It’s been a tough week. You aren’t sure why, but you just don’t have much spiritual energy. You’ve thought about spending time in the Word and praying, but it just doesn’t sound appealing. So you don’t. You feel a bit of guilt about it, but remind yourself that God will understand. Towards the end of the week, your guilt has grown and so even your breath prayers have decreased. Your reminders of God’s understanding have been replaced with self-condemnation and disappointment. Then it happens.
Just as you’re sitting down to dinner, the police call. One of the people you love most has just been in a terrible car accident. Another driver floated left of center and caused a head-on collision going over 50mph. The other driver was killed instantly. Your loved one is in critical condition and about to have a surgery in attempt to save their life.
The news takes your breath away, and you do the only thing you can think to do. You pray. It’s like a reflex. You are talking to God and quickly remember how you’d ignored Him lately and feel a rush of guilt and shame come over you. “Why didn’t I just spend time with Him this week?” you think to yourself.
You continue praying a mixture of repentance and pleading, “God, now I really need you and I’m so sorry, but please could you just…”
Now imagine the same accident happening after you’d had a week of abiding deeply in Christ. You’d prayed more than ever, spent time soaking in His Word, and made progress in that area the Holy Spirit is always reminding you about.
Is God more likely to answer your prayer after your week of struggle or your week of triumph? Your answer reflects your faith. Or to put it another way, it shows your scorecard.
A New Scorecard
The apostle Paul fought hard to put a new scorecard in the hands of every believer. It wasn’t easy. For over thirty years, from the letter of Galatians to the letter of Philippians the main controversy of the church was whether the Gentiles needed to use the old Jewish scorecard or if there was a new one.
We can see the battle raging in Philippians 3. Paul calls those advocating for the old scorecard “dogs,” “evildoers,” and “mutilators of the flesh.” Had I been around during Paul’s day I might have sided with those “dogs.”
After all, these Jewish believers (sometimes known as Judaizers) were standing on Scripture. They knew that in Genesis 17:13–14 God told Abraham that circumcision would be an everlasting covenant between God and His people and that any male who didn’t get circumcised would be cut off from God because he’d broken the covenant. The Jewish people had a covenant with God that set them apart from others. No other nation had such great laws and access to God like the nation of Israel (Deut. 4:7–8).
For centuries God had related to His people with the same scorecard. It was fairly simple; God gave them laws and they had to follow them. All 613 Old Testament laws. When they did their best following them God was pleased, but when they turned their back on God and His law then God disciplined them—sometimes in severe ways.
But Jesus changed everything. Grace changed everything, including the scorecard.
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Paul so frequently warns against the teaching of the Judaizers because their teaching threatened everything Jesus came to accomplish. It wasn’t just Paul though, in Acts 15:5–11 the apostles joined Paul in discussing this very issue. Their conclusion was that Jesus changed everything. Grace changed everything. They said it this way, “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Now they had a new scorecard.
Paul challenges the Judaizers old scorecard way of thinking in Philippians 3. He pulls out his old scorecard and lists seven ways he used to measure himself before God. Then, he wads it up and throws it away, saying that not only were those things not helpful, they are actually unhelpful.
So what’s the new scorecard?
On the Cross with Jesus
The new scorecard disciples are called to carry is Christ’s scorecard. “…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,” (Phil 3:9). In other words, the scorecard we are to carry is the one we get from Jesus. What he did is to be credited to us—by faith. It’s why Paul can say in Galatians 2:20, “…I have been crucified with Christ…” Paul not only didn’t physically hang on the cross with Jesus, but he was aligned with those who crucified Him! But Paul’s new scorecard says that he was there on the cross with Jesus.
The new scorecard is evidence that Jesus changes everything. Grace changes everything. It’s changed not to free us for sin, but so that we can know the King. And that is Paul’s message to the Philippians. He says in verse 8, “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.”
Stand in Christ’s Righteousness
Here’s why this is so important…when we believe that God’s blessing is tied to our performance then it causes two big problems. First, instead of obedience flowing out of submission and appreciation, it leads us to obey as a way to manipulate God. The second problem is that we believe that on our best days we are worthy in God’s sight. Since our obedience can never propel us to worthiness, we need God’s grace and mercy every day.
Disciples stand in Christ’s righteousness. Like Paul, we’ve been crucified in Christ, by faith. Our obedience is a sign of His work within us and our submission to His will, not a way to leverage God to do our will. And that’s good!
When we remain focused on the new scorecard we stand in the truth of the Gospel: we are sinful, we need God’s grace, and we are wholly dependent on Him to bear any lasting fruit! Regardless of a bad day or bad week, God is in us, with us, and for us!
By Justin Gravitt