This is post #15 of a 26-session blog series entitled Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. It was Eugene Peterson who said that Philippians is Paul’s happiest letter. Join us as we explore this joyful work of Christ as it manifest itself amongst Paul and Timothy, and the early church of Christ-followers in Philippi. Just maybe, we might learn a few secrets to finding true joy in the midst of our lives as well. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: 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. Philippians 3: 7-9 (MsgB)
Religion vs. Relationship.
Rule keeping vs. grace seeking.
Man’s goodness vs. God’s righteousness.
Recently, I pondered a bit deeper on this subject, posting a 27-blog/podcast series during the Lenten season of 2020. Click here to visit that blog series. In those podcasts, we studied the five fullest days of Jesus’ three-year ministry: Palm Sunday through Maundy Thursday. As I see it, five days that reveal the major differences between organized religion (man’s attempt at goodness) vs. true relationship with Christ (God’s righteousness).
It seems to me that Paul must have wrestled much with this big theme of Religion vs. Relationship, and as we’ve observed thus far in his letter to his friends in Philippi, Paul had every earthly reason to view himself as a righteous and godly man.
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 the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. Philippians 3: 4-6 (MsgB)
But, as we peruse today’s Lectio Divina, we discover that once Paul came into a relationship with Jesus of Nazareth, receiving His loving embrace, his own set of fleshly credentials began to crumble when compared to the righteousness that came as a gift from God.
Paul, you see, along with his ministry friends, had now tasted of the good fruit picked from a tree of righteousness that was planted, not by their own hands, but by Jesus alone. A fruit much sweeter and more pure than anything they had ever tasted when they were in charge of their own lives. And now, for Paul, he could no longer settle for a goodness that was constructed on his pedigree or the fruit of his own labors, but righteousness that comes from Christ alone.
Historians tell us that Martin Luther, the great reformer of the Christian faith, the man who restored God’s grace to the center of Christian truth, began his journey into God’s righteousness by honestly struggling with this question, “Am I good?”
In other words…
“Is there anything good and righteous inside me?”
Much like the apostle Paul, Luther wrestled, for years, with both God and himself, wondering if his strict adherence to religion’s rules and regulations were truly attaining for him the righteousness he so longed for.
The Scriptures and church history show us that eventually, both of these men came to the conclusion that following rules, adhering to strict religious practices, and living a life of sin management was simply not cutting it, even when the entire religious system surrounding them insisted that it would.
So, my dear friend, this begs the question.
Where does your righteousness come from?
Or, to put it another way…is there any good in your life, and if so, where does that good originate?
At times, through the eyes of our own flesh, this type of question can produce some very depressing answers.
But take heart.
No longer do we have to be tied to a religious system that assigns goodness to our lives based on our own good behavior. But, as Paul states…
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.
Today’s Prayer: Jesus, thank You for those who have gone before me, pointing the way back to Christ, and Christ alone, as my only true source of goodness and righteousness in my life. May I, like Paul and Luther, come to the saving knowledge that it is in my embrace of You, and Your embrace of me that I will find all I’m looking for in this life and the life to come. For Your Name’s sake and for Your Glory. Amen.
Today’s Questions to Ponder: Where have I been fooling myself, laboring diligently toward “some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules?” What might it look and feel like for me today to receive “the robust kind (of righteousness) that comes from trusting Christ,” alone?
So, how are you experiencing Jesus as we ponder together on this journey into the Book of Philippians?
Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 26 blogs. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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