At church one Sunday morning a few months ago the preacher was discussing Philippians 3:4-11. The overwhelming desire to write a poem that coincides with what Paul was saying in Philippians, but in modern day language, struck me hard. That same Sunday evening I wrote the poem included below:
Righteousness Through Thee
I’m nice, I’m kind
I have peace of mind.
I tithe, I give,
I’m willing to forgive.
Polite, I always am.
And I do not say ‘damn’.
I teach Sunday School
And I don’t ridicule.
Day and night I pray,
From my church I will not stray.
Good works I do,
If anything, I overdo.
At church all week,
Striving to be meek.
It’s hard to make me angry,
And I’m rarely ever cranky.
Gossip, I don’t spread it,
Disloyal, not one bit.
I don’t drink, I never do,
Never tasted a single brew.
Lying, I don’t recollect,
The poor I don’t reject.
I’m always dressing modest,
And I’m really very honest.
Adultery, I don’t commit
And I’m no hypocrite.
I don’t covet,
I’m above it.
When I’m wrong I will admit,
To my church I will submit.
I keep the sabbath day,
In this I do not stray.
I sit in the front pew,
Evil words, I don’t spew.
Never took a man to bed
Until I was a new bride wed.
I served a mission
With loving disposition.
My elders I respect,
The scriptures I don’t neglect.
Yes, I sure am nice,
I’ve paid the price.
The price was paid with my good actions
They really bring a lot of satisfaction.
But wait, if on myself I relied,
Then why did He have to be crucified?
Who really paid the price?
Was it me or was it Christ?
If on that cross it wasn’t finished
Then His sacrifice would be diminished.
He didn’t die and ask us to do more,
If he did we’d all be done for.
Because l try with all my might,
And I think that I’m alright.
Good works I do purport,
But I always still fall short.
There’s something I’ve discovered,
It’s something I’ve uncovered.
Those who rely on their good deeds
Are the ones to whom His grace pleads.
The one who trusts in deeds
Has a heart where pride will breed.
For works are not foremost,
Lest any man should boast.
Not of myself, but by faith in God
Anything else is merely a facade.
Not righteousness through me,
Only righteousness through Thee.
Written by Ashlee Johnson
In Philippians 3:4-11, Paul gives a wonderful explanation of the need to put absolutely NO confidence in the flesh. Paul says that if any man has reason to trust in his own works, he does. Paul gives a list of his own accomplishments, abilities, and credentials: he was circumcised in the Jewish faith according to the law, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, well trained and educated in the law, and blameless in his righteousness.
After listing all of his credentials, which men of the time viewed as very respectable and even stating he was blameless in righteousness, he states that all of those things that he counted to be his own profit he now considers nothing more than dung! What a strong word, to say that he even considers being blameless in righteousness of the law, to be no more than cow manure or rubbish! He looks at all of his own accomplishments as worth absolutely nothing that he “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”. Phillipians 3:4-11 are included below to be read in its entirety:
4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 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,
9 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:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Paul teaches us to not rely on our background, our upbringing, our religion, our good works, or anything else of our own efforts to make us righteous. We can never accomplish righteousness on our own. Paul is saying our own righteousness is counted as nothing more than dung.
What makes us righteous is not our own efforts, but it is faith in Christ. True saving faith will lead us to become obedient and that obedience only comes from the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. The Holy Spirit gives us the grace we need to overcome our weaknesses and to become obedient. He gives us the righteousness we cannot achieve on our own through grace as we humble ourselves and seek for Jesus to become our Lord. We must come to the point of humility where we desire to be slaves for Jesus desiring to do only His will and not seeking to do our own will.
Good works are wonderful and an effective part of the Christian’s life, but they can only be a wonderful thing when they are acts of the Holy Spirit working through us. And the Holy Spirit can only work in and through us if we have asked Jesus to be the Lord of our life. If our good works are coming from our own efforts to be good enough and pleasing and acceptable to God, we will always fall short. However, if we are living a holy life through the power of the Holy Spirit living within us and causing us to bear fruit, this is when God views us as righteous because it is only the Holy Spirit’s good works in our life that can ever be acceptable to God.
We must humble ourselves and recognize that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and therefore, as sinners, we are unacceptable to God, even when trying our very hardest to do good. Once we come to the point of recognizing our wretchedness in God’s sight and we come to a place of utter humility and lowliness and the realization of the absolute need for redemption from the sinful state we are living in, then and only then, can we become moldable clay in the potter’s hand. In our absolute surrender, Christ can now mold and shape us into who He would have us to become. The moment pride and self sufficiency steps back into our heart, we become stubborn clay that will not shape in the Master’s hand. We must remain in that lowly and humble state realizing our absolute dependence on Him and allow Him to work in and through us and to literally live through us and bear fruit in our lives only by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.
Christ said that he can do nothing by himself and that whatever the Father does, the Son also does. (John 5:19 and John 5:30). If Jesus himself said that He cannot do anything without the Father, how much more can we do nothing without Christ? Jesus relied completely on the Father and was in complete submission to the Father and His will. In Jesus’ complete humility and submission He did exactly what the Father told Him to do. In the same way, we should not rely on our own will and desires, but strive to fulfill only our Lord’s will for our lives. We must come to the place of humility where we recognize within ourselves, just as Jesus recognized, that we can do nothing by ourselves, but that any good we do MUST be done through the power of the Holy Spirit alone.
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5 The branch on the vine does absolutely nothing to produce fruit. It’s the vine that provides the nectar and nourishment to the limb which causes the fruit to be produced. We are branches on the vine of Christ and he provides us with nourishment through the nectar of the Holy Spirit. We cannot produce our own fruit in our lives just as the branch cannot produce its own fruit. We can only abide in Him and keep our focus on Him and rely on Him to produce fruit through us and for us. We, as branches, are utterly dependent on the vine to produce any good in our lives that would be acceptable to God, for our own righteousness is as filthy rags in God’s sight. Isaiah 64:6
Good works are great things and not to be dismissed or diminished, but they are only great when performed by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we abide in Christ and as our complete dependence and humility and reliance on Him brings us to the point of surrendering all to Him.
I hope you enjoy my poem. Leave a comment below if you’d like to add anything.