The Art of Preaching with David Akers – Part 3

Putting the Sermon Together

This episode of the Art of Preaching is the third segment of an interview with Pastor David Akers.  He shares very practical advice on putting sermons together.  This is really great, practical stuff!

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Philippians on Friday: To be Found in Him!

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

PhilippiansWhat an incredible verse! I want to be found in Him – in His righteousness, not mine! Paul is talking to the Philippians about our standing with God. And that standing comes from what Christ has done not what we have done!

Certainly we are following after holiness. We are to striving to be like Christ – to walk right and do right. We are His representatives to a lost world and we are living our lives as a reflection of Him. But our standing in God does not come from our righteousness it comes from His righteousness.

Paul’s Pedigree

Paul reminded the Philippians that he did all the right things.  He followed the law to a tee. But then on the road to Damascus, Paul had an experience with Jesus. Paul had an eye-opening revelation – none of his own righteousness put him in right standing with God.   Only by trusting in Christ’s righteousness could he be justified. So Paul re-evaluated and re-counted his life. He relabeled all the things he had trusted in to make him righteous. Labels were changed from “gain” to “loss.” All the confidence Paul had put in his own righteousness, were relabeled, “dung.” He counted it all loss and put his trust in what Christ had done.

Oh, to be found in Him:

….not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

When I am found in Him, I enjoy the righteousness of God. Do you want to be found in your own righteousness or the Righteousness of God?  When you are trying to be justified through what you are doing – that’s the righteousness of the Law. And Paul said:

…. for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Or do you want the righteousness of God? The righteousness of God comes by faith and trust in Christ – in what He has done.

I’ll Never Measure Up!

I’ll never be good enough in of myself. It’s impossible for me to pray hard enough, fast long enough, or sacrifice deep enough to be justified in God’s eyes.  I could never think pure enough or live holy enough to be in good standing before Him.

So I’m going to trust by faith in the righteousness of Christ. Jesus paid the price. I am going to trust in what PhilippiansHe has done and have confidence in His works of righteousness and not my own.

I’m going to trust that when I was born again – baptized in Jesus’ Name and filled with the Holy Ghost – that I put on Christ. I am righteous because of Him not me!

Yes I am striving for holiness! I’m doing by best to live Godly in this present world. I’m pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God. But that isn’t where my good standing with God comes from.

If we don’t understand this truth, we will always struggle. We must have faith and confidence that we are ok with God! Our standing with God is based on what Christ has done. Are we in Him?


We’ve been conditioned our whole lives to think our standing with God is based on our performance. So if I’m doing well spiritually then God will love me and accept me. But if I’m not – If I make a mistake, have a bad thought or slip in my prayer life – then God will no longer smile upon me! I’ll no longer be in good standing with God!

People will live in condemnation if they don’t understand Paul’s teaching to the Philippians. We are human. We are flesh.  We’re going to mess up, have bad days and do dumb things. But our justification is in Christ. We are trusting in His work.  We are counting on His righteousness.

Does that mean we shouldn’t follow after holiness? Of course not! We are trying our best to please God and die to sin. But our standing with GOD is not determined by what we do, it’s determined by our faith in what He did!

A Key to Joy

Rejoice! Philippians is a book about joy. Do you know what brings joy to our walk with God? It’s the realization that it’s not our righteousness, but His righteousness that puts us in good standing with God! That is a key to joy.

If you put your confidence in your own works, you will always come up short. And you will always struggle with joy. Why? Because you can’t live righteous enough in your own self to be justified. If you could, there would not have been a need for Calvary or it’s Christ!

People who are trusting in their own righteousness lack joy. They lack joy because they keep failing. They’re always trying to measure up. They’re always trying to measure others up. But there is only One who measures up – Christ! And we can rejoice when we are found in Him!

If you are in Him, then guess what God sees when He looks at you? He sees the perfect, spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness. Oh to be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith…”

Let God give you Joy. You’re O.K! You’ve been baptized into Christ thereby putting on Christ. You’ve been made holy by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit! So you are in Him – in His righteousness. That is what puts you in good standing with God!

~ Matthew Ball

Between the Times

Judges 13:24–25 (KJV) – 24 And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times…

He was a miracle child.  His mother was barren until an angel of the LORD came with a message from God:

A miracle is going to happen. You will bear a son.

The angel continued:

Your son will not be an ordinary child nor live an ordinary life. You and your husband are to raise him differently than other children. He is to be a Nazarite all the days of his life.

Samson had a rendezvous with destiny. Before he was even born, God ordained that this man, Samson, should be a mighty deliverer for Israel.  The touch of heaven upon Samson didn’t end at his birth:

Judges 13:24 – 24 …..and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him.

The Lord blessed him as he grew. At some point the Spirit of God moved upon him. It moved upon him in a samsonway that inspires legends and fairytales.

He was walking through a vineyard in the Philistine city of Timnath when a young lion roared against Him. The Spirit of the Lord moved upon him and he grabbed the lion and killed it with his bare hands!

When an army of the Philistines came against him, Samson picked up the jawbone of an ass and with it slew 1000 enemy soldiers.

On another occasion he was sleeping in city of Gaza. The enemy locked the gates of the city hoping to catch him at daybreak. At midnight Samson went to the main city gates and picked them up – posts, hinges, bars and all! He carried the gates up to the top of the hill on his shoulders.

He did those things when the Spirit of God moved upon him.

Meant for More?

You would think by observing his exploits and recalling his miraculous birth that Sampson is a hero for the ages. Be he is not. When you think of Sampson, you think of him succumbing to the temptation of a harlot. You think of him divulging his divine secret to a heathen woman who used it against him. We see him at the end of his life – a captive to the very enemy that God said he was destined to defeat. We see him with his eyes gouged out by the enemy, bound in chains and grinding at mill of the Philistines.

Certainly he found some measure of redemption. In his last act, he destroyed more Philistines in his own death than he did throughout his entire life. He is a testimony that God can bring beauty out of ashes. But you have to conclude: This is not what God intended.

Surely Samson was meant for more. Surely he was destined for more than to fall into the trap of Delilah and die a martyr’s death while the philistines mocked him. Having read the circumstances of his birth and his great exploits in life, you would have hoped for a better ending. What went awry?

Between the Times

The Bible says the Spirit moved on him at times. If the Spirit moved upon him mightily at times, then there were obviously times when the Spirit wasn’t moving on him. And a survey of his life will reveal that Samson’s downfall came from how he handled life when the Spirit was not moving upon Him.  He ran into trouble – not during the times the Spirit moved on him – but between the times!

He didn’t fail God because he couldn’t function properly when the Spirit moved upon Him. When the Spirit was moving on him, he did mighty exploits.  He failed God because he couldn’t live between the times.

When the Spirit wasn’t moving on him is when you find him going to Gaza to spend the night with a prostitute. That’s when you find him disregarding the commands of God. That’s when you find him going down to the valley of Sorek and falling for Delilah. It’s during the time the Spirit wasn’t moving on him that you see him violate his covenant with God.

Samson did fine during the times the Spirit moved upon him. But he lacked the discipline to walk with God during the times he didn’t feel the anointing of God’s Spirit.

Still True Today

Where do most people get off track today? It’s not when the Spirit is mightily moving upon them. It’s between the times that most stumble.

Nobody backslides when the Holy Ghost is moving upon them. When the Spirit is moving upon us we feel invincible. We are determined to do great exploits for God. It’s during the times we don’t feel Him that we waver.

As Spirit-filled believers we certainly have the promise the He will never leave us or forsake us! That doesn’t, however, exempt us from times when we don’t feel Him.

So what are you going to do between the times? That’s when many people have fallen by the wayside. That’s when many have made poor choices or become disillusioned.

I’ve known people who thrived as long as they lived in one continuous Spiritual highlight. As long as the Spirit was moving on them they were fine. But they never learned the discipline of walking with God between the spiritual highlights.

Walk by Faith

The Christian journey is filled with great spiritual exploits and mountaintop experiences. There’s nothing more exhilarating than feeling the anointing of God or sensing the Hand of God upon you. But the entirety of your Christian walk is not a mountaintop experience.

samsonWe must learn to walk by faith and not by sight. We must learn to walk by faith and not by feeling. There will be some times when you don’t feel God or sense His anointing. There will be times when you don’t feel the strength to tear off the gates of the enemy city. Rest assured, there will be times when we won’t understand what God is up to or hear His voice. There will be times when life doesn’t make sense – times when the answers to our prayers haven’t come yet.

What are you going to do? Anyone can serve God when a rushing wind of the Holy Ghost and cloven tongues of fire are sweeping over you. But what are you going to do between the times?

The Desert Test

Every great leader in the God’s story had to pass the desert test. Moses had his desert experiences. So did Joseph, David and Elijah. Even Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness! Paul spent two years in the desert of Arabia before his ministry began in earnest.

God will test you. Before He promotes you, you must demonstrate that you can be faithful and consistent in your walk with him, regardless of what you feel. Anyone can “mount up with wings like an eagle” in those times when upward currents of the Holy Ghost are lifting you to lofty spiritual peaks. But can you walk and not faint between the times. There’s usually a valley between mountain peaks!

Inconsistency Trumps Destiny

Samson’s birth, with it’s miraculous notes, clearly testifies of his great destiny. The angel’s own words remove any doubt. God’s plan for the child was that he grow up to be a mighty deliverer for the Nation.  But Samson’s inconsistency trumped his potential. Samson’s destiny was overcome his unfaithfulness.

Sadly, I’ve watched far too many with great potential unable to seize their destiny because they couldn’t be consistent. I’ve noticed far too many with an obvious anointing never realize their possibilities.  And it all boiled down to an inability to walk faithfully “between the times.” Their greatness was stolen by their inability to be steady.

I’m grateful for momentous spiritual experiences. They are needful. But perhaps more important than having great spiritual experiences is the ability to walk consistently with God through all types of spiritual terrain. Let’s be faithful “between the times!”

~Matthew Ball

Should Christians Observe the Sabbath?

(And other questions the apostles already answered)

I’m concerned and perplexed by the resurfacing of questions within the church that were asked and answered many years ago.  Should Gentile Christians observe the Jewish Sabbath?  Is it wrong to gather for public worship on Sunday?  Is it necessary to abstain from pork, shellfish, or other foods the dietary laws of the Old Testament forbids?  Am I permitted to wear clothing that mixes materials such as cotton and wool?  What about the hundreds of other laws and customs kept by the Jews?

The Early Church’s Greatest Challenge

The most challenging issue faced by the early church was how to merge Jewish and Gentile converts into one body.  This was no small matter.  This issue became so serious in the first years of the church that it threatened to derail the church’s progress.

SabbathMany Jewish converts to Christianity insisted that Gentile believers abide by centuries-old Jewish customs and some or all of the Old Testament covenants. Disagreement about these issues escalated to serious conflict and even physical persecution.  The persecution of Christians did not only come from the leaders of Judaism or the Roman Empire.  Some persecution of Gentile Christians came from their own Jewish brothers in Christ.

The greatest detriment to the infant church by this ideological conflict was it distracted the church from its ultimate purpose.  Instead of concentrating on the Great Commission, the church was drawn into a quagmire of internal dissension.  As is so often the case (even today), this internal conflict robbed the church of its focus.

The Showdown at Antioch

Even the apostles were drawn into the divisive conflict. At one point Peter and Paul had a heated, face-to-face argument.  Paul rebuked Peter for his two-facedness at Antioch!  When Peter was in Antioch visiting the Gentile church, he ate with them, enjoying their brotherly fellowship.  But when James and a delegation of Jews from Jerusalem arrived, Peter suddenly changed his behavior.  He got up from the table and sat with the Jews, fearing their condemnation for him eating with Gentiles. Other Jewish Christians who had been fellowshipping with the Gentile believers at Antioch followed Peter’s poor example.  Even Barnabas was drawn into the conflict and followed, in Paul’s words, “Peter’s hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:11-21).

Paul’s stern words to Peter were a reminder that we are justified by the work of Christ, not by our adherence to the Law:

Galatians 2:14-21: When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?…know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified…I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (NIV)

The Jerusalem Counsel

Paul’s rebuke of Peter’s hypocrisy did not resolve the issue.  The challenges of merging Jewish and Gentile converts were widespread.  Jewish Christians in Judea were teaching that all Christian converts needed to be circumcised.  Paul and Barnabas had “no small dissention and disputation with them” (Acts 15:2).  A sect of believers in Jerusalem were likewise teaching that Gentile converts should be circumcised and were commanding the converts to keep the Law of Moses.

This issue had to be settled.  The apostles needed to address these questions that had the potential to derail the progress and unity of the church.  The apostles and elders met with Paul and Barnabas to consider the matter.  Peter rose up to speak:

Acts 15:10: 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? (KJV)

Paul and Barnabas also addressed the counsel.  After much intense discussion and prayer, James, the Sabbathpastor of the Church of Jerusalem, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, spoke words of wisdom that became the official ruling of the entire apostolic counsel:

Acts 15:19,20: 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. (KJV)

There was a consensus and a witness in the Sprit that this ruling was the Will of God.  The apostles wrote an official letter that answered the question, “What portions of the Law of Moses should be kept by Gentile converts?”

Acts 15:23-29 – 23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment… 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. (KJV)

What is as striking as the requirements mentioned is the absence of others.  They did not mention circumcision.  They did not mention keeping the Sabbath.  There is no mention of adhering to the dietary laws of the Old Testament (other than abstaining from meat that had been offered to idols, from blood, and from things strangled).  There is no mention of observing the feasts or any number of other Jewish customs and oral traditions.

Those demanding the keeping of the Sabbath were trying to put upon Gentile converts demands they themselves could not keep.

Equally as remarkable is the fact that James was the one writing this ruling.  He was the pastor of the mostly Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem.  It is likely that many of the antagonists of this issue were members of James’ church.  As far as his personal life, James chose stay true to his Jewish roots observing all the Old Testament law to the best of his ability.  Yet in this ruling, James feels led of the Spirit to impose only the four items mentioned above upon the Gentile converts.

The Sabbath

The glaring absence of any mention of Gentile converts keeping the Sabbath can only be interpreted one way.  The apostles rightly understood that keeping the Sabbath as instituted in the Old Testament was a covenant with Israel, not with Gentile converts.  They understood what is reiterated over and over in the Old Testament – the Sabbath was for “My people, Israel:”

Exodus 31:16-17: 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: (KJV)

There is no mention in Acts of the Gentile church gathering together to worship on the Sabbath. Certainly the apostles went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to preach Christ because it was a wise evangelistic strategy.  There is clear evidence, however, of the church gathering on the first day of the week for worship and preaching (Acts 20, 1 Cor. 16).  Throughout the epistles there is never a command for the church to gather together for corporate worship on any particular day of the week.

Jesus is our Sabbath

As a New Testament church, we observe all of the Ten Commandments.  We do “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”  We just don’t do it in the same manner that the Jews did in the Old Testament.  In Matthew 11, Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28–30: 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (KJV)

It is crucial to understand the context of this passage.  Jesus was rebuking the Jewish cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.  He said if the mighty works that had been done in your cities had been done in the Gentile cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, they would already have repented.  It was an indictment of their staunch religious tradition and resistance to the message of Christ.

It is in that context that Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”  He is speaking to Jews who have struggled under the heavy burden of the Law.  But He says My yoke is easy.  The yoke of the Law is not.  My burden is easy.  The burden of Moses is not.

SabbathCome unto Me and find rest for your souls. Jesus said, “I will give you rest.”  What’s fascinating about this verse is its reference to the Sabbath.  The word for “rest” in this passage is the Greek equivalent of the Old Testament Hebrew word for “Sabbath.”

Are you tired of laboring under the heavy yoke of trying to measure up to the Law? Jesus said come to Me.  I will give you “Sabbath.”  I will be your Sabbath. He said I will give you rest.

Jesus is our Sabbath. He has instituted a new and better covenant.  We have, by faith, laid down the old yoke and taken up Christ’s yoke.  The rest we enjoy is no longer about resting on a particular day of the week.  In Christ we find an eternal rest for our souls.  There is no longer a need to observe the Sabbath of the Old Testament.  The heavy burden of trying to measure up to the demands of the law and the keeping of the Sabbath has been cast on Him.  We trust in His works now, not our own.

Jesus is our Sabbath!

We remember the Sabbath and keep it holy in a greater sense than observing a list of do’s and don’ts for a day of the week.  We honor the Sabbath by declaring that in Christ the Law is fulfilled and complete.  In Him we cease from trying to find righteousness by observing Sabbaths, feasts, holy days, or dietary laws.  The Law was the shadow.  Praise God, Jesus is the substance!  The Law was a schoolmaster to point us to Christ.  And we have found Him!

From Saturday to Sunday

It is clear from the Acts record that the earliest Jewish Christians gathered to worship on the Sabbath.  The move toward Sunday public worship began with the infusion of Gentile converts. There was little controversy about matters of the Law or the Sabbath until Gentiles were added to the church.  It was the grafting in of Gentile Christians and questions concerning what Jewish laws and customs they should keep which sparked controversy.  As more and more Gentiles were added to the church, the shift toward Sunday public worship gained momentum.

What prompted that move was the desire to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and the meeting He had with His disciples, which both occurred on the first day of the week, not the Sabbath.  It’s likely that Gentile Christians also gravitated toward Sunday worship to distinguish themselves as a religion distinct from Judaism.  In the first years of the church, all the believers in Christ were Jewish.  At that time they were simply considered another sect of Judaism.  They were not called Christians until Acts 11 in Antioch.  And so a move toward Sunday worship was a way to distinguish themselves as Christian.

By the time the Book of Acts and the epistles were written, Sunday worship was the norm among Pauline churches.  By the time John’s book of Revelation was written, we see the term, “The Lord’s Day,” which is a clear reference to Sunday.  Early church history is clear: By the time the church became predominantly Gentile, Sunday was commonly their day of public worship.  It’s important to note, however, that Paul did not institute Sunday worship because he was clearly opposed to esteeming one day over another.  He required neither Sabbath observance nor Sunday worship.  He even labeled those demanding worship on a particular day or those adhering to dietary laws as being “weak” (Romans 14).

A Sad Irony

Those who call for others to keep the Sabbath are generally not keeping the Sabbath themselves. Unless they are fully keeping every law of the Sabbath, then they are choosing how they will remember the Sabbath.  I’ve heard some say, “We don’t advocate keeping all the Laws of Sabbath, we just think we should gather to worship on Saturday.”  But by taking that position they have personally chosen what to observe and what to disregard.  Such people have no standing to judge others about how they honor the command to “remember the Sabbath day.”  In fact, to observe only the parts of the Sabbath they deem important brings a very serious condemnation:

James 2:10 – 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (KJV)

Galatians 3:10 – 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (KJV)

In reality, they cannot keep the Sabbath as the Old Testament required.  No one ever really could. James’ landmark ruling at the Jerusalem counsel brought this irony to light.  Those demanding the keeping of the Sabbath were trying to put upon Gentile converts demands they themselves could not keep.

Sabbath and Public Worship

Yet another error in the doctrine of those demanding corporate worship by the church on Saturday is their ignorance in distinguishing between Old Testament Jewish worship and Jewish observance of the Sabbath.

It was common for the Jews to gather at the synagogue on various days of the week to worship.  Remembering the Sabbath was more about what they did in the home than what they did at the synagogue.  So even if we were under a command to observe the Sabbath, there would be no error in meeting on Sunday, Tuesday, Friday, or any day of the week to worship as a church.  Paul makes this plain in his letter to the Colossians:

Colossians 2:16–17: 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (KJV)

The Last Days

In the Last Days deception and delusion will be rampant.  The spirit of anti-Christ will influence the minds of many.  We think those things that are dark, demonic, or obviously evil as being anti-Christ. But in truth, anything that directs attention away from Christ is anti-Christ.  It’s troublesome that people, well intentioned as they may be, are drudging up 2000-year-old questions that were already settled by the apostles.  An interest in and study of the Jewish foundation of our faith can be beneficial, especially when it magnifies the central figure of the scripture, Jesus Christ!  But any attempt to get peoples’ focus off of Christ by looking backward and by celebrating the things that are to lead us toward Christ may be a subtle trick of the spirit of anti-Christ.

In these last days when our time to fulfill the Great Commission is short, let us not be side-tracked by divisive questions that have already been asked and answered.  Distraction is a tactic of the enemy.  If he can’t get you to backslide, he’ll try to get your focus off of the main thing.  Let us declare, like Andrew, “We have found the Christ!”  We have no need in returning to things ordained to lead us to Him.

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: Loss and Gain

Thanks again for reading this week’s Philippians on Friday!  Today we will continue in Chapter 3…

Philippians 3:7-8: But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

PhilippiansChapter three began with the theme of justification by faith. Paul criticized the religious Jews of the day (by calling them the “concision”) who arrogantly trusted in their own works and strict adherence to the law rather than the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In our last devotion, we discussed how Paul made the case that if it were possible for a man to be justified by his own works, he of all people would qualify. No one was more devoted to the law and observing its ordinances than Paul. Yet he counted all those things loss. He realized that only by trusting in the Righteousness of Christ could we stand justified before God.

A New Valuation

In verse 7, Paul continues driving home this important concept. He tells the Philippians how he looks at things differently. Paul used to pride himself in his own righteousness. He used to esteem his own works so highly. But what was gain to him (his impressive pedigree and resume of righteous works) he now considers loss.  After his conversion, Paul realized that none of the things he previously trusted in made him righteous in the eyes of God.

Trusting in Jesus’ works, not our own, is what brings salvation. If salvation could be secured by observance of the Law, there would have been no need for Jesus’ great sacrifice. He died on the Cross because the Law was not able to truly make anyone righteous. Only by “putting on” the righteousness of Christ through obedience to the Gospel can we be justified.

It’s filth to Me

Paul’s language in this passage intensifies. He first describes trusting in the law as “loss.” But he goes on to Philippianstell the Philippians that what he formerly trusted is now “dung” to him.

Wow! He wasn’t just saying that trusting in one’s own righteousness is irrelevant or futile. He called it dung. It stinks! He said it is the epitome of filth. How ironic that what the Jews thought was righteous, Paul calls dung.

In essence, Paul was saying: I thought I was righteous because of all I did. But really it was not righteousness at all. In fact it was dung.

Isaiah concurred:

Isaiah 64:6: But we are all as an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;

Our own righteousness is not righteousness at all. There is none righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10) Only Christ is righteous. And only through Him can we be righteous.


Self-righteousness still stinks! It’s still dung. Few things are more putrid than the attitude and arrogance of a person who thinks they are righteous because of the long list of things they do or don’t do. It’s an egregious affront to our Savior to think we could be saved through our own righteousness. To think such a thing means the Cross was all for naught.

Self-righteousness stinks also because of the attitude it typically generates towards others.  When our faith is in Christ’s works, then our focus is on Him.  But when our faith is in our own works, our focus is upon ourselves.  A self-focus generally leads to a critical evaluation of others.  “Look what I have done” naturally leads to questioning others about what they have or have not done.  That attitude stinks.

Winning Christ

Paul won Christ!  He had trusted in the works of Law but even the best Jew of them all couldn’t measure up. So Paul let go of the past and reached forth unto Christ.  He laid aside his faith in the Law’s ability to make one righteous and trusted in the work of Christ on the Cross.  That is a winning strategy!

PhilippiansAs long as you trust in your own works, you will not win.  You will always come up short and fail to measure up to God’s demands.  Your enemy will always point out your shortcomings.  You’ll attempt to find some satisfaction in comparing yourself to others who aren’t doing as much as you are.  That’s no way to win.

Look to the Lamb!  He measured up to God’s highest demands.  Put your faith in Him and what He did. Put on His righteousness though water baptism in His Name.  You will find the true righteousness, peace, and joy that comes through winning Christ.

~Matthew Ball