New Year Reflections on Philippians 3

At the start of this new year, it’s so easy to make ‘new year, new me’ goals. But what God desires is
more than external, albeit good, lifestyle goal changes. What God desires is an undivided heart; one
resolution is truly required – ‘that you would resolve to follow Christ in faith, all the days of your life’
(Emily Jensen). A resolution on the inside, yet the most important resolution we could ever make –
at any point in the year!
This is reflected in the passage below, written by the apostle Paul.
Philippians 3:7-14 ‘
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is
more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for
whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him,
not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith
in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to
know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his
death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take
hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to
have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is
ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ
In it, Paul passionately writes to the church in Philippi to keep on keeping on, to challenge them to
lay themselves down for the sake of the gospel, the Good News of Jesus that has saved them. He
challenges them to keep looking forwards, not behind, and to stir their passion for making Jesus
known, not holding onto anything that would hold them back. Paul exhorts the Philippian church to
‘consider everything else a loss’ or even ‘garbage’ compared to knowing Jesus. He’s not saying that
those things aren’t precious or valuable, but in comparison to intimacy and closeness to Jesus, they
are but nothing. What struck me in this, was Paul’s bold declaration of how precious and personal
Jesus is to him. He says he has found those things garbage in comparison to knowing ‘Jesus MY
Lord’. This is a man who has a real life-turn-around encounter with God’s grace, and his friendship
with Jesus is the most valuable thing he could ever have. This is my prayer for my life: that I wouldn’t
know more about Jesus but that I would, year on year, know Him more and more as MY Lord in
increasing measure of intimacy and friendship.
And yet there’s a choice. Sometimes when I read this, I think that the desired and often ‘good’ things
will automatically appear less lovely, less enticing or desirable when I come to know Jesus. But the
reality I’ve found in my life is that I have to choose Jesus first – as I do that and move towards Him,
the other things become gradually less significant. I fix my eyes forwards and up I have less desire to
look to the side or back; but the ‘’ bit of this is that it can also be really hard at times! The
pull and strain is real. The battle is real.
Paul says that he considers the things that he has laid down ‘garbage, that I may gain
Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from
the law, but that which is through faith in Christ’
He turns to his own example: he claims that, given his status and heritage, he should have more
“well done me” claim than some. Just like us, we can say that if we have a well-paid job, serve
charities, look out for the poor, or have a seemingly stable life, we could say ‘well done me’. Maybe
even further, ‘I have something to offer God’ or ‘I’m not that bad and therefore don’t NEED anything
from Him.’ And yet the wonderful undeserved favour of God – His GRACE – is that on our own we
are broken, sinful people who are incapable of making themselves right before Him. We need a
Saviour because we have all fallen short of His perfect, righteous standard. We need someone to
make us new again – and that’s exactly what Jesus came to do.
I love the image of a new coat being put on, one of the big fleecy ones that are warm and wrap you
up like a giant hug. The word used both here and in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is being IN Christ – Paul says if
we are found in Jesus, that means having put off the old, self-reliant, sinful, walking away from God,
and put on the coat of Jesus’ Grace, then we are found in Him. ‘The old has gone, the new is here!’
(2 Corinthians 5:17) Paul says that He considers anything else rubbish SO THAT He can gain Jesus and
be found in Him. This suggests that you can’t have both. If my hands are full, they can’t receive. I
only get to wear one coat. But when I let go, surrender and open my hands, I receive right-ness with
God through faith, by believing in what Jesus has done. Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death and
When we are IN Jesus, we are also under Him. The new coat covers us completely, all of our sin, our
mess and our brokenness – we are emptied and filled anew. But Paul warns the Philippians not be
pulled back again into the old ways, to look back with mourning at past brokenness or be enticed
again by things that were significant and desirable, that once captivated their hearts more than
Jesus. He challenges all of us to push on towards what is ahead, towards Heaven, fullness of joy, to
be completely full of Jesus’ rule and reign until we see Him face to face at the brink of eternity.
This leaves the questions ringing in my ears: how do we keep going? What about for 2023? The
answer comes nestled right alongside the question. I keep straining, not for self-righteousness or
self-help plans, but straining to know the Grace-giver more and more this year. So much more than
in 2022. I keep laying myself down daily; everything – all of me. From the inside out. At the close of
his devotional book ‘My utmost for His highest’, Oswald Chambers states “when God reveals himself
to me, through the revelation of His word or by His Spirit, I have a choice – to walk in the light of that
and increasingly become a truer disciple of Jesus – or go back as a deserter”. There are only two
roads, two choices. Onwards as a disciple or backwards as a deserter. I know that I want to be a
disciple, a friend, a follower of Jesus this year. That comes with sacrifices, costs, surrender – but the
joy of gaining Jesus is so much sweeter than any cost made. May this year be one of discovery,
surprising joy in surrender and straining towards what is ahead in Jesus

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