All For Christ

Philippians 3:1-11

by
Lawson Mayo

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Saviour watching o'er me,
I can sing though billows roll.
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Let me view His constant smile;
Then, throughout my pilgrim journey,
Light will cheer me all the while.

I can envision Paul sitting at a rugged table, with a shaft of sunlight filtering through the prison bars. I can hear him singing words like these as he picks up his quill to write. I can see him bow in prayer before beginning his letter to the church at Philippi. As he writes, he speaks of joy. Joy in suffering (1:1-30). Joy in serving (2:1-30). Joy in believing (3:1-21). Joy in giving (4:1-23). Joy is his theme. He knows that joy runs deep in the lives of those that give themselves to Christ. Because these brethren are so dear to him, he wants to instil this infallible truth in their hearts. He wants them to understand the joy he has found in Christ. He wants them to experience this spiritual blessing in their lives.

Contentment is a lesser theme that flows through Paul’s letter, nevertheless it’s there. Like a fine, silver wire, it holds Paul’s joy-thoughts together. In Christ, Paul had found contentment. He had found peace that passeth understanding. He had found serenity that offered strength. Coupled with joy, his contentment enabled him to look at his present situation and see heaven. His greatest hope was that of the resurrection.

Paul’s desire to fully know Christ is firmly and wonderfully expressed in verse eight of our text, Philippians 3:1-11. Listen to his stirring proclamation: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” What a profound statement! What values! What contentment! What joy!

Paul sounds a bit like Solomon, doesn’t he? “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” They spoke the same language, they thought the same thoughts, they proclaimed the same message: “Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecceliastes 12:13). In the minds of these two men, only one thing would matter in the day of judgement: commitment to God. Commitment to God the Father, for Solomon. Commitment to God the Son, for Paul. All else would be worthless. Vain. Of no value. Useless. To no avail.

Do you place anything above your relationship with Christ? Sport? Recreation? Job? Education? Are your priorities right? If not, how can you reorder them? What are you willing to give up in order to know Christ the Lord? Family? Friends? Plans? Pleasures? Fame? Fortune? Whatever it is, Christ is worth more than the sacrifice!

At first glance, it seems that Paul is boasting of his achievements in our text. But, in actuality, he’s pointing to the fact that no matter how impressive one’s credentials and achievements might be, they are nothing compared to salvation. Paul had impressive credentials: upbringing, nationality, family background, inheritance, orthodoxy, and activity. But, when he was converted to Christ, his credentials meant nothing. They were useless to salvation. They fell short of God’s expectations. Accomplishments and credentials cannot earn salvation. That comes through Christ!

What are you depending on to make yourself right with God: people, the church, good works? If so, let me tell you, it won't work! You must “work out your own salvation” if you want to enjoy the blessings of heaven. You must give your all! Paul gave up family, friends, power, political freedom, prestige. Everything! But look what he gained! Righteousness, serenity, communion with Christ, hope of a resurrection. For him, “to live was Christ, to die was gain” (1:21).

Devoted Christians rejoice in Christ; they prefer Christ; they trust Christ; they obey Christ. Obedience alters a man. It changes his judgement, makes him as new. Paul, himself, was proof of this. Before meeting Christ, he had been a devout Jewish leader, one who proudly persecuted the church. He thought Christ was a heretic. He thought that His teachings were blasphemous. He thought His claims were false. In addition, he saw Christianity as a political menace because it threatened to disrupt the fragile harmony between the Jews and the Roman establishment. His actions, of course, were in harmony with the leaders of his religious establishment. He met with their favour. But something had happened on that road to Damascus; something that radically changed his life. He is no longer a persecutor, he’s a proclaimer. He is a Christian. He’s a hard working soldier in the army of the Lord, fighting against the Judaizers within the church.

Judiazers, as you know, are Jewish Christians who wrongly believed it was essential for Gentiles to follow the Old Law, especially the rite of circumcision. Many Judiazers, like some Christians today, were motivated by spiritual pride. They could not accept the fact that their efforts and their beliefs wouldn’t bring them a step closer to salvation.

As pointed out by many commentators, it’s easy to place more emphasis on religious effort than on internal faith; but God judges the heart. He judges the inner man; not his outward works. Let us not forget this, lest we fall prey to Satan’s trap. No one is immune to pride! The strongest among us can be felled by it. So, don’t think you will satisfy God by fervently doing His work. God sees beneath the surface. There is no room in the kingdom of heaven for flag waving and trumpet blowing. Please know this. Sad to say, but I’ve known some very prideful preachers in my time. They serve to be seen. They blow their horns and wave their flags, all the while shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!” With the Lord as my witness, I stand before you today to say that some of the greatest among us, have brought soul-threatening weakness into the church. I would say that men like Max Lucado and Rubel Shelly would be counted among this number, but there are others. Some of them have set foot on Australia’s fertile soil. They plant their seeds of error, then leave and let the weak among us do the watering. In due season, their digressions germinate and begin to grow. And what do sound brethren do? Nothing! We just shake our heads and let the error spread. This ought not to be. We should be a united force. We ought to band together in a concentrated effort to stamp out liberal trends in this country. And, if they can’t be stamped out, strict lines of fellowship need to be drawn. Light cannot have fellowship with darkness. We must stand firm if, like Paul, we have a hope of the resurrection! We must give our all, whatever the cost, to keep the church in Australia pure.

What causes digression in the church, anyway? Pride! Pride that causes men to believe they have found a better way than God’s!  Pride that covets attention. Pride that wants to be seen of men. Contrary to what some may think, religious fervor is not an indicator of righteousness. It’s the humble that the Lord will lift up in the day of judgement; not the boastful and the proud. Have you not read the “woe unto you” and the “depart from me, I never knew you” chapters of Matthew? Frightening, aren’t they? “What doth the Lord require of thee? But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8).

The greatest works done within the church are usually done by those who quietly go about their task of serving the Lord, not caring one iota whether or not their deeds are seen of men. One might never know they’re there, if they didn’t accidentally stumble onto one of their good deeds. Years ago, I knew a couple like that. They’ve passed into eternity now, but way back then they silently went about doing much good, aiding the needy and teaching God’s Word. Very few within the congregation knew of the good they did. I was the preacher for that congregation, and not even I knew of their good works until one day I called on a needy family and found them inconspicuously ministering to their needs. Truth be known, we have a couple like this in our congregation at Eastside. Surely, there will be a great day coming for such who love the Lord! By the cross, the world is crucified to us, and we to the world. Only those who willingly suffer loss will attain the glorious resurrection of the saints. This hopeful prospect is what carried Paul through every difficulty in life. He did not hope to attain approval through his own righteousness, but through the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ. He weighed the world in a balance with Christ, and the world was found wanting (Philippians 3:1-11). To echo the words of Jesus, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

Briefly, let us look at our assigned text in Philippians 3, to get a better idea of Paul’s convictions. In the middle of verse one, there seems to be an abrupt change in tone and theme which leads some scholars to view Philippians as a collection of shorter letters which at some time have been joined into one single letter. If that be so, very possibly the second letter begins with verse two of chapter three. Why else, so early in his writing, would he say, “Finally, my brethren...?” Most likely, the second verse is simply the beginning of a new thought, however.

Leading up to chapter 3, Paul is talking about the importance of faithful ministers. He hopes to send Timothy to them shortly to check on their general welfare; to see how the gospel stood with them; how they were keeping the ordinances; how their ministers were preaching, etc. It's a serious thing when a minister seeks to advance his own interests over the interests of the congregation. Timothy was a man of discernment. He could look at the Philippian situation and determine what should be done if something was amiss. Meanwhile, Paul was sending Epaphroditus back to them. He had been ill to the point of death, and Paul wanted the church to know that he had done a great work even though he wasn't well. Indeed, they could rejoice over his accomplishments. Despite his poor health, he had fulfilled their mission.

In verse 2, Paul talks about the problem of the Judaizers in the midst of the brethren.

In verse 3, Paul deals with “the Circumcision” -- offering assurance that true circumcision is in the heart; not the flesh; that true circumcision is a renouncing of our own righteousness; that true circumcision is giving one's self to Christ.

In verse 4, Paul uses himself as an illustration to prove his point. If there is any value in family ties, ceremonies, religious works, and outward obedience to the Law, he had more room to boast than any of these false teachers.

In verses 5 and 6, Paul presents his credentials. Circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin which was a tribe that held to true worship when others revolted. He was born of Hebrew parents, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. As touching the Law, he was a Pharisee, the strictest sect of the Jews. Concerning zeal, he was the most zealous of all; he not only persecuted the church with respect to the observance of the law, he was blameless in his persecutions.

In verses 7 and 8, Paul alludes to his conversion; how it had changed his life.  He considers his accomplishments, and counts them worthless to his new life in Christ.

In verses 9-11. Paul sets forth a threefold hope. In essence, he says, “This is my primary purpose, my one desire, my sincere hope--that I might achieve  righteousness; that I might draw nearer to Christ; and that I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Looking to verse 12 (which is not a part of our assigned text), Paul may be speaking of the moral and spiritual resurrection that lifts us out of a sin-darkened world; but most likely, he is looking beyond this life to the next, with full assurance of eternal life after physical death. He has fought a good fight and run a good race, but he is in prison. His death could be quite imminent.

What is our text saying? Only in Christ is real life, real holiness, real hope. Understanding this, we should desire to have, as did Paul, a closer walk with Christ. We should willingly give our all for the hope of eternity with Him.  Whatever our current circumstances we should strive to be like Paul in attitude, in spirit, in heart, and in hope. May we share Paul’s aspiration, and seek to know Christ better than ever before.

To summarize our text: verses 1-3 speak of rejoicing in the Lord, eschewing false doctrine, and imitating Christ. Verses 4-7 point to the personal cost and value of Christianity. In verses 8-11, Paul presents Christ in four aspects: as a prize to be won, as a rest, as a theme, and as a model. Let’s look at each of these thoughts.

As A Prize: What is it to win Christ? It is something more than just meeting Him, something more than merely becoming acquainted with him, something more than understanding the doctrines of His life and the purpose of his mission. To win Christ is to posses Him, to have His spirit living in us. Have you won Christ? Does He dwell within you? Has His spirit been integrated with your spirit? “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” This is what Paul wrote to his Roman brethren (Romans 8:9).

As A Rest: The phrase “found in Him” seems to denote resting in his character as a branch rests in the trunk of a tree, deriving from it its life, its form, its hue, its fruit. To live in His character, his spotless purity, his immeasurable love, his matchless excellence! Do you “rest” in the Lord? Do you derive from Him your life? Do you produce the fruit of His spirit? Do you live in His purity, His love, His excellence? The unregenerate world lives in the fallen character of Adam. The regenerate world, however, lives in Christ. There seems to be no resting place in between. Either we are dead in Adam or alive in Christ. Which would you rather be?  As for me, I want to be alive in Christ, drawing every ounce of my being from His energy source.

As A Theme: “That I may know Him” is the theme of Paul’s life. It’s a recurring topic in his writings; it’s an identifying mark that the world can see. The phrase refers to understanding the depth of Christ’s suffering and the power of His resurrection. It means that I may know Him so well that I can feel his agony and taste his tears. Many people know Christ, intellectually. They know the story of His birth, death, and resurrection, but they haven’t “felt” with Him.  Brethren, are we so close to Christ that we can feel His suffering? Can we know how He felt as He ate that last meal, sang that last song, and prayed that last prayer? Can we feel His agony and taste His tears? If not, He is most likely not the theme of our lives.

As A Model: “Conformable unto His death.” What does this mean? To die in the manner in which He died? To be nailed to the cross? Have our body pierced with a spear, and buried in a borrowed tomb? No. It simply means that we should emulate His sacrificial love. Christ died for us, not self. In return, we must die to self and live for Him.

I have taken these four points from The Pulpit Commentary; the thoughts are not mine. But, aren’t they powerful! Don’t they fit our lesson.

How far in service must I go,
What sacrifices bring
To God, whose loving hands bestow
Each good and perfect thing?
How much of time and thought should I
Devote to Him who died
What is my debt to him, and why,
And how may I decide?
A measured service bound would be,
A service mean and small;
He did not ask “How much?” from me;
He gave Himself, His all.
He did not ask how far to go,
How far was not to say
What bound? How far? I only know
That He went all the way.

How far in service must we go? All the way! Sad to say, but some of us try to serve Christ by halves or a lesser fraction. This won’t work! He requires total commitment. He demands our all.

For want of sincerity and devotion we see men profess religion, yet live sensually. Preachers are given to pride, and covetousness, and worldly enjoyments. Women waste their time in idleness and pleasures. Young people have a greater desire to shine at sport than to shine for Christ. If we were to ask ourselves why aren’t we as pious as the primitive Christians, honest hearts would reply that it isn’t through ignorance or negligence, but purely because we never thoroughly intended to be like Christ. We observe Sunday worship as they did, and we are strict in it because it is our intention to do so. Why then are we not strict with our intentions to please God in all of our actions? I long to see the day when we are more interested in prayer meetings than parties. I long to see the day when we can sit on a pew as long as we can on a bleacher at a footy game. I long to see the day when our eyesight can stand as much time reading the Bible as we do the Sunday paper. I long to see the day when we put God first in every aspect of our lives!

Anyone who doesn’t give one hundred percent of self to the Lord is a Christian in name only. A totally committed Christian will not be carried from pleasure to pleasure. Neither will he hold to the world with one hand and reach toward Christ with the other. What do we read in I John 2:16? “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Understanding this, why don’t we flee from the world? Why don’t we come out of darkness and walk in the light? Why don’t we give ourselves totally to Christ?

Some might think that total commitment is an impossible goal, but not so! Christianity is not an impractical form of life; it’s a discipline that has been successfully practiced by great numbers from the first century to this. Commitment is not beyond our reach. Let us therefore resolve to give our all to Christ.

Commitment is not an option, it’s not something that happens by chance. It’s a God-given command. It’s the one principle that will carry us beyond this sin-darkened world to the portals of heaven above. The profession of a Christian is a holy profession. What a glorious day when every brother who professes Christ can sincerely sing: “All to Jesus, I surrender, All to Him I freely give, I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.”

Perhaps the reason we fall short of God’s expectations is because we do not have enough spirituality to be as good as we should be. Maybe we do not have enough faith to hold to our profession. Maybe we don't have enough devotion to follow through with our intentions. Maybe we had rather attend a 21st birthday party, read a book, watch TV, visit friends, or study for a school exam than attend the services of the church, This ought not to be! Christ must come first in our lives. Every Christian should be present for every service (Hebrews 10:25). Full stop!

The world doesn’t need a definition of religion as badly as it needs a demonstration. Can the world see Christ in our lives? Can it sense Him in our hearts? Can it hear him in our words? Can it feel him in our actions? Can we earnestly sing: “Take the world, but give me Jesus?”

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
All its Joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same.
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
In His cross my trust shall be;
Till, with clearer, brighter vision,
Face to face my Lord I see.

The aim of this lecture is the same as the aim of Paul’s letter.  Namely, to proclaim the importance of commitment and the blessing of joy. Commitment that can only come by giving one’s total self to Christ. Joy that passeth understanding when we think of the resurrection. Commitment and joy, both can be ours, if we will but give our all.

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