Faith Spelt R.I.S.K
Read Philippians 3:4b-14.
Here are 2 Questions:
What is your opinion of yourself?
What is your aim in life?
Last week we thought about the value of humility. This week begins rather differently.
It is part of our fallen human nature to BIG OURSELVES UP to brag to others our about our accomplishments, (Did I tell you that our daughter has just been promoted to head of dept. of Allied Health workers at Southampton University?) We boast about our possessions, perhaps exaggerate on our CVs our academic achievements & experience to say” I’m worth it”.
In Maua, Eastern Kenya, one lady even took the certificate she had received because she had attended one of our cell training events to prove “that she was worth it” She got the job.
But inside there are these times of insecurity and then we try hard to obey all the rules to hem us in so we feel safe.
We try hard to get everything right to prove to ourselves & others that we are alright. We tell everyone how busy we are. We strive and can end up burnt out, dissatisfied and even depressed.
The sad thing is that we can do the same sort of thing with religion, including Christianity. And this is what just what Judaism had become in the time first century. And Paul had been the best of the best of this religion of status and striving.
5 circumcised on the eighth day,…. Meaning that he was born of true Jewish parentage, not from another background and was obeying from birth, the requirements of his heritage
of the people of Israel, only those of pure background could claim the title Israelites.
He was of the tribe of Benjamin, …. the elite tribe of Israel
a Hebrew of Hebrews; one of those few Jews who had maintained the language of the Hebrews, even when the Jews had been scattered through many nations
in regard to the law, a Pharisee; one of a relatively small group of “separated ones” who kept every slightest rule and regulation. Paul had been proud of his pedigree and proud of his efforts and attainment.
as for zeal, Paul was persecuting the church
BUT He was so zealous that he lost touch with the real things of faith & became fanatical to the point of persecuting the emerging people of true faith, the Christian Messianic Jews, believing that he was following God.
as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But based upon true FAITH he had been missing out and empty
for he had got so caught up in his own efforts and pride that He had missed God’s purposes but believing that he was following God.
Then in a vision he met Jesus & heard him speak directly to him Around AD 33–36 is the date of his conversion- after Jesus’ died
How do we find OUR identity and value? ………. Do we look at the best things that we possess, the education and experiences we have been through, or perhaps our family background and rely upon these things prove that we matter? To prove to ourselves that we are OK?
I know that at times I can be guilty of this…….. dropping in that I’m a Reader…… or a missionary. ……As a church we can feel we have arrived because we scored high in the Natural Church Development quality scores. We can elevate ourselves forgetting that it is God that it behind all these things.
Miles talked about humility last week, one of the characteristics of Jesus’ people. – preferring others before yourselves.
But pride and arrogance are two of my besting sins and they are such ugly things which mar his image and spoil relationships.
When Paul met Jesus on his journey on that Damascus road his journey of faith then took a completely new route. Instead of promoting a religion he promoted a PERSON, His Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ………………… Everything changed.
Paul tells us in today’s passage that the things that were previously gains he considered as loss compared to the worth of knowing Jesus Christ as his Lord. He had relied on those things to impress God. Now, for Jesus’ sake he had actually lost some of those things – certainly his prestige as a top Pharisee. The Jews were very suspicious of him now.
Now, he considered his past religious privileges & attainments as rubbish/ garbage, that he might gain Christ & be found in him.
Looking at other passages of Paul I know that he is not saying that the things of his Jewish background had no value.
For us it would be like saying that things like our Christian upbringing, our baptism, attendance at church had no value.
They DO certainly make a difference!
What he is saying is that compared to actually “knowing Christ” they did not have value because WITHOUT KNOWING CHRIST they need to be put out with the trash……. They are like dung!
They are useless because by themselves they are just rituals and don’t add up to anything lasting.
He’d come to realise that by trying to find personal fulfilment, peace and religious perfection that would lead to acceptance & fellowship with God by keeping rules was a waste of time.
He couldn’t make it. He wasn’t up to it
He calls it a “righteousness of his own” that comes from keeping the law. IT DIDN’T WORK & STILL DOESN’T TODAY
What he had discovered, was that it is faith in Jesus that brought this relationship with God……… trusting in everything that Jesus had done brought him that friendship.
The death of Jesus is what cancelled out his striving, his “falling short” and in accepting that, he found right standing with God. That’s what righteousness is.
Let me put it this way – Paul had come to the place of accepting that he hadn’t made it. This giant of a man was not good enough. …….. but when he looked at the love of Jesus for mankind including him & saw the perfect goodness of Jesus and then turned away from his own ways and into Jesus’ life…… then the goodness of Jesus counted as his…….. Jesus made him acceptable to God.
Let me say that again – the goodness of Jesus counted as his. Jesus made him acceptable to God.
And, praise God, that includes me and YOU
To us he says you are worth it I died for you.
There is a song from way back, which you will be glad I’m not going to sing, which puts it very beautifully.
I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me, gives to me;
I am covered over with the precious blood of Jesus
And he lives in me, he lives in me,
Oh what a joy it is to know my Heavenly Father loves me so,
He gives to me, my Jesus,
When He looks at me He sees not what I use to be,
But He sees Jesus, Jesus.
And Paul’s experience can be ours too when we put our trust in Jesus. The endless trying to be good enough can go….. and we can live IN Jesus and FOR Jesus
I made the decision to go the Jesus way when I was 14 and He has never let me down, especially in the very hard times though sometimes I may not have always sensed His closeness.
Paul goes on to say I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death or as good News Bible puts it be completely united with him
and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
I want to know Christ – What does that mean?
It’s clear that Paul already knew Jesus in some measure. I find this very interesting………..
As I said previously Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Rd was around AD 33–36. He had never personally met or seen Jesus. He was probably in Tarsus, in what is now Turkey when Jesus had his ministry. He had had a vision of Jesus and heard him speak but that was all.
There were also plenty of stories going around but none of the gospel accounts had been written. BUT he knew JESUS so well.
He knew him well because he had fully committed himself to Him when the Lord spoke to him and from then onwards Paul’s relationship of trust and discovery grew. As Paul began to be obedient to the things which God told him to do he discovered Jesus’ faithfulness, His character, and his love for him & he began to know Him. We can know Jesus just as Paul knew Him
Now instead of striving to do good things to gain acceptance he wanted to do what was right to bring a smile to the face of the Lord he loved.
He was “pressing on” too to obtain the prize of Resurrection life assured for him because of Jesus.
We have the benefits of the gospels and indeed the whole of the Bible to help us. BUT it is in our walk with Jesus in the everyday that we really discover what it is to know him.
Paul had a certain security in his old life because he’d been part of the respectable elite. In his new life he had no physical security. But he NEVER wanted to go back to his safe life.
Paul said that he wanted to know Jesus and to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
For Paul the resurrection of Jesus was not just an amazing past event in history …… it was an amazing, dynamic power working in the life of Christians.
Writing to the Ephesian church (Chap 2) Paul says that Jesus’ incomparably great power (is available) for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.
Paul, in knowing Jesus, wanted the life of Jesus to work in his life and through his life. He also had the understanding that this resurrection power of Jesus would insure that he, Paul, would share that same resurrection life beyond death.
In identifying with Jesus he wanted to share in his sufferings.
- He was prepared to suffer just as Jesus had suffered if persecution came. It did come and Paul did suffer.
- It also means that there can be situations in life where the person following Jesus has to take a certain course of action that is different from the ways of the world and that this can cause sufferings at a personal level. By doing this we enter into the sufferings of Christ, understanding how it was for Him as He faced rejection, scorn, misunderstanding and the like.
We get to know Jesus better in this way. We also discover Him entering into our sufferings with His love and support.
We have often said that faith is spelt R.I.S.K. and when we step out of our comfort zones it is then that we experience God in a deeper way enabling us. If we don’t take those risks we don’t make the discovery.
My attitude was arrogant, I got it wrong when we first went to Kenya. I thought that I was going to help people in a quite a patronising way. “I had it I could give it to them.”
Someone prayed for us before we went and said that she felt God was saying that going to work in Kenya was God’s gift to US and amazingly it has been just that.
We have so often been outside of our comfort Zone but into the provision, care, wisdom and love of God. We have got to know Him better. We have been thrust into a deeper prayer life; in checking out our attitudes against the Bible; into learning from others who know Him well.
Saints, we are moving into a new season as a church & as God’s much loved people.
The challenge now is not to rely on our past history; not to think whether am I up to the challenges….. do I have the right credentials?
The challenge is to trust ourselves to the grace & provision of God who loves us and gives us Himself and will reveal Himself and His ways when we need it.
We don’t have to be afraid of our own weakness. Before I went to Kenya the Lord highlighted this verse to me from 2 Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Church let us put our hands up and acknowledge that we are weak and therefore candidates for God’s sufficiency. ……….
Let us press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.
Knowing & loving God as He knows & loves us.