Jesus + Nothing = Everything
Jesus + Nothing = Everything, 6.14.20
I’m so thankful you all could join us on this Lord’s Day. For those of you who are here and for those of you who are joining us via live stream, a warm welcome to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you are a guest this morning, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Chance Sumner. I serve here along as pastor along with Pastor Jesse. We are thankful that you’ve joined us. The mission of our church is to know Christ and to make him known. Our prayer is that through this service that you would know Christ more and that as a result you would seek to make him known within the spheres your spheres of influence.
Well I have a confession to make this morning. The confession is this: I’ve been in school for far too long. Far too long. My wife constantly reminds me of this fact. I’m still in school now. Trying to finish up as quickly as I can. If I could do it all over again, I would have taken a different path by taking some shortcuts. But, as you know, hindsight’s always 20/20. So for better or worse, I’m still in school.
I do enjoy school. I love to learn. I love to read and study. That is a great joy I have in life. Simply because I love to learn doesn’t mean that I’ve enjoyed every class that I’ve taken or that I’ve enjoyed every subject. No. There are many classes and subject that I have not enjoyed.
One of my least favorite subjects, probably the subject I disliked the most is, math. You can’t get more different than a degree in theology (which I’ve attained) and a degree in math. Ya, you might have to count up the genealogies in Genesis for a Bible degree, but that’s about it. I’ve never enjoyed math. And it’s not that I don’t find math fascinating. I have a friend who is actually getting a PhD in math. That’s really cool. I find math very fascinating. I myself have just never enjoyed. Especially geometry. I REALLY didn’t like geometry. I’ve struggle with math.
Even though I don’t like math, math can still be useful in the Christian life. I don’t like it but it can be useful for us as Christians. This morning we are going to see how that is the case. The title of my sermon this morning is this: “Jesus + nothing = everything.” Now this is a very simple equation. Very simple. The idea is this: Jesus is of such value, nothing can add value to him. All you need in life is him. Plain and simple.
That’s the idea that Paul argues in our passage this morning. That passage is Phil 3:8. Go ahead and turn with me there. Thus says the Lord,
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
We’re covering this very short passage this morning. This single sentence. Despite it’s short length, this is a massively important sentence. It sums up so much of what Christianity is about. I’m going to break the idea that Paul communicates in this passage, which is “Jesus + nothing = everything,” into two points.
All is Loss
For the first point, write this, “All is loss.” Looking again at our passage. Paul says,
Indeed, I count everything as loss
I get this point, this first point of “All is loss,” from this statement that Paul makes.
To begin to unpack Paul’s thought, we need to understand what Paul means by this “Indeed” at the beginning of v. 8. Last week we discussed vv. 4–7. Paul argued there that his former religious status as a law-abiding Jewish man was ultimately a liability, a loss when compared to value and worth of Jesus Christ. Paul’s encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ rendered all of what Paul used to be value and worth in as a liability. These achievements were not helpful to Paul. Rather, his trust in them led him away from Jesus. And, therefore, he considered his religious status as a liability.
Paul ups the ante in v. 8. Verse 8 is basically the same argument that Paul makes in v. 7. Verse 8, though, is a more powerful point. This more powerful point is indicated by the “Indeed.” Now this translation that the ESV provides, “Indeed,” veils what Paul is doing. “Indeed” is helpful to some extent. “Indeed” does communicate emphasis. When we say indeed, we emphasize the point that we are making. If I were to say to you, “I love my family, indeed,” there’s more emphasis on that statement than the statement, “I love my family.” “Indeed” adds emphasis. The ESV is showing us with the inclusion of the “Indeed” that v. 8 has more emphasis to it than v. 7. Verse 8 is a more powerful sentence.
You will notice, though, if you don’t have a ESV, your translation doesn’t say “Indeed.” It might say, “What is more,” “More than that,” “Yet indeed,” or “Yea doubtless.” Different translations choose different renderings. The reason for the different English translations relates to the difficulty of the Greek. Paul adds three Greek words at the beginning of v. 8 that do not easily translate into English. That is why we have so many different English renderings. The Greek is hard to translate into English.
Despite the different translations, Paul’s point is this. In v. 7 he considered his religious status in comparison to Christ. He said in v. 7, “His religious status cannot compare to Christ. Christ is far better. Any hope he had in that status, leads to a diminishing of the value of Jesus Christ.” In v. 8, Paul switches from religious status in comparison to Christ to “everything.” Paul broadens the horizon of his comparison. In v. 7, it was his religious status. In v. 8, it is “everything.” The “Indeed” emphasizes that v. 8 is the more powerful point. Verse 7 concerned this smaller notion of religious status. Verse 8 concerns all things.
Now look at v. 8 again. What’s the verb? The verb is “consider.” Paul says, “I consider.” Now look at v. 7. Paul says there, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Verse 7 mentions a change in perspective. We covered this last week. Paul says in v. 7 that he used to think, prior to his conversion, that his religious status was gain. That it added value,
worth, meaning to his life. That perspective changed when Paul met Christ. The end of v. 7 suggest this. Now, in light of Christ, Paul considered his former life, his religious status, as loss, as liability. Now look at v. 8. What tense is the verb in v. 8? It’s present tense. So bringing v. 7 together with v. 8, Paul is saying this. I used to put my hope in my religious status. Before Christ, that’s what I did. When I met Christ, end of v. 7, I considered my religious status as loss. And even now, v. 8, I haven’t changed my mind. Now I consider all things to be of loss because of Jesus Christ. Verse 7 and 8 suggest a development of Paul’s thinking. Paul has developed in his thinking on this. Slowly but surely Paul has come to conclude that nothing compares to knowing Jesus.
Now Paul does not specify what he means by “everything.” The Greek here is just as non-descriptive as the English. In Greek it says the exact same as it does in English: “everything.” Your translation might say, “All things.” The same idea. “Everything,” “all things,” Paul considers as loss.
What Paul is doing here is he is placing everything that people place value and worth in—status, pleasure, wealth, popularity, comforts, food, drink, relationships, entertainment, achievement, whatever—all of these “things.” Anything and everything and all things that people see as valuable in this world Paul is considering. He moves from the notion of status in v. 7—specifically religious status—to everything. What starts as a small circle in v. 7 ends up becoming a large circle in v. 8. So large that it includes all human interests. Anything and everything, Paul considers as loss.
This word, “loss,” is the same word for “loss” that occurs in v. 7. As I detailed last week, this word “loss” is an accounting word. It refers to a liability. Paul is saying that he considers anything and everything outside of Christ as a liability in his relationship to Jesus Christ.
I need to make a very important clarification here that can be easily missed. When we read a passage like this, there is a temptation to view this passage as support for the idea that all things that Paul considers as liability are actually bad.
So, for example, take the idea of money. Money is very important to life success. You can do a lot of good in this world with money. If you have money and you are generous, you can make a big impact in this world. Money is a blessing from God, a blessing that must be used wisely.
If we interpret this passage incorrectly, we would be forced to conclude that money is bad. That money is a liability in our relationship with Christ. That you shouldn’t work, that you shouldn’t work for physical possessions like a house or a car. If we take Paul’s statement here to the extreme, we would be forced to conclude that money in any and every form hinders us in a walk with Christ. It is a liability and therefore must be rejected.
That’s wrong, though. Money is a gift from God. To have money, to be able to pay your bills, to be able to buy food and invest and give and spoil other people, is a blessing from God. Paul himself recognizes this in Phil 4:14. Turn with me there. I will read through v. 20.
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
What is Paul saying here in relation to what he says in our passage in Phil 3? He is saying this. The Philippians sent him a financial gift by way of Epaphroditus. Paul is extremely thankful for this gift. This gift will allow him to do further gospel ministry. He acknowledge the Philippians sacrifice for him and he gives God the glory. He doesn’t say, “I consider this gift from you as liability! I want only Christ!” No. He says, “Thank you for your help. To God be the glory.”
Given what Paul says in 3:8—he considers everything as a liability—with what Paul says in chapter 4—God blessed Paul with money from the Philippians—how do we understand what Paul is in 3:8?
One way to illumine what Paul is saying here is do provide you with an illustration. One activity I like to do with my children is to go exploring outside when it is dark. The darkness adds an element of excitement and fearfulness that is really fun for children. To aid our endeavors, I will take a flashlight or two out with us. I might take one flashlight and give another to one of our kids. I don’t give all of them a flashlight as they will shine it in each other’s eyes or look into it. So we’ll go exploring. In this context, the flash light is very helpful. It’s useful. The flashlight is a good thing to have.
Now let’s say I were to do the same thing with my kids—take them outside with flashlights—but I were to do this during the day. How effective, how important would the flashlights be during the day? They wouldn’t matter. They would be meaningless. And, in fact, holding them, focusing our attention on them during the day when we don’t need them, could be a liability. And, in fact, in light of the glory of the sun, it would be very foolish to be fixated on the flashlight. It would be absolutely foolish to treasure the flash light more than the sun. Let’s say you get the flashlight and shine it into the sun. How stupid would that be. The flashlight bears no comparison to the sun. It is stupid to do that. The sun outshines the flashlight in a way that it’s hard to even compute. There is no comparison between the two. However, the flashlight still has value. It still works at night. But when compared with the sun, it’s completely obsolete.
That’s what Paul is saying here. Like a flashlight at night, the blessings that God gives us are useful and enjoyable. Whether it be family, leisure, boating, food, etc. It’s all a gift from God. However, when you take those blessings, those things, and you compare them to Jesus Christ, what value do they have? And, moreover, let’s say you place your trust in them, let’s say you idolize them and have an unhealthy relationship with them, they become liabilities in your walk with Christ. They lead you away from Christ. They are distractions.
Bringing this back to Phil 3:8. Turn there again with me. I want you to see what Paul is doing in 3:8. Look at the two words “because of.” Those are absolutely critical. Paul is not saying that he considers all things as loss simply because they’re bad. No. God’s earthly blessings in this world are tremendous. However, when compared to Jesus Christ, in light of Jesus Christ, when taking into account who Jesus is, everything pails. Nothing matters. And, in fact, everything becomes a liability when compared to Jesus Christ.
Knowing Christ is Everything
Now we transition to our second point. It is this: “Christ is everything.” Christ is of such value, Paul says, that nothing can compare with him. He is of such value, we ultimately need nothing else. Knowing him is the ultimate end of human existence.
Look with me at the text. Paul says,
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
It is because of the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” that Paul can say he considers everything as a liability. Let’s break this down.
First is the word “the surpassing worth.” In Greek, this is just one word. It means this,
To surpass in quality or value, be better than, surpass, excel
Paul is saying that the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ far exceeds the value and worth of everything else. Think again about the flashlight and the sun. Shining a flashlight into the sun is silly. There is no comparison. The outrageous brightness of the sun swallows up the tiny, puny brightness of a flashlight.
Look with me at two other places in Philippians where Paul uses this word. Look in Phil 2:3. Paul writes,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves
Paul uses this verb Paul is saying here that you should consider the needs of others like the sun, and you should consider your needs like a flashlight. The needs of others far surpass your own.
Turn to Phil 4:7. Paul writes,
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Here we again have this word that occurs in 3:8. Here it is translated as, “surpasses all.” What Paul is saying here is that the peace of God excels, outshines, exceeds our ability to understand it. Our understand of the peace of God is like the flashlight. The actual peace of God is like the sun. The peace of God far exceeds our grasp of it.
Let’s turn back to 3:8. Summarizing all of this. The value and worth of knowing Christ far exceeds, far outweighs, far surpasses the things of this world. Knowing Jesus is like the sun. The things of this world is like a flashlight. Knowing Jesus is of ultimate value.
Now I want you to recognize that Paul does not say, “the surpassing worth of Christ Jesus.” Instead, he says, “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” Is there a difference between these two statement? There is a massive difference. In fact, our whole understanding of this passage hinges on our ability to understand what Paul is saying here.
In the Bible, the concept of “knowledge” is a bit different than how we conceive of it today. Today, to “know” something refers to your cognition of it. What we do when we go to school is were gain “knowledge.” We learn facts, dates, numbers, formulas, theories. We might even memorize them. Our concept of knowledge can tend to solely emphasize the mind. Knowledge is about the brain.
In the Bible, “knowledge” is different. “Knowledge” in Scripture involves more than just the heart. It also involves the heart and the will. It refers to all the faculties that we have as people—mind, heart, and will—being united to an object. It involves intimacy, deep relationship, and love.
When Paul mentions the surpassing worth of know Christ Jesus, Paul is referring to his own personal relationship with Jesus. Paul is not just talking about the worth of Christ, though he is. Paul believe Jesus Christ to be supreme. But that is not exactly what Paul is discussing. Paul is talking about the surpassing worth that Jesus has for him. Paul is saying this, “I count everything as loss because of surpassing worth of having a personal, intimate relationship with Christ.”
This point is beautifully complemented with how Paul ends this sentence. Look again with me at v. 8. Notice how Paul ends this sentence? He ends it with the statement, “my Lord.” This statement is very noteworthy. This is the only time in Paul’s epistles where he refers to Christ as “my” Lord. Paul is not talking about the surpassing worth of Christ who he does not know, who has not changed his life, who he has no relationship with. For Paul, what he writes is a deeply, deeply personal matter. Paul is writing this from his heart. Paul absolutely loves Jesus Christ. Paul has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ didn’t just come to save the world or to
save people—some unidentified body mass of people. Jesus came on a deeply personal mission for Paul. Jesus loves Paul and gave his life for him.
Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 2:20. Paul writes this,
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Jesus loves Paul. Jesus gave his life for Paul. As a result, as Paul states in Phil 3:8, Paul has an intimate, personal, deep, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. And that relationship—knowing Christ—is of surpassing worth. It surpasses the value and worth of every other thing.
Let me summarize what we have covered this morning. Paul is teaching us through this passage that in light of “surpassing worth” of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—knowing him and being known by him—in light of that, all else pales in comparison. And, in fact, these other things in life can and will distract you from Jesus. Having a personal relationship with Jesus is of such value, that all else can be considered as a liability. Knowing Jesus is that great, is that tremendous, is that wonderful.
What is life about, dear friend, based on this passage? Life is about knowing Christ. Life is about having a personal, intimate relationship with him.
We all have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is our maker. He will one day be our judge. We all have a relationship with him. Some of us have a personal relationship with him. That’s the type of relationship with him that we want.
Others of you, though, might have a relationship with him but it’s at arm’s length. You “know” of Jesus but you don’t actually “know” Jesus. He’s a stranger to you. He might be in your head but he’s not in your heart. For some reason or the other, you’ve refused to let him come close. You keep your arm up and you say to Jesus, “Stay over there.” Instead of Jesus, what you bring into your life is other stuff. Maybe it’s religion, maybe it’s wealth, maybe it’s pleasure. You have a personal relationship with the flashlight. You marvel at the flashlight. You boast in the flashlight. You gaze at the flashlight and worship it. You fail to see the glory, beauty, and majesty of the sun.
Dear friend, these other things will never satisfy you. The flashlight will always be just a dinky flashlight. What is it that satisfies in this life? What is it that brings lasting, ultimate, abiding satisfaction and worth? What was it that can anchor your through the storms of life? What is it that bring lasting joy, peace, and hope? It’s knowing Jesus. Having a personal relationship with him. If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, dear friend, you have nothing. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you have everything.