Today’s Treasure–Tomorrow’s Trash

Text: Philippians 3:3-7

For we who worship by the Spirit of God 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! 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.

INTRODUCTION

I want to say first of all that it is hard for a Western Gentile to understand what Paul is talking about. Many bible label this section Paul’s Credentials. Credentials are qualifications, achievements, personal quality, or aspect of a person’s background, typically when used to indicate that they are suitable for something. We look at Paul’s list and snigger: what’s so great about being a Jew or being of the tribe of Benjamin. It like “Who cares?” Or “What’s the big deal.” One thing to keep in mind is that Paul is writing to some Jewish Christians and they can relate to what he is saying. The people who are stirring up trouble in the church of Philippi are Jews who claim to be Christians but who refuse to let go of Judaism. The point Paul is making is that at one time in his life he treasured Judaism but now his treasure is Christ and he is ready to discard Judaism. This testimony was hard to the Jewish Christian and the false teachers. Judaism is big on history and it focuses on the past; the Jews did not want to let go of the past.

There are two things in play here that I want to point out: FIRST–CHRIST IS SUPERIOR TO JUDAISM. Christianity has a Savior, an active and faithful High Priest. The Judaism of the Old Testament had the promise of a Savior and faithful [perfect] High Priest. The Old Testament is full of type of Christ but everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus. In other words, Judaism is the ‘seed’ and Jesus is the ‘flower’. The seed must die to produce the flower. We glory in the beauty of the flower, we don’t glory in the history of the seed. This is where our Jewish friends have missed the boat; their focus is on the past. In Christianity, our focus is on the future. We love the Old Testament because it points to Christ; they reject the New Testament because it glorifies Christ.

What Paul is saying in Philippians 3 is huge, it is earth shaking to the Jewish mindset. How could Paul give up Judaism for Christ? How could Paul refer to his former religions as garbage or trash to be discarded? Jews are stubborn by nature and they refuse to let go of the old to embrace the new. Jesus said in Mark 2:22, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” Judaism cannot contain Christianity because Christianity is vastly superior; it is greater, so much greater that Judaism does not have the capacity to contain it. The false teachers in Philippians who were called Judaizers were trying to put new wine in old skins.

SECOND: THE JEWISH TENDENCY IS A HUMAN TENDENCY. Luke elaborates on Jesus quote [5:37-39], “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.Did you get that last line, Jesus was directing this toward the Jews. They rejected the new {Christ} and cherished the old {Judaism}. Jesus was trying to give them something better, and upgrade if you will and they refused.

Why did the Jews cling to the old and refuse to even taste the New? I know a family, a good family that began with nothing and became millionaires. Fortunately, it has not changed them. They are as common and down to earth as anyone you know. They would be the last folks you would pull out of a line up for being wealthy because they can remember what it was like not to be wealthy and they have a heart for people. The Patriarch and Matriarch of the clan has been promoted but some years before their departure: the kids and grandkids insisted that they get a new TV. They said, “We don’t want a new TV. There is nothing wrong with the one we have.” It was an old console model from the 60’s. The kids over ruled them and got them a new plaza TV, not a big one, they would not year of a 55″ but a small one 32″. They had them set it up on top of the old one. It stayed that way for a couple of years and then they moved the old model to the garage and put the new one on a stand. Every time I visited them they reminded me that they did not need the new TV, the old one was fine. They even offered it to me. They kept it in the garage in case someone needed it. Their kids new and I knew that the only place for that dinosaur was the city dump.

I am not anti-tradition but I want the best. If something comes along that works much better than what I have, I am all for it. My first computer back in the late 80’s was basically a word processor. Today, I have a computer in my office at work and three at home [two are lap tops]. I do everything on the computer except read. I still enjoy reading books. I do all my research on a computer. I know folks that will not allow a computer in their house. I do know that the internet can be harmful but to me it is very helpful. I can do more research faster. I do not want to go back to the old. I embrace change. I embrace the new.

I don’t have anything against traditions if they have meaning but I don’t want to do something just for the sake of doing something.

THIRD: GRACE IS VASTLY BETTER THAN THE LAW

Paul knew what it was like to live under the tyranny of the law. The law is perfect and good but it has no ability to show mercy and it makes no provision for grace. In Romans 7 Paul talks about the two husbands: the first is Mr. Law, he is perfect and he demands perfection. He makes no allowance for falling short. The second husband is Mr. Grace; he too is perfect but he is understanding and forgiving. He demands perfection but he works with us enabling us to do what pleases him.

I’ve been thinking about this contrast since I began working on this message. As Paul will state later in chapter 3, “I have not arrived: I have not attained any degree of perfection” but I do see God’s grace actively working in my life. I have been thinking about the things I once treasured and how irrelevant these things seem to be today.

As a young man and preacher, I hated to read. I didn’t even enjoy reading the bible. I did my daily bible reading most of the time and I studied to teach and preach but just to read the bible for the sake of reading was not my thing. I am ashamed to say that I was in my 50’s before bible reading became a passion. I don’t think it would ever have happened had the LORD not put it on my heart to read the bible through in a year. I had tried several times and failed which is pitiful. So, out of fear of failure, I picked a modern translation, a bible that was easy to read and then the miracle happened. After three months or so, I began looking forward to my bible reading time. Long story short, I did not read the bible through in a year, it was more like 6 months and then I found another version and started all over. I have read the bible through from Genesis to Revelation and from Revelation to Genesis. I have read it chronologically, I have read it in sections which is what I do today. Last year, I focused on the N.T. and read it four or five times in different translation. I read the Message in a month. My latest bible is the KINGDOM NEW TESTAMENT by N.T. Wright. I started on it this morning. I don’t have to make myself read: I am anxious about reading, excited with every new bible and new translation.

Now this is just one area where I see God’s grace at work, there are more. What I treasured as a young man is trash to me today, I no longer value what I once treasured. I have let a lot of things go. By grace God has taken them one by one. This is not an instantaneous thing, God works over time. Paul had a hard time breaking from Judaism. Long after his conversion, he was driven by his desire to be in Jerusalem at Pentecost and the like. He got arrested for being in the Temple, fulfilling an O.T. vow that has nothing to do with Christianity. I think he did it to please James and the others but why would James even suggest such a thing, let alone put pressure on Paul. It was because they had a hard time letting go of the old and fully embracing the new. It is human nature to hang on, to cling when we feel threatened with loss. Growing up I was a avid lover of sports and fanatical fan but I am losing my love for sports. I have a little less every year. I watch a little baseball, no basketball to speak of until they get to the NCAA tournament. I have not watched an NBA game in over 2 years and after the way the NFL did Tim Tebow, I have lost interest in professional football. What happened to the old Jack Bailey. I know age has something to do with it, but I credit it to God’s active grace working in my life.

Things that I once treasured no longer have any meaning or value.

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