What makes us good Christians? Think about it.
In the eyes of our non-Christian friends, relatives and colleagues, is it our be-kind-to-all, no-swear-words conduct? Is it the Christian jargon we speak, or the Christian families we come from? Is it our 100 per cent church attendance, the ministry roles we’re serving in, or the verses we post on social media? Are these also the lens through which we see Christians around us, subconsciously patting ourselves on the back when we measure up as “holier?”
If I were to be honest with myself, I’d probably rate myself eight out of 10 on the scale of “What It Means to Be a Good Christian.” I mean, I did have a typical “Christian” upbringing. I went to Sunday school as a child and a Methodist school as a teenager. I regularly attend church and Bible study. I pray and read the Bible almost every day. I’ve been baptized, I tithe monthly, and I participate in the Holy Communion. I even write for a Christian website.
But Paul warns us against putting confidence in our flesh (Philippians 3:3). After all, if anyone has sterling “Christian” credentials, it’s Paul. In verses 4-6, he rattles off all the reasons he would have for fleshly confidence.
Paul was both privileged from birth and accomplished in reputation. He was circumcised by his parents on the eighth day of his birth in compliance with the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 16:11-12). He was an Israelite—a full-blooded Jew—and from the tribe of Benjamin, the only tribe to remain faithful to Judah and the house of David. Also, he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” having been brought up to observe Jewish custom, and to speak and study the Scriptures in Hebrew.
Moreover, Paul had a perfect track record as a member of the Pharisees, an elite orthodox denomination that strictly observed the Jewish Law. He was so zealous for traditional Judaism that he persecuted Christians to death, and approved of Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7:58). And he was faultless under the Law, keeping all of the Torah’s commandments as interpreted by the Pharisees.
Yet Paul didn’t put his confidence in his credentials, but counted them as “loss” and “garbage” compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
And that’s what Paul wants us to do as well. This means that we shouldn’t place our confidence in our “Christian resumé” of good works. It’s not that they don’t matter—they do. But they don’t save us or make us right with God. Whatever good works we do is the natural result and outpouring of our faith in Him.
At the end of the day, it’s not our stellar church attendance or the number of Bible commentaries we’ve read that justifies us, but the perfect sacrifice made by Jesus. Jesus became the sin offering on our behalf, so that God would pass over our sins (Romans 3:23-25). And it is by His blood alone that we find atonement and acceptance before God.
Instead of measuring other believers and myself with a Pharisaic yardstick, I’m learning that my confidence—and identity and worth and position before God—rests solely upon knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
My performance alone puts me right at the bottom of the ranking. But it’s Jesus who gives me full marks by His grace. Because ultimately, we are made right with God, not by works, but by faith in Christ alone: this is what makes us good Christians.
—By Wendy Wong, Singapore
Questions for reflection
Return to YMI Reading Philippians Homepage