In this chapter, Paul reminds us of the following things:
- do not put confidence in ourselves;
- be wary of those who try to ask us to put confidence in ourselves;
- to press on to take hold of what God has promised;
- don’t set your eyes on earthly things;
- our citizenship is in heaven.
This chapter is equally encouraging and equally concerning. This is mainly because of the messages the world gives us is all about putting faith in ourselves. It tells us to believe in ourself and to be confident in our own abilities. We should believe in our own abilities then everything else is going to work out.
Unfortunately, this is not simply true, so is only setting yourself up for disappointment. In fact, it puts unfair pressure on people and if you don’t succeed and everything doesn’t work out, well you only have yourself to blame, don’t you. Simply, the world doesn’t run on positive thinking and self-esteem. Unexpected tragedies happen, people get sick, people fail. So, put your value and self-esteem in something that actually delivers what it promises: Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.
Seeing as we have this promise, we can stop chasing towards worldly things and worldly success and glory. Paul makes a list of everything that would have given him respect and esteem in his culture: followed traditions, a good family heritage, great academic achievements in learning the law, outwardly respectable, a good job. He did everything his society deemed a success story. I wonder what that list would be in our day and age? First-class honours degree? Becoming a doctor? Well paid job? Nice house in a nice neighbourhood? Fashionable?
However, he knows that these are worthless trash compared to knowing Christ. Degrees, money, jobs, homes, clothes, cars, anything we deem of any worth are worthless compared to knowing Christ. In fact, Paul considers them a loss. I’m not sure what he means, but perhaps he laments of the time spent chasing these things instead of seeking Jesus. So instead, we can choose to chase Jesus and the promises he gives us.
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.verse 14
Obviously, pursuing Christ instead of worldly things will make us weird, even strangers in this world. But we remember that we don’t actually belong here.
But our citizenship is in heaven.First part of verse 20
What a glorious reminded, especially for someone like me who lives overseas. (If you’ve arrived here by chance, I have another blog which discusses my life in Cambodia). I’m lucky that I love the UK, where I’m from, and I love Cambodia where I now live. However, there are moments where I realise I’m a stranger in both these places. In Cambodia, it’s more obvious. I look different, I talk differently, my lifestyle is different. But having lived abroad for a number of years really makes you feel different in your passport country too. So while I try and think about it as having “two homes”, there’s a realisation that neither one is really my home. My home is in heaven with Jesus. Yes, he’s called me to be here in Cambodia and he has fortunately given me a huge love for this country. But, I don’t really belong here. That’s okay, but I long for the day where I do belong because I’m with Jesus.