Devotion for Monday, June 22, 2020
Phil. 3:8-9, “So that I may be…found in Him.”
A disciple of Christ must realize the vital importance living according to the Spirit and not the flesh. This, dear friend, is an immense challenge. Our former selves yearn to perceive and live according to the “matrix” of the flesh. It is the source code through which our existence is measured. The life of the Spirit calls us from that experience to set our minds on a whole new level. The first step to living according to the Spirit and not the flesh is tied to identity. This is the focus of our discussion this week.
The Apostle Paul tells us to “not put confidence in the flesh.” (Phil. 3:3) He then goes on to describe what confidence in the flesh looks like, and it centers around identity. He “boasts” that if anyone can have confidence in the flesh it is himself. Then he lists off his credentials for this confidence. Note that these marks of confidence are founded upon statements of identity. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.” (v. 5-6)
Paul identified himself as a faithful member of the people of Israel. But all these identity markers are outward classifications from an earthly perspective. These identity markers point to ethnicity, family heritage, religious organization affiliation, and outward actions that “prove” his zeal for the Lord. At one time, Paul held these classifications in the highest esteem. But now, everything that was “gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ.” (v. 7) In the light of Christ, earthly, fleshly classifications lose their meaning and importance.
In this passage we see Paul list out the good qualities and identity in his former life and state that it all is but “loss in the view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ.” (v. 8) However, many of us often focus on the converse of this concept. We often focus on the negative aspects of our identity, believing that we are identified, or classified by, our sin or negative circumstances. If something bad happens to us, if we endure a season of intense trial or tribulation, if we are beset by a sin that ensnares us, we tend to identify ourselves by those occurrences and consider ourselves outside the goodness of God. But thanks be to God, that who we WERE – the good, the bad, and the ugly – is not who we ARE in Christ Jesus!
Let me give you an example. A year and a half ago, I experienced divorce. This is a word that I thought I would never have to consider as part of my life. The first months of the ordeal were very difficult, primarily because I identified myself with the circumstance. I began to view myself as a divorced man. I placed a stigma on my life. I felt that everyone who came in contact with me viewed me through that prism. That became who I was. My “status” had changed from married to divorced. And that rocked me to the core. I thought my testimony was tarnished, my witness ruined, my ministry – over.
But then I came to this passage. Paul says, “Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may GAIN Christ, and be found in Him.” (v. 8-9) I realized that my identity has nothing to do with circumstances, classifications, statuses, jobs, body composition, possessions, friends, family – NOTHING but JESUS MY MESSIAH! I am not a divorced man. No, I am a sinner, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, who experienced the difficult circumstance of divorce. This event in my life does not define me. I am defined by Jesus’ worth, righteousness, and victory over sin and death. Even though my circumstances in my life might cause me to be rejected by the world and those who live according to the “matrix” of fleshly classifications, I AM NOT REJECTED BY THE MESSIAH! Never forget that! If you believe in Jesus and submit to His Lordship in your life, he will never leave you nor forsake you. Oh, how powerful those words of promise are!
In order for us to be used by the Kingdom of God, we must drop these fleshly classifications that the world obsesses over so that we can find identity and self-worth (or self-sabotage). As Paul says, “From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way…If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:16, 17) We are all broken vessels in need of a savior. When the Lord Jesus Christ redeems us, we are now FOUND IN HIM. We are IN CHRIST. We have a new identity. Our worth, our righteousness, our goodness, our significance is gained in Christ through the Spirit, and not of the flesh.
Remember these great words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, BUT NOW I’M FOUND, was blind, but now I see.”
Pastor, Sharon First Baptist Church