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. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. Philippians 3:4-8 (NIV)
We need a bit of background. In Philippi, there was a group of Christians who were Jewish. They came to follow Christ as their Messiah. But they demanded circumcision from non-Jewish believers and that they followed all the prescriptions of the Pentateuch law. It was the cause of much friction and unhappiness between the two groups. The Jewish believers had rejected Paul’s version of the gospel, they wanted to combine the grace of Christ with the demands of the law. This is why Paul reacted so strongly on this matter. He was qualified to debate the Law of Moses with the best of them.
In Jewish culture, Paul’s curriculum vitae was impressive for his time. He was a Hebrew, from the tribe of Benjamin, King Saul’s tribe. He was a Pharisee, the strictest order of rabbis concerned with the interpretation of the law. He had given his all to try and obey the law to perfection: he wanted to gain salvation. His religion excluded Jesus and his church, in fact, he persecuted them with zeal. He was very religious but did not know Christ as Lord.
Then one day, on the road to Damascus, he had a meeting with the risen Lord Jesus (Acts 9). He suddenly found out that the ladder of his life’s success was leaning against the wrong wall. Everything he was so zealous about became worthless to him. The most important foundation of his life became the meeting and following of Christ as Lord. Knowing Christ had surpassed his greatest expectation of life. Knowing Christ is much deeper than knowing that he exists. It is a deep, committed, life-long relationship, a walk with Christ through the journey of life. For this journey, Paul was willing to abandon everything that he had previously counted as important. His life had changed. It would cost him dearly to follow Christ – it brought suffering, and in the end, death.
Yet, Paul was excited about this journey with Christ! He said that it had surpassed everything he had hoped for in life. It was worth sacrificing everything to follow Christ.
Prayer: Lord, we can be so busy planning our own journey in life. May we, like Paul, have a meeting with the risen Lord Jesus Christ that will change our course for ever. May our lives be a testimony to the surpassing joy we find in Christ. Help us to build our lives on this foundation, then we are building for eternity. Amen