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.
Story: Maximilian Kolbe
One man I admire greatly is Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)
Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest, who was put in a concentration camp for his faith. On May 28, 1941, he was transferred to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. During his time there, he would share his meagre rations of food with those around him who were hungry.
Kolbe would plead with the prisoners to forgive their persecutors and overcome evil with good.
A Protestant Doctor who treated the patients in Kolbe’s block said that Kolbe would not let himself be treated before any other prisoners in that block. He sacrificed himself for the other prisoners. The doctor said:
"From my observations, the virtues in the Servant of God were no momentary impulse such as are often found in men, they sprang from a habitual practice, deeply woven into his personality
One day a man in Kolbe’s block escaped. All of the men from that block were brought out into the hot sun and made to stand there all day with no food or drink.
At the end of the day, the man that had escaped was not found and so Fritsch, the Nazi commandant told the prisoners that ten men would be selected to die in the starvation cell in place of the one that had escaped.
One man, Francis Gajowniczek, a polish sergeant was one of those selected. He begged to be spared because he was worried that his family would not be able to survive without him.