“If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4b – 6)
Paul had all the correct attributes and monikers to be considered a good Jew and a good believer under and in Yahweh. He reminds me of prosper members of humanity who feel they have achieved much in this life and attribute it to being a “good” Christian and that the Lord has blessed in riches and possessions which have attained them status and recognition.
“Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.” (Verse 7)
But these things are not signs and symbols of the Lord God’s favor. Good fortune, yes. Good planning, yes. Advantages & opportunities, yes. Living a careful and considered life, yes. But do not confuse this with the Lord’s approval and blessing. It IS possible to be prosperous and a good Christian. But prosperity is not the confirmation of salvation. And a relationship with the Divine.
“More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.” (Verses 8 – 9)
I am reading a biography right now of a famous Christian singer. In every page there is a testimony to trusting in God and being lead in faith. I also read a biography of a famous pop singer. In much of the opening of the book there are pages of excessive living and unhappiness. It was only when he streamlined his life and prioritized his life goals to include good friends and family that he found happiness and contentment. A thought occurred to me while I was pondering on this; not an original thought but a paraphrase from some where. “What profits a person if that person gains the whole world but loses the soul.” [Inclusive language sort of takes away the pithiness, but you get the picture.]
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Verses 10 – 12)
The argument that Paul states in the above verses I read as a two-edged or two-sided exhortation. Paul (for all we know about him and his zeal for the Lord) does not feel he has reached his goal. That can sort of feel disheartening, if Paul with all his goodness has not attained it, how can we? But . . . . . we can take comfort in the fact that we are not expected to reach this Christ-like perfection; only to yearn to attain it.
“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Verses 13 – 14)
I think back to some of the missteps I made in the past, and feel embarrassment. Some of the things I did unintentionally (and yes, once in a while that I did intentionally) that cause upset and distress to others. Each day we learn how to better live under the auspice of the Divine. We live more carefully, and are attuned to how we impact others. And how others impact us. It is a process, seeing where our mistakes and missteps were; when possible remedying what was done. Asking forgiveness for what is past or cannot be undone. And extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness to others.
May you, beloved reader, watch how you live. May you learn each day how to better align your life to Jesus Christ; and to live each day in better harmony with humanity and creation. And may you press on towards the goal of heaven in the presence of the Divine. Shalom & Selah!