“Count All Things Loss for Christ”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 3.4-8
Philippians 3. Our Lord’s kingdom parable of the hidden treasure is striking. The embellished version could go like this. An ancient real estate investor leaves his house one morning with money in hand, seeking some land to invest it in. Coming to the first field, after examining it carefully, he finds it too small to do anything with, thanks the owner, and proceeds on his way. The second field, the terrain is too uneven while the third field, by far the best he’d ever seen, is way too expensive. It would cost him everything he had. But while examining this third field, the owner having left him to attend to some business, he kicks at what appears to be a rabbit hole and nearly breaks his toe.
Brushing away the dirt, it’s a simple chest. With a little digging he manages to open the chest and with eyes wide open and mouth agape, inside he discovers treasures, precious gems, pearls, all of unimaginable value! What to do? Should he tell the owner?
Knowing of its great worth even apart from the treasure and knowing the treasure would sustain him for the rest of his life, he hides the treasure again and then he sells all that he has, and with his life savings in hand, he hobbles back to the owner on his nearly broken toe and buys that field.
He counted everything as loss in order to buy that field.
When our Lord spoke that parable, Saul of Tarsus, or Paul the Pharisee, Paul the apostle, was on his mind. [LEFT SIDE] Paul the Pharisee progressed, accumulated much spiritual wealth for himself. [RIGHT SIDE] But eventually he found that one treasure of inestimable value, Jesus Christ, and counted all things but loss for Him.
This is Paul’s point in Phil. 3:3-8. Let’s read it.
Philippians 3:3–8 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
I’d like to preach today that you “Count All Things Loss for Christ.”
Treasures discovered to be worthless (vv.4-6)
ILL: Unlike Jesus’ parable of hidden treasure in a field, not every discovery ends in endless riches.
In the late 1920s, the infamous gangster Al Capone moved into the fifth floor of Chicago’s Lexington Hotel. Capone was the crime lord of the city during the Prohibition era, controlling the booze trade and nearly every other illegal venture. After his fall and demise, tales of his life in the Lexington hotel became legendary.
It was said that the building was stuffed full of money, guns, and even corpses. Capone’s associates had boasted they could empty the entire hotel in 15 minutes without ever setting foot in the street. How? Well, it was rumored that a secret vault, filled with treasures, was hidden under the old hotel.
Then, in the mid-1980s, evidence of the secret vault began to emerge. Hidden stairways and tunnels were discovered in the empty Lexington. The whole of Chicago went into rumor overdrive. What if the vault was real? What impossible treasures might it hold?
Geraldo Rivera sought to find out. In front of a record-breaking live audience of 30 million viewers, Rivera and an excavation team uncovered…nothing!
Well, not exactly nothing. There was an old stop sign, empty gin bottles, and dirt. 30 million viewers … totally disappointed.
Refuse, garbage, dirt. That’s what they found and that’s what Paul had when he looked back at his life…which, btw, was a life of great privilege and achievement.
Verse 8, he counted all things to be loss and all things to be rubbish to gain Christ.
“Don’t get to eternity to finally figure out that your treasures are worthless. Count as all things to be loss and rubbish and treasure Christ alone.”
Paul has been railing on a group called the Judaizers since verse 2, calling them dogs, evil workers, and the mutilation.
And these Judaizers taught you must obey Moses Law in order to be in a right relationship with God and be saved.
They were teaching Christians that for salvation yes, trust Christ, but also to put confidence in the flesh…obey the Law of Moses to be saved.
But the true circumcision, verse 3, doesn’t put any confidence in the flesh. No boasting of works I can do in order to be saved.
And Paul says verse 4, if anyone could put confidence in the flesh, I far more.
“I’d win any bragging contest before God. If anyone could earn their way to heaven, it’s me! My spiritual privileges and achievements are unparalleled.
First, let me tell you about my privileges. “
I was circumcised the eighth day: “I’m no pagan convert!” [salvation not by ritual]
Just like Leviticus 12:3 says to do, I was circumcised the 8th day. I didn’t convert to Judaism; no, I was born on the inside, circumcised as a boy.
of the nation of Israel. “My parents weren’t converts either.” [salvation not by race; not parents faith]
“But did your parents convert, Paul?” No….! I am of the nation of Israel. My parents aren’t converts, I am a pure-blooded Israelite.
of the tribe of Benjamin “My ancestors aren’t converts either” [salvation not by rank]
“Paul, could you actually tell us your lineage?” “Yes!” says Paul. I’ll tell you more of my privileges. I am of the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was the only son of Jacob born the promised land. My tribe? Other than Judah, Benjamin was the only other tribe to be faithful after Solomon’s death. It was my tribe who resettled Jerusalem after we all took a …. long vacation in Babylon.
And didn’t you know that I myself am named after the first king of Israel, King Saul, who came from my tribe, the tribe of Benjamin? That’s me.
a Hebrew of Hebrews “My parents were pure Hebrews” [salvation not by tradition]
“Were your parents Hebrews, Paul?” “Yes, I am a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Hebrew from Hebrews. Both my parents are Hebrews and I speak Hebrew and Aramaic when so many other Jews only know Greek. I even prayed in Hebrew. And I got the best private education. I sat under Gamaliel, you remember, the famous rabbi of the first century.”
TRANS: Those are my privileges…but I’ve also accomplished a lot too.
as to the Law, a Pharisee [salvation not by religion]
“What denomination were you from, Paul?” Pharisee. Unlike today, Pharisees were well respected back then. Yeah, we were the “separate ones.” We only ate with observant Jews. We kept the Law in the strictest ways and applied it to every aspect of life. In fact, there were only 6,000 of us in the first century because very few could live like we did, so strictly according to the Law of Moses.
as to zeal, a persecutor of the church [salvation not by sincerity]
“Tell us about your zeal, Paul.” “How zealous was I?” Let me tell you, I was so zealous, passionate for God and His word that I persecuted the church!
“How is that zeal, Paul?” Well, I viewed Christians as worshipping a man. Worshipping a man is idolatry. And what does the Law say to do to idolaters? Stone them to death, according to Deut. 17:2-5. I thought I was giving them their just punishment….
as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless [salvation not by good works]
And everyone who knew me, viewed me as blameless. I was found blameless as it concerns the Law. Now, I wasn’t perfect, but when I wasn’t perfect, I did what the Law required of me. This is a fact; you could ask any one of my contemporaries, they knew me as blameless.
“If anyone could be saved by their spiritual privileges, it’s me! If anyone could be saved by good works, it’s me!”
“So if anyone wanted to have a spiritual bragging contest before God, I would win! If salvation was by ritual or because of your parents ancestry or ancestor’s faith, or how strictly religious you are, or if salvation was based on zeal and sincerity or simply because of good works, no matter how you look at it, I am the winner!”
But yet Paul says, “It’s all garbage!” Like opening up Al Capone’s secret vault and discovering, just… garbage and dirt! Paul is calling even good things garbage. He’s not talking about his sin, his guilt, or his horrible deeds, but he’s considering good things as garbage, moving them from the credit column to the debit column, from gain to loss. When we’re talking about salvation, those things are actually loss. And on this business loss, you can’t just take it off your taxes! There is no good in this loss. It is meaningless as an attempt to gain favour with God.
ILL: It’s like trying to use a hammer to screw in a nail, it won’t work! Or it’s like trying to jump over the Grand Canyon; your righteousness will fall short! Or it’s like using a spoon to scoop water out of the Titanic. It’s not going to do the job; it’s all garbage!
Now, there is nothing wrong with a hammer, jumping, or a spoon; you just have to use those tools in the right situations. And Paul’s physical and spiritual heritage and his accomplishments, God used in his life and for God’s glory, but God didn’t count those things as earning favour with God.
APP: You won’t have favour with God because of your parent’s faith; you won’t have a righteous standing with God because of some ritual you observe or because of some high status in the church or in society or because of your religiosity or sincerity or any good that you could do. No matter your denomination or Bible version you use; it’s all rubbish.
Isaiah 64:6 6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
TRANS: After having considered the treasures discovered to be worthless, Paul now recounts the actual discovery of their worthlessness.
The discovery of their worthlessness (vv. 7-8)
Philippians 3:7–8 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
Paul discovers their worthlessness as a means to earn favour with God, verse 7.
Those things I have counted as loss. Verse 8, even more, I count all things to be loss. Middle of verse eight, I have suffered the loss of all things. He says that I count them but rubbish.
Counted as loss, count all things to be loss, I have suffered that loss, and count them to be rubbish or garbage.
ILL: Paul’s language of gain and loss in verses seven and eight remind us of the tax season we are in.
On Paul’s balance sheet of life as it were, he has a gain column and a loss column. And because he has trusted Christ alone and not in anything of his own achievements, the balance sheet balances, spiritually speaking.
But before coming to Christ, his spiritual balance sheet didn’t balance. Why? Because Paul had his privileges and achievements all in the gain column. And because of that Paul’s balance sheet of life before his trusting Christ, didn’t balance. To get it to balance, a dramatic shift needs to take place. To get his spiritual balance sheet to balance before God, Paul shifts all of what was in the gain column into the loss column and puts Christ alone in the gain column.
That’s the only way anybody ever gets their life to balance, sort of speak, before God. Count all things loss and gain Christ!
But for most people their life doesn’t balance. They’ve kept what they think is gain, in the gain column. And until they move it to the loss column, they will never gain Christ and be bankrupt for all eternity.
How many people in even biblically sound churches are trusting in their own prayers for salvation? The way they think about their prayer for Jesus to save them is … did I pray the right thing? Did I say the right words to him?
Count all things to be loss! “No merit of my own His anger to suppress, my only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness!”
Count all things to be loss! All! Wealth, honour, status in life, knowledge, experience, fun, excitement, human relationships…all of which are gifts from God, but are lusted after instead of being passionate for Christ.
Count it all loss! Gain Christ!
ILL: Like during a storm in an emergency, ships used to jettison cargo to lighten the ship that it might stay afloat save their lives. Even good things, like in Acts 27, the ship Paul was on they jettisoned the ships tackle and wheat in order to ensure their safety.
Don’t cling to even the good things of this life as a means to earn favour with God or to keep you from gaining only Christ. Cast it overboard! It isn’t eternally safe. Your life is a storm of God-dishonouring sin and even good things can keep you from clinging only to Christ. Paul cast overboard his sin, but even his godly lineage. He’s still from the tribe of Benjamin no matter what his own viewpoint is, but that’s the point. His viewpoint is that he counts even that but loss, not as a source of pride and boasting before God or as something that would keep him from gaining Christ.
And so you’ll know a Christian because he or she will be one who holds loosely to the things of this life. Count it loss! Consider it to be loss!
ILL: Somebody said, “Pride is a funny thing; it can make what is truly worthless appear to be a treasure.”
APP: Your pride will keep clinging to your own privileges and achievements, your abilities, your prayers your giving and generosity as a means to earn favour with God. In your blind arrogance, you will be enticed to seek after the gifts of this world and not the Gift-giver. But it is all worthless as a means to earn favour with God!
It’s worthless! It’s hear today, gone tomorrow. What use for eternity is it, unless you count it loss, so that Christ may use your talents, gifts, and wealth?
Count it loss!
TRANS: And count it loss now…that you may gain Christ.
The discovery of Christ as gain (vv.7-8)
Count all things to be loss …
1. end of verse 7, for the sake of Christ.
2. Count all things to be loss…v.8…in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
3. Count all things to be loss…end of verse 8…so that you may gain Christ.
for the sake of Christ, in order to know Christ, to gain Christ.
To know Christ means to know Him experientially, intimately. Paul will comment more on knowing Christ in verses 10-11 when he says…
Philippians 3:10–11 10 that I may know Him and [and know] the power of His resurrection and [to know] the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
For Paul, having a saving knowledge of Christ is the only treasure worth finding. Everything else is refuse in comparison: cargo to be cast overboard, to be considered a total loss. In Christ alone is treasure; like in the parable of the hidden treasure, in Him we have the true riches that we’ll discover next time of the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, conformity to His death and resurrection.
Christ is a treasure chest full of eternal riches!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 3.4-8
But not for one young man…
The rich young ruler approaches Jesus and even kneels before him asking, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” he asks.
Jesus tests him out on what he does and so Jesus says to him, …“You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’ ” listing commandments 6-9.
And the man replies, “I’ve kept all these things from my youth up.”
But Jesus full of love for him tests him on the last commandment, “You shall not covet” Jesus says to him …”One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
And the man was saddened by what Jesus said and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”
The man had his wealth and his obedience to God’s commands in the profit column, he had them as his treasure, and he wasn’t willing to throw them overboard so as to save his life.
How many self-righteous people hear a message like this and trust in themselves and in their own righteousness, their own goodness which is like filthy rags and they will never be accepted by God? Trusting in one’s own goodness is the pathway to hell.
Or how many lost people will hear a message like this and because of some secret sin or some hidden earthly treasure, they willingly and knowingly refuse Christ as the true treasure. They may bow before him, they may call him Lord, but in the secret places of the heart, some private delights are esteemed as the highest treasure and they refuse their pursuit of Christ.
They pile on the treasures in their boat and the storms have come and they refuse to jettison the cargo and they drown.
Will that be you?
Wealth and possessions …count it as eternal loss before God.
Giving and generosity? Count it as loss, it doesn’t earn favour with God.
Praying the right prayers? Count it as loss; it won’t give you a right standing before him.
Church attendance, Bible reading, none of it has any weight with God to earn His favour.
Christ alone is what impresses God; Him on the profit side of your balance sheet…Him and Him alone. Count all things loss to gain Christ.
We have a hymn in our hymnbook that speaks to this, number 137 When I survey