Y OU’VE BEEN GIVEN an assignment to write a résumé. What would you include? Or maybe your grandchild wants you to talk about your life’s story. What’s important in your life that you would include?
For high-schoolers preparing for college, what you’ve done and accomplished means a lot. For you children, what do you value being and doing (riding a bike, being on a travel sports team, playing a musical instrument, getting good grades on your report card)?
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PAUL WRITES ABOUT what is important to him. First, he lists his successes. What he’s done and what he’s good at. And it’s quite a list. But then Paul says something interesting and important. Knowing God and doing what God made him to do is more important than any of those things — wonderful though they be.
Here’s Paul’s list. It is very, very impressive. He has more reason to boast in the flesh than anyone. He lists seven advantages he could claim — some are inherited.
■ He is a full member of God’s covenant people.
■ He is an Israelite by birth with all the rights and privileges.
■ He hails from one of the two tribes considered to be faithful to the covenant.
■ He is the son of Hebrew parents with no Gentile contamination.
The last three are achievements:
■ He practices strict observance of the law.
■ He exhibits avid devotion to God.
■ He is above reproach according to a Pharisaic interpretation of the law.
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PAUL SAYS HE GAINED a lot because of privileges and accomplishments. They gave him a lot of significance. They gave him power. They gave him authority. They gave him a sense of identity.
All of that was fine and good until Jesus bumped into his life and, boom, everything is ripped out from underneath him. In great humility, Paul says that all his résumé is worth nothing. Dung. Garbage.
Paul thought he was doing and had done a lot of good stuff and that the very most important thing in his life was God and doing the job God had given him.
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HERE’S MY RÉSUMÉ. I was born into a family that went to worship multiple times every week. Awarded perfect attendance pins for Sunday school. Baptized at 10. Sang in the youth choir. Sang in the adult choir. Called to ministry at 15. Attended a Christian college and majored in religion. Pastored a small church at 18. Attended seminary. Three years of Hebrew. Two years of Greek. Presidential scholar. Sacrificed family. Approved for ordination. Pastor, preacher, minister for 33 years.
Don’t be impressed by that. It means nothing. What only matters is faith in Jesus Christ.
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WHAT PAUL AFFIRMS with great confidence, I have to ask and answer for myself.
Is all I want is to know Christ and the power of his rising from death? Do I want to share in Christ’s sufferings and become like him in his death? If I have those things, then I have hope that I will be raised from death.
I’m not there yet. I am not who God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that. That is the reason Christ made me his.
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THIS PASSAGE invites us to reflect on what we value most.
A Reuters poll reveals that Americans value “time” first, with “career,” “success,” and “money” coming in as close seconds for certain groups of people. What we value most is likely demonstrated by how we spend our time and how we spend our resources. How we live our lives.
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NOW IS THE TIME to reflect on what we value most as individuals and as a church.
Perhaps we tend to value certain inherited qualities or achievements as “gains” that give us value before God.
Now is the time to examine our lives. Now is the time to examine our faith.
Now is the time so that we may count such gains as loss and deepen our reliance upon Jesus Christ.