How Clean Is Your Cup?
When looking at a passage of scripture, sometimes it’s hard to pull out the main point. Especially when reading text from an author like Paul who apparently felt that run on sentences were an integral part of spurring on the early Christians. Our community group joked about how Paul likely would have received a C+ in a modern day English class… he just never seems to write a clear thesis statement with clear points that support his arguments in his letters to the early church. Instead of being given main points, we are forced to dig and toil, ask questions, and pull out the essence of the text. While on one hand, we could give up on our toils and say… “I’m sure Pastor Toby will preach on this eventually,” the other side of the coin is to keep studying, trying to answer the question: how does this text relate to Jesus? The main point of a text may not always be evident, but we do know that Christ is central to the scriptures, and everything points back to Him.
I find myself doing this on a weekly basis in preparing for Wednesday nights. As the youth studies through the book of Philippians week after week, I’m learning (albeit, slowly) that I need to find the ways that the text relates to Christ… His character, His teachings, His life. This past week in particular, we were in Philippians 3. Paul talks about the Judaizers (those who preach that Christ is God, but that Christians must still hold to the Old Testament Law), and relates himself to them, citing that he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” and “blameless” under the law. In thinking about all of Christ’s experiences with the Pharisees, I was instantly reminded of Luke 11, when Jesus sits at the table of a Pharisee and rebukes him, saying, “Now your Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup, and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” Be assured, on the outside, the Pharisees, the Judaizers, and Paul looked very clean! They all held to the law, and did it well. But how was the inside? Jesus’ words at the table pierced straight through the outward appearance to the heart.
Paul tells the Philippians that all of his accolades, all of his respect, all of his money… it was fleshly garbage. He counts all those things he had as loss for the sake of Christ, to be found in Him and to know Him. When Paul was converted on the Road to Damascus, Jesus didn’t instantly clean the inside of his cup, but instead became the perfect, spotless cup in Paul’s place. The truth for Paul, and for us, is that the inside will never be fully clean until we are in Heaven with Christ. We are fallen, sinful people that deserve full punishment for our sin. It is only Christ, our perfect, spotless righteousness, that makes us justified with God.
Rest assured, Brothers and Sisters, if you are in Christ, He is your cleanliness. Not only does he testify on your behalf, but He is also faithful to help you fight sin and continually clean the inside of your cup.
So, how clean is your cup? In Christ, it’s perfectly clean, and still in the lifelong process of being cleaned.
And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14