5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
If I was going to start bragging about what makes me holy I'd probably go in a different direction than Paul does in the verses above. Circumcision is kind of a gruesome thing to think about, let alone brag about. My self righteous rant would sound a lot different. In fact, I've probably said something very similar to this:
"I grew up in a Christian home. I gave my life to Jesus at a young age, always went to church, went to a Christian college, spent part of my time there as a Ministry major, led youth groups and small groups, been to four different countries on mission trips and am currently preparing to enter the mission field."
Yep, my holy bragging definitely sounds different than Paul's. But, in the end, aren't we saying the same things? He was proving his credentials to the religious elite of his day. His peers valued the things he wrote about. My peers value different things, so I brag about different things.
However, here's where Paul goes in a completely different direction than me:
7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.[c]For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
I have never - not once - followed up my holy bragging like Paul just did. My strategy has always been to let my credentials sink in to the hearts and minds of those listening so they would consider me worthy of whatever ministry I was attempting. Even now, as I really am preparing to enter the mission field, I find myself using my background as a way to validate the call God has placed on my life.
In the New International Version the word RUBBISH is used instead of garbage in verse 8. Since I didn't complete my Ministry studies I sometimes brag about, I don't have the skills to do a thorough word study. But I once heard Francis Chan say the original word for rubbish actually equates pretty well in today's language to a pile of dog poop. So Paul is saying all those things that he and the world look at as holy qualifiers he now considers no more than a pile of poop so that he can be one with Jesus Christ.
So today I find myself wondering what it will take for me to stop looking at my own pile of dog poop as something that validates me. How can I leave all those things behind the way Paul did so I can pursue Jesus Christ, His power, His suffering, His death and His resurrection?