It’s tax season, time when we look back and gather receipts and documents, to give an accurate report of our finances to the IRS. Accounting can be complicated to understand, but the simplest form in accounting is the trial balance with your income on one side and your expenses on the other, when you total them up, and subtract the two, you can determine if you made money or lost money, whether you were doing well or you were heading for bankruptcy.
Sadly, this is the approach many people take to their eternal destination. The thinking goes that if I do enough good things in life, then they will outweigh the bad things I do and then at the end of the day, God will look at the trial balance of my life and determine if I get into heaven.
This is completely false and the very definition of religion. Religion is placing value in rituals and beliefs in order to obtain favor from God.
We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and what will determine our salvation is not our religion, but our righteousness, whether or not we have a right standing before God. Righteousness is only found by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Living a moral life will not get you into heaven. This is the ultimate deception of Satan, letting people think that they can be good enough for God’s approval. Johnny Hunt writes, “Prior to his salvation, the Apostle Paul, had enough morality to keep him out of trouble, but not enough righteousness to get him into Heaven.” Paul had to lose his religion to find Jesus.
This is what Paul is writing about in the first verses of Philippians 3. The theme of the Letter to the Philippians is Joy. but it seems in these verses Paul makes a dramatic turn and rebukes a group of people who were known as the Judaizers. The Judaizers where Christians who taught that in order to become a TRUE Christian, you have to go back to the law of Moses and conform to the ancient Levitical law with all the rituals and sacrifices. These Judaizers were beginning to gain inroads and create confusion in the church, pulling people away from the truth and the freedom that is found in Christ.
In verse 2 he calls them dirty scavengers, dogs and evildoers. The Judaizers prided themselves in their holiness and their morality, but Paul says that they were actually evildoers, deceiving the young church.
Paul wrote that the outwards acts of duty were of no value, the only reality that counts is the condition of one’s heart, being set apart for Christ. Salvation only comes by believing on the name of Jesus and his completed work on the cross where his sacrifice made us right with God. We are only righteous in God’s sight because we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
In verse 3 we read that the true worshippers, worship God from the heart by the Spirit of God. Worship is never and can never be disconnected from the inner man. We cannot worship God simply by mouthing words, it has to connect with our inner man by the Holy Spirit.
We can have no confidence in the flesh. You may be a small group leader, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, attend every prayer meeting and church service, you may be faithful in giving ten percent to the work of the ministry, but if your heart is far from the Lord, it is all vanity.
Today we have so many people who are trying to work for their salvation. In Philippians 2:12, Paul told the church to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling”. This is the working out of that which God has already worked in by His spirit and the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus.
We cannot work for our salvation – but we must work out our salvation.
See Romans 3:20
In Philippians 3:4 to 6, Paul then explains why of all people, he should be the first to earn his salvation and be considered righteous. But then he smashes the myth in verse 7, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
All his supposed credits, were of no value at all, he saw that in comparison to faith in Christ, in comparison to the work that Christ did for him already on the cross, all his work and accomplishments were meaningless.
Sometimes our religious activities can become idols. Our position, our ministry our titles can become more important to us than knowing and following the will of God for our lives.
I am not advocating laziness, stopping all service for the Lord and simply sitting back and just being in God’s presence, no rather I am advocating being led by the spirit. I am certain that after Paul’s conversion he worked harder and suffered more, but he was far more joyful and fulfilled in his life.
Being led by the spirit, you will spend your life maximizing your time, you will find that God stretches you and grows you, but you will not be working to earn favor from God, rather you will be working because the Spirit of God is leading you.
What religious activity do you need to drop today?
And what is God calling you to do by His Spirit?
What are you doing to try to make right the balance sheet of your life?
Are you trying to make amends for your past?
Are you trying desperately to make right some sins by helping the poor, feeding the homeless, caring for the elderly. These are all good things, but if done with the wrong motivation, then we are not being led by the Lord and missing out on the tremendous joy and blessing that comes by being led by God.
Stop looking at your life as a trial balance and trust in Jesus allowing his righteousness to cover you and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you.