the day of judgment and say, "Here God, look at me. Look at who I am. Look at my circumcision. Look at the fact that I have been born an Israelite. Look at the fact that I am from the tribe of Benjamin. That I kept Your Law." Paul says whatever things were gains to me, those things I have counted as loss. He says listen, all of my gains, all of things that were in my asset column, that were in my profit column, have become one great, big loss, singular. That's a radical change in his thinking.

You know, a similar radical re-valuation occurs sometimes in our world, where those things we think have value, something happens, and all of a sudden, they don't have the same value we once attributed to them. Many of you have read about the Great Depression of the 1930s. And a few of you may have actually endured some of those days. The great stock market crash of 1929 in the three years following what's called "Black Tuesday." That day the stock market crashed. In the three years following that, stock prices fell on average more than eighty percent. Nine thousand banks failed in those three years. And in that three year-period, unemployment in the U.S. went to twenty-five percent. One in four workers didn't have work, no way to make a living. During that time, millions of people had a radical shift in their thinking about what really had value. Prior to the Great Depression, one of the hottest commodities, one of the things people really wanted, was an automobile. They were fairly new, and there was a lot of excitement about owning your own automobile. And then the depression hit, and the value of the automobile suddenly changed.

A man by the name of Ben Isaacs, who lived in Chicago during the Great Depression, wrote this, "I was in business for myself, selling clothes on credit. But, banks closed down overnight. We lost every thing. I couldn't pay the rent." Listen to what he says, "I sold the family car for $15 in order to buy some food for the family." Cars were a lot cheaper in those days, but they weren't that cheap. The value suddenly completely changed.

But the difference between the Great Depression and Paul's radical re-valuation of all of his assets was that in the Great Depression, those assets retained some residual value. But Paul says I looked at all my assets, and as I reckoned them up, as I added them up, I found they're absolutely worthless. They have no value whatsoever. The tense of the verb "have counted" points to a specific time in the past that continues into the present. He says, listen, on the Damascus Road, all of a sudden, my whole valuation of system, my idea of what was important, radically changed, and that continues to be true today. Everything that used to be of value to Paul in order to gain a right standing before God no longer had any value at all. Have you ever gone through a period in your life, certainly for most of us the Great Depression, but have you ever gone through a period when you were forced to radically re-evaluate the value of things in your life?

Sheila and I had a moment like that. Several years ago, we lived in California. I was down at the church, which is about thirty minutes south of where we lived and, Sheila called and she said, "I'm on my way home, and there's, there's terrible fire and smoke is blocking the sun. If you've never been in one of those western wildfires, you can't imagine what it's like, to have what feels like a solar eclipse because of the darkness of the smoke, and blocking the sun and you're driving through this eerie, almost night-time feel, and she drove to our house. She approached a roadblock, and she was the last person that the officers let in to our neighborhood. And they told her this. They said listen, we haven't yet force evacuations, but that may come shortly, and when that happens, we'll give you ten minutes' warning. Take whatever you want to take, but you only have ten minutes.

Let me ask you a question. Somebody came to you, knocked on the door of your house and said, we're going to have to evacuate you. Your home and everything in it will be destroyed. You have ten minutes. Take whatever you want. What would you take? You see, that moment is a clarifying experience. Because all of a sudden, what's really important in life stands up and yells "it's me." It starts with the people you love. And then it goes to those things that are irreplaceable. And all that stuff that seemed so important all of a sudden isn't important at all. That's the kind of radical re-valuation that accompanies true conversion. It's that same kind of radical re-valuation. Christ puts it this way. Turn to Matthew 16. Matthew 16:24.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me," [in other words, if anyone wants to be a Christian, if they want to be my follower, my disciple, they want to be the true thing, then he must [start by] … [denying] himself. [He must start by refusing to associate with the person that he is. He must renounce himself. And he must] … take up his cross. [Now this often has been misunderstood. And some people have seen their mother-in-law in this cross that they must bear, or some problem with their body, some ache, some pain. Listen, in the first century, the cross was used for one thing, and that was to kill people. Christ is saying, "You want to follow me? Fine, be willing to give your life,] and [then] follow me." Verse 25, [He makes sure that we understand that He puts it this way,]

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

Christ says, listen, you come to me, you're going to radically re-evaluate your priorities and all of a sudden, you're going to realize that there is nothing as important as Me and your soul. And everything else, you're willing to leave behind.

Have you come to the place where you've acknowledged that you have nothing to bring to God? That you are spiritually bankrupt? That you had no assets? You remember the first beatitude in Matthew 5? Christ says, "Blessed are the" what? "the poor in spirit." Literally, blessed are the beggars in spirit. Have you ever come to God that way? I'm just a beggar. I don't have anything to offer You, God. I'm not bringing anything that will make me acceptable to You. I've just got my hands out and I'm just pleading for You to get me what I can never earn.

That's how Paul was.

But what caused such a radical change in his thinking about himself? How did he go from thinking he had all his assets that would make him acceptable to God, to believing he had nothing? Well, notice verse 7, "those things I have counted as loss for the sake of," or on account of, or because of, Christ.

And that introduces us to the second radical change in thinking, connected to justification. Not only is there a sweeping change in regard to ourselves, but secondly, there is a change in our thinking about Christ, our thinking about Christ. Notice the beginning of verse 8, where Paul goes on to develop this comment about for being for the sake of Christ. He says "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." The translators have done a valiant job in translating that first phrase, "More than that." It's a hopelessly untranslatable string of Greek words that appear nowhere else in the New Testament. In fact, they don't appear anywhere else in Greek, period. Let me translate it for you literally. Paul literally says, beginning of verse 8, "But indeed, therefore, at least, even." You get the idea, here's a guy who's absolutely carried away with the incredible gulf between what he used to value, and what he values now.

Now, when you come to verse 8, he seems to be saying more, you know, he begins with more than that. He seems to be adding to what he says, but it looks at first glance as if he were saying the same thing. But it's different. What he is saying in verse 7 and verse 8 is different, and let me show you how in two ways. First of all, it's different in the tense of the verb. In verse 7, he says I counted. There was a time in the past that still has lingering results. In verse 8, he says I am counting. That's how we literally could translate it. It's still true; this is the way I am living, he's saying today. But the other change is even more significant. Notice in verse 7, what he counted as loss were those spiritual assets that he used to cling to, all those things that were gains to him. But you get to verse 8, and what is it he counts as loss? All things. Nothing is excluded. There is absolutely nothing in his life that he wouldn't give up to gain Christ.

Look around you, at what people value in our world. They value fame, status, wealth, honor, creature comforts, family, friends, physical pleasure. For Paul, all of those things, and anything else you can think of, were a total loss compared to Christ. But why is it Paul says, I keep on counting all things as loss? Because even for true Christians, there is a recurring temptation to rely on something in addition to, or in place of, Jesus Christ. One writer outs it this way, "Paul is saying that the settled decision he made in the past as a result of careful reflection is not enough. It must be reinforced daily by continuous conscious moral choices against depending upon himself, who he is, the things he possesses, what he's accomplished, for gaining favor with God."

Paul constantly weighs everything he is and everything he's done, and he comes to the deliberate, settled conclusion that it's all worthless. It utterly lacks value. Why? Well, notice verse 8 again, "because of the surpassing value." That's another financial term. He's saying because I've found the ultimate asset, overwhelming gain, something of incomparable worth. This is something that's in a totally different class. What is it that surpasses everything else in the world in its value to Paul? "Knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

Paul had a radical change in his thinking about Christ. Notice a change in his thinking about who Christ is. He refers to Christ as "Christ Jesus my Lord" Now remember, we studied two weeks ago, that Paul grew up in Jerusalem. And he grew up, he was there, around the same time that Christ had His ministry. He undoubtedly heard about Christ. There's no evidence that he ever encountered Christ during that period. But, he undoubtedly heard about Christ. He knew about His teaching. He knew about His claims, and Paul utterly rejected those claims. In fact, in Acts 26, he says, "… I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." In the next couple of verses, verse 11 of that same chapter, he says, "… as I punished them often" [he's speaking of Christians] "… as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme;"

Have you ever thought about that? Saul, the Apostle Paul, going into synagogues, taking Christians who embrace Jesus as their Messiah, as God in human flesh, and saying, "Deny that." Deny that He is who He claimed who He was. You see, for this young Pharisee, it wasn't just a battle against the followers of Jesus Christ; it was against Christ Himself. He saw himself as battling a cult leader, a blasphemer, by the name of Jesus of Nazareth. It was his goal to get others to deny Him.

But on the Damascus Road, his thinking about Jesus was forever radically transformed. He now says to the Philippians, Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. He's Christ, ha-Mašíaḥ, God's chosen, anointed Savior. And he says He is my Lord. That's a very interesting expression. He says "my Lord." It's the only time in the New Testament that he says that. Every other time it's in the plural, "our Lord." But here, he gets intensely personal. And he says, Jesus Christ, my Lord.

He intends for this term to be defined by all we studied when we went through chapter 2, and we learned that Christ had been given the name "Lord." He'd been given the declaration that He is God, and that He is sovereign, and that He is Master. Paul says, listen, Jesus Christ is my Savior, and He is my personal sovereign.

His thinking changed about Christ and about knowing Christ. He says the surpassing value of knowing Him. Now this word "knowing" is informed by the Old Testament. It's not just a head knowledge of facts. In the Old Testament, to know someone was to have a relationship with them; it was to have intimacy with them. In fact, often in the Old Testament, the word "know" is used to describe the intimate relationship between a man and his wife. To know God in this sense is to know Him, as wives and husbands know each other, or as children and parents know each other. There's knowledge. There's a personal intimacy, a personal experience, a relationship.

You see, to be a Christian isn't just to know some facts. It's to know a person. Remember in John 17:3, Christ in His high priestly prayer prays and He says, "Father," He says, "This is eternal life, [I'm going to give you a definition of eternal life. It is to] … know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom … [You've] sent." It's a relationship. Paul once had no desire to know Jesus of Nazareth, but now, that's the most important thing in all the world to him.

When I think about that, I'm reminded of an Old Testament character who had the same epiphany. Turn to Hebrews chapter 11, it's recorded there. Hebrews 11:24, "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter," Now most of the time, we just skip over that, as if yeah, that's nice, let's see what else is recorded about Moses.

But to really understand this verse, you have to understand a bit of Egyptian history.

You see, the woman that probably adopted Moses was a woman by the name of Hatshepsut—not likely to be the name of your next daughter. But Hatshepsut was the most powerful woman to have ever lived in Egypt. There was a period of time when she actually reigned as Pharaoh. And there were two times during her life when her adopted son could easily have become the next Pharaoh of Egypt. Notice how Moses responded. He refused to be called Hatshepsut's son, "choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,"

Notice verse 26, "considering" here's why he did it. And you know that word "considering" is the same Greek word as the word "count." back in Philippians 3. He says listen, I counted "the reproach of the … [Messiah] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt;" This just amazes me, and at some point, we'll look at it in greater detail, because it tells us, here you have Moses, 1,400 years before Christ, actually closer to 1,500 years when this occurs. Fifteen hundred years before Christ, he is living his life, he's making life-changing decisions on the basis of his commitment to the Messiah who would come.

How does that happen? How does a person like Moses give up everything, give up the opportunity to be the next Pharaoh? I mean, you and I could have convinced ourselves, right? That that would have been a good thing. But Moses says no. It's not worth anything, compared to knowing the Messiah, and being associated with Him. How does it happen? How does a person come to grasp the ultimate value of knowing Christ, and why is it that so many people don't? I mean, those of us who are Christians, we look around, and we say, I don't get it. Why don't they understand? Why don't they see what I see?

Well, Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 4. Look there for a moment. Second Corinthians 4:3. He says, "And even if our gospel is veiled," [or hidden,] "it is … [hidden] to those who are perishing." Why? Why is the good news of salvation in Christ hidden, and the value of Christ hidden to those that are perishing? Verse 4, "in whose case the god of this world" [that's Satan] "has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

He says listen, you want to know why people don't see the value of Christ? You want to know why they don't, like Paul for so many years, see what's in Christ? It's because the god of this world has blinded their minds. They can't see. Not only are they dead, as Paul says in Ephesians 2, but they're blind.

So how does anyone ever come to appreciate the value of Christ? Notice the next verse. "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake." Paul says it happens through preaching, but yeah, but if people are blind, how do they ever see it? Verse 6, here's how it happens. "For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." You know what Paul is saying? He's saying, listen, the same God, who in an act of creation spoke the light into existence, speaks the light into the human heart, so that we could see the beauty of Christ.

Has your thinking been changed by who Christ is? Perhaps, as you were growing up, you thought He was a myth, a legend. Or perhaps you knew He was a historical figure, but you thought He was a fraud. Or maybe you didn't think He was a fraud; you thought He was a good man, a good teacher, or perhaps more than that. You understood that He was God in human flesh, but you were never willing to bow your knee before Him as Lord. But have you come to a point where you see who He is, and come to see personally and relationally, that knowing Jesus Christ is the greatest asset in life? Have you counted everything else that you hold dear as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Him? Paul says listen, before you can receive the gift of a right standing before God, there must be a comprehensive change in your thinking about yourself and about Jesus Christ.

And thirdly, about salvation, about salvation. Notice the end of verse 8, "for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ," What an amazing statement! I have suffered the loss of all things for Christ. You see, Paul not only counted all things as loss, he actually lost everything. Paul's whole life radically altered there on the Damascus Road. He lost his status. He lost his lifestyle. He lost his home. For at least three years, he didn't return to Jerusalem. He lost his friends. He lost his family. He lost his associations. He lost his property, his possessions, his inheritance, his reputation. For Paul, coming to Christ meant losing everything. Folks, let me tell you, that is exactly what it costs to be a Christian. As one man has said, salvation is free to you. But once you have received it, it will cost you everything.

Luke 14:26, Christ puts it this way, "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." God may not ask you to actually suffer the loss of everything. But He does ask all of us to be willing. Paul says I've lost everything that used to matter to me. He said, but don't feel sorry for me. I have no regrets. In fact, everything I lost, all I used to treasure, I now consider to be, notice the word at the end of verse 8, "rubbish." The Greek word is "skubalon." The best use of this word refers to table scraps, thrown out for the dogs. But its most common usage, and probably the one that should be used here, it was used for waste, for dung, for manure, for excrement. In polite Greek, there was no more pejorative term Paul could have chosen. He says all that used to be treasure to me is now worthless. And even worse than worthless. It's filthy, it's repugnant. It disgusts me.

Why? He says because only one thing is important to me now, "So that I may gain Christ." I love the way he turns the financial metaphor on its head. He said listen, everything that used to be gain, I counted as absolute loss, so that I may gain the real asset, the ultimate asset in life, and that is Christ Himself.

What does it mean to gain Christ? Well, he explains it in verse 9, and we'll look at it in more detail next week, Lord willing. But basically, to gain Christ is to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to your account, to have a right standing before God because of Christ. And Paul says when I found that, everything else looked like manure. It looked like excrement. It was worth absolutely nothing, and it was disgusting to me.

Listen, what matters the most in the world to you? Is it to gain Christ? Is it to have His righteousness as your own? In verses 7 and 8, Paul describes his conversion on the Damascus Road, not what happened externally, but what happened deep inside his soul. There was a radical, comprehensive, sweeping change in his thinking. And what you need to understand is that it isn't just what happened to Paul. That's what happens to every person who comes to Jesus Christ.

Let me show you how Christ described it, in closing. Turn to Matthew 13, Matthew 13. In two very short parables, Christ elucidates this for us. He illustrates this truth that everything being lost, in view of the surpassing value of Christ. Verse 44 of Matthew 13. He's describing the kingdom of heaven, that is, He defines kingdom of heaven later in Matthew as entering into salvation, as entering into the kingdom over which God rules.

So, we're talking about salvation. He says, let me tell you what entering the kingdom, or salvation is like. It's "like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found." In other words, here's a man who's going on his merry way. Perhaps he was cutting across the field to get home; maybe it was a shortcut, and one day he stumbles over something. He picks it up, and he discovers it's this priceless treasure, buried in the ground. So, what does he do? Well, he hides it again quickly, and then for joy over it goes and says, "Honey, I've got some good news and some bad news. Here's the bad news. We're going to sell the house, we're going to sell the cart, we're going to sell the animals, we're going to sell everything we have. Because I found a treasure that's worth far more than anything we own. And we're going to sell everything, and we're going to buy that field, and then we'll have a treasure."

And then He says, verse 45, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls," He's on mission: to find a pearl. And upon finding one pearl of great value, probably stumbled across some sailor who didn't know what he had, or he had a high price tag on it, but he didn't have the right price tag on it, and the merchant says, "Honey, we're going to sell it all. We're going to sell the business, we're going to sell the property, we're going to sell everything we have, because I found a treasure that will revolutionize our lives. Christ says that is what coming to me is like.

You come to the point where you realize that nothing you have even comes close to comparing in value to knowing Jesus Christ. And be willing to give it all up. Sell it all, to get the one thing that matters most.

Do those two parables describe you? Have you exchanged, as Jory sang earlier, "All that you are, for all the He is?" To be declared right before God, you don't have to have a Damascus Road experience. You don't have to be knocked from your horse by the blazing noonday sun. You don't have to hear God speak from heaven.

But, no one ever gains a right standing before God unless the Spirit of God produces this same radical change in his heart, as He produced in Paul. A fundamental change in thinking about yourself, that you have nothing to offer God, that you're a beggar before God. A change in thinking about Christ, that He is the ultimate value in all the world in all the universe. And a change in thinking about salvation, about how a person is made right with God. And that is through Christ, in His life, in His death alone. That's my prayer for each of you.

Let's pray together.

Father, I pray that Your Spirit would work in each of our hearts. Those of us who know You, that Christ would be more precious, that we would be more devoted to Him as a result of what we studied this morning, that we would reaffirm that we are continuing to count everything to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ.

And Lord, I pray for those here this morning, perhaps some who faithfully attend our church, but who are clinging to their own spiritual assets as their way of being accepted before You. Lord, I pray that this morning, you would bring them to the place of beggars, that You would open their eyes and help them to see the surpassing value of Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen!

Just by Faith Alone