Knee Jerk Devotional: March 29, 2021

Philippians 3:1-14

Passage:

And that's about it, friends. Be glad in God!

I don't mind repeating what I have written in earlier letters, and I hope you don't mind hearing it again. Better safe than sorry—so here goes.

Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they're interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ's praise as we do it. We couldn't carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it— even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God's law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting Christians; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God's law Book.

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

Come on! This is so good. Catching this glimpse of Paul’s heart is so beautiful. It rings so true to my ears and heart.

We see Paul walking through where he has come in his journey of faith. Remember, his life straddled before the historical Christ and after the historical Christ. He was one who was seeking to pursue faith before the resurrection and also after. We see here Paul’s move from his Pharisaical faith to his Christ-centered faith.

Throughout Paul what we see is a move from faithful to the Law to faithful through Christ. This is such a critical shift in Paul’s life.

I am becoming convinced that every Christian needs to experience this journey from faithful to the Law to faithful through Christ. We start out in our faith and try to do good by following the rules. We desperately want to do the right things to show that we are worthy of Christ’s sacrifice for us. This desire to prove our worthiness is something that leads us to shame. It doesn’t take much self-awareness to realize that we are never going to be worthy for the self-sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. For so many, this leads to a spiral of shame. The spiral too often turns us into bitter and angry judges.

Isn’t that where we pick up Paul’s story in the book of Acts? He was going around arresting and trying to have Christians killed for their faith in the Messiah. Why? The shame of his own lack of perfect faithfulness to the Law. This stumbling block of a shameful Messiah that died on a cross was too much and he lashed out.

Oh friends, we do this too! It doesn’t take much to look around and see how many of us lash out from our self-righteous shame. We can easily identify it in us by noting whose lives must change before they begin following Jesus. It in that intersection that our own shame is confronted by the radical grace of Jesus and we can’t bear it.

My “awakening” began when I sat and read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller in one sitting outside a Normal, IL coffee shop. I tore through my Bible after that and it was like I was reading about grace for the first time. Jesus’ great love and mercy were fresh and new to me. I saw in the writings of the whole of Scripture the unfolding narrative of grace. I couldn’t unsee it.

Ever since then I have resonated with Paul,

“Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.”

And…

“I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.”

As I continue to be confronted by the radical depths of Jesus’ grace, mercy, love, and truth I find something in me begin to come alive. I am no expert, but I’ve got my on the goal, I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

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