“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:8 NIV
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was sitting imprisoned and in chains, but the loss he was describing in Phil. 3:8 was not the loss of his freedom, but the loss of his self-righteousness. Before Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, he had been a Pharisee who focused on righteousness gained through personal means, such as following laws and performing rituals. According to his description in Philippians, Paul had originally thought he was blameless through these actions, but then he learned that there is no such thing as self-justification. When Paul found Jesus, he realized that he was a sinner and could only be saved through the grace of God. This is what he meant by the loss of everything else to gain Christ. In fact, rubbish in this context meant dung or manure. He gave up his self-righteous past that focused on material, man pleasing pursuits, to turn toward a relationship with Jesus—the only thing that matters. This is why he could sit imprisoned and say that it was his past in the glory of men that was rubbish. He knew that with Christ in his heart, he could find joy in any circumstance.
This last summer I went on a cruise in the Caribbean. At the time, I was also working on a Philippians Bible study, so I decided to find a spot on the boat each day to get some work accomplished. One day I was sitting in a cushy chair at the deck railing, with an umbrella over my head, when I came across this verse. It was such a contrast to read about someone sitting in prison and writing about rubbish as I sat with my feet propped up,overlooking the view of the water. I thought about the boat and everything on it and realized that it too is rubbish compared to Christ. Everything on the cruise— the food, the pool, the entertainment, the marble floors— is all material. Yes, it is relaxing and fun to get away, but anything designed to impress men is meaningless if Jesus isn’t first in my life. A few verses later, Paul explained that “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil. 4:12 NIV). Whether in prison or on a cruise ship, if Christ is in my heart, I can find joy in all circumstances, because everything else is rubbish.
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT
One day while I was at the mall, I watched a little girl try desperately but unsuccessfully to convince her family of something she’d seen. It wasn’t that she hadn’t seen what she described to them, but that each time her family came around to checkout what she described, they saw nothing. She was so frustrated as her mother and siblings practically dragged her off down the mall. The little girl wasn’t making up a story; I’d witnessed the same thing she had. Two boys would come to the front of a store and position themselves in the display window, standing perfectly still, or posing, like mannequins. Many people didn’t see them or passed by without acknowledging them. When any passersby stopped to investigate, and noticed that they were indeed real people, they’d laugh victoriously and run back into the store, away from the window and out of sight. They repeated this little trick over and over, more elated with each surprised ‘victim’. They were children having fun at the expense of others. My daughter recognized that they were not really mannequins when one of the boys blinked. The little girl saw one of the boys blink also, and they were discovered, so they ran away. By the time the girl got her family to come back over to the store, the boys were gone. Her family never witnessed their mannequin imitations and subsequently didn’t believe her story.
Sometimes people have a hard time believing our stories when we tell them we are followers of Christ because we don’t really reflect Him very well. We don’t love others (especially our enemies). We don’t resist behavior that runs contrary to godly character. We only imitate the qualities of Christ that we are comfortable with and ignore the ones that will challenge us to be tested and grow in spiritual maturity. When challenged, we ‘blink’ and are discovered to be lacking in Christlikeness. Today’s Dose verse calls us to follow God’s example in everything that we do. God desires for us to be like Christ Jesus—to act like Him and think like Him. As difficult as it may seem to imitate Christ in all we do, we must remember that nothing is impossible with God. We can ask Him to intervene in our lives with His supernatural power. He’s waiting and willing to help us be transformed into Christlikeness.
Are you imitating Him in everything today, or are you poised to ‘blink’?