The Things That Really Count, Philippians 3
Take a look at Philippians 3:1-9. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Tonight we’re going to talk about things that really count. Many Christians are spending their lives on things that don’t really count. If you’re living a life of legalism, you’re living a life that doesn’t count.
Paul had lived a life of legalism, but now he’s had enough of it. Jesus saved him on the road to Damascus. Now he’s going to fight legalism with everything that’s in him for the rest of his life. In verse 2 he said, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”
Who are these dogs he’s warning about? They are the Judaizers….the legalists, who would come after Paul had preached the Gospel and say, “You can’t be saved by just believing in Jesus; you have to keep the law of Moses. You have to go through certain rituals and ceremonies.” Paul says, “Beware of those dogs!”
In his own way, Paul is telling us that religious people can be some of the meanest people in the world. Remember, it was the religious crowd that crucified Jesus.
Don’t get fooled by people who are just performing religious acts. Some people may act very religious, but they are cruel and ferocious. I heard about a missionary who was cornered by a lion. He didn’t know what else to do so he prayed, “Lord, make this a Christian lion!” The lion stood up and folded his paws. The lion’s lips were moving and it appeared that he was praying. The missionary thought, “God has heard my prayers!” But then he heard what the lion was saying, “Lord, bless this food I’m about to eat.”
Some people may act very religious, but they’re cruel and ferocious. Legalists are in that group. Paul says, “Beware of dogs and evil workers and those of the concision.” The word “concision” means “mutilators.” Paul’s making a play on the word circumcision. He’s trying to show them that legalistic circumcision can save no one.
When Paul got saved, he realized that religion doesn’t save anybody. The world doesn’t need more religion; the world needs Jesus. There are millions of religious people who are lost. They’ve never been born again.
Paul was a very difficult person to win to Christ because he was so proud of his religion. I may be preaching to two classes of people tonight. Some are sinners and they know it…and they won’t come to Jesus because they think they’re too bad. But then there’s the self-righteous folks who won’t come to Jesus because they think they’re too good. They think religion is for the drunkard and the prostitute and the murderers, etc.
It’s much harder to reach a religious person than it is to reach an out-and-out sinner. That’s why Jesus told the religious Pharisees of His day, “The harlots and publicans are going to heaven before you.” Why? Because at least they knew they were sinners.
Most people in America are ego maniacs who are strutting their way into Hell. They think they’re too good to be damned. They don’t understand that they have to be born again.
Paul is warning against self-righteousness. He’s telling us that religion can’t save. He’s telling us that legalism can’t save. He’s telling us that ritual can’t save.
Paul opens the book on his own life. He’s trying to find a balance. He looks at his life before Christ and realizes that he was bankrupt in spite of all his religion. But after he found Christ (I should say, “After Christ found him…”), he took stock of his life again and found that he was fabulously wealthy.
We are going to see the bankruptcy of the old man and the wealth of the new man tonight. First, the bankruptcy of the old man. Paul was dealing with people who were always talking about how good they were. So in verse 4 Paul says, “If you want to get into a bragging contest, I’ll get in one with you. Do you think you’ve got something to boast about? I have more to boast about than any of you!” Then Paul goes on to tell of the things he could boast about in the flesh.
First, there was the pride of ritual. Verse 5 says, “Circumcised the eighth day.” Paul had all the rituals performed on him from the eighth day of his life forward. Some people still think that ritual will save them. Some people think they’re going to Heaven just because they’ve been baptized. But baptism, whether it’s a spoonful or a tank full, won’t save anybody. You don’t get baptized to get saved; you get baptized to demonstrate that you are saved.
But not only did Paul have the pride of ritual; he had the pride of relationship. He says, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel…” He had a fine family tree. He was from the Jewish aristocracy. But Paul finally came to the realization that God doesn’t have any grandchildren….only children. Your mom and dad may be right with God, but that doesn’t make you right with God. You may come from the finest family in this church, but that’s not the issue. The issue is this: Have you been born again? Your parents may be right with God, but that doesn’t make you God’s grandchild.
Then Paul had the pride of respectability. He says he’s from, “…the tribe of Benjamin.” The other tribes had gone astray, but not the tribe of Benjamin. You may be the most highly esteemed and respected person in your church, but you may also be just as lost as a bootlegger! Family tradition can’t change a sinful heart.
Next, he had the pride of race. He says he’s, “…a Hebrew of the Hebrews.” There was no Gentile blood in his family. His family didn’t take on the ways of the Greeks. There were no Helenists in his family. But Paul discovered that it’s not race, but grace that gets a man into Heaven.
Then he has the pride of religion. “As touching the law, a Pharisee.” You talk about belonging to the right church! He was intensely orthodox. He had zeal! He had defended his religion. He persecuted the church because he was standing up for his religion. People can talk religion and be very mean!
A little boy came running into the living room holding a dead mouse by the tail. He said, “Mamma, look! I beat him with a broomstick, then I ran over him with my tricycle, and then I stomped on him!” About that time the boy saw that the minister was in his house and he said, “And then the Lord called him home.”
So religious….but so mean! That’s the way the Pharisees were. Paul was a Pharisee, but he spent the first part of his life persecuting the church.
Next, he had the pride of reputation. “…touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” If you would have followed Paul around before he got saved you would have said, “My, what a good man!” Paul had enough sense to know that he wasn’t sinless before God, but he was blameless before men. No one could have pointed a finger at Paul and said, “He’s a thief, or a liar, or a pervert.” No, sir! He was blameless.
If religion could get a man to Heaven, then it would certainly have gotten Paul to Heaven. But Paul said, “I took all of this wealth of heritage, and religion and reputation and such and it all added up to zero!” In verse 7 he said, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”
It’s like the guy who tried to deduct his wife’s beauty parlor treatments off his income tax. The IRS agent said, “You can’t do that!” The man said, “Why not? It was a total loss!”
That’s what Paul is saying here. “All my goodness and all my heritage was a total loss. They didn’t do one thing to bring me closer to Jesus Christ.”
Good deeds don’t save us. But the people of the world don’t know that.
Not only is there the bankruptcy of the old man; there is the wealth of the new man. Verses 8-9 say, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
You are only saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul had listed his race, his religion, his self-righteousness, etc. Those things aren’t bad in and of themselves. He wasn’t ashamed that he was a Hebrew. He remained grateful for that fact. He was grateful that he was a Roman citizen as well. There’s nothing wrong with trying to keep the Ten Commandments. But Paul is saying, “Even a good thing is a bad thing if it becomes a substitute for the best thing…..the new birth.”
Suppose you are a camper with a knapsack. You put your Boy Scout knife in there along with your canteen, your fork, your knife, your blanket, etc. You’re in an airplane that starts to go down. Rather than grabbing a parachute, you grab your knapsack and jump out. There’s nothing wrong with the knapsack…..it’s just not a parachute. That knapsack is counted unto you nothing but loss. Do you understand?
Paul says, “I count all these things but loss.” He wasn’t saying that they were bad things. But the worst form of badness is human goodness when it becomes a substitute for the new birth.
Paul had human goodness. He said, “If you want to brag, I can brag right along with you. I’ve got the pedigree. I’m a blueblood and a religionist, but I count all those things but loss that I might gain Christ.”
It’s so hard for some people to admit that they’re sinners. Eddie Martin was one of my favorite evangelists. He was giving an invitation one time when a dignified lady came down and took him by the hand. She said, “Mr. Martin, I should like to become a Christian.” He said, “Wonderful! Pray after me. Dear God…” She said, “Dear God.” “I’m a sinner.” She didn’t say anything. He thought she didn’t hear him, so he started over. “Dear God.” She said, “Dear God.” “I’m a no good sinner.” (He embellished it a little this time.) She still didn’t say anything.
He said, “What’s the matter, madam? I thought you wanted to be saved.” She said, “I do want to become a Christian, but I’m no sinner.” He said, “Madam, the Scriptures say that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” She said, “Well, if I’m a sinner, I’m a good sinner.”
He said, “Madam, there are no good sinners. I don’t think you’re sincere and I don’t think you really want to be saved. Go back to your seat.”
She drew herself up in a huff and started back to her seat. But suddenly she broke. The mascara started to run. She turned around and started to pray, “God have mercy on me, I’m a no good sinner.” Eddie said, “Now, madam, you can be saved.”
Some people just don’t realized how lost they are….and many of them are religious. Many of them belong to good churches. They give their money to those churches. They’ve been baptized. They have their names on the church roll…..but they don’t have their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They’ve never been born again. Jesus told Nicodemus, a better man religiously and morally than any of us here today, that he had to be born again. So do you.
Instead of admitting our lost-ness, we want to strut into Heaven saying, “Lord, look at what a prize package you’re getting today!”
When I was a boy, if we found something that didn’t belong to us we would say, “Finders keepers, loser’s weepers.” Paul changed that to, “Keepers weepers, loser’s finders.” Jesus said, “Whosoever shall save his life, the same shall lose it. But whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel, the same shall find it.”
That’s what Paul meant when he said, “I count all these things but loss.” He turned from his sin, but he also turned from his self-righteousness, which God sees as filthy rags. Paul wrote, “If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
One of the first things Paul gains after being saved is “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.” Not knowledge about Christ, but knowledge of Christ.
But in verse 9 we see that he gained “the fellowship of Christ.” And in the same verse he says he’ll be “found in Him.” That’s a safe place to be, isn’t it? I am in Christ and He is in me. You talk about fellowship! You’ll never be lonely again. You may be alone, but not lonely, because Jesus is in you.
Paul exchanged a set of rules for a friend. Before he got saved all he had was the law: now he has the Lord.
But there’s not only knowledge of Jesus and fellowship with Jesus; there is the righteousness through Jesus. Verse 9 says, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Paul says, “I’m tired of trying; I’m going to start trusting. I’m going to quit trying to work myself into Heaven.” What a terrible taskmaster legalism is! Legalism doesn’t bring joy; it brings bondage. In Romans 4:5 Paul said, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Paul had been counting up some things. Remember, we’re talking about things that really count. His faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 4:6 says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.”
The word “impute” means to put on ones account. When I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ apart from my works, apart from my baptism, apart from my church membership, apart from trying to keep the Ten Commandments, He puts righteousness on my account.
That’s great news! Listen to Romans 4:7-8, “Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
Yes, I’m a sinner, but God doesn’t impute it to me anymore. I’m not righteous, but He imputes it to me. He writes “righteousness” on my account.
An old washer woman worked for a man who was cruel and mean. She got saved. She was so happy, but he hated her happiness in Christ. He tried to ridicule and belittle her. Finally he said, “Betty, you say you’re saved. How does it feel to be saved?” She said, “I don’t think I can express it in a way you can understand it, but it feels as though I’m standing in Jesus’ shoes and He’s standing in mine.”
A theologian can’t explain it any better than that! “He who knew no sin, God hath made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
When God looks at Gary Flynt today, He sees me as righteous as His Son. You say, “Who do you think you are?” I’m a Christian. I don’t have any righteousness of my own: I only have the righteousness that’s been imputed to my account…the righteousness of Christ Himself.
But don’t get the idea that because salvation is easy and free that it’s cheap. Jesus had to die in agony and blood to buy it for you. On the one hand is your self-righteousness and legalism, and you’re trying to be saved. On the other hand is the righteousness of God that comes by faith in His Son on the basis of His shed blood. Which do you choose?
You may be a good person, but have you ever seen yourself as a lost sinner? Have you understood that you need to be born again?
Some may think that they are so sinful that God can’t save them. But the Bible says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
The blood of Jesus can wash away every blur, every blot, every blemish, and every stain. You can never be too sinful to come to Christ.
On the other hand, some are cultured, religious, moral, and well mannered. But if you’ve never been born again, you’re lost. If the Apostle Paul needed to be saved, so do you.
Jesus is coming back very soon. “And when He shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in Him be found, dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”