Tag Archives: philippians 3

Awards We Don’t Deserve

I couldn’t help but notice the flutter of posts about Obama’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize this morning.

Here’s an excerpt from the full story:

Obama expressed surprise at winning the award, saying he felt humbled and unworthy of being counted in the company of the “transformative figures” of history who had won it.

“I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership,” he said in the White House Rose Garden. “I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.

I haven’t heard anyone (besides the Nobel Committee) say that they believe Obama deserves this prize. In fact, my liberal friends are saying they believe the award has been cheapened now since Obama hasn’t really accomplished much in nine months.

Before you get the wrong idea, I didn’t write this post to bash Obama. Rather, I’d like you to notice something: people tend to get their dander up when they see someone receive an award they really don’t deserve.

It’s offensive to our human nature. It’s unjust! “Who does this person think they are, accepting an award they don’t deserve?” people ask.

And look at how Obama responded – “I will accept this award as a call to action …” – in other words, “I don’t really deserve this award, but I’m going to take it and remember that I need to live up to it.”

I’ll be honest – I don’t care whether Obama won the Nobel Prize or not – it’s ultimately meaningless. What’s interesting to me is the parallel I see in the free gift Jesus gives to us that we don’t deserve:

Romans 5:6-10
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

While we were powerless, no good, ungodly, rebellious sinners, Jesus died for us. He gave us a gift much, much, much greater than any man can invent, and we did absolutely nothing to deserve it. We did just the opposite.

Paul understood this undeserved gift God has given us, and that’s why he said:

Philippians 3:14-16
14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.
16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

“Let us live up to what we have already attained.”

What is Paul referring to? The gift of salvation and forgiveness of sin that Jesus offers to those who follow him.

If Obama wants to try to live up to his Nobel Peace Prize, let him. In my opinion, he’s setting his sights too low.

As followers of Jesus we’ve been given a gift we don’t deserve but in an ultimate way, and we have the privilege of striving to live up to it.

May we always do our best to “live up to what we have already attained.”

Happy Friday 🙂

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What does it mean to have a Christ-centered identity?

Who am I?

A small question with profound implications.

Did you know sociologists have discovered that how a person chooses to answer that question will define how they think and behave in almost every situation in their lives?

It’s a scientifically proven fact, and as a result, your answer to the question “Who am I?” is a very, very important one.

I personally believe that, for you and everyone else, the answer to the question “Who am I?” should be firmly rooted in who Jesus Christ was and is. If it’s not, then there’s a problem.

Today I walked the Lake Merced Church through a lesson on living a Jesus-centered life that I’ve been mulling over for a while, and would love for you to listen to it too.

Lesson based on Philippians 3.

Here are a couple of diagrams I made (included in the PowerPoint) to illustrate the difference between a self-centered life and a Jesus-centered life as I see it.

It’s important to point out that this all STARTS with someone choosing who they’re going to be at their core – what their identity is:



This first slide is a picture of a typical person’s life. You can substitute other things for the word ‘self’ – career, pleasure, lust, consuming want of a romantic relationship, fame, money, etc., but all of those ultimately lead back to the same thing – self centeredness.

Some people may not be completely self-centered. Their life may be centered around something else – it may not even necessarily be a bad thing (like family or kids), but if Jesus isn’t involved then there’s a problem.

As you can see from the diagram, choosing (and ultimately your core-idenitity is your choice) to have a self-centered identity affects every aspect of a person’s life, from their worldview, to their priorities, to their way of life, and all of these things feed into one another.



The second slide is a picture of someone who’s chosen to center their life around Jesus – a picture of a disciple.

As you can see, with their identity rooted in Christ, every aspect is affected.

The apostle Paul is a great example of a guy whose life was depicted by slide #1 until he had his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road – after that happened, he experienced a total identity shift (what we call a conversion or being born again), and he moved to slide #2!

I go into this in more detail in the lesson. If that sounds interesting to you, give it a listen.

If you like listening to preaching and would like to hear more, visit the sermons page of this blog (yes, I know it’s badly in need of an update – I’ll do it when I do it!).

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Identity in Christ and An Encouraging New Blog

I’m preaching on Philippians 3 this weekend, am thinking about this character known as the apostle Paul (yes, he would be a little ‘a’ apostle), and am pondering what it means to have an identity wholly found in Christ (no, I don’t know for sure what’s going on in the picture, but am thinking it was possibly taken in San Francisco).

Paul’s conversion experience was a frightening, dramatic thing. I’ve spoken several times before about how he saw the world differently when the scales fell from his eyes. He no longer saw the people of the world as he once did – he no longer saw Christians as he once did. His view of God changed, his values changed, his mission in life changed, and his motives for action changed (from being self-centered to being Christ-centered).

In addition to seeing all those things in a different light, he also saw himself differently. His view of self underwent a complete overhaul after Jesus was revealed to him.

 In fact, according to Paul, a Jesus follower should only worry with self enough to crucify it with Jesus. He taught that those who commit to following Jesus make a conscious decision to die to their old way of life and to allowing Christ to live through them by imitating Him. Paul modeled what these teachings looked like by applying them in his own life.

When Paul decided to follow Jesus, his core identity – the markers that defined who he was as a person – completely changed. No longer was he the same man!

His reason for existence changed, and that change occurred because his view of Jesus changed. No longer was Jesus a backwoods, simpleton heretic in Paul’s mind. He was the Lord of the Universe and the Savior of Mankind! When Paul came to grips with that reality, he was never the same again, and God used him to turn the world upside down.

Philippians 3 highlights what Paul thought about Jesus after his conversion, and how his view of Christ played into shaping his new identity.

Much in Paul’s life story parallels my own. Before my conversion, I can honestly say that my identity was found in things other than Christ (and most of those things were in opposition to Christ), but after … well, things changed.

They didn’t change all at once. I continued to struggle with sin, and I still sometimes struggle with worrying what other people think more than I ought to (rather than simply worrying about what Jesus thinks without considering the rest), but I can honestly say my life looks a lot different now than it did before I decided to follow Jesus. That’s because, in addition to seeing the world differently, I see myself a lot differently now too.

I’ve come to realize that I’m not the most important thing in the universe, and have even come to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around my selfish wants and desires (shocking, yes). When a person is living in a sinful state, it is natural to put self at the center of all.

But seeing things through the spectacles of Christ changes everything. The message of Philippians 3 is one that I grasp because its one that I closely relate to.

What about you? Any conversion stories you’d like to share? Ever pondered what it means to truly find your identity in Christ?


While we’re on the topic of conversion, my dad (a.k.a. Jim Woodell) referred me to a new blog you need to check out.

The author of that new blog is Falesha – a recently baptized believer who is blogging about her new life in Christ. Check out her inagural post, and add this blog to your reading list: I once was lost … through Christ I’m found!

That’s a great example of a healthy identity change right there!

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