Rubbish of the Past by John Miltenberger, March 31, 2017
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, [Philippians 3:7-8; NASB]
Here is the statement of a man who was one of the most educated and religiously zealous men of his day. Paul (Saul) the great apostle, after listing his accomplishments, sums up by saying all those things that once seemed so valuable to him, now seem as rubbish compared to knowing Christ.
In Strong’s Concordance, the word ‘rubbish’ actually means: any refuse, as the excrement of animals, offscouring, rubbish, dregs. Paul is not stating that these things are worthless, per se, only that they are worthless compared with knowing Christ. This is indeed indicative of more than a passing intimacy with Christ; it is personal and deep.
I’ve often wondered how the Jews, after receiving so many Messianic prophecies over the preceding generations, and up to this present age, could have missed and are missing their Messiah. Isn’t that amazing? The mathematical odds that Jesus alone was and is the Messiah, are mind-boggling, and point to the sheer impossibility He could have been anyone else in all of history…yet they missed Him at His advent, and many miss Him still. He stood right in front of them, and they missed it! It seems to be an amazing error, and yet, he stands right in front of us too, and multiplied millions miss it today. We are indeed like the man blind; the man Jesus healed.
We are all raised with attitudes, and considering our natural sinful natures at birth, many of our attitudes can hinder, rather than enhance, our acceptance of the Messiah, the only Savior of mankind and creation. It took me many years to “give in” to the call of Jesus upon my life, and even decades later, I still wrestle with hindering attitudes that are still lurking in me. All of my credentials, secular and Christian, are indeed worthless compared to intimately knowing Jesus as the Savior and ultimate lover of my soul.
All the things I think I am, count for nothing, and I find that only what Jesus thinks matters. Credentials are not “evil”, but they just simply don’t count for anything compared to this intimacy, and even with all I think I may know of Christ, when I see a young child worship Him in utter abandon, I cannot express to you my envy of that child, and I would give up everything to know Him that way!
At the beginning of his discourse in Philippians 3 verse 7, Paul wrote, ‘But whatever things were gain to me,’. Notice the word ‘gain’ is placed in the past; Paul is clearly contrasting gain in this worldly system, with gain in God’s Kingdom. I believe Paul is making the argument that our ‘gain’ in this world, rather than facilitating our ‘gain’ in the Kingdom of God, actually hinders us in knowing Christ. His summation is obviously that it is in the intimate knowing of Christ (first), that any meaningful gain can occur in this temporal world.
In effect, Jesus stood right in front of me for decades…and I missed it. Then, when I thought to respond, I let myself get incrementally buried in religion – a sure but slow spiritual death. Lifeless religion fills our spiritual arteries with formaldehyde, and it removes and ultimately replaces the blood of life we get when we are first born again. And I didn’t see it! Indeed, as someone told me last week, I have “a long way to go.” It hurt to hear it, but it was accurate.
Now I feel like a building site. In order for new things to be erected, old things must be demolished and carted away, and it is difficult to divest myself of so many pieces of rubbish I’ve cherished for so long, but it has become a question of Jesus, or rubbish, and the choice is uncomfortable but clear.
Jesus, and Jesus alone, knows what to demolish and cart off, and what to re-construct, for He alone is the Master Builder – He always was, and still is. My job is to get out of the way and let Him do what He knows needs to be done, because frankly, I’m a poor judge of what is rubbish and what is not.
I can say this: I would give up everything to be like that little child. I hope you can say that too.