Read Philippians 3
1 Further, my brothers and sisters, 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. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised 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; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and 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 on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Following Paul’s Example
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
A lot of us love checklists. There is great satisfaction that comes from checking off a task. We love to say the three little words that fill our hearts with joy: “I did it!” And that spurs us on to do more, be more, achieve more. Our world rewards and reinforces this idea. Think about the thousands of books, workshops, classes, videos, articles, and dollars devoted to how to achieve tiny check marks and the pride that comes from them. This is how the world works for worldly things; the problem lies in us applying this worldly method to our gospel purpose. Go to church? Check. Read the Bible? Check. Listen to Christian music? Check.
These are all good things when done to learn and demonstrate how to love God and love people more. But so often we stop at that tiny check mark. The Philippians struggled with this as well. Circumcised? Check. Follow the Law? Check. Denounce those who don’t? Check.
But they stopped at that tiny check mark. And worse, they used that tiny check mark against people, rather than for them. Do we do the same? Do we focus on the check marks of worldly Christianity to the detriment of the heavenly purpose of Christianity? It’s such an easy distraction that comes with great human satisfaction. All ending with those three little words: “I did it!” But when we have our eyes fixed on the check mark, we do not have our eyes fixed on Christ. Paul shares, “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 on the basis of faith.”
The Holy Spirit thriving in us and working through us is our heavenly check mark. It is the thing we should strive to attain. Paul tells us this is an indicator of faith maturity (verse 3:15). As we mature in our relationship with Christ, we develop from the elementary check mark mentality to the advanced faith perspective that reflects Christ in us and through us. Faith–true, deep, rich faith in God–is the prize. Let us not be distracted by so focusing on check marks that we lose sight of this true prize.
- In what ways do you focus on “checking the boxes” of worldly Christianity?
- In what ways do you demonstrate the heavenly purpose of Christianity?
- What does faith maturity look like? On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being immature in faith and 10 being the most mature faith possible, where do you currently fall?
Did You Know?
Paul’s mini-biography in verses 4-6 are meant to reinforce the idea of our salvation being by faith alone and not by our works. When it came to upholding the Law, no one had a better resumé than Paul, but he considers that to be worthless in comparison to knowing Christ.