There, but for the grace of God . . ."

Philippians 3:4b-6 NIV

If anyone else thinks he has 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 legalistic righteousness, faultless.

Here’s that list enumerated.
1. Circumcised on the eight day (as required by the law)
2. Of the people of Israel (God’s chosen people);
3. Of the tribe of Benjamin (the tribe of Saul, Israel’s first king);
4. A pharisee (very strict and accurate in religious observance);
5. Persecuted the church with great zeal (no distance was too far to travel to harm Christians);
6. Blameless regarding observance of the law.

Some might call that Paul’s pre-conversion resume – the list of accomplishments upon which he intended to receive God’s approval. And from Paul’s pre-conversion perspective, it was a very impressive list. But that was pre-conversion.

Would you look at Paul’s “resume” and immediately think, “there, but for the grace of God, go I”? Probably not. But that was exactly Paul’s post-conversion appraisal! Here’s how Paul said it (3:7-9):

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, 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 is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

If Paul was coming to speak at your church next month, what would the marketing campaign look like? Would there be a heavier emphasis on Paul’s pre-conversion resume, or his post-conversion assessment of the futility of putting confidence in the flesh.

Or how about this: A famous professional athlete who is a Christian is coming to speak to the men’s group at your church next month. What would the marketing campaign look like? From that material (flyers- posters- banners- advertisements) would you get the impression that Christianity is the right choice because a) Christ is glorious above all others, or b) because a certain high-profile athlete believes in Jesus?

If the answer is b, isn’t that another form of putting confidence in the flesh? In the end, is Christ more glorious because a man that can catch, kick, or hit a ball better than most other men, believes in him? If not, then we should be careful to not appear to market Jesus that way.

Jesus is glorious because he is willing and able to save any who come to him in faith, whether they be high-profile or no profile. All must come humbly, depending only in the mercy of Christ for salvation.

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