Philippians 3:7-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 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 9 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,[a] the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ[b] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Most Lenten traditions tend to focus our prayers and intentions during this season on abstaining or denying oneself, working and praying for justice, and serving those in need. Our passage today references all three, even if indirectly.
Here we have Paul reflecting on his greatest accomplishments. We can imagine him thinking of all the ways he had denied himself with his religious devotion over the years, all the ways he had exacted justice, usually swift and severe, and thinking through his numerous acts of service in his previous following the letter-of-the-law-lifestyle. Paul was a very devout religious man so it’s easy for us to imagine all three of these themes would have made his list of accomplishments.
And then we hear him confess that everything he had counted as an accomplishment, all the successful realizations of his goals, he now counts as loss, perhaps even more bluntly, as garbage compared to knowing the Anointed One, Jesus. I think Paul is saying, “I could care less about being known as a good man, or a successful man, I only want to be found belonging to Jesus, clinging to Him. I want to know Him inside and out.” (Not just a surface knowing about Jesus)
Paul wants to live his life through His power and he knows that power comes only from the cross, from “sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death.”
Do you see it? This is why Paul lists off all of his accomplishments first and counts them as nothing more than a pile of garbage. He’s long since hung these things, which have no power of life, on the cross with Jesus in favor of a resurrected life.
Prayerfully consider all of your successes and ruthlessly identify those you know did not involve Jesus flowing through them for their accomplishment. How hard or easy is it for you to consider these successes like garbage? Why or why not?
How well do you know Jesus? Would you say you consider knowing Him inside and out the major theme of your life?
Where is God most moving in your life during this season of Lent, toward self denial, working for justice, or serving those in need? How will you take steps in that area?