2006 BC or AD
John Telgren
(Philippians 3:4-16)
Summary: In reflecting on how we order and use the gift of time, we, like Paul, must consider our former life (BC) with all its self-centered pursuits as garbage so that we may have the only thing of true value, which is knowing Christ. In knowing Christ, we need to live out his death and resurrection daily by making his will our will.

Happy New Year! Isn't that what we always say? What do we mean by that? We want to find happiness in the New Year. You may have been on television to watch the ball drop, and cheer and celebrate. You may have sung songs such as Auld's Acquaintance. You may have felt elated. But the reality for many people is that the New Year quickly becomes a depressing time. After all of the cheer and merry making of the holidays, life returns to normal. Some say things like, "Well, it's back to the old grind."

"Happy New Year" fades away just like the lights, tinsel, wrapped presents, and everything else that goes with the holidays. You know, it seems as though there were many people that just were not in the spirit of the season this year.

I was curious as to why we call January the New Year. Where did it come from and why? You might be aware that there are different calendars with various new years all over the world. What about ours? Since the days of the months originate from pagan beliefs, I figured it had something to do with that, and I was correct.

January first was sent by Julius Caesar as the new year since the month of "Janus," the god of doors and openings would open a new year. Early Christians in future centuries regarded March 25th as the New Year, the traditional day when Gabriel announced to Mary she would have a child. It was Pope Gregory the 13th who was responsible for the calendar we have today. He returned to the pagan January 1st as the New Year.

As I reflect on the meaning of a "New Year," my mind goes back to the 12th chapter of Exodus. Israel was preparing to leave Egypt and go through a tremendous transition from slavery to being God's treasured possession. God begins to give instructions concerning the Passover feast. The very first thing he says as that this month will be the first month of the year. How appropriate. On the month that they are redeemed from slavery and become the redeemed people of God, their year begins. They way they count time throughout the year begins with their deliverance from slavery. Their life was to begin and revolve around what God had done for them. After all, their very existence as a people was due to God's saving acts.

God ordered their time from the calendar to the days of the week. The way they counted "time" was to be a constant reminder of God's creation and redemption. Not only did God determine that the month of the Passover was to be the first month, but he also laid out seven day periods of time which we call weeks. Every seven days there was to be a Sabbath rest where they would reflect not only on God's creation of the world, but also on God's redemption from Egypt. In addition to this, there were various festivals throughout the year that ordered their time.

After thinking about this, I had to ask some questions. How do we view time? What principle orders our time? I'm not talking about whether we will have a calendar that originates from pagan practice or not. I am talking about our attitude toward time and how we use our time. Time is a gift from God that will be used up whether we use it or not.

Let's turn to a passage from Philippians chapter three. Paul had a distinct view of time. For Paul, time was divided up into B.C. and A.D. I'm not talking about the way we say 100 B.C. or 100 A.D. It is a little different with Paul. Let's read the passage:

Phil 3:4-16 - although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from {the} Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which {comes} from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained {it} or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of {it} yet; but one thing {I do:} forgetting what {lies} behind and reaching forward to what {lies} ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same { standard} to which we have attained.

Life Before Christ

Paul had a particular type of life before Christ. He was a self confident individual. I'm sure many people would have admired his self-confidence. He had it all together. He was an exemplary Hebrew in every sense of the word. He wasn't just a Hebrew, but a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee. A Pharisee went above and beyond the call of duty to serve God. He was full of zeal. He was on fire.

What characterizes life before Christ? It basically comes down to one thing - self. It may be self confidence as in Paul's case, or self something else. But in any case, the focus is on me and what can to, what I want, and what will make me happy and fulfilled.

That is the unwritten creed of the times. Seek happiness and fulfillment wherever you can find it. Many people look for it in different places. Many people find fulfillment in doing good deeds. Others in a meaningful career. Others in a particular pursuit, whether it be sports, writing, crafty things, music, or something else. Other people simply enjoy doing things with friends.

What is wrong with any of this? Isn't it okay, isn't our right to pursue happiness and fulfillment? In fact, the pursuit of happiness is one of three fundamental rights in this country, second only to life and liberty. The ironic thing is that the pursuit of happiness often has a tendency to cancel out life and liberty.

I read a recent statistic that said only 20% of American's are really truly happy. 20%! In a nation where you are encouraged to do anything you want to pursue happiness, you would think there is more happiness going around. Yet it seems that the use of anti-depressants and other similar drugs keep increasing. More and more people are buying self-help books and watching shows like Dr, Phil to try and learn how to be happy and fulfilled. People fill their time with amusements and activities to take their minds off of the emptiness inside and take on a pseudo happiness.

What is the problem? Does the problem come from looking for fulfillment and happiness in the wrong places? If you read the book of Ecclesiastes, you read about a man who tried to find fulfillment in just about everything. Nothing worked. Though he was the riches man alive, at the end of his life, he was old, miserable and unfulfilled.

I think the problem is in the very idea of the pursuit of happiness. I am convinced that if you try to be a Christian for the purpose of being happy, you will still miss it. Jesus is not a Prozac pill you can take to try and be happy. The pursuit of happiness, no matter what form it takes is still self centered, and you cannot find happiness as long as you are focused on yourself.

An old Chinese proverb says, "Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness." - Chuang-Tzu (350 B.C.)

I think there is truth to this. The pursuit of fulfillment and happiness are by nature self centered. Contrary to what others may tell you, you will never find true and lasting happiness and fulfillment in yourself. In fact, I can't find where the Bible says that we should pursue fulfillment and happiness. However, I do find that we are to pursue godliness, holiness, righteousness, love for others, peace with others (Rom 14:19; 1 Cor 14:1; 1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 2:22; Heb 12:14).

You wont find lasting fulfillment and satisfaction in self centered pursuits. You may feel good and confident about your accomplishments as Paul did, but it is an empty confidence because they will not profit you in the end. Without Christ, nothing is of any real value.

That is life before Christ. Paul goes on to expound on his life after Christ.

Life After Christ

Paul counted all his personal accomplishments as loss. The only real value was the value of knowing his Lord. I want you to notice exactly what he says in verse 8.

"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,"

How was he do gain Christ? By considering everything else as rubbish in comparison.

Everything else had had valued was rubbish.

What is it that you value? Is it you hair style, clothes, music, job, hobby, good deeds. If you want to know Christ, you will consider it all rubbish in comparison to him. That means when he calls you, you leave it all behind without a second thought. That is exactly what Paul did. He left it all behind and never had any regrets. He didn't straddle the fence. It was all of Christ or nothing. That is the only way you can gain Christ. It is all or nothing.

I heard a story about what straddling the fence will get you. There was a large group of people. On one side of the group stood a man, Jesus. On the other side of the group stood Satan. Separating them, running through the group, was a fence. The scene set, both Jesus and Satan began calling to the people in the group and, one by one - each having made up his or her own mind - each went to either Jesus or Satan. This kept going. Soon enough, Jesus had gathered around him a group of people from the larger crowd, as did Satan. But one man joined neither group. He climbed the fence that was there and sat on it. Then Jesus and His people left and disappeared. So too did Satan and his people. And the man on the fence sat alone. As this man sat, Satan came back, looking for something which he appeared to have lost. The man said, "Have you lost something?" Satan looked straight at him and replied, "No, there you are. Come with me." "But", said the man, "I sat on the fence. I chose neither you nor Him." "That's okay," said Satan. "I own the fence, you're coming with me."

It's all or nothing. Don't stand on the fence. Paul gave up everything for the surpassing value of knowing Christ. Knowing Christ involves three things.

1) The Power of His Resurrection. Jesus died on the cross, died for our sins, and rose from the grave. He overcame death and brought new life for everyone who comes to him. Resurrection power is what propelled Paul into ministry. No one could touch the life that he had in Christ.

2) The Fellowship of His Sufferings. We usually do not think of suffering as an expression of fellowship. We often think of Communion, Supporting a Ministry, and Sharing as expressions of fellowship. However, suffering may perhaps be one of the strongest expressions of fellowship. Jesus himself fellowshipped and shared in our humanity by becoming human, walking in our shoes, suffering and dying, and then becoming a merciful and faithful High Priest. The fact that we are willing to stand with Christ and endure whatever comes our way shows our identification with him. Paul suffered and endured greatly with Christ. He had a deep abiding fellowship with him.

Most of us probably will not suffer in the ways Paul did, but it is possible. If you decide to take the Gospel to a foreign country, it could be a very real possibility, and you will be greatly blessed for doing it. If Paul could endure such hardships, surely we can endure a little ridicule. Surely we can put up with being the odd ball. Surely we can live with losing friends, family, or even a job. After all, it is all rubbish in comparison to the surpassing value of knowing Christ.

3) Being conformed to His Death. The is the greatest expression of all or nothing. Jesus gave up his life. To gain Christ, we give up our life. We are to take up our Cross daily. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. It is only in this death that we will find life. The main characteristic about a dead person is that he does not argue, or find a way out of going where Christ leads. He has no self interest, but simply goes where Christ leads. We are to be living sacrifices. We are to be conformed to the image of Christ, not to this world.

It is total commitment no matter what the cost. Colin Smith tells about when he was a child learning how to bid on an auction. His father told him never to scratch his nose at the wrong time. "Always know what your upper limit price," his father told him. The great danger is that we live our Christian lives the same way. Jesus does not allow an "upper limit price" in order to be one of his people. He tells us " For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. (Mark 8:35)." That is what it means to count everything as loss and rubbish in order to gain Christ. That is what it means to be conformed to his death.


What does this all mean for us here in Leavenworth? It means that we put his will and his mission first in our lives above everything else. Nothing else matters as much as this.

It is great to see everyone here worshipping together. But there is more to us that this. Jesus has great things in store for us. What a great privilege and honor to have the opportunity to serve him, and yes, even to fellowship with him in his mission, even if it means the fellowship of his sufferings as well. There is ministry to be done. There are lost people to be reached. There is the Gospel to be shared. There disciples to mentor and to lead.

Jesus has given a commission for us to take the Gospel to every creature. He has given us a commission to make disciples of all the nations. A BC perspective says, that's good and well, but it is not for me. I don't think I will find fulfillment or happiness in it because there is so much rejection in it. I don't want to stand out and turn people off. An AD perspective says, "You are my Lord, use me in any way you see fit. Whatever opportunity presents itself, I will use it to your glory and not bury it in the ground. Wherever you send, I will go no matter what the cost. Your will, not mine.

So where are you? BC or AD? Jesus is coming some day to take away those living in AD. Those who have surrendered to Christ as Lord. Those who are sold out to the one who died on the cross and rose from the grave for them. Those who have been buried with him in baptism and died to themselves. Those who put Christ number one.

What year will this be for you? Will it be 2006 BC or AD? The choice is yours.