I do what I do because I obey God.” But why do you obey God? You either do it out of fear, guilt, hope of reward or some other reason. In other words, you obey maybe to appease God, to appease your guilt, to gain a promised reward or even to achieve a sense of accomplishment in fulfilling your duty to God. You are still doing what you do to avoid a loss or gain a benefit.
Such motivation is not condemned in the Bible. In fact, we are encouraged many times by Jesus not only to avoid a loss but to gain the very best benefit. Jesus in Mark 8:36 asks, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Jesus is challenging us to look out for what is most important, and work to gain that.
In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Here again, Jesus is calling us not to settle for things that won’t last forever. He appeals to our desire for the best!
Someone tells the story about a thief who broke into a department store at night. Instead of stealing the items off the shelves, this thief decided to switch the price tags on every item. He took the price tags off of big screen TVs and put them on ceramic mugs. He replaced the price tags of leather jackets with those from the face towels, and so on. When morning came, mass confusion began within an hour of the store’s opening. People were paying 2 dollars for leather jackets and 2,000 dollars for ceramic mugs.
We really aren’t that aware of the value of things; our judgment is greatly influenced by marketing efforts.
We live in a world where the value tags have been switched and determined by supply and demand. The problem is the world and Satan hide the supply and we search for them in the wrong places, and the world and Satan increase the demand with marketing schemes that feed our selfishness. Only God has the correct price list on everything, including life and what matters.
So if we are to gain what is best, we would do well to check out God’s correct price list before we buy. Paul gives us a look into that price list, and he shows us three ways not to pay too much for too little. Take a look at Philippians 3:7-11.
The FIRST way not to settle for less than the best is not to allow the good to be a liability to the best. We read this in verses 7 and 8. Paul is saying that what he considered gains are actually liabilities when compared with the greatness of knowing Christ.
We can look back at verses 5 and 6. Paul had a right start in life, having the outward sign of circumcision. Paul’s heritage as a Hebrew Jew made him the purest of God’s chosen people. Paul’s participation as a Pharisee gave him the most respected religious position in his culture of his time. Paul’s zeal against the church gave him the reputation of defender of the Jewish faith. And Paul’s obedience to the law made him perfect in the eyes of the Jewish people and in his own eyes.
Yet, when he came across the resurrected Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he was temporarily blinded so that he could regain true sight to realize that all the good things he possessed or achieved were obstacles to the best thing, a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. (If you are not familiar with this happening, take 5 minutes to read the book of Acts, chapter 9.)
What are the good things in our lives that keep us from the best thing, a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Is it our family? Some people never follow Christ, and thus never get to know Christ, because following Christ brings division in their family. I had one friend who asked, “Are you saying that if I receive Christ into my life for a right relationship with God, I would go to Heaven, but if my family does not, they would not go to Heaven?”
I told her that’s what the Bible says. Then she replied, “I can’t accept that.” This gal allowed the good, her love of her family, to be a liability to the best, knowing Christ as the Son of God who died for her sins, and for the sins of the world, including her family’s.
What other good things in our lives keep us from the best thing, a growing personal relationship with God through trusting in and knowing Jesus Christ? Is it our career? Is it money? Is it our reputation? Listen to the words of Jesus again, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” The principle of “not allowing the good to be a liability to the best” works in our spiritual life as well as in every area of life.
The SECOND way not to settle for less than the best is to receive humbly what we cannot earn. We read this in verses 9.
The word righteousness, when used by Paul, means a right standing with God or peace with God. In his earlier days as a Pharisee, Paul tried to live out the law of God perfectly in order to have a right standing with God. Gradually, Paul began to understand that the law of God was God’s instrument to show us our helplessness to earn a right standing with God. Paul wrote to the Galatians explaining, “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ.” God knew that unless our pride was broken by our inability to measure up to an objective standard, we would compare ourselves with one another and try to earn a right standing before God. With God’s law, we no longer compare ourselves with others but with God’s holy expectation. Those of us who acknowledge our inability to measure up to God’s expectation humble ourselves to receive God’s solution through Christ for a right standing with God.
If you are still trying to earn such righteousness, you are settling for less than the best. You may have an intact pride temporarily, but you will have a broken relationship with God eternally. Only through trusting Christ as your solution for righteousness can you possess a right standing with God.
The THIRD way not to settle for less than the best is to follow the One Who has first-hand experience. We read this in verses 10 and 11.
Paul wanted to know Christ and the power of Christ’s resurrection for his life. Paul didn’t want to know what others had to say about life after death, because no other person had ever died, come back to life, received a new body and ascended to Heaven. Only Christ qualified. Records of people who were raised from the dead eventually died again.
Others spoke about life after death during their lives, but never did they come back to confirm such a reality. Today, we hear silly notions like, “We’re just like the plants that die during the winter but come back to life the following spring.” I’m sorry, I just can’t make that kind of a stretch in my imagination. I don’t have roots, stems or leaves.
Still others say, “There must be life after death; I haven’t done all that I feel called to do.” I hate to tell them, but they should have managed their time better. Poor time management is no support for life after death.
Jesus Christ, on the other hand was not a dreamer in that His claim of victory over death was not an escape from reality. Christ dealt with the reality of fallen humanity. He ministered to the outcasts of society, to the sick and to the suffering. His response to His own suffering was intentional endurance for God’s redemptive process. He submitted Himself to death on a cross to pay for our sins. The principle of “following the One Who with first-hand experience” works in our spiritual life as well as every area of life.
Paul was willing to know Christ and to endure the suffering associated with knowing Christ. Paul lived according to Christ’s teachings, because Christ’s resurrection substantiated all His claims while He lived. Paul’s suffering for Christ in prison could lead to his execution or to his release. He doesn’t know yet. When Paul wrote in verse 11, “and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead,” he wasn’t sure whether he would be raised with the dead or raised from the dead.
The Bible teaches that if we trust in Christ, we too will attain the resurrection, whether by death or by Christ’s return. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 read, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him (meaning those who died). According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
In Mark 8:38, Jesus affirmed, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Putting this in the positive, Jesus is saying, “If you stand with Me now, I will stand with you later at the resurrection.” To do otherwise would be settling for less.