My favorite section of Scripture has got to be Philippians 3. In particular verses 7-11. Here is a paraphrase by my Father-in-law who has been a minister for about the last 30 years. I really like it so I thought I would share. You can check out his new CD ministry website here, his wedding business here, and his marriage preparation course here.
Philippians 3:1-16, As Paraphrased by Ralph Griggs
Brothers, there’s more I want to say to you. I want you to have a joy that doesn’t come and go with your good days and bad days trying to live for God. I know you have days when you don’t do your best, but that doesn’t mean you have to get down in the dumps & start wondering if God still loves you. The kind of joy I want for you doesn’t originate with us – it comes from the Lord Jesus. Find your joy in Him. By that I mean place your confidence in His goodness, and then you can sleep well at night knowing you are right with God.
I’m afraid that you might lose your confidence in Christ and begin to feel miserable about yourself. So it’s no problem for me to go over the same things with you again. Certain people will rob you of your joy. Stay away from them. You know who, the ones that like to call the Gentiles “dogs.” When they name call like that they should look in the mirror. They are scavenging street dogs roaming around growling at anything that comes near. Stay away from these diabolical people. They beat everyone over the head with their Torah Laws saying “do them all or your lost.” Since they don’t practice what they preach they are corrupt. It never dawns on them that when they point their finger at others, three fingers point back to themselves. By advocating a forgiveness through-law-keeping dogma they teach the exact opposite of our forgiveness through-Jesus-believing good news. And don’t get me started on their insistence that a physical circumcision is required in order for you to claim God’s promises. Stay away from these men who think they carefully mark the God-favored. I call them drunken physicians who only butcher the body.
They like to play the “We – Them” game. We are the ones God approves of, they say, everyone else hasn’t got a chance. I beg to differ. Who is really circumcised, them or us? They cut the flesh. So what! We are spiritually circumcised. This is not any kind of bodily surgery carried out by men that only changes the physical appearance. It is a spiritual operation done by Christ that changes minds and hearts for the better. So we worship by the Spirit, while they are stuck in the past slavishly performing the external temporary rituals that are now replaced by the reality. We don’t applaud ourselves for our good deeds but brag on what Christ has done. We’re not like them placing our bets of eternal life on ourselves.
Now, I can play their game by their rules. If winning means having a long list of religious credentials and accomplishments, then let’s have a parade and give me the victor’s wreath. Here’s my list. I came into this world through an obedient Jewish family. By the strict letter of the Law, they circumcised me on the 8th day. I was born a Jew with all the rights & privileges of the covenant people of Israel. Better still, I am from the highly respected tribe of Benjamin. You see I am 100% purebred Hebrew. Add to what I came by naturally all my hard work. When it came to keeping the Law of God, I was proud to bear the name Pharisee. No one was stricter than us. No one more careful in protecting the laws of God. No worked as tirelessly to keep our ways untainted from the influences of the Hellenists. I was infamous in my efforts to torment the church. I didn’t just pass a condemning sentence on the church with my words. No, I was aggressive and even violent – determined that if I had to kill one Christian at a time I would wipe the church off the face of the earth. When it came to being right and doing right, I had everything checked off the orthodoxy list.
By the standards of a rule-keeping perfectionist, I had loads of assets and no liabilities. But now because of Christ, everything’s reversed. My assets turned into liabilities in a day. I lost everything I had worked so hard for. And that may sound like a bad thing. But it isn’t. I got something of much greater value. Christ! It’s so much better to personally know Jesus Christ as Lord than to just know about a religion like I did.
There’s nothing wrong with being Jewish. Nothing wrong with having passion – though my zeal was way out of line with God’s will. And certainly there’s nothing wrong with God’s Law. The problem is in believing that we can get right with God through such accomplishments as mine, and those Judaizers I’m warning you about.
That’s why I let go of my Jewish heritage and achievements, or anything else you can think of to add to my claim to fame. The Jewish elders even stripped me of my status within Judaism. But I don’t care. Compared to knowing Christ, those things are garbage. Would you rather eat from last week’s trash, or have a fresh home cooked meal? Really, I haven’t lost, I’ve gained!
What I want now is to be found in Christ. Not try to win God’s approval by claiming a special linage or through perfectly keeping a “do this, don’t’ do that” religion, but through my conviction in what Christ did.
This is what I mean. Someday I’ll stand before God as my judge. The gavel will come down and He’ll make a legal declaration of my innocence or guilt. Which will it be? If I go there believing in myself & all the good things I’ve done; or if I go there and try to impress God with my knowledge of the factual academia of the Scriptures; or if I go spouting off about my pedigree – I’m doomed. I choose to go there with faith in Christ’s goodness. Being in Christ doesn’t mean that I think I’m sinless. It means that God will see Christ’s goodness covering over my badness. Amazingly, God’s grace will pronounce me innocent.
Before Christ found me, you know what I was doing? Making a name for myself in the brotherhood. You know what I want to do now? Know Christ. Not know about him, but to know him. And this is how I want to know Him. Through His resurrection power. My personal power was never enough to live perfectly. His resurrection reminds me that God in Christ did for me what I could never do for myself – that is, live good enough to have a right to heaven. Christ was good enough. God’s faultless Son took my place in His death making it possible for a just & holy God to forgive an unholy me. Then, to guarantee my resurrection, Christ was raised from the dead. That’s resurrection power and that power is my motivation to live for God in a way that the demands of the Law never could. The Law passed a death sentence on me. Christ pardoned me free and clear. The deeper that truth sinks in, the more I want to live for Him.
And this may sound strange to you, but I also want to know Christ by walking in His sandals, suffering like He did. Through suffering, I’ll better understand what Christ did for me and I’ll join in His God-given mission. And because He died, I want to die. Die to my sin, and if required, I’ll give my life too. The way I think now, suffering and dying is not the worst thing. Taking the easy way and dying without Christ is. As I write to you, that’s what I want. But I’m still human and it’s not always easy to follow through. But I’m determined not to let up, so that someday it will happen – God will raise me from the dead.
So don’t misunderstand. I haven’t completed my quest. It was more than 20 years ago that Christ claimed me on the Damascus Road. His goal for me was that I would come to know Him. I haven’t reached it completely, but I’m making every effort to achieve the goal He chose me for.
Brothers listen, I’m going to say it again. I know better than anyone that I’m not there yet. My personal experience of Christ and His life-changing power in me is incomplete. But I’ve turned the corner and I’m like a runner with his eye fixed on the finish line. One thing for sure is that I’m never returning to the way I lived before Christ put me on this course. That’s in the past. If I go back to that it’ll defeat any chance of my reaching the goal. Today & tomorrow and as long as God gives me breath, I’m going all out for the finish line. Then I can win my prize – eternal life. With God’s help, I’ll get there someday.
That’s the big picture. Those of us who have grown spiritually know that none of us have arrived spiritually.
I know that we have different takes on some minor issues. In time God will help us figure those things out. But right now, we all know we’ve got some things to work on in our lives. Let’s get busy doing what we already know we need to do.