By Brooke Holt
“Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Philippians 3:4-7
Have you ever known anyone who seemed to do everything right? I grew up the oldest of four girls. As the oldest, people assumed I was the most responsible of the sisters, well-behaved (a good example to the others), and conscientious. While the first child typically exemplifies those qualities, I was not that kind of first child! Instead, the second-born in our home took on those qualities. She was the model student, the one who could always be trusted, the dependable and conscientious child. Truthfully, I often resented these admirable characteristics of my sister and secretly felt quite envious of her good nature.
Many Jewish people would have felt this way about Paul. He was the super-child – always eager to learn the Torah and recite it; he outpaced every other student his age and was entrusted to the best Jewish teacher of their time. Paul seemed to do no wrong. In fact, Paul even declares he was blameless when it came to following the Law. Due to his diligence, faithfulness, and incredible study habits, Paul rose and was considered “a Hebrew of the Hebrews”, meaning he advanced in Judaism above his peers and ultimately even his teachers.
Paul had much reason to take pride in his accomplishments and authority. And he did. Paul wrote he was so zealous and ambitious in his faith that he persecuted those who claimed to follow Jesus. Incredible arrogance dwells in one who will go so far as to kill another person who proclaims a different belief system.
God saw the pride, sin, and plan for Paul. Knowing everything about him, the Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself to Paul on the road to Damascus. On that road, Paul’s life radically changed. His pride went from being a “Hebrew of Hebrews” to being a servant of Jesus Christ, from persecutor of the church to church-planter, from Jewish zealot to a disciple of Jesus.
Instead of looking to himself – his learning, performance, and authority – Paul looked to Christ. In Christ, he found forgiveness of his sins, salvation for his soul, an eternal life with the Lord, and a new calling for his life. To fulfill this new calling, Paul was completely dependent upon Christ dwelling within him through the Holy Spirit.
Paul became a transformed man through the Holy Spirit. Instead of self-confidence, he learned Christ-confidence. Much of that learning and transformation came through Paul’s challenges and suffering. Despite much hardship, Paul would never look back with longing for his life before Christ. He understood that all he had was meaningless in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For Paul, pride was only found in being a servant of the Most High God.
What is your source of confidence or pride today? Is it found in your accomplishments, your great mind, your beauty, or athleticism? Or is your pride firmly planted in what Christ has done for you? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Christmas is the festival of rejoicing at Christ’s first coming—the beautiful, unlikely start of our salvation! As the season ends each year, we pack up the decorations. Advent, on the other hand, is a bigger celebration—one we can’t box up and store in the attic. It celebrates the grace of Christ’s first coming, and then it reaches with restless anticipation for the fuller grace of his second appearing and the completion of our salvation! For 28 days, celebrate Advent. In Prepare the Way, join with St. Paul, King David the Psalmist, Zechariah, Gabriel, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, along with the crowds as they rejoiced in the good news of Christmas, and then look beyond it for the holiday that never ends!
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