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Philippians 3:215; 4:8comment (0)

February 11, 2010

By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh

Related Scripture: Philippians 3:215; 4:8

Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University

What will it take to change your mind?

Philippians 3:2–15; 4:8

We sometimes speak about people who have a “blind spot” or “tunnel vision” or are even “stubborn-minded.” Normally we use these phrases with a derogatory meaning, for people who are not willing to see things from a different perspective. If we are honest, then we acknowledge that there are times when all of us are like this and need to be transformed in our thinking so that we see things from God’s perspective.

Don’t Depend on Your Resumé (3:2–6)
Paul expressed his concern, out of his own experience, for people who are spiritually proud of their own experience and fail to realize their desperate need for the grace and mercy of God in their lives. Paul listed his religious resumé, and it was impressive to say the least. Compared to many people, he had made it as a Jew. He was a Hebrew-speaking, religiously educated leader of the people of Israel. He had graduated from their top religious schools and was on a fast track to national recognition when suddenly he came to his senses and realized that all his social, cultural and religious background was worth nothing when it came to his standing with God.

Privilege of birth and culture can easily lead people to pride and boasting. Even as Christians we can take pride and place our confidence in our religious background as Baptists, Protestants or evangelicals. We can make much of our social background, family connections, and educational privileges as if any of these things bring us closer to God. Paul realized that we should have “no confidence in the flesh.”

Get to Know Jesus (3:7–9)
The only thing that matters is to know Jesus Christ as Lord as Savior, and so it was that at his conversion, Paul renounced reliance on his cultural, social and religious background as a Jew. In a context where going to church is part of the Southern culture, many people need to realize that faithful attendance at church — even steady adherence to moral principles — does not merit some special commendation from God. The only thing that matters is to discover that our acceptance by God is on the basis of who Jesus Christ is and what He has accomplished as our Savior in leading us to follow Him as His disciples. Obviously following Christ doesn’t mean that we abandon living a moral life or engaging in personal discipline toward a life of holiness, but we can never merit the favor of God by what we do.

For Paul, any message that suggested that God accepted sinners on the basis of anything they could offer was another gospel. No matter if the issue was one of religious status or spiritual achievement — Paul was convinced that acceptance before God was on the basis on recognizing one’s sins and coming to God for forgiveness.

Pursue Spiritual Maturity (3:10–15; 4:8)
Yet Paul urged his readers to become spiritually mature in their Christian lives, not by moving away from their initial trust in Christ but by building upon that, by developing their commitment to Christ as Lord of their lives.

Paul could never be described as complacent or comfortable in his discipleship. He spoke about his desire to “know Christ and the power of His resurrection … sharing in His sufferings.”

Those who have the hope of resurrection within their hearts are willing to share in the sufferings of Christ, of taking up His cross and paying the cost of discipleship. To become like Christ is to be conformed to His example of living, not for self, but for the sake of others. It might appear that the “if” of verse 11 implies some uncertainty in Paul’s mind, “if by any means I might attain to resurrection.” It is rather a reminder to his readers that they have not yet arrived at their final destination and that their pilgrimage, although one of certain hope and assurance, demands a cost in terms of discipleship.

Indeed, in verses 12–16, Paul said he never looked backward in case he become complacent but was always “straining forward” toward spiritual maturity.

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