March 13, 2016: Don’t Give Up Your Savior!

Let us pray: Dear Savior, in You we live, move, and have our being. We are Your most precious possession and You are our most precious gift. Nothing in this lift compares to what we have in You because this life is temporary, while You are eternal. May we never forget that fact when hardship and trouble comes upon us. May we never give up You for the garbage of modern life that Satan tries to pawn off on us each day. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR SUFFERING LORD

TEXT: Philippians 3: 8-14

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

There is one phrase all sailors learn very quickly. It is this: “Don’t give up the ship.” Why is that phrase embedded into every one of their minds from day one? Because it means life vs. death. Oceans are huge. Storm at sea are 10 times worse than what we face on the land. If you get tossed overboard, or are swept into the sea during such a time, it means certain death. And if you go willingly, well, it’s literally suicide. For the Christian, Jesus Christ is our lifeboat. He’s our ship on the sea of human pain and suffering. Without Him protecting us and buoying us up, we’re literally dead-in-the-water. So, today, let’s consider this:

DON’T GIVE UP YOUR SAVIOR!

I

St. Paul is under house arrest in Rome. The year is 63 AD and he has only a few more years to live. He’s well aware of his plight. About a decade before, he had been sent by the Holy Spirit to Macedonia, northern Greece. It was Hicksville when compared to the rest of Greece, but there were Christians there who needed his guidance. The chief town of Macedonia was the Roman colony in Philippi. Paul counseled and guided them well and when he left, they were ably taken care of by Pastor Ephaphroditus, a prodigy of Paul. Now in his imprisonment, Ephaphroditus journeys 700 miles to see Paul and comfort him. He tells Paul of the problems they face: periodic persecutions, Jewish agitators who tried to undermine the Gospel by telling people that “they must make themselves right with God by their deeds rather than God making them right with Him by grace,” incessant discord in the church caused by people pushing their own agenda for personal power, and the timidity of the Christians there to speak up in their communities when belittled and attacked. So, Paul writes them an epistle, a letter, to give them further Godly guidance.

Here, he draws on his personal situation. It’s dire. They know it. It would have been easy for Paul to give in to his flesh and adopt a “woe-is-me” attitude. That’s the cowardly way out, isn’t it? But instead, he’s upbeat and strong! “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

Early in his life as a model Jewish Pharisee, Paul was on the fast track to stardom. He was the prize pupil of the great teacher: Gamaliel, the Jewish Einstein of his day. He was the golden boy of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, and perhaps the youngest member ever to their ranks. He had been the fire-eating, let’s round up those horrible Christians and put them to death, leader within that ruling class. But because Christ met him and converted him on the road to Damascus, Paul had left all that behind. With no money of his own, he begged for assistance and worked on the side making tents at times, all in order to pay for his missionary journeys—including the one to Philippi. And now all that has landed him in a Roman jail awaiting death. He gave everything up for Christ. He considers his humanly stellar past garbage when compared to knowing Christ. And He wanted these people to emulate his sacrifice—the sacrifice of faith.

Why did he do this? Was he deluded? Did his famous brain quit working? No. He did it all because Christ is everything. Knowing Him is everything. Life isn’t about acquiring power, glory, or money—contrary to popular opinion. It is about getting right with God. It is about eternal things. This life is only pre-season, what counts is coming after we leave planet earth behind. Put bluntly, life here is temporary but God is eternal. And our eternal God reached down into our reality, sent His Son to take our sins upon Himself and to die in order to make us right with God. Our strivings could never achieve such powerful, loving perfection. But Christ’s perfect holiness could and did! And all that love has been poured into our hearts and made ours through the Spirit’s gift of faith. Yes, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!”

II

Every single temptation known to humans is about giving up on Christ’s goodness or abusing it in some fashion. These temptations range from small to large, but all of them are like waves trying to sweep us into the maelstrom of this world without a life-preserver. So, you have that neighbor who mocks your faith and your going to church each Sunday? You try to ignore them instead of politely telling them that saving your soul is more important than extra sleep. There’s the temptation to: “Do nothing.” Or, you allow the “gang” at work to convince you to plan your Sunday schedule around sports events with them instead of church first thinking: “I can go later on.” But over time, later becomes later, later, and then never. Do you use profane language at work, or among your friends to be accepted and not stand out? Have you adopted a cut-throat attitude at work because good guys get used and abused? Maybe you try to act pious and give up something: Steak, chocolate, or wine for Lent? Then, afterwards, you can indulge and congratulate yourself? But, you don’t give up lust or greed or gossip. Isn’t that missing the whole point of repentance? Becoming right with God is hard work. God knows. His Son labored to the cross and died there to pay for our sins of commission and those of omission.

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow; attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

No matter the troubles you face: Don’t Give Up on Your Savior! Paul didn’t. Even when writing these stirring words, Paul was still suffering. He still had moments of inner self-doubt—just like you. He still had moments of self-loathing—just like you. He still had times of asking “Why me, Lord?”—just like you. He still stood on this earth because God wasn’t done with him, yet. However, faith in Christ won out in Paul and sustained him against such temptations. The cross loomed but behind it was resurrection! The seas would calm and the peaceful port beckoned. So it is with each of us. Don’t Give Up on Christ! Amen