Saturday, June 6, 2009

Who is Spiritual (Part 3)

(This is part three. Click these links for part one and part two. I'm discussing Philippians 3:2-14)

Paul begins in verse 3 by saying that “we” (i.e. Christians) are the “true circumcision.” Jewish people in the first century were know as the Circumcision, in reference to the physical act that set them apart from everyone else. True “circumcision” here means those who have found a true and right form of spirituality, i.e. relationship with God. He defines these people in reverse order (C-B-A) from where he (they) are now back to how they got there. He then shares his own experience in historical order (A-B-C) as illustration and amplification.

The first step to becoming a spiritual person is to have no confidence in the flesh, i.e. in your own ability to control God, please God or merit His favor.

The default state of the human heart is idolatry: the search for false saviors whom we can control for our own selfish benefits. The essence of religion is "if I, then God." We want to be able to control nature, situations, destinies and fates by knowing the formulas, saying the magic mantras, making the right sacrifices or keeping the right rules. prosper. If I (we) make the right sacrifices, perform the right ceremonies, do the right rituals, say the right words, know the right stuff - then God (the gods) will bless me, grow my crops, give me children, etc. But most of all, we want God to owe us due to our actions so we stay in control.

The basic belief and “truth” of current spirituality is “if I say the right mantra, know the right truths and principles, am in the right groups, then I will have power over the spiritual world and will be happy and fulfilled.”

The Jewish people in Paul’s day knew that God had chosen Israel out of pure grace. However, they believed they had to staying the grace by keeping within the boundary markers: circumcision, kosher, Sabbath. Christian churches are filled with people who claim to believe in grace but believe they say blessed by God by keeping rules and avoiding sins. We are no very different. There's plenty of idolatry in churches under the Christian label. All the "ten steps to a wonderful life" and "how to be a successful __________" books and sermons at least get close to the edge, if not over the precipice.

Notice that they are both the same: IF I THEN GOD. The spiritual is religious, and vice versa. They are two forms of the same idolatry. Both keep control and initiative with us, not God. Human pride refuses to turn over initiative and control.

Paul learned that no matter how hard he tried, it was not enough to please God.

(Continued tomorrow)