Saturday, May 15, 2010
losing my religion
The Word for today:
mark this: Philippians 3:8-9
I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
Religion won't get anybody into heaven, but it will keep a lot of people out. That's the startling principle which Paul explains in our passage today.
The Bible student should be aware of words which are often set against one another:
1. flesh vs. Spirit
2. works vs. faith
3. religion vs. relationship
Let's take these words a pair at a time--
1. flesh vs. Spirit:
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:17)
Paul tells us to put no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3)
Jesus said that flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3:6)
What they mean is that the good things we ("flesh") do cannot restore our realtionship with God. It can only be restored by faith in what God ("Spirit") has done through Jesus.
2. works vs. faith:
So then, those who are of faith are blessed...but all who rely on works of the law are under a curse.(Galatians 3:9-10)
Jesus pictured this spiritual principle by contrasting two roads:
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it." (Matthew 7:13)
The narrow gate is an illustration of salvation by faith, only through Christ. It represents the true salvation--God's way.
The wide gate includes all religions of works and self-righteousness. Each of them is assumed to provide the entrance to God's kingdom, but they all lead to destruction.
3. religion vs. relationship:
Paul was the most religious man in all of Israel--
For I was circumcised when I was eight days old, having been born into a pure-blooded Jewish family that is a branch of the tribe of Benjamin. So I am a real Jew if there ever was one! What's more, I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. And zealous? Yes, in fact, I harshly persecuted the church. And I obeyed the Jewish law so carefully that I was never accused of any fault. (Philippians 3:5-6)
But he came to understand that religion was an obstacle to his relationship with God:
I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. (Philippians 3:7-9)
Paul lost his religion. I hope I'm losing mine.