Speaker: Dn Lee Pang Wee
Sermon Title: How does a Gospel Partner make his life count?
Scripture Text: Philippians 3:1-11
1. Count on the True Gospel (v 1-3b)
a. Rejoice – in the Lord! (v1)
b. Remember – your identity in Christ! (v2)
c. Reject – the false gospel! (v3)
2. Count off earthly gain as loss (v 3c-7)
a. Your ritual
b. Your ethnicity
c. Your rank
d. Your tradition
e. Your rule keeping
f. Your zeal
g. Your obedience to the Law
3. Count up the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (3:8-11)
a. Know Christ (3:8,9)
b. Know Christ more (3:10)
c. Know Christ perfectly (3:11)
1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people 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 righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
How has your week been? What has made your day or week count? Was it one of these?
What about your life? What would make your life count? Would it be one of these?.
Certainly, these are all significant milestones and proud moments for anyone.
In life, we count the things that count for us. How would this add up for me?
But is there something else that would count for our life far more than anything? Today’s passage tells us there is, and tells us how we may do it, and why we should do it.
The title of this sermon is:
HOW DOES A GOSPEL PARTNER MAKE HIS LIFE COUNT?
I have divided the passage into 3 sections. And, we will do some counting today, but it will be simple.
Second, let us note, the Bible is an extraordinary book. Anyone can read the Bible, but not everyone shall benefit from it. Because the Bible is a radical book. Who then will benefit from it? It is one who is willing to be radical, though not in a bad way. That is why it is an extraordinary book. Now, today’s passage calls us to respond by turning our views 180 degrees around – to see the front as back, the back as front, up as down, and the down as up. If you are ready, let’s go into passage.
If a gospel partner wants to make his life count, what must he do first? The answer is in verses 1-3. We give this section the title:
COUNT ON THE TRUE GOSPEL!
Phil. 3:1-3 V1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh
V1 starts with ‘Finally’. Sorry, it’s not the end yet, we have just started. It is a way of writing in Greek which means “Moreover…” or “And so…”. “And so, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord”.
You may rejoice for a time when Liverpool won the English Premier League. You may rejoice for a time when your favorite politician won the election. But as Gospel Partners, Paul says, you are to rejoice in the Lord at all times and for all time.
Romans 5:2 tells us to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. To rejoice is a duty of a Gospel Partner. Because your identity is now in Christ, you can commit to rejoice in your relationship with Christ.
But because we tend to forget, we need reminders. So Paul says, “As I have told you many times before, I am reminding you again – your identity in Christ! It is no trouble for me, and it is good for you to be reminded”. So, when we hear our pastors reminding us of who we are in Christ, it is good for us also.
Because false gospels have emerged. And will continue to emerge. They teach one must be circumcised to be saved. They pervert the gospel, they take you away from Christ, they destroy you! They are like dogs, attack you, and evil is their name. They are teachers of false gospel. Reject them!
What was physical circumcision for? For the Jews, it was meant to be a visible sign and seal of an inward covenant relationship with God. But false gospel just emphasised the outward, the physical, the mutilated flesh, and neglected the more important inward heart. And they boast to everyone about themselves, and tell the Philippians that they too must be circumcised. So Paul reminds the Philippians, and us today, “Look out! Don’t fall into it. Reject them!”
Who then are the true circumcision ? Paul says they are those:
Note the word ‘and’. It is all three, not one or two of three.
Gospel partners now worship by the spirit, because you have been crucified, buried and raised with Christ, and God has poured out his Spirit into your hearts, God has done an inner work of redemption in you, and this far far exceeds the mere outward physical sign.
Romans 2:28,29 says “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly…. but a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
Gospel partners, you now glory in Christ, you boast in Christ. You know you can do nothing to save yourself, and that Christ has done all that is needed for your salvation. Christ’s work is finished. You now boast in your relationship with Christ, your identity in Christ. You now boast of Christ, not yourself.
So Paul could say, in Galatians, “Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
And lastly – because your identity is in Christ, your joy and glory are found in Christ, therefore your confidence are now wholly in Christ, and not in the flesh, like circumcision.
These then are the marks of one who has believed and lived out the True Gospel.
Let us summarize this section. Paul is going to tell the Philippians something radical. But they have to start at the right start point – by getting their gospel right. They have to trust the gospel of Jesus Christ, not the false gospel of circumcision. They have to count on the True Gospel. How?
Let us now consider the second section, verses 4-7. We give this section title:
COUNT OFF ALL YOUR EARTHLY GAIN AS LOSS
Phil. 3: 4-7
V3d Put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people 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 righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Career men and women, you’d be familiar with social and professional networking platforms like facebook and LinkedIn. You put out your best in there – your resume, your credentials – even that trip on a road less travelled. In a crowded world, the louder you shout about what you have achieved, the more you are heard.
When I retired 3 years ago, I wrote my bio data. Bio data, what’s that? Well, resumes for you if you are still working, but irrelevant for retirees. Bio data is like a concise biography, but in one page. But how do you put your biography in one page? Obviously, put in that which matters to you most. So, tell the world I am pursuing these interests. At the same time, well…. maybe for the record, just to say… ahem… this is my industry track record, this is my certification, that is my education… you know what I mean.
But after 3 years, I never did once use the bio data. It’s just as irrelevant as a resume. And the more years into retirement, the more irrelevant it gets. It took me 3 years to realise its irrelevance. If only I have learned from Paul earlier.
You see, Saul of Tarsus also kept records of his credentials, his achievements. If he were to write his resume today, how would it look like? Well, I tried to write one for him.
I don’t know how Saul looked like, but I know a few things he told us about himself:
“I was born in AD 5, in Tarsus, to Jewish parents. Studied Hebrews Scripture under Rabbi Gamaliel with in-depth specialization of the Law. Prosecuted Stephen and witnessed his execution. Persecuted Christians, dragged them off to prisons, and ravaged the Church.”
As to Ritual, circumcised on the eighth day – I am the set apart, this is my sign and seal
Ethnicity – of the people of Israel – the Chosen one of God
As to Rank – of the tribe of Benjamin – the tribe from which the first King of Israel came
Tradition – a Hebrew of Hebrews – I couldn’t be more true blue than royal blue
Keeping the Law – a Pharisee – I am member of this exclusive club
As to zeal, a persecutor of the church – I ravaged the church, I dragged Christians to prison
Righteousness under the law, blameless – I live under the law, by the law and for the law
So, if we open up an account book for Paul before his conversion, his account ledger would look like this.
No argument therefore, when he says, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more”
But, in an extraordinary turn of events, Paul sees all this now as loss.
I have told you, the Bible is an extraordinary book. We have now come to this passage when Paul, in an extraordinary way, says in v7: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
All his earthly gains, he counted them all as one single LOSS. Because Christ has transformed him.
So here is an application. Let’s look at our own account books, our resumes. Ask ourselves a few questions.
What is our own account book? Is it like this?
How has a ritual – an activity that you must do – become more important than time for reading God’s Word and praying, and fellowship with fellow believers?
How has your rank – your standing with professional committees, or your position in your career, the income bracket you have achieved – makes you put down your identity in Christ?
How has your zeal – that ministry that you have built up all these years – has become a a religion, a god to you, more important than the True gospel it sought to proclaim?
Are these what make our life count?
Gene O’Kelley was the Chairman and CEO of KPMG. KPMG was the world’s largest financial consultancy company during O’Kelley’s watch. At 52, at the peak of his career, and as one of the most powerful men in the corporate world, he felt there was no mountain he could not climb. In fact, his life was so given to, and driven by his corporate empire he built, that in two years he had time to lunch with his wife only once.
At 53, he was diagnosed with an inoperable late-stage brain cancer. The doctor told him he has only one hundred days to live. In a dramatic pull of brakes, Gene began to re-prioritise his life.
He wrote a book, “Chasing Daylight”, in which he wrote that he wished he had lived a more balanced life, had spent more time with his family. His wife said this was his one regret. When he realized what he needed to do, he ran out of time.”
Gene O’Kelley ran out of time to rebalance his debits and credits. He died in Sept 2004, six months after his diagnosis.
What about someone closer home?
The story of Mr Ong Peck Lye, founder of Stamford Tyres, is one of the rags to riches story. Mr Ong was born into poverty in 1935, lost his father from a young age, but worked his way from a slum along the Kallang River into prosperity after he started Stamford Tyres. When he died at age of 82, his second son wrote an interesting obituary, in the voice of the senior Ong, which appeared in the Straits Times on 12 June, 2016.
May I read to you his Obituary.
I, Ong Peck Lye
I was born into poverty and uncertainty,
Circled myself with friends smarter than I,
Married a woman better than I,
So I could have children greater than I.
I spared no ego nor expense,
To show others I showered my family,
The beneficiaries of my simple heart
I never get to see my father be
A husband to my mother so
I made mistakes being both,
Trying to be as human as I know.
All my acquaintances and my friend
Thought that I was this perfect man,
My best and closest knew
My conflictions were quite a few.
My poverty became prosperity,
My hunger became my food,
My simplicity became complexity,
My ego big beyond me.
For all my adventure and flamboyance I knew,
My last days were dreary and weary.
For all the charity that I gave,
My true friends were few,
My siblings all gone before me.
A wife who fretted over my meals and medications
A son who cut and stroked my hair and nails,
Calmed my nightmares, lift me up and tucked me in.
My wife who cowed when I stood over her,
stood beside me.
My son who dared to stand against me, stood up for me.
At last I got to see my legacy,
Ensured, enshrined in good hands.
I dared to live, and now I dare to die.
I am Ong Peck Lye.
Although friends saw senior Ong as a successful and perfect man, deep inside him he struggled with conflicts, he was unsure of his own righteousness.
What’s the difference between Gene O’Kelley, Ong Peck Lye and Paul? All three men had the same reckoning – their earthly gains as loss, they saw their credits as nothing. But for O’Kelly and Ong, they stopped there. Their losses went with them to the graves. The result? Only regrets.
But Paul was different. Paul counts up the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. And you, Gospel Partner can be different too, when you do the same.
We now look into the 3rd section – from verses 8-11. The title is:
COUNT UP THE SURPASSING WORTH OF KNOWING CHRIST
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”
Paul says not only are all his earthly credentials, all gains, as a loss, these are now to him as “rubbish”. Kitchen scrap. Another translation uses the word ‘dung’ for “rubbish’. This nuance is stronger. It is something you don’t even want to think about it, don’t want to look at it.
What could have caused Paul to make such an about-turn ? Paul says – in order that he may gain Christ.
We often hear it said, “No pain, no gain. No loss, no gain”. It means you have to go through pain to gain something, you have to lose something in order to gain something. But I think this is not what Paul means. It’s more than that. To Paul, to gain Christ is a blessed gift, that suffering for him is a privilege, not a pain. To Paul, the more he knows Christ, to loss all earthly things is divine, not a regretful loss.
Because, in verses 9-11, Paul explains what is it to gain Christ, why the worth of gaining Christ surpasses all that he has and gone through.
Three things add up to Paul’s count of the surpassing worth.
Lets consider the first one in verse 9.
V9: “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”
Righteousness means ‘right standing’ before God. What was ‘righteousness’ to Paul before he knew Christ? We may understand it from verses 6 and 9 together.
V 6 “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (3:6)
V 9 “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law” (3:9)
In v6 Paul seeks righteousness by the means of the law, by keeping the law. In v9, Paul seeks righteousness that thought to flow to him from the law. In both cases, the intent is the same – Paul thought that righteousness is derived from the law.
But now, lets look at his understanding of righteousness, after he knew Christ, in v 9:
“and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (3:9)
Instead of righteousness on the basis of the law, Paul now knows that righteousness is on the basis of faith.
Instead of righteousness from the law, Paul now knows that righteousness is from God.
In knowing Christ, Paul is truly justified. Paul is justified before God, not by his own righteousness that comes from his works, but from God’s gift of righteousness when he trusts in Christ. The righteousness of Christ covers him, because he received it by faith, and he is justified.
Eph. 2:8,9 tells us:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
And therefore, having been justified by faith, Paul could say has peace with God through his Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear Friends, if you have yet to know Christ, I urge you to consider this seriously. Because our salvation cannot be gained by what we do, because no matter what we do, we cannot make ourselves righteous. Only God’s pure righteousness can save us. The first step is to know Jesus, to believe in Him. Know that he loves you, a sinner. Know that he can forgive you of your sins, know that his righteousness will cover your sins before God.
The second thing to Paul is the blessings of sanctification, in v10.
V10. “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”
Having known Christ, Paul wants to know him more and more. Not just in knowledge, but also the experience of being in Christ . Here is the thing – we cannot say we know Christ without experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection. The same power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, that power is given to every believer to live the Christian life.
And we cannot experience the power of Christ’s resurrection without sharing in Christ’s suffering.
Remember Phil. 1:29
29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake”
Karl Barth said something like this, “Great is the grace that permitted us to believe in Christ. Greater is the grace that permitted us to suffer for him, to walk the way Christ walked.”
To Paul, suffering for Christ enables him to know Christ in the fullness.
Someone has wronged you, but you can’t forgive him. You know as a Christian you should. But you just can’t do it. You can ask God to show you what Christ means when he says this or does that. Ask God to let you have the same grace when he said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It just means you would also do what Christ did when someone wronged him. Only when we let God help us to do what Christ would have done, could we say we have experienced the power of his resurrection.
So here is another truth – the more a Gospel Partner knows Christ, the more he becomes like Christ, the more he or she shares in his suffering. Remember – when we suffer for Christ, it is not because God has neglected us, but rather it is a proof that God’s grace is at work in us.
Remember also the assurance from Philippians 2:12-13, that while we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, it is God who also works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
And now let’s continue to last verse 11:
11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
What do we look forward to at the end of a work day? To go home. Gospel Partners, what do we look forward to at the end of your life? To go home! Paul looks with eagerness that somehow he would go home to be with the Lord and experience the climax of knowing Christ – when he meets Christ face to face. He yearns for the day his body would be resurrected and reunited with Christ. Glorified with Christ! Because then, he would know Christ perfectly.
Let us summarize this section. We can now see where Paul is coming from. When Paul knows Christ, he is justified by the righteousness of Christ. When Paul knows Christ more and more through the power of his resurrection, and through the fellowship of his suffering, he is sanctified more and more. And He yearns to meet the Lord in the resurrection of the dead, to be glorified, to see Christ’s glory, and to know him perfectly. All these to Paul, count up to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.
Let us now conclude.
HOW DOES A GOSPEL PARTNER MAKE HIS LIFE COUNT?
For Gene O’Kelley, his regret was not having a balanced life, And when he realized it, time was not on his side . He couldn’t redeem what he considered as loss.
For Ong Peck Lye, his last days were dreary and weary. His simplicity has become complexity, his prosperity, his liability, and his ego – too big for him. His friends thought he was a perfect man, but he himself struggled with his own righteousness.
Would both men have lived differently if they had known Christ ?
Must life be this way – only regrets, and not hope?
Dear Friends, its not too late to begin thinking about what God’s Word has told you today – to count all earthly gain as loss, as rubbish, compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.
Dear Gospel Partners, we started by asking ourselves: “What makes our life count?”. Would you say, to be with the Lord one day, would be the biggest count ? To meet face to face with my Lord, Master , my Saviour, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, the Creator of all things, the Alpha and the Omega, the Author and Perfecter of my Faith, the Bread of Life, Son of God, Great High Priest, Immanuel, Judge, Lamb of God, One who keeps me from falling, True Light, Messiah, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Word………… there must be one or more aspects of Christ which have ministered to you in your life, and you’d want to meet Him – He who is the exact imprint of God, the radiance of God’s glory…. we can look forward to see Christ, because no one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, whom the Father has made him known – Christ Jesus our Lord, in his fullness.
Let us pray:
Our Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your Word today. Help us now to know Jesus Christ. Help us to know him more and more, so through it all, we may say, like Paul, that we count all things as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, in whose precious Name we pray. Amen.