But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ...
It's easy to overlook the verb tense shift in these verses from "I counted" in verse seven to "I count" in verse eight. Paul says that at some time in the past he counted (past tense) as loss all the things that were previously gain to him. All the things that were to his credit in this world, he laid down in order to gain Christ. Paul is talking about laying aside all of his hard-earned religious achievements that impressed men in order to receive Christ by grace.
I believe Paul serves as an example of what happens to all believers here. All of us, in order to receive Christ at salvation, must let go of the things of this world. In order to receive God's grace and grasp hold of the cross, we must first empty our hands of our current gods. It makes no difference if that god is pleasure, or self-reliance. Jesus will not share the throne of our hearts with anyone.
If you haven't already, let go of all that our world considers gain so that you may gain salvation in Jesus. Turn to Him in faith asking Him to forgive you of your sins, believing that His death on the cross paid the price for your sin and His resurrection from the dead set you free from the power of sin. Look to Him for grace and salvation.
For those of us who have already accepted Jesus, Paul has a further word. In verse eight Paul makes a subtle shift to the present tense to indicate that now, having progressed further in his Christian walk, he has let go of even more things to gain Christ. In the past Paul counted as loss the things that were previously to his gain. He had to do this for salvation. Now that he has tasted of Jesus' grace, now that he has seen how surpassingly good Christ is, Paul has willingly counts all things in this world as loss in order to have more of Jesus.
Many believers fail to live as courageously for Jesus as Paul did. Why is that? Why was Paul willing to suffer to take the gospel to new places? Why did he never take a wife, build a home and have children? Why was he willing to lay down his life and die as an example for the church and as a testimony to unbelievers? Because Paul was thoroughly convinced that Jesus was far better than anything this world has to offer. Here is a man who was deeply in love with Jesus, and he was willing to sacrifice anything...everything in order to that he might grow closer to Him. Paul wanted to know Him more and serve Him better.
Why is it that we can never find time for Bible study or prayer? Why is it that we are still so entangled by the cares of this world: by money, fear, reputation, success, and the opinions of men? Why is it that we are still struggling with the same old sins so many years after our conversion? It is because we love this world far too much and we love Jesus far too little!
O Lord, help us to fall more deeply in love with You today! Remind us of Jesus' surpassing greatness. Give us a glimpse of His beauty and His goodness again. Call us back to you in gentleness and in love. As we grow in our relationship with You, help us to let go of this world and to cling to the cross of Jesus more closely day by day.