The first lesson we can learn from Paul is his journey from a life full of self-righteousness by living under the law to a life full of true Godly righteousness that can only come through faith in Jesus. In Philippians 3:3 Paul writes, “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
Do you know how radical of a statement that is coming from Paul? That verse represents a 360 degree change compared to how Paul used to think. He previously had uttermost confidence in his flesh and persecuted people who believed in Jesus. He thought righteousness came only through the law. He even goes on to say that if any might have confidence in themselves and their own works according to the law it would be him. He then lists His pedigree and all his accomplishments. Although he had a zeal for God, it was a misguided zeal.
Romans 10:2-4 says, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establishing their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” That described Paul before Jesus to a “T.” He thought he could achieve God’s righteousness through his actions and following the law.
But then it happened. He had a life-changing, true encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In it he saw himself and his own self-righteousness and beheld Jesus in all his glory and righteousness. He saw that by fighting to keep the law and persecuting those who were preaching Jesus he was completely missing the mark. Do you know what Paul now had to say about all his accomplishments that he did through his own efforts to try to please God by keeping the law before his encounter with Jesus? Philippians 3:7-8 goes on to say, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
The King James Version of the Bible actually renders the word rubbish as “dung,” so he is saying that all that he did before Jesus, all his achievements and works of the flesh, it was all just a bunch of crap. Pardon my bluntness. His accomplishments didn’t mean a thing now. The only important thing to him now was Jesus.
Paul proceeds to unveil the revelation he received about what righteousness really is in verse 9. “And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
I want everyone reading this to memorize that verse because it is a life-changer. Paul discovered true righteousness only comes through faith in Jesus. It wasn’t through his actions or following the law such as the Ten Commandments and all the other laws and ordinances that made him righteous, but rather only faith in Jesus. What a huge paradigm shift in his thinking, and I pray for us all to receive that as well.
Do you think Paul wanted to go live in sin now that he discovered grace and that his actions weren’t what made him righteous? Absolutely not. Understanding it made him want to know Jesus more as verses 10 says. “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”
Paul didn’t want to go live in sin, but rather to know this Jesus and follow him with everything that was within him that by believing right he would live right for the right reasons. He knew there was power in the resurrection, not just power to forgive our sins but so much more, and he wanted to dig in deeper to discover all that Jesus purchased for us. He wanted to lay aside himself and become fully enveloped with Jesus so Jesus could live through him. Now instead of him doing the persecuting, he knew he would need to suffer persecution like Jesus did, and he was totally OK with that because his life was not his own anymore.
Father, I pray for all your children to have a life-transforming encounter with Jesus like Paul did, for them to see that true righteousness comes through him and him alone. Amen.
Amber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her AmberRiceMiller Facebook page.
Published: August 10, 2016