Being Acceptable to God
1Finally, my dear friends, be glad that you belong to the Lord. It doesn't bother me to write the same things to you that I have written before. In fact, it is for your own good.
2Watch out for those people who behave like dogs! They are evil and want to do more than just circumcise you. 3But we are the ones who are truly circumcised, because we worship by the power of God's Spirit and take pride in Christ Jesus. We don't brag about what we have done, 4although I could. Others may brag about themselves, but I have more reason to brag than anyone else. 5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old, and I am from the nation of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a true Hebrew. As a Pharisee, I strictly obeyed the Law of Moses. 6 And I was so eager I even made trouble for the church. I did everything the Law demands in order to please God.
7But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. 8Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ 9and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. 10All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11so that somehow I also may be raised to life.
Checking the boxes has become an imperative in our target-driven culture. Whether in business or government, in education or even the marriage market, it seems as though everything is measured and valued according to quantifiable criteria. And yet, when common sense and reality take a step back, the boxes are often inadequate and the checks don’t display the truth. Paul checked all the boxes in the righteousness evaluation, both through the accident of elite Jewish birth and sheer effort. His impressive CV surpassed that of any of his Jewish opponents who might come sniffing around the church.
Then Paul met Jesus. Suddenly, none of the pedigree, none of the accolades, none of the spiritual achievements matter one jot: in fact, they are a joke, a distraction, utter rubbish in comparison. Knowing Jesus, whom he calls “my Lord” only here, frolicking in the vast ocean of his goodness and power, abandoned to the expansive gift of divine righteousness, rendered Paul’s own checked boxes somewhat redundant and limiting. The single-minded pursuit of perfection according to the Jewish law is gloriously redirected into a passionate quest to know Christ more fully, sharing in his sufferings and his resurrection power.
When you are tempted to keep an account of your good works or to measure your faith against another’s, picture a paltry confining square on a lifeless piece of paper. When you get bogged down with how well you are scoring in witnessing or prayer, leading a Bible study or dealing kindly with difficult neighbours, crumple it up and throw it in the bin. Raise your empty hands in wonder and gratitude and sheer joy that you – you – are ‘in Christ Jesus’. There is no box in the universe big enough to contain him, no check that will ever make a mark beside such a vibrant explosion of grace.
First used in Encounter with God July-Sept & Oct-Dec 2014, written by Fiona Barnard, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.
Lord Jesus, thank you for these words of Paul that remind me that all my accomplishments and spiritual achievements are actually a hindrance and count for nothing compared to the value of knowing you. Please help me keep my eyes focussed on you and your grace. In your name, Amen.