Have You Ever Suffered Tragedy?

“…Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith”. (Philippians 3:8b-9)

Have you ever suffered tragedy in your life that really made you refocus your priorities? What used to matter a great deal (possessions, status, recognition, etc.) seems to fade into the background in light of a great personal tragedy or loss because we suddenly see how fleeting those things are in light of what is truly important. This was Paul’s experience when he met the risen Christ.

Paul emphasizes that we are to rejoice in the Lord. He goes on in this passage to explain the things that mean nothing and the One who means everything. His warnings are to beware of those who put the emphasis on physical things, things that can be done by one’s effort (circumcision) or status (Pharisee). In fact, Paul indicates that if anyone could brag about themselves based on these things, it was him. He was a Pharisee (a person who was an expert at understanding the righteous requirements of the law) and a law-abiding Jew from the tribe of Benjamin. These accolades should be more than enough if what matters are our efforts or lineage.

Instead, he refers to all of these things as loss (worthless). He even refers to them as filth, which can be translated “garbage” or “dung” (some might even say “crap”) (Philippians 3:8). Why does he use such disgusting but vivid images? Because this is the way he thinks of individual efforts and accolades in comparison with Christ. We are nothing before Him. In light of God and His righteousness, as Isaiah put it bluntly (and crudely), “all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). As Pastor Dean Inserra often says, “the only thing we contribute to our own salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.” In other words, we can’t earn our way into heaven or work our way to forgiveness…because it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

The next time we attempt to feel good about ourselves because we have accomplished a Christian checklist or we depend on a Christian heritage from our parents or grandparents, we need to look at Paul’s assessment of these things. It is solely God’s gracious act in Christ on the cross that justifies us before Him. If you are like me, I need to be constantly reminded to trust Jesus and stop trusting myself and find forgiveness in the work of Christ not my Christian performance. Have you ever made it a goal to get to know Jesus better? Our goal, as well as Paul’s goal is “to know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).

Reflection Questions:

1. How well do you know Jesus? What are some ways you can get to know Him better? What would you like that to
look like?

2. How do your accomplishments or failures impact the way you view yourself before God?

3. What is the difference between knowing about God and knowing God (Philippians 3:10)?
(CITY CHURCH TALLAHASSEE)

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