Sermon on Philippians 3:8-14
Text: If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 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 on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Do you know how much garbage Americans produce every year? The answer is 230 million tons of garbage. That translates to roughly 1,600 pounds per person. To give you a picture of how much garbage Americans throw away, think of a line of filled garbage trucks stretching from the earth to the moon. Every year we throw away a massive amount of things. These things have become spoiled, ruined, or no longer of any use to us. Sometimes, the things that we throw away are things that we thought had great value to us, but now we realize that they are just junk. It might be that childhood stuffed animal that is all threadbare. It might be some clothes that have gotten too small or are out of fashion. Whatever the items, we throw out a lot of trash. This morning, the apostle Paul also encourages us to TAKE OUT THE TRASH. 1. Your Best Is Only Trash. 2. Christ’s Best Is Yours By Faith. 3. Continue To Live A Trash-Free Life.
In verse 8, Paul writes, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage.” In this section of the letter to the Philippians, he was addressing a false teaching that was arising in the congregation. There were some who were saying that, in addition to believing in Jesus, you had to do certain things in order to be saved. You had to continue to fulfill all of the Old Testament regulations. These people took pride in what they were doing for God.
In verses 4-6, Paul points out that, if you are going to go on the basis of works, he had these false teachers beaten. “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” If salvation would have been by works, Paul would have been guaranteed entrance into heaven. At one time, Paul considered these things to be advantages.
Now, however, Paul considers these things not to be advantages, but a loss and garbage. What was the reason for the turn around? Before, Paul looked at these things as his way to get into heaven. This was how you got right with God. He put his confidence in what he was doing. Now, after he had been brought to faith, he realized that these things were really garbage because they stood in the way of him having a right relationship with the Lord and kept the gates of heaven shut. They did not offer righteousness. They led away from true righteousness. Because Paul had been brought to faith, he realized that all his best was only trash when it came to being saved. He knew that he had to get rid of any such thought. As a result, he looked at all these things as garbage smelled up the place and needed to be hauled out and thrown away.
It is so easy for us to fall into the same trap that Paul is speaking about here. Just as Paul had his list of accomplishments and qualifications, we probably could come up with our own list, as well. We boast in the fact that our family has been members of this church for so many years. We have been baptized and confirmed at this church. We received a Christian education in grade school and, in some cases, beyond that level. We take pride in our church attendance. We point to all that we’ve done for the church. These, in and of themselves, are not bad things. In many ways, they do much to benefit us. The problem comes in when they become objects of trust for righteousness before God. When we start to think that way, we need to be reminded that, if we are going to place our confidence in what we do for God, we would not have a leg to stand on. The reason for this is that, if we are going to stand before God on our own merits, we have to be completely perfect. We cannot have strayed from God’s will, not even once. If we are not perfect, we are lost for all eternity to face God’s anger against our sins. We need to realize that even our best is trash when it comes to gaining our salvation. As Isaiah reminds us in Isaiah 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” May God help us to look away from ourselves when it comes to our salvation.
Paul writes in verses 8-11, “I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 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 on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” This is the reason that Paul considers all his own actions to be garbage. He does this so that he can gain Christ and what he has done. The righteousness that counts before God, Paul says, does not come “from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.” (Verse 9) Paul put his trust in what Christ had done with his suffering, death, and resurrection.
We, also, place our trust in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, because we know that this is how we are made right before God. Jesus’ perfect life was sacrificed on the cross to pay for all of our sins. It is at the cross of Christ that God’s justice and mercy are reconciled. God’s justice is met as all sin of all time was punished. God’s mercy is shown in that, rather than punishing us, who deserved it, he punished his Son. Christ’s resurrection assures us that the payment was complete. When we are brought to faith, Christ’s perfection becomes our own. That is why Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection.” (Verse 10) Coming to know Christ and the power of his resurrection means more than just having a head knowledge about whom Christ is. It is a Spirit-born trust that Christ did everything for our salvation. It is through faith that the best of Christ becomes our own.
Since this is an accomplished fact, why would Paul write as he does in verses 12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”? While our salvation before God is complete, we realize that our maturity and growth is never complete. It is a constant, ongoing process while we live on this earth. The Christian cannot say, “I‘m done; I’ve got it made.” We face the constant struggle of the New Man and the Old Adam.
God is never finished in the life of a believer until they are taken to heaven. God has set before every Christian the prize of eternal life and the perfect glory of heaven, won by the righteousness of Christ, paid for by his blood, and guaranteed by his empty tomb. This is ours by faith, not by works.
Yet, day by day, it is necessary to continue to crucify the sinful nature, so that this prize is not lost. This means that we constantly are on the look out for those temptations in our lives that threaten to trip us up as we run the race. What are those things that I seem to find myself doing time and again that I know are displeasing to God? Where do I see a weakness when it comes to following my Father’s will for my life? As we reflect on the work of salvation that Jesus has accomplished for us, we find our motivation for getting rid of these things.
Paul uses the picture, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” As we run the race, we forget what is behind us. It does no good to constantly look back over past sins and failures, to continually grieve over them, even though they have been completely forgiven in the blood of Christ. Doing this will only lead us to despair, as if there is some sin that was so horrible that God can never forgive us and heaven’s gates are closed to us. Forget what is behind. God has forgiven you.
We also forget what is behind us as we stop patting ourselves on our backs for our past accomplishments. This does not benefit us, at all. Rather, it leads to a sinful pride in ourselves instead of the one who has accomplished all things for us. It, also, leads to spiritual laziness. On the one hand, we think that we have done enough. I’ve done my share, as if there is nothing more that we can do to serve our God and one another. On the other hand, this pride and laziness can cause us to let our guard down. We are successful is repelling one temptation, so we sit back on our laurels and think we have got it made. We fail to recognize that the devil will come at us with another temptation, and we end up falling for that one. May God help us to forget our past accomplishments and focus our attention on him and the heavenly prize that Jesus won for us. May God help us to live a trash-free life.
The old saying goes “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” What this means is that, just because you don’t think that something has value, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. However, the truth of the matter is that sometimes, it is just that – trash. May God open our eyes to look at our lives and see what is valuable and what is trash. May we see that sins that try to entangle and get rid of them. Just as insidious are any thoughts that we, in some way or another, earn righteousness before God. May we, with God’s help, get rid of these things. May we also see what has true value in our lives and that is the work of Jesus Christ, which becomes ours by faith. May we echo Paul’s words as we go about this process, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Verses 7, 14) Amen.
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