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  • Chad Werkhoven

Phillipians 3:5-11 - Effort Calibration

Shift your focus from scoring points to knowing Christ.


Philippians 3:5-11 (NIV)

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.


Listen to passage & devotional:


Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 22 - Our Justification Through Faith in Christ

We believe that

for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery

the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith

that embraces Jesus Christ,

with all his merits,

and makes him its own,

and no longer looks for anything

apart from him.

For it must necessarily follow

that either all that is required for our salvation

is not in Christ or,

if all is in him,

then he who has Christ by faith

has his salvation entirely.


to say that Christ is not enough

but that something else is needed as well

is a most enormous blasphemy against God—

for it then would follow

that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior.

And therefore we justly say with Paul

that we are justified “by faith alone”

or by faith “apart from works.”


we do not mean,

properly speaking,

that it is faith itself that justifies us—

for faith is only the instrument

by which we embrace Christ,

our righteousness.

But Jesus Christ is our righteousness

in making available to us all his merits

and all the holy works he has done

for us and in our place.

And faith is the instrument

that keeps us in communion with him

and with all his benefits.

When those benefits are made ours

they are more than enough to absolve us

of our sins.



Do you keep score?

Of course you do, because we all do to one extent or another. We keep track of all the little things we do for the Church and for others; all of the good deeds, prayers offered, verses memorized and days where the Bible got read at least once. Now certainly these things often are an organic outworking of the Spirit in our lives and are done for good and pure reasons, but our sinful nature likes to remind the rest of our nature just how much better we are than others, and how much more grace they need than we do.

Paul kept score big time prior to his conversion, and if scoring points by doing 'good' things was the deciding factor, Paul would have been the champion. But once Paul understood the truth of the gospel, everything changed. Every gain he'd earned, he now considered loss. More than that, he thought of it all as garbage (the Greek word Paul used here can also mean dung).

As we've seen before, the most important thing you need is perfect righteousness, because that's God's covenant requirement to have eternal peace with Him. But there's no reason to try so hard to "build up a righteousness of your own" when you can have a surpassing "righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith."

Paul puts it this way in Romans 4:5 -

To the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Dig Deeper

Certainly Paul here isn't commanding you to stop doing good work since it doesn't really count for anything anyway. They do count, but just not towards your salvation. And you still need to put effort into working out your salvation, but as you do so you need to continually be recalibrating your efforts. Paul shifted his efforts from 'scoring points' to "knowing Christ" (v8 & 10).

This definitely takes hard work! Never stop learning why there's power in His resurrection, how you can participate in His sufferings, and how you too can become like Him in His death. Being a Christian means making every effort to be a lifelong learner. The more you learn, the more you build your faith, so the process builds exponentially.

But, somebody argues, if the whole church keeps busy putting all of our efforts into learning these things, then who will do all of the important good works that need to be done?

This is the amazing part: if you put your efforts into learning Christ rather than 'scoring points,' you'll also find yourself effortlessly doing all those good works that so many people count on.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who gives the perfect righteousness we need through faith in Jesus Christ;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for the desire and strength to know Christ more and more so you can effortlessly do the good work that needs to be done;



Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 11


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