Standing Firm in a Falling World – Philippians 3:17-4:1


THE TEXT:

Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:17-4:1 and can be found on page 982 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
4 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT

The Lord Jesus Christ is calling our church (and every church) to faithfully stand firm in both our doctrine as well as our devotion; our minds and our actions. Faithfulness to Christ in the midst of a hostile culture is not a modern oddity, but a perennial need.

Paul doesn’t have big head. He rightly understands that Christianity isn’t just doctrinal, it’s behavioral. All of Christ for all of life, and you need role-models. (v. 17) Not all who claim Christ truly belong to Christ and many will abandon their professed faith when it comes with real consequences. (v. 18) They want immediate reward; immediate gratification and will receive ultimate and eternal destruction. (v. 19)

Christians are resident aliens. We hold dual citizenship, but this world, in its fallen state, is not our homeland. We always feel like strangers. (Ps. 137) Surprisingly, we aren’t waiting to be jerked off this planet, but for the arrival of the one who will redeem it. (v. 20) When he comes, his irresistible power will bring everything into submission and transformation—us included. (v. 21)

Knowing Christ’s return is as certain as his resurrection, stand firm. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. (v. 4:1)

You do this by following faithful models, practicing the ministry of tears and personal discipline, and you eagerly expect the return of Christ.

FAITHFUL MODELS

“Become fellow-imitators” We’re all trying to copy our big brother Jesus who has already run the race set before us. (Heb. 12:2) If you are asking, “What’s my ministry,” you first one is to follow Christ, because you are someone’s example.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1)

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Tim. 4:12)

I learned lots of knowledge from seminary, but I learned how to be a Christian from my parents and our church. Faith from Antha Raines, Generosity from Frank and Louise Blythe, Commitment from Bob Kidwell.

THE MINISTRY OF TEARS

18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

The cross of Christ has enemies. Paul had enemies. And he wept for them. We ought to both have enemies and we ought to weep for them. We ought not take any joy or satisfaction in the destruction of another human soul.

As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live

We are to want the utter destruction of porn, but not of those who use it. We are to pray for the end of transgender ideology (it reeks of sulfur), but the repentance, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration of those who have been drawn into the lie.

Love without truth isn’t love, it’s sentimentalism that lets people kill themselves. Truth without becomes sadistic condemnation. We are to take no pleasure, no joy, no glee when we hear about the damage sin is doing to another human.

We, following the path of Christ and Paul, are to weep for and pray for our enemies. Friend, if you are caught in any sin, if you will turn from it and trust in Christ—there is full pardon and mercy to cleanse you. Come to Jesus.

PERSONAL DISCIPLINE

“their god is their belly, their glory their shame, they set their minds on earthly things”

Reading Paul’s description of the enemies of the cross, we see the photonegative of what a Christian ought to be. We are warned of the danger of loving the earthly creation more than the eternal Creator.

I want to debunk a common misunderstanding: We are called to submit our bodies and our desires to Christ. Christianity does not pit the body against the soul: that’s Gnosticism. Jesus’s body was raised, and we are promised a new creation. So, the body with its desires isn’t something to shed, it will be redeemed and transformed—and that transformation begins now through the indwelling of the Spirit who helps you discipline yourself.

We don’t become holy by refusing to eat, but by refusing to worship food. We don’t become beautiful by refusing to bath or put on scent, but by refusing to make our beauty the measure of our worth.

EAGER EXPECTATION

Our governing authority is in heaven. The executive power of the universe lives and reigns with the Father and the Spirit. His name is Jesus Christ. This means that our church, and every true church, is a colonial outpost, an embassy on behalf of that authority. We belong to a community of foreigners who pledge allegiance to our home country. Do you feel like an alien and a stranger? It’s because this nation isn’t your true home.

A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.’ – Lewis

Jesus Christ is Lord, not Caesar. Jesus Christ is Savior, not the USA. Christians are not scofflaws. These statements are not so much a call to rebellion, as they are a reminder of where our hope lies. Our aim is to please Christ, not ourselves; to honor Christ, not the governor.

Contemplation on the authority and coming kingdom of Christ sustain us for our walk in this messed up world. Our hope is not in fixing this nation. Our hope is the establishment of Christ’s kingdom at the end of the age.

Are you suffering? Are you sick and tired of the way this world is going? Christ will transform everything by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (3:21)

 

Pressing On – Philippians 3:12-16

THE TEXT:

Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:12-16 and can be found on page 981 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

INTRO

Years ago, my family took a tubing trip down the New River. When you tube down a river you don’t do anything. The power of the river does all the work. The opposite of tubing down a river is rowing on a calm lake. All of the rowing team gather up their energy, their timing, and their physical power and force water behind their boat.

In this passage, Paul says that a Christian is someone who is being grabbed and moved by the power of Christ—and when that happens, they themselves begin to move with power towards Christ. They actually become like the power that empowers them.

The Christian life rests upon the great certainties of the cross & resurrection, it begins and continues because Christ powerfully takes hold of us, and it results in great personal commitment, effort, and determination.

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT

Let’s begin by remembering the context. Paul, awaiting trial under house arrest in Rome, received financial assistance from the Philippian church whose messenger, Epaphroditus, nearly died while delivering the gift. This letter is both a thank-you and travelogue as well as an exhortation to persevere through difficulty and disunity.

Paul has catalogued his former life in which he put his confidence in his good works (3:1-6), his current life in which his only confidence is Christ (3:7-9), and his desire to be so unified with Christ that he experiences both Christ’s sufferings as well as his resurrection (3:10-11)

Paul reminds us that he is not already perfect. He is still involved in the scrapes and snarls of this life. But he’s pressing on because Christ has already apprehended him. Because Christ ran him down, he’s now running down Christ. (v. 12) In this race Paul will have missteps, but the key to victory isn’t in the mistakes that he cannot now change. Rather, he sticks out his neck like a runner towards the finish line. (v. 13)
What lies ahead: a heavenly goal. The prize is the fullness of eternal life and joy in the age to come—and that only comes through perfect unity with Christ. (v. 14) Those who are mature pursue this same goal while realizing that they aren’t yet mature. (v. 15) And, until you learn what you don’t know, hold onto what you do know. (v. 16)

What does Christian growth & maturity look like? 1. Humble Self-Assessment. 2. Aggressive Spiritual Focus 3.

HUMBLE SELF-ASSESSMENT

v. 12 –  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect

A Christian knows he or she has not arrived. If you ever meet someone who says they have conquered sin, just ask their spouse how they did it. If the Apostle Paul says that he has not attained perfection, what makes you think that you have? We are always coming to Jesus with the empty hands of faith.

AGGRESSIVE SPIRITUAL FOCUS

Throughout this letter Paul has called Christians to “stand firm,” “work,” “run,” and “labor.” Grace gives us a backbone. Twice in the passage Paul says he presses on (v. 12 & 14). It’s the same word he used when he said, “I persecuted the church.” (3:6) How does the same word get translated “persecuted” and “press on”? Just as Paul had gathered up and beat the church down, he now gathers himself up and beats himself onward toward the goal. He persecutes and aggravates his sin.

Aggressive spiritual focus requires intense concentration: “One thing I do, forgetting…” Of course, Paul isn’t forgetting past mercies or past lessons. He refuses to dwell on the past in a way that hampers present effort. Love keeps no records of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5) Don’t keep dredging up your old sins God has long forgiven (Micah 7:19)

FUTURE REWARD

14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The heavenly minded do the most earthly good. If you only knew the eternal weight of glory that awaited you there, you wouldn’t try to compare the snarls of life down here. (2 Cor. 4) Christians will hear the commendation our soul craves (“Well done…” Luke 19:17), recognition that will never lose its luster (“Unfading crown of glory…” 1 Pet. 5:4), a cleansing that can’t be stained (Rev. 7:14) and a love that will last (Rev. 22:3-4)

A SECURE SALVATION

When Paul refers to the “upward call” in v. 14, this isn’t an invitation, it’s a determination. When God calls to you in a saving way, you are summoned and compelled by his Spirit to come.

Watson:

This call is a SWEET call. God so calls—as He allures. He does not force—but draw. The freedom of the will is not taken away—but the stubbornness of it is conquered.

This call is a HOLY call. “Who has called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9). This call of God calls men out of their sins—by it they are consecrated, and set apart for God.

This call is an IRRESISTIBLE call. When God calls a man by His grace, he cannot but come. You may resist the minister’s call—but you cannot the Spirit’s call.

This call is an UNCHANGEABLE call. “God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). That is, as a learned writer says, those gifts which flow from election. When God calls a man, He does not repent of it.

This is the blessedness of a saint—his condition admits of no alteration. God’s call is founded upon His decree—and His decree is immutable. Acts of grace cannot be reversed. God blots out His people’s sins—but not their names. Let the world ring changes every hour, a believer’s condition is unchangeable and unalterable.

Experiencing the Resurrection – Philippians 3:8-12

THE TEXT:

Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:10-11 and can be found on page 981 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:

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. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

INTRO

Most Easter sermons focus on the objective historical facts of Christ’s resurrection (medical, empty tomb, eyewitnesses), and well they do. If Christ was not raised bodily, if the material world is all there is, do you know what that means? All the great thinkers knew what it meant as well:

It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we all live in a city without walls.

– Epicurus

What is the verdict of the vastest mind?
Silence: the book of fate is closed to us.
Man is a stranger to his own research;
He knows not whence he comes, nor whither goes.
Tormented atoms in a bed of mud,
Devoured by death, a mockery of fate.

– Voltaire

Paul knew what it meant as well. Eat and drink for tomorrow we die. (1 Cor. 15:16, 32) We have a stake in this, for there is no salvation if Christ is in the tomb.

In the passage before us Paul isn’t proving the objectivity of the resurrection. Instead, he tells us that the resurrection of Christ is also a subjective experiential reality that can come into your life—not as a romantic, idealized abstraction but as a practical reality. In order to understand this we need to look at:

First, the nature of the resurrection. What is it? Then, the effects of the resurrection. What does it look like when the resurrection is the operative power in our life. Finally, the promise of our resurrection. How can we be assured that we’ll be raised?

THE NATURE OF THE RESURRECTION

Paul assumed the Philippians understood what the Scriptures taught concerning the resurrection. The resurrection is not a consolation prize for having not received the life you wanted. It’s not the mere resuscitation of your body. We don’t have time to survey all the important passages, but let me give you three.

The resurrection of Christ is the swallowing up of evil, separation, and death. (Isa. 25:7-8)

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

The resurrection of Christ is the pattern for our own resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:22, 23, & 49)

22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ…. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

The resurrection is the renewal of all things, and it begins now. (Matt. 19:28; Titus 3:5)

The ancient Greeks, the Philippians before they were converted, believed that history was a bug cycle that repeated itself. So, history would decline until things got really bad and then there would be a great conflagration in which the world was purged and would start over. And they had a technical term for it: palingenesia. But in Matthew 19:28 Jesus said something remarkable:

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.

When Jesus speaks of the “new world” the word is literally, “In the palingenesia…” or, “In the regeneration of all things…” and it’s not cyclical, it’s a final and eternal reality. After death is swallowed up, after all evil is burned off, the entire cosmos will be eternally renewed.

Now, hold on to that thought because this word palingenesia is only used twice in the New Testament: in Christ’s teaching on the final cosmic renewal and in Titus 3:5 when Paul says:

[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

Do you see what this is saying? The power of God that raised Christ from the dead, the same power that will renew the cosmos eternally, is the same power that comes into your life today when you are born again and saved from your sins. In other words, the resurrection that will one day raise your body out of the grave comes to you now to raise your soul spiritually.

When Paul says to the Philippians, “I want to know the power of the resurrection,” he’s saying, “Because Christ died for sin and was bodily raised, one day death, separation, and evil will be swallowed up, my body which dies will be raised, the cosmos will be renewed, and you can begin experiencing that power now.”

THE EFFECTS OF THE RESURRECTION

What you believe about the future has dramatic implications for how you are living today. For instance, imagine you hire two women to work at your company for a one-year term. You agree to pay the first $25,000 and the second you agree to pay $15,000,000. In the ensuing year, who is going to handle adversity better? Who is more likely to look elsewhere for a better deal?

In v. 10 Paul says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” In the Bible “to know” goes beyond mental awareness and understanding into intimate unity. “Adam knew his wife,” isn’t a euphemistic way of saying they had sex.

Beyond knowing Christ, Paul says he wants to share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” The word share is the same word Paul used earlier to speak of the financial partnership he had with the Philippian church. (Phil. 1:5) In other words, Paul says, the personal experience of the resurrection of Christ isn’t just a mental state, or internal peace. It produces radical life change. It’s a future reality that has already begun to work in the present. It controls how you live.

Two examples:

• If it’s true that at the return of Christ, God is going to raise his saints and they will never die or get sick again, then the fear of death shouldn’t drive you into despair.

• If it’s true that, at the return of Christ, God is going to bring perfectly applied justice to evil, then you have no reason to seethe in anger when evildoers seem to prosper.

We didn’t read the verses but in v. 4-6 Paul tells us about his life before Christ. He had an agenda for God. But when he met the resurrected Christ—his agenda was turned on its head and instead of having an agenda for God, God became his agenda. Before meeting Christ, he saw God as useful. But when he met Christ, he saw him as beautiful. How about you?

THE PROMISE OF OUR RESURRECTION
How can the resurrection power of Christ become more than a fact of history to you? How can you personally and practically experience that power?

Throughout this chapter, Paul has been driving toward Christ:

v. 7 “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
v. 8 “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.”
v. 9 “for his sake I have suffered the loss of all things that I may gain Christ.”
v. 9 “I want to be found in him.”
v. 10 “I want to know him.”
v. 11 “I want to obtain the resurrection.”

Why this relentless pursuit? Is he trying to earn his way towards resurrection? No.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

The old KJV:

that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended

When Jesus Christ went to the cross, he didn’t pay for potential sins. He didn’t die for the possibility that sinners could be saved. Friends, he went to the cross with a list of names. When he was dying, he was claiming your sin. When he was suffering, he was obtaining you; he was making you his own possession.

We are in Christ because of his changeless, loving will that it should be so.

 

 

Free Justification – Philippians 3:8-9

THE TEXT:

Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:8-9 and can be found on page 981 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:

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

INTRO

If you are new to Christianity, it’s completely normal to feel like everyone is speaking in code words that have technical meanings. My goal in this series of sermons is to explain one of those code phrases—but I am doing so not to satisfy theological curiosity, but because this phrase is imminently practical for everyone in the room. The phrase I’m speaking of is “justification by faith,” or you may hear a Christian say they are justified. What does it mean to be justified? What does Paul mean when he says he has a righteousness that depends on faith?

Justification by faith is at the very heart of the gospel message—and it’s imminently practical for everyone in the room. But before we get practical, lets summarize the passage that’s in front of us

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT

If you look up at verse 2 you see that Paul is in the middle of warning the Philippian Christians of false-teachers. (v. 2) Judaizers taught that one must first become a law-abiding Jew before one could be a Christian, but true Christianity puts no confidence in our own moral record. (v. 3) And Paul knows this because no one had a better moral record than himself. (v. 4-6)

When Paul met the risen Christ, his confidence in his own moral record in melted like snow on the equator. He could not produce the kind of moral record God required, but thankfully, God offered him a perfect record and all that was required of Paul was trust. (v. 8-9)

And that’s the center of the Christian gospel—man owes a debt to God but cannot pay it. God can pay the debt, but he is not required to pay it—man is. Therefore, the Son of God, without losing his deity, became a man and did what we could not do: he achieved a morally perfect record. In his death, he took upon himself the divine punishment of sinners.

So, how are you made right with God? Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. God, without any merit of ours, out of mere grace, gives to us the perfect moral record of Christ, and treats us as if we had never committed any sin and as if we had accomplished all the obedience which Christ fulfilled for us—all we must do is accept this with a believing heart. That’s what it means to be justified.

So, let’s take a moment, and bring all of this doctrine down to earth by answering three questions. Why do we need it? What is it? How do we get it?

WHY DO WE NEED IT?

Throughout this passage Paul is saying: you need righteousness. Whether you realize it or not, you need it. And I know that this word righteousness may be unclear to some of you. It’s not a word we often use, and when we do it’s typically negative. So, let me explain righteousness from a different angle. Years ago, I heard a preacher say that righteousness is a record of performance which opens doors.

So, if you are wanting a job, you bring out your resume—it’s a performance record showing that you have the requisite skills for the job. And, if your resume is sufficient, you get hired on.

Or, if you’re applying to college you send your high school transcripts and your SAT scores. What is that? You give them a record of your performance and say, “Based on my record, accept me.”

Now, when it comes to being accepted by God, welcomed by God, you don’t bring out your resume, or your transcripts, you bring out your moral record. In verse 3 Paul says, “we put no confidence in the flesh.” In verse 4 he says that no one has more reason for confidence than him. The word for confidence means to trust in or depend upon like soldier who, while fighting in a battle, trusted that his shield would stop the arrows and spears of the enemy, or a blind person depends upon a guide to get them to their destination.

In other words, says Paul, “Most people, when they begin to sense a need for God or a fear of punishment from God, they depend upon their moral record to protect guide them to God, or to protect them from judgment.”

You may think, “I’m not a religious person. I’m not looking for God.” Maybe not, but you are still looking for justification—which is the same Biblical word as righteousness.

Arthur Miller –

For many years I looked at life like a case at law, a series of proofs. When you’re young you probe how brave you are, or smart, then, what a good lover, then, a good father, finally, how wise, or powerfully… [I’ve always presumed]… That I was moving on an upward path toward some elevation, where I would be justified

Joanna Gaines –

I used to want to do everything, be everything. I typically have a pretty clear vision in my mind of how I want things done. I just felt easier to do things myself rather than try to explain what I was looking for and then have to fix it all when it invariably would end up falling short.

This may make me sound like a textbook control freak and I probably was. I thought that high level of perfectionism was serving me well all those years.

Lately though, I have felt different. It could just be because I have more on my plate than I am physically capable of accomplishing. But whatever the reason, I no longer feel the need to do it all. I couldn’t see it until recently, but this wasn’t just about the work being done “right.”

There was something more sinister hiding in my best laid plans. I realize now that I found me self-worth neatly packaged together with all that I did. In fact, the two really couldn’t be separated. I wouldn’t have admitted this back then, but I think I was scared of what I would be left with if I stopped doing. I was terrified of what I might hear if I paused long enough to listen.

Arthur Miller, Joanna Gaines, and the Apostle Paul – what are you putting confidence in? You need righteousness. You’re looking for it whether you think you are or not.

WHAT IS IT?

In v. 9, Paul says he was trying to build his own righteousness resume; trying to earn his justification. But when he met the risen Christ he realized that God had been building his own moral record. Not just a good moral record, a perfect one. He learned that the righteousness we all need isn’t achieved, it’s received. It’s not one we make, it’s one that Christ made, and it comes to us, it’s imputed to us.

Imagine that a soldier who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor took the medal off their neck and placed it on yours so that everywhere you went, you were treated as if you had won the medal of honor. Doors would open for you. Everyone would show deference and honor to you. People would bow and you would be greeted with welcome.

That’s what it means to receive the righteousness of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:21) It means that God now treats you as if you had done every righteous thing Jesus Christ had done.

Righteousness is not pardon. Pardon says, “You may go.” Righteousness says, “You may come.” It means that you aren’t sneaking in the back door of heaven. The doors are flung wide and trumpets blast and you are welcomed as if you were as sinless as Jesus Christ himself is.

HOW DO WE GET IT?

You receive the performance record of Christ through repentance and faith. Two more Christian code words, right? They’re actually very simple words. What is repentance? Verse 7 “whatever gain I had, I count as loss.” These are accounting terms. In other words, repentance is an inversion of your ledgers. Everything he thought was in the profit column he now sees as a loss.

What is faith? Paul says in verse 9 that we need the “righteousness that comes through faith.” Faith is mere rational ascent. It’s not simply agreeing with truth claims. In v. 3 Paul says we don’t put confidence in our own record, instead we “glory in Christ Jesus.” This isn’t the common word for glory (doxa), but rather, a word that means “brag,” or “boast.” What do you boast in? What are you proud of? Paul once boasted in his own good deeds. Now he only boasts of Christ.

WORKS DON’T WORK

Now, let me be clear, neither repentance (counting as loss) nor faith (boasting in Christ) are works which earn God’s favor. (Rom. 5:8; Rom. 4:5) God justifies the ungodly. You do nothing to earn it. Some people think this doctrine will lead people to disobedience. “If this is true, if it’s completely free then I’d have no incentive to live a godly life.”

If when you lose all fear of punishment you also lose your incentive for living a good life then the only incentive you had to be good was fear. And here’s what is ironic: the fear is a selfish fear. And a good person is not selfish. When you live a good life so that God will love you and bless you it is by definition, not good. You’re not helping the poor, you’re helping yourself. You’re not serving God, you’re serving yourself.

This is why there is nothing in the world like free justification. The world is not divided between those who obey God and those who don’t. You can live an obedient life—that’s utterly selfish in motivation. But the Christian gospel says the word is divided between those who are boasting in themselves and those who are boasting only in Christ.

This is why so many people cycle in and out of church. They grow up in the church as children. They leave as college students. They cycle back in as young parents. What’s going on? Many times here’s what’s happening: they are trying to practice Christianity. They know they’ve done wrong. They confess and ask forgiveness, and they try harder.

But this passage says that Christ is the end of all your striving. If you are still trying to earn your place here, you have not understood the gospel. Martin Lloyd Jones used to ask people, “Are you a Christian?” And if they said, “I’m trying to be,” he knew they weren’t, because you don’t become a Christian by trying.

What are you looking to? In what are you boasting? To be a Christian means to glory only in Christ.