E52: The truth that can turn anyone’s life around – Philippians series

PODCAST: On the way to Damascus, Paul’s life was turned around. What does it mean for us in today’s world to count all things loss for the knowledge of Christ?

  • E52: The truth that can turn anyone’s life around – Philippians series
  • On the way to Damascus, Paul met Jesus. It turned his life around. The knowledge of Christ had laid hold of him so powerfully that he counted all things as loss. Maybe we don’t feel like we own so much in this world that we have to give up, like Paul had. Maybe we have given up all that we know of already. How then can we be in the same spirit as Paul was in? This is what Milenko and Eunice talk about in this episode, where they look at the verses Paul writes in Philippians 3:7-11.

    Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 52: The truth that can turn anyone’s life around – Philippians series

    Welcome to ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we talk about how we can “live the gospel” every day, no matter who we are, where we live, and what our circumstances are.

    Eunice: Welcome to episode 52 of “Living the Gospel.” I am Eunice.

    Milenko:  Hi everyone, I’m Milenko. And this episode is actually the second on our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians. And this series, for me, has been really good, because I’ve had to do research into that letter and what you read there is really quite amazing.

    Eunice: Very inspiring.

    Milenko: As, of course, all of what Paul writes. But I think this, for me, has been a really good exercise. And very inspiring. Last week Kathy and Julia talked about “lowliness of mind.”

    Eunice: Right. And today’s episode is, in a way, a start to the next three episodes, where Paul talks about a very high, but attainable goal for us as disciples. So, today we’re going to look at Philippians 3:7-11, where Paul writes that the knowledge of Christ that had laid hold of him so powerfully that he counted all things as loss. And by human standards, and according to the law too, he was really a “somebody” in this world.

    Milenko: And we’re going to look at what that knowledge of Christ is, that had laid hold of Paul so really powerfully. What it means today for us, in the modern world, to count all things loss for Christ, and what we can do in daily life to partake in Christ’s sufferings. Because that expression can seem a little bit abstract.

    Eunice: So, in Philippians 3:7-11 it’s written: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” So, we know, actually, from the verses before, that Paul was really a “somebody” in this world, right?

    Milenko: He really was something. He was both by birth, he speaks there about being a true Jew, and then he speaks about his education, that he had become a Pharisee, which was like the top part of their religious society. He was actually taught by Gamaliel, it says in another place, who was the superstar of the Pharisees, you can say. The top scribe who knew everything.

    Eunice: Could you do any better in life?

    Milenko: Right. And then he says, concerning zeal, he persecuted the church. He really thought this was a danger to Judaism, which was God’s own way of doing things, the law He’d given His own chosen people. He thought this was destroying that way of life. So, in his zeal he wanted to put an end to it. And then he says something really interesting, that according to the righteousness which is in the law he was blameless. And the law is really something, there’s hundreds and hundreds of laws. And every single one of those, on the outside, he’d kept. And if you think about that, that’s incredible. Who of us can say that? “According to the law I’m blameless”, you know? That’s really how he had it. He was zealous! He was like a firebrand. He was going to …

    Eunice: Yeah, he wasn’t like a lazy person.

    Milenko: Not at all. And he did it because he wanted to serve God. He was enthusiastic about it. But then this amazing thing happened. When he was on the way to Damascus to destroy the church there. He met Jesus on the road. And he got this amazing vision. And then Jesus said to him, “Why are you persecuting Me?” And he suddenly realized who Jesus was. That this was the Son of God whom he’d been persecuting. That was actually the Messiah, the Son of God. He got this incredible light. And then he began to see, all this that I’d been doing before. All this misplaced zeal is completely wrong. And it’s all done because I think best, I who know the law, I haven’t actually understood God’s way of thinking. I haven’t understood God’s will. And He began to see that he’d been wrong. And then he really started a study of Jesus Christ, his Savior. And in that he discovered something that really was so great for him that everything else, all that he’d had before, all that greatness, all that being somebody, he counted as loss, he counted it as rubbish, for that new knowledge that he had of Christ. So that’s really something.

    Eunice: And that knowledge is that he can be like Jesus, right? To put it in short, very short.

    Milenko: Yeah, imagine that. He realized that what Jesus had come to, he could come to as well. And that’s an inner life.

    Eunice: Yeah, because I think Paul realized that no matter how good he appeared on the outside, that he was wretched on the inside. And he says that too in Romans 7. The good that I want to do, I don’t do. And he’s not talking about outward good deeds, but actually what comes up inside.

    Milenko: And then he ends that chapter in Romans 7 by saying, “Wretched man that I am. Who can deliver me from this body of death?” He was like, really desperate, because he wasn’t able to do the good that he wanted to do on the inside. He was still being tempted to all kinds of things. He noticed this other law in his members. But then he says – then comes the breakthrough – knowing Christ. He says, “Thank God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s where he can be saved. And he goes on to talk about, in Romans 8, where he got this revelation about who Christ was, in Romans 8:3 he says, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh…” So that’s what was done in Jesus. That He became a human being. He also was tempted, He noticed what was in that human nature. But His will was to do God’s will. And through that, God could condemn sin in the flesh, so the very root of sin. Not only that no angry words come out, but to find what’s the cause, the sin in the flesh that causes those angry words to come up in the first place. And that’s what God could condemn through Jesus. In the flesh. And Paul suddenly received light about that. The good that I want to do I do not do, because actually, I’m still full of bitterness, even though I’m saying the right words. And the outward appearance is fine, but inside I’m proud, inside I’m arrogant, inside I’m jealous. You know? That was the desires and lusts inside him. Which God could condemn in the flesh, through Jesus. And then Paul realized, if I get to know Jesus like that, know the way He went, know what He did to get to that, I can be like that too! So, it was like everything else, all those outward things that he could do in himself – he could keep the law, in his own strength, what he could come to, self-achieved righteousness – you could say …

    Eunice: It doesn’t satisfy his longing inside.

    Milenko: It didn’t. And he felt that living before God now, there was so much more he could attain. And that’s what he really became gripped of, you know. Not only that I’ve got this beautiful life according to the law – which could be totally misplaced like that zeal that he had – but on the inside, I can really become good.

    Eunice: And the way to that, he writes further in those verses, is through the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Jesus’ death. And the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings, like what you just said, that Jesus condemned sin in the flesh. Fellowship means that we join in that. We share in those sufferings. And it’s a suffering because we deny what we by nature want to do.

    Milenko: And it’s interesting because what he says there, that he doesn’t have this, his own righteousness – that’s that self-achieved righteousness by keeping the law in the outward life – …

    Eunice: Righteousness from the law.

    Milenko: … but he talks about that which comes through faith in Christ. And faith in Christ, that is believing in Jesus and what He did. What He came for and what God could do in the life of Jesus while He was on earth. And that faith that he had in Christ, that led him to a new kind of righteousness. That was righteousness before God. Not just the outward facade with a rotten interior, what Jesus called white-washed graves. That’s what He said to the Pharisees. Paul was a Pharisee, so he saw that in himself. A white-washed grave. Inside it was just rottenness. Inside there was still jealousy and inside there was still discouragement and there was still anger and there were all these different sins. But on the outside, the facade was beautiful. So, then he came to this new righteousness, the righteousness that was from the life of Christ. And as you mentioned there, he came to that, what it says in verse 10, through the fellowship of His – that is Christ’s – sufferings. That is, that I join in Christ’s sufferings. And here it’s obvious we don’t join in being crucified on the cross of Calvary. What we can join in though, is that God could condemn sin in His flesh. That is that He denied Himself. That’s what He says. If you want to be My disciple you have to take up your cross and deny yourself. To do that I need to suffer. I need to say no to myself, deny myself. That’s a suffering. And then it says, “being conformed to His death.” Again, not the death on the cross of Calvary, but conformed to that death where sin in the flesh, in my nature, is put to death.

    Eunice: Death over sin.

    Milenko: Death over sin, by denying myself.

    Eunice: He says something really interesting though. He says, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” What does that mean?

    Milenko: That’s the most incredible thing. That, like he says, “being conformed to His death.” So, you can switch it around and say, if I’m conformed to His death and partake in the fellowship of His sufferings, then I get to know Him and the power of His resurrection. What’s that power? The power of resurrection, I mean, that is the strongest power, stronger than any nuclear bomb or any power on earth, the power of resurrection. That is … triumphs over death. Death which is so powerful and so strong; Jesus overcame it. And with this life-giving force, He rose from the dead.

    Eunice: He’s the only one who has done that.

    Milenko: He’s the only one ever to have overcome the power of death. And how did He do that? It’s written in Hebrews that through death He overcame Him who had the power of death, that is the devil.

    Eunice: So, through death over sin.

    Milenko: Right. Which is Satan’s realm. Through death over that He got power over Satan and over death. And He conquered death. And that power, it says here, I’ll just read it, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” And it doesn’t say that I may know Him and about the power of His resurrection. That I know about it, that I’ve heard of it, that it works for me. Of course, it does. But I may know the power of that resurrection.

    Eunice: So, what you’re saying is that if we share in Christ’s sufferings, we will also not see death?

    Milenko: Exactly.

    Eunice: It’s amazing!

    Milenko: And that’s what he says right at the end, that he … if by any means I may attain to resurrection from the dead. And that’s our hope. That when that time comes, when Jesus returns, that we will also be raised from the dead. Because we have that power of resurrection in us. That we have also overcome. And Jesus was the first, and He was perfect, He was blameless from His birth to His death. And because of that He overcame death. But we can follow in His footsteps so that we can also overcome sin. We can also partake of that amazing life, by being conformed to His death.

    Eunice: And through that know the power of resurrection.

    Milenko: Exactly. And then we get fellowship with Him, you know. We get to know Jesus. When Paul saw this, suddenly all this other stuff, you know … being a Pharisee, being blameless according to the law, being in zeal persecuting the church, being …

    Eunice: A good name.

    Milenko: … the good name, everything that people looked up to – what was that? Nothing! It didn’t lead him to resurrection.

    Eunice: No!

    Milenko: But when he got to know Christ and the way that Jesus went, self-denial, taking up your cross, you know, the way of humiliation, the way down, hating your own life. What did that lead to? That led to death over sin, righteousness of God through faith, and resurrection. To eternal life. I mean, when you start talking about it you get enthusiastic yourself, right? Like, no wonder Paul was, like, gripped. No wonder this laid hold of him and wouldn’t let him go. And he said, whatever I do, he goes on to say, I leave it all behind. I don’t look back. Now I’m just reaching out for that which is ahead. And that’s how we should live our life.

    Eunice: So maybe we don’t have an amazing conversion story like Paul did. Or we don’t have this great name that we have to give up. We’re just normal people in this world. But how can we actually be in that spirit that Paul was in, that he was so gripped?

    Milenko: There’s lots of things in our own lives that are gain to us. Just look at your own life. What’s important for you …

    Eunice: That you think you have achieved in life, maybe.

    Milenko: For example, yeah. There can be different things, you know. Just being “cool,” being accepted by your peer group, being one of the crowd.

    Eunice: That you’ve actually worked for.

    Milenko: Yeah, and you’ve worked hard for that, made the good impressions, done the right things, made the right friends. You know? And you might have good intentions too, that you really want to help other people, you know. You can do that. Donate a lot of money to good causes, you can actually help people, be kind to people.

    Eunice: Nothing wrong in all that.

    Milenko: There’s nothing wrong with that. But if it’s all done in my own strength, it’s all self-achieved, then I can take the glory for it. I can take the honor. None of the honor goes to God, I’ve done it all. We have to come to something else.

    Eunice: And I mean, also, I know for myself also, you can have a very strong personality that naturally is good at leading, you know. People look up to you and it’s something that hinders you from seeing, actually, your own wretchedness. You know, in an environment where it’s easy to get people to go with your cause and agree with you, you know. Then you almost never see where you actually could have done better.

    Milenko: Right. And your personality just general. That’s what you’re born with. It’s not something you’ve done anything for; that’s how you are. Whether you’re strong personality or you’re a timid personality. You’re a person who’s kind, by nature, or you’re someone who’s a bit harsher. All of these things can really hinder you from making progress if that’s what you rely on. And you can think you’re too bad to be saved, or you can think, I’m good enough, I don’t need to be saved. Or, I don’t need forgiveness, you know.

    Eunice: The other person is sorry.

    Milenko: Yeah. You might not say it with those words, but your attitude’s like that. I’m good enough. Or the other way. But all of that we should count as rubbish. It’s nothing.

    Eunice: Yeah. Everything, actually, that hinders me and separates me from God.

    Milenko: Right. And we’re not saying here that we should change our personality, but what we’re saying is that we have to find what’s inside us that goes against God’s will. You know, I mentioned before, for example, about becoming offended. That’s something that I’ve worked a lot with in my own personal life. And I see on the outside I can be a very kind person and you know, very patient with people, and so on. But then inside … ooof. I can feel I’m impatient still. Or I think, well, I’m better than them. Like, my whole attitude is, I’ll be good to them despite their …

    Eunice: No one sees that actually. It’s between you and God.

    Milenko: No one sees that. And I feel offended and … But that’s what has to be put to death, right? That’s the sin in the flesh that needs to be condemned. And I need to let God do that. Follow Jesus by taking up my cross, denying myself. And then God can condemn that sin in the flesh. And in that way, I get to know Jesus. Because then I partake of His sufferings. I’m conformed to His death. And that’s exactly what Paul’s talking about. Whatever your life situation is, there’s so many different ones. Each single one has different life situations that we can apply this.

    Eunice: So, I think if there’s anything to get out of this episode, it’s that we can think about is there anything in my life that is hindering me from being obedient to God’s word? Something that I can give up, you know. It might be, actually, good things that I’ve done, or good qualities. Doesn’t mean that I just forget that I have those good qualities, but what do I count on in life? And if that’s hindering me from doing God’s will, then I’m willing to give it up and I do give it up.

    Milenko: And if you see what Paul obtained by counting all the old life as loss, which might have been something he boasted of before, he actually got to know Christ and came to this thing, that he experienced the power of His resurrection. That’s what he was also aiming for. And it’s really worth it to take stock of your life like Paul did. And to go in that new direction.

    Eunice: So, to sum it up, you know, what Paul was so gripped of was that we can be like Jesus and we can be transformed from our sinful nature in this life, right while we’re alive. Not at the end of our life. And that was such an amazing, amazing revelation and possibility that Paul counted all things loss so that he may gain Christ. And we can do exactly the same. Come to the same life in our life. Be more and more like Jesus.

    Milenko: So that’s something to take with us in the week to come. And next week the topic will be from Philippians 2:15 about being blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. That’s an interesting topic, so you can look forward to that.

    Eunice: Thank you for listening. Bye.

    Milenko: Thanks, everyone. Bye.