- Up, In & Out: Up
- Philipians 3:4-14
- Lyndol Loyd January 12, 2020
minutes into the trip? “Are we there yet?” I want to take a moment and describe ‘there’ for our church. I want to just dream for a minute. What does ‘there’ look like for us as a church? Then I want to ask everybody, “Are we there yet as a church?”
Our vision as a church is “Connecting the generations with Jesus to impact our world.”
To help us think about this, I want to use three words that will be easy for all of us to remember – Up, In, and Out. A transforming relationship with Jesus is the upward dimension of our lives, authentic community with each other is in, being in our community, and then being sent out into Lubbock and beyond. Let me tell you what ‘there’ looks like for up, in, and out.
Those who have placed their devotion to Jesus above every other priority in life are part of the up dimension. Every single disciple, every follower of Jesus, everyone who calls on the name of Jesus, is part of this community. The result is that we’re continually becoming more peace-filled, more truth-telling, more people-loving, more gospel-sharing, more prayer-powered, more sin-freed-up agents of God’s kingdom. Our image for this is going to be a ladder.
When it comes to in, there is an authentic community with each other that is so powerful that anytime anybody wanders into our midst, the number one thing they notice is not the music or the sermon, but just how friendly everyone is. “They just love you. They just care about you. They treat you like they really want you here.” There’s no pretending, it’s based on honesty, courageous vulnerability, which becomes routine, because that’s contagious, because that’s healing. Our image for this is two chairs facing each other.
Out looks like this: Workplaces all around Lubbock are being redeemed, they’re filled with innovative, creative joy. Families are being strengthened, and marriages are getting better and better, divorce rates are going down. The hungry have food to eat. Students have the tools they need to learn. The name of Jesus increasingly appreciated and cherished in Lubbock County and beyond. Our image for this is shoes, all kinds of shoes that we wear as we go out into the community each and every day.
The question is, “Are we there yet?” No, we’re not there yet; we’re here. We can’t stay here; we have to go there. There is great. There is what God is calling us to, but right now, we’re here; we have to get there.
Today, we’re going to look at up; at life as a transforming relationship with Jesus, and what ‘there’ looks like. We’re going to study this by looking at the words of the apostle Paul, one of the great followers of Jesus. He writes to the church at Philippi about how Jesus has transformed his existence. I’d like to ask all of us to think about what ‘there’ looks like in our relationships with God. What our spiritual growth looks like. What is the destination? What is ‘there’?
Paul says in Phillipians 3:4-11,
4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 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; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ 9 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 and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
That’s an amazing, profound, deep passage. Where Paul starts is what he calls ‘Putting Confidence in the Flesh.’ We all do this. What Paul means by flesh is whatever I can do by my own power apart from God: my own achievements, my own accomplishments, my own attainments. We all do this. We do it around our money. We do it around our jobs. We do it around how we look. We do it around how smart we are.
Ironically, for Paul, putting confidence in the flesh involved religious achievements, because he was part of a religious community. Religion can keep you from going up, just like anything else can.
Paul goes through all of these things, “I was circumcised on the eighth day.” To the people of Israel, that was the best. The law said that was the number one day when somebody was to be circumcised. That’s a great start. “I was in the tribe of Benjamin.” Of all of the twelve tribes, that was maybe the highest status. They guarded Jerusalem. “I was a Pharisee.” In that day, in that community, Pharisee was a real good word. They were the elite, they were similar to the Navy SEALs of spirituality. “I was so zealous that God’s enemies were my enemies.” Then he says, “I met Jesus, and something happened. I got a new ‘there.’ Being a disciple of Jesus just became the destination. I found out His way is the life-giving way; His grace is sufficient even in my weakness. I found that trying to prove I was worthy had all kinds of bad results in my life, but I could accept a right standing before God, worthy in God’s eyes, love and forgiveness, and so on, just as a gift through this Jesus.” Paul says, “Looking up at Jesus, has caused me to do a radical reevaluation of my life.”
To explain this, Paul uses business language. He uses accounting language about gain and loss. He says, “I’ve changed the way I think about what counts as an asset in my life and what counts as a liability in my life.” He has completely transformed this.
Several years ago there was a book written by a guy named Robert Kiyosaki called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It’s about financial literacy, and it has sold over 26 million copies. Robert Kiyosaki is a rich dad today.
He says financial intelligence boils down to one thing (and one thing only, really): knowing the difference between an asset and a liability, knowing how to recognize what counts as an asset, and what’s a liability. It’s like Finance 101.
He claimed that the inability to distinguish between an asset and a liability creates more financial problems than anything else in people’s financial lives. The difference between an asset and a liability is real simple. He puts it like this: An asset is anything that puts money in your pocket; a liability is anything that takes money out of your pocket. It’s that simple.
Paul is saying, “Meeting Jesus has radically transformed my understanding of what’s a spiritual asset and what’s a spiritual liability.” By the way, we all deal with this, whether or not we think we’re people of faith.
We’re all figuring out, “What can I count on for my worth, for my identity, for my security, and what can I not? What’s trouble? What’s weighing me down?” We all do this. Paul says, “Meeting Jesus has radically transformed my understanding of what’s actually an asset I want to build my life on and what’s really a liability.”
The way you tell whether something is a spiritual asset or not is to ask, “Does it make me dependent on God, or does it make me self-reliant?”
Does the presence of this attainment, achievement, dynamic, in my life make me more humble or more arrogant? Does it help me love people, or does it make me judge them? Does it make me a more generous person, or does it make me more of a hoarder? Does it build up my faith? Does it help me put my identity in Jesus, or try to build my identity on my own?
Again, ironically for Paul, his confidence in the flesh tended to be around religion, because people can do that. Paul says, “What was to my profit, I now consider loss. What I had put on this side, I’m shifting all of that over here.
Why? “Because I have one great asset right now, and the great asset I have right now is Jesus. It is to know Jesus. That doesn’t mean just know about Him; that means to experience life together with Him in His way every moment of my day.”
That’s it. That’s what I want. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, His resurrection power in my life, my day, my problem, right now. I want to know the fellowship of His suffering. I want to become like Him in His death. He died. I have some stuff I have to die to, and I want to do that.
Why? Because then I can be raised to His life. I want to die to whatever will keep me from life with God.
I have a picture of this. This is a paper shredder. I was thinking, all of us have things in our lives that we’re tempted mistakenly to count as assets. We build our identity, our personhood, our worth around them. They just mess up our ability to connect with God, and we ought to die to them. I was thinking, symbolically, what is there you need to put in this shredder if we had shredders all over the place?
I have a few items here, and you tell me whether you think they’re an asset or a liability in light of the kingdom. Here is my doctoral diploma. It’s not from Harvard, but Asbury Theological Seminary, it is a solid accredited school. For me, living where we do, in this place with all of its values and who matters and who doesn’t matter, the idea of being smart, do educational credentials make me more likely to humbly depend on God, or do they tempt me to be self-sufficient? Is this likely, spiritually, to be an asset or a liability? It has to go in the shredder. It doesn’t mean education is a bad thing; it just means it’s going to tempt me to be away from God if I’m not careful.
This is my resume. Does a résumé tend to make you more humble? Do you write on there all kinds of reasons for humility? No, what do you write on a résumé? We go to seminars to write the most impressive-sounding accomplishments we can on these. Is this likely to be an asset or a liability? Spiritually, a liability. It has to go in the shredder.
This is a certificate. It’s actually an Award of Merit. Is this an asset or a liability? It’s a liability, so it has to go. Otherwise, I’m tempted to say, “Let me impress you with that.”
This is a credit card. What do you think? Asset or liability? Asset, absolutely, because this has Brian Brownlow’s name on it! I’m not putting that in the shredder.
Now the question is, for you, what needs to go in the shredder? This is going to be painful, guys. It just is.
What am I tempted to clutch? What am I tempted to build my life, my identity, my worth, my security, my sense of well-being on? It’s an illusion, and one day I’m going to see that it keeps me from love, from humility, from dependence, from reality. I have to die. We have some dying to do. It’ll probably be concrete, it was for Paul.
Paul says he died to all this stuff. He really did. When he followed Jesus, that meant he had to leave a community where he had all kinds of status. All that stuff, that whole list he wrote? That wasn’t just abstract. He experienced the pain of utter loss of status and well-being in that community. He died to all that stuff. It’s probably going to be kind of concrete for you. I don’t know what it is.
This is just like the incarnation that Jesus talked about. He said, “To what shall I compare life in the kingdom of God? It’s like a guy who discovers a treasure buried in a field. He buries it back there, and he goes, and in his great joy he sells everything he has to get that one treasure.” Paul says, “That’s me. I’m selling everything else. I can’t stay here; I have to go there, because that’s life with Jesus. He is the only thing that matters.”
Now this is what’s so cool. This is the apostle Paul talking, this amazing life, but here’s what he goes on to say in Philippians 3:12-14, “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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
“Am I there yet? Not yet. I’m still here, but I can’t stay here; I have to go there, so I do this one thing.” Then he uses this great and powerful image of a runner who has to win the race, straining toward what is ahead, forgetting what is behind. That doesn’t mean I don’t learn from yesterday. It means whatever happened yesterday, if I messed up, I let go of it. If I had something great happen, I don’t rest on those laurels. I cannot allow yesterday to stop my devotion to Jesus today.
Then straining toward what is ahead is the picture of a runner in a race, body bent over, hand outstretched, head fixed forward, never looking back, eyes locked on the finish line. “I can’t stay here; I have to go there, so I do this one thing.”
It’s the same image in Hebrews 12:1-2: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
It is a powerful thing deciding where to fix your eyes. Because wherever you fix your eyes, your mind will follow; your heart will follow. When I wake up in the morning, instead of being overwhelmed by all I have to do, the first thing I do is just look up. “Jesus, would you go through this day with me? I get to be alive another day.”
When I’m with somebody, I look up, “Jesus, would you bless this person?” When I go to work, and I have all of these things to do, I look up. When I have a problem, I don’t live in my own inadequacy; I look up. When I’m tempted, which I will be because I’m still living here, I look up. When I have sinned, when I have messed up and blown it, which I will do because I’m still here, I look up.
Now the Bible’s term for looking up is ‘worship.’ There’s a great sentence from Brother Lawrence’s little book on practicing the presence of God, “…as we nourish our souls by seeing God in his exaltation, we will derive a great joy at being his.” This is the upward dimension of our lives. This is what “there” looks like.