Sermon for Sunday, 04/07/2019
Text: Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12: 1-8
Theme: “Knowing Christ Changes Everything”
Have you ever discovered or received something which you thought at the time was the best among the rest? I am talking about something which you felt was so important that you resolved to do everything to maintain and protect it no matter what. This certainly cannot be the latest version of your mobile phone or the model of your vehicle. I am talking about something that you felt defined who you are and was part of your identity. But after a while, you discovered another version, and only then did you realize that what you had always considered the best, and pride yourself of, was nothing but an inferior vision of the actual one.
Sometimes it is easy to get wrapped up in things, not only the tangible things that we can see and touch, but also the intangibles, such as reputation, fame, and achievements, so much so that they get to define who we are. This is the issue that Paul is dealing with in this passage. And thank God he did, or else you and I would have had no place in the family of Christ.
The Great Commission, or the mission to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world was handed to his disciples, who were all Jews, but for some reason, many could not imagine God’s message of salvation crossing their boundaries and extending to others.
In their mind, any none Jew (Gentile) who wanted to have a place with “their God” first had to become a Jew. This was done through assimilation into the Jewish culture. Paramount among them was to go through circumcision and straight obedience to the Laws of Moses. This was the practice in Judaism, a demand the early apostles brought over to the church.
The Jewish teachers of this doctrine contended that faith in Christ was not enough. They demanded the Gentile Christians to exert efforts and labor for the salvation. “You must obey the laws,” they claimed. The Jews were saying in effect, we have what it takes to be a part of God’s people, and until you be like us, strive for merit it like us, God has not place for you.
This teaching undermined the whole good news of Jesus Christ. For the good news is, whosoever will, let him come. Come and eat without price. There is no precondition in terms of work. It says, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved. This is the good news open to everyone, even the one death roll.
Therefore, the apostle Paul, the propagator of the gospel to the gentles had to refute this dangerous teaching in very harsh words because it threatened the very survival of the early church. It meant the gospel would have never reached us.
He told them, if there is a need to boast, I have every reason to boast. Look at my identity and credentials. I am no alien, but a typical Jew, circumcised on the eighth day after birth, according to the Law (Lev. 12,2,3). I am not a proselyte, but an original Jew, from tribe of Benjamin, the tribe that produced the first king of Israel. I am a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law that you are boasting about, I rose to the level of a pharisee; concerning zeal, I persecuted the church in my effort to destroy it; concerning righteousness, I was blameless.
Paul says with all those Jewish credentials, he had been seeking a righteousness of his own. But they just could not get him across until he found the righteousness that is found in Christ. This is the righteousness that we have when we meet Christ, and it changes everything; It makes all the difference.
Sometimes we become like Saul, seeking meaning and purpose in the wrong things and at the wrong places. Most of our life, we are running and seeking, adding up, thinking if I just added that one, I will be happier; I will be saver, or be better. But David says, without God, it is like chasing the wind.
No amount of good work is good enough; only the good work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Therefore, Paul’s says he considers all his previous Jewish credentials rubbish and inferior to the righteousness found in Christ.
This is the good news that has welcome us into the familyhood of God. But when we come to know Christ, it changes everything. Like Paul, it challenges us to rethink our values; it shapes our priorities and redefines our identity.
God’s grace that saves us is entirely free. We don’t merit it; we don’t deserve it; we did not earn it, but once we receive it, our transformation journey begins.
That is why Paul says his desire is to know Christ more and the power of his resurrection. Every Christian should have the desire to do and be better. Like Paul, no Christian should desire to just be the same way. God has called us to a higher caller. We should not allow the world to set standards for us. Our standard should be guided by what God says. It is not a one-day thing; it’s a journey.
Referring to his journey, Paul tells us, “I am not saying that I have obtained, or I have already arrived, but the one thing I do, is forgetting the things that lie behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. My eyes are set on the goal and I am not turning back.” This is the Christian journey. Moving forward on our journey.
I hope we can discover what Paul discovered. It’s a discovery that we are who are not necessarily because of what we have acquired or attained, but by grace, the free gift of God. Any Christian who understands and applies this will live a grateful and happy life each day, knowing that you are who you are not because of what you have to your credit, but because of God’s grace.
When you are privileged to rise up from your bed in the morning, you would say, thank you God, because is not an entitlement. None of us earned the right to be alive this morning. No amount of money can sustain our breadth for a second if God chooses to withdraw.
Like Paul, may we live each day with a grateful heart, knowing that we are who we are, not because of our credentials, but the grace of God. And this makes all the difference and changes everything.
God bless you.