It’s good to be good. I get that. God calls us to do good things so he can be glorified (Matthew 5:16).
But do we carry it too far?
Not in doing good things (let’s always want that!), but by incorrectly thinking that doing good things makes us good.
Immediately after Paul told the Philippians to fill up on joy (Philippians 3:1), he gave them a very stern warning:
“Look out for the dogs!
Look out for the evildoers!
Look out for those who mutilate the flesh!” (Philippians 3:2)
Who were those dogs? They were joy thieves. Grace stealers. They were Jews who were trying to pull the fresh Christians away from grace. And back into law.
The voices say...
They were the voices we still hear today, whispering, and sometimes shouting:
- You’re not doing enough.
- You’re not good enough!
- Is that the best you can do???
But Paul gave them a confident and reassuring answer that we need to listen to.
He said we don’t have to be good enough.
And he should know. If anybody had a beefy spiritual resume, it was Paul (Philippians 3:4). He had credentials. His Benjamite blood line was pure, traceable all the way back to Jacob, as far as a Jew could go.
He was a Pharisee on fire for obeying the law, far more zealous than any Sadducee. But...
Was it enough? Could his credentials earn his salvation?
Pumping the pride
Can yours? What do you take pride in?
- Maybe you have a stellar record of church attendance
- Or you teach a Bible class or two
- Or you make great sacrifices to homeschool your kids
Ah, great items for the resume, yes?
While those may be good things, they’re still zemia compared to knowing Christ. Zemia is the Greek word Paul used for “loss” in Philippians 3:8. As in detriment. Disadvantage.
If we rely on our own credentials to build our joy, we’re at a disadvantage. We waste energy trying to be perfect on our own.
Instead, concentrate on better knowing the one who already is perfect, who is enough. Hang out with him. Let his blood rub off on us.
His perfection is enough for all of us.
It’s who you know
When we try to be right by our own goodness, we’re wrong.
But when we accept the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Philippians 3:9), we go all the way through suffering to the other side of resurrection.
It’s painful to try to be perfect on our own.
And it’s unnecessary. Christ has already done it for us.
So let’s heed Paul’s warnings and do as he did:
- Rejoice in the Lord
- Beware of grace stealers
- Put no confidence in our own works
- Know Christ and build faith in him
Because it’s not what we do for him, it’s that we know him.
And even though we will never be good enough, he is. For us.
And that is more than enough.
* * *
Do you struggle trying to be perfect? Is it hard to accept that you will never be good enough?
originally posted at Do Not Depart
revised here for the archives