Updated: Feb 3
“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.”
This is the Epistle selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for Year A, Proper 22, the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. It will next be read aloud in church on Sunday, October 8, 2017. It is an important message from Paul, an Apostle and Saint, that says nothing of this world is worth sacrificing one’s soul for.
When Paul wrote, “If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more,” he wrote of the false assurances one thinks one has because of following the orders of Man (those in religious robes). When Paul then went on to make statements about his devotion as a Jew – a member in the “God’s Chosen People Club” – this should be taken (in our modern “Christian” times) as though Paul spoke for you.
Imagine Paul knows you as he knew himself. See him writing as if he knows your claims of the flesh. A generic statement of your accomplishments might go like this:
“I was placed in a silver bowl full of holy water as an infant, sprinkled by a man (or woman) in a robe, and then placed in a cradle in the church nursery. I earned all gold stars at children’s church (Sunday school). Today I am an adult member of the church with the largest membership in the United States of America. I am a devout follower of the most highly recognized televangelist (or syndicated televised minister or local pastor whose Sunday service is telecast). I also graduated from a school with a revered seminary program (gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree, not a Master of Divinity). I am a regular attendee at my church on Sunday mornings (when not vacationing), with a plaque bearing my parent’s names on the sill of a stained glass window and everyone knows which pew my family sits on. I assist in the setting up chairs in the room where adult Sunday School is held (and sometime putting the chairs back). I am a devoted ten-percent tither, who also donates to multiple national charities. To top that off, I have been certified to assist the priest (or preacher) on the altar, as well as read aloud in church on occasion.”
Paul would say about you, as he said about himself: “As to righteousness under the law, [you are] blameless.”
Still, such resumes do nothing to gain entrance into Heaven, because it is lacking the most important qualification – humility. When Paul wrote about all the boxes he had checked off for righteousness, saying, “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ,” he was blind to what really counted.
If you remember, Paul was named Saul, when he was seen by the people who take notice of such things as being a devoted Pharisee in the service of the Temple of Jerusalem. The “I” was all important to Saul. Thus he implied, “I was “circumcised of the eighth day.” I was “a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews.” I was “a Pharisee.” I was “a persecutor of the church” (Christians). I was “blameless,” because I was somebody important.”
Saul lost his I-sight after encountering the Spirit of Jesus Christ and then became Paul. Can you hear his new Paulian voice saying, “I have come to regard [that] loss because of Christ.”
The presence of the Christ Mind changed him forever, as he lost the I that Saul’s ego was.
“I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” is a statement by a reborn Christ Jesus, named Paul. That new name comes from the Latin adjective “paulus,” meaning “little or small.” That name symbolizes how such a proud, important, big-ego man lost all that he was, becoming most humble … a little man, as far as his self was concerned.
When Paul went on to write that his change meant he “suffered the loss of all things,” this says big egos are attracted to grand examples of God’s favor surrounding them. So many see worldly success as a sign of God’s approval to the way so many are living. But, as Jesus told the young rich Pharisee in Matthew 19:21, “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor … and then come, follow me,” big egos walk away sad, with heads hung down.
Their brains think, “Give up all things? I can’t do that.”
When Paul then wrote that righteousness “comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith,” one has to realize that “faith” can never be rewarded with “things.” True “faith” is belief in intangibles. When “things” come to those who check all the boxes that look good on a resume, their reward of “things” negates a heavenly reward.
When the brain is blind to spiritual rewards, it works just as hard as one of true “faith” does, but all the work done goes to reward self, in just one temporal life. Those works are “confidence in the flesh,” rather than confidence in God.
Righteousness is the intangible reward for true faith, because the presence of the Christ Mind supports the soul, as faith motivating the flesh. The brain stops plotting what the flesh can do to bring even greater reward in “things.” The Christ Mind uses that flesh to find more souls who need to see the light … they are motivated to fish for men’s souls.
For Paul to write, “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,” this is THE desire for righteousness. Paul’s desire should be mirrored by all Christians.
All Christians want to know Christ, where knowledge is the Christ Mind within (not written in some book or on the pages of some sermon). The “power of his resurrection” is when one changes and is born anew as Christ Jesus. To feel one’s self “sharing his suffering,” one is walking in the footsteps of Jesus AS Jesus reborn, attracting souls and opposition. Thus, one has become “like him in his death,” by sacrificing one’s own self, like changing from Saul to Paul.
That says it is a requirement for everyone – Changing from (your name here) to another who is filled with the Holy Spirit of God, gaining a righteous name (“in the name of Christ Jesus”). The desire has to be there first, for you and all who want to gain the right to Heaven, in order “to attain the resurrection from the dead.”
If you look around you, you will find many souls born of death, simply by being in mortal bodies. They are born to die, over and over again, as eternal souls continually trapped in new bodies of flesh, which can only surround them until death returns. To “attain the resurrection from the dead,” your soul has to be released from this material world cycle.
Only righteousness brings that freedom.
By Paul writing, “Not that I have already obtained this [resurrection from the dead] or have already reached the goal [Heaven]; but I press on to make it my own,” he knew that Apostles are the ones who Satan most tries to lure back into the dead. Satan tempted Jesus in the Wilderness with wealth, fame, and worldly glory; but Jesus told Satan where to go.
The life of a Saint means one of tests and more tests, so one has to press on. The Holy Spirit makes that work be seen as happiness, amid denials of pleasure and the acceptance of suffering.
You cannot make it through the righteousness obstacle course alone. You need Christ Jesus making you his own, just as he made Paul his. That is why the I has to die. Your ego’s death means God in your heart and Christ leading your thoughts. Your body becomes another Trinity. So, although you look alone, you are with good company.
That is why a promising resume cannot be written in the present, as everything in the past has to be forgotten. Straining forward is not the stuff that wins smiles from V.I.P.’s looking for new managers and partners, as suffering means the loss of all one’s old material world references.
The only writing that matters will be a headstone in a pauper’s field that says, “Here lies a fool who gave up everything for others.”
The Fool card symbolizes innocence with faith. Eyes to heaven about to take a leap of faith. He is not concerned about what happens next, as all he knows is, “I can no longer stay here.”
That is the kind of resume God likes. It is the kind that attains “the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” And, if you are really good at gaining righteousness, people whose lives crossed your righteous path will write honorable words about the you who you became, when you changed, after you’ve gone to heaven.