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Deep Simplicities – I Count All Things But Loss

Young people, consider with me the deep meaning of the simple phrase, “I count all things but loss,” found in the context of Philippians 3:7-9, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

John Calvin poses the question, “Why loss? Because they were hindrances in the way of his [Paul’s] coming to Christ. What is more hurtful than anything that keeps us back from drawing near to Christ?” (Calvin’s Commentaries, Philippians). The things in this life that were gain to us, such as entertainment, possessions, pride, etc . . ., we now claim as loss for Christ. These things often clutter the relationship we have with our Father. Notice what Paul says concerning these things that we “counted loss for Christ.” Consider verse 8: “. . . and [I] do count them but dung. . .” The dung here refers to what is thrown out. It’s garbage! All the things we might lose in the way of taking up our crosses and following Christ we count as dung. We don’t even want those things when we truly realize the treasure we have in Christ; and that treasure is eternal!

Let’s allow ourselves a short analogy. You have a dirty room. You have clothes on the floor that needed to be washed weeks ago. There is dust all over your furniture. Your room stinks like old, forgotten school lunches buried under the mess. Your mother tells you to clean it, and clean it now, or else consequences will ensue. Paul in these verses is telling us to clean our lives. He is telling us to remove the clutter that is darkening our relationship with God.  He recognizes the very real danger of letting the things we often count as gain in our lives – entertainment, possessions, pride, and the list goes on – get in the way of what really matters during the short time we have here on this earth. How much money we make, what we do for fun on the weekend, what we are going to wear to school tomorrow—none of this matters! We cannot go through life looking toward what the next Friday night might bring. Rather, we need to be looking at life, asking ourselves these questions: How can I better serve my God? How can I shape my life based on what God has accomplished for me through his Son? We must be constantly looking toward the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ on the clouds of glory and planning our lives around this reality. On that day there will be nothing left on this earth. Nothing else will matter. We will be taken to glory to be with him everlastingly. Eternity with Christ is our everlasting treasure and future, not the distractions of this earthly life. The promise of this secure treasure is found in Matthew 6:19-21: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

It is incredibly easy for us as young people to lose our proper perspective of life. The distractions are innumerable. The devil works through all of these to try to pull us away from our faith in Christ and our view of life that is the fruit of this faith. We read, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Satan wants our hearts to be set on the diversions of this world. Anything that we do to distract ourselves from a proper Christ-centered life is pleasing to Satan. His one goal for our lives is to pull us away from God.

One of the ways the devil is trying to pull us away from true communion with God is through the heresy of the prosperity gospel. Prosperity theology teaches that the Christian’s relationship with God is a contract. If man has faith in God, God will bless him with “health and wealth.” John Piper, a major opponent of the prosperity gospel, loathingly addresses the issue in one of his sermons[1]: “I don’t know what you feel about the prosperity gospel . . . but, I’ll tell you what I feel about it—hatred. It is not the gospel . . . believe this message, and your pigs won’t die, and your wife won’t have miscarriages, and you’ll have rings on your fingers and coats on your back . . . here is the reason it is so horrible. When was the last time that any [one] ever said, Jesus is all-satisfying because you drove a BMW?  Never!” This so-called gospel of, “you pat God’s back and he’ll pat yours,” is pure idolatry. Prosperity theology is teaching people to trust in cars and money, because when they have health, wealth, and safety, it must mean that God is shining down in favor on them! Piper puts it well when he says, “It elevates gifts above the giver.” People with health and wealth say, “Look at what I’ve gotten because I believe in Christ. I have a good job, my family is healthy, my kids are smart and will probably make a lot of money too. . .” Others look at this and are drawn toward Christ based purely on idolatrous notions. People believing the lie of the prosperity gospel are allowing earthly gain to clutter their relationships with God.

We as believers of the true Christ are called have a different way of thinking. It’s simple: I don’t deserve any of this. I don’t deserve the money God has blessed me with. I don’t deserve the home God has given me. I don’t deserve the car God has given me (rusty or brand new) I don’t deserve the church I am a part of. I don’t deserve the friends God has given me. I don’t deserve the wife or husband God has given me. Most of all, I don’t deserve the sacrifice Christ made to free me from my sin and guilt! This is the perspective we must have as we go through life.

Young people, many of you are either in college or are thinking about college. With this comes the decision of what career you will pursue. Many of you might pursue a career that will bring you a large paycheck. There is nothing wrong with this. However, we are instructed in Psalm 62:10, “If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” Wealth is an undeserved blessing from God. Now what do we do with this blessing? Do we set our heart on wealth and waste it on all the earthly gain this world has to offer, or do we spend it on kingdom causes: the poor, missions, evangelism, Christian education, etc? If God blesses us with earthly wealth, we need to have wisdom in how we use it.

The devil uses the world to place right in our laps: sinful entertainment, opportunities for self-pride, and a love of earthly possessions. Billboards on the highway scream at us to “get rich!” as if that is to be our only goal in life. Advertisements suggest to us how we ought to dress in order to look better than our neighbors. Our televisions blare God-defaming agendas right in our homes. Computers bring whatever the heart desires with a couple clicks of the mouse. All these things are irresistible to our sinful human nature. By nature we love all of these things and hate God’s word.

How do we then fight against our natural affection for the gain of this world? We live a life of sacrifice. We live a life of self-denial. We find “distractions” from our earthly distractions. Turn off the television and pick up a good theological book or Christian periodical. We need to immerse ourselves in things pertaining to God and his word. We must constantly say to ourselves: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This confession in John 3:30 ought to be our daily declaration. In this passage, John is making way for Christ. He is throwing away all the honor and prestige those around him have heaped on his name. He is suffering the loss of all things, and with Paul confesses that they are but dung when compared to Christ’s honor, and the “excellency of knowledge” of Christ. So also must we put off the things that are distracting us from true communion with God.

Young people, remember this: God is sufficient! Nothing else matters! Through all of our suffering, in all of our health, through all our insufficiencies, in all of our wealth, GOD IS SUFFICIENT! Let us take our lives into consideration. If there are things in our lives that are getting in the way of our relationship with God, they are garbage and we need to throw them out. These are hard words for us to hear because by nature we love the “noise” of the world; but this is the true and pure gospel that God has revealed to us. Nothing of this earth, neither ourselves, nor our possessions can or ever will avail us anything when we take that God-assisted step back in faith and look at eternity. Let us then pray to God, the giver of all good things, to instill in us a continual zeal for the things of his heavenly kingdom; and that we may by faith count for loss those things that are of this earth.

[1] Video on YouTube is titled John Piper and the Prosperity Gospel. Although this video is not necessarily reformed in perspective, Piper brings out the ridiculous nature of the prosperity gospel.