Friday, January 27, 2012

Count It All Loss

Our women's Bible study has been moving through the book of Philippians at, frankly, a faster clip than I'd like.  These are some of the pages in my Bible that are underlined and note-scribbled, without ever having heard a sermon series on the whole book.  Many sermons reference passages in Philippians, and many studies cross-reference to it, and many, many times the lessons found there have been a balm to my soul.

One of the resources which I am using to help me better understand our study is James Montgomery Boice's Expositional Commentary, drawn from his sermons through the book of Philippians.  He preached on this book for a year and a half.  Many of the chapters, and therefore his sermons, deal with only one verse.  The first line of the preface explains, in part, why so many are drawn to this book of the Bible.

"Any Christian who is feeling down or discouraged about anything should study Paul's great letter to the Philippians"


As I said, we're moving right through it, and have only one lesson left before we move to the book of James.  Before it's too far behind me I want to return to a passage which was not only deeply convicting, but timely as well.

"For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 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: (and then Paul goes on to list the benefits of his ancestry and his many accomplishments) 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.  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."  Philippians 3:3-8

Now, mind you, this was already underlined in my Bible.  That last part anyway.  I couldn't relate to what Paul is saying about how very perfect he considered himself to be until he met Christ.  I may have thought I was alright, but I never considered myself to be righteous in respect to the law of Moses.  Since I have become a Christian, I now know that it is by Christ's righteousness that I am saved, and none of my own non-existent merit.

And yet, the way that Dr. Boice explains this portion of Scripture in his commentary brought me up short.  He explains that what Paul is doing here is giving us a peek at his Profit/Loss ledger.  Before his conversion Paul had a long list of things in his profit column: ancestry, accomplishments, etc.  Yet, after his conversion, he looked at his ledger and realized that every one of those things were actually liabilities, and the only thing that belonged in the profit column was Jesus Christ.

And this got me to thinking; what do I have scribbled in my own profit column?

Oh- not me.  I haven't anything of my own in any old profit column!  Of course not.  I'll quote you all the verses now for why that column is empty of myself and my doings.  Psh... how could that even be possible?

But wait—

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"  Jeremiah 17:9

And so I raise the curtain on this corner of my heart, and shed some light on the ledger.  And there, beside the all-sufficiency of my Lord Jesus Christ, I see faintly scribbled:  reputation.

I may not have much, but, by golly, I have my reputation.  At least, I have an idea of what I want my reputation to be.  When I look closely I can discern what I have written there for my own little biographical sketch.

Barbaranne has come through many a trial, clinging closely to her Lord and growing in Him day by day, from glory to glory.  Though He slay her, yet she trusts in Him.  She has raised her children on prayer and faith, and is even now suffering the loss of Her Own Time in order to homeschool her two youngest.  Her husband has been unemployed this long time, and yet her faith only grows, as evidenced by the tender smile on her trusting brow anytime one asks how she is managing to cope with the hardship.  Diligent in leading Bible studies for the women in her church, she is deeply convicted that knowing Christ and the character of God is crucial for real peace of mind in this troubled world in which we live.

At first glance this doesn't look so very bad.  But look closer; the emphasis is mostly on me.  I want to be known for what the Lord has given me instead of making my Lord known through His grace and mercy.

Oh Father forgive me!  How vile and wicked this now reads.  Too much of me, with my precious Lord as merely an accomplice.  There is no eraser strong enough to remove this blot from my heart— and so the Great Physician must again use His scalpel.

Yes, the Lord has brought me through many a trail.  Yes, He has sustained me, led me, held me back from the brink of many an abyss.  He has taught and nurtured me and caused me to grow to love His Word.  All of these things are good and right and true.  And all of these gifts are all of Him.  None of me.

So what does this change?  I'm still figuring this out.  But shining the light of truth on the lie that I've written on my own heart will give me a clearer view of where I have been wrong, and therefore where I must step around the mess in order to continue forward in my journey with my Shepherd.  (There I go again.)

Rather, my Shepherd will guide my steps.

"The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake."
Psalm 23:1-3

For His name's sake; not for mine.

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