Friday, June 17, 2022

Testimonies not Resumes

 Read Philippians 3

Why are there so many unhappy and angry people in the world today?  That’s simple.  They grew up with the wrong music.  They were not here for the sixties and seventies.

Why are so many people walking around in Walmart in pajamas or down the street with their rear ends hanging out?  Once again, that’s an easy answer.  They didn’t grow up with bellbottoms and white shoes.  How could they possibly have any fashion sense?

There is a Bruce Springsteen song called Glory Days.  It’s about meeting an old friend by chance and having a few drinks in a bar.  The topic of their conversation was times gone past—glory days.

In fact I think I'm going down to the well tonight

And I'm gonna drink till I get my fill

And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it

But I probably will

Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture

A little of the glory yeah

Well time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but

Boring stories of

Glory days, well they'll pass you by

Glory days, in the wink of a young girl's eye

Glory days, glory days

Yes, note today’s date on your calendars, phones, or Bibles.  Tom worked Bruce Springsteen into the sermon.  Remember, that this song was from his days as the Boss, before he was woke and wanted guys to be able to use the women’s restroom.

I have a friend that I went to High School with long ago.  We meet up about once a year for one reason or another, but somehow one baseball game comes up every time.

It was the second round of the baseball playoffs.  We were playing Weatherford, who would go on to win State.  I was up first in the second inning.  I hit a line drive into the outfield.  There was no outfield fence.  As I was coming into third, my coach signaled for me to stop.

I came into third standing and turned to see where the ball was.  It was just getting to the relay man in the outfield. Why did he hold me at third?  I will never know but that’s where I ended the inning as the pitcher struck out the next 3 batters.

The game remained scoreless until the last inning.  Weatherford had gotten a runner to second base with two outs.  The next batter hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball to centerfield.  I was in left field and started running to back up the centerfielder—who was a vacuum cleaner on defense—except on that day on that fly ball.

He was a deer in the headlights.  He lost the ball.  I changed direction and ran straight for the ball. I was running as hard as I could and thought I might have a play on the ball. I stretched out as far as I could but was a couple feet short.  I slid across the grass for a ways and when I could look back, I saw that the center fielder had caught the ball on the bounce.

The crowd noise told me everything else.  We lost one to nothing to the team that won state that year.

Anytime that I get together with my friend—whether it’s to talk insurance, at a funeral, or at the alumni banquet, we are required by some universal law to relive that game.

Paul is still contending with the Judaizers—those who want to add conditions to the salvation that came through Christ Jesus.  Circumcision, obedience to the law, and observing feasts of the Lord were among the top contenders.

We have been here before.  There is nothing wrong with circumcision.  It was very important to those whose bloodline went back to Abraham.

Obeying the directives of the Lord is good.  Observing the feasts of the Lord is good, but none of these are a condition of salvation.

Paul put it this way to the church in Philippi, and to us. When they tell you that salvation in Christ alone isn’t enough, give them the example of my life.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

Paul noted that he checked every block.  He didn’t miss anything and he was at the top of his class. He could look back and sing Glory Days. But what were all of these achievements and accolades worth? What did all of these glory days add up to?

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 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.

The word that is translated here as garbage is skubalon.  The King James Version calls it dung.  In these parts, we call it manure. 

Paul tells us that all of the things that those who are vested in their resumes have, he has also, but values them as worthless so far as right standing with God goes.

Only in the blood of Jesus are we made right with God.  Paul counted all these things as having no value with regard to his standing with God.  He did not disown these things.

He was still a Jew.  He was still circumcised.  He still observed many aspects of the law, including some feasts. He knew his Hebrew lineage.

He was still a Pharisee.  None of these gave him a better status with God, but he would use these things to advance the gospel.

When a Pharisee came to town, he would have access to the synagogue or even the temple in Jerusalem.  Paul used his resume when it advanced the gospel, but he knew that whatever religious standing he might have that would impress men, meant nothing to God.

It was faith in Christ and faith alone that brought Paul to the same right standing he wanted for the believers in Philippi.  While the church in Philippi seemed to be doing well, it appeared that they too had to contend with those preaching Jesus Plus.

Just a side note, there was one more thing on Paul’s Curriculum Vitae that he put to use to advance the gospel.  It was his Roman citizenship.  That surely added nothing to his standing with God, but got him out of some beatings and out of prison and eventually to Rome itself.  Yes, the Roman government funded Paul’s fourth missionary journey.

Paul is calling believers—including us—not to put confidence in the things the world says are important to our relationship with God.

An elder or a pastor or a teacher is more about service than status.  Titles and positions and degrees are valuable only when attached to a testimony about how you used them to bring glory to God.

Paul challenges us to lean forward into our discipleship.  As we work out—live out—our salvation let’s press on towards the goal of bringing glory to God.

Paul has this interesting theme that we see on occasion.  God made me right with him, but I’m not there yet.

God did everything required to put me in right standing with him, but I am still working on living up to that right standing.

God already sees the masterpiece that he made us to be, but we get to live through this whole work-in-progress business.

What are we to do?  Lean forward.  Press on. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and the things of God.  That means we stop looking back.

We can sing Glory Days every once in a while, but our future, our hope, our destination lies in the Lord, Jesus Christ, and we lean into it when we move his way.

Our salvation is by grace through faith.  It’s all from God, but our response—our discipleship—compels us to press on and become the person that God already made us to be.

We press on towards the goal.  We lean into becoming the masterpiece that God has already made us to be.

People may see your resume, but God sees the heart.  If our hearts are listening to the Spirit that lives within us, we are pressing on towards lives that bring glory to God.

Let us live up to what we have already attained.



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