Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from December 11-17 are written by Phillip Chen, college pastor intern at Church of Southland. Philip, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology. He is married to Esther.
Devotional Thought for Today
Philippians 3:2-11 (ESV)
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God[b] and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,[c]blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
If you were to think of modern day heroes of the faith, who would you think of? We typically think of the popular Christian artists, the itinerant speakers, authors, theologians, and the up-and-coming pastors. Rarely do we think of the faceless martyrs, the ones who are toiling and laboring in the hardest parts of the world to bring the gospel to places where people have not yet heard. We don’t like to make them our heroes (although we do look in awe upon them); and I think the reason is because it forces us to face the uncomfortable question: Is this someone I want to become – someone who has completely surrendered everything for the name of Jesus? I am not trying to take anything away from the popular Christian artists, speakers, and pastors, but my point is that we are a culture that is too impressed with degrees and titles that it sometimes becomes the crux of our focus in this life, even in Christian circles. We are more inclined to respect and listen to those who have more degrees and are more influential based upon their accomplishments.
When we think of Paul’s circumstances, we see why he feels the need to defend his credibility. Remember, Paul is writing this from prison in Rome, and he is writing to the Philippians to warn them about the Judaizers, those who are trying to distort the gospel to include Jewish customs in the package, rather than faith in Jesus alone. Contrast Paul with the Judaizers: While Paul is in prison far away, treated as a criminal, the Judaizers are there, highly respected as spiritual authorities. But Paul makes a case here that he has the most to brag about if it came to credentials, but he became a prisoner for the very gospel that he is trying to convince the Philippians to hold fast to. Once he became sold out on knowing Christ and making Him known, Paul’s own degrees, status, and rights—because of his citizenship—became something of little concern to him. Of course he used all these things to make Christ known, but his focus shifted from confidence in his flesh, to confidence in Christ, and the finished work on the cross.
Our human tendency is to boast in our accomplishments and strengths, which would make us seem respectable to others. Even in “living the Christian life,” we make the task of loving Jesus an accomplishment that we can add to our credentials so that we can boast in our own flesh, making it into a stepping stone, rather than making it the ultimate aim in life. Have we made knowing Christ and making Him known our final aim and ultimate cause? As we end this year and start a new one, my prayer is that we discover what truly matters – that we may love Jesus with all of our heart, considering everything else as a stepping stone to loving and honoring Him.
Prayer: Father God, I repent for making You a stepping stone for my accomplishments. Help me root out the things that I place my hope and sense of accomplishment in. I want to boast in You and You alone. Forgive me for placing so much emphasis on my own status and position rather than on You. I choose to boast in You and not in my own flesh. Help me make this my ultimate cause. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 2
Lunch Break Study
Read Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV): For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Question to Consider
- How does Paul define grace? How would you define grace?
- What are ways that we rely on our works?
- What should we do with the grace that has been given to us?
- Grace is merely a gift, and not a result of what we have done to earn it.
- It could be about the degrees we have, the type of job we have, the good works that we do, and even the people we know. Paul, in Philippians 3, lists off a number of personal accomplishments that he could boast in, but he finds all of that as contributing nothing to his salvation, because it is only by grace that he is saved.
- We were created for good works – our good works is not a requirement for salvation, but it is not optional. It is not a contribution to our salvation, but a fruit of our salvation.
C.T. Studd penned a poem with the tagline: “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Our life on this earth is short. Our impact and legacy on this earth is minimal, easily forgotten. Yet the life we live for Christ, the things we do in His name, for His kingdom, are the ones that ultimately last. Let’s not get caught up with earthly accolades, but to build our “heavenly resume,” one that lasts for eternity.