Monday, August 20, 2007

The Sermon I Preached Yesterday

(The photo on the right is of me in 1973.)

Text: Philippians 3:8-14
Subject: “How to Win in Our Spiritual Lives”

Introduction: How do we win as individuals and as churches? Is it by numbers of converts, the length of our prayers, etc.?

1. We win by surrender (vs. 8-9). This sounds strange at first. If one football team surrenders to another football team on the field, we would not call that game a win for the surrendering team. We can understand the concept, however, if we can conceive of a football player surrendering his body to a very good coach on the first day of practice. The coach will mold the player into a winner. Paul counted all things as loss/rubbish in order that he would gain Christ. He realized that at the moment he surrendered his life to Christ in repentance and faith, the righteousness of Christ would be imputed to him—the “righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (vs. 9, NASB). The rich, young ruler wanted eternal life, but he was not willing to surrender his wealth to Christ, and thus he walked away from Christ sadly (Matthew 19:16-22).

2. We win by suffering (vs. 10). This also sounds strange. We do not usually think of winners as suffering people. Paul talked about knowing “the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Children experience growing pains. They eventually have more power as they grow. Football players often say, “No pain, no gain.” As they lift weights and undergo conditioning exercises, their muscles experience some wear and tear, but they become more powerful through the suffering. I sometimes meet Christians who say they have not suffered. The reason for their lack of suffering is that they have not exercised their spiritual muscles. Christianity is not a spectator sport. We are to be spiritual athletes. Church membership should mean something. All members, unless physically unable, should commit themselves to specific, active ministries in local churches. Too many Christians have a consumer’s attitude: “What can a church do for me?” Their attitude should be different: “In what church can I best serve the Lord?”

3. We win by forgetting (vs. 11-14). Again, this sounds strange. Paul discussed the importance of “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” He also mentioned pressing on toward the goal. Paul was using an illustration familiar to his audience of a runner straining toward the finish line. Imagine a football team that refused to break its huddle on the field to run an offensive play. While the other team and the referees were watching, the team began an internal feud. In spite of many penalty flags and the departure of the audience, the team refused to stop fighting and begin concentrating on reaching the goal line. This scenario is a picture of many churches today. There is a lot of dissension, and many churches are stuck in their huddles. They are not moving toward the goal. Their members need to forget about what lies behind—the disappointments, hurt feelings, anger, bitterness, etc. Paul was moving toward the “goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He was a mature Christian, but he was not yet perfected/completed in the absolute sense. He was looking forward to his glorification and the perfect fellowship he would have with Jesus Christ. We, too, should keep the ultimate goal in focus and forget about things about which we can do nothing.

Conclusion: Paul was discussing death in this passage, but we should not see it as a morbid discussion. He mentioned the three aspects of salvation. We are saved from the penalty of sin (justification), the power of sin (sanctification), and the presence of sin (glorification).