Jesus - All Things = Everything
Jesus - All Things = Everything, 6.21.20
A warm Father’s Day to all of the fathers. Fatherhood is so important. It is important for your family, for this church, for this community, for this nation, and for our world. There’s so much social unrest these days. So much. I believe strongly that much of the unrest relates to the lack of loving fathers in this world. When fathers are absent either physically or emotionally, families break down. When families break down, society breaks down. Are society is breaking down, I believe, because we lack fathers. If you are a father this morning, stay faithful to your wife and children. They need you to do that as well as society at large.
My sermon this morning will not be specifically for fathers. While what I say will be very important for fathers to consider, it will be applicable to people other than just fathers. We will be revisiting another math equation this morning. Last week our equation was this: “Jesus + nothing = everything.” This week I have a slightly different equation for you. It’s this: “Jesus – all things = everything.” Slightly different yet it communicates the same truth. Praise the LORD that you don’t have to be good at math to be a good father. I would be a terrible father if that were the case. To be a good father, though, you do need to understand and live out this equation.
Our passage this morning is Phil 3:8–9. If you have a Bible, will you turn with me there. Beginning in v. 8, this is what Paul says.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
Last week we covered the beginning of v. 8. Our portion of v. 8 starts at the beginning of the second full sentence of v. 8, at “for his sake.”
There will be a lot of overlap from last week’s sermon to this week. Paul discusses much of the same material—the value and worth of a personal relationship with Christ—in our passage that he discussed in last week’s passage. But he approaches this topic from a slightly different angle. Like a good preacher, Paul can talk about the same topic yet from a different angle. That’s what Paul does. Paul discusses the value and worth of a personal relationship with Christ in light of the difficulties of following Christ, in light of the reality of experiencing loss in this life.
I have three points for you this morning. The first point is this: “Experiencing loss.” To explain this point, we will first tackle this statement in v. 8 which says,
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things
Now how should we understand Paul’s statement right at the beginning, “For his sake?” I take it in relation to what Paul said in the previous section of v. 8. That’s what we covered last week. Paul said there, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul mentions that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is of
surpassing worth. The “for his sake” in our passage this morning relates to that idea. In other words, in our passage Paul is saying, “It’s because of the surpassing worth of Jesus that he has suffered the loss of all things.” Paul has gone through what he has gone through, all the hardships in his life, because knowing Jesus is worth it.
Now look at his statement of “all things.” How should we understand that? Well we shouldn’t take it literally. That is, we shouldn’t take it as, Paul is laying in a prison with absolutely nothing—no clothes, no money, no support. Paul at least still has his life and has the support of the Philippian church. “All” and “every” in Scripture should seldom be taken as literal. Paul is not saying that he has absolutely nothing. Rather, what he is saying is that he has been stripped of which he once put confidence in. Paul has no grounds for boasting in himself. He’s laying in a prison, for heaven’s sake. In some sense, Paul has lost everything.
We might illustrate what Paul is saying here like this. When we hit rock bottom in life, we are often left with this thought: “Lord, I have nothing in this world. This world has nothing for me.” Have you ever said that before? I have. I’ve said it and thought it even when I’ve had a beautiful wife and kids. When we say that to the Lord—“Lord, I have nothing in this world”—we’re not saying that we actually don’t have anything. Instead, what were saying is that we have no grounds for security, hope, and identity in this world. We have no place to put our confidence in this world.
So when Paul says that, “I have suffered the loss of all things,” he’s saying, “Lord, I have nothing in this world.” Every avenue of trust that Paul once had has been stripped away from him. Dear friends, remember where Paul is when he is writing this. Remember, Paul wrote Philippians from prison. Paul mentions this in Phil 1. I’ve mentioned this on several occasions. In prison, Paul has hit rock bottom. He has nothing. He has no hope in this world. It all has been taken away. All forms of self-confidence have been taken away. All he has is Christ
Now I want us to take a close look at this word “suffered” in Phil 3:8. “Suffered the loss” is good translation of this Greek verb. I don’t need to explain that anymore. It captures the meaning of the word well. Instead, I want to point out to you that this is a passive verb. The verb is passive. Passive verbs are verbs in which the subject is acted upon or receives the action expressed by the verb.
So, for example, take the sentence, “The cookies were eaten.” Now, I have no idea who ate the cookies. It wasn’t me, okay!? The sentence doesn’t say who ate the cookies. All it says is that the cookies were eaten. The cookies received the action. The cookies are acted upon. Passive verbs are verbs in which the subject is acted upon or receives the action expressed by the verb.
The significance of this observation—that this verb “suffered” is passive—indicates that Paul received this suffering in some sense. This “experiencing of loss” was brought upon Paul. Paul didn’t necessarily choose this loss, this suffering for himself. He did not necessarily say, “You know what? I want to experience loss. I want to suffer for Jesus Christ. I want to be deserted from my family, my friends. I want to be imprisoned. I want to experience loss for Jesus.” Who
wants that? His life demonstrates that he went along with this, but he didn’t necessarily want this. The loss that Paul experienced was a loss that was brought upon him, brought to him by God. This passive verb indicates this.
Damascus Road Experience
This verb helpfully illumines what it is that we see in Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience. What we see in Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience is that Jesus promises to bring difficulty and loss upon Paul’s life. To see this point, turn with me to Acts 9.
For our Scripture reading time, we already read Acts 9:1–19 so I will not read the whole section again. Instead, we will look at specific verses in Acts 9. Look with me at v. 13. In this context, Jesus has appeared to Ananias, telling him that Ananias needs to go visit Saul and lay his hands on Saul to restore Saul’s sight. Ananias has his concerns, though. Ananias is fearful that Saul will capture Ananias and kill Ananias because Ananias is a Christian. Read with me in v. 13.
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Taking specific notice of v. 15 & 16, what does Jesus say to Ananias regarding Saul/Paul? He says,
“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
What Jesus is saying here is this. Jesus has a plan for Paul. Paul has been “chosen” by Jesus to be an instrument for Jesus. Central to that mission is for Paul to “suffer for the sake of my name.” Now what other passage in the NT does what Jesus says here also sound like? Phil 3:8:
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things.
For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.
What Paul does in Phil 3:8, the passage we are studying this morning, is he puts into his own words what Jesus said to Ananias.
And going back to the verb “suffered the loss,” what all this means is this. I want us to understand this verb “suffered the loss,” the passive nature of the it, this way. Paul, suffering the loss of all things, experiencing this loss, was a top down experience. It was Jesus who brought this loss upon Paul. Paul went along with the loss but ultimately this experience of loss was brought upon Paul by Jesus himself. Paul didn’t necessarily chose this type of lifestyle for himself, but Jesus chose it for him. Paul suffering loss is a result of Jesus will for his life.
Now we are not Paul, let’s remember. What happened to Paul will not necessarily happen to us. Nonetheless, there is crossover between his life and ours. The crossover is this. When we come to Christ, when we see that knowing his is surpassingly great, we chose to follow the Lord’s will for our lives. However, salvation extends over our whole lives. It’s not just something we experience at one point and then it’s over. Salvation is a lifelong pilgrimage.
During this pilgrimage, the Lord’s will for our lives is to strip us of false sources of security, comfort, and hope. The Lord can and will bring difficulties into your life to strip you of your attachment to this world. Just as he did this with Paul, so also he will do this with us. God has a will for our lives. And he will bring that about. And part of that will is stripping us of our love for this world.
Now, dear friend, this process of stripping and refinement is very difficult. And simply saying, “Uncle,” to the Lord won’t take it away. He’s going to complete his work in us. Maybe some of you are being stripped. It’s painful. It hurts. It’s difficult. But it’s necessary. The Lord’s will for our lives is for us to know, love, and appreciate him more. The Lord must strip us of our earthly comforts and securities.
In this process of refinement and stripping, you must accept the Lord’s will for your life. Many times when Christians experience this stripping they run from it, try to get out of it, or try to negotiate with God. Dear friend, the Lord’s purpose for you is to strip you of your self-confidence. Accept the suffering. Accept the difficulty. Accept the stripping, the loss, the pain.
Now back to our passage. Turn back with me to Phil 3:8. So we will expiencing a stripping of self-confidence in this world. The Lord will use difficulty in our lives to take from us those things in which we put confidence, security, and hope in. Dear friends, he will do this. And when he does this, we should accept it. That was what we discussed for our first point.
Our second point is this. Write this: “Interpreting Loss.” Look with me again at Phil 3:8. Pail writes,
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish
Paul considers what it is that he lost as “rubbish.” Now this word “rubbish” is noteworthy. Not all English translations translate this word the same. (I want to make a plug again for in your personal Bible study, if you are really trying to grapple with the meaning of a biblical passage, make sure you compare English translations. This is a very easy and simple tool for growing in your understanding of Scripture).
English translations usually translate this word in three different ways. One way is “rubbish,” which the ESV translates it as. Another way is “garbage.” And another way is “dung.”
As you can see there is some diversity of meaning here: rubbish, garbage, and dung. Rubbish and garbage are very close in meaning. They are synonyms. Now, dung is the most shocking of the terms. Dung is human excrement. That is quite shocking. Dung carries more shock value with it.
Now which interpretation is the correct one? I’m not sure. My favorite professor at DTS takes this word as a borderline expletive. He takes it as more shocking than the English word “dung” suggests. I am not sure what specifically Paul intends with this word. But generally, we can make this case.
When Paul says that he considers “all things” as σκύβαλον in 3:8, what he is saying is that anything and everything that he used to place confidence in he considers as σκύβαλον, dung, garbage, refuse. Self-confidence in all of its forms is refuse, garbage, fiflth, manure. This is shocking stuff.
Paul’s statement here really smacks us right in the middle of the forehead. What a drastic statement Paul makes. Absolutely shocking. It’s shocking. Paul, can’t you make it a little bit easier on us? No, Paul says. He is saying this to us: self-confidence in all of its forms will lead you so far away from Christ that the only way to understand it is as dung. Self-confidence is cancer to your walk with Christ. The forcefulness of the word “dung” communicates that.
This is how I want us to apply this point. The Lord’s stripping of us, as I said, is painful. It is a difficult process. And above I mentioned that we need to accept the loss, accept the process, accept the stripping. For this point I want to raise the bar. Not only does God want you to accept the stripping (by not running from it), God also wants you to agree with it.
God doesn’t strip us of self-confidence because he simply wants to. He does this because we need him to do that. Self-confidence is of such a detriment to your walk with Christ that Paul almost curses when he refers to it. Why is Paul so forceful? Because God wants us to want him so badly. We don’t have to like the process of stripping, but I want you to see that it is what you need. You need the Lord to put you in places where all you have is him. Yes, the process is difficult, but it is good and it is what we need. Agree with him that self-confidence is dung.
Now, dear church family, let us proceed to the last point of my sermon this morning, the last statement Paul makes to us this morning. Once again, revisiting Phil 3:8. Paul says,
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
We’ve covered the first part of these verse with my first two points. Now we start with the end part. And our discussion bleeds into v. 9.
In order to understand what Paul says at the end of this verse we have to understand the logical connection between it (the last part of the verse) and what precedes it. We are given a very important statement that helps us discern the logical connect. That statement is the conjunction “in order that.”
This conjunction is a “purpose clause.” Paul is saying this. He considers “all things”—anything and everything that people can place hope, value, and trust in—as rubbish for a specific purpose. Look with me at the text. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count all things as rubbish.” For what purpose, Paul? Why do you do this? “In order that, for the purpose of gaining Christ and being found in him.”
To “gain Christ” is to have him as one’s wealth and treasure. The word “gain” has occurred a number of times already in this passage. It is an accounting term that refers to assets and income. Paul is using it here as he has in previous parts. To “gain Christ” is to have him as one’s treasure and wealth.
And Paul uses another statement at the beginning of v. 9—and “be found in him.” I take this as a reference to the same reality that Paul is talking about when he states, “gain Christ.” To gain Christ is to be found in him. To have Christ as one’s treasure and wealth is to be in relationship to him. To “be found in him” does not mean that we are somehow spatially inside Jesus, like we are “in” this building. No, Paul doesn’t mean that. He means to be “in relation with him.” To be “found in him” is to be in relation to him.
Summarizing this idea, the way to gain Christ is to lose self-confidence. We must consider any and every form of self-confidence as rubbish, garbage, trash. When we do, we gain Christ and are found in him.
Now I turn to the application of this point. With this we will conclude. Jesus and self-confidence cannot go hand in hand. You cannot have Jesus and self-confidence at the same time. If you want Jesus, you must accept loss and you must agree that loss is what it is that you need. And the application for this point is that if you agree and accept the loss of self-confidence you will gain Christ and be found in him. Jesus will fill you more and more and more.
Now, dear friends, some forms of loss, some forms of stripping from Lord are so painful, difficult, and trying that we will never receive full healing in this life. Some forms of loss are so painful that we will not be completely healed this side of eternity. Jesus knows that. And the reward that God promises here through the apostle Paul—of gaining Christ and being found in him—will ultimately be fulfilled in us in the next life.
Maybe your loss doesn’t make sense right now. Maybe it’s so painful that you question the Lord’s ways. That’s understandable. The Lord wants you to know that there’s coming a day when it will all make sense. One day, dear saint, you will rise from the dead, and you will behold Jesus face to face. You will look in his face and you will be filled with unspeakable joy, peace, love, mercy, grace, and truth. You will behold the face of your savior. One that day, it will make sense. In the meantime, accept the Lord’s will for your life. Believe in your heart that the stripping of self-confidence is what we need. By doing this we will one day behold the face of our savior. And we will gain him and be found in him.