That's what I call a pretty good rate of return. In our
passage from Philippians this morning Paul encourages us to think about our
profit and loss account. Read 3:7-8 The key word here is "to count".
It comes in verses 7, 8 & 13. The basic idea is to evaluate or to assess.
Paul is saying, "Sit down and weigh seriously the values that control your
decisions and directions. If you do not make decisions about your life, other
people most certainly will. If you do not make your decisions in the light of
God's word, worldly values will corrupt and consume you."
So this morning Paul invites us to do our sums, indeed to consider the most important sum we will ever have to add up. On the day of judgment will our credits outweigh our debits? Some people are pretty confident that they will, others are not so sure. Maybe you are in between. Let me give you some examples.... (Nicky Gumbel, 'Life Worth Living' pp. 80-81).
1. False Confidence - Self Righteousness (3:1-6)
In these verses Paul warns of this false confidence and then illustrates it from his own experience. For many in Paul's day, as now, Christianity can be more a religion than a relationship.
About maintaining rules and regulations rather than a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
1.1 A warning about false confidence (3:1-3)
Paul uses some rather strong language to describe these people who were self confident about their relationship with God. Dogs. Paul is not talking about your household pet but people who are like the wild dogs that roamed the streets fighting and scavenging. These people are troublemakers and carriers of something worse than even rabies. Evil workers. Evil because they were insisting that believing in Jesus is not enough. The mutilation. Here Paul uses a pun on the word "circumcision." The word translated "circumcision" literally means "a mutilation." The Judaizers taught that circumcision was essential to salvation, just as some insist baptism is necessary today, good works or membership of their church.
A lady was arguing with her pastor about this matter of faith and works. "I think that getting to heaven is like rowing a boat," she said. "One oar is faith, and the other is works. If you use both, you get there. If you use only one, you go around in circles." "There is only one thing wrong with your illustration," replied the pastor. "Nobody is going to heaven in a rowing boat!"
Circumcision, baptism, the Lord's Supper, tithing, or any other religious practice cannot save you from your sins.
Only Jesus Christ can do that. The contrast could not be stronger. You can tell those whose confidence is in Christ rather than themselves because of three things in verse 3.
Their worship is spiritual not mechanical.
They focus on Jesus Christ not themselves.
Their confidence is in Jesus not their good works.
Lets be as blunt, as Paul is here, a rules based religion is evil because it is proud and self centred. Legalism is like a wild dog that will tear away at your soul and our church if we let it take root. So a warning about false confidence. Then Paul gives us an example - his own!
1.2 The example of false confidence (3:4-6)
Paul knew the futility of trying to attain salvation by good works.
Paul's Nationality - he was born a Jew - the 'chosen people.'
Paul's Pedigree - of the tribe of Benjamin - the line of David.
Paul's Occupation - A Pharisee - a strict Bible teacher.
Paul's Education - He had trained under the finest minds.
Paul's Faith - Righteous under the Law - he kept God's Word.
Measured by the righteousness of the Law, Paul was blameless. He kept the Law and the traditions perfectly.
Paul's Zeal - Antagonistic to Israel's enemies. Paul defended his orthodox faith by persecuting the followers of Jesus. So how could a sincere person like Saul of Tarsus be so wrong?"
The answer is: he was using the wrong currency. He was using the wrong calculator. He'd invested in the wrong stock. Compared to his people, his colleagues and based on their interpretation of the Bible, he was righteous but it was a self-righteousness, a self confidence. But one day he met Jesus Christ and realised that all he regarded as to his credit was actually worthless before God. He traded his self confidence for a Christ centred confidence.
2. True Confidence - A Faith Righteousness 3:7-11
When Paul met Jesus Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9), his whole way of calculating things was turned upside down.
2.1 Paul's losses (3:7)
To begin with, he lost whatever was gain to him personally. Certainly Paul had a great reputation as a scholar (Acts 26:24) and a religious leader. He was proud of his Jewish heritage and his religious achievements. All of these things were valuable to him; he could profit from them. He certainly had many friends who admired his zeal. But measured against what Jesus Christ had accomplished for him and everything else was just garbage. Paul's losses.
2.2 Paul's gains (3:8-11)
We are reminded of Jim Elliot's words: "He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." This is what Paul experienced: he lost his religion and his reputation, but he gained a living relationship with the Lord Jesus.
He gained the privilege and high calling to be his servant for the rest of his life. What did Paul value most?
Knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (3:8)
The greatest thing in all my life is knowing you.
To "know Christ" means to have a personal relationship with Him - a growing, deepening knowledge of him and his will.
Experiencing the Righteousness of Christ (3:9)
The technical word for this is imputation. It means "to put to one's account." Paul looked at his own account and discovered that he was spiritually bankrupt. He looked at Jesus Christ and saw that He was perfect. When Paul trusted in Jesus Christ, God put Christ's righteousness into his own account!
In fact, God took his sins had put them on Christ's account on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). Instead of being wrong when he thought he was right, Paul was declared right when he was wrong. Jesus took his sins away and made him right with God.
The Fellowship of Christ (3:10-11)
Becoming a Christian is only just the beginning. God puts a new motive inside us - to do the right thing. When he was living under Law, all Paul had was a set of rules. But now he had a Friend, a Master, a constant Companion!
This was a personal experience (That I may know him).
It was also a powerful experience ("and the power of His resurrection"). Paul had been born again. It was also a painful experience ("and the fellowship of His sufferings"). Paul knew that it was a privilege to suffer for Christ (Phil. 1:29-30). But it was worth it! For walking with Christ was also a practical experience ("becoming like him in his death"). Christianity is practical. The Bible is the workshop manual to help us become like Jesus and the Holy Spirit is the one who is at work making us more like Jesus. No wonder Paul had joyhis life did not depend on the cheap "things" of the world but on the eternal values found in Christ.
He had exchanged something worthless for something priceless. So perhaps we should not be surprised that those who placed their faith in the stock exchange last week are depressed this weekend. Perhaps we should not be surprised that the Madonna's of this world are depressed about their looks and their self-image as they grow older and are superseded by newer models. People who live for "things" are never really happy, because they must constantly protect their treasures be it wealth or beauty, and worry lest they lose their value, as they most surely will. But not, if like Paul, we do our sums properly and place our confidence in Jesus, for our treasures in Christ can never be stolen and will never lose their value, indeed as we share them, as we give them away, they are multiplied a hundred fold, in this life and in the life to come. Read 3:10. Lets make it our priority this week, lets make it our prayer. Lets pray.