7 “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11
Anything that comes before Jesus is an idol. If Jesus comes second in our lives then we have missed the real meaning of being disciples. Paul was a Jew of Jew’s and was zealous for the laws of his people. He even went so far as to persecute and kill anyone who disagreed with his view of what was right. But then he encountered Jesus on the Damascus road and in a twinkling of an eye his life was totally changed.
Looking back over his life as a zealous Jew he now says whatever fame, success he had gained was garbage in light of knowing the love and grace of Jesus. The contrast for Paul is between his striving and working to be a righteous man before God through the keeping of the law and his new found freedom in the grace of God. He writes, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” (v. 9)
A great deal of my ministry in these blogs revolves around trying to convince Christians that they are not saved by their own efforts and obedience. The great irony of Scripture is that the more we surrender our will to God and put our trust in Him the more we desire to live in harmony with Him. Paul puts it this way; “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in death.” (v. 10)
If you struggle with the Gospel because of how you were raised or taught don’t let it discourage you. Jesus has all the love, tenderness, forgiveness and peace that you will ever need and He offers it to you freely. Salvation is not based upon how good you are, because you will never be good enough. It is not based upon how many things you have given up or how hard you try to overcome sin. Redemption isn’t a reward for all the years you’ve toiled going to church or teaching Bible classes. Salvation is a gift given to you by a loving God that loves you for no other reason than He loves you.
All love in our life is conditional. No matter how good a relationship we have with someone there is a point when we can hurt that person so deeply that they will stop loving us. Every day husbands and wives who started their marriages out filled with love and beautiful expectations end in arguments, anger, and divorce. Children become distant from their parents and lovers lose interest in each other. But Christ’s love is eternal and never based upon us; it is totally unconditional because it is never based upon our loving Him in return. He knows our broken, unfaithful and rebellious hearts, but He loves us anyway.
I’m not saying that everyone is going to have salvation because there are hundreds of millions of people who reject this love. They turn their back on His unconditional love and refuse to allow that love and grace to flood into their hearts and renew them. These people will not go into the Kingdom of God. However, everyone who acknowledges his or her sinfulness and accepts the free gift of God’s love as manifest through the cross will have salvation because Jesus wills it.
I know, there are people yelling at the computer and foaming at the mouth because they believe I am teaching cheap grace. I am teaching cheap grace because it is a gift and you cannot purchase it regardless of how much you think you can. It is not cheap to the Trinity, it is the most expensive and costly gift that could ever be conceived, but it is still a gift and it is for you and me.
Of course when we understand how much of a gift this is we will understand Paul’s words in Philippians 3:7-11 more fully and find ourselves saying amen to his sentiments. Like I said, the irony of all this is that the more we accept Christ’s unconditional love the more we are willing to participate in His sufferings.
What comfort it is for me, and I hope each of you as well, to know that our salvation is not based on our bumbling attempt to overcome all sin in our lives. Do we honestly believe that our very best is even close to what God considers perfection? If our redemption were based upon performance there would be zero hope of any of us receiving salvation. Instead Jesus paid the price of our failures by taking on the penalty for sin by being our substitute and enduring the death that should have been ours. He not only paid the price for sin, but He carried our guilt, our shame, and failures to the cross as well.
I was thinking today that if just one person finds a deeper and more trusting relationship through this blog all the study, writing, long hours of thinking about what to write and prayer have all been worth it. I praise God for His love for each of us and may we rejoice in it all the days of our lives.
* Many people around the globe are currently experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death, for the love of their God. These people know pain and suffering. They need our support and prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…