English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Whatever happens, dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you joy. I never get tired of telling you this. I am doing this for your own good.
2 Watch out for those dogs, those wicked men and their evil deeds, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3For we who worship God in the Spirit£ are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us.
4 Yet I could have confidence in myself if anyone could. If others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! 5 For I was circumcised when I was eight days old, having been born into a pure-blooded Jewish family that is a branch of the tribe of Benjamin. So I am a real Jew if there ever was one! What’s more, I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6 And zealous? Yes, in fact, I harshly persecuted the church. And I obeyed the Jewish law so carefully that I was never accused of any fault.
7 I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!
Pressing toward the Goal
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be,£ but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.£
As a safeguard, Paul reviewed the basics with these believers. The Bible is our safeguard both morally and theologically. When I read it as a individual and publicly in church, it alerts me to corrections I need to make in my thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
It is easy to place more emphasis on human effort than on internal faith, but God values the attitude of my heart above all else. I should not judge people’s spirituality by their fulfillment of duties or by their level of human activity. And I should not think that I will satisfy God by feverishly doing his work. God notices all I do for him and will reward me for it, but only if it comes as a loving response to his free gift of salvation.
At first glance, it looks like Paul is boasting about his achievements. But he is actually doing the opposite, showing that human achievements, no matter how impressive, cannot earn a person salvation and eternal life with God. Paul had impressive credentials: upbringing, nationality, family background, inheritance, orthodoxy, activity, and morality (see 2 Corinthians 11; Galatians 1:13-24, for more of his credentials). However, his conversion to faith in Christ (Acts 9) wasn’t based on what he had done but on God’s grace. Paul did not depend on his deeds to please God, because even the most impressive credentials fall short of God’s holy standards. Am I depending on Christian parents, church affiliation, or just being good to make you right with God? No! Credentials, accomplishments, or reputation cannot earn salvation. Salvation comes only through faith in Christ.
When Paul spoke of “all these things,” he was referring to his credentials, credits, and successes. After showing that he could beat the Judaizers at their own game (being proud of who they were and what they had done), Paul showed that it was the wrong game. I should be careful of considering past achievements so important that they get in the way of your relationship with Christ.
After Paul considered everything he had accomplished in his life, he said that it was all “worthless” when compared with the greatness of knowing Christ. This is a profound statement about values: A person’s relationship with Christ is more important than anything else. To know Christ should be our ultimate goal. Consider your values. Do you place anything above your relationship with Christ? Yes, my love of God, the Father. If my priorities are wrong, how will I reorder them? I will not, I will put the Father first, just like the Son did.
No amount of law keeping, self-improvement, discipline, or religious effort can make us right with God. Righteousness comes only from God. We are made righteous (receive right standing with him) by loving Him and trusting in Christ. He exchanges our sin and shortcomings for his complete righteousness. See 2 Corinthians 5:21 for more on Christ’s gift of righteousness.
Paul gave up everything—family, friendship, and freedom—in order to know Christ and his resurrection power. I, too, have access to this knowledge and this power, but I may have to make sacrifices to enjoy it fully. What am I willing to give up in order to know Christ? Everything. A crowded schedule in order to set aside a few minutes each day for prayer and Bible study? Yes. My friend’s approval? Yes. Some of my plans or pleasures? Yes. Whatever it is, knowing Christ is more than worth the sacrifice.
When I become one with Christ by trusting in him, I experience the power that raised him from the dead. That same mighty power will help us live morally renewed and regenerated lives. But before I can walk in newness of life, I must die to sin. Just as the Resurrection gives us Christ’s power to live for him, his crucifixion marks the death of my old sinful nature. I can’t know the victory of the Resurrection without personally applying the Crucifixion.
Lord, deliver me from the small loyalties of habit or tradition that would keep me from larger loyalties of the spirit. Let me so incline myself to you that your presence in my life determines both what I think and what I do. Through Jesus, who understood the deeper meaning of freedom. Amen.
John killinger in A Devotional Guide to the Gospels
Let the godly sing with joy to the LORD,
for it is fitting to praise him.
2 Praise the LORD with melodies on the lyre;
make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
3 Sing new songs of praise to him;
play skillfully on the harp and sing with joy.
4 For the word of the LORD holds true,
and everything he does is worthy of our trust.
5 He loves whatever is just and good,
and his unfailing love fills the earth.
6 The LORD merely spoke,
and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
and all the stars were born.
7 He gave the sea its boundaries
and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
8 Let everyone in the world fear the LORD,
and let everyone stand in awe of him.
9 For when he spoke, the world began!
It appeared at his command.
10 The LORD shatters the plans of the nations
and thwarts all their schemes.
11 But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever;
his intentions can never be shaken.
12 What joy for the nation whose God is the LORD,
whose people he has chosen for his own.
13 The LORD looks down from heaven
and sees the whole human race.
14 From his throne he observes
all who live on the earth.
15 He made their hearts,
so he understands everything they do.
16 The best-equipped army cannot save a king,
nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
17 Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—
for all its strength, it cannot save you.
18 But the LORD watches over those who fear him,
those who rely on his unfailing love.
19 He rescues them from death
and keeps them alive in times of famine.
20 We depend on the LORD alone to save us.
Only he can help us, protecting us like a shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we are trusting in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD,
for our hope is in you alone.
All God’s words are true and trustworthy. The Bible is reliable because, unlike people, God does not lie, forget, change his words, or leave his promises unfulfilled. I can trust the Bible because it contains the words of a holy, trustworthy, and unchangeable God.
This is a poetic summary of the first chapter of Genesis. God is not just the coordinator of natural forces; he is the Lord of creation, the almighty God. Because he is all-powerful, I should revere him in all I do.
“The LORD’s plans stand firm forever.” Am I frustrated by inconsistencies I see in others or even in myself? God is completely trustworthy—his intentions never change. There is a promise that whatever is good and perfect comes to me from the Creator who never changes (James 1:17). When I wonder if there is anyone whom I can trust, I need to remember that God is completely consistent. Let him counsel me.
Warhorse refers to military strength. Because God rules and overrules every nation, leaders should never put their trust in their physical power. Military might is not the basis for my hope. My hope is in God and in his gracious offer to save me if I will trust in him.
This is not an ironclad guarantee that all believers will be delivered from death and starvation. Thousands of Christian saints have been beaten to death, whipped, fed to lions, or executed (Romans 8:35, 36; Hebrews 11:32-40). God can (and often does) miraculously deliver his followers from pain and death; although sometimes, for purposes known only to him, he chooses not to. When faced with these harsh realities, I must focus on the wise judgments of God. The writer was pleading for God’s watchful care and protection. In times of crisis, I can place my hope in God.
In a life where one has just so much time and energy it is important that I am doing the first things first. I need to ask him this week to show me the real priorities of my life. Also, I should examine my life in conversation with Him.
“Take My Life, and Let It Be”
Take my life and let it Be” Consecrated, Lord to Thee; take my hands and let them move At the impulse of Thy love….
Frances R. Havergae
Grant, O Lord, that I may live in Your fear, die in Your favor, rest in Your peace, rise in Your power, reign in Your glory.
Archbishop Laud in Little Book of Prayers
We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – even of silence – by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug it into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn’t “attack” anything; a weasel lives as he ‘s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity.
I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Than even death, where you’re going no matter how you liv e, cannot you part.
- From Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard