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Losing to Win

By David A. DePra

For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (Phil 3:3-7)

There is much Truth in this passage by Paul to the Philippians, but if you read through it, you discover the consistent theme of LOSS and GAIN. Indeed, Paul is going to tell us that the two are directly related: He suffered LOSS in order to GAIN or WIN. Note his following statements from this passage:

But what things were GAIN to me, those I counted LOSS for Christ.

I count all things but LOSS for (i.e., in order to GAIN) the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.

I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

So what did Paul LOSE? All things. But all things pertaining to what? Paul suffered the loss of all things about himself that might have given him confidence in the flesh -- confidence before God on the basis of himself; his flesh. Ok. But what did Paul GAIN? Jesus Christ. Paul said that he suffered the loss of all things about himself that might have given him confidence in himself -- and that the result was that he WON CHRIST.

We could put this another way: Paul lost all faith in himself. God revealed to Paul the Truth about Paul, and God revealed to Paul the Truth about Christ. The result was that Paul -- once he embraced this Truth -- could no longer put any confidence in himself before God. Rather, he put all confidence or faith in Christ Jesus.

I would submit that this experience of Paul is the ONLY POSSIBLE OUTCOME of seeing the Truth in Christ Jesus. It may take some time and some trials, but there is no other Truth. There is NOTHING in ourselves over which to have confidence before God. Christ alone is trustworthy. That is the Truth. Thus, if we embrace this Truth we will voluntarily LOSE everything about ourselves that we might GAIN Christ. This is all nothing more than us BEING MADE TRUE UNTO GOD.

The Truth will make us true to God. That means that Christ will adjust us to Himself that we may walk in fellowship with Him. There is no fellowship with Christ except it be in the Truth -- for He is the Truth. We must walk in the Light as He is in the Light.

Suffering Loss

But WHY is it necessary to suffer LOSS in order to GAIN? Is it simply some religious principle God demands, and nothing more? No. The reason we have to suffer LOSS in order to GAIN is because of the very nature of things – it is because of where we start – bound by corrupt flesh. So we have to LOSE all that belongs to that terrible condition in order to GAIN the fullness of Christ. In short, we have to LOSE our life in order to find it in Christ.

What we are to LOSE is actually worthless. When Paul said, "I count all that I have lost as refuse," he knew exactly what he was talking about. All that we must LOSE in order to GAIN Christ is worthless – it is as dung or refuse. Paul is not exaggerating here. This is the TRUTH. It is the Truth about all that belongs to the flesh. It is the Truth about US – in Adam. Natural man is spiritually dead and nothing that belongs to the Adam race is of any value to God.

Do you and I want the Truth? Do we think that Truth is merely concepts, teachings, and doctrines? No. The Truth is LIGHT – the light of Christ and all that He exposes. In short, Christ exposes the Truth about all things – it is impossible for His presence to do otherwise. Thus, if we want the Truth about ourselves – and Christ is in us – then we are going to see that without Christ we are REPROBATES. We are going to see that in our flesh dwells NO good thing. As I said before, there is no other possible outcome of seeing the Truth -- no other conclusion -- because there is no other Truth.

That, of course, is the terrible Truth about US. But redemption is not based upon us. Righteousness and fellowship with God is not based upon anything about US. No. It is based upon Christ. And all the terrible Truth that God reveals about us is always in the glorious Light of Jesus Christ. The Truth is always unto Christ and unto redemption and freedom.

Paul said exactly that. Paul said that his loss of himself was unto the end that he might WIN Christ and be FOUND IN HIM. Thus, what we lose is worthless, but what we win is priceless. And yet – we MUST do both. You cannot win Christ unless you lose yourself. It is impossible. And Jesus said so:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matt. 16:24-25)

So why don't we easily lose ourselves? Usually because we still think that there is some value to be found in ourselves. Thus, when we begin to LOSE ourselves we will think this is a terrible requirement that God has put upon us. We will think we are losing something we need to save. We will lament over the loss of, "all things," to the extent that we value them, and want to hold onto them.

This is usually evidenced in a, "woe is me," kind of Christianity. People who are always talking about, "all they have lost for God," are betraying something – they may still value what they have lost. They may actually feel bitter towards God because of it. Or, they may take pride in having lost something to God.

Paul did not lament over what he had lost. Neither did he take pride in it. No. Rather, he rejoiced that he has suffered the loss of all things! Why? Because, he realized that what he lost had BOUND HIM. In other words, what Paul had lost belonged to the FLESH – Paul had lost all that hindered him in Christ. But even beyond this, Paul did not lament what he had lost because of what He found: Jesus Christ.

Caught in the Middle

We must suffer the loss of all things about ourselves in order to win Christ. But this cannot happen in ten minutes. It is a learning process. Practically speaking, this means that there are going to be times when we are in the middle of that process. There will be seasons in the Christian experience where we are, as it were, "caught in the middle." We are perhaps suffering the loss of who we are in the flesh – but have yet to WIN Christ. We are coming OUT, but not yet IN. Maybe we do not yet see our flesh as refuse. We are like Israel – out of Egypt, but not yet in the Promised Land. We are out of Egypt, but Egypt is not completely out of us. We want to go into the Promised Land, but there isn’t much Promised Land in us. We are in the wilderness. This is the season of being, "caught in the middle." We are losing – in order to win Christ. But we aren't there yet.

Confidence in our flesh is all any of us have ever known. This is even true for those who might say they have always been frustrated by their flesh and have no confidence in it. A frustrated self-righteousness is the same as a satisfied self-righteousness. It is all SELF. It is not faith in Christ. And since confidence in our flesh is all we have ever known, when God begins to shatter this with the Truth, we will probably pass through a time where our confidence is adrift – until we let it all go and put our entire confidence in Christ.

You can expect this season in your Christian growth – you can expect it more than once, in cycles of growth. When the flesh is the only frame of reference you have ever had – when you have based life on YOURSELF – on what you feel, and above all – when you have based life on your own righteousness – it is going to be traumatic when God begins to draw you OUT of that. At times, you won’t understand. You will think everything is wrong. Sure. You are LOSING YOURSELF. And maybe you have yet to FIND Christ.

I’m not talking about SIN. When a Christian person has confidence in the flesh it is not because he sins – it is usually because he keeps laws and rules. Self-righteousness is either based on my success in keeping laws, or it is based on my frustrated efforts to do so. But in the end, all confidence in self for a Christian is based in exactly what the term infers: Self.

Ironically, confidence is self IS sin. It is unbelief. And it is deception. Indeed, confidence in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ and His finished work is sin and deception. But I think you will find that no matter what you say you have confidence in – if it is not in Christ -- it always comes back to SELF.

Well, by nature we put confidence in self – and continue to do this even after we are saved. God, in His faithfulness, will guide us into all Truth. If Christ is in us, then confidence in self is going to eventually be exposed for the lie that it is. But this will take a process. We might not understand what is happening to us. We will be, "caught in the middle," of this process. And when we are, it is only natural to be rather consumed by all that we are losing – and to have little point of reference for what we are going to WIN in Christ.

Jesus addressed this probability directly:

Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. (John 16:19-21)

When we feel LOST because God is dismantling our confidence in SELF we can rejoice. Because if we hang in there by faith, we are going to be FOUND – IN CHRIST. And at that point, all the pain and suffering will not only make sense, but we will see that what we were losing had no value anyways.

It is amazing that much suffering for a Christian – not all, but much – is really a matter of God bringing us out of ourselves into Christ. Our flesh will suffer. But it is all unto a greater purpose. In short, you have to die in order to live. Christ said that. Paul said that. It is the Truth.

This is why we are continually exhorted in scripture to STAND FAST. It is why we are told to ENDURE to the end. To the end of what? To the end of this process of losing to gain Christ. In the beginning of this process of LOSING it is impossible for us to fully understand what is happening to us. This is why God has given scripture to explain it. But if we will believe and stand by faith before the Lord, in time we find see that what we have lost is garbage. We will begin to realize that God was setting us free. We will come into an experience with Jesus Christ that was not possible otherwise.

Again -- many of the sufferings of this life – that are in the will of God -- are a matter of God drawing us OUT than we may come IN – as is illustrated in His deliverance of Israel from Egypt into the Promised Land. Israel had been brought out of Egypt, but they still had a lot of Egypt IN THEM. And this reared its ugly head continually in the wilderness. That is why we need a wilderness – the Truth about us has to be brought out – so that we might see our flesh is all refuse. And then we will not only desire to LOSE it – we will cry out to God, "Who will deliver me from the body of this flesh?" Jesus Christ, that is who.

Lose What?

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

There are Christian folks who are afraid if they give themselves to God that He is going to take away their family, spouse, kids, or even their job. Well, God heals families. He doesn’t ruin them. So put aside all of the fears about family – God isn’t going to take away your family. As far as other material things in life, the purpose of God is not about THINGS – it is about YOU. It would be nice if losing some money or a job could result in us gaining Christ. But even unbelievers suffer such loses. No. You might have to lose a few material things in the will of God – or you may not – but the loss of material things in the will of God is only unto a greater end. What is that end?

Well, go back to the beginning of Philippians 3. Read all that Paul says leading up to his confession that he has suffered the loss of all things. If you see what is going on in the passage, you will see that Paul has just listed much of what he lost in order to gain Christ. Paul lists all the reasons why he would otherwise have had confidence in his flesh – he lists everything about himself that he might have otherwise used to declare himself righteous, or that he might have used to MAINTAIN his own righteousness. He had all of his life bound in the Old Covenant law. But Paul says he LOST all those things – that he might win Christ.

You will note that among the things Paul listed is not a single mention of SIN. No. Paul is not talking about losing his sin – he isn’t addressing freedom from sin in this passage. No. Paul is talking about the loss of everything about himself that he might have used to have confidence in his own flesh – confidence before the Lord. This is about Paul’s self-righteousness. It is about those things in our RELIGIOUS lives – our Christian lives – things about ourselves in which we invest our faith and confidence.

The phrase, "confidence in the flesh," says it all. "The flesh," is everything that is outside of CHRIST IN US. When Christ comes to dwell in us through His Spirit, there comes a division between the new man in Christ – which is the union of our spirit with Him – there comes a division between that new man and all that is outside of it – which is the natural man, or flesh. This, "flesh," isn’t merely sin – it is even the, "good," that we might say is found in natural man. So we have the union of our spirit with Christ in us – that is the new creation in Christ – and we have all that is outside of that, which is the natural man, or flesh. To have, "confidence in the flesh," therefore means to place my faith in those human attributes that are NOT of Christ. It is to have my confidence before the Lord based upon MYSELF – rather than solely upon Christ.

So it is just this simple: Paul lists everything about HIMSELF that might have continued to give him confidence in HIMSELF. But he says he had to LOSE this. Get that. Paul says we must lose our confidence in ourselves. We have to lose all confidence in the flesh – which means to lose our own sense of self-righteousness. We have to see the everything about ourselves in which we have put confidence – I’m talking about confidence before God – we have to see that there is nothing in us that is trustworthy.

This is not about talking the right religious approach or following the correct biblical tenet. No. It is about seeing the TRUTH – and what results if we do see the Truth. The TRUTH is, there is nothing in ourselves over which to have confidence – to LOSE that confidence in ourselves is therefore the result of seeing this Truth and being MADE TRUE. See that Truth about yourself and you will gladly lose everything about yourself.

Of course, none of this would be possible unless we began to see that Jesus Christ is our confidence. It is because we begin to see Christ that we see that there is nothing about us in which to put faith. Paul says this. He says, "I suffered the loss of everything about myself – I lost all confidence in myself – but in doing so, I was winning Christ."

Can we see that this is a matter of taking our faith and confidence off of us – off of our natural man – and putting in solely upon Jesus Christ, who is in us? Sure. When Jesus died on the Cross, this was settled once for all. The flesh is cut off -- circumcised, if you will. All that is of the flesh – and Paul is talking here about RELIGIOUS FLESH – must be LOST or cut off. It WAS at the Cross. Paul is telling us that we, like himself, must come to see this Truth and be MADE TRUE – we must suffer the loss of what WAS cut off through the Cross.

Does this seem bad? It is not. Paul rejoiced because he knew that he was losing REFUSE and that which is of no value. He was being delivered. He was seeing the Truth and being MADE TRUE. Thus, he was able to say, "I have suffered the loss of every bit of my religious self-confidence – of all self-righteousness – so that I might WIN CHRIST."

Found in Him

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Paul suffered the loss of all confidence in himself – that he might win Christ. Paul then explains what this means. He says, "and be found in Christ." How? On what basis? Not having his own righteousness – which is through law-keeping – but having the righteousness of Christ. That is how Paul describes one who has WON Christ and been FOUND in Christ.

This is so fundamental – it gets right back to justification by faith – but here Paul is talking about fully coming into this great Truth. If we read his words, you will realize that this matter of losing confidence in ourselves before God is absolutely necessary if we are to win Christ and be found in Him. You cannot have both.

We are so used to having confidence in ourselves, even as Christian people, that if God begins to show us the deception of that – well, as mentioned earlier – we usually think we are falling apart. We may have been so comfortable and at home in our prison that what God knows is our deliverance we may initially interpret as anything but. Again – this is a matter of being caught in the middle. Once we begin to win Christ, we will rejoice.

Too often we view truths like, "righteousness in Christ," as being elementary gospel issues that we easily accept in doctrinal form but never fully appreciate. No. To be set free from my own righteousness constitutes, according to Paul, the LOSS of all things. How can he say that? Because by nature, you and I base our confidence, even before God as Christians, IN OURSELVES. We are all, to one degree or another, self-righteous, self-willed, and self-reliant. Thus, what Paul is here describing is, in large part, a matter of LOSING YOUR LIFE – as Jesus described in the gospels – in order to find it IN HIM.

This passage in Philippians 3 is actually Paul’s description of his own experience of losing his life – of losing himself to Christ – so that he might find his life in Christ. That is why he says that all of this resulted in him, "winning Christ, and being found in Him."

So when we talk about this matter of WHO is our confidence, and WHO is our righteousness, we are getting at something that makes us tick as human beings. It is because it is such a vital issue that the NT spends so much time on it. Paul is clearly stating that in order to WIN Christ and be FOUND in Him you and I have to lose all confidence in ourselves – we have to see the Truth – and put our confidence in Christ alone, based on what He has done for us. Until we come into this Truth and are MADE TRUE unto God through it, we may be saved, but we are not going to get far in the things of God.

The Upward Calling

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

There are no HIGHER callings to Christ. There are no LOWER callings. There are just CALLINGS. Once you realize that the value of the calling is based on HIM, rather than upon US, this ought to be clear. The Greek in this passage reads, "the upward calling of God in Jesus Christ." People who think they are special to God – more than others – are deluded. And usually they do a great deal of damage in the Body of Christ.

The rest of this passage is actually built upon the foundation of what Paul has already stated: You must LOSE in order to WIN or GAIN. You have to lose YOUR life to find HIM. Central to this is this matter of where my confidence is by faith – how could this NOT be central? If my confidence is in my self – even religiously – then I’m not going to get far. I cannot win Christ. I cannot be found in Him because I am still, well, I’m still within ME. But if I will allow God to bring me to where I can lose everything about myself that I was deluded might commend me to God – and shift all faith over to Christ, well, then I will win Christ. And all that Paul states in the above passage is opened up.

To be FOUND IN HIM I have to lose myself. I have to realize that everything I have believed about myself that might have given me confidence before God – all of it a lie. ALL of it. But if I will open myself up to God for the Truth on this matter, I am going to rejoice. I will be found IN HIM. And once I am found in HIM – then all that is IN HIM moves into my experience.

The tragic irony is that instead of seeing the Truth about ourselves and losing ourselves to Christ, in many churches they are teaching people how to gain all the more confidence in themselves. They teach them legalism. Or self-improvement. They fashion a religious system they say will make us look like Jesus. No. We will never look like Jesus. Christ wants to live through us – but that means that the WE and the US has to be crucified. Paul is describing HOW.

Found in Him

What does it mean, "to be found in Christ?" Contrary to some modern teaching, this has nothing to do with self-realization. It has nothing to do with discovering the champion in yourself. Rather, to be found in Christ will set us free from self.

The fact is, we know NOTHING about this. Indeed, it is impossible to know anything about it unless you know Christ. The normal condition for natural man is to be all wrapped up in SELF. We either take confidence in self, or we lament that we are failing to do so. This self obsession is normal for fallen man. It is what he is. Thus, when God begins to bring us out that it will seem abnormal. But it is not abnormal. It is, in fact, a restoration back to normal. When we begin to know HIM, we are set free from self. We are focused upon Him. This becomes the new normal -- the only normal. That is because it is the Truth.

To be, "found in Him," is the result of finding Him -- it is the result of being found by Him. But that discovery does not enhance my self-esteem. Neither does it lower my self-esteem. It eliminates self-esteem and gives me Christ-esteem -- gives me consciousness of Jesus Christ. This is freedom. Christ becomes the basis of all for me, and all of my confidence is based upon Him. To be found in Christ means that I will live governed by the knowledge of Him.

Once we begin to be found IN CHRIST, it opens up to us the experiences Paul goes on to discuss in the rest of the passage. Sure. For then we have the right basis. And all of this goes back to losing in order to win; to coming to the Cross in order to release resurrection life. Life from death is the great principle of redemption.

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