|“1 Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will, to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus who are at Ephesus. 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and [the] Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ; 4 according as he has chosen us in him before [the] world’s foundation, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love.”
Ephesians 1:1-4 Darby Translation
God has called you! This means that He chose you for something, which means He accepts you! You are special! I are good enough for Him!
There is something specific that I want to draw your attention to: that “He has chosen us in Him.” We have not been chosen by our own merit, goodness or ability. We have been chosen “in Him”, or in other words, in grace according to Jesus’ merit, goodness and ability.
Jesus reminds us in John 15:5 that apart from Him we can do nothing. That includes the fact that apart from Jesus we cannot please God, we cannot get favour with God, we cannot get blessed by God. We are who we are and have what we have because of Jesus.
“4 Even if I am able to trust in myself, still I don’t do it. If anyone else thinks they have a reason to trust in themselves, they should know that I have a greater reason for doing so. 5 I was circumcised on the eighth day after my birth. I am from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a true Jew, and so were my parents. The law was very important to me. That is why I became a Pharisee. 6 I was so eager to defend my religion that I persecuted the church. And no one could find fault with the way I obeyed the Law of Moses.”
Philippians 3:4-6 (ERV)
Paul is talking about his carnal résumé and showing that if anyone had reason to be confident and trust in their ability, it was him. But Paul says that even though he has very good reason to trust in himself, he doesn’t. Look what he says about his “good works résumé”:
8 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”
Philippians 3:8 (KJV)
Paul considered his impressive credentials as worthless and calls them “dung” (poop) compared to the free gift of righteousness by faith in Christ. Click here and take a look how The Message Bible puts it. How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as “found in Christ” or “found in your good works”? You may know the textbook answer, but what do you really believe? Another way to find out is to ask: are you “trying” or “trusting”? Are you trying to “achieve and obtain” or are you “resting and receiving”?
When we’re trusting in our good efforts to be made right with God, we miss it completely – not just a little bit. It’s good to do good; good works are beneficial to us and others. Going to church, reading your Bible, living holy etc. are all good. But it doesn’t make you any more acceptable in God’s eyes. He doesn’t accept you because you give money to the church or because you serve at worship services every week. Your holiness was never and could never be enough. Hebrews 10:10 (TLB) says, “Under this new plan we have been forgiven and made clean by Christ’s dying for us once and for all.”
We make the cut because of Jesus. We’re acceptable because of Jesus. Thank You, Jesus!
In Philippians 3:4-9 Paul lists everything that he’s done to live his religion (effort to please God) well. And then he throws in this exciting verse (:8, brackets mine), “Yea doubtless, and I count all things (all my good work and effort to be right with God) but loss (worthless) 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 (yes, Paul used that word), that I may win Christ”.
We need to let go of our attempts to be right with God, and rest in Jesus’ perfect work to make us right in Him. We cannot become righteous, but have been made (past tense) righteous by Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). All of our attempts to be right are nothing but dead religion. Paul calls it dung. In the Greek it’s “skubalon” – which we’ve reduced to a four-letter word nowadays. So in other words religious efforts to be right with God, no matter how good or sincere, are nothing but detestable and worthless, or poop.
“…In Christ I am right with God, but my being right does not come from following the law. It comes from God through faith. God uses my faith in Christ to make me right with him.”
Philippians 3:9 (ERV)