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Steering Zeal Right


Philippians 3:1-11

Verse 6 …as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.


We have been talking about the difference of following the law out of obligation and following it out of loving obedience. Paul mentions in our reading again today that he followed the law to the very letter.


Paul having been raised to be a Pharisee knew not just the law word for word but also knew all the other laws that had been written by the religious group to help keep the other laws more perfectly. The Pharisees went out of their way to make sure that nothing contaminated them and their spiritual image in the community. They knew that by keeping every little aspect of the law others would see them as more godly.


This is really what mattered to them. They weren’t obeying the law because of their love of God, no, they wanted everyone to know that they were more righteous than the average person. This is why Jesus was such a threat to them. He didn’t follow all their rules. Jesus knew that it wasn’t the law that made a man righteous, it was the state of his heart in the matter of relationship with God. Jesus knew that the sacrifices were only a covering of the sins of the people, not the Savior of His people


Paul had learned the dangers of believing the law the way the Pharisees did. He now knew how it distorted the love of God for His people and the people for their God. Zeal for keeping the law isn’t enough, there must be love. Love for God over love of the law. That is the lesson that Paul learned when Christ revealed Himself on the road to Damascus. Paul learned that living by every letter of the law missed the most important reason for the law, the relationship that God wanted with His people.


It wasn’t that the law was to be totally thrown out. We mentioned the other day that Paul had Timothy circumcised. This wasn’t Paul adhering to the law for the sake of keeping the law, it was that Paul knew that Timothy’s not being circumcised could hurt Timothy’s effective Kingdom work among Jewish believers. The Jewish people of the day based relationship with God on the law, God based it on Christ’s loving obedience.


Making It Personal

Have you ever felt like you were controlled by laws? Why do you obey the law? Do you find joy in obedience?


Making It Personal Kids

Why is it dangerous to obey the law without love for Jesus? What is a law you struggle to obey? Do you want to obey Jesus?


Closing Prayer

Father, we confess the times that we have obeyed just because we know the law and not because we love You. Give us a heart for obeying from a heart of love so that we can we can teach others the truth of freedom in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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