“I consider them rubbish”

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Scripture: “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)

Observation: Paul’s opponents were stressing the need for circumcision in order to be true Christians.  Paul reacts to this by speaking of his ‘pedigree’ – circumcised on the eighth day, Hebrew of Hebrews, a zealous Pharisee (v. 4-6).  He uses this to say that all of those things which he once counted to his credit, he now considers useless – a “loss” (v. 7) and “rubbish” (v. 8).  He sees that they are nothing when compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ and what he gains by knowing Christ and the power of the resurrection (v. 10)

Application: Circumcision epitomizes a work of the flesh – for it has only to do with the flesh.  However, we can easily replace that work of flesh in our lives with other works of the flesh.  Any deed that we do in and of ourselves and to our own credit can be considered a work of the flesh. And Paul reminds us that ultimately these works are of no use to us.  This in fact is a New Testament rendition of what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes – “meaningless!” (That was last week’s reading!) Whether it is Paul or Solomon, the message rings true. All of the works of man perish and are useless toward ones salvation and ones eternity.  Nothing we can accomplish in the flesh can compare with the great work that Christ has done for us.  Nothing we can hope to attain compares with the promise of the resurrection that God has given us freely by grace through Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord, help me to understand all my works of the flesh properly in light of my salvation.  Fill me with such confidence in You, that I consider my works as valuable only as they are useful for Your Kingdom purposes. Amen.

“Meaningless?” … Now What!?

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Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1 & Ephesians 2  “2 ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”’ 3 What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?”  … “3 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”

Observation: Was Solomon having a “down day?” His unparalleled, God-given wisdom would suggest otherwise.  No, Solomon himself even indicates that he had methodically studied the things in which man attempts to find peace and happiness – Pleasures, Projects & Achievements, Wisdom & Knowledge, Toil & Labor.  What did he find?  “It’s all meaningless!” Nothing can produce lasting contentment – that is, nothing on earth.  Solomon, hints at the answer to his quest as soon as he starts to write.  In (1:4) he states, “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.”  In other words, God’s creation – and therefore God – outlasts man.  We are but a tiny piece of God’s master plan.

Application: These 2 sections of Scripture are some of my favorites.  And here they appear together in the Life Journal reading plan!  Perhaps it’s not coincidence.  In fact, it seems to me that the best answer to Solomon’s ‘depression’ (his realization that neither his toil, nor the toil of any human, amounts to anything) is in fact the grace of God we see in Ephesians 2.  Truly, how can one find real meaning in life?  Is it something that can be searched after and built up?  No!  True meaning, purpose and contentment is a GIFT of God – not by works.  Otherwise, you and I would then say, “look what I did!”  And the Truth that Solomon learned, which he revealed to us, is that to attempt to fashion anything for self-glory is meaningless.  Solomon tried that and he knows it’s true.  In fact, each of us likely tries it every day – and we know it’s true too.  Only that which glorifies God will stand.  Only that which glorifies God has meaning.  Let us put our efforts there.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for showing me, through king Solomon, that the end of all self-directed labors is meaningless.  Lord, you know my desire to serve you, but you also know my desire for self-glorification.  Humble me Lord and help me to direct my labor onto those things which are according to your purpose and will bring you glory.  Amen.