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Devotional by Ray Stedman for March 19-The Menace of External Religion

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Topic:True Spirituality

…who put no confidence in the flesh.
Phil 3:3b

Ray Stedman devotion
Ray Stedman

The measure of true spirituality is in contrast to those who put confidence in some self-effort. Paul says, we put no confidence in the flesh. We are living in an age that continually strives to get us to put confidence in the flesh. We are taught from childhood that the way to become proficient and competent and accomplish our aims and desires is to develop our self-confidence. This is what destroys human life. Self-confidence is not intended to be our strength, but rather it’s to be our confidence in God. We were intended to face life recognizing we are weak, ineffectual, and unable, that it might drive us back upon the one who is totally adequate, and can be our total strength. This is the way God intended us to live. Therefore, the spirit of self-confidence is the most deadly lie that has ever been perpetrated upon the human race.

Now there is self-confidence that is based on God in us, but when it comes from something in ourselves, something we have learned or achieved, it is deadly. Paul says we have learned at last to put no confidence in the flesh. Even in religion there is strong emphasis on putting confidence in the flesh, or perhaps I should say, it is especially in religious areas we encounter this pressure.

Just this week I read from from a pamphlet that is widely distributed monthly through the nation, which purports to be a guide to developing the Christian life. The writer said, What I didn’t know and had to discover the hard way is that if you don’t have faith in yourself you hardly can have faith in people in the world, or in God. I had to see that God created us in his image, and we must have faith in the image. If we achieve that then we have his spirit within us and we can accomplish anything, even ridding ones self of sin.

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That is the kind of perverted philosophy that is being widely purveyed today, that is literally holding millions of people in continual bondage to the flesh. It’s no wonder that the spirit of the apostle flamed with indignation against this thing. Knowing the liberty that is in Christ Jesus, he puts the matter frankly. It begins with faith in God, and eliminates faith in self. When we have no confidence in the flesh, then we discover we can have full confidence in him who is able to do anything through us. Do you see how any confidence at all in the flesh is over-confidence? We fear we are going to get over-confident. We don’t mind a little, but we don’t want to become over-confident. But Paul says any confidence at all is over-confident. He has no confidence in himself to do anything. None in his background, training, talents, accomplishments, no confidence in the time he spends in prayer, the number of chapters of scripture he reads, the number of verses he memorizes. No confidence in the power of his eloquence to persuade people or his devotion to move them. Furthermore, he has no confidence in anyone else who trusts in these things. The only one in whom he has confidence is Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Father, that I need not look within myself to find the source of strength and confidence. Today I put my full confidence in Him who is able to do anything through me.

Life Application
Jesus as man said he could do nothing of himself, but only in complete dependence upon the Father. Are we emancipated from the unbearable burden of self-assertive control, to the liberty of Christ’s Resurrection Life in and through us?

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