Avoid the false foundations of life - 27 October 2020
By Ewald Schmidt
- Philippians 3:4-8
I could, of course, put my trust in such things. If anyone thinks they can trust in external ceremonies, I have even more reason to feel that way. I was circumcised when I was a week old. I am an Israelite by birth, of the tribe of Benjamin, a pure-blooded Hebrew. As far as keeping the Jewish Law is concerned, I was a Pharisee, and I was so zealous that I persecuted the church. As far as a person can be righteous by obeying the commands of the Law, I was without fault. But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ's sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere refuse, so that I may gain Christ
We need a bit of background. In Philippi, there was a group of Christians who were Jewish. They came to follow Christ as their Messiah. But they demanded circumcision from non-Jewish believers and that they followed all the prescriptions of the Pentateuch law. It was the cause of much friction and unhappiness between the two groups. The Jewish believers had rejected Paul’s version of the gospel, they wanted to combine the grace of Christ with the demands of the law. This is why Paul reacted so strongly on this matter. He was qualified to debate the Law of Moses with the best of them.
In Jewish culture, Paul’s curriculum vitae was impressive for his time. He was a Hebrew, from the tribe of Benjamin, King Saul’s tribe. He was a Pharisee, the strictest order of rabbis concerned with the interpretation of the law. He had given his all to try and obey the law to perfection: he wanted to gain salvation. His religion excluded Jesus and his church, in fact, he persecuted them with zeal. He was very religious but did not know Christ as Lord.
Then one day, on the road to Damascus, he had a meeting with the risen Lord Jesus (Acts 9). He suddenly found out that the ladder of his life’s success was leaning against the wrong wall. Everything he was so zealous about became worthless to him. The most important foundation of his life became the meeting and following of Christ as Lord. Knowing Christ had surpassed his greatest expectation of life. Knowing Christ is much deeper than knowing that he exists. It is a deep, committed, life-long relationship, a walk with Christ through the journey of life. For this journey, Paul was willing to abandon everything that he had previously counted as important. His life had changed. It would cost him dearly to follow Christ – it brought suffering, and in the end, death.
Yet, Paul was excited about this journey with Christ! He said that it had surpassed everything he had hoped for in life. It was worth sacrificing everything to follow Christ.
Prayer: Lord, we can be so busy planning our own journey in life. May we, like Paul, have a meeting with the risen Lord Jesus Christ that will change our course for ever. May our lives be a testimony to the surpassing joy we find in Christ. Help us to build our lives on this foundation, then we are building for eternity. Amen