Do you see yourself in Scripture? I do– so often. Sometimes I recognize myself in Peter’s brash confidence, sometimes in Moses’ fear and doubt about his usefulness. Sometimes I recognize myself in the pages of Proverbs, but not often in the last chapter.
Most recently, I found myself in Philippians, sitting with Paul–
For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
We were studying this passage in Sunday School, and I realized I could write the Good Baptist Girl version of these verses:
Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: In church when I was three days old, saved at five, baptized at eight; a Christian of Christians; as to education, Christian school AND Bible college; as to zeal, a pastor’s kid AND pastor’s wife AND a homeschooling mother; as to the righteousness that looks so good on the outside, practically perfect in every way.
Sounds go great, huh? Paul calls that stuff worthless. All of it. Rubbish. Dung.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count 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 that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
Paul counted all his credentials as trash. Everything that should have been in the “stuff I have going for me” column, he put in the “stuff I have against me” column instead. Because He knew what I’m learning– that those of us who have had the blessing of growing up in a Christian home, Christian school, Christian everything tend to think we pretty much have this whole Christianity thing down. And it’s such a lie. All that– that’s just an outward garment. That’s not even what God looks at when He looks at us. He looks at our hearts. And there have been so. many. times. in my Christian walk that I have looked so great on the outside and have been so gross inside.
None of my own outward righteousnesses– the accomplishments of my flesh– count as anything when I stand before Christ. The righteousness that matters comes from Him and depends on faith, not on my pedigree as a good minister’s wife.
For those of you who were saved at a later age, who had more time to experience the ravages of sin, this probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. But to me, it was quite the revelation. We do so like our high horses of righteousness, our fleshly confidence. But it’s all loss, all rubbish compared to what Paul was seeking–
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection
See, the problem with resting on my righteous accomplishments is that they are like this big protective wall I build around myself. But the joy of truly knowing Jesus is on the other side of that wall. The only way to see Him, to know Him, to experience His power in my life to change and revive me and do something amazing, is by HIS righteousness, not mine. My wall has to come down, to be pulled to the ground in submission to His holiness.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m thankful every day that God protected me from a past that’s full of grievous sins and the heartache they bring. I’m thankful for the sacrifice my parents made to put me through Christian school, for the years spent at Bible college, for so many years even as a child spent in church and Sunday School and Wednesday night programs. I’m just now coming to appreciate the Bible knowledge I gained from all of that, the unique worldview I have, the many tools I have been given to study and teach the Bible. What a blessing. I’m thankful for the fact that most of my friends during my growing up years were believers, that I was sheltered from so many of the horrors of sin, that I was given the structure to build a godly life on.
But my point is just this: when all is said and done, I need Jesus, and that’s all. And anything– anything– even the best thing– that stands in the way of my walk with Jesus is rubbish. It needs to go.
Because on the hard days, it definitely isn’t a Bible college education or being the pastor’s wife that gets me through the deep valleys of pain and shadow. What can get me through these hard, hard days is my Savior, who loves me, who sees me, who carries me and shelters me and guides me.
What a privilege. By laying down all my pretty Christian trappings, I can know Him. I can know His power and even share in His sufferings, and I can gain everything. Because that’s what my Lord is– He’s just Everything.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But 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 upward call of God in Christ Jesus. . . . Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Oh, I just can’t wait to see Him face to face. But until then, I will lay down whatever I must to know Him. Because He’s worth it.