For the first 10-15 minutes of our Wednesday night bible studies at Capitol Hill Baptist Church Michael Lawrence has recently started reading through Jim Packer’s classic, “Knowing God”. Last night he began chapter 2.
“ ‘I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord,: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him… that I may know him…’ (Philippians 3:7-10). When Paul says he counts the things he lost ‘dung’, he does not merely mean that he does not think of them as having any value, but also that he does not live with them constantly in his mind: what normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure? Yet this, in effect, is what many of us do. It shows how little we have in the way of the true knowledge of God.”
It is a striking image. The question that I want to focus on is why we have such a hard time counting them dung.
I’ve been listening to John Piper’s excellent podcasts about the ‘divided man’ in Romans 7. Well, whether or not one agrees that the divided man of Romans 7 is a Christian, it is clear that Romans 8 talks about a divided man who has the Spirit.
“If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness [justification]. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ form the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:10-11)
When will he give life to our mortal bodies? Has this happened yet? No, they are dead because of sin.
“We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, graon inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (8:23)
This is why I find myself constantly attracted to ‘nostalgically dreaming of manure’. I know, in my spirit, that it is manure, but my flesh considers it just as beautiful as it always did. My flesh is not even being renewed. My spirit has been regenerated, my mind is being renewed (12:3), my body will be redeemed.
My body is just as committed to this world as it ever was before I was saved. In fact, it is committed to this world in more adult and sophisticated ways than it was when I was an unsaved child. Everything that it sees holds out opportunities to sin that it was not aware of previously. Even wonderful things like the law afford opportunities for my flesh to sin. It has seen more of the attraction of that which my soul now sees is dung. It has more opportunities to seek my glory than it did before I was a Christian. My body never sought to receive worship from my wife and children before I was a Christian. I hadn't met my wife. My children hadn’t been born. But my flesh sees a whole lot of opportunities for worldliness now that I am a husband and father.
As a Christian, therefore, I need to acknowledge that the things of this world will be attractive to me. I live in this body. And yet I am to count them dung, not by denying their appeal, but by holding up next to them the ultimate and eternal appeal of the glory of Jesus Christ.
We cannot kid ourselves that our flesh will ever revolt against it’s own comfort, indulgence and glory; but we have seen that the glory of Christ is far more appropriate, beautiful, and to those who know Christ, delightful.
What therefore is needed is indeed a sacrifice of the body – it is to be presented as a living sacrifice, as the deeds of the body are transformed by the renewing of the mind.