I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.
Philippians 3:7 NLT
When we first read this verse alone, we might think that when Paul says “I once thought these things were valuable” that the “things” he is speaking about are the things of this world. That’s a valid leap of logic when we’ve gained a basic understanding of the types of things that the Bible teaches us. However, if we look at the context of this passage –
Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Philippians 3:2-11 NLT
We can see that Paul is talking about worthless “things” like the following are, a wrong perspective:
– “pure-blooded citizen of Israel”
– “member of the tribe of Benjamin”
– “human effort”
– “strictest obedience to the Jewish law”
– “obeyed the law without fault”
And He counts these things as worthless because of what Christ has done. He makes it clear that knowing Christ and having a relationship with Him is really what matters. He points out to us that it isn’t about “measuring up to Christ”, that it isn’t that we must be highly religious to be saved.
He points out that this right perspective is about :
– knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord
– worshipping Him (by walking in) the Spirit of God.
– relying on what Christ has done for us
– putting no confidence in human effort
– becoming righteous through faith
– trusting God’s way of making us right with himself
– experiencing the mighty power (of the Holy Spirit) that raised Him from the dead
– suffering with Him
– sharing in His death
You see, this new perspective is not just human, outward compliance to the letter of the law. It isn’t just striving to work hard enough for a master to earn something in return. It is a process by which our hope and belief in His promises leads us to an attitude of gratefulness and thankfulness for this amazing gift of grace – and it is in this humble place of receiving the undeserved, unmerited gift of freedom that we have the opportunity to find love for God – to understand His love for us, and to respond with a life loving Him in return, a life turned to Him in repentance and walking with Him faithfully because of the power of His Holy Spirit at work in us.
The results may look the same on the outside. Many people can act religious, focusing on the outward obedience by striving on their own to imitate the walk of a born again Child of God. But if they don’t have His Holy Spirit inside powering their desires and motives, their striving is worthless and useless because, I would have nothing.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT
And yes, if we have this love we will obey His commandments, not just continue a life in sin. We will repent of our sinful ways, so I’m not saying that this Grace is a license to sin. I’m saying that Jesus set the bar a lot higher than just outward compliance that looks to human eyes the same as true obedience of the heart. God weighs our heart, and we cannot fool Him with silly religious sacrifices when He desires mercy. He set the bar at love – true Godly, righteous love – the very in-dwelling of God’s spirit and nature in our lives that produces the fruit against which there is no law.
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
John 14:15-21 NLT
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you. Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
Galatians 5:1-15 NLT
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 5:16-26 NLT