In Christ Alone, I Stand!
As a young Hebrew student Paul’s hunger for knowledge combined with his strict standards had caused him to rapidly rise to the top of his class. Paul had excelled at his religious education, showing early signs of genius. He verbally sparred with his peers and handily outshone their meager performances with his razor sharp rhetoric and nearly photographic memory. He had rightfully won bragging rights over all the other students. The bright Jewish scholar brought his parents no small measure of pride when he went off to Jerusalem to sit under the tutelage of the renowned Jewish rabbi, Gamaliel. Paul, born a full-bloodied Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, from a child was thoroughly grounded in the Scriptures. His parents recognized the early signs of genius in their son. They carefully guided their gifted child and relished the brilliant future their son had ahead of him. His home life, his schooling, his accomplishments, his passion, his position were all part and parcel of the components to groom Paul for a coveted seat on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling counsel. That is, until that moment. In a blinding flash Paul was intercepted by the resurrected Lord of Glory on the Damascus Road.
I. Religious Gains-Philippians 3:3-6 Prior to his conversion, Paul had vigorously pursued a life that conformed to the letter of the Jewish Law. That is, using his human giftedness, his acute mental capacity, and his ironclad willpower Paul had achieved greatness according to man’s standard. If anyone had reason to believe he could gain favor with God through human effort it was the apostle Paul. Paul wrote, If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more. No one had scaled such heights of religious ritual. He was born of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless (Phil. 3:4-8). On the human level, Paul could boast about his Jewishness. No one could have bested Paul in his national, tribal, or parental claim to his Jewish heritage. None could approach Paul’s zeal and enthusiasm for garnering religious (self-made) righteousness. A brilliant mind. A skilled orator. A learned scholar. A Hebrew of Hebrews. Paul was rapidly climbing the ladder of the Jewish hierarchy to rule the Sanhedrin. Paul’s rehearsal of his Jewish pedigree was directed at the Judaizers who mistook their strict religiousness for righteousness. Relying on a works-based manmade righteousness, they believed sinful man could find favor with God through good works, religious ritual, and strict adherence to the Law. The pretense of such heresy is laughable, knowing the sinfulness of unregenerate man and the fallacy of the flesh. In Paul’s day the rabbis were adding their interpretations and traditions to the Scriptures. As these oral teachings began to be written down, the Talmud emerged and nearly eclipsed the Torah! Piror to Paul’s conversion he too had been immersed in Jewish traditions and religious rituals. But then he met Jesus. Paul’s encounter with Christ revealed the inadequacies of man’s futile attempt to gain God’s favor by works of righteousness. Salvation is in Christ alone. Beware of what I call “pretty flesh.” Human effort clothed in religious activity by a believer or an unbeliever is little more than an attempt to disguise the flesh and make it presentable. When we rely on natural gifting, sheer willpower, or pretense “to perform” and appear to possess an acceptable measure of spirituality, we are controlling the flesh with the flesh. This exercise results in strengthening the flesh. Believers are to crucify the flesh and surrender to the Savior.
II. Spiritual Liabilities-Philippians 3:7 Prior to his conversion, Paul had been captured by the self-effort of a religious system, which was never intended to produce righteousness. He was relying on his personal Jewish pedigree, his religious education, and his good works to gain God’s favor and secure entrance into heaven. Paul’s manufactured religious gains had turned into a spiritual liability. His religious rituals had dulled his senses, masqueraded his sinfulness with self-righteousness, and blinded him to his spiritual bankruptcy and his desperate need for a Savior. Religion had gotten between his soul and the Savior. Then he met Jesus. One glimpse of the Lord Jesus Christ and all of Paul’s self-righteousness turned into filthy rags in his sight. Taking account of his religious balance sheet Paul’s wrote, Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ (Phil. 3:7). Paul realized his religious gains were spiritual liabilities. He was religious, but lost. Morally upright, but spiritually bankrupt. Still dead in his trespasses and sins. Upon meeting Jesus, Paul discarded his synthetic self-made religious ritual for the substitutionary sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. An honorable standing before men based on self-righteousness could not compete with a perfect standing before God based on the finished work of the cross! Whatever things were gain are all lost to me for the sake of Jesus Christ! In Christ alone I stand!
III. Intentional Losses-Philippians 3:8-11 Paul wrote, More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8). Nothing matters but Jesus. In Christ alone, I stand. Christ gave His life for us (justification) as that we might be found in Him, not having a righteous of our own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes form God on the basis of faith (Phil. 3:9). He now lives His life through and we are progressively changed into His image (sanctification) by the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Phi. 3:10). See Galatians 2:20. One day He will take us to heaven (glorification) where we will attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:11). No other call to consecration can compare with Paul’s evaluation of Christ. Should we be able to grasp the truth of this text, the lure of the world, the lies of the devil, and the lust of the flesh would fade from our conscious state. The things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace! And, oh the joy!! Irrepressible, unexplainable, uncontainable Joy in the Journey!
To watch live video stream of this message,click here. The message is live on Thursday, March 26, 2006 at 10:45 CT and then archived at www.bellevue.org under MOMS Spring 2009 "Joy in the Journey". We will soon be posting podcasts of this series on this blog. Blessings.