Whatever Happens, Turn Your Balance Sheet Upside Down

Philippians 3.7-11


Some time ago a woman named Elizabeth Gibson was walking along New York City’s Upper West Side when she saw a pile of trash. The garbage truck was headed that way. Among the debris was a piece of painted canvas. She took it home and tried to figure it out. Where did it come from? Why did it so attract her? She began to investigate, and finally with the help of The Antiques Roadshow, she discovered it was a rare painting by a famous Mexican artist worth over one million dollars. And yet someone had thrown it out with the trash.

It’s amazing how many people do not know the difference between trash and treasure. The apostle Paul did, and he explains it all to us in the passage we’re coming to in Philippians 3, beginning with verse 7:


But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 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 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.

1. I Want to Know Christ (verses 7-9)

My mother taught my bookkeeping class in high school. She taught us about balance sheets, which have liabilities and assets. In this passage, the apostle Paul took his personal balance sheet and turned it upside down. He said, “The things I thought were assets I now consider to be liabilities, and the things I thought were liabilities, I now consider assets.”

He said quite plainly: Everything in this world is garbage compared to the surpassing worth—the treasure—of personally knowing Christ.

I remember the first time I heard Graham Kindrick’s wonderful song, “Knowing You, Jesus,” which is largely based on this passage:

All I once held dear, built my life upon

All this world reveres and wars to own

All I once thought gain I have counted loss

Spent and worthless now, compared to this:

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You,

There is no greater thing.

Here in Philippians 3, Paul is continuing his line of thought about the nature of knowing Christ. Some people in his day had been preaching something very wrong—that we could work our way into God’s presence by pursuing a life full of religious forms and good deeds and godly virtues. Paul answered, in effect, “If anyone could do that, I would have done it.” Then he goes on to say:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 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 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.

That last sentence—verse 9—is the entire book of Romans summarized in one verse. Dr. Gordon Fee calls it “a little meteorite from[the book of] Romans.”

We meet Christ, not based on our personal virtues, but based on His righteousness, which is imputed to us by grace through faith.

I recently interviewed Sam Rohrer, President of American Pastors Network. Sam served almost two decades as a State Representative in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He told me that the Pennsylvania capitol building is filled with Scripture references, which are engraved on the walls. There are Bible verses in the Governor’s reception room, the House chamber, and the Senate chamber. In fact, there are 59 verses etched onto the walls of that beautiful building. The Gospel is so clear in these engravings that Sam told me he used to take people on biblical tours of the statehouse. “Let me take you on a trip through the capitol building,” he said. “I can lead you to Heaven through the Senate chamber.” 

I love that phrase. Sam was referring to the power of the Gospel, which was engraved on the walls of the Senate. The only way to get to Heaven is through our faith in the power of the Gospel, which represents the death and resurrection of a sinless Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We hear the message of Jesus, realize that’s what we need more than anything else in this world, confess our sins, place ourselves in His hands, and welcome Him into our lives as Savior and Lord. If you have never done that, now’s the time!

Finding Him is the most important thing in the world. Paul refers to the surpassing worth of knowing Him. Compared to that, everything else in life is garbage.

2. I Want to Know Christ Better and Better (verses 10-11)

But now, Paul goes a step further and talks about the lifelong process of getting to know Christ better. 

He said, 

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. 

And let’s go on because the next verses indicate the progressive nature of this relationship.

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 Jesus.

The other day I made a visit in Atlanta to the man who had introduced me to my wife, Katrina. His name is Frank Fry, and about a half-century earlier he had been on the staff at Columbia International University in charge of the traveling ministry teams, including mine. When I returned from summer break at the beginning of my senior year, he said, “I want to introduce you to my new secretary.” I followed him down the hall and he entered an office and said, “Robert, this is Miss Polvinen.” Katrina looked up and smiled, and I remember that moment clearly in my mind. I don’t fully know why. Over the last half-century I’ve met thousands of people I can’t remember, but I do clearly remember meeting her. Yet I truly had no idea I was meeting my future wife. 

The next day, if someone had asked me if I knew Katrina, I would have said, “Yes, I met her yesterday.” But did I really know her yet? Our momentary meeting was only the beginning of the process of getting to know her better and better, which involved working together on the team’s itinerary for that year, building a friendship, falling in love, getting married, and building a home together.

It’s that way with Jesus Christ. There hopefully comes a day when we meet Him, when we receive Him as our Savior and know Him as our Lord. But for the rest of our lives and for all eternity we’ll be getting to know Him better and better.

So that brings me to my question. How do we grow in our relationship with Christ? How do we get to know Him better and better? 

A. Through Fellowship with Him

First, it’s very much like getting to know another person better and better. It happens through conversation and constant fellowship with Him. When I was a young man, we didn’t have all the Bible translations we have now. I grew up on the old King James Version. But in 1965, an edition came out called the Amplified Bible, and somehow I got a copy. This version of the Bible took the 1901 American Standard Version, brings in the Hebrew and Greek, and amplifies the meaning of the words with synonyms suggested from the original.

This is how it amplifies Philippians 3:10. It’s shaped the way I understand the concept of knowing God. It says:

 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]….

The translators took that one word—know—and used 27 words to define it. What does it mean to really know Christ? It means to progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him.

I was taught that the primary way of doing that is through daily conversation with Him in daily Bible study and prayer. Those simple concepts have shaped my ministry, and I’ve done everything in my power to help people meet Christ at the cross and then meet with Him each day for prayer and Bible study—that I may progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly.

Many years ago, I prepared a sermon called “The Cross and the Closet.” In the old versions of the Bible, Jesus said in Matthew 6:6 that we should go into our closet and pray to our Heavenly Father. In those days, most houses were small, and they were filled with children and often animals. But there was always a small room for supplies—a pantry. Jesus said, “Find that private place where you can be alone with God.”

We meet Christ originally at the cross, and we call that conversion. But then we meet with Him daily in the closet, and we call that conversation. At the cross, we come to know Him. And in the closet, we come to know Him better and better.

When discipling others, I often take a napkin and draw a cross and the door to a closet and explain this to new believers, even as I’m seeking to do now to you. We come to know Christ better through our daily fellowship with Him, especially in times of prayer and Bible study.

B. Through the Power of His Resurrection

But the apostle Paul doesn’t finish his thought with that. He went on to say: I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection.

I believe the Holy Spirit had something to do with the ordering and the arrangement of the books of the Bible. Philippians follows Ephesians, and it seems to me Paul is referring to what he wrote just a few pages earlier in Ephesians 1. Notice the parallel thoughts as we read Ephesians 1, starting with verse 17.

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 

You see, there you have it. The Ephesians knew Christ. They had met Him at the moment of salvation, but Paul longed for them to go deeper into their relationship with Him and to know Him better. 

Our greatest obligation and our greatest opportunity in life is to get to know our Lord Jesus Christ better and better. 

Paul went on to say in verse 18:

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. 

Now, notice how he describes that power:

That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

We come to know Christ better as we live in His resurrection power. The same power that fueled the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is available to fuel our daily living. We’re to live in resurrection power.

Recently, I was in Jerusalem and I spoke to a group at the site of the Garden Tomb. After everyone left, my grandson, Elijah, and I were alone in the garden area. It was dark, but path lights led to the tomb, which was dimly lit. We walked in, and standing there in the dim light of an empty ancient sepulcher this thought came to me: The only way to live in fullness is to live in emptiness. 

Where do we get fullness of joy? Fullness of courage? Fullness of the Spirit? It’s from the emptiness of the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, a tomb that was occupied by a shroud-enfolded corpse for only a moment in time before being vacated once and for good, now and forever. And the same power that God exerted when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead is what provides the energy for our abundant and eternal life. As we experience more and more of that, we come to know Him better and better, once and for good, now and forever.

It’s in the emptiness of that tomb that we have the energy to live with fullness of joy and strength and enthusiasm.

C. Through The Fellowship with His Suffering

But the apostle Paul isn’t finished. We come to know Christ more deeply, not only through fellowship with Him and fellowship with His resurrection, but with fellowship with His suffering and death. 

This is really very simple. As we faithfully serve Him, we may encounter opposition, hostility, and persecution. That enables us to experience a bit of what Christ experienced and it causes us to trust Him more than ever.

It’s strange how the world hates the message and the adherents of Christianity. I just listened to a fascinating interview that Shane Morris conducted with Christian thinker and writer Frederica Mathewes-Green. She shared her fascinating testimony. As a child, Frederica remembers her mother being an atheist and her father a nominal Catholic. As a young adult, Frederica became part of the counterculture, a feminist hippie, but something deeply bothered her. She realized while she was in college that she had contempt for Christians. But she did not have contempt for the adherents of other religions. She admired Hinduism. She admired aspects of all the other religions. But she realized that she hated Christians, to the point of wanting to damage them. She wanted to embarrass or humiliate Christians. She began to wonder, “Where is this coming from?”

That nagging question began to convict her and over time led her to investigate Christianity and to become a deeply devoted follower of Christ.

Jesus said that the world would hate His followers. He said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19). 

That’s a remarkable statement. We are in our very essence a different group of people than everyone else on earth. We are citizens of another kingdom, and we serve a different King—and the world instinctively has contempt for us. As we realize that and even as we experience it, we are becoming more like Christ, we are sharing in the contempt He faced, and we are growing closer to Him.

While writing this message, the monthly Voice of the Martyrs magazine came. It tells stories of the persecuted church. There was an article about a group of pastors who met in Mozambique. Their area had been infiltrated by Muslim extremists, and as the pastors sat around the table they told stories, one story after another, of the suffering they had witnessed. One pastor told of Christians being decapitated. Another told of Christians being burned alive in their cars. Another told of his church building being destroyed. Finally the pastors bowed their heads and began to pray, then they began to sing, and their time of shared sorrow was turned into a time of worship, reflecting the pastors’ hope in Christ. They all agreed that through this suffering the church would grow.

Most of us can’t begin to comprehend what’s happening to our Christian brothers and sisters in the persecuted church. But these faithful men and women are coming to know Christ better than most of us because they are sharing in the fellowship of His suffering.

And yet, in other sense, we all encounter suffering in life. I’ve been stunned recently by some of the hardships that have happened around me. What do these things do? They drive us closer to Christ. I love the song that says:

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;

No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need Thee, O, I need Thee,

Every hour I need Thee,

O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.

D. Throughout Eternity

Finally, we come to know Christ better, not only through fellowship with Him, and through the fellowship of His resurrection and through the fellowship of His suffering, but through fellowship with Him forever.

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.

This word “somehow” seems out of place, but it doesn’t imply doubt, but wonder. Paul is not saying, “Somehow I hope I will be resurrected.” He is saying, “I am amazed by the thought that almighty God in His triumphant power will somehow bring all the molecules of my decayed body together at His return and I will be resurrected!”

That’s when we will continue getting to know Christ. 

In His great and final prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed: Father, I want those you have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory…” (verse 24). In other words, the Lord Jesus wants us to be with Him forever, beholding Him with growing awe and wonder.

Revelation 22:4 says we will see His face.

Jesus is both God and Man, and He is infinite in all aspects of His personality, so we can never get to the bottom of His wonder and majesty and love and power. But we will have a literal infinity of time to walk with Him, to talk with Him, to be with Him, to fellowship with Him. There will be billions of people in Heaven, but because of the nature of everlasting life, we will have endless opportunities to spend time there with Jesus. And we will spend eternity getting to know Him better and better and better.

And so that’s how we progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Christ:

  • We come to know Him by grace alone through faith
  • We come to know Him better through fellowship with Him, by living in the power of His resurrection, by sharing in His sufferings, and by our anticipation of knowing Him forever and ever.


In 2016, a family in the South was sifting through their great-grandparents’ belongings and came across a paper bag that was filled with trash and headed for the dump, or so they thought. Looking inside, they found a treasure trove of old baseball cards, including seven original Ty Cobb cards, which said: “Ty Cobb, King of the Smoking Tobacco World.” The cards were worth more than a million dollars.

What the world holds in contempt, we hold in rapturous contemplation, for those who follow Christ know what’s really valuable in life, and it goes back 2000 years.

There amid the smoldering ruins of a gloomy day of anguish near the trash heaps of Jerusalem was an old rugged cross—and we’ll cherish that old rugged cross till our trophies we lay down. We will cling to that old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.