Most Bible believing Christians are in the habit of passing out a lot of rubbish. In doing so, they keep back what the world really needs from them. Yesterday in church, we looked at the vivid contrast between rubbish and righteousness found in Philippians 3:1-9. There are numerous applications to be found here – the main one being that real righteousness can be found only in God and granted to us through faith in Christ Jesus alone. However, the personal application I am making this morning is how eerily familiar Paul’s Pharisaical thinking is. It reflects how I sometimes think (and maybe you too?) and reveals that we give out a lot of rubbish.
Here Paul lists his verifiable, objective, and measurable achievements as a Law-keeper before he met Christ (3:5-6). It reminds me of lists we seem to always have at hand. With little hesitation, we recall facts about our religious experience. Facts which will impress others – or so we hope. They include our background, places we’ve been and people we know, ministry accomplishments, positions held, personal standards, lineage, etc., etc., ad nauseam. The sad fact is that we all have such “lists” that we believe impress others. (We keep another list of things we dare not reveal about ourselves lest we lose esteem.) Knowing fundamentalists are judgmental, we do not want to be placed in the wrong “camp” or “group.” A good friend used to give a sarcastic reply when asked where he had received his education. Knowing he was about to be “classified” he would say, “I began at Brigham Young but found it doctrinally incompatible and so moved on to Notre Dame. Although I grew there, I had to eventually settle into Oral Roberts University.” Jaws would drop and eyes would bulge. Finally, a smile would begin to creep across the questioner’s face. Then my friend would tell the truth and say, “Mostly, I’ve learned the Word through my local church but my degrees were earned elsewhere.” Sometimes, the questioner “got it” but usually not and they would press on for “full disclosure” so as to know how to judge and esteem (or not).
What others think of us (read: fear of man) can cause us to keep our religious resume at hand. Whenever we recite it, we distort reality and give value to rubbish. To impress others with our selves is to lose opportunity to impress others with Jesus. Paul claimed such “boasting” was worse than vanity. It was complete rubbish. He called it excrement. And so it is. The following quote from D.A. Carson on these verses is highly useful.
“Most who read these pages, I suspect, will not be greatly tempted to boast about their Jewish ancestry and ancient rights of race and religious heritage. But we may be tempted to brag about still less important things: our wealth, our status, our education, our emotional stability, our families, our political or business successes, our denominational alignments, or even about which version of the Bible we use. Be careful of people like that. They tend to regard everyone who is outside their little group as somehow inferior. Somewhere along the way they inadvertently — or even intentionally and maliciously — imagine that faith in Christ Jesus and delight in him is a little less important than their personal accomplishments. Instead, look around for those whose constant confidence is Jesus Christ, whose constant boast is Jesus Christ, whose constant delight is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the center of their worship, the center of their gratitude, the center of their love, the center of their hope . . . emulate those whose constant confidence and boast is in Christ Jesus and in nothing else.”[i]
How about you? Do you “imagine that faith in Christ Jesus and delight in him is a little less important” than your personal accomplishments? Of course not! Any believer would agree with Paul. His primary point being that the only works ever done by a man that merited the favor of God was the work done by Jesus. Our works are worthless. Only those of Jesus count! If you agree with Paul, then quit talking so much about what you’ve done and talk more about what Jesus has done. Make Jesus and His accomplishments your boast. Let others know He is worthy their esteem, respect, and love. The world does not need our rubbish. It needs His righteousness.
[i] A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996), p. 86.