“If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more (Philippians 3:4b).”
Paul was apparently not above a little spiritual one-upmanship. When writing to the church in Philippi, Paul found it necessary to deal with a nasty problem that had arisen there. There were some who had entered Philippi and had begun boasting about themselves and, apparently, putting down the apostle. In response, Paul made it clear that he could boast with the best of them. He pointed out his Jewish heritage, his spiritual pedigree, his membership with the Pharisee party. He showed off his credentials as a leader and a persecutor of the church. And then, after his brief flirtation with boasting, Paul wrote, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 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 and is by faith.”
When we are justified by God, we no longer have to justify ourselves. We don’t have to compare ourselves with others, build ourselves up to look good, put on a show so that we might be well received. No, when we are justified by God, all of our efforts at justifying ourselves are shown for what they are: rubbish. If God accepts and forgives us, then who can condemn?
During the time of Jesus and Paul, actors and actresses would wear masks to take on the persona of the person they were pretending to be. These actors were called “hypocrites.” It was assumed that the “hypocrites” were being something other than who they really were. Jesus used this same word to describe religious persons who were so addicted to their efforts at justifying themselves that they were never true to who they really were. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites…”
Justified by God, we may become our truest selves. And there is simply nothing better than the person God created and called you to be! Take all of that by which you justify yourself—your list of accomplishments, your comparisons of yourself with others—and toss them in the garbage heap and be who God created and called you to be.