Philippians 3:1-9 teaches us what we need to do to get our priorities straight. In regards to religion, Paul explained that most of what we think is important to God, doesn’t mean anything at all. He called people “dogs” who practice empty religion and their religious activities “dung” (garbage).
Paul remembered the time when he was religious but he was lost. When God saved him, he discovered that in spite of his religion and legalism, he was bankrupt, blind and bound for hell. Religion without a new birth was absolutely profitless. Not only did this truth change his life but he wanted it to change every person’s life who counts religion as righteousness.
The Bankruptcy Of The Religious Man
Paul took pride in his rituals, relationships, respectability, race, religion, and reputation and he discovered it was all bankrupt. He said:
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6)
Paul was proud of his rituals, including circumcision, which he had experienced to attain his religious status. But he learned that rituals could not save a person. Today, there are many who believe that the ritual of baptism can save them.
Paul took pride in his relationship with “the stock of Israel” – God’s chosen people the Jews – and yet he was lost. The only relationship that will save you and I is the one we have through our Savior Jesus Christ!
The third way Paul could have had confidence in his flesh was in his respectability. Not only was he a circumcised Jew but he was also from the tribe of Benjamin. If you were a Benjamite, you were something very special. He had a family name and a family tradition to boost his worldly credentials.
The next description that Paul gives us about himself is his race. He said he was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews.” He meant that his bloodline was clear of any interracial blood. Thankfully, God saves men, women, and children from every tribe, tongue and nation.
Another character quality (or should I say flaw) in which Paul could have taken pride was his religion. He said, “as touching the law, a Pharisee.” The Pharisees were the strictest sect of the Jews. Religion has never saved anyone. Only the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
And then there was the pride of reputation. Nobody in Paul’s day could point a finger of blame at him. Now, it was not sinless. He was blameless in the eyes of men, but he was not sinless in the eyes of God.
Sometimes we think that God is going to give us brownie points because of what we have inherited by our birth or gained by our hard work. But our Lord doesn’t work that way. It is all Jesus!
The Blessedness Of The Redeemed Man
Philippians 3:8-9 states “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count but dung, that I win Christ, And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Some people may think that Paul is saying that right living is bad. The things that Paul counted as loss were not bad in and of themselves, they were mostly good. But pay attention now. A good thing is a bad thing if it keeps you from the best thing. That’s what’s wrong with self-righteousness. It keeps you from God’s righteousness.
The worse form of badness is human goodness when human goodness becomes a substitute for the new birth. The Apostle Paul exhorted his Jewish brethren not to establish their own righteousness in the place of God’s righteousness. Instead, he encouraged them to submit themselves unto the righteousness of God.
When Paul ceased from relying upon himself for salvation and turned to Jesus Christ, he found three things: a knowledge of Christ, a fellowship with Christ, and the righteousness of Christ.
A Knowledge Of Christ
Paul considered the knowledge of Christ to surpass anything he could ever attain on his own. But this isn’t knowledge as in gaining information. In the Old Testament, the word “knowing” was used sometimes to describe physical intimacy between a man and a woman. Here, Paul used it to describe spiritual intimacy between himself and God.
Knowledge is more than just what we think inside our heads, it is what we experience in our heart in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You can be a Buddhist and not know Buddha. You can practice Islam, and not know Mohammad. You can’t be a Christian and not know Jesus. You see, Jesus is real to me. Jesus was real to Paul. Jesus was someone that Paul knew personally.
Do you know Him? I mean really know Him? Not that Jesus died and rose again for people to be saved…but that He died and rose again for you to be saved and have an everlasting relationship with God. Is Jesus Christ a bright, burning, living reality to you?
A Fellowship With Christ
Paul said that he wanted to “be found in Him.” Paul in Christ. Christ in Paul. Before Paul’s conversion, he had religion. After his salvation, Paul had a relationship. Before, he had a set of rules. After, he had a set of friends – the most important being the one he had with his Savior Jesus Christ.
I am not trying to brag about it, but I want to tell you that Jesus Christ is a wonderful friend to me. I don’t have to say a word. Just knowing He is there for me is enough. Knowing He loves me, is inexpressible joy to my heart.
A Righteousness Of Christ
The closer Paul drew to God, the greater his awareness of his own filthiness and need of the righteousness of Christ. Without the imputation of Christ’s righteousness into our lives, we would have no relationship whatsoever with God. Paul understood this.
Our righteousness does not come by works. It is an imputed righteousness (see Romans 4:21-25). Imputed means to place on your account. It’s like going to a department store and instead of telling them you want to charge your purchase, you tell them you want to impute it. It means the same thing – to put on your account.
When God looks at the ledger of our lives, He sees red – not in a bad way, but a good way. He sees the red, righteous, royal blood of His Son credited to our account and we are declared righteous before Him!
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