Sunday, October 11, 2015

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh.

My mind often snags on the most insignificant details. In a passage discussing the surpassing value of knowing Christ in comparison to earthly accomplishments, the opening sentence leaves me puzzled. The words “evil workers” is clear enough, but what did Paul mean by dogs and the mutilation? I have to remind myself I’m writing a devotional and not a commentary.

Because the wider theme of this passage is too important to ignore, or to let myself sidetrack away from. Those of us who have been blessed (or not) with earthly status or talent, who might have even modestly impressive accomplishments stacked on our shelves, can find it hard to remember that true success in this life doesn’t depend upon who we are, or what we do. And a performance-based sense of worth is an insidious thing, creeping in and taking root even when we think we’re on guard against it

Certain things are valuable in life, true. Our family forms our most basic starting place in life, education gives us knowledge and skills to build upon that. Our life experience forms the tapestry woven between everything else, providing color and texture and substance. But ... is that the sum total of our worth? Who we are?

If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish ...

No, Paul tells us. He had quite the list of things he could have taken pride in, but he chose to let God strip those away—“indeed I ... count them as rubbish”—that they were nothing more than trash in comparison to Christ’s righteousness and the path God laid out for him.

What does this mean for us? We like talking about knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection ... but the fellowship of His sufferings and being conformed to His death? Not so much. Yet it’s an inescapable fact that the path of glory lies through hardship and, yes, even suffering.

And people can tell you that you’re doing a great job, that you have so much to your credit, but does any of that last? We’ll all someday come to the end our lives, and not one thing that we are, or have done, will keep us from facing the aging process or death in some form. All that prevails, all that will endure, is who we are in Jesus.

... that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3, NKJV)


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