But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.…
The Christian keeps an accurate account book. He reckons up with an enlightened judgment his gains and losses. And most important is it that he should: for the question of questions is, What is gain to me and what is loss?
I. The ANSWER GIVEN BY THE WORLD. Examine the accounts of nine-tenths and you will find —
1. Health and money entered as clear gains, comfort, ease, tranquillity, prosperity, carried to the side of profit.
2. Sickness, disappointment, contraction of the means of pleasure, decay of trade, sorrow, bereavement, entered as unmixed loss.
3. And when we come to matters bearing on the interest of the soul we find that the natural heart has entered on the side of eternal gain, good character, punctuality of attendance at Christian ordinances, a conscience silent as to definite injuries against neighbours. And gain it is in a sense, for it is better to have a good conscience than a bad one, to be moral than immoral. St. Paul says no word about morality being a loss, or that he would have valued Christ more had he been a greater sinner.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S ANSWER. For Christ's sake Paul now accounts as loss all that he had once accounted gain. He was an Israelite of direct descent. Would he have been a better man had he been born a Gentile and an idolater? He had been blameless in his observance of the ceremonial, and, as he understood it, of the moral law — does he regret that he had not habitually broken it? None of these things. The loss was that he had trusted in these things, and looked to them for salvation. He thought that God must be satisfied with so unexceptionable a genealogy, so diligent a worshipper.
2. In this point of view many of us need instruction and warning. What are we trusting in?
(1) Some of us are putting off the question altogether and saying, "I will live while I can and die when I must; I will not torment myself before the time — many years hence I hope."(2) But this childish and suicidal infatuation is not in all of us. There are those who have religion. What is it? Is it more than a moral life, a Sunday worship, a trusting in God's mercy? But where is Christ in all this? What know you of the thought, "What things were gain to me," etc? What of your own are you discarding in order to rest in Christ alone? Where are your transfers from one side of your reckoning to the other because of Christ? And many of us die in the strength of a gospel which has no Christ in it; no demolition of self, either of self-confidence or seeking, and no exaltation of Christ on the ruins of self, either as Saviour or Lord. We are at best what St. Paul was before his conversion — alas, without his good conscience or scrupulous obedience.
Parallel VersesKJV: But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.