As we begin to return to life outside our homes, what have you learned about what really matters to you? Having so many things closed and isolated from school mates, neighbors, church attendance, even family… what have you missed the most? And have you considered whether everything in your formerly busy life should be just added back willy-nilly? Or should we carefully consider how we order up our lives going forward, asking what really matters?
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he challenged them to follow his conviction that faith in Jesus Christ is what really matters above all other things in life. We can choose to see our faith in Jesus Christ as what really matters most in our lives.
Below is an automated transcript of this message:Good morning. It’s so good to see all of you this morning; to actually see you. I have been visualizing you as I have been preaching into the camera every week and thinking about you. But, actually see your faces, it’s so exciting to see you today.
What a special day it is; not just that we are having our first in-person service, but that we are celebrating Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost means 50, it means the number 50 and it was celebrated first by the Jews. The Jews celebrated Pentecost as they commemorated that they received the Ten Commandments from Moses 50 days after the Passover, the very first Passover, when they had been set free from Egypt. And so, ever since then, the Jews have celebrated what they called the “Feast of Weeks” or the “Feast of Tabernacles” where they would meet and gather together in these little outdoor buildings that they made from palm branches to remember what it was like to live in the wilderness and to receive the Ten Commandments.
The reason the church celebrates Pentecost today is because over 2000 years ago, on that particular day, 40 days after Christ had risen from the dead, he had appeared many times during those 40 days to his disciples. He told him, “Go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit.” And so they went to Jerusalem; 120 of the disciples were praying in the upper room. 10 days later, as they prayed, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, and so, like tongues of fire on each one, they began to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to speak in other languages.
The Scripture says that when they went out into the city of Jerusalem, every Jew that was there for Jewish Pentecost was there from all over the Roman world and began to hear the gospel in their own language. Some said, “What’s going on here; have you guys been drinking?” because they were hearing all these different languages. The apostle Peter said, “No way; it’s only nine in the morning. Besides, what you’re seeing was prophesied. Our prophets said this would happen, that our old men would have visions and our young men and their young daughters would have dreams.
They began to preach Jesus to them, and 3000 people were saved and baptized in Jerusalem. You know what that is? That’s the birth of the church. So happy birthday, Church! Capital C Church, the whole church, Happy birthday! It’s been 50 days since Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. What a perfect day for us to start meeting in person.
No matter where you are, if you’re at home or if you’re in another country watching us, because we have several partners around the world that are watching this service, we love you . As pastor Stephen said earlier, “Wherever we are, the church is there because the church is not the steeple. The church is the people.” And so, we’re glad you’re here.
I’m excited, thankful and happy to see you, but may I share with you another emotion that I’m having this morning? It’s an emotion of heaviness. Can that be possible? I am filled with joy and excitement to see you, but also, I am feeling a heaviness because of what’s going on in our nation. I’m glad that we can be together and talk about this. It’s important that we, as a church, know how to think, how to pray and how to respond at a time like this, don’t you agree? I am seeing that there are demonstrations. Are you watching the news? I mean, I’m sick of watching the news, but I’ve been watching it lately. There are demonstrations across the country that have devolved into violence.
Even last night, perhaps it was the worst of all after a Minneapolis police officer was arrested and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter of African American, George Floyd. Perhaps you’ve seen the video. It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to hear a man say, “I can’t breathe,” and to be shown no mercy. Regardless of your political persuasion, regardless of how you feel about things, it’s hard to watch, to see a man die, with no one helping him. Police cars and government buildings have been burned. The National Guard was deployed to several states. Some of our country’s largest cities have instituted curfews. In one Midwest City, a person was killed and at least two more have been shot. More than 1400 people have been arrested in 16 cities since Thursday, with more than 500 of those happening in Los Angeles alone.
I’m looking at this and I’m thinking about this and and it seems to me that the nation is like a tinderbox right now because we have the greatest number of unemployed people sitting at home, with nothing to keep them busy. We have the greatest number of college graduates and high school graduates who didn’t get to experience their graduation; it was taken from them because of the stay at home orders and because of Covid 19. We have this large group of unemployed and a lot of young people with nothing else to do. Then the “match drops into this dry wood,” if you would, in our country today. It’s like a perfect storm. How should we, as Christians, be thinking, responding and praying right now?
My African American brother, fellow pastor and prayer partner, pastor Ken Fontenot, is the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, right down the road from us here. He is a dear brother of mine. If you look at my Facebook page, you’ll see a video I have shared of his. I think he said it best and not because his skin color makes him more qualified. It just makes it easier for us to hear it, doesn’t it, for him to say the things he’s saying. He says our national problem is not a skin problem, but a sin problem. It’s a sin problem. What we need is a Savior. We need to admit that we’re sinners and we need a Savior. No matter what color we are, we have a sin problem. He says, the real problem is not a race problem, but a grace problem. We don’t need to be after revenge. We need God’s kind of justice; let God’s justice reign in our country and let God’s redemption and God’s love and God’s reconciliation reign. I’m happy to have him as my prayer partner and to share these wonderful words from pastor Ken with you today. And so, whether you’re at home watching or whether you’re here with us in person, let’s bow our heads and pray for our country.
Lord, we confess our national sin of racism. Lord, we must admit that it’s been something in our country that just will not go away. We know it’s from the evil one. It’s not from you. So, Lord, heal our land. We confess our sin, and we also confess the way we try to take matters into our own hands. Lord, we want Your justice. And, Lord, may we not turn against anyone because of their skin color because You died to save all of us. Lord, we’re only one race; the human race. Lord, we pray for the first responders and the police officers that are receiving so much trouble now because one of theirs has done a terrible thing. Lord, we pray for people that, regardless of political persuasion or color, wherever they are right now, that revival would fall upon our land and that the fires of the riots would be replaced by the fires of Pentecost and may you ring in our land revival. We pray for revival. Let it start with us. In Christ’ name. Amen.
You see, I couldn’t jump into this series today. I just couldn’t jump into it without talking about what’s going on around us. Last night, my niece in Roanoke, Virginia, texted me. She has never texted me before. She texted me, asking, “Would you pray for the city of Roanoke, Virginia, because I’m scared. Terrible things are happening in our country, and it looks like it’s coming to our city, too.” And so, I typed out a prayer for her last night; we had a long conversation. I was thinking about that as I was going to bed last night. Lord, did you have her text me so I can pray for you this morning? I needed to change my introduction this morning so that when we preach and when we address , we don’t ignore the world around us. This is where our power, authority and strength come from but it’s best applied to our situation so you can apply it to any situation. That’s where I’m at today.
Here’s the thing that we’re starting today, and it couldn’t be more appropriate. We’re asking this question, “What really matters in life?” We’re taking the idea of this series over the next six weeks. We’re unpacking this. We’re taking the theme from Philippians 1:10 (NLT) where it says, Philippians 1:10 (NLT) “For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.”
Here’s what Paul is praying for. The church in Philippi is praying that you organize your lives and so arrange your commitments and priorities so that they come into alignment with your readiness for Christ’s return so that you seek after those things that really matter. That’s what we’re gonna talk about, because what we’ve experienced for the last couple of months is the stripping away of a whole lot of stuff that we were staying pretty busy doing up until now. Students have not been going to school. They’ve been at home and parents have been trying to figure out how to do homeschooling. Parents who never planned on being home schoolers have been home homeschooling. The whole nation is in a home schooling experiment. Hopefully, there are a whole lot of parents who will show up at the next PTA meeting and tell the teachers, “Thank you; we love you so much!” Many of us have been home from jobs, home from school. We have missed graduations. It’s been a whole lot of just slowing down. Some of us have met people that we’ve been living in the same house with, saying, “It’s you! We are having a meal together.” This has never happened before; the whole family is having meals together. And so, not all of it’s been bad. Perhaps, much of it has been good and beneficial.
As we reopen as we’re reopening the churches, reopening the restaurants and reopening America, what should we keep? What should we save? I really didn’t miss that. I don’t think I’ll put it back. It’s the perfect time to ask the question, “What really matters?” What should I put back?
Some of you, because life has been a little slower, have had better quiet times. You’ve been able to spend more time talking to the Lord and reading your Bible. Do you want to give that up and replace it with something else? Maybe you’ve eaten more meals at home with your family. Do you want to go back to the habit of one is eaten in this room and one is on an iPad eating in this other room. We need to keep some of this life from getting busy again; t we need to carve out space for being together. Just think it through over the next six weeks. That’s what we’re going to try to do together. Just kind of think it through.
I want to start with what I believe to be the most important, and that’s your faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot do without it; it is the most essential. It’s what really matters. So as we look at Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi in chapter three, I want us to hear how he challenged them to follow his conviction, that faith in Jesus Christ is that which matters most in life. And I believe that we can follow that conviction. We can have the same conviction. My faith in Jesus matters most in my life; it’s the most important conviction.
We’re looking at the text and I believe we’ll see three reasons why this can be our most important conviction in life. So let’s look at God’s word starting at verse seven of chapter three in the book of Philippians. Philippians 3:7-14 (ESV) 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. This is God’s word.
Three reasons why faith in Jesus Christ is what matters most. Here’s the first:
1. Because in gaining Christ, we share His righteousness.
I want you to take note of the word, gain. You’ll see it in verse seven and again in verse eight In verse eight, he goes on to say “for his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” Sometimes people ask, “Where do you get these reasons? You have three reason?” I look at the text very closely. I study it, I chew on it and I look for how to preach it and deliver it.
I want you to notice the reasons that Paul has faith in Christ; he goes on to say, “that I may know him,” and then he goes on to say, “that I may share his sufferings and I may attain the resurrection.” So I was looking at these, and I was thinking, that’s the way that Paul delivered it. Guess what? That’s the way I’m going to deliver it. You see, it’s not rocket science. It’s just reading God’s word, studying it and then offering it in a way that is true to God’s word. That’s what I want you all to always believe about how we’re offering teaching from our church; our authority is God’s word. It’s not human authority. It’s from God’s word.
Here’s what Paul is saying; I have weighed everything in my past. That’s where he starts. I’ve weighed everything in my past; whatever gain I had – notice the past tense. Whatever I used to have, I’ve weighed it and counted it as loss compared to having or gaining Christ. You can almost picture a balance; he’s put Christ on this side and he’s put everything he used to have, everything he used to value on the other side. He has gone to Christ’s ways. More Christ is more valuable.
If you look at the text and look earlier, in verses four through six, he actually talks about that which he had, and really, he’s offering his “religious resume.” He says, in Philippians 3:7-14 (ESV) 4 “ …If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” Paul says that if you think you have a good resume, mine’s better; my resume and everything about me, worldly wise, was better than anything. On that road to Damascus, I encountered the Lord Jesus Christ and He struck me blind. That gave me three days to do a survey, if you will, of my life. And I looked at everything that I’d ever experienced in my life. I studied under the number one rabbi, the rabbi Gamaliell and I count all of that as loss compared to surpassing worth of gaining Christ. He’s the most valuable One.
He’s not finished; he says, “Whatever gain I had, I counted it as loss.” And then, in verse eight, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because His life went on and he had gained Christ. He began to think of the things he could have had but never did and the things he could have gone for but didn’t and said he was glad that he didn’t because it would have been a loss, because Christ is better than all that world. Loss is a word that is familiar to me.
In my previous occupation , I was a district manager for a large drug store chain, and I used to manage drugstores. I had twenty stores. That’s how I was transferred from Roanoke, Virginia to down here in eastern North Carolina. I ran Raleigh to the coast for this drug store chain. One of the things we would do in our annual inventories is compare what actually was in the store to what was according to the books. And, invariably, we had something that in retail was called “shrinkage.” Stuff should have been there but it wasn’t there and we didn’t know why it wasn’t there. It could have been because we missed it when we did the inventory; we miscounted. It could have been because it left the store by the “five finger discount;” does anybody know what that is? Yes, it could have been shoplifting. Or, it could have been employee theft. For whatever reason, though, we had to adjust our books because our actual inventory is lower than the books, and so we had to write it off. Do you understand what that means? We had to write it off on our books and take a loss on it. That’s what that Greek word means; to write it off.
Paul said, I looked at my old life. Everything I thought was valuable. I looked at all my dreams, everything I wanted to accomplish in life, and I wrote it off as compared to having Christ, gaining. Christ. You might say, Well, that’s good for Paul. What is he, like a four-star general of the faith or something? You know, I’m just good to be a Private. I will try to get the second stripe and become Corporal someday. But Paul, he’s another league. That’s not what Paul is saying to us. Paul is saying to all of us that we should share his conviction that to gain Christ is above all things. Friend, if you’re still struggling with that, if you’re still having areas of your life that you count as more valuable than Christ, then I would say to you, go back and think about where you’re at in your relationship with Jesus because if “He’s not Lord of all, He might not be Lord at all of your life.” If you’re still negotiating, Paul says, I’m past that, I’ve written it off. Gaining Christ is of surpassing value, surpassing worth to me. The Greek word has the prefix ( ); it’s where we get the word super. It’s where we get the word hyper for you parents who have one of those, it means higher than anything, super, above because he’s of super worth, surpassing worth. The most valuable of all. It costs me everything in life, I would be nothing. I’m writing it off just to gain Christ.
He’s not finished; when he looks back at it, he counts it as rubbish. Now, the ESV translation is being more PC in its translation than the KJV translation. The KJV translation says, “count it as dung.” What? You don’t recognize Elizabethan English? We have some third, fourth and fifth graders in the house and on the way home, they will say, “Daddy, pastor Gary said manure. The apostle Paul said it first. He said everything in life compared to having Jesus is worthless, and it smells bad in comparison to the wonderful fragrance of gaining Christ.
So in gaining Him, what else do we gain. Paul goes on; gaining Him, we gain His righteousness, verse nine, and be found in Him. If you go hunting for me, he says, you’ll find me in Christ not having a righteousness that comes from keeping the law. Not my righteousness, because it falls short. If you’re here trying to keep rules, if your parents told you, “I just want you to be good.” Tell your mom and dad on your way home, “Pastor Gary said that I should stop trying to be good, and instead I should start turning my life over to Jesus because He’s the only one that’s good. He’s the only one that’s ever been good enough. He’s the only righteous one.”
When we speak of righteousness here, it has the moral aspect of goodness. But here, Paul is more particularly speaking of the legal aspect of whether or not you’re right with God because if you’re not in Christ, it doesn’t matter how good you’re trying to be. It will fall short. So to be right with God, we must be found in Christ, being found in Him. We will have His righteousness. His rightness with the Father accounted unto our account.
Have you done that? Have you placed your faith in Christ? You’ll never be good enough. But Christ is good enough and He paid the price. Romans 3:22-24 (NLT) 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” What is the penalty of our sins? He goes on in Romans chapter six, verse 23, to say, “The wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ. Jesus, our Lord.”
Are you still counting on other things? There is nothing more valuable than Jesus. There’s no other name given under heaven that can make you right with God. You see, if you get right with God, you can start getting right with others. But if you’re not right with God, you’ll never get right with others. You’ll never even get right with yourself. Have you considered the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ? He matters most because there’s no other way to be right with your creator who made you. That’s the first reason. We could stop there, but Paul’s not finished.
Here’s the second reason why faith in Jesus Christ is what matters most:
2. Because in knowing Christ, we share His fellowship.
So in gaining Christ, we share His righteousness, his rightness with God knowing Him. We share in His fellowship. Look at verse 10, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” That I may know Him and I may gain him, counting everything else as loss in order to have Him.
And then he says (but I’m not finished), I want to know Him. I want to know Him; it is the greatest pursuit in life. You know what it might mean to know the One who made you and died for you in order to redeem you? Do you wonder what a deep deep well it would be to dive into and to never find its bottom? To know Christ, Do you know Him?
I’m beginning to. That’s what I would say; I’m beginning to, but as I swim deeper, I find more and more to know and more and more desire to know more of Jesus.
Now, have I said that I have missed seeing your faces? If not, let me repeat it. I’ve missed seeing your faces. You’re not sitting in your normal seats and it’s a little strange, but I like it. I’ve never seen you in that particular area. You’re close to your normal area. That’s kind of normal for you. Yeah, that’s where my son, Stephen, sits; I’m used to him being right there. But, as I’m looking around, some of you are in places you’ve never been before. Thanks for obeying the ushers. This has never happened before. You have not been like “herding cats” today. Today, you’ve been very compliant. I hope this continues. But may I say to you, I was not called to be a televangelist. I’m loving the fact that I’m doing this today. I love you at home and I’m looking at you at home. I’m coming through the TV right now if you’re watching me on YouTube and I love you, but it’s so much easier when I could see you in person. I wasn’t called to be a televangelist. I was called to be a pastor; a pastor requires people. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. But I do want you to understand something about me. I’ve been struggling for the past two months because of my worth being so tied up in my calling and because I couldn’t see you. Even when I sent out surveys to have you complete, you told me, “I’m doing fine.” Somebody be in trouble so I can help you! This is abnormal for me because, usually, I’m so inundated with people that I’m trying to help that I’m kind of tired of you. You can’t make me happy. That’s what you’re seeing, right? But for the last two months, everybody has told me, “I’m good.” Come on; you’re not telling me the truth. I need to pray for somebody. And so that’s been me. So, here’s what’s happened.
Especially this week, studying this, Jesus has been with me the whole time. My calling is to be a pastor. That’s my vocational calling from the Lord. It has an end day, whenever the Lord calls us home or whenever I hand you off to whichever place you’re headed in life. I have you for a season just like I have my kids, like this one sitting on the front row. There was a season and then I went from father to friend. This is a temporary calling. But I have a permanent calling and so do you, to know Jesus.
You are probably wondering, “What are we going to do with Him for eternity?” You’ll never reach the bottom. He’s the eternal One. His worth is surpassing beyond anything you could dream of. We’ve only touched around the edges when we consider the gospels of who this Christ Jesus is.
Paul says, the more I know Him, the more I want to know Him. I want to know the power that He has that raised him from the dead and the power of His resurrection, but not just from the mountain tops. I also want to be in the valleys with Him because I want to be part of that club, too. I don’t want to show up in heaven without a single spiritual scar. I would be over on the side, saying, I’ve got nothing. It’s not that I’m a masochist; it’s not that I want pain. Sometimes guys will get together and compare scars; they show their scars. That’s what guys do. The ladies out there are looking at me thinking that’s weird. Yes, but you all do something too. If you want all the men to run out of your living room just have a woman that’s having her first child in the room and the other women who have had several children. They start telling her about the details. One would say, “I was in labor for fourteen days!” Once the women get down to the details, the men all run out because our stories can’t top those stories, right?
But Jesus suffered and died for us. Paul. I don’t know if I’m there yet, but I think I understand what you’re getting at. I want to know you so well that I share not just in your power but in your sufferings.
The word, share, even if you don’t know many Greek words you have probably heard me use this one before. It is the word, Koinonia. That word could be translated, communion; it could be translated, fellowship. Paul says, I want to be in the club that you’re in, Jesus, I don’t want to just receive Jesus and sit at home and twiddle my fingers. I want to get on the front line and join You in pursuing the lost. This going to mean suffering because, if you do what Jesus did, you will be persecuted for it.
Paul says, I want to know that too, because it matters most to me to know You; even to be in Your fellowship of suffering. In other words, I want to be in your family. I want to be in your club, your tribe and I want to be on your team. I want to know Christ on the mountaintop and in the valley. The apostle John wrote in his first epistle, 1 John 1:1-3 (NLT) 1 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
I’m praying that you would want to be in the fellowship, that you want to be in the family of God. How do you do this? How do you know? You see, it matters ultimately that you know Him. He says in Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven… On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord… And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me…” It’s not enough just to pay “lip service.” It’s not just just enough to just park yourself in a church building. It’s not enough to just watch the video at home.
Do you notice that He says , “I never knew you.” Do you know Him? How do you come to know Him? You speak words of faith; the scripture is very clear. You say, I believe that You died on the cross for my sins and that You raised from the grave on the third day. I believe you did this for me. I’m a sinner, far from God, but I want to come near and I believe You’re the only way. Come and save me. And He will. That’s why He came.
Have you done that? Then you will know Him. He will adopt you into His family and make you a child of God. You can call Him Father. Do you know Jesus? Do you know Him? Are you growing in experiencing his resurrection power?
That word, power, is from the Greek word, ( ). It’s where we get the word dynamite. It’s the explosive resurrection power that bursts the dead from the grave. Do you know that kind of power in your life? Do you know the sustaining power of going through a season of suffering with Jesus? Do you know it?
The most clearly I’ve ever heard His voice have been during seasons of grief and stuff. It seems as if He leans in closer and whispers in words that are more clearly heard when experiencing the loss of a loved one or lying in a hospital bed after surgery. Maybe during a season of being sick. If you live long enough, you will get to experience all of those things. His voice is so much clearer during those times. Maybe, it’s because I’m listening. That’s the second reason that faith in Christ matters most.
Here’s the third reason why faith in Jesus Christ is what matters most:
3. Because in becoming like Christ, we share His resurrection.
If I know Christ, I’m part of His fellowship; I am part of His family. Then, he said, (but I’m not finished), I want to become like Him. I want to become like Christ and share in His resurrection. We are in the latter part of this passage. This is becoming like Him in His death . That one didn’t ring for me at first when I read it. What does that mean? Is Paul suicidal? No.
Here’s what you come to recognize; this body won’t make the cut. I’m kind of glad actually, about this truth. Some of you are younger; we have the third through fifth graders here this morning, and you kind of like your body. With my old body. I’ll turn it in pretty soon. I will use it up; parts of it are pretty used up already.
Here’s the promise of Christianity. It’s unique in all the world’s religions. It says that you get a resurrection body if you believe in Jesus, you get a body fit for heaven. Did you know that you’re not going to be, as some would say, “a drop of rain which falls into the river of life and flows into the ocean of nothingness, becoming one with all.” Now that’s not Christianity, Christianity says you are a unique person. There’s no one else like you. God loves you and He sent His son to die for you. You are unique and you are designed to live for eternity. This is Christianity; it’s amazing, It’s wonderful. It’s that which matters most.
Paul says, I want to become like Him. He says, in verse 11, “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” I want this. Then, he admits in verse 12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” I haven’t got it yet; I haven’t already obtained it. I haven’t got this yet. I’m not saying I’m perfect. This word, perfect, here has more of the idea of I haven’t crossed the finish line. But then he says, but I do press on to make it mine. I am not there yet, but I’m aiming for it. The things in my life that would be a distraction, or if by having it would slow me down or cause me to stumble, I’m putting it aside because I’m focused on the goal. The goal is Jesus; He’s waiting. He’s waiting just on the other side of the finish line and I’m running because I know the minute I cross the finish line, He’s going to have his arms wide open like this and I’m going to run right into His arms. So, I’m not afraid of anything. I’m not afraid of death. I’m not afraid of a pandemic. I’m not afraid of anything because I know who I’m focused on; I am focused on Jesus. I want to become like Him. Paul says, “I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
Have you ever heard of positional truth? Positional truth is that which is already written and nothing can wipe it away. Your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life and you’re already at the right hand of the Father in Christ Jesus. Even now, you probably feel like you’re sitting in a chair somewhere. But “positionally,” you’re already in Christ. Experientially, you’re still doing this thing down here on planet Earth; that’s what theologians call experiential truth, which is here. Positional truth is what God’s word says about you. Paul says, He already has me, but I don’t have Him yet, in the sense of his resurrection. I haven’t experienced that yet, but I’m aiming for it. I’m going towards it.
Verse thirteen, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” I do not consider that I’ve made it my own. But one thing I do, not five things I dabble in, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and to forget something in the past. Let go of it; it’s your past. It probably has something to do with who you are today. But you don’t have to be a prisoner of it. You don’t have to walk in the shadow from something in your past. You’re pursuing. Christ. Paul doesn’t want that to slow him down.
Somebody here needs to hear that today. What you’ve done, no matter how terrible, no matter how shameful, no matter who you let down, forget it. How can I do that in Christ? Because I’m running towards Christ and he has forgiven me and He is one making me right with God. If I’m right with God, He’ll begin to make me right with others so that I would be right in my relationships, right in my marriage, right in my parenting, right with my parents, right with my co workers, right with my fellow students… because He’s made me right with Him. I’m becoming like Him and I’m forgetting what lies behind and I’m straining forward to what lies ahead. Now, we’re looking at a photo finish here. Paul’s like that; it’s a photo finish. You’ve seen those right? Winning “by a nose.” He won “by a nose;” this is a race to him. He’s running.. I’m running to Jesus. I’m not going to think about what’s behind. Verse 14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I press on toward the goal.
What’s God’s goal for us? Have you ever wondered, what’s God up to right now with me? Why am I going through this? What’s this all about? God cares more about your character than He does Your comfort. Comfort is a temporary aspect of life; character is lasting. That’s what He’s up to. Paul wants to cooperate with that; he will not kick against that.
I want to know Him. I want to have Him first of all in my life. I want to know him and I want to become like Him. This is the most important thing in my life, because He’s the prize. He’s the price. Christ Jesus is the surpassing valued One. He’s my prize. I want to be like my Father.
My earthly father died when I was eight years old. Many of you know that I’m the oldest of four children. I was a daddy’s boy . People would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would say, “I want to be just like my daddy.” My daddy died at the age of 39 of cancer; the Lord took him home. I didn’t stop believing in God, but I did become afraid of God. I thought God was trying to hurt me. I thought maybe I’d done something wrong. When you’re eight years old, you think maybe you weren’t a good enough boy and God took your dad. You know, you try to work it out when you’re a little kid. You try to work it out when you’re a big kid, too. But, God loves you and I learned that He loved me and I learned that that father wound could be comforted and healed and I could call on God as my Father through Jesus Christ, my Lord. I could pray, “My father, which art in Heaven…” and He would lean in and put His arms around me. I could feel Him when I would cry myself to sleep when I was eight, nine yearsold and ten years old. Finally, the wound was healed and in its place, a comfort overflowed greater than the wounds so that, to this day, my greatest desire is for people to know the Father. My life verse has been, 1 John 3:2 (NLT) “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.” The way I have memorized this verse is, 1 John 3:2, KJV: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
I am not sure what God’s up to, but I know this; when we see Jesus, that’s it. That’s what He’s been up to the whole time. He’s making us like Jesus, making us like Jesus. So my testimony is this; when I was a little kid, I wanted to be like my daddy . That’s a wonderful thing. My dad was my hero, but it matters most that I want to be like Jesus. I say to you, do you want to be like Jesus?
How do you do this? First you have to come to Him and gain Him so that He belongs to you and you belong to Him. Then, pursue knowing Him, through God’s word and prayer, talking to Him. How do you know anybody? You spend time with them. And then, make it your life’s priority above all other things, to become like Christ, to let that be the prize that is at the end of the finish line for you.
What will the resurrection body be like? 1 Corinthians 15:35-52 (NLT) “35 But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” 36 What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. 37 And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. 38 Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. … 42 It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. … 47 Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. 48 Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. 49 Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. 50 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. 51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.” Someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” What a foolish question. When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant until it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow but only a bare seed of whatever you’re planting. Then God gives it the new body He wants it to have. It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die. but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried and broken but they will be raised in glory. They’re buried in weakness but they’ll be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies.
Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. We’re now like the earthly man. We will someday be like the heavenly man. What I’m saying here, brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
Let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment; in the blink of an eye, a twinkling of the eye. When the last trumpet is blown, when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we, who are living, will also be transformed. This is the Christian promise. I’m glad to trade this one in some day for a body that will live for eternity with the Lord. This is something I don’t want to kick against but cooperate with and and press on towards so that Paul’s able to say this to us in Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV) “1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Maybe you can picture that positional and that experiential tension of where you already are and how your experience will someday match your position. Listen to Colossians, “Since then, you’ve been raised with Christ. Set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God Set your minds on things above not on earthly things. For you died. Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears then you also will appear with him in glory.” Take that one home and meditate on it for a while. It’s that tension between “already and not yet.” Paul says for us to pursue it. In fact, go ahead and set your clocks on Heavenly time. Go on and set your focus on the goal for the upward call of that prize in Christ Jesus.
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, you matter most. But we don’t always act as if it’s true, but we want to. Lord, I pray first of all, l for that person today that would say, for the first time, “I want Christ. I want Him in my life. I’m far from God, but I want to be brought near. I’m a sinner, but I I want His righteousness. If that’s you, pray it with me right now. Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner, but I believe You died on the cross for me and that You were raised from the grave and that You live today. Come and live in me. I want You to be my Lord and Savior. Make me a child of God. Forgive me of my sins. If you’re praying that prayer right now, in your own words, declaring your desire for Him that you’re ready to repent of your sin and turn towards Him, He will save you and make you a child of God. I’m praying for you right now. And I’m also praying with that person that’s here that knows Christ, but there are distractions in your life that need to be forgotten or put in the right order. Some things are being placed in a more important order than they should be. I will pray with you right now, Lord, help me to see that knowing and becoming like Christ is number one in my life. If I get this first, everything else falls into place. Lord, once again, I put you on the throne of my life. I asked you to forgive me for being distracted with these things. Name them to Him. I want you to be number one. You matter the most to me. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.