To Live Is Christ – The Game You will Lose

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ

  • Philippians 3:1-7

For to me, to live is Christand to die is gain.

  • Philippians 1:21

“Paul continues the exultation and exhortation of the previous chapter, which he concluded by holding out Timothy and Epaphroditus as examples of humble sacrifice for the cause of the gospel. Remember that Paul himself is writing this from prison, not sure if he will be released, not sure if he will be executed. He is about to warn the Philippians—but notice what he warns them about. Hint: it’s not imperial persecution or suffering. (Phil. 3:1-3)…
“I am convicted and inspired by the way Paul, writing from such dire circumstances, says, ‘Eh, it’s no trouble.’ No, look instead at what Paul is warning the Philippians to watch out for: ‘the dogs.’
“Who are the dogs? They are the ones who want to mark their faith in Christ by what they do or do not do. And they want to get a list of things that they do well. They want to say, ‘I’m not as bad as I was in college. I’m not as bad as I was when I first got married. I’m not as bad as you.’ And they want to use that as some sort of evidence of their superior spirituality, their higher-quality goodness, their unassailable morality. They are in fact scattered in the imaginations of their prideful hearts.
“Paul says to watch out for that kind of faith. It is empty. Watch out for the kind of teachers and leaders who say, ‘just pay attention to me because of the good things I do.’ And to demonstrate the emptiness of this pursuit, Paul puts his own self up on the scales. (Phil 3:4-6)…
“Oh, you think you have reason to boast? I have reason to boast all the more. I have never missed Sunday school. I have never missed a Sunday—morning worship service. I read my Bible every day. I’ve memorized the New Testament. I’ve shared the gospel with all of my neighbors. I’ve never said a cuss word besides invented Christian expletives like “Oh, dingbat!” and “Shazbot!” and stuff like that. I don’t listen to secular music. I’ve never seen a rated—R movie (that wasn’t about Jesus being crucified).
“The dogs stay focused on ‘I do. I don’t. I have. I never.’ And look at what they have done. Look at what they have accomplished.
“Paul here, as loudly as he can, is saying, ‘Who cares? I did all that too. On the scale, I’m even better than yau!’ (Phil. 3:7)
“Whatever good came from the self-improvement project still didn’t earn a lick of grace from God. Because none of it even approached the utter perfection of Jesus. Playing the ‘I’m good, I’m better’ game is like building a moralistic tower of Babel to reach the heavens of the righteousness of Christ. It won’t work, and in the end, it leads only to disaster and confusion. It is a losing game.

  • Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

I have written before about the Gospel of Comparisons.  We can never win that game.  Jesus is always going to be better.

There was an old joke, maybe from Philmont Scout Ranch.  A bear came into the camp and one of the boys started running.  The other boys followed shouting, “You cannot outrun a bear!”  To which the first boy said, “All I have to do is outrun you!”

You cannot get into heaven by being just a little better than the other person.

But we have had superlatives shoved down our throat, probably since Adam and Eve.  Here is a television commercial from my youth.

Now let’s be honest.  My dog is better than their dog because my dog is mine.  If you came over to play, your dog goes home with you.  That only makes your dog better for you.  At that point, your dog is useless to me.

And then let’s reverse those letters.  Is your god better than my God?

That is the key superlative.  If your god did not create the universe and your god does not reign supreme over everything, then is your god not rather useless?  For most people, their god is themselves.  They feel they are self-sufficient.  Why did the Apostle Paul warn the Philippians about such people?  Because that was going on at the time.

I have been called a Bible scholar, but every time I hear that, I have to consider the source.  Who was it who said that the one-eyed beggar can reign supreme in a land of people with no eyes?  Those who think that I am a Bible scholar have probably never read the Bible from cover to cover.  Someone like the late R.C. Sproul could run laps around me, but he would say near his last breath that he had more to learn, and he was about to get that final lesson.

Whatever aspect of life we can consider, we should never settle for the idea of the boys being chased by a bear mentality.  We never reach our goal by being a little faster, bigger, or better than the other person.  We only get there by relying totally in the One who is already there, Jesus.

Lord, guide me.  Help us.  Remind us that it is all about You.  We can never be better without You, and we will only be perfect when we are with You.  And help us to be patient with ourselves.  We are all projects under construction.  In Thy Name I pray.  Amen

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. Praise God. This is wonderful, Mark. Praise God.

    I just posted on my blog a story about how I was recently saved from an attempted criminal home invasion, by a frozen door lock. Or was it God holding that door closed? But I am so unworthy. Very, very unworthy. Christ Jesus is my Savior and my Lord. Only He makes me worthy.

    Liked by 1 person

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