Welcome to a new week of podcasts from STC Sheffield. My name is Helen, and I’ll be continuing our journey through the book of Philippians.
Today our Bible reading is Philippians 3 vs7-11, and I’d like us to focus on the second part of verse 8 which says “I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”
Last year I read a great book called ‘The Keeper of Lost Things.’ It’s a fictional story about a man called Anthony Peardew who has spent most of his adult life collecting things that he finds – discarded cups, lost hair bands, misplaced buttons. He collects them and he keeps them – for years – meticulously cataloguing each one with the date and place where he found it. And as he approaches the end of his life, he is still not able to throw these things away, or think of them as rubbish. And so he passes all these lost things onto the person he is closest to.
I won’t say what happens after this, in case you decide to read the book yourself. However, ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ instantly sprang into my mind when I read this Bible passage.
Paul uses the word lost, or loss, 3 times in verses 7 and 8, and says that he considers these lost things to be rubbish. In fact, commentators would suggest that this word ‘rubbish’ could be better translated as “foul smelling street garbage fit only for dogs.”
When we come into a relationship with Jesus, all of us have to admit that there are things in our lives that are “foul smelling street garbage,” when compared to the holiness, beauty and blameless life of Christ. It’s not a very easy thing to admit – that some of our attitudes and actions are fit only for dogs……but it is the truth.
And more than this, Paul isn’t just talking about sinful things here; he is also referring to things that we might put our confidence or identity in – our background, our family, our level of education, or our bank balance.
Paul tells us in verse 8 that when we come into the presence of God we realise that all of these things too are rubbish. They have no value or importance compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.”
Whether it is holding on to past hurts or the feeling of security that we take from our job role; we need to throw this stuff away, get rid of it from our lives…….but in doing this we gain something far more important, for more valuable – we gain Christ.
Rather than being found living amongst the foul smelling street garbage fit only for dogs, we can instead, as verse 9 says, be found in Christ.
It would seem that given the option of being found in the rubbish or being found in Christ, the choice would be obvious; and therefore as we read this passage there are some challenging questions that confront us:
Rather than discarding things that we should consider rubbish, do we hold onto them instead?
Rather than letting go of things from the past, do we actually just catalogue them, and keep them at the back of our mind. Hidden away, but still there.
Or perhaps there are things that we find such security in, that we can’t actually admit that they are unhelpful or unimportant, and so we pass on these attitudes, values or expectations to those closest to us?
Or maybe we need to admit that we are choosing to live in the foul smelling garbage. We know that there is an area of sin in our lives, but we don’t really want to throw it away……so we just live with a peg on our nose.
Answering or working through these either/or options is one response to these verses, and they are important questions to ask ourselves. However, the power and truth of Paul’s words goes much deeper than simply completing a list of pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, and then deciding, having weighed everything up, to come down on the side of Christ.
That is the complete opposite of what Paul is saying here.
What Paul wants us to grasp is that knowing Christ, having a personal relationship with him, means that all other things just completely drop off the scales.
If we truly understand and appreciate the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, it means we don’t look anywhere else for advantages. Being found in Christ means we find completeness and wholeness. There is nothing that comes close, or even compares to this.
We have no need to keep anything else.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage; that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”
As we begin to look at what it means to live the Better Life, these verses are a good place to start.
The surpassing worth of knowing Christ and being found in Him is what the better life is all about.
So let’s ask ourselves this question:
Are these words a true description of our lives? Have we truly gained Christ or are we a keeper of lost things?
Heavenly Father, fill us with your Holy Spirit today in order that we are able to let go of those things that should be lost to us now we are found in Christ. Lord, teach us what it truly means to gain Christ, and help us to know that our relationship with him is worth so much more than anything else. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Philippians 3:7-11
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 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 on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.