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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, October 9, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Philippians 3:4b–14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (NRSV)

The Apostle Paul first sounds as if he is boasting. He recites his impressive credentials: his circumcision as a young boy shows he was bred in a Jewish household; he spoke Hebrew, born to Hebrew people; he was a Pharisee who sought to be faithful to the most rigorous of religious practices; he was full of pious zeal and blameless under the law.

Yet this focus is not “it’s all about me.” Paul goes on to say none of the above matters. It is Jesus Christ alone who matters. Righteousness, or right relationship with God, is based, not on fulfilling the law, but on trusting Jesus Christ as Lord. All the rest is rubbish. Paul’s goal is “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings.” Paul hasn’t yet reached this goal but presses towards it because Christ has ultimate claim on his life.

Once you discover you’ve been pursuing misguided principles, it would be tempting to wallow in regret and remorse. But Paul says don’t waste time dwelling on your past. Focus all your energy on journeying forward as a pilgrim of faith.

May the words of Maya Angelou inspire you:

“Lift up your faces; you have a piercing need for this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again. Lift up your eyes upon the day breaking for you. Give birth again to the dream. . . . Each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings. Do not be wedded forever to fear. . . . The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.” (“The Pulse of the Morning”)

Guide and strengthen me, God, to keep my eyes on the prize. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtis, Associate Pastor for Mission

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