(Listen to this sermon here)
What are the greatest obstacles to applying the truths of the gospel to your life? Money? Busyness? Family dynamics? Fear? Past circumstances? Prestige? Your work? Status?
I think one of the biggest obstacles that stands in our way is ourselves.
In Philippians 3:1-6, Paul lists and describes all of his credentials before becoming a believer. Before his conversion, Paul was easily the "top dog" among the religious elite. Born into the right family and one of the best scholars around, not to mention Paul had an unrelenting passion to persecute the Church and Christians. The greatest irony of Paul's life is that that while he thought he had reached the top by being the most zealous and knowledgeable Pharisee around, he actually was at the bottom when it came to right standing with God. Even though Paul knew everything about the Law and about God, he didn't know God. All of this changed in Acts 9:1-18when Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, spoke to him, and radically saved him. From that point forward he was, thankfully, never the same.
Philippians 3 is an incredible look into the mind of a man who knew it all, had it all, and was highly regarded by many. Yet Paul describes his credentials for the purpose of showing us that while he thought he had it all, in reality, he had nothing! He then goes on to describe what it means to have something truly valuable: Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:7-11).
Paul goes as far as to say that everything is worthless compared to knowing Jesus. Did you catch that? You see, if we can get past ourselves, our accomplishments, our preferences, our comfort, and our agenda -- we find that all of that is so incredibly less meaningful than the relationship with Jesus.
"When we take serious stock of our lives in light of the gospel," writes Jon Dennis, "we realize that we must repent not only of our sins but also of the achievements that we would use to justify ourselves before God."
Paul had to learn the hard way that what he did for God wasn't the point at all. The point of Paul's life, my life, and your life is to relentlessly remove the barriers in our lives that keep us from knowing Jesus Christ intimately.
Can we honestly say, with Paul, that we consider the achievements of our lives to be "rubbish" in comparison to knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8)?
Paul ends the chapter beautifully by exhorting us to press on towards the goal of knowing Jesus and anxiously awaiting His return. Pursuing and knowing Jesus is the blessing of 'now' while we anxiously await an even greater blessing: the presence of the King Himself! He warns us that there will be many professing believers that have their minds set on earthly things and are even described as enemies of the cross of Christ.
My prayer is that we, the Church, would be the 'few' that walk the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14) walking in unity together, pressing on to know Jesus more each day, and anxiously await the coming of the King. May we truly live out our Kingdom citizenship as people who put more stock in Christ than any man made accomplishment or status (Philippians 3:18-20).
As we live this way, may we see Salt Lake and the world redeemed by the power of the Gospel!
For His Kingdom,