religion stinks

Philippians 3:5-9
circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal persecuting the church, as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes through the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God that depends on faith.

Here Paul lists out his religious accomplishments, he was:
  • circumcised on the eighth day - born a Jew, not just a recent convert
  • of the people of Israel - God's chosen people
  • of the tribe of Benjamin - a tribe of Israel born to Rachel, the wife that he loved. The temple in Jerusalem was on land belonging to this tribe.
  • a Hebrew of Hebrews - both parents were Hebrews. Paul had a good upbringing in the Jewish faith
  • as to the law a Pharisee  - the strictest law keepers. Committed to studying God's law and making themselves holy
  • as to zeal persecuting the church - Paul was so committed to God that he was actively persecuting the threat of this new sect that was worshipping Jesus
  • as to righteousness under the law, blameless - In the eyes of the general public, Paul would have been seen as one of the religious elite, no one would have been able to find fault with him.
But now, Paul says he counts all that as loss! Why? For the sake of Christ. His nationality means nothing compared to Jesus. His upbringing and religious pedigree means nothing compared to Jesus. His efforts to make himself holy mean nothing compared to Jesus. His (misguided) enthusiasm for God means nothing compared to Jesus. His good deeds (of which there will have been plenty) mean nothing compared to Jesus.

Everything is loss compared to knowing Jesus. Everything that Paul thought was good he now realises is rubbish compared to Jesus. And those things weren't necessarily things that we would think were sins. There's nothing wrong with circumcision, nationality, family, enthusiasm or trying to keep God's law. But if that's what we are relying on, then it isn't helping us get to God, it is hindering us. That is religion, not the gospel. Religion is rubbish, and the word Paul uses for rubbish here could be translated as trash, dung or excrement! It's knowing Jesus that counts! We come to Jesus with nothing in our hands. If we do come with some sense of our own acheivements... we are bringing him a steaming pile of dung .

It is not about Paul and his accomplishments or you and yours. It is about Jesus and what He has accomplished. The only thing that Paul now calls as gain or profit, the only thing that helps us come to God, is Jesus Christ.