Going Deeper 4-4-2019

The second reading for Lent 5...
Philippians 3:4b-14   If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.  Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard 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 one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this 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 heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Yet another paradox?  After proclaiming a righteousness (a right relationship) "that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith", Paul immediately turns around and writes about his efforts to "attain the resurrection from the dead" and to "press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus."  So... here is the age-old, exceedingly controversial question: Is salvation a gift we receive through faith or a reward we achieve through merit?

At first glance, it might seem like the old chicken and egg question.  What comes first, grace or works?  But the truth is: GRACE ALWAYS COMES FIRST!  As a matter of fact, Paul describes his impressive list of religious accomplishments as "rubbish."  What is foundational to our theological understanding and our living as children of God is receiving salvation as a gift of grace, paid in full by Jesus.

But foundations are meant to be built upon, and Paul is speaking of his determination to build upon the foundation of grace: "I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own."   This is our calling, to love as we have been loved.  Our model to follow is Jesus, and in the previous chapter of Philippians Paul describes what this looked like and looks like: "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross."

Like Paul, let this be our goal... to live lives that reflect the goodness of God.

With You in Him,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."