But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:7-14)
In every race, each athlete’s eyes are fixed on the finishing line. Once he or she touches that line they consider they have finished the race. But over and above that they make every effort to finish in a winning position so that they can receive the prize. After all, the really important person is the one who wins because he or she is the one who receives the prize.
The Apostle Paul desired to not only finish the heavenly race but to be that winning person. Paul got the revelation that the way to this was to conform to Christ by partaking in His sufferings and death. That meant forgoing, or denying all his earthly and fleshly rights. Only through this means could he attain to the prize of God’s high calling, which was the resurrection of the dead. And what is this resurrection of the dead? True, it includes the hope of eternal life that we have. But it also involves carrying the life of Christ in the here and now – victory over the flesh, the world and the devil.
The gospel that the Apostle Paul carried needed to be a revelation so that it would not get mixed with the craftiness of human wisdom. The latter appears like it has Godliness in it, but it never changes someone. It simply has not the power to do so. A revelation was what Paul got and he testifies that it changed him completely. He became, not a religious person, but a changed man.
How we need that revelation in our hearts today! That revelation will break us, and make us vessels worthy to carry the life of Christ. Through the manifold riches of God, the winning spot is one that is available to all of us.
We who are saved need to ask ourselves many questions today: whether that change is taking place in our lives daily; whether we are continually carrying a heart of true humility? Whether we are guarding and maintaining a pure heart at every cost? Whether we are paying the price of walking in true love and a tender, forgiving heart. These are things that require a high price indeed. And these are the things that the spiritual athlete is made of.
Christians today are busy boasting of their victories over the devil; but how often do we see the Apostles talking of the devil? They talked more about another more subtle and infinitely deadlier enemy: an enemy who does not and who cannot submit to the will of God. That enemy is the flesh. Unfortunately, today there is ‘another’ gospel being preached, which gratifies the flesh. It caters to and pampers the flesh. God’s people are not taught to crucify the flesh. On the contrary, in this ‘new’ gospel the flesh is very important . Live well, eat well, drive well, dress well, etc. Success is measured in financial and material terms. The ‘good life’ is emphasized. God’s people become, in effect, enemies of the Cross of Christ!
Well, I am sure God has no problem us living that good life. But He expressly instructs us to crucify the flesh. How we can reconcile the two is a gymnastic tightrope that much of the time we are unable to walk carefully enough. We easily play into the hands of the spirit of the world. Note the freedom of the man who, in Apostle James’ words, can live contented with the simple life: “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.” James 1:9-10
You’ve hit the nail on the head concerning being “religious” over being truly changed. We can make “improvements” to our behavior by knowing the Bible. Our lives are permanently transformed by knowing the God of the Bible.