Philippians 3 is such a sweet passage and encouragement for a person who is a people pleaser and perfectionist at heart. I have known Jesus since I was 5 years old and was always taught that it is by grace we are saved through faith. End of story. But very early on, I fell into a pattern of striving and working in my own flesh that has carried on into adulthood. Like Paul, I could rattle off my accomplishments and good record. Straight A honor student, Bible club participant, youth groupie, small group leader, MOPS coordinator, nurse, mom, wife…… I could continue spouting off my duties, callings and good deeds. It’s what I’ve worked for these last 37 years. But, I’m tired. I’m worn.
I have a good “pedigree” but I’m empty. I have learned to rely on my own flesh and not the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through me. I have said “yes” to too many things that were good but not necessarily my calling simply to not let someone down. I have always tried to put other’s feelings higher than myself and sometimes that leaves me (and my family) stressed and overwhelmed because our needs come last. Balance. I hate it. I’m all or nothing. Give me a to do list and I’m good to go, checking off the items and getting things done leaves me feeling accomplished. But I’m learning those things that I strive for get me nowhere. At the end of the day, it’s not my accomplishments that win me more points or more love. It’s Christ’s perfection and sacrifice on the cross that sets me free from the pattern of striving in the name of good works.
Paul shared what he learned about about his “righteous behavior” and the joy he received from setting aside his perfection and taking hold of Christ’s works. He realized his own good works were never good enough. What was enough was knowing Jesus.
4 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: 5 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; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,[c]blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:4-11
Like Paul, I’m learning to understand the freedom I have in Christ and because of Christ. I am learning that there is no such thing as perfection nor does it matter. Maturity in Christ leads to a place of freedom that allows for saying “no”, making mistakes and pressing forward. It’s not about measuring up or checking off the to do list, praise God.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Philippians 3:12-16
These days, when I am tempted to fall back on the perfectionist attitude with myself or my family, I have been learning to take every thought captive and ask the Lord if the thought is from him or not. I am learning to let go of things that don’t matter in the long run and make space to say “yes” to God things by saying “no” to good things.
Thank you, Jesus for your perfect life sacrificed for mine. Thank you that I don’t have to be perfect to receive the Father’s love, all because of you. Help me when I am weak and want to rely on myself. Holy Spirit, help me to listen for your voice when I am tempted to say yes when I should say no. Amen.