“Quick! Give me a list of your accomplishments from the least to the greatest!”
What are the first things that come to you mind? Maybe it’s your success in school or a list of your degrees. Perhaps it’s your job history. If you’re a mom with young kids, you might say, “Everyone is fed, no one is bleeding, and I can see all of them right now.” If you’re thinking in a Christian context, you might consider your labor in the church or your personal devotion to Christ.
All of these things are good things, of course. But they are dangerous if they are what you’re depending on for your identity or your well-being. They are a disadvantage to you if you’re using them to be accepted by God. They are worthless when they are compared to what you have in Christ.
Paul’s Estimation of His Accomplishments
The apostle Paul knew this, and he warned Christians about the temptation to return to a “record of righteousness” in order to feel secure before God and others. To show the foolishness of depending on any goodness in ourselves to save us, Paul gives his list of accomplishments: “Circumcised? Check. Jewish? Check. Scrupulous about keeping the Law of Moses? Check. Zealous for God? Check. Blameless in regards to outward obedience to the commandments? Check.”
And then he says, “You know what I think about all of this? It’s worthless filth. It’s garbage. It’s excrement. The English equivalent is the “s” word. (Phil. 3:4-8) And keep in mind, these are things Paul has prided himself in and worked for his entire life. What happened to him?
Paul’s Estimation of Christ
Jesus happened to him. Paul says that he considers that “record of righteousness” to be a disadvantage to him compared to knowing Christ. He means knowing Christ in two ways. Foundationally, he knows Christ as his righteousness. Instead of trusting in his merits, Paul now puts his faith in Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrifice as his grounds of acceptance before God.
Like a man in love, Paul is willing to suffer the loss of anything just to be near his Beloved.
Also, Paul wants to know Christ intimately. He has seen a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, and now nothing else will satisfy him. Like a man in love, Paul is willing to suffer the loss of anything just to be near his Beloved. He sees the surpassing value of knowing Christ, and everything else looks worthless in comparison. If his righteous works are a distraction from this intimacy, he must throw off any record-keeping and any self-approval strategies. They are trash compared to knowing Jesus.
The Ambition Worth More than Your Accomplishments
How about you, dear sisters? Do you remember that you don’t have to have a record of righteousness to present before God or anyone else? There is tremendous freedom in remembering every day that your heavenly Father loves you and welcomes you all the time, no matter what you’ve done. This is because you are in Christ. His righteousness is the only merit that will gain you entrance. Whatever resume you’ve worked to achieve, it gets you nowhere when it comes to the greatest goal in life.
Do you recognize with Paul that the best ambition of your heart is to truly know Christ intimately? Then like Paul, count your list of accomplishments as loss. To hold them before you as your identity or protection is only to your disadvantage when it comes to knowing Christ. When you loosen your grip on your self-approval goals, you more clearly see the infinite value of Jesus Christ.
So count your record as trash, sisters. No need to go burning resumes or degree certificates, but shred their status in your hearts. If you have placed your faith in Christ, you are in a win-win situation. It means you never have to be able to list off any accomplishments other than “I am in Christ.” He is yours, and everything else is worthless now.