Christ Above All

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
8 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
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(NIV)

Introduction                                   

I love Philippians, it is a letter that gives me hope as a Christian; of the joy that can be found in Jesus.  A letter that shows a different side of Paul, one of affection and hope for a growing church facing tough situations every day for Jesus, Its a letter where we see glimpses of situation Paul is in and the contentedness faith in Jesus Christ has granted him. 

This is not a letter primarily concerned with defending Christian doctrine from false teachers (although it is mentioned briefly), or defining the role and of the law in the Christian faith.  It’s a personal letter from Paul, one that you say beyond Philemon is his most intimate letter.  One where we see more of Paul the person, than Paul the pastor: He Express his hope for the church, for their contained growth, for a growing sense of unity by the power of the holy spirit.  A brief structure to the letter is:

  • Pauls Introduction (1:1-11)
  • How his current situation is of God and is being used to build the Kingdom (1:12-26)
  • A need for Humility and Unity(1:27-2:18)
  • Confidence in Christ compared with confidence in the flesh (2:18-3:18)
  • Conclusion & Thanksgiving (3:21 – 4:23)

It is at the start of this section where Paul is directing Christians where to place their confidence we find our passage. Paul is telling us where we as Christians must root our confidence: Jesus.  When I think of this passage the great hymn of inspired by the apparent writings of Saint Patrick

As I rise, strength of God
Go before, lift me up
As I wake, eyes of God
Look upon, be my sight
As I wait, heart of God
Satisfy and sustain
As I hear, voice of God
Lead me on, be my guide
Be my guide
Above and below me
Before and behind me
In every eye that sees me
Christ be all around me
As I go, Hand of God
My defense, by my side
And as I rest, breath of God
Fall upon, bring me peace
Bring me peace
Above and below me
Before and behind me
In every eye that sees me
Christ be all around me
(All Sons and Daughters)

Passage in Context                            

Before we consider what the heart of the passage is.  We must take a moment to put it in context, Part of the passage is a contrast between two states.  It is in the verses prior to this, where we find the heart of what is Paul is trying to contrast.  Paul moves into reminding the Church at Philippi where to place their confidence.  It is as JB Philips paraphrases it: “I am not afraid to offer the same advice again because it will safeguard your very soul”.

Here we have the contrast between two different mindsets; The contrast between two different lifestyles; The contrast between trust placed into different places: Advice which will save your soul.  One is religious: Where confidence is placed in the flesh, the things in this world that will ultimately fail us: The other is where we find salvation, placing Christ above all.  Eugene Peterson in his modern translation would write, “Stay Clear of those barking Dogs all bark and no bite.  All they are concerned with is appearance” It is the opposite of what a Christian who puts Jesus above all else looks like. The opposite heart that leads to unity and humility. The fact that Paul calls those who walk a road of religion “Dogs” shows the strength of his thinking, the fire in his heart when he considers an Ultra religious approach, these people are not Man’s best friend they are Scum.

Paul then reminds the readers at Philippi and us, that if this was what it was all about; Religion defining your salvation by some simple act on the body, or by following the Law, then he surely must be the most righteous person alive at that time.  Paul tells them he is the Alpha and Omega of Religion, a Jew of the Jews, born of the tribe of Benjamin, A Pharisee, Schooled in the law and living by it and even then trying to destroy the cult that had emerged within Judaism know as ‘The way’.  Paul says if that was what it was all above then he had earned his salvation, he points to the danger of religion for the sake of religion where man tries to earn his own salvation, then after painting a brief sketch of his past he declares:

Verse 7 Loss & Gain: Christ above all else              

This is the peak of the mountain and the chapter, Paul has just talked about his own ‘earned’ salvation and describes it simply as Loss: This is finical language.  Paul is saying to the church and to you and me that true Profit can only be earned when Jesus takes his place above all.  Any other path leads to loss, insecurity.  True Prosperity is found in Jesus.  It is simply:

‘Jesus + Nothing = Everything’.

It is that if we must choose Between Christ and anything else we will always choose Jesus, that even though it is not a choice we may never have to make that at any point our decision we will be Jesus Christ above all else, trusting God in every situation. Counting all as Loss, means that we count everything in its value in terms of gaining more of Jesus: That allows us to enjoy more of him, taking all things that bring us Joy before the Throne of God above and thanking him for them:  That when the painful experiences arise We consider God is working even when we cannot understand it for our benefit. 

Verse 8 – Rubbish & Christ above all                    

‘There is only one secure foundation: a genuine, deep relationship with Jesus Christ, which will carry you through any and all turmoil. No matter what storms are raging all around, you’ll stand firm if you stand on His love.
Charles Stanley

Paul extends the flow of his thinking and language, the imagery of comparison.  He declares to us That When Christ is placed above all that is when Jesus is the centre of our life, the centre of our thinking and our reason for existing that everything else is utterly insignificant.  It is the worth of knowing Jesus personally; that We as Christians have an active faith, where Jesus is Lord and saviour; this is not some nominal notion of Christ.  There is not identifying yourself as Anglican in a cultural sense or having some limited link to a  church, it is having an active, living faith where the Holy Spirit is working in you.  That it is from this position and this place that we are able to suffer for the sake of Christ, that we are able to humble ourselves so that Christ can be exalted, that we are willing to work to build the Kingdom at God even at the sake of ourselves.  Everything else compared to this is literally, Garbage, trash or dung when Christ is above all. it is as Charles Stanley would put it ‘There is only one secure foundation: a genuine, deep relationship with Jesus Christ, which will carry you through any and all turmoil. No matter what storms are raging all around, you’ll stand firm if you stand on His love.’

Verse 9 –  Righteousness in Christ                  

 

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

Paul continues and now we find him considering righteousness that is found in Christ Jesus: Through faith, given by God, he compares this with trying to earn righteousness on our own accord through the law which is simply impossible.  It is as Paul Chappell would say “Many people live righteously for selfish or misguided reasons. If you are striving to please God, examine your motives today.” The truth is that we are like the Jewish people of old we, read in the Old Testament, we are stubborn or Stiff-necked always setting out with the correct intentions but never getting there in ourselves.  It took God to rescue them; time and time again and it takes God to rescue us.  We are like Children who think all is fine until something is broken, then we approach the father.  We must know all that is broken in our lives and allow a Loving Father to work in us, through us to ‘fix’ us and the world around us.  We are like children wallowing in the Mud without realising the beach is just over the hill.  Cows standing in their own manure, without realising the green grass is just down the lane.  Just as the Parent directs the child to the beach and the Farmer the cows to the field we need the direction of God in our own lives.  It comes through faith, through being able to come before a loving God and declare our need of his help.  Faith is not the foundation of righteousness earned: It is the door by which we receive it, the rescue Boat that God sails.  God give righteousness and God secures it.

Many people live righteously for selfish or misguided reasons. If you are striving to please God, examine your motives today.
Paul Chapell

Verse 10-11: The Power of the Resurrection          

 

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”
Timothy Keller

So we come to the close of the last few verses that I want to consider, Such a potent and powerful passage of Scripture that in parallel challenges us and gives us hope.  In these two  verses, Paul declares his desire is to Know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection and to partake in his sufferings. It is As Eugene Peterson would word this section:

I gave up all that inferior stuff so that I could know Christ Personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering and go all the way with him to death itself.  If there was any way to get in on the resurrection power from the Dead. I wanted it!

The best news of the Christian gospel is that the supremely glorious Creator of the universe has acted in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection to remove every obstacle between us and himself so that we may find everlasting joy in seeing and savoring his infinite beauty.
John Piper

It is that the same power that Raised Christ Jesus from the dead now lives and works in you.  The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ where one-time Historic events that took place and one-time eternal events that flung wide the doors of heaven for us.  That moment which the disciples and followers of Jesus who stood around the foot of the Cross and watched as this man they had walked with, talked with and learned from.  Watched as he raised people from the dead, healed them of diseases and made them clear under the law of God.  In that moment, they seemingly watched him breathe his last, we as Christians have the benefit of knowing what comes next: Image the utter despair and utter hopelessness of that situation without knowing and understanding the coming resurrection. compare it to the hope that we find on the other side of the Cross, Where we as Christians stand.  The jews had the hope of what lay ahead, we Had the hope of what happen behind and what lies ahead when all will be restored and all will be made right but at that moment There was no hope.

“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”
N.T. Wright

This is the Story of the gospel, the reality of the Gospel, God takes you and me out of utter hopelessness and gives us the hope that can only be found in Christ, he does this through the power that Raised Jesus from the dead, the Holy Sprit:  The same spirit who works in me and you today. This is what Paul desire, not that he would literally be crucified but that he would live a life worthy of the Crucified saviour, sharing in the suffering:  Suffering as Christ the Suffering servant did for the sake of others, so that others would know the light of Christ, suffering so we can build his kingdom.  Suffering in this moment so that we know the glorious reality of a redeemed earth in the future.  Suffering because our future eternally is secure, because we are not concerned with temporal things. 

“After death something new begins, over which all powers of the world of death have no more might.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It’s is as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would say, “When Christ bids a man, he bids him come die” because all things become utterly insignificant when Christ takes his place above all in our lives.  We are co-heirs in Christ’s sufferings now because we are Heirs with him in eternal Glory.

The Resurrection, and its consequences, were the ‘gospel’ or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the ‘gospels’, the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection. If they had died without making anyone else believe this ‘gospel’ no gospels would ever have been written.

CS Lewis

Conclusion                   

This passage calls us to put Jesus about all else, it reminds us that anything found in the way of Religion leads to lose, only gain is found in Jesus: That is knowing him personally and be able/willing to walk with him.  That any of the pleasures that this world has to offer, while good and of God in their place fade to utter rubbish when compared to the surpassing worth of Knowing Christ Jesus.  That we are Christians are called to mirror Christ in all that he did when he was on the earth and know the confidence of an eternity secure, when he comes back to the earth.  It is as Paul says from verse 17-20 of this passage 

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”(ESV)

Let us be a people who put Jesus, God and the Spirit in their place, above all else: So that we are empowered to be a people of power who can bring the Love of the Father, and the light of the Gospel to those who need it most. 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. RK Writings says:

    Excellent message. The same power!

    Like

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