Contend Earnestly: Surpassing Value of Christ

Friday, April 13, 2007

Surpassing Value of Christ

Apart from prayer, when I think of Paul, I think of his giving up everything for the cross of Christ and then the proclamation of that message to all people at all times. The old hymn goes:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land; I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand:

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy name:

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb; He’s all that my hungering spirit needs—I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead:

Refrain: Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway! I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.

Paul shows us that he would truly would rather have Jesus than any other fame or worldly treasure.


The Giving up of Worldly Treasures

In your eyes, what are some worldly treasures? What are some of the long term goals of a good American?
Philippians 3 tells us what it meant to give up all earthly things for Christ in Paul’s eyes. What was the goal of every Jewish boy?

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
Deut 6:4-6

Any good Jewish boy wanted to live by the standards of the Shema. So, knowing this, we must look closer at what Paul speaks of in Phil 3. First, know that Paul is speaking out against Judaizers (Phil 3:2) who believe that grace plus works saves. So, what Paul is doing is showing that he is far superior to these Judaizers by their standards.

This is like Tiger Woods talking to a group of college golfers, Michael Jordan speaking to a group of college basketball players, and for you artsy people, like Michelangelo talking to a group of artists, or Tom Hanks talking to a group of actors.

Paul, first gives his pedigree: He was circumcised on the eighth day, like he was supposed to be, he is a part of the nation of Israel from the tribe of Benjamin. Showing that Paul can trace his descendants all the way back to one of the true tribes of Israel, which many could not do. So he is showing that he is a true Israelite. But, he was from Tarsus, so many could have thought that he was a Hellenistic Jew, meaning that he was a Jew that accepted some of the Greek language and also the Greek lifestyle. But Paul illustrates that this isn’t true by saying that he was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Meaning, not only did he have Hebrew parents, but he spoke and had all the customs of a true Hebrew.

His pedigree, to the Judaizers, was really the equivalent of a Prince showing his lineage and rightful heir ship to the thrown. The Judaizers could bring no offense to Paul and because of his lineage alone would have looked up to him as an elder.

Paul now moves on to show why they should not only respect his pedigree but now his works. Look to this: as to the Law, a Pharisee.

Paul now had their full respect. Pharisees were known for the strict interpretation of the Law and also their strict following of it. If you believed in the Law there was no better representation on earth for the following of the Law than the Pharisees. This is why it was such a shock when Christ said:

“For I say to you that unless your arighteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:20


Jesus is calling the Tiger Woods’ and Michael Jordans’ of their time, mere amateurs with no right to be professionals. He wasn’t just saying that these guys should be beaten, but was saying that they aren’t even good at their sport. Jordan and Woods? Garbage, with no right to even be playing the sport. Jesus is saying that Bill Gates is not good at making money!

But, Paul knowing where the treasures of the Judaizers lie, speaks to them about his pharisaic attributes.

Paul continues though. He says, that’s not all, which was plenty. He said, I have gone further, more than what was called for, I was so zealous that I killed Christians. He says, I put my money where my mouth is. You hate Christians? Well guess what? So did I, and I went and pulled them out of their houses while they were eating with their children and killed them. This was further than most of these Judaizers were doing, so now Paul is setting himself to be a complete hero to these people.

The main problem with Pharisees, and they knew this, was their hypocritical nature. They would say one thing and do another. Paul is now further setting himself up for love of the Judaizers; he states that he was blameless. Paul is saying, I was the perfect Pharisee. He is saying not only is Tiger Woods good but he gets a hole in one every single hole. Not only is Jordan amazing, but he makes every shot and wins every championship. Not only is Spielberg a good director but his movies win every award in every category for every movie.

So he has these guys on the edge of their seat, they can’t wait to hear what they can take from this, how they can learn, how they can be better at being true Israelites, zealous for the law, hatred for the Christians, and Paul states this:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Phil 3:7

This made no sense. Paul, tells them that everything that he had, which was what every one of his listeners would have wanted to attain, he gave it all up. These things that Paul counted as loss were probably his dreams ever since he was a little boy. But, no more did he believe that he was saved because of his lineage, no more did he believe that the circumcision of the flesh meant anything, no more did it matter that he was a true Hebrew, no more did it matter that he was a devout Pharisee, no more did he kill or persecute Christians, no more did he count himself as blameless.

He considered himself a sinful, wretched man, the chief of sinners, a bond slave to the One whom he used to persecute. Paul gave up everything to be called a Christian.

It would be like Tiger and Jordan winning one championship their first year and then walking away, like Spielberg making one film that won every single award and then walking away. This is what Paul did; he was everything, and I mean everything, a religious boy would have dreamed of, and he walked away.

Not only that, but he joined the enemy. Paul completely lost his identity and in our terms these days, gave up all that would make up his self esteem.

The Cross Centered Life

So, Paul gave it all up, but then what? What did he do next? Let’s continue in Phil 3:8

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,

Notice Paul starts by saying, more than that. Meaning, it isn’t enough to give up the treasures in this life. It isn’t enough to rid yourselves of pride and self esteem, but it must go to the correct gain: Jesus Christ. It isn’t enough that Gandhi, Mother Teresa or any monk lose and give up all riches, but the important thing comes in where you find yourself.

Notice how Paul puts his knowledge of the Saviour…he says that it is his surpassing value.

This meant to be above. It usually referred to someone who was in an office that was above another in power. When speaking of money it meant to have a gigantic surplus of it.

What is important in your life? Friends? Looks? Weight? Family? What people think of you? Theology? Orthodoxy? How many hits you get on a blog? Notice Paul said that to the things that he held the most dear in his life, all the things we talked about, he counted as loss, or completely damaged. He then states that they are but rubbish to him. This word rubbish literally means animal dung. Where do you place the things in this life? Your reputation, the way you look, your intelligence? Paul counted them the same way that he saw animal dung. Worthless garbage.

Why did Paul do this? So that he could be found in Jesus Christ. Look at Phil 3:9

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,

Paul is saying: my lineage is found in Christ, my circumcision is in Christ, my tribe is in Christ, my Father is Christ, my zeal is in Christ, my righteousness is in Christ. Everything that Paul was, was now found in Christ. Nothing else.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galatians 2:20

Can we say this? If we could, we would completely live for Christ. We wouldn’t care if we looked foolish for Christ. We wouldn’t care if God made us a little heavier than others. We wouldn’t care if God made us short, tall or otherwise. We wouldn’t care if our intelligence didn’t match up to others. We wouldn’t care about our self esteem. Did you catch that? YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE A SELF ESTEEM…SELF ESTEEM IS PRIDE…find yourself in Christ. The first sin was a self esteem sin (Satan wanting to rise above God) Also, Eve wanted to rise herself up to be like God instead of staying in her standing as His creation. Also, don’t fool yourself in thinking that if you have “woe is me attitude” that you are any less prideful than those who have a high view of self. For you put just as much emphasis of worldly desires that the prideful does.

For Paul, he completely lost everything and considered it animal dung compared to finding himself in Christ Jesus. If this is true in someone’s life, what should be their response? Let me ask it this way…when something is of utmost importance in your life what do you do with it? Do you not dwell on it, talk about it and love it above all other things?

What religious things do you do that you pride yourself on? Reading Scripture? Sharing the Gospel? Memorizing Scripture? You see Paul knew more than all of us and worked more than any of us, yet his pride and his love was only on Christ. So that when anyone regarded him as anything he pointed them to the cross of Christ.

Why do you do the so called righteous things you do? Is it because you love God or is it because that is what you have always been told to do? Do you read Scripture and study it because that is what a good Christian does? Do you pray because that is what a Christian does? Do you know in your head that these things do not merit God's favor, but in your heart you feel like they DO merit God's favor?

How do we rid this? We need to be centered on our ugly sin, this is why Paul calls himself the chief of sinners, cause he truly knew how ugly and nasty his sin was.

The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity.
Psalm 5:5


God hated you! Do you understand this? While He hated you He sent His Son to die on the cross the most brutal way any man could die. When you understand that apart from Christ you can do nothing, and that He chose you out of everyone who ever lived, He died for you while you were spitting in His face, and if given the chance you would have driven the nails through His hands and feet, while all this was going on He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

When we start to understand the Gospel and it is what Paul called the surpassing value of everything in his life, only then will we start to do the things of Christ out of love. You will read His word, you will pray, you will memorize, you will evangelize, not because some old preacher wearing a suit told you to, but because you cannot keep quiet about the surpassing value of the great and glorious God who massacred and killed His Son for you. God used to use animal sacrifice to rid the people of their sins. He thought (I am using this anthromorphically) that if the people saw the brutal bloody death of animals, that they would understand how ugly their sin was. But year after year, the day of atonement came and went, with no change. So, God, in His infinite wisdom, kills His Son in the most brutal way possible. Jesus beaten so badly that He could not carry His cross. History tells us that the skin was so torn that it was like ribbon floating in the wind. God is crying out: IS THIS NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU! He isn't asking us to kill our firstborn, instead He sent His firstborn, and massacred Him for YOU!

Until you take the cross seriously, your priorities will be flopped, whether you admit it or not. The surpassing value in your life is your knowledge, your skills, your money, your friends, your family, your self esteem and
the animal dung will be salvation and the cross of Christ.



1 comments:

Barry said...

Hey Seth,

Great post. It is not only challenging but very encouraging. Over the years the desire for my life is to be more and more about Christ. I fall down, but He is faithful every time to pick me back up. I am learning to trust in His future grace and promises.

Are you sure it can't be more about number of hits to my blog? :-) I loved that part.

I am reading through the book of Acts and I LOL reading how Paul confronts the Sadducees and the Pharisees. He really gets them stirred up against each other in chapter 23.

Paul is such a great example of someone who cared not for himself but gave everything for the sake of Christ.

Keep contending earnestly.

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