Don’t confuse organized religion with a personal relationship with Jesus.
– My wife –
Technically, no. By definition, authentic Christians realize that their righteousness gets them nowhere with respect to God, because they are still sinners. They realize that they must have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them to be reconciled to God.
That doesn’t mean we don’t act self-righteous at times. But it isn’t a Biblical concept.
The truly self-righteous people are those who thing that their good deeds will persuade God that Heaven just won’t be all it could be without them. They are the ones who think they don’t need Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf.
Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism
This reading is Philippians 3.
This chapter starts and ends with Paul warning against false teachers. He calls them “dogs” and “mutilators of the flesh” because they tried to make new converts follow Jewish customs. He addresses this more extensively in Galatians. Here Paul uses it to point out that if acts and good deeds brought us to God, he would have been there already.
Paul’s resume was truly outstanding. His family followed the rules and had him circumsised according to Jewish customs, he came from the right kind of family, he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” he had the highest religious position as a Pharisee, he was zealous in persecuting the radical Christian groups and he was righteous. Yet none of that was enough to reconcile him to God. He needed Christ as well all do.
Paul says that he considers his noted accomplishments to be “rubbish.” This is a very strong statement, as other translations call it “dung” or “manure.” Our accomplishments and good deeds apart from God can actually be a barrier to our knowing Him if we are trusting in our own righteousness.
When he says in v. 10 that he wants to “know” Christ, that means not just “head knowledge” and facts about Jesus, but a deep relationship with him.
It isn’t bad advice for us not to dwell on past failures and hurts, but when Paul says in v. 13, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” what he means by “what is behind” is the accomplishments he just mentioned. We do better and stay more joyful when we don’t get puffed up with our spiritual accomplishments. If Paul was “pressing on,” how much more should we press on towards the prize?
It is interesting that in v. 17 and other parts of the Bible we are encouraged not just to follow Christ but to follow the example of Paul and other leaders. Of course, Jesus is the ultimate model, but when we see others who are farther along in their faith journey we can learn from them as well.
Never forget that “our citizenship is in Heaven.” We should try to impact this world, but ultimately we are aliens and strangers in this world, as Peter said.
The next reading is Philippians 4.
Too often we get caught up in worldly wisdom and rationalizations of ill-advised or non-Biblical things. It is easy to spout off on moral and theological issues and just focus on our opinions. But when I hear these things, I want to say, “That’s nice. But what does the Bible say?”
Sometimes we acknowledge what the Bible says then add something like, “But I feel that . . .” If I am in disagreement with God, then I need to change my viewpoint and get on his plan. For Christians, the Bible is the final court of arbitration, so to speak. And God’s Word is not as hard to decipher as some people think.
To enable our children to take a single Advil at school, we had to take an original bottle there and fill out a form. If we wanted to retrieve the unused pills at the end of the year, we had to return to school. That seems overly cautious to me, but given the drug problems in schools I suppose I can understand it.
But contrast that with those who oppose parental notification laws for abortions performed on minors. They want public school officials to be able to whisk your daughter off to have surgery which would risk her physical and mental health in addition to killing your grandchild. The surgery would take place at a clinic with lower standards than hospitals have. They might be covering up a statutory rape as well, as that is often the case with teen pregnancies.
The typical argument put forth by those opposing these laws is that the girls might get abused if the parents were notified. But that is really poor reasoning. Using that logic, teachers couldn’t send home progress reports, report cards or disciplinary notes because the parents might abuse the children. Police couldn’t even arrest teens who committed crimes. Of course, I’m against child abuse and think it should be punished. But the risk of it is hardly an excuse not to have parental notification laws.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
One of the main reasons people have wrong ideas about God and religion is that they start with incorrect assumptions. They see man as basically good and figure that God owes us something. The truth is that our default setting = sinner, and our default destination = Hell. A judge is under no moral obligation to offer a pardon to a guilty person, and neither is God. That is the bad news. The world and many churches try to ignore this problem by downplaying the seriousness of sin.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The good news is that our setting can be upgraded to saint (in the sense of being set apart for God, not in the sense of being perfect) and our destination can be upgraded to Heaven. By God’s great mercy and love, He offered the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. If we trust in Jesus and what He did for us, we can be saved and our eternal life can start now.
Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.