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Counting All Things as Loss for the Sake of Christ

by David A. DePra

For we are the circumcision, which worship God in spirit, and

rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Phil. 3:3)


     The above verse opens one of the most profound passages in

the Bible regarding God's purpose for suffering. (Phil. 3:3-16)

Note the central thought in the verse is that those who are in Christ

have "no confidence in the flesh." This is the main theme of the

entire passage and must be kept in mind as we read it.

     God is doing a work in us which is intended to make these

verses real. He wants us to actually come to the place where we

literally have no confidence in the flesh, but have full reliance in

Christ alone. Another way to say this is that God wants us to stop

putting our faith in ourselves, in our ability to believe, or in anything

else about US. All of that is to pass away as the motivation

which governs us. It is to be swallowed up in the life of the Son of


     We speak here of more than just the basis for our salvation. We

are saved by grace alone through faith. But having begun on the

basis of God's grace, we must go on to live upon that same basis.

The whole person must come to full reliance upon Jesus Christ.

     Of course, most of us would quickly confess that we have no

confidence in the flesh. We say we rely fully upon Chirst. But

we usually say these things because we know we are supposed

to say them. Living them is something else. That is something we

can't make real. Fortunately, however, God can and does make

these Truths living dynamics in the lives of those who love Him.

     Back to the passage. In verses 4-6, Paul rehearses all of his

"assets of the flesh." He is telling us all of the reasons why he

might find himself of value before God. He was a Jew, one of the

chosen people of God. He was also a strict Pharisee, a dedicated

keeper of God's law. As far as doing what religious flesh could

do, Paul was the champion. No one could find fault with him.

     Having told us about his qualifications, Paul then makes this

remarkable statement: "But what things were gain to me, those I

counted loss for the sake of Christ." That is quite a proclamation.

Paul was willing to lose all of those things for Christ. He was

willing to lose everything about himself which could possibly give

him reason to feel confident before God. He was willing to see

everything thing about himself that made him feel righteous, feel of

spiritual worth, give him cause to place his faith in himself -- he was

willing to see all of that die.

     Paul's teaching strikes at the heart and core of what makes us

tick as human beings, yes, but at the heart and core of what makes

us tick as religious people. He is describing a Christianity which

consists of more than just "believing the right doctrines," and even

more than just living an orderly, clean life. He is describing a

relationship with God which is going to strip him of everything he is.

He is telling us that if we want to be found in Christ, then all of our

self-confident, sanely religious personalities, are going to have to

be dismantled. The very fabric of our being must be come apart

through the death and resurrection of Christ.

     Don't misunderstand. Paul isn't saying that God must deal

with only the bad in us -- "bad" as we would usually define it. No.

Paul is saying that even the "good" -- the assets we might

present to God -- must be counted as loss. Note why: We never

take confidence in bad flesh. We take confidence only in what

to us seems to be "good flesh." It is upon these things that we

most often stand by faith, instead of in Jesus Christ.

     Paul is repeating a Truth found in the gospels. He is saying,

"If you want to be found in Christ, you must lose yourself. You

must come to the place of utter weakness and be stripped of all

confidence in yourself. Then you will find your true self in Jesus."

     Paul is not talking here of becoming a non-person. Neither is

he describing some depressing "down-on-self" condition. Nope.

Rather , he is describing what, in the eyes of God is NORMAL.

Indeed, Paul is telling us in this passage what it really means to

return to God's original pattern for man: Free of obsession with

self, and focused upon God. Once we return to that pattern,

we become MORE of an individual person before God, and

have a greater, more unique personality. But all to God's glory,

not our own.

     To God, it is NOT normal to have high self-esteem or low

self-esteem. Both are a focus on SELF. "Normal," to God, is to

leave self alone, and to be absorbed with Jesus Christ.

That is true freedom. When Jesus tells us we must lose

our lives to find them, He is not offering us something less. He is

offering us something eternally more than we have become

accustomed to settling for in this temporal realm.

     Paul has told us how we might be found in Christ: By suffering

the loss of all things; the loss of personal righteousness; the loss

of everything about us which gives us confidence before God.

But then he goes on to show us what we find: Not our own

righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the

faith of Jesus Christ.

      That is a clear definition of what it means to "be in Christ." It

means to have no righteousness of my own, but to have full

faith and reliance in Him. In other words, I must become a

personification of God's grace. This is, in fact, what should be

the gospel's impact upon a person's life. Once saved by grace

we should go on to become living epistles of grace -- weak in

ourselves, but fully reliant upon Christ in every way.

     It is clear from this passage in Philippians that God's goal in

our lives is to get us to the point where we have no sense of

personal righteousness, yet full confidence because of Jesus

Christ. That, Paul says, is why God wants us to become weak.

That is why He must prove to us time and time again that we are

complete failures. That is why He allows all kinds of things into

our lives which He uses to strip us of our personal sense of

spiritual worth. God is making us conformable to the death of

Christ, so that in living experience, we might become conformed

to His resurrection.

     This process is not enjoyable. God calls it what it is: A death

experience. But the other side is life, true life in Christ. The

question is, will we finally give up and allow God to do this work

in us?

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