Sunday, 29 September 2019

All Rubbish - Phillippian 3

In my 2nd term of first year at uni my tutor summoned me for a chat. Though all my assignments were in on time and good, he gave me a pep-talk about how successful I could be - how I could even do so much better than others he had taught through the years ...

I replied: "That all sounds great, but without Christ it is all a load of rubbish!". Rewind to my first few weeks as a fresher. I came to faith in Jesus, and in those early days heard a talk on Philippians 3. Somehow a verse from that passage came to the fore just at the crucial moment with my tutor. That led to some discussion (!), until we agreed to differ. My life was now faith-based, his still success-recognition-based.

Paul in writing this letter didn't mince his words. He says watch out for those dogs, those mutilators of the flesh! He is writing about people who put physical ritual ahead of knowing Christ (referring not just to male circumcision, but the whole package of living by Law). This crowd had caused much trouble for Paul, but fundamentally their problem was that they blocked true freedom in Christ.

Paul wasn't simply against Jewish credentials - he had these himself and could boast about them - but he knew that none of these can save you: only faith in Christ can do that. So Paul would say 'clear everything else away - compared to knowing Christ it is a distraction'. In fact he says it is all a load of rubbish (in fact in the Greek he uses a much stronger word!).

So what in our lives is actually denying  or leading away from Christ. It might look perfectly good on the surface, but Paul would rather have us throw it away, counting it as rubbish. What if someone said to you 'you can have this perfect house, all with top of the range fittings' - everything about it is perfect, and yet you realise that to have it requires you or will result in you denying Christ. What will you choose?

Or it could be the job/promotion/career that looks perfect, it ticks all the boxes, even matches what you are about - but you realise to  have it requires or results in you denying Christ. What will you choose?

Of perhaps more subtly in the classroom: a group in your form are larking about, it is obvious that one has a porn vid on their phone and all the classic banter is being exchanged. Others are joining in, and you don't want to be the only one who is out of this in-crowd. You just have to add to the banter ... what are you going to do?

If you have a few days to think and discuss with some trusted Christian friends, then along with prayer you might think that adding to the banter undermines your dignity as a human, and the person you can be in Christ. You might sense that encouraging the banter also undermines the dignity of your classmates, and the persons they could be in Christ. With further reflection you might think that, although you don't know the person in the film or their name, that this whole deal undermines their dignity - they are a person made in God's image even if you have never met them - so what about the person they too can be in Christ?

So with time, discussion, and prayer you might conclude that to join is for you to deny Christ. But you don't have the luxury of that time - you have a split-second in which to decide. Like I had a split-second when I was standing in front of my tutor.

We need to equip each other to be resilient disciples, to instinctively know what to say in the spur of the moment. Its not about rules, but something far better - knowing Christ. Imagine you are making a self-documentary video to put on Youtube. Once on Youtube you can press pause and freeze-frame in the moment of crises. Then you can ask 'what am I to do ... so that from this frame on my life plays forward towards Christ in His risen glory and not away from it?'.

For this was Paul's desire. In v10 he writes 'I want to know Christ, to be somehow moving towards the resurrection from the dead that He brings. I want to press on to the goal - which is Him'. Yet remember Paul didn't simply want to reach this goal on  his own - he wanted to take as many others with him so they could know Christ and be raised with Him too! So he writes 'I press on to take hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of me ... straining towards this heavenly prize'.

Paul knew that this might leave him on the outside of the popular group, to be mocked, beaten up, and worse. In fact in v10 he said 'I want to know Christ, the power of His resurrection and his sufferings, becoming like Him in his death ...'. Paul is now so abandoned to Christ that everything can be considered already lost and done with. Nothing in regular life matters to him now - the one prize is Jesus. So his life, in any scenario freeze-framed, on pressing play then moves on towards Christ.

Can we learn to be the same, to have the same goal, the same abandon - counting all as loss for the sake of Christ.

No comments:

Post a comment