The Real Deal
Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.
2 Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, 4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!
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.
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. 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! – Philippians 3:1-11
Sadly, I’ve known some wannabes in my life. Sadder still, I’ve been a wannabe. Saddest of all, it was in the context of the church that I have experienced and expressed this character flaw. A wannabe is one who wants to be something he or she is not, who aspires to a level of acknowledged power and prestige. A wannabe is a sad person to be. He doesn’t realize he’s the best him he could be. She doesn’t realize that there is no one like her and that her uniqueness is a gift from God for her to give to others.
Wannabes want the glory without the guts. They want the privilege without paying the price. They aspire to the power without producing their bonafides. In fact most wannabes aspire to something that is either not real or not worthy. They are frustrated people – always wishing they were someone else.
Paul was definitely not a wannabe. He had paid the price for his status in the church. He had shown he had the guts to stick it out through some very difficult situations in order to serve the Lord Jesus. He had great influence and power because he had been through the crucible of suffering and trials.
People generally don’t listen to wannabes. But people listened to Paul. They recognized that he had important things to say. They realized that his experiences coupled with his calling made his message a must-hear message.
It doesn’t seem to me that Paul was bragging or trying to make himself something when he goes through the litany of his trials and credentials in this section of this letter. But he is definitely defending his right to speak into the Philippians’ world. His words were tested. His message was purified. His mission was undergirded with his identity and his experiences.
The most interesting story of wannabes is found in Acts 19:11-20. These pretenders got their comeuppance at the hands of a group of demons. Don’t be a wannabe. Be who you are. Your bonafides are found in Jesus’ sacrifice for you, your identity as a son or daughter of the King. There may come a time when you can point to a list of travails as Paul does here. But in the meantime, let it be enough that you are who you are, and as such uniquely shaped to serve God where you as as you are.