Never trade Jesus for the idea of Jesus.
Those words dropped like a gospel sledgehammer during a chapel service yesterday here at Lifeway Christian Resources in Nashville. Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Texas, said that provocative phrase in the sermon he preached from Philippians 3.
I’d like you to take a minute to let that phrase sink in: Never trade Jesus for the idea of Jesus. Read it and re-read it. Don’t let its sting distract you from its desire to unearth the truth in your heart.
All too often Christians fall into—or drift into—this reality, especially those of us who are called to work in church-related vocations or ministries. It’s easy to rely on natural abilities, experience, education, or passion and not rely on Jesus Christ. We end up doing good things on Christ’s behalf but overlook Him in the process. And sometimes we delve into the Scriptures looking for something—anything—that might help us, encourage us, bless us, but we do a button-hook around Jesus to pursue it.
As Chandler pointed out, the apostle Paul hit this nail square on the head: “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8).
In fact, everything stacked up against Jesus Christ is skubala. This is the Greek word Paul used to describe what he used to value instead of Christ and what he’d lost to gain Him. All things are “filth” (HCSB), “rubbish” (ESV, NIV, NASB), “dung” (KJV) compared to the value of Christ. You get the picture.
Interesting thing is, Paul was zealous for God and religiously blameless. But once Christ accosted him and changed him (Acts 22:6-21), Paul would trade everything to know Him personally.
Now back to the phrase that we’ve been pondering. Let’s bring it close to home: What has crept into your life that you’ve traded as something more valuable than Jesus? What skubala needs to be swept aside so that Jesus can shine brightest and best? Are there any “good” things—ideas of Jesus, work on His behalf, or anything that has the aroma of Christ—that have become idols needing to be crushed under the greatness of knowing Jesus personally?
Never trade Jesus for the idea of Jesus. What a lousy trade. Jesus is better. Jesus is sufficient. Jesus is worthy.
For more meditation on this idea, see Revelation 5 and, well, the entire book of Hebrews.
Micah Carter is the publishing team leader for Lifeway’s young adult ministry.