Monday, February 16, 2009

Philippians 3

This is officially in my top five favorite chapters in the Bible. I could probably say first place, but then someone would remind me of another really awesome one that I left out. But I can safely say it's in the top five. I think part of what I like about it is that I can sometimes relate to Paul's little opening tirade.

Today, a close friend of mine and I talked about how we couldn't really remember a time when we didn't know Jesus. Not that I've lived a life that honored Him every day, that's certainly not the case. But simply that from my youngest memories, He was a factor. I knew His voice. I felt conviction when I sinned. I felt faraway when I was. I felt close when I was. But He was always there.

Paul starts out talking about something like this. Of course even He had the whole Christian-murdering issue on His hands, but basically, he's saying he was raised right. He had always known God... from a technical standpoint that is.

But that's where most Christians are today I'm afraid. We know God intellectually. We know about God. We belong to the right church, we give the right amount, we have the nice family. But Paul threw all that out the window. As a matter of fact, the word he called all of that was "skubula." The Greek s-word. No kidding. This was a slang word for dung. He considered all of it, His whole lovely religious background, not just rubbish like a few translations say, but more like crap. All that he would once proudly put on his resume, he now considers something to flush.

The part that is so inspiring, motivating, challenging to me is placing that kind of "infinite value" on really and truly knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. I look around at my life and just want to get crazy about discarding everything else in my life that dares to compete with that. Flushing the real crap. The TV shows, the trashy radio, the online hobnobbing, movies, sports, overeating, career, just the out and out rubbish that I allow myself to place value in. Value that only belongs with one deserving Person.

Like my friend and Paul, I don't want to rely on the head knowledge I have of God. The things I do to put in the good column to make me be associated with the Christian religion. Instead, I want to become righteous through faith in Christ. Now this is a big issue with me right now. I keep hearing people say that because grace is free, and we can receive righteousness through faith, that once we acknowledge Christ, we magically get our "get out of hell free" card. But a casual nod to what Christ did and then back to life as usual isn't what righteousness looks like. Yes, grace is free, but it's not cheap. It will cost you your life. Righteousness is life free from sin. So if you're waiting around for that sin and selfishness to just melt away without "pressing ahead" into knowing God, then don't be surprised when people don't particularly notice you being any more righteous than before.

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 from 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 us.

This is serious stuff. And the cavalier lives I see most Christians living (starting with me) really don't look much like the mental picture the word "pressing" draws. Do we realize we're in a race and not just a jog around the block for exercise? Perfection gets disregarded as something that's not a realistic expectation for most believers. So we should all just take it easy. Really? That's like trying to fix a race. "Let's all just slow down and pace ourselves so no one really has to break a sweat. Take it easy. Nobody's perfect. Let's all just keep it at a brisk walk so that we all win."

You know what I say to that? Skubula. Forget that. I'm running flat out. And I am not pacing myself. I'm not holding anything back for later. And you can think I'm nuts if you want, but Paul addressed that too.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Go back and read from verse 17 to the end. Does that thought bring tears to your eyes too? People you sit by at church are headed for destruction. They are hanging on to their citizenship of this planet. And I'm not interested in being a pace car for the pack. I want to be out in front. Pressing on.