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“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Philippians 3:7-8)
In Philippians 3, Paul uses an accounting metaphor to describe how his attitude changed when he met Jesus. Before knowing Jesus, his profit column was filled with all the things that gave him status and worth: his lineage, his morality, his involvement with the religious elite. But after Jesus, all that was in the profit column was moved to the loss column, as Jesus alone occupied the profit column.
As I reflected on this, I began to realize how true this is. Whether or not we are aware of it, we spend so much of our lives trying to convince ourselves and others that we are worth something. We may believe that we are valuable because of our looks, our status, our possessions, our morality, our race, our sense of humor, our intelligence, our job, our ability as a parent or spouse, or any number of other things. We fight off that existential fear that our lives are meaningless by finding whatever we can to put in our profit column. Personally, before I knew Christ, my profit column consisted mainly of my intelligence, my athletic ability, my girlfriend, and my belief that I was a pretty good kid.
But once I met Christ, and my desire increasingly became to know Him and to follow Him, I found that all of those things which I clung to for value were now weighing me down and holding me back in my discipleship. I was afraid to be public about my faith for fear of seeming less intelligent at my secular college. My devotion to sports got in the way of using my time in more eternally important ways. I could not obey God fully for fear of losing my girlfriend. And my belief that I was a good kid prevented me for a long time from looking honestly at how much sin was in me.
Even now, sixteen years into this journey of faith, whenever I put something besides Christ in the profit column – my ability as a pastor, for instance – it becomes an idol that gets in the way of my single-minded pursuit of knowing Jesus. After all, if knowing Jesus more meant leaving the pastorate, which one would I choose?
Looking at this reality from a profit and loss perspective has helped me to see how essential it is to know how loved I am by Jesus. The more I find my self-worth and value in His perception of me, the easier it becomes to move things out of my profit column and into the loss column. But the more I find my identity and value in the things of this world, the less effective I am in my pursuit of Christ, and the more unstable I become. As I grow in my knowledge of Christ, however, I find that I am loved, that He died for me when I was his enemy, and that all I ultimately desire will be mine one day forever with Him. The things of this world can’t deliver what they promise. In Christ, every promise is “yes” and “amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
So press on to know Christ more. And as you find rest and peace and value in His love for you, move everything else out of that profit column so that He becomes your one desire.
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