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 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Philippians 3:8-9 (NIV)
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I climbed Dune 7 in Walvis Bay, Namibia, with some friends. It is one of the largest free-standing sand dunes in the world. It was a very difficult task to reach the top. It felt as though I was sliding two-and-a-half metres backward for every three metres I was moving upward. With much endurance and perspiration invested, we finally reached the top to enjoy the spectacular view from above. This is my image for trying to satisfy the demands of the law to gain God’s redemption. Except the mountain of sin is much higher – and we run out of time before we reach the top. This is what Paul had experienced when he tried to be good enough to earn God’s grace.
When Paul started this conversation, he listed all his best qualities, his pedigree, his training and his zeal for his beliefs in his life before Christ. Then he had that meeting with Christ that changed his life. Now he shocks us. He counts everything in his old life as garbage – a polite translation, in Greek he uses a crude word. Paul says that without Christ, all our best efforts, all our pedigree, training, culture, spirituality – it all is worthless.
The next image I have in my mind is that of the old balance scale we had in the science lab at school. On the one side, Paul puts everything that was important in his old life, and on the other side the new life in Christ. And there is no comparison, he says that to know and to follow Christ surpasses everything else. In Christ, we have found redemption, what we could never earn by ourselves. It comes by faith alone through Christ alone. He has done everything we need to be redeemed, to be God’s children. We do not have to earn it, it is given freely in Christ. That is the love of God for us. He wants to give us life in abundance.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have paid the price for my sin in full. You have earned what I could never achieve. You have brought peace with God. You have restored me to life. Help me to heed the call and to live my life to honour and glorify you. Thank you for your exceeding grace! Amen