Sunday, September 6, 2009

9/6- Philippians 3:7-11 Garbage vs resurrection

(Ben in courtyard of Philippi- now in ruins)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 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 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 [a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Calvin abridged: 7- “What things were gain to me”- Ignorance of Christ is the only reason we are puffed up with a vain confidence and get a false estimate of our own excellence. Where we see arrogance and pride, there we can be assured that Christ is not known. On the other hand, as soon as Christ shines forth all those things that formerly dazzled our eyes with a false splendor vanish or at least are de-valued. The things Paul valued before his eyes were opened to Christ had the appearance of gain to him. Now these things are loss to him since he has been enlightened. They were a loss because they were hindrances to his coming to Christ. Paul acknowledges that nothing was so injurious to him as his own self-righteousness because it kept away from Christ by it. Anything that keeps us back from drawing near to Christ is more harmful to us than anything else. 8- “I consider everything a loss”- Paul confirms here his initial decision to renounce his hindrances that he might gain Christ. 8- “surpassing worth of knowing Christ”- Many things have an appearance of excellence, but the knowledge of Christ surpasses all of these. From this we should learn what value we ought to set upon the knowledge of Christ. “for whose sake I have lost all things”- Paul was using an illustration from ship goers who when faced with shipwreck, lighten their load by throwing everything overboard that the ship may be lightened and they may arrive safely in harbor. It is better to be safe and in misery and want than to drown along with our riches. Should we then renounce riches, honors, nobility, or even external righteousness- for all these are gifts of God? The Apostle doesn’t speak of the externals themselves but the value place in them. Paul did not disown the race of Abraham and make himself an alien that he might become a Christian, but he renounced dependence upon his descent. It is not fitting that we go from being chaste to unchaste; from being sober to intemperate; from being respectable to being dissolute but that he should divest himself of a false estimate of his own righteousness, and treat it with contempt. We do not contend with the substance of works, but against the value invested in them. We are not justified by them. It is not necessary that you be poor that you be a Christian. But if it pleases God for you to be poor, you should be able to endure it. “Consider them garbage”- Some part with things for God with regret and a sigh. Paul not only abandoned what he formerly thought was precious, but considered them “dung.” Such illusions should be offensive to us. “That I may gain Christ”- by this he intimates that we cannot gain Christ without losing everything that we have, recognizing that He would have us rich by His grace alone. He alone is our blessedness. 9- “be found in him”[and may find them in him]- Paul renounced everything that he had that he might recover them in Christ. “Not having a righteousness of my own”- Paul makes a comparison between two kinds of righteousness here. One kind is a human righteousness of the law- which must be given up and renounced. The other is the righteousness of God by faith and does not belong to the individual. Believers have no righteousness of their own. 10- “that I may know him”- The knowledge of God is the nature and efficacy of faith. This knowledge leads to the power of the resurrection. Christ is rightly known when we feel how powerful his death and resurrection are, and how efficacious they are in us. “and the participation in [fellowship of] his sufferings”- Our whole lives should be conformed to his death. There is a twofold participation in the death of Christ. The one is inward- the “mortification of the flesh” or the “crucifixion of the old man”(Rom. 6). The other is outward- “mortification of the outward man”- which is the endurance of the Cross (Rom. 8). This is mentioned here along with the resurrection that we may know that we must die before we live. Through afflictions the way is opened up for us to everlasting blessedness (2 Tim. 2:11). Paul says that he is conformed to his death that he may attain the glory of his resurrection.

Thought: These verses illustrate some key concepts in Calvin’s theology. The Christian life is lived by a mortification and a vivification- dying to self and living to Christ. The knowledge of God is emphasized as well, which Calvin says is the chief end of his theology. The reward that comes of divesting ourselves of our own righteousness is found in our participating in Christ’s resurrection. In our day, the whole concept of self-denial is so foreign to us, that some think it is harmful for us to deny ourselves. But rampant self-indulgence can bankrupt our soul just as monetary self-indulgence can bankrupt our pocket book. Self-denial and endurance are the ways God plows our soul to sew seeds of the resurrection. Philippi was a place of great wealth. It had a huge mall/marketplace in its center. Today if you go there, you see only ruins. So many gave themselves for its wealth that today has been reduced to rubble by earthquakes. Paul was right in telling them to count their earthly attainments as "rubble."

Prayer: Lord, in a time when so many value the things of this world, help us to count these things as garbage that we may gain Christ.

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