Today’s Reading: Philippians 2:12-3:14
Paul takes a moment in the middle of his letter to the Church in Philippi to call attention to a couple young men who are living out their faith in Jesus Christ – men who are a great example for us of what holy living and obedience to God’s call should look like. Here’s what he had to say about Timothy and Epaphraditus (affectionately nicknamed Timmy and E-Rad by yours truly):
If the Lord is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit…I have no one else like Timothy, who GENUINELY CARES about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. – Philippians 2:19-22
Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphraditus back to you. He is a TRUE brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need…Welcome him with Christian love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Phil. 2:25, 29-30
Even though Paul is calling attention to these two servants of Christ, he wants us to focus on the Christ they serve and not on the human servant. He wants the Church to see that this kind of dedicated lifestyle is a result of God’s work within us, evidence that we are submitting to our Creator and not a result of our own human effort. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us, not what we can do on our own.
C.S. Lewis made a similar point in his book Mere Christianity: “The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.”
This week I have been listening to Chris Tomlin’s live version of the song Good Good Father as I practice for this Sunday morning’s worship. When Chris Tomlin talks about this song on the live version, he prays, “You’re a Father. You’re a good, good Father. You’re not loving us because we’re good; You’re loving us because You’re good.” Oh, what a difference in makes in our Christian walk when we accept that truth and stop trying to earn our salvation!
We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort… – Philippians 3:3b
Paul did not want the believers focused on their own list of accomplishments or good behavior. If that won us eternal life, Paul himself would have so much to brag about. But it’s not about our attempts at righteousness but about the righteousness of Christ. It’s not about building a resume’ of all the great things you have done for Christ in order to win His approval. Paul makes his own life an example and builds a resume’ of accomplishments, and then watch what he does with it.
I was circumcised when I was eight years old.
I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin – a real Hebrew if ever there was one!
I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.
I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church.
And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection of the dead.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling you. – Philippians 3:5-14
So take your resume’ of good works, crumple it up and throw it in the trash can. Those of us who answer this call to holy living aren’t saying that we are perfect or that we always get it right. It is more a devotion to allowing God to continue to do a work in me through my relationship with His Son. I don’t look back and see my past failures and sins and quit trying to live a holy life. I don’t look back and see what I have accomplished for His Kingdom and feel I have already arrived. No, I continue to look forward each day to what God wants me to do next and how He wants me to live – not by my own human efforts but as a result of His presence in my life.
Each day pressing on,
each day learning from my weaknesses and seeing His strengths,
each day striving for spiritual maturity.
I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST and experience His mighty power, having faith in the God who makes me right with Himself because His Son was willing to die on a cross for my sins.