But do we carry it too far?
Not in doing good things (let’s always want that!), but by incorrectly thinking that doing good things makes us good.
Immediately after Paul told the Philippians to fill up on joy (Philippians 3:1), he gave them a very stern warning:
“Look out for the dogs!
Look out for the evildoers!
Look out for those who mutilate the flesh!” (verse 2)
Who were those dogs? They were grace-stealers. They were Jews who were trying to pull the fresh Christians away from grace and back into law.
They were the voices we still hear today, whispering and sometimes shouting: “You’re not doing enough. You’re not good enough! Is that the best you can do???”
But Paul gave a confident and reassuring answer that we need to listen to. He said we don’t have to be good enough.
And he should know. If anybody had a beefy spiritual resume, it was Paul (verse 4). He had credentials. His Benjamite blood line was pure, traceable all the way back to Jacob, as far as a Jew could go.
He was a Pharisee on fire for obeying the law, far more zealous than any Sadducee. But…
Was it good enough? Could his credentials earn his salvation?
Can yours? What do you take pride in?
Maybe you have a stellar record of church attendance. Or you teach a Bible class or two. Or you make great sacrifices to homeschool your kids. Ah, great items for the resume, yes?
While those may be good things, they’re still zemia compared to knowing Christ. Zemia is the Greek word Paul used for “loss” in verse 3. As in detriment. Disadvantage.
If you’re relying on your own credentials to build your joy, you’re at a disadvantage. You’re wasting energy trying to be perfect on your own.
Instead, concentrate on knowing better the one who already is perfect. Hang out with him and let his blood rub off on you. His perfection is the only one you’ll ever need.
When we try to be right by our own goodness, we’re wrong. But when we accept the righteousness from God that depends on faith (verse 9), we go all the way through suffering to the other side of resurrection.
It’s painful to try to be perfect on our own. And it’s unnecessary. Christ has already done it for us.
So let’s heed Paul’s warnings and do as he did:
- Rejoice in the Lord
- Beware of grace-stealers
- Put no confidence in our own works
- Know Christ and build faith in him
Because it’s not what you do for him, it’s that you know him.
And that is reason to rejoice!
What have you gleaned from Philippians 3:1-11?
Do you still struggle with trying to do it all yourself?
How do you lean on Christ?