Day 5: May 8, 2017: Losing the World to Gain Christ
Philippians 3:7-9: But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…
In his homily on this passage St. John Chrysostom said, “For when the sun hath appeared, it is loss to sit by a candle: so that the loss comes by comparison, by the superiority of the other.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2), the very Light of God in the world (John 1:1-13). He is superior to the Law and Prophets which came before him. He is superior to anything else on which we might depend for our righteousness before God.
After coming to know Christ as Lord, Paul came to “count” or “consider” (v. 7, 8 [2x]) everything in which he previously placed his confidence (3:2-6) as “rubbish” in comparison to “the surpassing worth of knowing” Jesus. For the sake of knowing Christ Paul lost everything: his excellent standing in Judaism as a Pharisee and opponent of Christianity, his obedience to the Law as the source of his own righteousness, his comfort, safety, and eventually, his life (Acts 21:13, 2 Cor. 11:23-29). Yet, for Paul, none of these “losses” were actually losses. In fact, he was glad to “suffer” these losses because by means of them he gained ever deeper intimacy with Jesus. Christ was the Sun, and in comparison with him everything else in the world was just a candle.
So, and here is one of the paradoxes at the heart of Christian discipleship, gain comes through loss. We can only gain fellowship with Christ and transformation into his image by losing our attachment to the world (which is really our attachment to ourselves).
In order to grasp this we need to see how Paul’s own life was an intentional imitation of Jesus. Earlier in the letter Paul had said to the Philippians, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (2:5). The Christ-like mindset which Paul was calling for was this: “in humility count [same verb as in 3:7-8] others more significant than yourselves” (2:3). Jesus was the example par excellence of this others-first mindset: He “was in the form of God, [but] did not count [same verb again] equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant…” (2:6-7).
In love God the Son put us before himself. He did not cling to his equality with God. Rather, he humbled himself by assuming human nature and becoming obedient to death on a cross for our sake (2:7-8). Jesus therefore lost more than we will ever be able to understand: He gave up the joys of heaven, the limitless pleasures of infinity, and his unbroken communion with the Father and the Spirit in order to live and die as a man, at the hands of the men he had created. Yet the self-giving love of Jesus did not end as a loss. Instead, the Father raised him from the dead and exalted him to the place of Lordship over all things in heaven and on earth (2:9-11). Through his loss Christ gained the salvation and redemption of the world to the glory of God the Father.
In order then to “gain Christ and be found in him” we must become like Him. In humility we must count other people as more significant than ourselves. We must come to see that we cannot cling to our privileges, possessions, and pride. We must understand that in comparison to knowing Christ our Lord, all of those things are rubbish. Further, we are called to lose what is to our gain (as Paul did) in order to gain Christ. Obedience to and fellowship with Jesus are found only along the way of the cross (Luke 9:23-27), which is the way of losing our lives for the sake of the gospel (Mark 8:35). Paul counted “everything as loss” because he was following the example of Jesus. So must we.
Take time now to surrender yourself in a renewed way to knowing and following Jesus. This prayer can help you get started: “Holy Father, thank you that Jesus gave up all of his privileges and suffered death for my sake. Each day help me to remember that everything else in life which is to my benefit is like the tiny light of a candle in comparison to the glorious light of your Son. Help me so to follow Jesus that I gladly lose all things in order to gain him and be found in him. For your glory I pray in Jesus Name, Amen.”