“Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 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 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.”
Chapter three begins with an extensive rebuke of trusting in our own merits and efforts. We have a privilege to be a part of a broad church movement of evangelicalism that has a high regard for God’s saving grace in forgiving our sin. Paul is discussing something deeper, though. Paul is discussing a full-blown offering of our lives in trust to Christ.
In the first couple paragraphs, Paul highlights some false teaching requiring Gentile Christians to follow Jewish traditions, then discusses his own credentials as a Jew and how meaningless they are to his ongoing salvation in Christ. Paul is using this opportunity to express to the Philippians that their faith is to be in Christ alone. Paul does not just take issue with the Jewish beliefs either. Paul also takes aim at some Greek thought as well. This is some “educated speculation," but from verses 19-21, Paul talks about being “conformed to the body of His glory,” which I think is rebuking some Greek/Roman thinking about the glory of human body, physical appearance, and fitness.
I think we can learn from this chapter that we need to be careful about where we put our trust. I have been fairly upfront about the fact that we live with privilege in our Canadian context. What Paul is doing in chapter 3 is debunking some common beliefs about how an individual or community lives life with favour in the world. For the Jews, the way to have a meaningful and fruitful life was the follow “the Way (Law)” or “ obey Torah.” For Greeks and Romans, a meaningful life could be characterized by physical prowess.
This is why I highlighted verse 7-9. Like the Christ Poem in chapter two, verses 7-9 are the centrepiece of these couple of paragraphs. Our goal is trust and confidence in Jesus. Not just that He forgives us of sin, but also, that in following His guidance, He will lead us to a meaningful and fruitful life. If we think about common “prosperity” passages such as having “life abundant,” the heart is that we have meaningful and whole life through God’s guidance and presence. His “grace” or “favour” in our life is not just about being forgiven and no longer sinning but includes having His presence and endorsement on the steps we take in our lives. This depends on our obedience, but the obedience is also not just following a philosophy or set of commands from the Bible. Our obedience is about following God’s presence as He leads us in life.
In the coming months, you will hear a bit more about the story of how Kiersten and I came to Chatham, and it is one of the most obvious times in our life where we trusted God’s leading and found His presence. It has been well over a year journey now. A song I began to listen to at this time was “Safe Retreat” by Kings Kaleidoscope. I am not normally an anxious person because I have a loving set of parents who would never let us be in dire trouble. I have always been secure that things are going to workout, however, when I became a Christian, who I put trust in changed. My parents are awesome and we are profoundly fortunate for them, however, I am not following the exact philosophy of life they gave me.
My faith journey has been one of working against the temptation to be pursue the upper-middle class life. Our faith journey has been about being obedient in trusting God. Instead of trusting in ourselves to make our “Canadian dream,” we have been repeatedly urged by God’s Spirit to ignore the temptation of the world and trust the next steps God has for us. Christ is our “Safe Retreat” from the temptation to pursue prosperity and the anxiety of poverty. As Paul tells the Ephesian church, “Christ is our peace. (Eph 2:14)”
Like many of us, I teared up listening to the recent testimonies of how good God has been to those who got baptized (August 13, 2023). Not just that, but I was also overwhelmed at the testimonies of how good God has been to them through you, His people. He is our peace because we obey and trust in Him and out of the wholeness He gives us, we are able to help others to move toward being whole in Him. Our God’s shelter of peace, wholeness, and rest is a big enough retreat for all of us. May our confidence be Him. He will not abandon us when we trust in Him. May we be a community that can honestly reflect on our lives and with fear and trembling at what God has done in us, humbly say to young believers, “imitate us as we follow Christ"(1 Cor 11:1. Phl 3:17).
Lord, continue the good work you have started in us at Forward City and in the Church in Chatham. May we be an example of what it means to humbly follow You. Continue to showcase Your love in us, Your people. As we recognize that we are still on a journey and moving forward, may Your grace move us forward to fullness and peace. Thank You for this community. Amen