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Living with Jesus

The surpassing greatness of Christ is worth our everything.

From the editor:

Just below, you'll find a few introductory remarks from Francis Chan about his sermon. We want to encourage you to go ahead and watch the message on the audio player embedded in the transcript below or listen to the message by clicking here. It's quite powerful to take in Chan's sermons "live" before reading them. Also, to learn more about Francis Chan, read Francis Chan's Crazy Love, a special article by our sister site, Today's-Christian.com.

Introductory remarks from Francis Chan:

Philippians 3:1–11 has been a passage that has disturbed me for years. I would always struggle with the suffering mentioned in verse 10. As I studied it this time, though, God opened my eyes and allowed me to genuinely desire the fellowship with Christ that comes through suffering.

Becoming a Christian in the '80s, I was taught much about the "benefits" of accepting Christ, but little about the cost. It wasn't until a few years ago that I was taught about the actual joy that could come with suffering. It took a while for me to believe it. While I used to pray that I could skate through this earth with little suffering, I now pray with Paul that I could "share in [Christ's] sufferings."

The idea of martyrdom always appealed to me because of the benefits of spending eternity with the knowledge that I gave my earthly life for the cause. I just didn't want to go through the pain. There was a secret desire to die as a martyr, but to do so painlessly—a bullet through the brain or something of that sort. I know that sounds silly, but I'm just being honest! This passage took away my fears, for the most part, of suffering for Christ in any way. It has allowed me to see it as a good thing. In a time when Christians are doing everything they can to avoid the suffering, persecution, and poverty of Christ, Paul's words are critical. We need to be consumed with Jesus and Jesus alone.

Rejoicing in the Lord, not in what you've done

I love Philippians 3:1–10, because in it, Paul talks about being obsessed with Jesus Christ. He talks about being consumed to the point that everything is about Jesus—not about balancing your life or adding a little religion. He talks about getting to the point where Jesus is all that matters. That's why he writes in verse one: "Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you" (ESV).

"Rejoice in the Lord." If you rejoice in the things of life that go up and down, they're going to affect your mood. But if you rejoice in the Lord, you have a "constant" in Jesus. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He's always on his throne. Knowing that you have him as your Savior—that you have an intimacy with him—you cannot help but think, That's my one constant in life. Paul says you should rejoice in that. He says it's no trouble to write the same things again, because we all need to be reminded to rejoice in the Lord.

After the reminder to rejoice in the Lord, Paul writes in verse 2: "Look out for the dogs. Look out for the evildoers. Look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh." Paul says we need to rejoice in the Lord, and we need to look out for people that are going to keep us from focusing on Jesus. He calls these people dogs. When you hear the word dogs, you probably think, Aaaaw. But that's not what the Philippian church was thinking when they heard the word dogs. Dogs were disgusting to them. They were the scum of the earth—scavengers. When Paul mentions dogs, he is talking primarily about a group called the Judaizers—Jewish people who were focused entirely on the law. It's significant that Paul calls these people dogs, because that is the term the Jewish people used to refer to everyone who didn't believe in Yahweh God, who didn't believe in the goodness of God, his righteousness, his promises. Instead, they tried to find or create their own gods and systems of righteousness. Jews would look at them and say, "You do not believe in the true God, you dogs." But in this text Paul turns the term on fellow Jews saying: Wait a second! Now you are the ones that aren't relying on the promises of Yahweh! You are the ones who have created your own works-righteousness system. You are the dogs.

This is a foreign thought to many of us. To be politically correct, you don't call anyone a dog, right? Everyone's a good person. If they have created a system of works where they think they're going to go to heaven, you know what? They're good people, because they're working, they're trying. But that's not the way people spoke in the ancient world. That's not the way the apostle Paul spoke. He called such people dogs. He called them evildoers. Why? Because they're taking the focus off of God and putting it on themselves. They are putting confidence in their own flesh.

Paul goes on to refer to those who put confidence in flesh as "those who mutilate the flesh." I know it's kind of a weird thing to talk about, but let's talk about circumcision. When you study the Old Testament, you find that God instituted circumcision as a way for a person to align themselves with God. It was also a sign for people to separate themselves, saying, "I'm a believer in the promises of Yahweh. I believe in his goodness. I believe he is my deliverer." Circumcision was like putting on a team jersey, saying, "I'm a part of this team. I believe in the goodness of Yahweh." But circumcision was never meant to be a work by which you earned the favor of Yahweh God. It was just a way of saying you believe in the goodness of Yahweh God. What some people were doing in Paul's time—including these Judaizers—was to take circumcision and turn it into some type of work that helped them earn righteousness. They thought, If I do this, then I'll gain favor with God. But Paul doesn't even believe that they have the right to call what they are doing circumcision. He uses a different phrase. He says they are mutilating their flesh. They are cutting themselves up for the sake of their own glory, for their own righteousness. He says to the Philippian church: Beware of people like that—people who say you have to do this or do that to get the grace of God. These people are dogs. They are evildoers. Stay away from them. Don't call them good people. They're trying to keep you from trusting in the promises of God—his goodness and forgiveness and grace.

Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord." Don't rejoice in what you've done. That's what the Judaizers are doing. He says: We are the true circumcision, the real thing—we who worship by the Spirit of God. When you hear the phrase "worship by the Spirit of God," most of you think of singing, because we've reduced the idea of worship to singing songs. But that is not what the people Paul wrote to had in mind. When they heard the Greek word for worship, they weren't thinking about singing. This particular word for worship carries with it the idea of servanthood or service or coming under the authority of someone. When Paul says we are the true circumcision, he is saying that we are the ones who are really following Jesus because we're coming under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. A true follower is a person who says, "If that's what the Holy Spirit of God wants me to do, I'm going to come under that authority. I'm going to serve him. I'm going to follow him." That's much harder than singing! True followers of Christ are those who glory in Christ Jesus; those who brag about what Jesus did on the cross; those who brag about him rising from the dead. We glory in him and not by anything we've pulled off. The real followers of Yahweh put no confidence in the flesh.

I hope that's you. I hope you don't come to a church service thinking, You should have seen all the things I did this week! This isn't a gathering of a bunch of people who are confident because of what they have been able to do by their own power. Paul says the true followers of God are the ones who trust in him, the ones who glory in what he has done and not in what they have done through their own actions.

Considering everything as loss

Now Paul does something really interesting. When he considers all that the Judaizers are bragging about, he knows he has done even more. He says: If someone wants to brag, I should brag. I'm a true Jew. I was circumcised on the eighth day. I'm a part of the tribe of Benjamin. Do you want to talk about the Law? I was a Pharisee. I was the top dog! I knew the Law. Do you want to talk about zeal—about having a passion for God? Remember that I was the one persecuting the church! Do you want to talk about someone who can say, "Been there, done that"? I've done it all!

Having said all of that, Paul then says he counts it all as loss for the sake of Christ. He writes:

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.

Not only does Paul count his lineage as loss, he counts everything as loss. Why? Because he knows that nothing compares to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus. Christ's greatness is so wonderful, Paul says he was willing to suffer the loss of everything—to suffer the loss of freely giving everything away. Then Paul goes a step further. He writes: "I count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ." I believe that word rubbish is a terrible translation. No one says rubbish. Maybe if you're from England or something! The Greek word that Paul uses—"skubalos"—is actually much stronger than rubbish. This is the only time it's used in Scripture, and it's being used in its most vile form. It refers to animal excrement. Paul was looking for the most disgusting term he could think of to talk about all of his gifts and abilities and achievements, and he uses a term that means "dog crap." Really—that's what this word amounts to. Actually, if I wanted to be really biblical, really accurate, I would have to say something worse. The only reason I don't use that other word is because some of you would walk out of this room, and that's all you would remember. Still, I want you to understand how strongly Paul expresses this in his day. He is saying: All of this stuff that people brag about, it's dog crap! This righteousness that they create for themselves, I've done that and more, and I don't want anything to do with it. I've found something so much greater—Christ.

Do you think this way? Do you look at all the things that you hold in high regard—all the things that the world holds in high regard—and realize you really don't care about them? Maybe you once spent a lot of money and time on your appearance, but then you realized you just didn't care. Or maybe you used to be concerned with great moral acts or good deeds. Maybe you used to think, Look at how I climbed this corporate ladder. Or maybe you used to care about all your stuff, but now it looks like a big pile of crap. I don't really see us thinking like this in the church. I don't see us looking at things the same way that Paul did—with such disgust. Don't we see the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ and his righteousness? This is why I love the next two verses—a verse I've not been able to get out of my head for weeks now: "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." Paul says: I just want to know Jesus.

A lot of people come to church for the wrong reasons. They don't come because they want to know Jesus; they come because they want something from him. Did you come here for him? Maybe you didn't. Maybe you came because of something else. We're glad you're here. But the question is, once you get here, what are you after? What makes you come back? Churches fill their rooms every week with promises of money or health. People go to church "if God will heal me." People go to church "if God will heal my child." People go to church "if God will get me a job in this economy." Overseas, this heresy is being preached all over. In impoverished nations preachers are promising people that if they follow Jesus, he'll make them rich. So, people are coming to church in droves, thinking, I'll take Jesus if he'll make me rich. I'll take Jesus if I get to keep all the things I have. I'll take Jesus if I get to maintain this lifestyle. I'll take Jesus if I get to hold on to some of these sins, these immoral relationships. I'll take Jesus if I can still be popular, still have this, still have that. The biblical gospel has never been about "I'll come to Jesus if … ." The biblical gospel has always been about "I'll follow Jesus even if … "—even if I lose my family. Even if my health deteriorates. Even if people are throwing rocks at me. Even if I lose everything I own. I still want Jesus, because he's that great. That's the biblical gospel. We have found a treasure in Jesus Christ that is so wonderful that with great joy we say, "Take everything. I don't care. It's just a big load of crap anyway." We have found a treasure in a field so wonderful, that we can hardly believe it. We say, "Are you telling me I can have a relationship with the Creator of the universe? That he'll forgive me of everything I've ever done? That he'll welcome me into this eternal kingdom? Give it to me! Give it to me, and take everything else! As Paul says: I've lost everything, but I don't really care. Because there's a surpassing greatness to knowing Jesus, and I am consumed with knowing him. While others are focused on what they can do by their own power, I'm looking for a greater power. I want to know the power of Jesus' resurrection.

Don't you want the same things Paul wants? Don't you find yourself thinking, I'm tired of what I can accomplish by my own power. I want something more. I want Jesus. I want the power of his resurrection. Paul says that the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead now dwells inside of us. If you came to this church service thinking it will help you have a better self-image, you're missing it. This is not about you finding some power within yourself. We're talking about a power that's outside of you. We're talking about the power of the resurrection. We're talking about an intense power that can take a dead body and cause it to rise from the grave. But how can you experience this power?

Suffering with Christ

I'm willing to bet that most of you would actually prefer that verse 10 end with "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection." But Paul goes on: "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." When we read through this passage, we typically think, Yeah, I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and then we breeze over the part about sharing in his sufferings. We're making a big mistake if we skip over that part, because it's beautiful. The Greek word for share is the word "koinonia," from which we get the word fellowship. The text could literally be translated "to fellowship in his sufferings." I'll be honest: when I first heard about Christianity and started following Jesus, I didn't want any suffering. No one told me that I needed to suffer or that there would be any suffering. Like many of you, I was a product of the "Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" school of thought—a school that spoke of fun, happiness, a sense of fulfillment. I remember that one of my first prayers was: God, please don't take away any of my friends or my popularity. I was saying that I wanted Jesus, but I didn't actually want to follow him or become like him. At that time the church was creating a new brand of Christianity that said you could call yourself a Christian or a follower of Jesus without necessarily having to follow him—that somehow you could be a follower of Christ and yet look nothing like him. I was a product of that system. But then a verse like this comes a long—a call to share in Christ's sufferings.

Paul was so consumed with Christ, that when he discovered that suffering would draw him closer to Christ, he said: I'm willing to experience it—because I want Jesus. Think about this level of fellowship. Remember when Jesus was telling his disciples that he was going to go to the cross? It was a devastating time for them. I wonder: What if I had been there? What if you had been there, and Jesus said, "I want you to suffer the cross with me. I don't want to go to the cross by myself. I want you to be next to me the whole time. Everything that happens to me will happen to you, because I want that fellowship with you"? Would I want that? Would you? I've watched The Passion of the Christ. All of that pain—it makes us sick to our stomachs. What if I was stretched out like Jesus, and people were beating me? You want to talk about fellowship? Can you imagine the power of looking the Son of God in the eyes while you suffer together? Imagine the intimacy you would have with the Son of God. Imagine the intimacy as you're walking up that hill, carrying a crossbeam while he's beside you. Think about the things you would talk about. Can you imagine that type of intimacy with Jesus? As someone hammers a nail into his hands and he's screaming, and then they do it to you, can you imagine looking at each other? Can you imagine the fellowship of sharing in that type of suffering together? Can you imagine the closeness you would feel with Jesus as you're hanging on a cross next to him? This might sound crazy to you, but I would love that. I really would! Can you imagine the security you would have of being side by side with the Son of God—what fellowship and connection you would have with the Creator of the universe? I want that.

I've been reading different biographies about people who have suffered for the sake of the gospel. I read about a man named Bruce Olsen. He was in a hut, and the people he was trying to minister to were shooting arrows at him. Olsen was thinking, God, what am I doing here? I'm trying to witness to these people, and they're trying to kill me! He said that in that moment, he felt like Jesus was right there beside him, revealing the cross to him. Olsen said that he experienced the cross like never before—like there was a fellowship being shared that could only happen in suffering.

When I visited Korea, I had dinner with a man who had been imprisoned with his church by the Taliban. Korean believers were being taken from their cells and being killed one at a time. The remaining were eventually rescued and brought back to Seoul. I found out that since they have been back, all the people who had been imprisoned had come to their pastor, one at a time, and said, "Don't you wish we were still imprisoned by the Taliban?" They wanted to go back because they had been so close to Jesus. Each person said, "I wish I was still in that cell guarded by the Taliban, because I was so close to Jesus—and that's better than all this other stuff."

All of this reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Remember them? They wouldn't bow to the pagan idols, so they were thrown into a fiery furnace. Do you remember what happened? The guards who threw them in said, "Wait a second! We threw three of them in there. Why are there four people in there?" There was a fellowship taking place in the midst of suffering.

Remember the story of Stephen in the Book of Acts? When Stephen was sharing the gospel, the people became so angry with him, and as they're all just about ready to stone him to death, he says: I see Jesus. There was a fellowship with Jesus during his suffering that he had never had before.

The truth is, we're not going to experience that kind of fellowship outside of experiencing the suffering of Christ. Those of us who want Jesus bad enough, we can pray to God, saying, "God, I want some of that suffering. I do. I have found in Christ something so great that I think the more I suffer for his name's sake, the more Christ I'll get. Give it to me, because Christ is better than all of this other stuff."


I don't want us to leave our time together just saying these things. We can get good at that. We say things, but we often don't really mean them. I don't want you to pray the kind of prayer I just outlined if you don't mean it. A lot of people have said these things, but then they do everything they can to avoid suffering. We'll avoid persecution by not sharing our faith. We don't want to share in the poverty of Christ. Or maybe we just want to avoid the humiliation, the pain. We run from suffering because we don't believe that Christ is better than our comfort. But Paul is the exact opposite. Paul says: I want it all. I want to suffer like he did, because I want to rise like he did. I want to know Christ. I want everything about him. I'm consumed with him. I'm obsessed with him.

We need to be honest with God. It's not like we're going to trick him! Maybe we need to start with this prayer: God, I actually like Jesus. I want some more Jesus, but not to the point of suffering. Be honest and tell him that. Tell him that's not your heart right now, but that you would like to be that obsessed with Jesus. Tell him you're not there yet. Tell him you don't want Christ's suffering. Tell him you don't want his sacrifice. Tell him you don't want his poverty. Tell him you don't want his persecution. Tell him you want the crown of gold without the crown of thorns. Tell him you want to know the power of his resurrection, but that you want to skip the suffering part. But then tell him that you know that's not right. Tell him that you want to be consumed with Christ, and you believe he's better than your comfort. And someday soon, maybe you'll be at the point where you come before God and pray, God, I believe there is more of you to experience through suffering. I know that once the suffering comes, I won't enjoy it as much as I thought I might. But I don't want to end my life so comfortably. I want to know Christ. I want to know his power, and I want to know his suffering. I want to somehow attain the power of resurrection. I want it all. I want everything of Jesus.

To see an outline of Chan's sermon, click here.

For your reflection:

Personal growth: How has this sermon fed your own soul?

Skill growth: What did this sermon teach you about how to preach?

Exegesis and exposition: Highlight the paragraphs in this sermon that helped you better understand Scripture. How does the sermon model ways you could provide helpful biblical exposition for your hearers?

Theological Ideas: What biblical principles in this sermon would you like to develop in a sermon? How would you adapt these ideas to reflect your own understanding of Scripture, the Christian life, and the unique message that God is putting on your heart?

Outline: How would you improve on this outline by changing the wording, or by adding or subtracting points?

Application: What is the main application of this sermon? What is the main application of the message you sense God wants you to bring to your hearers?

Illustrations: Which illustrations in this sermon would relate well with your hearers? Which cannot be used with your hearers, but they suggest illustrations that could work with your hearers?

Credit: Do you plan to use the content of this sermon to a degree that obligates you to give credit? If so, when and how will you do it? (For help on what may require credit, see "Plagiarism, Schmagiarism" and "Stolen Goods: Tempted to Plagiarize".

Francis Chan is an American Protestant author, teacher, and preacher.

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Sermon Outline:

Rejoicing in the Lord, not in what you've done

Considering everything as loss

Suffering with Christ


Christ and his sufferings are better than our comfort.