October 20, 2020: 20th Sunday of Petecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that life is a journey taken one step at a time.  Sometimes we walk, sometimes we run, sometimes we stop and rest, but the journey always continues on.  Today infuse in us a will to go forward toward the prize—heaven.  And add heavenly wisdom to our lives as we go forward.  Amen


TEXT:  Philippians 3: 12-21

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          When you were a kid, full of life, seemingly indestructible, and ready to go out with your friends for the night, did your parents ever tell you: “Just remember who you are?”  Mine did.  What did they mean by that?  Was it just remember your parents and relatives?  Was it simply recall your name?  Or, was it: always act as the baptized child of God that you actually are? 

          With age is supposed to come: wisdom.  With age comes seeing, anticipating, and avoiding past mistakes.  With age comes the wisdom of hearing the voice of conscience a little louder in your ear.  With age comes following God’s way instead of the allure of sin. 


          The race of life isn’t easy. St. Paul knew that.  Think of his early life.  He was smart.  He was trained by Gamaliel, the best teacher of his day.  He was the star pupil.  His health and ability were head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries.  He was a religious Pharisee, the group everyone looked up to as the most holy folks in the land.  He became a member of the Jewish ruling council at the earliest of ages possible.  He was their “golden boy” who someday would help lead the nation and their ‘church.’  This helps explain his verve to arrest Christians and stamp them out.  He even was a cloak-holder for the mob that stoned Stephen, the 1st martyr.  He was so cock-sure of Himself!  Yes, he embraced it when others talked about him as the perfect example of Phariseeism.  He was arrogant and hell-bound, however. 

          Then the Lord found him on the road to Damascus and humbled him.  God converted him and Paul became everything he formerly loathed.  He became a Christian.  He became blinded by the awesome vision of God’s grace.  He became totally dependent upon Jesus instead of himself.  And for the next 25 years Paul learned everyday what the Bible says: “God humbles the proud and exalts the humble.”  That humbling process is history and the stuff of heavenly legend. 

          Now as a wiser man, gray haired and plagued by the aches and pains of age, Paul focuses on heaven and what awaits him resulting from God’s grace.  His humility and his Godly wisdom now shine forth all the more clearly.  He says: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, 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.”  In short: when I was younger, I thought I knew it all.  Then I learned how much I didn’t know about God and about life.  And now I’m not impatient, but just thankful to walk along and learn for Him, instead of raging against His path for me.


          Life is about God leading us through life’s humbling process.  Part of that is learning from our mistakes and part of that is holding tight to “whatever is true, noble, excellent or praiseworthy” that He has taught us.  “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already obtained.  Join with others in following my (Christian) example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  For, as I have often told you before and now say again with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”—Just as mine used to be when I craved human power and human applause. 

          Very few young people understand their place in the world.  They are unsure of themselves and so they naturally follow the crowd—as Paul did when young.  Many today have health, some wealth, and all crave possessing the feeling of importance.  So they do whatever is necessary to feed their ego—even when it runs contrary to God’s truth and His guidelines in the commandments.  Yes, many baptized children of God fall for this clap-trap.  They center their minds on earthly things and think they’ve got God all figured out.  “Yeah I’m forgiven.  Yeah, Christ loves me.  Now let me get on with my life!” 

          Ah, such people forget that Christ IS THEIR LIFE!  Grace isn’t just a happy word, it’s the most vital word in this life because it bears final fruit in the life to come.  Earthly existence is spring training.  The afterlife is winning the 7th game of the World Series!

          Spiritual maturity isn’t about taking any of this for granted—even right now.  In fact, true wisdom is playing out the game of life right now and winning because you keep your eyes of the prize and don’t let your guard down.  “But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly, yes eagerly,  await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies (and minds) so that they will be like his glorious body.”

          “Act who you are.”  Whatever your age, act who you are.  Jesus didn’t die to save you and send the Spirit to work saving faith within you just so that you could throw it all away.  He didn’t give you amazing gifts of grace just so that you could forget about using them.  Keep your eyes on the prize—heaven and the glories that await—by living out the truth that ‘whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

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