4 If anyone else has reason to be confident in
the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on
the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a
Hebrew born 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 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come
to regard as loss because of Christ. 8
More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all
things, and I regard 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 one that comes through
faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the
sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if
somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not
that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;
but I press on to make it my own, because
Christ Jesus has made me his own.
13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my
own; but this one thing I do: forgetting
what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
There was a Scotsman whose wife became ill. At first
it did not seem like anything serious. However, as time went on, she became
worse with each passing day. When she got really sick, she asked her husband if
she could have some help. Could they get word to the doctor or could he go into
town and at least get some medicine for her? Each time she asked her husband,
he would tell her to wait a little longer to see if perhaps she would get
better on her own. At the root of the problem was the fact that he just did not
want to give up any of his precious money. His money was of more value to him
than even his wife’s health and well-being.
Finally, after many days of her being sick, even the
husband began to worry about her condition. He decided that it was time for him
to make a trip into town and purchase the medicine that might help his wife get
well. As he prepared to leave for town, he said to his wife, “I’ve put a candle
in the window, and I will be walking backwards to the apothecary shop. If you
should feel yourself starting to die, would you mind blowing out the candle?”
What do you value the most in your life? A recent poll reveals that many Americans value
“time” first, with “career,” “success,” and “money” coming in as close seconds.
Do you agree with that? What we value most demonstrate how we spend our time
and resources. What we value most defines ourselves.
So, now I ask you, “What do you value most?” and
“What is your defining story?” Let us take a look at today’s text. In this
text, we can see what Paul did value most in his life.
Paul confessed that he had spent all his time and
resources pursuing and persecuting Christians. This was the sign of devouted
Pharisees. His goal was to be righteous under the Law. He illustrates his life
in today’s text. There are seven advantages he could claim. The first four advantages
are inherited, which was pretty important for success in his time.
First of all, he was circumcised on the eighth
day which means that he was a full member of God’s covenant people. Secondly, he
is a member of the people of Israel, by birth with all the rights and
privileges that adhere. Thirdly, he hails from the tribe of Benjamin. Fourthly,
he is a Hebrew born of Hebrews which means the son of Hebrew parents without
The last three are his achievements.
Fifthly, he is a Pharisee of Pharisees who practices strict observance of the law.
Sixthly, he is a persecutor of the church as to zeal. Seventhly, he is righteous under the law, blameless according to an interpretation
of the law by Pharisees.
These seven features of Paul define who Paul was
before he, as Saul not as Paul, met Jesus. Before his name was changed to Paul,
Saul was never a follower of Jesus. As Saul travels to Damascus, he experiences
the divine presence: a light from heaven flashing around him and a voice
addressing him. Saul and his traveling companions see the light, but Saul sees
more: the risen Lord Jesus. So overwhelming is the sight that Saul falls to the
Then, a voice asks, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute
me? After this confrontation with Christ, his whole spiritual world will be
turned upside down.
After his conversion, he spent all his time and
resources pursuing Christ. His career success and the seven advantages are
regarded as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ. His change
of course demonstrates what he values most and who he really is.
Paul is confident that the seven features of his
life belong to the flesh and that his life as a Christian is directed by the
Spirit of God and not the flesh. He contrasts his old mindset and actions with
new ones by using the words such as “gain” and “loss.” That is, he understands
all his external advantages as “loss” and counts knowing Christ as “gain.” In
verse 10, he speaks about giving up all rights and privileges for the sake of
Paul values knowing Christ as primary in his life
and wants to be found in Christ. It is largely because he wants to be righteous
before God. He contrasts two kinds of righteousness, “having a righteousness of
my own that comes from the law” versus “one that comes through faith in
Christ.” He chose the latter righteousness for his entire life.
In light of Paul’s life, we need to reflect on what
we value most as individuals and as a church community. Perhaps we could value
certain inherited qualities or achievements as “gains.” Lent is a time to
reflect on our achievements in our lives and re-examine to see if they are
“gains” or “loss.” Also, Lent is a time
for struggling to know Christ and to belong to Christ. And then, lent is a time
for examining our lives and our faith, so that we can deepen our reliance upon
Paul’s life is a very practical guide for this
Lenten season. Not only does he want to know Christ, but also he wants to be in
Christ. Through this story, we can see that Paul is a person who follows Christ
in word and deed. “Word and Deed!”
I am going to give you an enigmatic question. It was
a sunny day. There were three frogs on a riverside. Suddenly, one of the frogs
stood up and firmly said, “It is too hot. I am going to hop into the water.” The
others just gave a nod.
Now, how many frogs remained at the riverside. This question
is too easy. Right? You can say “two.” But the answer is “three.” Do you know
why? It is because the resolution in mind to hop into the water is totally
different from the practice. That is, the frog had a resolution but failed to
practice. So there are still three frogs on the riverside.
You know NATO which is North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Many critics express NATO in a different way. No Action Talk Only.
There are many reasons why they criticize NATO like
that. They want action not word. “No Action Talk Only” is not the way for
Christians to engage. The Christian way is “Word and Deed.”
Let us wrap up this sermon. In two weeks, it will be
Easter, when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. I though Lent is
a pretty long season but already five weeks have gone by. I ask you, “Have you
been struggling to know Christ and to belong to Christ? Have you been in the
process of examining your faith and life before God?” Only two weeks remain. I
pray that all of us engage in reflecting on our lives and in examining our
values before God. And I pray that all of us humbly try to follow Christ both
in word and deed, so we can joyfully face the resurrected Christ in two weeks.
Paul who values Christ most said, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward
to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly
call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Let us pray.
Loving God, in Christ you have shown us compassion,
accepted us unconditionally, and given us a new set of values to embrace. Help
us to live in accordance with your will and aspire to be Christ-like in our
relationships. Empower us to be able to follow Christ in word and deed in this
graceful Lenten season so we can joyfully face our Lord. In the name of Jesus
Christ, we pray. Amen.