Categories
Theology

An Interview with the Apostle Paul on True Righteousness

Thanks for joining me today, as I interview the Apostle Paul again to help us better understand Philippians 3. Let’s get started.Paul, thanks for joining me again. Can you tell me why you wrote Philippians 3:2-17?
To write the same things to the Philippians is no trouble to me and was safe for them.

Okay, well I love a good review, too! Any other reasons you wrote this section you’d like to mention?
[I want them to] look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.

Paul, you are fired up! Why?
[Because] we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.

Okay, I see. There is a Jewish group pressuring the Philippians to live a more like Jews than Christians by putting their confidence in human works (like circumcision) rather than in Jesus.
I myself, though, have reason for confidence in the flesh also.

Hmmm. Interesting that you say that. Can you expand on this?
If anyone else thinks he has a reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more.

That sounds pretty bold—almost arrogant. Why would you say something like that?
[I was] circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”

Okay. I get it. You are saying that you are as Jewish as it gets and that no one can hold a candle to you when it comes to righteousness based on religious accomplishments.
[Yes] but whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

Christ is better than the religious pedigree you just mentioned?
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Knowing Jesus is better than religious accomplishments. Fascinating. So, you’ve given it all up for Jesus?
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as dung.

Dung! All joking aside, you essentially just said that your flesh is “full of it.” In other words, your self-empowered, religious works can’t ultimately help you. And that’s why you lost them, right?
[I lost these things] 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 that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

So righteousness is the key. Now I get it. If I may, let me paraphrase to help our readers. You are counting your religious accomplishments as dung–basically flushing them down the toilet, as it were–in order that you might have a true righteousness that depends on what Jesus did, not what you do. What’s the purpose of losing all this?
[It’s so] that I may know Jesus and the power of his resurrection.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Okay…because the flesh is like dung, it only produces death, not life. Any other reasons?
And [so that I] may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

This sounds a lot riskier than taking matters into your own hands. This must produce something extraordinary?
[It’s so] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Of course, life again. Jesus-righteousness produces life and eventually resurrection. Self-righteousness produces death. Can you achieve this resurrection now?
I have [not] already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

So the Jesus-righteousness God gives us through faith that promises us future resurrection doesn’t give us a free pass to be inactive or lazy in the here and now?
[Again] I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward toward what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

What about those who trust in Christ but are not “pressing on,” as you put it?
Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything they think otherwise, God will reveal that also to them. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. [I encourage them to] join in imitating me, and keep their eyes on those who walk according to the example they have in us.

A very gracious way to end, Paul! Again, thanks to the Apostle Paul for joining us in discussing part of his letter to the church in Philippi. Be sure to read all of Philippians 3.

 


Thanks for joining me. Be sure to check out my other interview with the Apostle Paul on faith, works, law, and gospel.

Categories
Theology

Who Is This King?

Brandon Levering, looking to the Sermon on the Mount, gives an answer:

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is portrayed to us as a new Moses, who comes out of the wilderness and ascends the mountain (5:1-2) to give God’s instruction. Jesus came not to relax or remove the Law, but to fulfill it (5:17-20).

And yet, Jesus is more than a new Moses, for he speaks with the authority of God himself (cf. 7:28-29). He is no mere prophet shouting, “Thus says the Lord.” Rather, Jesus says, “You have heard it said before…but I say to you” (e.g. 5:21-22). Throughout the sermon Jesus speaks on direct behalf of his Father in heaven (e.g. 5:45-48; 6:1-18; 7:7-10). He speaks as the divine law-giver and judge (7:21-23). And he speaks as the one in whose words we find wisdom and life (7:24-27).

Jesus is the King who speaks as God. Which means that there can be no real adherence to the Sermon on the Mount without first recognizing and humbly submitting to the authority of Jesus.

Read the whole thing.

Categories
Theology

A Prayer for Christmas Morning

Father in Heaven,

We thank you for Christmas, and we thank you for gifts, good food, and family fun. But while these things are nice things, they cannot do any ultimate good to us because they cannot take away our sins. What is ultimate is that your Word, the eternal Christ, took on flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. He was found in human form in a manger, such a lowly birthplace for a King. Yet he did not remain a baby. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. And though he died, he did not stay dead. Father, you highly exalted him by raising him from the dead, giving him the name that is above every other name. So we thank you for the gift of a suffering servant who took our iniquity so that we might be clean.

Father, at Christmas we hear many stories about kindness, peace, and being “good for goodness’ sake.” But if we are honest, our goodness is nothing to showcase, nor has it ever been. We praise you that you do not look upon us and give us favor because of our goodness. You could never do this because before we knew you, we were slaves to sin: we were held captive by the law, which we could not keep. Thank you Father that when the fullness of time had come, you sent your Son to be born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law. You redeemed us through your Son and made us sons and daughters. He redeemed us by fulfilling the law in our place and giving us a righteousness we could never earn. So we thank you for the gift of a righteous man whose record is credited to our account.

O Father, would your Holy Spirit impress these gospel truths on our minds and hearts today, and everyday. As we open up gifts, let us remember that Jesus is the greatest gift that has ever been given. As we eat food, let us remember that the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. As we spend time with family, let us remember that we now belong to a new family which is bound together more tightly than our earthly families ever could be.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Categories
Life

Plead with God the Merit and Righteousness of Jesus Christ

Another gospel-centered prayer. This time from Matthew Henry.

The merit and righteousness of my Lord Jesus Christ, which I rely upon as my main plea in my petition for the pardon of sin.

I know that as you are gracious and merciful, so you are the righteous God who loves righteous deeds, and will by no means clear the guilty. I cannot say, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything,” for I am like one who is unclean, and all my righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. But Jesus Christ has become to me righteousness from God; being made to be sin, though he knew no sin, so that in him I might become the righteousness of God.

I have sinned, but I have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for my sins, and not for mine only but also for the sins of the whole world.

It is God who justifies, who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for me, and whose blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

I desire to count everything as loss for the sake of Christ, and as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own, but that which comes through faith in Christ.

This is the name whereby I, with your people, will call him, THE LORD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. In him, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor, all the hardships he endured; the Son of David, remember all his offerings and regard with favor his burnt sacrifices; and do not turn away the face of your Anointed One, who by his own blood has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on my behalf.

Have you not yourself put forward your Son, Christ Jesus, as a propitiation for sin by his blood, to be received by faith; to show God’s righteousness for the remission of sins, to show your righteousness at the present time, so that you might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus? And so, I now receive reconciliation.

Categories
Theology

Morning Prayer

Here is a prayer I wrote that I will start to pray each morning to remind myself of the gospel.  It is a prayer that I’m sure will change slightly over time and it is not meant as a “be all, end all” prayer. It is also not meant to produce “religious gibberish” that is merely repeated with the mouth and not meant in the heart.  It is meant as a template, if you will, so that my mind and heart get into the daily (hourly?) rhythm of confessing Christ as my sole righteousness.

Please feel free to pass this along or re-post or even continue to add paragraphs in the comment section below.

Father in Heaven,

This new day I come not to ask that my slate would be “wiped clean,” for it was wiped clean when your Son cried, “It is finished.”  Today, I acknowledge and rejoice in the fact that my righteousness is solely based on the perfect person and work of Jesus Christ. I am accepted by you because of him. By grace through faith I look outside of myself to Jesus and wholly lay claim of the alien righteousness that he gives as the only ground for my acceptance.  Only this active faith in Christ will increase my sanctification today.  No amount of good works, kept disciplines, hallelujahs, prayers, sighs, or tears will improve my heart or get you on my side. For in Christ, you are already 100% for me.

I am perfectly loved in the gospel. Your grace has broken into my life through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Only through the Spirit’s application of his redemptive work am I able to experience relationship with you and so become your child, your servant, and your friend, and am no longer a son of disobedience, a slave of sin, and your enemy.

You welcome me this morning not because I rise early to read your word and pray. You welcome me not because I try to love you, my family, and those around me. You welcome me not because I try to live purely and righteously in a broken world. You welcome me because you welcome your Son, with whom you are well pleased. Because your Son, who knew no sin, became sin on my behalf I have become your righteousness. This righteousness is not my own, but it is a righteousness from you that depends on faith. Now when you see me, an unworthy sinner, you see Jesus, for my life is hidden in him.

Thank you for the gospel, O glorious Father.  Thank you for Christ, my substitute Savior.  Thank you for the Spirit who gave life to my dead heart and is active in me as the guarantee of my inheritance. Thank you for your gracious love for and acceptance of me. Because of your love and acceptance, cause me to walk in a manner worthy of this calling that I might be fully pleasing to you and put Christ on display to show the world how marvelous he is.

In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.