Summary: What gives me self worth? i) Are you important because of the accident of your birth? ii) Are you important because of what you have achieved? iii) Or are you who you are because you know Christ?
Story: A Quaker once posted a sign on one of the choicest fields of his farm. It stated,
"This land will be given to the first truly satisfied person who passes this way" .
No sooner had he arrived back at his house than a man knocked at his door.
“Sir," he said, "I just saw your sign and I want you to know that I am a completely satisfied man. I have a devoted family, a successful business, financial security for the future and I am in excellent health."
The old Quaker looked his visitor over very carefully and then said
"Pray tell me, friend, if thou art a completely satisfied man, why dost thou want my land?"
I would like this morning to look at the Epistle reading – from Philippians 3.
May I start by giving you a bit of the background
St Paul has been plagued by the Judaisers in the Church when he wrote the epistle to the Philippians.
The Judaisers were Christian teachers who taught that being right with God required not only coming to Christ but that you had to become a Jew too by being circumcised.
Put another way, they were saying that the Gospel was “Jesus plus…” - the plus in this case being the need to become a Jew.
Paul was very clear on this matter.
They were wrong.
A Christian is only made right with God by Jesus’ death on the Cross and not by any deeds we can do.
Gentile Christians therefore did not need to become Jews.
The matter came to a head at the first Council of Jerusalem - which you can read about in Acts 15 - and the leaders of the Early Church agree that what Paul and his fellow apostle Barnabas were teaching was correct.
Paul, though himself a Jew had no regrets in leaving Judaisim – because he was totally satisfied with "knowing Christ."
“Everything is worthless” the Apostle says in v.8 “when compared to the priceless gem of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord.”
Do you think he is right?
For me, the question that comes out of reading from Philippians is this
“What counts in my life?”
What gives me self worth?
i) Are you important because of the accident
of your birth?
ii) Are you important because of what you have achieved?
iii) Or are you who you are because you know Christ?
The question is quite a leveller.
Paul had been brought up a Jew and as such had been taught that Jews were a cut above the rest as they were “the Children of God”
Humanly speaking, you could say that Paul was a success, as he had the right pedigree and his achievements were sweet.
We read in Phil. 3:5-6 of Paul’s tremendous credentials as a Jewish leader:
His Jewish background:
• 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 Paul was a Pharisee.
• As to zeal, he persecuted the church – before his conversion because he thought they were a false sect of Judaism. And he had been very successful
• As to legalistic righteousness, Paul was faultless.
He had studied under the famous Rabbi Gamaliel – and was probably a member of the Jewish Squirarchy – the Sanhedrin – before his Damascus road experience.
Paul had something to be proud about, in the worldly sense.
He was a success.
Yet in Phil. 3:8 he says:
……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.
Paul calls his worldly success: DUNG. That is the strength of the word translated in the NIV as “rubbish”.
Instead of looking to the past, Paul tells his fellow believers in Philippi to look to the future.
In our epistle reading this morning Paul wrote:
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Knowing Christ is an ongoing experience.
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 the example that Paul wanted them to follow?
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)