If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…Philippians 3:4-9
I relate to Paul in this passage in so many ways. In seminary, I learned a lot. I met some of my best friends and met some of the greatest teachers. Some of those teachers have been life long models for me of Christ-likeness.
But there are so many things we were filled with in seminary, and it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. They taught us how to critique and doubt Scripture but not how to trust in it. They taught us how to deconstruct our faith but not how to rebuild it. They taught us to demythologize the miraculous stories of the Gospels, but they never taught us how to heal the sick, raise the dead, or cast out demons.
In other words, they taught us how to be a good Pharisee, a lot like Paul’s old life, but they didn’t teach us how to do ministry like Jesus and the disciples. They filled our mind with theology but didn’t fill our lives with the Holy Spirit. They imparted to us skepticism but never imparted the gifts of the Spirit. We became masters at reinterpreting passages of Scripture but not masters at submitting our lives to the word of God.
If anyone thinks they have reason to put confidence in their theological education, I have more. Indoctrinated by the third year; of the people who were moderate progressives; of the tribe of Emergents; a skeptic among skeptics. In regards to knowledge, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the Fundamentalists; as for righteousness based on cynicism, faultless.
Then I had a series of encounters with the Lord that changed everything. He showed me how my life, which I thought was full of healthy skepticism and cautious intellectualism, was really just full of unbelief. He showed me how toxic doubt had been in my life and how it had robbed me of a full life in Christ and had distanced me from the power of the Holy Spirit. He took me through a process of dismantling my resistance to Him. It took an overhaul of my heart and a renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2). And this process continues as He calls me into a bigger and bigger “Yes” with my life.
So now, whatever were gains to me in seminary I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…
Now I pursue something totally different. My desires have been changed by these intimate and profound encounters with the Lord. “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”(Philippians 3:10).
Father, purge out of me anything that is not of You. Get rid of all doubt and hesitation. Get rid of slow obedience and replace it with quick obedience. Get rid of fear and replace it with faith and trust.