“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” Philippians 3:1
I’ll never forget the Sunday morning when I was hanging out in the hall with a bunch of my “cool” junior high friends before Sunday school. Walking toward us was a visitor to our class, wearing a chain of perfect attendance awards pinned to his shirt. As he approached, our attitude about him was anything but sanctified. It was more like, “Who does he think he is?”—and we immediately dismissed him as a legitimate candidate to make it into the “in” group. Not one of my finer moments, I must admit, but a good illustration of what happens when people walk around flaunting their accomplishments.
The early church at Philippi had similar problems. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul spoke forcefully against the Judaizers in the church who were flaunting the fact that they kept the religious customs of the law, including circumcision. In their minds they were the blue-ribbon Christians in Philippi, and their self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude was a source of conflict and division in the church. Paul’s advice? Stop rejoicing in your own accomplishments, and start rejoicing in the Lord.
When he commanded the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, he wasn’t calling for incessant, glib expressions of “praise Jesus!” Aren’t we all just a little tired of people who walk around with 24-hour “praise Jesus!” smiles on their faces? He was calling for something deeper. It was a call to forsake our absorption with things that elevate us and to instead live in a way that makes Jesus the focus of our “bragging rights.” To illustrate the importance of this, Paul gave a personal testimony in verses 4-6. After listing his own accomplishments, he said that he had learned to count it all “loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
The lesson for us is that there are no “blue-ribbon” Christians. There is no spiritual caste system that separates the high performers from the others. We all have one blue ribbon: Jesus.
Whatever it is in your life that you want to brag about—don’t! As Jeremiah said, “Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth” (Jeremiah 9:24).
When we begin bragging about Jesus and His wonderful grace in our life, we can replace the “Who does he think he is?” attitude with the desire to say, “Let me tell you who He is!”
- Make a list of the accomplishments that make you feel proud. How do those things compare to Paul’s list in Philippians 3:4-6, and what should your response be according to Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:7?
- In what ways have you felt tempted to flaunt your own accomplishments above the Lord’s? If you have given in to the temptation, how did it make you feel?
- Ask the Lord to shift your attention from your own accomplishments to the work Jesus accomplished for you on the cross. Don’t forget to ask for an opportunity to boast in Him today. You can bet that He will give you a chance!