Are you pretty impressed with yourself lately? Has anyone else in the assembly come close to matching your current streak of 71 weeks without missing a meeting? Did you find a way to oh-so-subtly let others know you gave a gift of fellowship to the visiting preacher? Has anyone else noticed that the food is so much better whenever it’s your turn to bring the snack for break time on Sundays?
Christians have a strange tendency to be proud of their salvation, spiritual progress, and service. It is understandable in one sense because it is the nature of fallen humanity to be proud and self-centered. But it is also totally absurd for a Christ follower because the cross of Christ shows us who we really are in our flesh – ungodly wretches. The cross of Christ is God’s verdict upon the flesh, “and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24 ESV).
Chapters 2 and 3 of Philippians reveal the mind of Christ Jesus – a mind that leads Christ followers to live life in light of the cross instead of a life that boasts in the self-centered flesh. So, Christ followers “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Php 3:3). In the Philippian church, though, there was a risk that the Christians would be influenced by people who boasted in a religion built on themselves (Php 3:2) – their works, their heritage, their righteousness, their flesh. And that is not the gospel. Paul presents himself as an example and tells them that is the way he used to think, but he left it all “in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own … but that which comes through faith in Christ” (Php 3:8-9 ESV).
There are believers newer to the faith than you whom you can really influence. What example are you setting? What brand of spirituality are you promoting? Spiritual Christians are those “who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Php 3:3 ESV). In an effort to get other believers to appear up to snuff, you can easily and mistakenly give them the impression that the Christian faith is about your achievements and your standards. This is a particularly dangerous mentality to convey to those young in the faith. It sets them on a wrong path in impressionable years and creates a wrong thinking from which it is difficult to shake free. It leads to legalism, unrealistic perfectionism, pride, and a faith energized by the flesh instead of the Spirit.
What we boast in is what we implicitly encourage in others. To churches already deeply infected with flesh-based, self-serving religion, Paul says, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14 ESV). And to the church in Philippi, at risk of being infected, he models true spirituality: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Php 3:8 ESV). What message are you sending to others? What is your boast? What are you striving for in your Christian testimony? Think on Philippians 1:21 – “To me to live is Christ.”