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Philippians 3:12-21

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Audio Transcript: Good morning. Hello. Welcome to another online edition of Mosaic Boston, Brookline. If you are tuning in online, live, thank you so much. We're so glad you're here. Take a couple moments say hello in the chat below. If you are at the beach while we are watching online, enjoy. But thank you for listening after you came home, or on the ride back, and paying attention. With that said, would you please pray with me over the preaching of God's Holy Word? Heavenly Father, we love you and we thank you. We thank you for the gift of life. We thank you that you have designed us to be people who live lives of joy rejoicing in you, and we experience the utmost joy when we are the absolutely, absolutely closest to you. And Lord, show us that often, the fact that we don't pursue you, the fact that we don't press into you, the fact that we don't strain forward, and press ahead to get as close to you as possible. That's actually the cause of so much of our unhappiness, our sadness, our depression, our anxiety. And show us today that the secret to joy is pursuing Christ, who pursued us, pursuing Christ to His perfection. And as we get closer, we get perfected. And as we get perfected, we get more and more whole. And you give us a holistic health, which leads to joy. I pray that you give us these secrets, and give us the power of the Holy Spirit, not just to understand it with our minds, but to receive them with our hearts. And also, empower us to live this out with our wills, our actions. And Lord, I pray that you bless our time, the Holy Word, we're so thankful for it. We pray this in Christ's name, amen. One my favorite things about living in the city, living in Boston is every spring, I love that the Boston Marathon passes right by my street. I live in Pleasant Street, and the runners come right down Beacon Street. It's always amazing. The city is energy packed. It's incredible energy, incredible feel and emotion. And my favorite of all the Boston marathons was the 118th Boston Marathon of 2014. And I remember distinctly because that Easter Sunday was April 20th, the day before the marathon. And for the first time, we were meeting at the Fenway Regal movie theater, and for the first time, we moved the Easter service from theater seven to the biggest theater they had. It was an act of faith. We had no idea how many people would come, and we had hundreds show up. The energy was amazing. And we had dozens of people in the blue little jackets from the Boston Marathon. We've prayed over them. It was incredible. But that marathon was particularly memorable, and emotional because it was the year after the Boston Marathon bombings were three people were killed, and many were wounded. And the whole marathon, and the build up to it was incredibly emotion filled. And in a story book ending, the winner of that marathon, Meb Keflezighi, 38 years old. He was actually the oldest man to win the marathon in 83 years, and the first US citizen to win it since 1983. And he ran with the names of the victims written on the corner of his bib. And as he approached the finish line in Back Bay in Copley Square, as he approached the finish line, there were chants of USA. And as he crossed the finish line, an incredible triumph and joy. He raises his hands. He raises his fist, his arms, and almost collapses, but keeps going. Incredible. I love that. What a memory. Let me ask you, how did he feel when you crossed the finish line? You already know the answer. Triumphant joy, just exploding with joy. Let me ask you a question. How did he feel while he was running it? How did he feel in preparation for the Boston Marathon, the tens of thousands of hours that he hit the pavement by himself with nobody watching, just driving himself pressing into the goal, the purpose that he set for himself full tilt with every nerve, every ounce, every muscle, every fiber of his being because he had a purpose in mind. And the purpose was to win. And this is incredible. This is incredible story in it of itself. But this is actually analogy, the metaphor the St. Paul uses to describe the Christian life. That there's a starting point, and there's a finish line, and in the middle, this is what our life is. You become a Christian, that's the starting line. Scripture talks about this as justification that you are made righteous, just by grace through faith in Christ. And the end is glorification, where you have a brand-new redeemed body just like Christ's resurrected body. But in the meantime, we are called not just follow Jesus slowly. It begins with a walk just like a child crawls and then walks. But then the Lord says, we are to seek maturity, and we are to run after Christ in an ultramarathon way. And this is important because St. Paul says, I'm pursuing perfection in the text that we're going to read today. And this is important because Jesus didn't call us to be good. He actually called us to be perfect. And the closer you get to Jesus, the more you realize how much you lack perfection, and there's this holy tension between a Christian getting more holy, and realizing how unholy he or she is. And the godliest Christians are still so very aware of imperfections. Still, there's a tinge of disappointment in themselves, a personal frustration that fuels them forward to pursue Christ who is perfection. The closer you get to Him, the more perfect you get as you understand your imperfections, which fuels you to keep following him more. This world isn't heaven, we know that. And Robert Browning put it like this. He says a man's reach should exceed his grasp, else what is heaven for? A man's reach should exceed his grasp, meaning I am reaching for a higher-level amount of holiness than I can ever grasp in this life. But that reaching, that hunger, that desire for it is what actually transforms us. Today, we're in Philippians 3:12-21. Would you look at this incredible text with me? Philippians 3:12-21. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I've made it my own. But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with mindset on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. This is the reading of God's holy, inerrant, infallible, authoritative word may write these eternal truths upon our hearts. So, what must I do in order to become perfect as the Lord calls us to become? And the word perfection actually means completeness or wholeness. Assuming that we have, presupposing that we have brokenness in our lives, in our hearts, and we know each one of us do if we're honest with ourselves. So, how do we get that perfection? Well, this frames up our four points for today. Number one, acknowledge imperfection. Number two, press on for perfection. Three, keep growing in maturity, and four, remember what's at stake. One is acknowledge imperfection, you see this in verse 12. How honest St. Paul is with himself. Not that I've already obtained this, or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. If anybody qualified as a candidate for perfection besides Jesus Christ, St. Paul was number one, the most likely candidate. He had a spotless spiritual resume on the outside as he told us verses four through six. And then, after becoming a Christian, he pursued sanctification 30 years. This is where he is in his life. He's been a Christian for 30 years. He's already written half of the New Testament. He's planted churches in all four regions of the Roman Empire. He's giving everything, sacrificed everything to follow Christ. A good friend, a member of the church invited me to mass challenge, which is a startup incubator just to see his office. And in the bathroom, there's a sign that says everybody wants to change the world, but no one wants to change the toilet paper. And that's where we find ourselves in the culture. Everyone wants to change everything. No one wants to change the little things. St. Paul actually focusing on the little things, and the most important thing, the gospel actually changed literally, had a global impact with his life. And still, he says I'm not perfect. He still says I have a long way to go. And this is one of the lessons that we can extract from this text is that successful people never stop growing, always developing. They're always expanding, learning. He said I haven't obtained this. I'm not perfect. I don't consider it my own. And actually, verse 13, there's two emphatic personal pronouns before the verb. He says, brothers, I, even I, I, even I have not yet grasped it. Incredible spiritual humility that he learned from time with Christ. Dear friend, do you willingly acknowledge your own imperfections, your own flaws, your own sins? Are you willing to own your mistakes? Are you willing to face your faults, not just to excuse them, not just to play the victim card? And we can do this by the power of the gospel. Because when we acknowledge our sins, and when we show remorse for them, contrition over them, when we repent, there's always grace. Sometimes, we tend to think too highly of ourselves. Romans 12:3, for by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. But to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. What he's talking about here is, can you look at yourself with an honest self-assessment? This is called self-awareness to do, an inventory of your life on a regular basis. Sober self-reflection, as Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." And why are we talking about this? Usually, this topic comes up January 1st, or the first Sunday of January New Year's resolutions, like inventory of life. By the way, this is the last Sunday of June, meaning the year is almost halfway over. This is a perfect opt and what a half a year it's been. This is a perfect opportunity to stop, and pause, and say, "Where am I? I need to do a self-inventory." Where am I? Where do I want to be? Where do I need to improve? What am I glaring weaknesses? What are my shortfalls? What are the things that I need to work on? What are my blind spots? Where do I need growth as a person, as a human being, as a Christian, as a friend, as a son, as a daughter, as a husband, as a wife, as a church member, as a child of the family of God, as a student, as a professional? This is a personal inventory. Where do I need to change? And by the way, how thoroughly am I talking about? Like this, do an inventory of yourself as thoroughly as you do an inventory of others. And each one of us, we do, we can see other people's glaring blind spots when they can't, and we feel that. We see them imperfections, and we criticize. With that same perspective, with that same magnifying glass, do an inventory of your life. The first step to pursuing perfection or wholeness, progress in the faith is to acknowledge that you haven't arrived. And this is what it means to grow in faith. Because you know what happens when we think we have arrived, you become proud, and complacent, and you stop moving. Growth always begins in the mind. It's a change of thoughts that leads to a change of feelings, that leads to a change of action. So, thought, I need to keep growing, I need to keep running, I need to keep pressing ahead. Feelings, I want to be the person that God has created me to be. I'm not that yet. Actions, what do I need to work on by God's grace? Philippians 3:15, let those of us who are mature think this way, starts with the mind, and if anything you think otherwise God will reveal that also to you. And by the way, this is so contrary to many people, but many actually Christians in the church. Today, a lot of Christians would rather pretend to be a healthy Christian. We'd rather pretend than change because change always takes work. It's painful. And yes, we're all sinners. Yes, we have problems. Yes, we struggle with doubts. For some people, reputation is more important than transformation. And St. Paul gives us an example of incredible honesty with himself. And by the way, this is a mark of maturity in the faith. There's absolute transparency. This is where I am. This is what I'm struggling with today, this week. And you voice it to other believers, and you ask them to pray for you. And what that does is that gets them to open up as well, and you together can fight the good fight of faith. Proverbs 28:13, whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Don't conceal, instead confess and forsake. Seasoned Christians are acutely aware of inadequacies of what you need to work on. And mature Christians don't just say, "Oh, look how far I've come." That's nice. That's good. But you also have to say in the same breath, look how far I have to go. Philippians 3:12 St. Paul says, not that I've already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own. Because Christ Jesus has made me his own. I press on. I overextend myself. I go for it with all I've got. I throw myself into this straining with every nerve, ounce, muscle to reach the price. Incredible intensity, maximum effort, he understands that there's no gain without pain. It's so counterintuitive because one of the idols in our culture is comfort. So, for us, if we idolize comfort, then the opposite of comfort is pain. If we worship comfort, we only pursue comfort. We develop a resistance, a lack of tolerance for pain. And therefore, we don't accomplish the purpose that God has for us. We understand that the most valuable things in life always take pain, work, sacrifice. To create something, to build something, to become a person who edifies others, adds value to their lives, and to serve others, to give to others, which is actually a greater blessing. It's more blessed to give than to receive. What's your motivation St. Paul? That's why whenever you see a driven person, you're like, "What are they motivated by? What gets them up in the morning? What is it?" St. Paul says, this is my motivation. Verse 12, not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but press on to make it my own because Christ has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. He starts with that. He says, Christ made me his own. I am reaching to grasp the righteousness that God has for me because Christ has already grasped me, made me righteous. And this is the interplay between justification and sanctification. Justification is monergistic. Yes, I'm dropping a big theological word on you. You can look it up. monergistic, meaning one way, justification, God says, I choose you, I regenerate you, I change your heart from stone to flesh. Now, you're mine. Now, you're a Christian. It says if He grasped us, as we're running the wrong way, turns us around and now, we're running for Him. That's monergistic justification. Sanctification is synergistic. There's an interplay between God's will, God's energy, God's desire, God's Holy Spirit, and our effort. We can't earn our salvation justification. However, there is an effort to our sanctification that there are things that we have to do. The metaphor for justification in scripture is accounting. You were in sin. God takes your sin upon himself and Christ on the cross. By grace through faith, He recommends you or accounts to you a righteousness that is not your own. That's justification, it's an accounting term. However, what St. Paul is doing here is talking about sanctification, and he doesn't use an accounting term. He's using analogy. He uses an athletic analogy. And athletes know this, if you want to win, you have to experience pain, discipline yourself in absolutely every single facet of life. So, it begins with acknowledging our imperfection, but it doesn't stop there. He continues and talks about pressing on for perfection. So, press on for perfection. Point two, Philippians 3:13, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the price of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. By the way, this is totally unexpected in our culture. Our culture stops at point one and says, "Yeah, I'm not perfect. Yeah, I acknowledge that I'm not perfect. Yes, I have things to work on." And we stopped there. St. Paul says, "No, no, I don't stop there. I'm not perfect, but I pursue perfection." The fact that he has not accomplished these goals actually motivates him, it actually energizes him. Starkly different from our culture, which uses our imperfections as a justification to stay in them. We use our sin as a justification to continue sinning more. I'm not perfect, and I can't stop what I'm doing. So, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. St. Paul says no, no, if you are a Christian, you have no excuse to remain in habitual sins, to remain in sins that dog you, and plague you for years. They keep you ensnared for years. He says fight the good fight, turn to Christ, repent of sin, ask for more the Holy Spirit, put a plan into place of how you're going to wage war on the sin on a daily basis. And he uses his sin, everything that he's done in the past, and he uses that as motivation to pursue perfection. He says but one thing I do, I press on, I press on, it's a present tense verb meaning continuous action. I keep pressing on. And by the way to press on. This is the same word that he used in verse six when he says as the zeal, I persecuted the church. As the zeal I pressed on to get the church. What's he doing? St. Paul is a master wordsmith. Every single word matters. Every single word is planned, and he's filled with the Holy Spirit. What's the Holy Spirit doing through St. Paul's gifts and talents? This is a wordplay. It's a play on what he said. He's saying with the same passion, with the same zeal that I persecuted the church, I am pursuing Jesus Christ, and His righteousness, and I'm trying to make that my own. With the same passion that you pursued sin before meeting Christ, with that same zeal, with that same energy, with that same planning, and you know what I'm talking about. Prior to meeting Christ, there is this part of our imagination that's fallen, where we plan things to do, we plan ahead to sin more, to put ourselves in a position where we provide for the flesh. And he says no, in the same way, you need to plan for sanctification. You need to plan for holiness. Tonight, how am I going to plan to wake up tomorrow, and pursue Christ to fight flesh, and be filled with the Holy Spirit? And what's his trick? St. Paul, how do you do that? And he says this one thing, I do, I do one thing. What do I do? I forget and this is verse 13. This one thing, I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. This is his trick. That St. Paul only do one thing in his life. No, of course not. He did lots of things. But he did everything he did with one purpose, to glorify Christ to the maximum, and to share the gospel. He says this one thing, I do, I proclaim Christ and Him crucified, meaning everything he did in the church as he evangelize, apologetics, as he wrote epistles, as he quipped leaders in the church, and plant the churches, as he defended the faith before kings, and before centurions. Everything he did, he did with one purpose in mind, and how did he make sure that every single detail his life was aligned with that purpose? He says, I forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead, forgetting and straining forward. This is important. Because St. Paul, actually, he had a past, what a past he had. Not only did he persecute the church, but as a young man, he was actually present. When the first martyr of the church was executed with stones by the Pharisees, St. Paul was there guarding their clothing, probably looking on with glee, and then he used that to go and persecute church. Did he have a past? Yeah. I was actually talking with someone this week, and we were talking about God, talking about faith. And he said, I got a past. Bad, I got a rap sheet. I said, well, what did you do? And his response was other realm, and it was on text, it was R-E-A-L-mmmmmmm, other realm. And I don't know what that means. But I will tell you this. St. Paul's other realm was worse than that. Because most likely, he was a murderer of Christians. He would take fathers, mothers out of homes to go and imprison them. And ultimately, they were executed for being Christians. And St. Paul says, I forget what's in the past. I forget all the bad things I did. I forget all the defeat that debilitates, and I forget all of my heartbreaking sin, my guilt, my grief, my grudges. And I also forget all the good things I've done, all of the wins. Because sometimes, wins actually drag us down. You get to a place where you did great for the Lord today, and you're like, "Yeah, I did really good." And you take your foot off the gas of continuing pressing forward. He says, I forget what's in the past, I'm not manipulated by my memories, I leave the past in the past. And by the way, this is what we talked about last week. He says every day, I count my gains as losses in order that I may gain Christ more. So, every day, he would sit down and tally up, look at the gains that he had for Christ, all the wins that he had. And he would transfer that to the lost column. And what that does is it empties up the gain column to get more of the Holy Spirit, more of Christ for the next day. You do that one day. The next day, your gain column is a little wider, it's a little bigger, so you can actually do more. Because what happens is if you follow Christ full tilt like this today, tomorrow, you're going to wake up, and you're going to be just a little stronger. And here, I want to use the term compounding sanctification, compounding sanctification. It's like compounding interest, compound interest, you know how that works? Compounding interest, if you don't know how it works, it's incredible. It's where you invest, and you make money, interest off of what your investment. And then, the next year, you make interest off the interest in the compounds. The same thing happens with sanctification. The more you pursue Christ today, the easier it is to pursue Christ tomorrow. So, perhaps you're in a place, and you walk with the Lord where you're like, "I can never even imagine freedom from this particular sin. I can never imagine not wanting this. I can never imagine the taste buds of my soul being so recalibrated that I want the good things, not the bad things. I want the helpful things, not the harmful things." And St. Paul says this is the trick. The trick is I forget what lies behind the good, the bad, the ugly, everything, and the wind. And I press on, I press forward to what lies ahead. That's what gave him power to run the race with Christ. And this is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, one of my favorite passages. He says do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So, run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So, I do not run aimlessly. I do not box as one beating the air. But I disciplined my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. Incredible. By the way, St. Paul must have been a fan of sports. And I miss sports so much. I can't wait for sports to be back. I'm praying with all I got that the NFL season is going to start on time. I'm going to root for the Pats, of course. Tom Brady, maybe a little, I don't know. I've forgiven him just a little bit. But St. Paul uses these metaphors because he says that's how you understand self-control and self-discipline. Luke 9:62, Jesus said, no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. You can't drive a car looking in the rearview mirror, you can't run a race looking backwards. Yes, we definitely learn from our mistakes and our setbacks. But we move forward with those lessons, not with shame, and guilt, and anxiety over the mistakes. We tend to remember things that we should forget. We tend to dwell on our shame and our sin in the past. Why do you keep remembering the things that God has already forgotten? When you repent of sin, God chooses to forget that sin. He cast it behind himself, he cast it into... scripture says as far as the east is from the west, and this is by the way, is a mark of maturity that you're always looking forward, not back. You don't look back to spiritual victories, you don't look back to spiritual defeat. My parents were moving a couple years ago, and we went to help them clean out. It was their house in Cranston, Rhode Island before they moved to Jamestown, and we were in the basement helping them clean out. And my wife was with me, and she discovered my closet growing up. And by this time, we were married, I think 12 years or something. And there's a there was a box with all of my trophies from football, from wrestling, from baseball, from rugby, from all over this. And she walks out in amazement holding this box, and she's like, "Why have you never shown me this?" And I was like, "Baby, because that was high school. And I'm no longer in high school." I never want to be like Uncle Rico. You know who Uncle Rico is? Napoleon Dynamite. That's the guy who lives in a van, and he's always videoing himself throwing footballs, and says he can throw footballs over a mountain, and he's a middle-aged man still living this glory days of high school. Some of you perhaps have something similar happened spiritually where you had a time when you were on fire for the Lord. And you live in those glory days. Remember what I did for Christ? St. Paul never stayed there. What are you doing for Christ today? What are you doing for His glory and His kingdom today? And by the way, looking forward, one of the reasons why we don't look forward, and press forward, and have a forward-thinking mind. For many of us, it's because we live in a culture where youth is an idol. We idolize youth, and therefore a lot of people have a hard time aging. And we can't look back and reminisce. We can't stay there. It leads to this place where we don't enjoy what God has for us today. And I love Proverbs 31:12, and this is the wise woman, the Proverbs 31 woman, strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She laughs the time. God has given me grace today. God will give me grace for tomorrow. And how do I press on for perfection? The key is verse 12, not that I have already obtained this, or I'm already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. What's this? What's the it? What's the object? Philippians 3:11, by any means possible, I may attain the resurrection from the dead. In Paul's mind, the resurrection from the dead, that's the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that's the price. So, Paul is pressing in to get Christ, to get the resurrected Christ get His power. Paul pursues perfection by pursuing Jesus. Paul pursues perfection by pursuing the light of Jesus. And he does this into his old age, and that's what gives him strength to keep going. Point three is keep growing in maturity, knowledge, your imperfections, press forward to perfection, and then keep growing in that maturity. Verse 15, let those of us who are mature think this way, and if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. I love the fact that he talks about maturity here. When you keep running after Christ by acknowledging imperfections daily, and pursuing perfection by pursuing Christ, that grows you in maturity on a daily basis. And St. Paul says, those of us who mature, we are to think this way. My daughter Milana, she's three years old today, Thursday, the day I'm preaching, this is June 25. You will listen on Sunday. But today Her birthday. And I she's turning three, she turned three, and I love the age of three. That's one of my favorite ages. Now, I'll tell you why. Because now she's in a place, and I've seen this with all four of my daughters. She's now in a place where she is growing in self-sufficiency. She's growing in maturity. She can feed herself. She knows when she needs to go to the bathroom. She can articulate what she wants. She can actually help around the house, and clean up her room. She doesn't scream as often when she doesn't get what she wants, or when she hears the word no. When you become a Christian, dear friend, you are a baby Christian. It's okay to be a baby Christian. You need someone to carry you around. You need someone to feed you, milk you. You need someone who care for you and serve you. Dear Christian, it's not okay to stay there. And I'll just be the real talk right here. A lot of the Christians I know, because of this extended adolescence in our culture, a lot of Christians I know, they stay in this little infant baby toddler child stage of Christianity. Yeah. I've got enough to get to heaven, but you don't continue to grow. And here's how you know that you are an immature Christian. How do you react when you hear the word no from someone in the church family? Number one. Number two, what kind of food do you prefer? Milk or like the mushy baby food? Or have you now gotten to a point where you love spiritual meat, steak as I call it? Children, immature Christians, they need to be served, all of the attention is on me. It's as if I am the only one that exists. That was Milana up until the age three. She's still almost there. Hopefully, we're trying to grow. And part of maturity is you now look to the needs of other people, you now want to serve other people. My daughter, Sophia is there, she's already serving, she's already caring. And that's what it means to grow in maturity. And how do we do that? We do that by pursuing maturity through God's word. Colossians 1:28-29, Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. That's the goal St. Paul says of the ministry. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. He says this is the goal of my ministry. This is the goal of our ministry is to get you to a place where you begin to serve, where you begin to feed yourself, where you begin to care for yourself, and when you begin to feed others, and care for others. And the best way to grow in this attainment, grow in this maturity is to find heroes in the faith. And that's why St. Paul says brothers, join in imitating me. Keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. This is what I talked about a couple weeks ago that there's things in Christianity that must be taught. And there's things in Christianity that must be caught, where you begin to emulate the example of other people. And this is how I seek to grow in my own life. Look at the people who are few steps ahead of you and emulate them. One of my favorite heroes in the faith, and each one of us should have heroes in the faith is George Mueller, who devoted his life to preach the gospel, and also care for orphans at age 71. He wrote a letter to some of his students at age 71. He said, you know what's the key to my success? Scripture and prayer, and he said I've read the Bible cover-to-cover over 100 times. That's incredible, over 100 times, and he said, every time it's been as if I'm reading for the first time, every time it's refreshed me, and encouraged me. What an example. What an example. Can someone look at your spiritual disciplines, scripture prayer, fasting, silence, and solitude, giving, serving, worshiping the Lord? Can someone look at your clear spiritual disciplines and say, "I want to emulate that?" With George Mueller, I want to emulate him. Every Christian, you need to know that there's always someone watching you. There's always someone following you in some sense. Right now, someone's following and you looks to you to show them the way. Someone prays because they've heard you pray. One of my favorite prayer warriors is my Uncle Victor in DC. Actually, I pray in the same temple as he prays because I've never heard someone pray as passionate as he did, and he is a hero in the faith. Someone is watching you fight the good fight, fighting your battle. Someone wants to be like you, and your Christian walk, and they're cheering you on. Someone sees Christ in you and admires your strength. Someone is borrowing your faith when they don't have any. Someone believes you're the best Christian they know, and that's so true in Boston, Massachusetts. Someone is hanging tough because you're standing tall. If someone's smiling when they think of you. Someone is thanking God for your friendship. Someone is following you. So, keep going. Don't let them down, and keep growing in maturity. Keep growing the people around you in maturity. And number four, remember what's at stake. Verse 18, for many of whom I've often told you, and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to himself. Paul says, watch those who are worthy of imitation, and weep over those who are not. And he's talking about them as enemies of the cross of Christ, the cross of Christ is the general principle of the Christian faith. It's at the very center of what we do. 1 Corinthians 1:18, for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. The cross tells us that there's nothing that we can do to save ourselves. The cross tells us that only God can save us. The cross tells us that God, His son died on a cross in excruciating pain, physical, and excruciating pain, spiritual in order to pay the price for our sin. Meaning, we can't save ourselves, and there's two categories of people who are enemies of the cross. Number one, it's legalist. And he talked about beware of the dogs, beware of the evildoers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh. That's the beginning of chapter three. It's people who say the cross isn't enough for salvation, we must add works to it in order to be justified. Says that's an enemy of the cross because you're saying Christ's sacrifice was not sufficient. The other group of enemies of the cross are those who are licentious, legalists, and those who are licentious. Meaning, these are people who say, "Oh, God forgives me of all my sin. Now, I can live any way I want, and God will just continue to forgive me." And St. Paul says, "No, you don't understand the cross." You don't understand that the sacrifice that was made, how precious the blood of Christ was. And he didn't just die on a cross to forgive you of sin. He died on the cross to free you of sin. And he says stop diminishing the value of the cross, and he says their end is destruction as verse 19, destruction here is talking about eternal punishment. It's not temporal punishment. It's destruction, not annihilationism. You don't cease to exist, but you experience the wrath of God, you experienced His judgment. And anytime I talk about the clear teaching about the judgment, for those who reject the gospel, I get pushback where people say, I can't believe in a god like that. But if you reject mercy, you can't expect mercy. If you reject mercy, you don't get mercy. So, receive mercy today. This is the beauty of the gospel. You ask for forgiveness. You repent of your sin. You turn to Christ. All of your sin is blotted out, everything, your whole other realm, rap sheet, everything is forgiven, receive it now. And if you don't receive that mercy, judgment is coming. Jonathan Edwards, commanded this sermon to you. It's called The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners, in which he argues, sin against God is a violation of infinite obligations. Therefore, there's an infinitely heinous crime. It's an infinitely heinous crime deserving an infinite punishment. We sinned against an infinite God. And that's an infinite crime, therefore, there's an infinite punishment, and that's a place called hell. And by the way, the destruction, the enemies of the cross, he says their appetite is their god. Their belly is their God. What's he talking about here? That's verse 19. What's he talking about? Is he talking about gluttons, or is he talking about just people who pursue sensual pleasure, or sexual morality? Yes. That's an outward working of something that happened on the inside. And in the context, this belly or this appetite is actually a synonym for the heart. In the ancient world, they felt with their innards, with their bowels. And what he's talking about here is emotions. He's talking about feelings, when feeling is not facts, when emotion is not truth, govern and regulate our life. When we pursue that which feels good, instead of that which is good. That's what he's talking about. And often, that leads to physical and ultimately spiritual destruction. And they get to a point where they glory in their shame, quagmire in a cesspool of shame. Where people take things that are shameful, sinful, hurtful, harmful, and we actually present them as good. We take bad things, and present them as good things, and whoever calls the bad things bad things is actually a bad person. That's where we are in our culture. And in Philippians 3:20, he says, but our citizenship is in heaven. And from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to himself. He's talking to Philippians, who treasured Roman citizenship, and he says Philippian Christians, remember that your identity is not in Roman citizenship, Americans, your identity is not in your American citizenship. Primarily, it's in Christ. We are first Christians, second Americans. And he says we're citizens of this other kingdom. And from it we await Christ will come and power and glory. He's talking about the Second Coming, which is one of the most frequently emphasized truths in scripture. It's in every book of the Bible, except for Galatians, Philemon, and 2 and 3 John. Scripture talks about it all the time. And the same way that Jesus promised He'll come the first time, and He did. He promised that He will come in the second time and He will. C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, if you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. And when it comes to the second coming of Christ, there's two truths that we see here. That our bodies will be transformed, our lowly bodies will be transformed into a body like His glorified, our current bodies are subject to disease, death, sin. He says there will be transformation, not just outwardly, but also inwardly. Then we'll never be able or desire to sin. And second of all, he says, Christ will subject all things to Himself. So, if we are not willingly subject to Him in this world, we will be forced into subjection in the next one. Everybody will bow in knee before Jesus. He will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I can't wait. So, make certain dear friend, that you today are in submission to Jesus Christ as Savior, and as Lord so that when He comes, He is your Savior and not your judge. The four points, if you missed them, acknowledge imperfection, press on for perfection, keep growing in maturity, and remember what's at stake. That's what leads to wholeness or perfection. Robert Murray M'Cheyne said, "Lord, make me as holy as a redeemed sinner can be." Keep on the path, keep running your race, and keep your eyes on the prize who is Christ. The more you get of Him, the more perfected you become, and the more joyful that you feel just like Meb as he crossed the finish line of the 2014 Boston Marathon. That said, would you please pray with me. Heavenly Father, we thank you for your word. And Lord, I pray that you give us strength to lay aside every weigh and sin, which clings so closely. And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, what a God you are. We love you, we praise you, we glorify you, we honor you, and we pray all this in the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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