One of my favorite gaming news stories from a couple years ago happened during the Pokemon Go craze of 2016. Everybody downloaded that game on their phones and was playing it everywhere they went. In the middle of the many strange goings-on caused by this phenomenon, one gaming news editor managed to fall off a pier while his eyes were glued to his phone screen, trying to catch a dragonair . He was going on autopilot, and he crashed hard. Likewise, when we drift into autopilot in our relationship with God, we become vulnerable to crashing our faith. In Philippians 3:1-4:1 Paul gives the Philippians a stern warning to watch out for false guides who will lead them to a crash (3:1-7), by holding fast to righteousness through faith in Christ (3:8-16), and keeping their eyes on good examples (3:17-4:1).
First, Paul warns the Philippians to watch out for false guides (3:1-7). Throughout a number of his letters, Paul had to do theological battle with a camp of so-called Christians who were trying to follow Jesus while still requiring adherence to much of the Jewish law, even for Gentile believers. They didn’t recognize the sweeping implications of the new covenant established between God and people by Jesus. So too today we need to understand the dangers of “Faith AND ___” religions and ideas that would undermine the sufficiency of Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf.
Second, we hold fast to righteousness through faith in Christ (3:8-16). Though Paul had a perfect religious pedigree (3:5-6), he counted it and everything else a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. Paul suffers, and strains, and presses on, not to earn his salvation, but because the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus is so compelling (3:8, 13-14). So may we also be captivated by the beauty of the gospel so that we leave our attempts at earning behind, and press on in faithfulness to God our savior.
Finally, we can do this by keeping our eyes on good examples (3:17-4:1). The nature of sin and false religion is that it seems so attractive at first, but ends in destruction (3:19). But as we learn from Paul and keep our eyes on people who walk according to his example, we can avoid the crashes, and rush on towards heaven our home as we await our savior who’s coming soon (3:20-21).
When we let the good news become old news, we can get too comfortable and drift into autopilot. But in every age there are influences that will lead us to shift from the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. May we be so captured by the goodness of the gospel that we press on toward the prize, watching out for the things that could cause us to drift and keeping our eyes on good examples.