Grace Lutheran Church Weekly Devotion - Philippians 3:4b–14
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. 7But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8Indeed, 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 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Saint Paul is presenting his resume in our text; he is telling us of his ancestry, his cultural heritage, and his past accomplishments. That is how Paul found worth and value in his life. How do we find value and worth in our lives? Many people take pride in their occupation, possessions, and accomplishments. Some people think they are better than others by what they do, have, and what they have done. So did Saint Paul. He was sure that, according to his Hebrew heritage and accomplishments, he was blameless under the Law (cf. 6) and therefore righteous in the eyes of God. But Christ stripped him of all the layers of man-made meaning and self-worth. Jesus gave him a new vocation as “a chosen instrument of [Christ] to carry [His] name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Now Paul is “a prisoner for Christ” (1:11). He tells the Church, “’Whatever gain I had’ (7), my Hebrew heritage, all my efforts to keep the Law of Moses blamelessly, did not make life worth living, I still was not saved.”
For Paul what makes life worth living is a forward direction given by Christ. Paul declares, “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 and be found in Him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (8-9). The truth is, try as we might, we can never make ourselves righteous. We sit in a church pew singing and praying with other faithful Christians, yet in our heart, in that place no one can see, there is nothing but guilt and shame. Only God can make us righteous, and He does it through His Son, Jesus Christ.
By grace, Christ took our best efforts, which are all “rubbish,” to the cross. Because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and rising from the dead on the third day, God counts us righteous through faith in Jesus. Through God’s Word in and with the water of Holy Baptism, we participate in dying and rising with Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-11) and united with the power of His resurrection . We are joined to Christ’s suffering (cf. 10), no not as a payment for our sin, Jesus did that on Calvary, but at the hands of the world, where Christ is still on trial. Our God given relationship with Christ Jesus gives us a new identity, it gives us value, a new goal in life, and a future filled with hope. But like Saint Paul then, we have not yet obtained the prize, nor have we become perfect. So, we press on to take hold of that for which our Savior took hold of us: “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (14) which leads us into His presence in life here and in “the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells” (cf. 2 Peter 3:13) forever and ever.
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Cheyenne Wells, CO, 80810-0728
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