Read Philippians 3:1-11
1Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
2Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put 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; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, 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 is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (NIV)
As Paul transitions in his letter to the Philippians, he reminds them to “rejoice in the Lord!” This was a common theme for Paul. There is joy in following Christ. Sometimes I think people look at all that Christianity offers and say: “It is just a bunch of rules to keep you from having fun – why bother.” But for Paul, there is joy in following Christ.
One of the interesting things I have noticed as a pastor is that people seem to get through the major traumas of life. There is a realization that this must be dealt with and it is done. But it is the minor hiccups and irritations in life that seem to be the things that rob us of our joy. That is why Paul points to reminding people to rejoice in everyday events and happenings. Rejoice in the little things and then little things will not rob one’s joy. This is an area I am still working on.
Paul begins his next section of the letter to speak to one of his most common topics, which is law verses grace. He warns that it is not the law that saves a person and brings them to eternal life. His argument this time as how some want the new believers to buy into the legalistic nature of religion to be is to answer by saying, “I have tried it and it didn’t work.” He lists his background as a follower of the law. He says there is just about no one who did it better than he did it. He was a perfect follower of the law.
He then says, I count that as a loss. Whatever gain he thought he had in living life in his earlier years, he now realizes cost him in the end. This is so critical to Paul’s theology and what he writes. Adhering to a set of rules and laws does not make one a disciple. It is only by putting one’s faith in Christ that leads one to the place God wants us to be and to eternal life.
This can be hard for many as we want to do something to show we are worthy. We want and even feel like we must do something. And we are called to do. But it is a response, not a prerequisite to receiving God’s love and forgiveness. It is only putting our trust in Christ. We become righteous, not in our power, but by putting on Christ. We make Christ first and foremost in our lives.
Paul eludes to the work we are called to do when he says he wants to share in Christ’s sufferings. We share in Christ’s sufferings when we surrender to our will and begin to do the things God calls us to. There is a fine line between doing work in response and doing work as a prerequisite. They can look the same to an outsider. The real difference is in our motivation and the way we can tell is that over time we will find more joy in serving God. This was Paul realized. We have to remember that Paul is not writing shortly after his conversion, but many years after coming to accept Christ as his Savior. This is how he started this section, a reminder to rejoice.
Do you find joy in serving God? Or is it a chore? Is there a temptation at times to see our faith as a set of rules? (I think we are tempted because this is easier that surrendering our will.) Has your joy grown in the years since your first accepted Christ?
Blessings and Peace