Monday Reverb – 09October2023

WELCOME and THANKS for joining us.





  • The theme this week is the incomparable gift of knowing Christ.
  • The Gospel reading from Matthew 21 presents a parable that boldly confronts those who reject Jesusbringing great peril to themselves.
  • The text from Philippians 3:4-14 presents Paul counting all things as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.



Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Have you ever been offered something that you thought was too good to be true?
  • What assurance do we have that the relationship God offers us in Jesus is incomparable to anything else we may be holding onto?



What Do You Value Most?

Philippians 3:4b-14 (ESV)

What do you value most?  That is an unavoidable question that will surface from our passage today in Paul’s letter to believers in Philippi.  If we were to make a list of the things most Americans value today, what do you think would be on it?  Certainly, time and money would rank high.  Career and success would also be found at the top of many lists.  Perhaps many would say their families and friends.  And in our hyper health-conscious society, certainly good health would rank high.  What would be on your list?

This passage will begin with Paul making a list of many top-tier credentials that would be considered highly valuable in his day and age.  But he will give us a surprising twist to how he views this list of “most valuables.”  And to be clear, Paul is not giving us a list of things we should not be thankful for, or things we should avoid.  He is going to share with us something he knows that will expose our usual list of coveted values to be worthless by comparison.

Paul has a reason he is making this contrast.  Ultimately, he is arguing against placing what he calls, “confidence in the fleshas our top valuePaul had just been warning against some false teachers that were insisting on the Jewish tradition of circumcision for a person to be counted as a “real” Christ follower.  Paul will not stand idly by as these self-proclaimed teachers attempt to burden his fellow brothers and sisters by imposing external rituals.  The Gentile believers in Philippi already had enough challenges to deal with simply by living in the culture they were in.  Philippi had been under Roman rule for two centuries before Paul penned this letter.  These Gentile Christians proclaimed Jesus as Lord and Savior in the backyard of the Emperor who reserved those titles for himself.

For a bit of historical background: After the Romans began to dominate the Greek world, Rome’s senior leaders were given the same divine honors as the former Greek rulers.  In cult-like fashion, each city declared their allegiance and committed their population to obey and respect their new rulers.  Emperor Claudius (ruling from 41 AD to 54 AD) was reluctant to be worshiped, which was interpreted as offensive to the Senate, provincials, and the imperial office.  His successor, Nero, became emperor in 54 AD, just prior to the time Paul wrote to the Philippians.  Soon after ascending to the throne, Nero became infatuated with visions of his own grandeur, built a worship center to himself, and restored ruler-worship throughout his empire.  He also elevated family members of former emperors.

Christians were already dealing with intense pressure to conform to external religious, political, and economic expectations to be considered devoted citizens of the Roman Empire.  Now they were getting the same treatment from some false teachers whose devotion was more to Jewish custom than to Jesus.  Paul is passionate in countering their claims and protecting his fellow Christians.

Do we not face the same pressures today?  We too live in a culture that is increasingly difficult to proclaim allegiance to Jesus without being ostracized and belittled.  To stand against current cultural trends that run counter to the ways of Jesus can land you in some hot water.  On top of that, there is always some self-proclaimed teacher or super preacher who wants to add to your identity in Christ some external rule you should follow.  And it is usually some external rule that serves their purposes of achieving what they value most.  May we hear Paul’s words to us today as a reminder that all our greatest values are nothing to compare to the immeasurable blessing of knowing the true Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let’s begin by looking at Paul’s own list that once directed his life.

Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6 ESV)

Paul is not bragging about his unique status.  Rather, he is making a comparison to undermine the false teacher’s claims.  If the real life of being a Jesus follower means external qualifications, then Paul should be tops with nothing to prove.  Paul lists seven qualifiers that would accentuate his credentials to place “confidence in the flesh.”  With these seven qualifications, he covers four values we may be tempted to rely on for our identity and worth.

Background and Heritage:

Paul can look to his upbringing and family name for his confidence as he was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews.”  In his Jewish culture, that would be a prized heritage.  Heritage was respected not only in the Jewish community, but also by the Gentiles.  To Paul’s Gentile audience, the longer ancestry a Greek family could establish, the more credibility that family would enjoy in social standing in the community.  We too may be tempted to place our confidence in some heritage we were born into or raised up in. It could be anything from where you are from, what race you are, what denomination or church you belong to, or your family name and reputationIf someone wanted to appeal to your heritage as a way to shift your trust from Jesus, they may find a stronghold if background and heritage are high on your list of what is most important.

Education and Training:

Paul makes it clear he has been given a top education with his statement, “as to the law, a Pharisee.”  For us, an acclaimed education may come from having a degree from a top Ivy League school.  Or maybe it is the letters we have next to our name.  For others, the school-of-hard-knocks can be claimed as the superior training that sets you apart.  It is a temptation to place our trust in whatever we see as the most valuable education rather than in Jesus the Master Teacher.

Religious and Political Convictions:

Paul adds to his list the statement, “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church.”  Paul could never be accused of not living what he preached.  He was zealous for Judaism; only later did he realize his zeal was misplaced.  In our polarizing climate, we too can rate our worth by how active and vocal we are in our alignment with some religious or political conviction.  We may be tempted to jump on the latest social bandwagon being paraded as something of chief importance.  But as Paul learned, without knowing Jesus, zeal can actually work against the very thing you think you are trying to save.


Paul concludes his list by pointing to his impeccable lifestyle with, “as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”  Of course, Paul is referring to a “righteousness” that had everything to do with following external Jewish laws as interpreted by Pharisaic teachingWe too can place our confidence in a lifestyle that has been marked out by certain external practices as a superior way of livingEven a sinful lifestyle can become a means for boasting in a culture that makes up its own rules.

Now that Paul has listed all his trophies that would give him reason to place confidence in the flesh, he will now proceed to throw them all in the trash.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11 ESV)

This section begins with the transition “But,” and what a transition Paul lays out.  What was once considered great gain is now, compared to Christ, counted as a complete loss.  Paul expands his point to include counting “everything” as a loss through this comparison.  And notice what is being compared!  External measurements with that of “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  Paul is passionate about making his point to his brothers and sisters who are being tempted to put their confidence in the fleshPaul knows this for the lie that it is because he knows JesusHe knows the difference Jesus makes.  Our translation cleans up Paul’s language a bit with the word “rubbish.”  But Paul is using the word skyballa which translates more directly to “refuse” or “excrement.”  Compared to knowing Christ, all these other things we may be tempted to place our confidence in, Paul bluntly says is a pile of … well, you get the picture.  And in a world that was lacking in effective sewage systems, his audience certainly got the picture.  It was a point Paul felt passionate about making.

Paul is also contrasting his old mindset and actions with a new way of thinking and living.  He does this by first using accounting language of gains and losses.  The point of a profit and loss statement is to show whether the business was profitable or not at the end of the day.  What Paul equates to profit is attainingthe resurrection from the dead.”  For Paul, everything in the “flesh” column added up to nothing.  The only thing that gained the profit was knowing Jesus.  Paul has come to know that it is only in his union with Christ that he will stand before God.  All his other natural qualities or achievements will not contribute to that standing in the least bit.  So, it is pointless to put our trust in them to that end.

Paul then switches from accounting language and uses some athletic imagery to further portray the value of Christ.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)

Paul lives in the real knowledge that we have not arrived at the fullness of God’s kingdom.  He knows that we still struggle and strive in this time between the times.  So, Paul can state that he has not already obtained the resurrection or is already perfect.  But that does not mean we stop striving, only we stop striving to qualify ourselves on our own merits.  Paul now strives for knowing Jesus.  Or as Paul puts it, “I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”  Jesus has already made the resurrection and the kingdom a reality, even if we can’t fully or perfectly participate in it nowBut we can still “press on” towards knowing Jesus as we move toward the finish line because we know it’s the only race worth running.  Paul emphasizes that as we press on, we do so “forgetting what lies behind.” In other words, forget striving in the flesh or “in the confidence of the flesh.”  That’s all in the past no matter what some false teacher is trying to sell you.

For Paul, and for us, knowing Christ is ultimately what we value the most.  This side of heaven we may not fully experience this in the way we will in the resurrection.  But if knowing Christ, and his Father by the Spirit, is the most valuable thing we can do with our lives, then why waste a single day not striving to know him a little moreKnowing him as the one who is trustworthy, knowing his Father who has embraced us in his Son, knowing that all things are counted as loss compared to this life found in Christ, why would we not put our full trust in this reality and try to live into it with every step and breath of our lives?    


Small Group Discussion Questions

From the Sermon

  • What things would you think people would put on a list of what they value most?
  • What are some examples of putting our trust in what we value most over putting our trust in Christ?
  • In what ways can we rely on our background and heritage instead of trusting Christ?
  • In what ways can we rely on our education and training instead of trusting Christ?
  • In what ways can we rely on our religious and political convictions instead of trusting Christ?
  • In what ways can we rely on our lifestyle instead of trusting Christ?
  • Why do you think Paul uses such graphic and strong language in comparing “confidence in the flesh” with trusting Jesus?
  • Using Paul’s athletic imagery, what does it look like to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”?


Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!  For we are the circumcision, who worship [a]God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,  4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh …

Read full chapter

  1. Philippians 3:3 NU, M in the Spirit of God

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 

For we are the circumcision, who worship [a]God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh.  If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved.

For we who worship by the Spirit of God[b] are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

 Philippians 3:4b-14 NKJV   Philippians 3:4b-14 NLT 

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

11 if, by any means, I may attain[a] to the resurrection from the dead.   

12 Not that I have already attained,[b] or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have [c]apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  

  1. Philippians 3:11 Lit. arrive at
  2. Philippians 3:12 obtained it
  3. Philippians 3:13 laid hold of it

 4 Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.[c] For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Pressing toward the Goal

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[d] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 

  1. 3:1 Greek brothers; also in 3:13, 17.
  2. 3:3 Some manuscripts read worship God in spirit; one early manuscript reads worship in spirit.
  3. 3:9 Or through the faithfulness of Christ.
  4. 3:13 Some manuscripts read not yet achieved it.

re. Philippians 3:13 … “those things” is used twice.  What things?

re: Philippians 3:14,12-14 … “press” is used twice … Is it referring to the same thing? What is he pressing for?






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