Measuring Your Worth: Philippians 3:7-9
Let me ask you a question: How do you measure your worth?
Some people relate that question to this one: How do you measure success? I often have. How are you going to mark what your success level is? The bigger, the more money, the better. You must be really important. Fame, Influence, Power. Is success the amount of retirement you’ve saved up? Is it having a nice family and a big house with the nice white fence?
Worth can be measured in a variety of ways.
The business world often goes around to some of the wealthier families of the world and asking them what their worth. The answer some Americans give show how shallow we can be because they answer the question in terms of monetary measure; they give a net worth figure. As if somehow that’s a good measure. Others of us look at our worth by the level of influence one carries. And finally others of us, even Christians maybe even gauge their success and their worth before God by trying to quantify spiritually. If I pray an hour and read the Bible through in a year, then I am a successful at being a Christian. And certainly we need gauges and measures so that we can encourage one another and push one another. The more your pray and study scripture the better, I want to encourage you to do that. But we often confuse our measure of human will with our worth before God don’t we…How do you measure worth?
Listen to what Paul says…
Text: Go to Philippians 3:7-9
Here’s Paul and he’s writing in what many consider to be one of his last letters and he’s writing in Prison. Let me draw a contrast for you. I imagine Paul started life out as a good Jews boy. He was circumcised on the eighth day of his birth and he probably stayed in the care of his parents. Just imagine being in his shoes…He grew up around the temple. Sacrifices. In fact he even says he was the best of the best…he says I was advancing in Judaism beyond any one else.
Paul begins life good (His pomp and power as a Pharisee, like a lawyer-excellently educated, thoroughly trained and completely full of networks that he can get in contact for winning friends and influencing people, and let’s no forget that as it comes to be important throughout Paul’s ministry he holds the citizenship of the greatest country and empire the world has seen to that point. Paul was trained in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. Paul was a Pharisee, part of an political party and philosophical school and scholarly elite class. But although the Pharisees are often seen as the enemies of the church, in the first century they were extremely respected for their focus on following the words of God in the Old Testament, and they took measures to Mishna and Tosefta. They even agreed with Jesus about the resurrection.
Paul was set…And yet Paul’s landed himself in prison.
What were the prisons like?
Romans did not have prisons that relate to how we think of them in the modern world. Accused wealthy citizens were simply kept under house arrest, provided they behaved, until a trial could take place. The poor generally found justice swift and usually fatal. Outside of the cities, a villa might have three areas to keep slaves, one for those who were well behaved, one for those to keep shackled and one for those allowed a bit more freedom.
Actual prisons in Rome truly served as a holding place for those condemned to die. Occasionally the accused might be detained to await trial, but usually those awaiting trial were encouraged to go into voluntary exile. Those awaiting trial were called in Latin “carcer” or “publica vincula.” From the Latin carcer comes the English word incarceration (in – carcer – ation).
The most famous Roman prison can still be visited today. It is located just outside the Forum Romanum buried at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. It was Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome, who, sometime during his reign (640-616 BC) constructed this dark, damp and foreboding subterranean structure. Sallust described it as about twelve feet deep into the ground. “Its appearance is disgusting and vile by reason of the filth, the darkness and the stench.” It was into this room, 6 1/2 ft. high, thirty feet long and twenty-two feet wide, that prisoners who had been condemned to die either by strangulation or starvation were thrown. One attributes the phrase “to be cast into prison” had its origins here. Even today one can see an iron door which opens to the Cloaca Maxima, then the main sewer of Rome which emptied into the Tiber. It is said that the dead were cast away through this door. Today one can visit the dungeon via a narrow staircase. It seems even smaller than the above mentioned size because there are so many visitors to this eerie dungeon. Among the famous who spent their last days here were the leader of the Gauls, Vercingetorix who had tried to rally the Gallic tribes into one union against Caesar and, obviously, did not meet success, Simon Bar Jioras, the defender of Jerusalem defeated by Titus in the sack of the city in A.D. 70, and St Paul.
But look at what he says…
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
(I)Worth comes from our relationships (especially with Jesus) not anything else including religion.
Paul traded in his religion, not because it had failed him, he was as successful convert as their could be. His religion hadn’t failed him, NO…in fact his religion was a lot like what some Christian’s today make of following Jesus. He traded it in because he had a Damascus road experience with the Almighty and it was a paradigm change. It reversed his thinking, it blue his mind! He realized it had nothing to do with the rule and regulations; it had everything to do with a relationship and regeneration.
I’m reminded of the scene in the Passion of the Christ, (Jesus is headed toward the place of the skull and he says to his Mother…”Behold I make all things new”
A Relationship is defined as a connection between two people. When you have a relation to something it means your either “of, or belonging to” it. When your related to somebody your connected either by blood or by marriage.
And Paul gets this, he writes back in Ephesians, For this reason I knell before the Father (Patra), from whom every family (Patria) in heaven and earth derives its name. He’s showing that we have a relation as a children to our Father. He will talk in Galatians how we are no longer connected to God as his slaves but as his Sons. Paul will discuss how we will be the bride of Christ as the church. And let’s not forget what Hebrews says, “ without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. –What’s that…There’s no relationship. (Your only related by blood or by marriage, those are the only two ways!)
When that sinks in our circumstances don’t matter because we have tapped into the one who set the world in motion. We are reminded like the Apostle that we are (to be found in him)
(2) Being found in him requires humility.
Sometimes we just think If I just pray more I would be a better Christian, if I could just not ever sin—God would love me more… I have good news. You cannot…and that’s the gospel. It’s by the grace of God. And that requires humility…
Augustine said, That of all the Christian virtues, humility is the hardest. And yet it is foundational for everything else. You have to come humbly before God as Paul does. Simply be found in him. And that’s it because if you and anything else you’ve in the end created a gospel of works and not grace. Being found in him requires humility because there’s nothing you can do. To be loved, to receive mercy, to accept grace requires humility.
For the gifts of the spirit to operate, we must be found in God. For us to receive from God what he wants to abundantly pour out we must humble ourselves and be found in him. So we ask ourselves like the good thief what if the love of God was so deep, so high, so far and wide that he would love someone like me? And Christ says to us you’ll be with me in paradise. Friends, the world out their has tried to water down the gospel and what they have done is taken the love of God out of it. It stinks in God’s nostrils.
They preach that a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross. But I am here to tell you this morning that A God full of mercy brought men and women into a kingdom established on justice through the demonstration of Jesus Christ who died on the cross. The love of God is so deep that he loves us and it is because we are made in the image of God that’s where we receive our worth. By Being found in him!
And so there Paul is. He’s in prison. But he is not just in prison he’s found in him. In Christ And he is reflecting over the expanse of his life. And there he is and he is saying it’s worth it! It’s worth it! He is saying I would trade all the treasures that I had in this world the gold, the power the influence of being a political and religious leader with many followers, and the religious comfort I had in following the law…. It’s the easiest decision I’ve ever made. And it’s Christ, it’s Christ. Paul follows Christ, so that he may be found in him.
And so I am telling you be found in him! We go to him because it is where his way leads us; and again and again we are blessed by our going in ways we can never anticipate, and our going becomes a blessing to the ones we go to because when we follow his way, we never go entirely alone, and it is always something more than just ourselves and our own emptiness that we bring. You say to me preacher is that true? Is it true in the sense that there are seven days in a week and that light travels faster than sound? Maybe the final answer to that question occurs in a letter Dostoevsky wrote.
Dostoevsky wrote to a friend in 1854. “If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside the truth, “he wrote, “and it really was so that the truth was outside Christ, then I would prefer to remain with Christ than with the truth.” Be found in him.
(3) Not having a righteousness of my own…but the righteousness that’s found in Christ.
Can you just imagine Paul is there in that dark dirty prison cell. And he is sitting realizing that the what he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ despite the fact that the floor is probably as black as a chimney and smells like old urine and other unmentionables and I can just see him look through the darkness peering at the pile of human filth and smile because he realizes the irony of it all is that what he has traded…what he used to call riches he now calls (rubbish) but really what it’s called in Greek is the word for dung pile. He realizes that what is lost is nothing to what is found. And the death that ever was would scarcely fill a cup next to the grandeur he is about to enter into. In the quite darkness there in his cell I can imagine him smiling in a deep sense of peace that transcends the very bars that hold his flesh down.
Righteousness comes by way of dependence. We begin to depend on God because we trust him and rest in his righteousness.
Jesus says that the Kingdom of God begins in you or it doesn’t begin at all. That takes faith. It begins in you. As Pentecostals we sometimes forget to wait in the stillness of God. The Celtic Christian’s called it the thin place. I like to wait in silence sometimes. Sometimes it will take me 10-15 minutes just to center myself in prayer. What I’ll do is just say the name Jesus…there’s something about that name. Being still, is wonderful. It helps us in times when we are uncertain and in need of God’s presence in our lives. The thin place. Sometimes we need that silence to hold back the animals. All the things of the day…I can just see the apostle doing that there in his prison cell.
Aren’t you glad you don’t always get what you pray for. Romans 8:28 says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness because we don’t know what to pray for…and that certainly refers to speaking in tongues but it also something more. That means after I finish my stupid prayer. The Father is here and the H.S. is here. And the H.S. turns to the Father and says, “That was a stupid prayer.” What Dave should have prayed was. And he repackages, delivers it to the Father in the wonderful glorious way in which it should have been in the first place.
When we get up in the morning we should not simply always be asking God for everything, we have everything we need being found in him…that’s our righteousness and its just enough. It is systemic problem of the Western church that we are constantly praying to God for stuff. That’s not what Paul does here. You never here Paul pray Oh Lord release me from prison. Oh NO! He doesn’t ask for anything. He simply is thankful for his worth before God. He thanks God for Jesus Christ. He recognizes what the point of it all is. Blessings!