We are surrounded by a society that casually pursues religion, so why should Christians be any different? In this message on Philippians 3:1-14, pastor David Platt teaches us that God calls his people to do extraordinary things. The walk of the Christian life is one marked by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in order to be his handiwork.
- They treasure Christ above everything this world has to offer.
- They trust in Christ to provide everything they could ever need.
- They pursue Christ with obsessive passion.
- They look forward to the prize of his praise.
Don’t Waste Your Life – Part 2
If you have your Bibles, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to Philippians 3 and, as you’re turning there, to pull out those notes from your Celebration Guide that you received when you came in. I want to remind you of the truth we began diving into two weeks ago.
God wants to raise up men and women in His church whose lives count for His glory on the landscape of human history. Ladies and gentlemen, we have been reminded that each of us has one life. What are we going to do to make it count for His glory? “David, what are you going to do with the life that I’ve entrusted to you? Are you going to make it count?” Faith family, what are you going to do with the lives God has entrusted to you? You’ve got one shot at it. What are we going to do to make our lives count for the glory of Christ in the landscape of human history? What does it look like for our lives to count for His glory?
Philippians 3:1—14. We read it a couple of weeks ago. I want us to revisit it, read the whole passage, get caught up to speed. We got through one characteristic of people like this two weeks ago. We’ve got the, hopefully, surmountable task of getting through the next three in the next few minutes. Look at Philippians 3:1.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has 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 legalistic righteousness, faultless.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 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 and may 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. 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, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
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.
Four Characteristics in Philippians 3:1—14
Four characteristics of men and women whose lives count for the glory of Christ in the landscape of human history. We looked at the first one. They treasure Christ above everything this world has to offer. The many treasures of the wasted life: Family heritage, social status, biblical knowledge, even religious activity, a moral lifestyle. The only treasure of the life that counts is Christ. We have found something worth losing everything for. They treasure Christ above everything else this world has to offer.
They trust in Christ to provide everything they could ever need.
The second characteristic of men and women whose lives count for His glory on the landscape of human history is they trust in Christ to provide everything they could ever need. They trust in Christ to provide everything they could ever need. When you get to verse 8, Paul says, “I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.” Then, in verse 9, he equates gaining Christ with another phrase: “Being found in him.” So, to gain Christ is to be found in Him. So, Paul has made it clear. Everything is a loss; there is a big loss over everything in this world, even the greatest things this world has to offer…big loss over them in order to gain Christ, be found in Him.
So, when you’re found in Him, what does that mean you gain? If you’re going to lose everything, then what do you gain? Well, I think that answer comes out in a few different ways in verses 9 and 10. First of all, what we gain: His righteousness. We gain His righteousness. It covers, it completely covers our sin. He says in verse 9, “…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.” Paul has already made it very clear to the Judaizers, people who were trying to add a bunch of rules and regulations you had to do in order to get to God…Paul had made it very clear that no matter how good you are, no matter how long your list is of things that you’ve done, your righteousness is not enough. You need the righteousness of Christ.
Now, righteousness, a two dollar theological word that has huge ramifications for our lives. I’m convinced that the ultimate question for every single one of us in this room, whether you are a Christ follower or not, whether you’re a member of the church or not, the ultimate question for every single one of us in this room that we must face in this life…ultimate question of the universe is, “How can I, a sinner, be made right with God who is holy?” All of eternity hinges on the answer to that question, and there are all kinds of religious traditions that answer that question by saying, “You do this and this and this, and you can be made right with God.” All kinds of lists for you to follow.
Faith in Christ in Philippians 3:1—14
Paul comes on the scene, and he says, “There’s nothing you can do. It is only through faith in Christ.” The translation there…some translations might even say, instead of through faith in Christ, it may say, “Through the faithfulness of Christ,” as it’s the faithfulness of Christ, His righteousness, that when we trust in His righteousness, the beauty of Scripture is that His righteousness becomes ours; His righteousness covers all of our sin, that when God looks at our lives when we have trusted in Christ, He does not see the filth of our sin; He sees the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ, credited to us. His righteousness covers our sin. It grieves my heart to see how, even in the way sometimes we respond to these things, we almost have come to the point where we expect church leaders to fall. I remind you that the leader of the church, the Head of the church, has never fallen, and He will never fall. He is perfectly righteous, and His righteousness covers our sin. He not only forgives us of it, but His righteousness empowers us over sin. So, we don’t have to go through this life saying, “Where’s the next church leader that’s going to fall?” because the righteousness of Christ enables me, other church leaders, to stand above sin by the righteousness of Christ. God, may it be so. His righteousness covers our sin.
Number two, His power guarantees our resurrection. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. Word there “dunamis” in the New Testament, from which we get the word “dynamite” today. It means power, the power of His resurrection.
Now, we’re about to see where Paul talks about suffering. You think about Paul’s life, how huge the power of the resurrection of Christ was for him. The guy was stoned, the guy was kicked out of cities. He’d stand up and preach and everybody would get mad at him, would beat him up, would throw him out of the city, leave him on his own, leave him to die. He was shipwrecked, imprisoned. Go to 2 Corinthians 11:22—28 and see a whole list. If you ever think you’re having a bad day, just check that Scripture out. It’ll put things in complete perspective.
How do you overcome in the middle of all those things that Paul went through? You overcome because you know there is coming a day when the trumpet will sound and the dead in Christ will rise first, and we will go, and we will be with Him forever. Our bodies will be resurrected with Him. That is power. That’s the power of His resurrection, and it is a gain.
We’ve written loss over everything. Over here, we’ve got a righteousness that covers our sin and power that guarantees our resurrection.
Number three, not only His righteousness and His power, but His satisfaction transcends our suffering. His satisfaction transcends our suffering. Now, here’s where it gets really good, but we’ve got to get our arms around this. When we see Paul saying, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection,” we’re thinking, “Paul, I’m with you. I want to know the power of the resurrection, too.” Then, he says, “And I want to know the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” and it’s at this point that we think, “Paul, I’m not sure I’m with you anymore.” Do we want to participate in Christ’s sufferings? Is that our desire across the room? “I want to know the sufferings of Christ.” Why would Paul say that? That is so against our mindset, even our Christian mindset.
Well, let’s unpack this for a second. Paul’s already made it clear that he wrote the word “loss” over everything, even every good thing this world has to offer, right? People, things, biblical knowledge even. He’s written “loss” over it all compared to the greatness of knowing Christ.
Now, I want you to think about what suffering is. Suffering, if we brought it down to its base level, is mainly…and I don’t want to in any way minimize suffering, but suffering is the taking away of things that this world has to offer us, good things and bad things. Suffering is the taking away of our job. That brings suffering. Our finances. If we were to lose our home, if we were to lose our children or our spouse: Suffering. We were to lose our reputation, our esteem among our peers. We were to lose our strength, our health, our sight, our hearing. All those things would bring about suffering. It’s where suffering comes from. However, here’s the deal: If we have written “loss” over all those things, then when God calls us to forfeit some of those things, it’s actually not a loss because you’ve already lost them. It’s a gain because losing these things, no matter how precious they are…and I don’t want to minimize the pain that goes with losing these things. It’s a very real pain; it’s a pain Jesus knew when we wept in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is not a superficial joy in the middle of suffering. This is a deep, abiding joy because when those things are taken away, the only thing that does, if you’ve written “loss” over them, is it drives you deeper into the gain you have in Christ. You depend more on Christ when you lose this or that over here. Then, you need Christ more, and you treasure Christ more.
Isn’t that what Paul said in Philippians 1:21, when he said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is…” What? “…gain.” How can dying be a gain? Verse 23: “For me, to depart and be with Christ is better,” he says, “better by far.” He says, “Dying is gain for me because if I die, I’ve completely got Christ. So, you take my life from me? I’ve already written ‘loss’ over that. I’m going to gain more of Christ, so take my life from me.” That frustrates you if your Paul’s jailer. “You keep me alive, I’m going to preach the gospel like it’s going out of style. You kill me, I’ve got more of Christ. Either way, I’m a happy man.” That is a joy that transcends anything this world could ever offer us. Now, you see how…why we can risk our very lives, even to the point of death. Why? Because it is in dying that we most gain Christ. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Thanks be to God, He’s taken it away through Christ. It’s gain now.
Now, there’s a word here for us today because this flies right in the face of our society and our culture. We live in a society and culture…we are all, including myself, engrossed in a culture where everything is centered on minimizing suffering and maximizing comfort in this life. We go to our jobs, and we work so that we can maximize comforts for our family, so that we can get things for our family, so that we can live well. The whole American dream is made to center on getting a good education and getting a good job and having a nice family and being able to retire well, to live well.
That is the goal, and if we buy into that, if our goal is to minimize suffering and maximize comforts, then I’m convinced we’ll face two consequences from that. Number one, we will never come to the point where we treasure Christ like He desires to be treasured, because we’ll continue building bigger barns and storing up more treasures on this earth, and we will have our minds and our hearts choked by the pleasures of this world where we’ll never see the pleasure in Christ. Second, I’m convinced, if that is our philosophy in the church, we will never fulfill the Great Commission. It’ll never happen because if our desire is to minimize suffering and maximize comforts, then we won’t risk our families and our finances and our jobs for the sake of making the glory of Christ known. That will be a foreign concept to us, and we’ll hold onto those things, and God will get His job done another way, and it will be written across our lives and across our church: “Wasted.”
God Shows His Greatness Through Those Who Trust Him
However, if Philippians 3:9—10 begins to take root in our hearts, and we say, “I will lose everything in order that I may gain Christ; there is nothing this world can do to take that away from me,” it’s then and only then that we will begin to see the power of penetrating the inner cities of urban America with the gospel and the hardest-to-reach places in the world with the gospel, because we will be a people who are showing the world…in Birmingham and in all nations, we will be people who are showing the world that Christ is our treasure, and nothing this world can give can even compare to Him. We will complete the Great Commission, and it will be written above our lives and our church, “This life and this death counted for my glory. This church counted because they didn’t embrace my resurrection apart from embracing my sufferings.” God, help us not to embrace part of Christ. Now, if He gives us His righteousness to cover our sin, His power to guarantee our resurrection and satisfaction over our suffering, then I think we’ve got a God who we can trust with just about anything. Anything. To provide everything that we need. I believe God delights in showing His greatness through those who radically trust in Him. God delights in showing His greatness through those who radically trust in Him.
Case in point: I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, one of the biographies I had read in Kazakhstan. Another biography I had the opportunity to read was that of George Mueller. I don’t know if you’re familiar with George Mueller, but basically, he pastored a church for 66 years in Bristol, England. I’ve been at it nine months. God, help me to be faithful 66 years. He pastored this church, but maybe the ministry he’s most known for is his orphan ministry. During his life, he provided direct care for over 10,000 orphans. The thing that’s so interesting about Mueller is that he never took a salary, and he never once asked for money to provide for these orphans. He even deliberately went out of the way to make sure no one knew what the needs were. He would not even publicize the needs. If someone…if you were to go and ask George Mueller, “What are the needs?” he would say, “You go pray and the Lord will tell you what you need to give.” Radical trust. He started this orphanage based on that.
I want you to hear what he writes in his journal, why he started the orphanage in this way. He said, “If I, a poor man…” He had sold everything he had, given it away.
If I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith obtain, without asking any individual, the means for establishing and caring on an orphan house, there would be something which, with the Lord’s blessing, might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God, besides being a testimony to the consciences of the unconverted of the reality of the things of God. [Pay attention close.] This then was the primary reason for establishing the orphan house. The first and primary object of the work was that God would be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow laborers, whereby, it may be seen that God is faithful still and He hears prayers still.
There were times where the orphans would gather together for dinner at night. There would be no drink on the table. Nothing for them to drink. They would be praying, and it’s at that point that someone, a milkman, would show up and give food to the kids. It’s story after story after story of God saying, “I will show my faithfulness through you if you will trust me to do it.”
Overview of his life: Never asked for one penny, and he built five orphan houses for 10,000 orphans, he circulated nearly two million Bibles, he published and gave away over three million books, gave thousands of dollars to aid missionaries overseas, and by the end of his life, this guy who never asked for money had given over 7.5 million dollars worth of gifts to the needy, both in Bristol and around the world. God is rich. He is rich, and He desires to show His faithfulness to those who trust in Him.
At age 92 or 93, he led a prayer meeting at his church on Wednesday night, went back to his room. The next morning, one of the men from his house came to give him something to drink and found him dead next to his bed. The biographer says, describing the funeral, “Tens of thousands of people reverently stood along the route of the simple procession. Men left their workshops and offices, women left their elegant homes or humble kitchens, all seeking to pay a last token of respect.” Here’s the best part: “A thousand children gathered for a service at the orphan house No. 3. They had now, for a second time, lost a father.” A life that counts. God, make us a people who radically trust in Him with everything that’s going wrong in our lives. They trust Him to provide everything they need.
Pursuing Christ with obsessive passion in Philippians 3:1—14
Third characteristic: Men and women whose lives count for the glory of Christ in the landscape of human history pursue Christ with obsessive passion. They pursue Christ with obsessive passion. “Not that I’ve already attained all this, already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” That word, “press on”, is really cool because it was used up in verse 6 when he talks about how he persecuted the church. It’s actually the same word that’s used up there to describe his zeal in going after the church. What a reversal Christ does in our hearts. This guy who was so zealous in running after the church is now so zealous in running after Christ. He “presses on” literally means to run or follow after, ran after them.
Now, Paul uses athletic imagery all throughout his letters. This is probably one of his favorites. Obviously, he was a sports fan. Guys, we can identify with Paul. He was a sports guy. In fact, I’m convinced Paul was a Georgia fan. You laugh, but look at Philippians 3:2. “Watch out for those dogs.” There you go. All right. Okay. Complete misinterpretation and abuse, but couldn’t resist.
A sports fan. He used the athletic imagery at different times. Running was one of his favorites. Acts 20:24: “I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race, complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of his grace.” He gets to the end, 2 Timothy 4:7, and he says: “I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” He pictures himself running toward Christ.
Now, the question we ask at this point, the question that I think pervades the contemporary church is this: “Why follow hard after Christ? If I am found in Christ already, then why do I need to run after Christ? If what you said is true and His righteousness covers my sin and His power guarantees my resurrection, then what do I have to worry about? I don’t need to run after Christ; I’m found in Christ.” Here we see a picture that we’ve got to get our arms around. A. W. Tozer: I don’t agree with everything he said, but he said some very, very strong words about this particular issue. He said,
In the church today, everything is made to center upon the initial act of “accepting” Christ [which, incidentally, is a term not found in the Bible] and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. Christ can be received without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is saved, but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him. But come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.
There’s a word for us here. There are many of us in this room whose Christianity has slowed to a stall at best. The idea of seeking with obsessive passion after Christ is nowhere evident in our lives. So, we need to stop asking this question, “Why follow hard after Christ?”, and we need to start cultivating some of the qualities that Paul is showing us here in the Word. Number one, a holy dissatisfaction with casual or comfortable Christianity. A holy dissatisfaction with comfortable Christianity. Now, that might sound like an oxymoron, holy dissatisfaction. You look later in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things…I’ve found the secret of being content in every situation.” “What do you mean? I need to be discontent or dissatisfied?” Well, Philippians 4 is talking about how Paul has learned to trust God to provide every single thing he needs, and we need to be content in that, no question. However, Paul is saying very clearly, “I’m not there. I haven’t obtained this; I’ve got a long way to go.” This is the author of much of the New Testament, the starter of most of the churches in the New Testament, saying, “I’ve got so far to go in my pursuit of Christ.” He is expressing a holy dissatisfaction with where he is, a discontentment with his knowledge of Christ and his experience of Christ.
Are you discontent with your knowledge of Christ? Are you dissatisfied with your experience of Christ? I don’t mean that in the sense where you have tried Christ, and you haven’t found Him satisfying. I mean that in the sense of you have tried Christ, and you have seen His satisfaction in such a way that you’ve realized you want more of it and more of it and more of it, and you can’t get enough of His satisfaction. “I want to know Christ. I’m running after Christ. I’m pursuing Christ.”
The Adversary lulls us to sleep by the pleasures of this world and the busyness of our lives. A month in Kazakhstan will do you good when it comes to that, about the busyness of our lives that keeps us from pursuing Christ, because we are pursuing everything else in the world. God, give us a holy zeal, dissatisfaction for more of Him, more of Him. Do you realize 1 John 3:2 says there is coming a day, “Dear…children of God,” it says, when “we shall be like him” and we will “see him as he is.” Anybody looking forward to the day when we will see Christ as He is? We will know Him fully? If that’s true, then from this day until that, run. Pursue Him. Get to know His fullness more and more every day. Don’t sit back in a comfortable Christianity that waits for heaven, only to find on that day that you wasted all of these years where you could’ve been pursuing Him and experiencing His satisfaction more and more and more. A holy dissatisfaction.
Number two, a fresh understanding of the degree to which Christ has followed hard after us. I love this phrase. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Isn’t that a great phrase? Literally, says that for which Christ Jesus “seized” me, “caught” me. Some translations say “arrested” me. Look at Acts 9. You see Paul; he was seized by Christ. He was caught by Christ, arrested by Christ. It turned his whole life upside down.
Ladies and gentlemen, the fundamental reason why we follow hard after Christ is because He has followed hard after us. He has pursued us with His passion, He has allured us with His grace. It only makes sense to run after Him. God, help us never to forget the magnitude of the fact that He has called our names. Help us never to get over the height and depth and width of the walls He has crossed, and the barriers He has gone over to get to you. Why do we gain Christ? Why do we pursue Christ? Because He gained us with His love.
A fresh understanding of the degree to which Christ has followed after us, and finally, a single-minded discipline that governs our lives. When he gets to the middle of verse 13, he says, “But one thing I do…” Our translations really kind of mess us up here. Those words, “I do”, are implied, but they’re actually not there in the original language of the New Testament. They help us understand what Paul’s saying, but literally Paul says, “But one thing…” and he stops. It’s kind of an abrupt stop, “One thing…one thing captivates me,” he said. Just one thing. Isn’t that a picture in the New Testament? One thing? “Rich young ruler, one thing you lack.” Talking to Martha, who’s so busy doing all these things, “One thing is important.” The psalmist in Psalm 27, “One thing I desire.” One thing. Guy who’s blind, and he’s healed by Jesus in John 9, “One thing I know.” We are inundated with many things in this room and each of our lives is inundated with many things. Don’t miss this. We do realize that with all the things we juggle and all the things on our plates that we can spend our lives giving ourselves to countless things, and in the end, accomplish very little. However, we can give ourselves to one thing: Gain Christ, pursuing Christ, and in the end, accomplish an eternal reward.
They pursue Christ with obsessive passion. You look at men and women throughout Scripture and church history whose lives have counted for the glory of Christ, and there was a single-minded discipline that governed their lives. It governed their lives. It caused them to say, “I’m going to guard with everything I have this one thing.”
The prize of His praise.
Last characteristic: They look forward to the prize of His praise. They look forward to the prize of His praise. Now, Paul says, “Forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…” What’s the goal? The goal is to win the prize, okay? What’s the prize? Here’s where it gets really good. The prize, he says, is “that for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” So, the prize of our salvation is also the purpose of our salvation. You see that? The prize of our salvation is the purpose. “This is why God called me.”
This is one of the points in my study, especially in Kazakhstan where I saw in this text a picture that I had missed completely before. Because I’m convinced, based on this text, that there is…this prize is two-fold. One is obvious; one, maybe not so obvious. First of all, the two-fold prize in the life that counts. Prize number one is the completion of our salvation. Undoubtedly, the thing that is driving Paul, he wants to be united completely with Christ. He is longing for the day when he will be in Christ completely and perfectly, and that is why Christ called him. Remember Romans 8:29—30? “Those God foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” In other words, all of those whom God calls to salvation, He calls to be glorified in Christ, to be complete in Christ.
This is the beauty of what Christ is doing in our lives on a daily basis that will one day culminate in glorification in heaven. The fact that one day our salvation will be complete, that the work that He’s begun in every single one of our lives, He is faithful to carry on to completion. As a result, what that means is, when we look forward to the prize, it means we live to manifest His glory. We live to do that now because we are looking forward to the day when we will do that forever, perfectly. We live to manifest His glory. That’s the prize. I’m going to know Christ and glorify Christ completely and perfectly.
However, what’s interesting is, when you look at this word, the “prize” for which God has called me, and you look at how Paul has used it other places, you find something really interesting. You turn over to 1 Corinthians 9, and he’s using the imagery of a race again. You can turn there real quickly if you’d like, or I’ll just read it. Listen to this. He says, “Do you not know that in race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?” This is 9:24. “Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
What is he talking about is the prize there? Well, you look at what happens before that and listen to what he says: “I am free and belong to no man. I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible,” and what he does is he goes on talking about “to the Jew, I become like a Jew in order to win some.” He gets to the end of that paragraph, and he says, “To the weak, I became weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 9 is the prize of running after Christ is taking others along with me and introducing them to Christ. “The prize,” he said, “I don’t want to be disqualified when I get to the end and I haven’t used my life to lead others to Christ, taken the gospel He’s entrusted to me and poured it into others.” So, what we’ve got is a picture of Paul referencing other people as the prize of this salvation.
Does that sound familiar when you look over in Philippians 4:1? “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” Stand firm. You are my joy. You are my crown. The people that I’m pouring my life into. You go to 2 Thessalonians 2, you’ll see the first part of this, the completion of our salvation. We will glory in Christ Jesus, but then you go back to 1 Thessalonians 2, and what you’ll see in verses 19—20 is the same thing we see in Philippians 4:1, that the prize of Paul’s salvation was the people that he had poured his life into that had come to know the glory of Christ through him.
So, could it be that the prize that we long for is not just the completion of our salvation, although that is ultimate, but it’s also the crown of their salvation. Could it be that this Christian life was intended, not just to be lived for us, but to be lived for the sake of others? So that one day, you and I will stand before God in heaven, not just ourselves completed in Christ, but with a host of other people that we have laid down our lives for, and they’re
completed in Christ, too. They’re giving glory to Christ, too. Isn’t that the picture that all of this is headed toward, the crown of their salvation?
So, we live not just to manifest His glory, but we live to multiply His gospel, because we want more and more people to come to faith in Christ. That’s why disciple-making is at the heart of the church, because we’re looking forward to the day, not just when we will be complete in Christ, but when each other will be complete in Christ. That’s what we’re longing for. That’s what we’re running for.
When I was in high school, I played baseball, and our team was really bad. We just didn’t do well at all, especially my senior year. I was starting on the team…I shouldn’t be proud of that, I guess…but we just weren’t good, and there was one particular game where we were playing another team that was bad, and so, we had a chance to win or at least compete, and so we did. Got down to the last inning, and it was all tied up in the top of the last inning. We held them from scoring.
So, we were coming off the field in the bottom of the last inning, coach greets us out in front of the dugout, and he said, “All right, guys. We’ve actually got a chance to win a game.” He said, “If we don’t get right here in the bottom of the last inning, we’ll go into extra innings, and what does that mean?” We were all like, “We’ll lose?” He said, “Yeah. So this is our chance; so we’ve got to get it done here.” He said, “Here’s the plan.” He said, “David, you’re up first this inning.” He said, “We need to get you on first. Once you get to first, we’re going to steal you over to second. Once you get to second, somebody’s going to get a hit, you’re going to round third, you’re going to come home, we’re going to win the game.” I’m thinking, “Yeah right, okay? We’re going to win the game? That doesn’t happen.”
Number two, it’s dependent on me getting to first base, which is not always a guarantee. So, I go and put my helmet on, everybody’s patting my helmet, “Come on, Dave.” I go out there, stand in the batter’s box, and by the grace of Almighty God, I draw a walk. Apparently, it was too much in the power of God to allow me to get a hit, and so, God didn’t throw me any strikes, and so, I go walking down to first. I get down to first base, I look over at the third base coach. He’s giving me all the signs. Got the steal sign. So, I take my lead off first base, pitcher winds and he throws, I turn, and I start running towards second. I get about five feet away, and I start this beautiful head-first, Pete Rose slide, slide in…what do you think? Safe or out? I’m safe. Who said “out”? Give me a little credit, okay? The story would be no good if it stopped at that point. So, I got into second base. I got there; I’d done my job.
Well, the next guy who got up struck out. What a loser; didn’t walk like I did. So, what you’ve got is a situation…if you know much about baseball, this is where it has to happen. If it’s going to happen, it needs to happen right here. They get another out, the outfield can kind of relax some. If it’s going to happen, it needs to happen right here. So, the next guy comes up to bat, I take my lead off second base, pitcher winds and throws, and the guy hits the ball in between the third baseman and the shortstop. You’re groaning like, “Oh, how did you mess up, Dave?” Well, I turned, and I watched the ball go in front of me into left field, and I start hauling toward third base. I look up, and I see the coach. You’ll never guess what he’s doing. He’s doing this thing, all the way down the line. Faster than I could ever run. I’m like, “Why don’t you do this, coach?”
So, I’m like, “Touch third base, touch third base,” and so I touch third base, and then I look up, and there about ninety feet away from me is a man who’s much larger than I am, and he’s wearing a lot more equipment than I am, and I start running towards him. Everybody was out of the dugout, cheering, all the fans going nuts…like ten people there, but they were going nuts. I’m running, and I get about five feet away, start my dive, my head-first, Pete Rose slide. I slide in, and I remember my hand brushes past the plate.
At that time, the catcher puts the tag down and his glove on my shoulder. We look up at the umpire in the dust, and he yells…I’m not going to ask you what you think…he yells, “Safe! Safe! Safe!” The guys went nuts, they came running out of the dugout, we piled on home plate there. You’d thought we won the World Series. We’d won one game. It was the most glorious moment of my sports career. Let me ask you a question. What would you think if, when I was rounding third base, the thought came into mind, “You know, I could use a hot dog at this point,” and I took a little detour over there. Or what if, when rounding third base,
I look up and in the stands, for some reason, an attractive girl has come to watch us play, and I start to think, “You know, she looks better than him. I’m going to go talk to her. Hey, nice walk, huh?”, and start a conversation. Or, maybe, what if I was rounding third base, and I saw the coach, and I thought, “You know, I haven’t spent a lot of time with coach recently,” and I stop and just put my arm around him, “How’s the wife? How’s the kids?” You’d say, “Well, you’d miss the whole point. When the game was on the line, and you had one place to get to, you got distracted.”
We Are Distracted
That’s where we are in the church. We are distracted. We have given ourselves to good things. We’ve given ourselves to many good things in our lives across this room. There is one thing that counts. He is the treasure who is Christ. He is waiting for us. He has pursued us, and He has called us to trust in Him. He is longing for the day when you and I will stand before Him complete, not just, ladies and gentlemen, in our salvation, but stand complete in Him with a host of others who have come to know faith in Christ because we have laid down our lives and sacrificed everything in this world, that they might gain Christ, too. I long for the day when I will stand before Christ, and He will look at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Not just because you lived a decent Christian life, and you coasted through it, but because you lived a productive Christian life, and you made your life count for His glory. Are you willing to go on that kind of pursuit? Are you willing to throw it all aside and pursue Him with obsessive passion and take others along with you?
Will you bow your heads and close your eyes with me? This text is so rich, and I don’t know how it has spoken to your heart, whether this week or a couple of weeks ago, but I want to invite you across this room this morning. If there has been any kind of spiritual stall, stagnancy…even if there’s not been stagnancy, if there is any lack of dissatisfaction, then I want to encourage you to let the zeal of Christ well up in you and run after Him. I remind you, it is in the times of spiritual stagnation that our sins begin to take over. We’ve got to guard against that.
So, after we pray, we’re going to stand, and we’re going to sing about knowing Christ and Him being more precious to us than anything in this world, and this altar is going to be open. I pray that God raises up men and women, students across this room who run to His feet and say, “I give myself to you, I want to pursue you, I want to trust you with this or that that I’ve been holding onto. I want to treasure you above everything, and I want to live for the sake of those around me.”