Summary: What counts in your life?
Story: An atheist was sitting under a tree one day smugly thinking:
"God, I know you don’t exist but if you do exist you must be really stupid.
Look at this huge oak tree. It’s got a little acorn on it. And look at this huge marrow carried by such a puny marrow plant.
Now, if I had been you, I’d have created the oak tree to carry the marrow and the marrow plant to carry the acorn.
While he was reflecting on his wisdom, suddenly an acorn fell and hit him on the head.
“Thank God that wasn’t a marrow!” he exclaimed.
Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts, something that the Apostle Paul recognises in this morning’s reading.
He tells them that formerly, before they were Christians, they put their confidence in what they achieved. Now in Christ that has to change. Those who worship by the Spirit, who glory in Christ Jesus do not put their confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3).
1. The fundemental question he is asking is “What counts in your life?”
For the Christian, Paul says: It is not your past that counts but your future.
Put in other words, it is not what you have done, but what God has done and will do for you that counts. God has reconciled us to himself through Christ
How often do we define people by what they door what they have achieved. He’s the local vet, the local GP, the vice principal – or even the vicar!
Not so in God’s kingdom, says Paul. What you are in the world does not count in God’s kingdom.
2. Look at Paul’s attitude on this matter
We read in Phil. 3:5-6 that Paul was a top notch Jewish leader before he became a Christian. He had tremendous credentials:
Circumcised on the 8th day,
Of the people of Israel,
What’s more of the tribe of Benjamin,
A Hebrew of Hebrews.
In regard to the law a Pharisee,
As to zeal persecuting the church
As to legalistic righteousness, faultless
Paul had something to be proud about, in the worldly sense. He was a success.
Yet in Phil. 3:8 he says:
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.
In fact, Paul calls all his whole success DUNG. That is the strength of the word translated in the NIV as rubbish. For Paul, knowing Christ his Lord was what counted (Phil. 3:10).
Instead of looking to the past, Paul tells the Christians to look to the future.
3. Paul encourages them to follow his example.
In Philippians 3:17 he says:
Join with others in following my example, brothers and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
What was Paul’s example?
He puts it very well earlier in the Letter to the Philippians
For me to live is Christ to die is gain…(Phil: 1:21) and
I desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better (Phil. 1:23).
The apostle Paul suffered greatly for Christ – we read of his hardships in 2 Cor 6:3-10 if you want to look it up later.
But it isn’t just Paul and the early church leaders who led sacrificial lives.