“Consider Carefully” (Part Three) June 1, 2014
Third Principle: “Consider: Is it Rubbish or Is It a Ruby?
Pastor Louis Prontnicki
Maple Glen BFC
The median income of US households is a bit over $50,000 per year. That means that in the course of a lifetime, the typical American family will earn over $2 million. Congratulations! You are all millionaires, or you will be by the time you retire! And for some of you, your total gross earnings will be double or triple that amount.
But here’s the big question: where has it all gone? The money comes in and the money goes out, no matter how much you make.
All this should make you stop, consider, and ask yourself the questions: “What really is of true worth? What counts for eternity? Am I focusing on cheap trickets or on real treasures? Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
This morning I want you to stop and consider: “What I value, is it rubbish or is it a ruby?”
“What in my life is actually a loss, a liability, and what is really a gem and a great gain?”
First Principle: God calls you to regularly curtail your activities so that you can consider carefully your aims. He does that in four ways: (1) through the one in seven principle of rest;
(2) through our need for nightly sleep; (3) through getting away for retreats; and (4) through Lord providing us with His perfect peace as we take time to carefully consider.
Application: Have you started to slow down and made time to consider where you are going?
Second Principle: God wants your careful consideration to lead to godly conduct, and that means a heart-felt worship of God, a stronger faith in God, and a deeper love of God and of others.
Application: Are you pausing after your Bible reading, after sermons, etc. to work out the implications of what God has just spoken to you about?
Today’s Principle: “Consider: Is it Rubbish or Is It a Ruby?”
Turn in your Bibles to Phil. 3:2-11, where I want us to focus on vv. 7-8 “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 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.”
The Greek word for “consider” (NIV) or “count” (ESV) has the idea of arriving at a conclusion based on a careful weighing of the facts. So I want each of you to imagine an old balance scale that you might find in vegetable market in some places. And I want you to be ready to place everything in your life and in your heart on that scale, and to carefully consider whether it is rubbish or a ruby. Okay?
So what did Paul think was his gain, before he knew Jesus Christ? What did he consider as being in his profit column? He tells us in Phil. 3:4-6. It wasn’t his income, or his earthly possessions, or his skills and abilities, or how his family had turned out….though many people would consider those things as their biggest assets. No, what Paul used to consider his biggest gain and profit was his orthodox doctrine, his religious zeal, and his blameless lifestyle. He prided himself that no one was more theologically accurate; that no one exerted more energy in promoting the faith; and that no one had a better track record on keeping the laws of God.
Now you might be thinking: “Well that sounds like a life worth imitating. That seems like a ruby to be valued and esteemed.”
So we might be shocked to hear Paul tell us he now considers those achievements as things to put in his loss column, as liabilities, not as assets. In fact, Paul goes so far as to write that he considers all his previous zeal and law-keeping as rubbish!
Now stop and consider this: what are usually the most interesting conversion stories, the kind that are made into books and movies? Usually it is when a person who has led a terrible life of sin, crime, drugs, comes to know the Lord, and their life gets turned upside down, right? We love to hear how the Lord got a hold of people such as John Newton, Chuck Colson, or some drug-dealing guy, and they turn from their life of sin, and then follow the Lord.
But Paul didn’t have any of those problems, did he? He was the cleanest, straightest, most upright dude you could ever meet…. So what did he have to repent of? How could his life be turned around, when it seemed that he was already going in the right direction?
My friends, what changed everything for Paul, and what made him realize that all his previous gains were garbage, was when Jesus Christ stopped him blind on the road to Damascus. It was when he considered the righteousness of Christ that Paul realized that all his good works were like rubbish, compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as his Lord!
You see, God calls us not merely to repent of the bad stuff we have done; He calls us to repent of the good stuff we have done! Why? Because in our heart of hearts, we think the good things we have done will somehow earn us some favor in God’s eyes. We think that the moral life we are living will be worth something when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We think that if we have gone to church and have served the Lord and not done any terrible sins, it will give us some merit, some standing, before God.
But listen to what Paul wrote:
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 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.”
This is what it means in Isaiah 64:6 when it says, “All our righteous deeds are like polluted garments.” Did you catch that? “All our righteous deeds are like polluted garments.” Yes, we must repent of the bad things we have done; but we must also repent of the righteous deeds we have done… because we have done these deeds so that others would think well of us; we have done these works so we can earn favor with God; we have these works with a sense of our own self-righteousness.
And therefore Christ wants each of us to consider that they are all rubbish.
Christ does not become ours by our effort, but by our rejection of effort. Motyer comments: “No one had ever striven for righteousness as did Paul, and yet he does not see Christ as the prize standing just above the top rung of the ladder of self-advancement.”
Nor can we have Christ if we have any other hope (of righteousness). Paul knew he had nothing to put in place of all his useless “Gains”. Christ alone is the replacement.
“All personal merit, all acquired virtue, all efforts to attain righteousness, all that would be to the glory of man is gone… wiped out… nullified. Christ stands alone on the stage, the exclusive object of praise which excludes all others.”
“Faith is leaning heavily upon Christ: not our labor, but the cessation of labor, not by doing, but by ceasing to do; simply by leaning the whole weight of our needs upon Him…”
Illustration of a ship, loaded with valuable freight, in a storm, needing to throw all those valuable assets overboard… why? In order to save the lives on board. In fact, that’s what the ship that Paul was on in Acts 27:38 had to do, when it was caught in a terrible storm and was in grave danger of sinking: they threw all the valuable cargo (grain) overboard, in order to save their lives.
Another illustration: consider a rich man in a war-torn country, who has received word that the rebel forces will be here by the morning, and they will kill him and his family. So he considers: what do I value? If I value my riches, my beautiful house, and all my lands, I and my family will be dead by tomorrow. But if I value my life and the life of my family, then I will consider everything else I have as rubbish, in order to escape alive. So he gets up, with his family, in the middle of the night, leaves everything behind.
What used to be thought of stepping stones to success and riches are now considered as stumbling blocks. Consider: Is it Rubbish or Is It a Ruby?
In a similar way, Paul considered that all his former gain was rubbish, in order to obtain a ruby. He could not have those things and also have Christ. Nothing, together with Christ, was preferable to all things without Christ.”
And note that Paul’s present testimony is one of great satisfaction, not regret.
Can you imagine Paul at a HS or college reunion, some 30-40 years later! What would his classmates think? They had probably voted him “most likely to succeed. Under his picture in the yearbook would have been paragraphs of his achievements. But Paul would have told his old classmates that “…I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.”
No one wants to spend their life on a rubbish heap. Paul no more desires to repossess the things he has given up and turned his back on anymore than he wants last week’s garbage back… if this is the only way to have more of Christ. It is Christ who satisfies; it is Christ that he would gain. He has possessed Christ since that first meeting (7), but he is all the time hungry for more of Christ.
It’s like finding the pearl of great price (Mt. 13:45-46), and selling everything else to have that great treasure! We need to see Christ as our great treasure! Becoming a Christian means discovering that Christ is a treasure chest of holy joy, and then writing “LOSS” over everything else, in order to gain him.
“May we be like Paul in seeing Christ alone as our wealth, and in being determined to evaluate everything else in the light of the full satisfaction that only he provides.”
Consider your life and your accomplishments: are they rubbish? And is knowing Jesus Christ your Ruby?”
Let us leave our man-centered religion and our fleeting earthly gains behind, and to cling to Christ as our treasure and righteousness.