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Things Just Don't Add Up! (Philippians 3:4-8)
God's Math
Things Just Don't Add Up!
Philippians 3:4-8
 
Today and next Sunday I want to spend some time talking about God's Math.  I don't know about you, but I've always enjoyed math.  God blessed me to be pretty good with numbers and math always came fairly easily for me. 
 
There is something about the fact that numbers are absolute that I find very satisfying.  Abstract truths and concepts give me fits, but when you add two plus two, the answer will always be four. 
 
Maybe that's the reason we find so many Biblical references to mathematical words and phrases.  For instance, Romans 14;12 reminds us that everyone will stand before God someday and give an account of himself.
 
Hebrews 4:13 declares “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  
 
James reminded his hearers to "count it all joy when you fall into various trials."
 
Jesus reminded his hearers that "a house divided against itself could not stand."
 
All of those, and many more, are verses that employ mathematical language. 
 
 
But there is one passage in particular that I want to use to talk about God's Math.  It is found in the book of Philippians, chapter 3, verses 4-8.  I want to read it to you this morning, then take a look at the first half today and the second half next Sunday. 
 
Follow along as I begin reading in
 
verses 4-11
 
What we have in these verses is one of the great personal testimonies in the New Testament. It is the Apostle Paul's own testimony regarding the dramatic change that took place when he met the Living Christ. 
 
But it is also one of the most significant statements on the matter of salvation found in the New Testament. And if you were listening as I read those verses, you probably noticed that as Paul discusses what happened to him, he uses accounting terminology.  He's presents his salvation testimony through the lens of a business transaction. 
 
There is an exchange took place.  The heart of the passage is in verses 7 and 8 and you will notice in verse 7 the word "gain" is used.  If you were an accountant, you would use this language to describe the profit column.
 
Also, in verse 7, you see the "loss", and again, that is an accounting term.  Now we've moved from the positive side of things to the negative.  Now we are talking in terms of liabilities and expenses. 
 
 
 
You will notice also in verse 7 the word "counted," which means exactly what it says.  There is an accounting of the expenses incurred and the receipts that have been gained and a final total has been determined.
 
So Paul is talking about a business transaction that involved a profit column and a loss column. There were certain things in his life which he felt were in the profit column, but when he met Christ, he switched them over to the loss column. 
 
That's exactly what he said in
 
verse 7
 
So what we have here is the Apostle Paul saying he has spent his life accumulating things that he thought were of spiritual profit to earn salvation.  But then he encountered Jesus Christ and everything he thought would earn salvation had to be moved over to the loss column and re-evaluated as nothing more than rubbish so that he could gain Christ. He gives it all up for Christ.
 
The word "rubbish" there in verse 8 deserves our attention.  It is a very graphic word in that it refers either to human excrement or to garbage thrown away.  Either way, it is something that has no value.  It is useless waste, rejected filth. 
 
Some Bibles translate it dung or manure.  Others say rubbish. Some might even say garbage or waste.  But however it's translated, Paul is telling us once He came to meet Christ, everything in the profit column on his life was then seen as useless waste with no spiritual value.
Now that is a very strong statement when you consider what was in his profit column. What was in his profit column is listed in verses 5 and 6 and there are some pretty heavy-duty credentials there, and we're going to look at those in just a moment. But before we look at the list, I want you to see what is said in verses 3 and 4 as Paul begins to share his testimony.
 
Notice, at the end of verse 3, Paul says that true Christians do not put their confidence in the flesh. 
In other words, followers of Christ know that there is nothing they can do to earn salvation.  Salvation can only be found in the finished work of Christ.
 
That is important, because then as now, the world is filled with people who live under the deceptive illusion that they can work their way to God. But Paul says that is a lie.  You can't earn salvation.
 
Then, having said that in verse 3, he anticipates there will be a kickback from the Jews against this teaching.  Somebody out there is going to say, "Well you're a Christian.  What do you know about Judaism?"
 
And his reason for doing it is to say, "I can tell you to put no confidence in the flesh because I did and it wasn't enough.  In fact, what I accumulated was nothing more than a big pile of . . .rubbish.  Yes I am a Christian, but I wasn't always.  Before I was a Christian, I was a Jew and not just a Jew, but i was at the top of the heap.  I know the benefits of Judaism. I have experienced it all. And I am telling you out of that experience it is rubbish."
 
 
So let's take a few minutes to look at his testimony because it is the testimony of a lot of people today.
 
Now, as I said, Paul shares his testimony using God's math.  In verses 4 to 7 he tells what was in the loss column and in verses 8 to 11, he tells us what was gained in Christ.
 
Next week we'll look at verses 8 to 11 and see what was gain in Christ, but now let's look at what was loss.  And keep in mind, it didn't start out as loss, it was all in his profit column. It was all his profit, his credentials, his Jewish achievements, privileges and rights.
 
But he saw Christ and he understood the gospel and he realized it was useless. So let's title this part of his testimony, "Something Doesn't Add Up!"
 
Paul had a lot of good things going for him, and he's not suggesting they aren't of any value socially or educationally or historically.  But when it comes to knowing Christ, they didn't help one bit.
 
And I want to press that point because most of the people in the world believe if they make it to heaven, it will be because they're profit column was more heavily weighted than their loss column.  Their good deeds were greater than their losses.
 
But Paul says, "Not so!  It is manure, it is waste, it is garbage, worthless. Because I have discovered, he says, in my encounter with the living Christ that salvation is by grace through faith alone."
 
 
So here is his list of things once considered profit, now considered loss. They are all his Jewish credentials but they have a lot of modern counterparts.  He lists seven things once considered to be profit that were nothing more than manure. 
 
First, he says, salvation is
 
1.  Not By Ritual
 
verse 5
 
Paul says the first thing that was profit to me and I came to count as loss was that I was circumcised the eighth day.
 
Now the literal Greek reads this way, "With respect to circumcision, an eighth dayer."
 
So what?  What does he mean by that?  Well when God required that circumcision be a sign of His people back in Genesis and Leviticus, He stipulated it be done on the eighth day after a male child is born.
 
So Paul is saying his parents did it by the book and I was initiated into the Jewish faith according to what the Word of God required. That means he was a legitimate Jew who followed the rituals of Judaism from the very beginning, starting with the most essential sign of being a Jew.
 
But now he views this ritual of circumcision as nothing more than rubbish because he came to understand salvation is not obtained by keeping rituals. 
 
And that is true whether you're talking about Jewish rituals or Roman Catholic rituals or Southern Baptist rituals.  We've all got them and none of them are sufficient.
 
As far as salvation is concerned it's useless. It's waste, it's garbage, throw it out, it can't help.  It just doesn't add up.
 
Secondly, he says salvation is
 
2.  Not By Race
 
Notice Paul continues by saying, not only am I an eighth dayer,  I am of the nation of Israel, the implication that some of those who were depending on their profit column were probably were Gentiles who converted to Judaism. 
 
But Paul says, "I am a Jew by birth."  And as you probably know, the Old Testament is filled with references to the Jews as God's chosen, covenant people.  And no doubt, God greatly blessed His people.   
 
And Paul, by birth and race alone, could claim all the rights and privileges that belonged to those who were Jews. He was a purebred Jew.  And the Jews believed if they were circumcised the eighth day and if they were of the pure line coming out of the loins of Jacob and coming through the twelve tribes that were the children of Jacob, they were therefore the chosen people of God who were the saved, the redeemed, the inheritors of eternal glory.
 
But Paul says all of that is rubbish.  It's absolutely useless when it comes to salvation.
There are people today who believe they are Christians just because they belong to a family that went to church.  Grandma was a charter member.  Dad was a deacon.  Mom played the piano.  Myfamily was Christian, therefore I am also. 
 
But i want you to know being a part of a Christian family won't make you a Christian any more than sleeping in a garage will make you a car.  There are lots of benefits to being a part of a Christian faith. 
 
That is the ideology of infant baptism.  But if you are depending on that to get you into heaven, you are sadly mistaken.  You've got to move it over to the loss column.  The fact that you were born into a Christian family gives you no standing before God.  it is worthless.  It just doesn't add up.
 
Thirdly, Paul says salvation is
 
3.  Not By Rank
 
Not only was he circumcised the eighth day of the nation of Israel, verse 5 also tells us he was "of the tribe of Benjamin."
 
Now of all of the twelve tribes, the two most elite tribes were Judah and Benjamin. Judah gets a lot of attention because that was the lineage of Jesus, but we shouldn't overlook or forget Benjamin.
 
Benjamin was a very elite tribe. Let me tell you why. Benjamin was the younger of two sons born to Rachel. And according to the story in Genesis 30,  Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife. And that made Benjamin a favorite child.
In fact, he was the last and thus he was the baby of all and the baby of the beloved wife, the tenderly beloved Benjamin.
 
Also, according to Genesis 35:9 to 19, Benjamin was the only one of the sons of Jacob born in the promised land. So he had a very unique identity and title to that land.
 
But there's more.  Benjamin was given unique military priority. According to Judges 5 verse 14 and Hosea 5:8, when the troops went to battle, Benjamin was the front line. They must have been loyal, courageous, great soldiers.
 
And when the nation of Israel decided it needed a king, to which tribe did they go to find him?  They went to the tribe of Israel and found Saul, who was out of the tribe of Benjamin.
 
By the way, when God divided up the promised land, He gave certain sections of the land to the tribes. I don't know if you remember this but the section He gave to Benjamin included the city of Jerusalem.
 
Furthermore, according to 1 Kings 12:21, after Solomon's reign, the nation of Israel divided into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms and Benjamin stayed loyal to the Davidic dynasty and stayed with Judah in the south.
 
While Benjamin and Judah formed the legitimate southern kingdom, the northern kingdom went off in rebellion and eventually was carried away into captivity in 722 B.C.
 
 
There is a lot more recorded of the tribe of Benjamin, both good and bod, but the point is, Paul was a descendent of Benjamin and they were a ranking tribe with a rich history of their service to God.
 
By the way, by the time Paul wrote Philippians most of the Jews didn't know their tribe. One reason was the records were lost in the Babylonian captivity.  And secondly, they had so intermarried with other  tribes that the lineage couldn't be traced.
 
But Paul says, "I know my lineage!  There is no doubt about it.  I'm a Benjamite!   So he is really a blue-blood. He is a Jew in the purest truest sense who even knows his tribe.
 
But all of that means nothing.  It can do nothing to make me right with God!  It's all worthless rubbish. 
 
And that's still true today.  You may be a preacher or deacon or Sunday school teacher.  You can be born into a religious family.  But God is not impressed with your credentials outside of your relationship with Christ.
 
Rank has nothing to do with salvation.  Being right with God is not gained by ritual, ore race or rank.
 
Several years ago I had a conversation with a little pink lady at a hospital in Ft. Worth and when I asked her if there had every been a time in her life when she had asked Jesus to save her, she really lit up.  She said, "My daddy warned me about you Baptists!  I'll have you know I'm a thoroughbred!" 
 
 
Now exactly what she meant by that, I'm not sure.  But I think what she was saying is she had been raised in a Christian home by Christian parents and therefore, everything was all right because of that. 
 
I responded by saying, "Yes ma'am, you are a thoroughbred, a thoroughbred sinner.  The Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  There is none righteousness, no. not one."
 
Well, needless to say our coffee didn't stay as fresh the rest of the day.  But she needed to know things just didn't add up! 
 
Now, let me point out something to you.  So far, all three things that Paul has named, ritual, ritual, race and rank, were all received by him from others. 
 
It was because of someone else that he was circumcised on the eighth day, that he was a Jew and that he was of the tribe of Benjamin. All of those things were received by inheritance. 
 
But then, he continues the list with things he achieved by effort.  So he adds to his inherited profit his achieved profit and then says I consider this rubbish, too. It just doesn't add up.
 
Notice, he says, salvation is
 
4.  Not By Tradition
 
In the middle of verse 5, he mentions being "a Hebrew of the Hebrews."
 
 
Now are several ways to understand what he means by that, but what I, along with a lot of other brilliant minds think is that  he is saying, "I am a Hebrew child of Hebrew parents."
 
And that is his way of saying he has continued in the traditions of his parents.  Now keep in mind that dispersed Jews had been scattered everywhere and some of them who are living there in Philippi had been greatly impacted by Greek culture. . 
 
Many of them lost the Hebrew language and when they lost the language they lost their  culture and traditions.  They had become Hellenized from the Greek word which simply means they were living like Gentiles.
 
But Paul says, "Not me!  I had Hebrew parents, I am a Hebrew child.  I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews and you can tell by the way I lived and spoke and worshipped."
 
And that was an impressive accomplishment knowing that he was raised in the pagan city and culture of Tarsus.  He was raised in Gentile territory under Greek culture and Roman rule. And yet, he remained personally committed to the tradition of Judaism and the language of my parents.
 
As a young man he left his more country, went to Jerusalem and studied under Gamaliel the chief teacher of the Jews.  According to Acts 21:40 he could speak Hebrew fluently. He was a Jew. He was a Hebrew son of Hebrew parents. He followed the language, he followed the traditions, he followed the customs, he never deviated.
In fact, according to what he says in Acts 26, everybody knew he was an unwavering Jew.  And yet God says, "I'm not impressed.  No matter how loyal you are to your traditions and religion, it can't save you!" 
 
So once again, Paul comes to the conclusion that all of that is rubbish.  And you and I need to know that just because you're a Baptist because that's what everybody in your family has always been, it's worthless. That is not the nature and source of salvation.  It just doesn't add up.
 
Number five, salvation is
 
5.  Not By Religion
 
Notice Paul also says there in verse 5 that he was a Pharisee and he links that title to the Law of God. What that means is when it came to his view of God's Word, he took the Pharisaic perspective.
 
What does that mean? To be a Pharisee was the highest level of religious achievement in Judaism. You can't get any higher than being a Pharisee. The Pharisee was the religious radical fundamentalist.  They were narrow-minded legalistic literalist fundamentalist who interpreted the Word of God specifically and directly to life.
 
They actually developed during the period between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New.  There was 400 years in there when there was no writing going on. And during that time the Jews began to drift into liberalism and question the authority of Scripture.
 
Out of that came a time of compromise and in response to that, the Pharisaic movement was born.  A Pharisee is actually a separatist.  And what they were affirming is that there must be an adherence to Scripture.  There must be an adherence to the Word of God.  And all of that is good to a point. 
 
But the Pharisees became the self-appointed guardians of Scripture.  They studied it, they proclaimed it, they applied it and the ripped the hide of anybody who didn't do it like they said.
 
They started out with a noble cause, but over time, they degenerated into rigid policemen whose interpretation of the law became more important that God's.
 
During the time of Christ the best estimate is that there were no more than 6,000 of them because of their strict demands for adherence to the law. 
 
And Paul says, "That was me!  Nobody had a higher regard for the Law of God than did I! I know the law, I can interpret the law, I have guarded the law, and I have lived by its strictest interpretation."
 
By the way, have you ever spent any time with anybody like that or been in a church like that?  Isn't that a blessing?  They're checking out how white the preacher's shirt is and measuring the skirts of all the women.  They make sure you've got the right version of the Bible and don't sing any songs written later than 1950.
 
And they measure everyone else by their standards and convictions and opinions.
 
But Paul says, " I came to see that as rubbish also.  It didn't help me come to know Christ.  SOmethings just didn't add up!"
 
Next he says salvation is
 
6.  Not By Sincerity
 
verse 6
 
Perhaps the best documented characteristic of Paul's life before he was saved is his persecution of the church.  So zealous was he that he made it his personal mission to kill Christians and destroy churches, and he did it in the name of God. He was a genuine terrorist by anybody's standards.
 
And notice he uses the word "zeal" to reference his persecution.  Now to a Jew, zeal was the single highest virtue of religion. So what is zeal?
 
Think of zeal as a two-sided coin.  On one side is love and on the other is hate.  And what the coin of zeal declares is, "I love God so much that I hate whatever offends Him"
 
There is no doubt that Paul loved God, he loved the law of God and he loved the community of God called the Jews.  In fact, he loved them so much that he was willing to stamp out any perceived threat to them.  He loved all that God had revealed to such a degree that he hated anything he thought offended God and he thought Christians offended God.
 
Why did he kill Christians? Because of zeal. He loved Judaism so much that he hated anything that threatened it and Christianity threatened it.
And as a result of that zeal, he slaughtered Christians and destroyed churches.  He pursued them, he hunted them down, and he took their life. 
 
In fact, what he did as a persecutor of the church weighed terribly on his mind once he became a Christian,  Read 1 Corinthians and you will hear him say he was not worthy to be an apostle because he persecuted the church.
 
Why did you do it Paul?  Because of my zeal for God. 
And you want to know something?  He was sincere in what he did.  But that didn't make it right.
 
I hear people say all the time, "Well it doesn't matter what religion you are, as long as you are sincere."
I guess that includes the Muslim terrorists of today?  You won't find anyone on earth more sincere than are they.  Gentle people that they are?  It's such a peaceful religion! 
 
To say it doesn't matter what religion you are, just be sincere is like saying it doesn't matter what poison you drink as long as you're sincere, you'll be all right.
 
Listen:  mental attitude has nothing to do with it.  Salvation is a matter of truth and everything else is rubbish.  The world is filled with people who are sincere in their religion.  They make great effort, personal sacrifice, high cost, pay the price, wanting to please God. Some of them go to church every day.  They pray several times a day. 
 
But God is not impressed. Salvation is not by ritual. Salvation is not by race. Salvation is not by rank. Salvation is not by maintaining tradition.
Salvation does not come through religion and salvation does not come by sincerity. You can have a lot of zeal and be absolutely wrong, and Paul says, "I thought it was right, but it just didn't add up and I considered it garbage when I met Christ."
 
Lastly, salvation is
 
7.  Not By Righteous Works
 
verse 6
 
So what does Paul mean when he says he was "found blameless"?  Well the idea is that those who watched his life couldn't find anything to hold against him as a transgression. Outwardly the man lived according to the law.
 
Now he's not saying I was sinless. He's not advocating sinless perfection. He's not saying, "Before I was saved I was sinlessly perfect," otherwise he wouldn't have needed to be saved.
 
But what he is saying is this, that in general with regard to the righteousness which is advocated by God's law or the standard of righteous living advocated by the law of God, no one could find me blameable. I lived a blameless life. By human judgment I was a model Jew and lived by God's law.
 
That is some testimony, isn't it?  And if you could be saved by works, Paul would have had a good shot at it.  I mean, add everything up, and his profit column is impressive!
 
 
 
But notice what he says in
 
verse 7
 
Understand what he's saying?  He says, "Look, I thought everything was fine!  I had filled up my profit column with all the things that earned my salvation until I met Christ and I realized those things were worthless." 
 
verse 8
 
Paul continues buy saying, "When I found out that the righteousness of my own wasn't adequate, I also discovered there was a righteousness in Christ that was adequate.  And that righteousness was available  by grace through faith.  And when God showed me that righteousness, I realized everything else is just a pile of garbage.  So I threw it out and came to Christ. 
 
All those things that I thought added to my life I discovered were not a gain, they aren't a positive.  They don't credit my account.  They go in the debit column.  They are a loss, they are a negative."
 
Why must they be considered a negative?  They all appear to be good things.  But the truth is, they will send you to hell.
 
That's what Paul came to see.  So what did he do?  He counted it all loss to gain Christ.  After all, He is the only One Who adds up to perfect righteousness.
 
One final illustration from Scripture, and I'll be through.
 
Two men in Scripture provide a vivid illustration of what we're thinking about today.  One of those is Paul and the other is a young man we know as the rich, young ruler.
 
His story is told in Matthew 19.  One day he comes to Jesus with a question:  "Good Teacher, what good thing must I do that I may have eternal life?"
Jesus said, "Keep the commandments."
 
He replied, "Which ones?"  Jesus listed six specific commandments.  He said,  After Jesus mentioned "You must obey the law." He said, "I'm covered because I've kept all these things from my youth,"
 
In other words, my profit column is all filled up. He, too, was a Jew, and very much like Paul, he had lived an exemplary life. Chances are he was a ruler in the local synagogue, and therefore was a very honored and prestigious part of the community.
He was extremely religious and he was very sincere or he never would have come to Jesus and asked how to get eternal life.
 
So you had a sincere, religious, traditional, loyal Jew called the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. And he comes to Jesus and Jesus asks him about his life and he says I've always kept the law, just like Paul.
 
So he asks, "What else do it I need to do?"  Jesus says, "Give up everything you have and follow Me." And the young man said no and walked away.
 
Paul said just the opposite. Paul said, "I've got all these credentials! I've got race, rank, ritual, tradition, religion, sincerity, and righteous works. My profit column is full!"
But when Jesus said, "Drop it all and follow Me", Paul said yes. And then he took another inventory and this time he came up with a differnt total at the end of the page.  This time everything he was as a positive was a negative.  he counted it loss.  And in doing that, wonder of wonder, God filled his profit column with Jesus and he gained Christ.
 
The rich young ruler counted it all gain and lost everything.  Paul counted it all loss and gained everything. 
 
Now, every person in the world is in one of those two categories. When you meet Christ you either drop all the stuff that you've been counting on for your salvation and take Christ alone, or you hold to all the stuff you've been holding on to for your salvation and turn your back on Christ. There are just those two categories and you're in one of them.
 
So today, who's example will you follow? Will you follow Paul or will you follow the rich young ruler?   You're either trusting yourself and your achievements, or you are trusting Christ. And when you come to trust Christ, all the achievements become rubbish. That's the only way things will ever add up.
 
Let's pray.
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