Category: Philippians (Page 2 of 11)

Big Fat Zero

“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 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.” ~Philippians 3:7-9

 

 

The apostle Paul knows what it’s like to seek his own righteousness by his good works and his right beliefs. He knows firsthand about trusting in his heritage and his holy deeds. He tells the Philippians he has reasons for such confidence. He claims he has more reasons than anybody else to put his faith in his works.

I’ve been circumcised, Paul says. I know what that means. Not only that, my father is from the royal tribe of Benjamin. My dad named me after Israel’s first king. I speak both Hebrew and Aramaic. I’ve memorized the Holy Scriptures. I have diplomas from the highest rated synagogue schools. I studied under Gamaliel – he personally signed my dissertation. And I’m a Pharisee. You can’t find a more devout, more orthodox keeper of the Law than me. You can’t find anyone more enthusiastic, more on fire for our God and his commands and our traditions. I have no tolerance for commandment breakers. You want to talk about keeping every single letter of the Law? You want to compare legalistic righteousness according to doctrine and interpretation and teaching and practice? Buddy, I am it! Perfect! Blameless! Faultless! All the rituals! All the feasts! All the prayers! All the washings! I am righteous!

But Paul realized all that added up to a big fat zero. Nothing. He’s got nothing. All his life’s work, all his commandment-keeping, all it earned Paul was a righteousness of his own, not God’s righteousness. And God’s righteousness is the only righteousness that counts.

Like an auditor, like an accountant, Paul takes all his assets, all the good things, all the good works he’s done, who he is ethnically and nationally, where he lives, how he was raised – he takes all those good things and he transfers them into the liabilities column. The things he always assumed assured him of righteousness, the black ink on the left hand side of the books, he moved over to the right hand side in red. These are losses.

I’ve got a life ledger, too. I know about my good works and my right beliefs.

Raised by godly parents in the godly state of Texas. Third generation member of the Pleasant Grove Church of Christ, where I spent my childhood and formative years. My grandfathers and father, my uncles and cousins – almost all of them are elders and preachers and song leaders and deacons and teachers in God’s Church. Baptized into Christ, by immersion, for the forgiveness of sins, at the age of accountability, in church, on a Sunday morning – “Trust and Obey” was the invitation song. Dallas Christian. Oklahoma Christian University. Austin Graduate School of Theology. Two semesters of Greek! Deacon. Bible class teacher. Men’s ministry. Service projects. Communion to shut-ins. Hospital visits. Feeding the poor. Gospel preacher.

That’s my book. How much holiness does that earn me? How much righteousness do I have because of all that?

None. Nothing. A big fat zero.

Paul realized he had to lose his religion to gain the righteousness of God. And if we can’t do the same thing, we’re in trouble.

Our doctrine. Our traditions. Our practices. Our beliefs. Our good works. Our weekly Lord’s Supper. Our baptism rituals. Our food-packing and missions-giving. Our worship. The name on our sign. None of that makes you or me righteous. They’re all good things, wonderful things. But none of it makes us right with God.

I want to know Christ. This is more than a motto. This is our salvation. Christ Jesus has become for us our holiness, righteousness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). This is everything.

Now, Paul did not count his heritage or his good works as rubbish. He didn’t stop keeping God’s commands or renounce his schooling. He didn’t seek circumcision reversal surgery. Those things are not worthless. His FAITH in those things is worthless. Confidence in his own law-keeping and ritual following is rubbish. Faith in his heritage and his practices – that’s a loss, not a gain. Paul realized, as we all must, that his own righteousness cannot save him. He can only trust the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ. Us, too.

Peace,

Allan

Made Himself Nothing

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” ~ Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus did not consider his equality with God something to be used for his own benefit. Jesus saw his position and power as a way to serve others. A way to serve all. He became a servant. The Greek word in the text is actually “slave.” Deprived of the most basic human rights. No rights. No freedom. No choice. No voice. He gave up all that for the sake of others. In his own words, Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.

Our Lord never exercised his rights. He never asserted his rights.

This is so important for us to consider. As citizens of the United States of America coming off a three-day weekend celebrating the country’s independence, we should reflect on our priorities as they fall into line behind those of our Lord.

Jesus never fought for or defended his rights. He never lobbied for his rights or complained about his rights. He didn’t worry about losing his rights or step forward to keep his rights.

Christ Jesus, our King, gave up his rights. All his rights. He denied his rights.

And he invites us to do the same. He invites us to imitate him.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” ~ Mark 8:34

Jesus left everything. He considered the glory he shared with the Father in heaven nothing. He came here to suffer, to be deserted by his family and friends, to be tortured and executed  like a criminal for people like you and me. For all people.

And he didn’t have to. Jesus had the authority. He had the power. The armies of heaven were at his disposal. He had ten thousand angels on speed dial. Jesus and his followers could have marched to Rome in the morning, overthrown the government that afternoon, hang Caesar from the highest tree and still been home in time for dinner. Jesus could have given each of his apostles his own country and they could have run the government the way it needs to be run. But, instead, he gave up his rights and died. He gave himself up.

And he summons us to do the same.

Peace,

Allan

From Death to Life

“I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die.” ~John 11:25-26

There’s a scene about a third of the way through the Temple of Doom movie in which Indiana Jones and his little sidekick, Short Round, are trapped in a room inside an evil castle. Short Round accidentally trips a lever and the walls start closing in. The four walls are coming in and the ceiling is coming down and long, pointed, metal spikes are coming up out of the floor and down from the ceiling. Indy and his little buddy are going to be crushed to death! The walls are coming closer and Indiana Jones is freaking out. He’s yelling at Kate Capshaw on the other side of the wall: Pull that lever! Stick your hand in there and pull that lever! But there are bugs and snakes in the wall and she just can’t do it. The spikes are coming down and the desperation builds and they zoom the camera in tight on Indiana Jones’ face. One spike comes up against his face. Another spike comes down and presses his hat against his temple. And he looks directly into the camera and says, “We. Are. Going. To. Die.”

No, you’re not. We know you’re not. Indiana Jones will never die.

He’s lowered into a pit of boiling lava, he’s walking on the outside of an airplane at 30,000 feet, he’s captured by Nazis, he’s strapped to a rotting suspension bridge a mile above a canyon floor, he’s brainwashed by murderous witch doctors – but he never dies. He keeps rescuing the children and saving the village and restoring the sacred stones and he always gets the girl and he never loses his hat.

Indiana Jones can live that way, recklessly doing what few will dare to do, because he knows he’ll never die. Why? Because he has an arrangement with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. They’ve already determined that Indiana Jones will never die.

“Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:10

Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life, the eternal author of life, the giver of all life. He came that we may have life and have it to the full. In his death and resurrection, a new age has dawned for those of us who believe. Death has nothing on you. Neither does sin. We are living right now in the new era of his resurrection. God’s Holy Spirit lives inside us. That exact same Spirit who brought Lazarus out of the grave and rolled the stone away on that third day and sat on it – that same Spirit lives inside you!

You’ve got the resurrection inside you! You’re dangerous! You’re invincible! You can’t be stopped!

And the call is still on. It’s still on.

So we don’t cower, we don’t hesitate, we don’t slow down or back off or ever walk away. Our attitude is: You can kill me, but you can’t hurt me! We know how the story ends and that impacts how we play our part.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection!” ~ Philippians 3:10

So we love unconditionally and we forgive unflinchingly. We heal the sick and we feed the poor and we stand with the marginalized and the oppressed. We give and we serve uncompromisingly. We protect and provide for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the gate. We fight racism no matter the cost. We tear down walls no matter the opposition. And we deny ourselves and take up our crosses and unashamedly follow the one who laid down his life for the whole world!

No matter what chaos and confusion is out there, no matter what uncertainty surrounds you, sin and death do not have the final word. They do not have the final say. Our risen and reigning Lord Jesus is the author of life and he always writes the last line. And it’s good to have an arrangement with the writer.

Peace,

Allan

Do Everything

Immediately following the beautiful Christ Hymn in Philippians 2:6-11, the ancient Gospel song that describes the coming of Jesus and his death and resurrection for the salvation of the world, the apostle Paul commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling because God is at work in us according to his good purpose. So how do we do that? Any suggestions, Paul?

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life.” ~Philippians 2:14-16

This is not really what I would expect out of Paul. Maybe Peter or James, but not Paul. With Paul, I’m looking for some deep theology, some complicated insight. Where’s the rich and layered rhetoric? Where’s the complex argument? Instead, he gives us this very simple, very practical, very specific command: “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

God’s purpose for you, what God is working in you, what transforms you into a blameless and pure child of God, what allows you to shine like a star, which is God’s will for you – it all begins with “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

Everything. All things. The Greek word here is”panta.” It means total and complete. Every kind of. All of it. No matter how you translate it, there’s not a part of your life not covered here. Now, most of us are pretty good at doing most things without complaining or arguing. We’re pretty good most of the time. Some of us – let’s face it – don’t hardly do anything without complaining or arguing. Some of us aren’t happy unless we’re complaining or arguing.

At the restaurant, the customer service counter, the bank, or the post office – what happens if the people you’re complaining about or arguing with show up at your church the next Sunday? What will you say to them? You’ll have nothing to say to them! And it won’t matter because they won’t be listening anyway! Not anymore! Your Christian witness is hindered, if not completely destroyed. You don’t have any credibility.

You claim to be a child of the Almighty Creator of the Universe. You claim to belong to the eternal Lord who defeated sin and death and Satan and reigns forever at God’s right hand. You claim to be a citizen of of heaven, to belong to the everlasting Kingdom that cannot be shaken. You claim to belong to a Father who always provides and protects. But when you’re complaining and arguing, you’re telling the people around you that you don’t believe a word of it! Your behavior contradicts your beliefs. You live like your beliefs don’t really matter, they have no impact on your life.

How does your belief system and your faith, how does your allegiance to Christ and to his Kingdom, work for all the really big questions in life and solve all the planet-wide sin and suffering and death if it won’t even work at Whataburger? Or the grocery store?

We’ve got to take complaining and arguing as seriously as Paul does. Holding out the very Word of life is at stake. Shining as pure and uncontaminated light-givers in a dark world. Becoming children of God without fault, especially as the world sees us. Living free from anything blame-worthy. Beyond reproach, credible lights in a world that so desperately needs our Savior.

Peace,

Allan

$396,890 and Counting

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen!” ~Philippians 4:19-20

We are still riding the wave of Spirit energy and enthusiasm generated by our God’s actions with his people on Missions Sunday yesterday here at Central:

~ $396,890 was generously given to fund our local and foreign missions budget for 2020, far surpassing our set goal of $360,000

~ Amber, Tamara, and Craeceola publicly confessed Jesus as Lord and put him on in baptism

~ Jared Odhiambo, all the way from the Alara village in Kenya, inspired us with his powerful testimony and godly vision

~ Stephanie Goins and Robyn Terrill, from Downtown Women’s Center, honored us with their gracious words

~ The new west entrance, the play space, the coffee bar, Guest Central, and the Central Commons were unveiled to great acclaim with an open house and reception

All of this Sunday morning at Central — proof that our God is working in and through his people for the sake of his Kingdom; testimony to our Lord’s faithfulness to his salvation plans; evidence that the old has gone and the new has come!

As blessings pile on top of blessings, we are increasingly convinced that our Father is keeping his covenant promises to Central and to all of his creation. May he be glorified and may his Son be exalted for ever and ever. Amen!

Peace,

Allan

Get the Order Straight

March Madness begins today and there’s a scramble in the church offices as a few folks are making last-minute changes to their brackets. Vickie has scratched Syracuse because of their point guard’s suspension and Mary is still undecided on Kansas State. I’m going with Duke, Kentucky, Purdue, and Gonzaga in the Final Four with Duke beating Kentucky for the championship. Speaking of Kentucky, ACU’s coach, Joe Golding, is making headlines because of his pants. When ACU tips off tonight against John Calipari’s second-seeded squad, Golding will be wearing britches with a hole in the seat. You can get most of this aw-shucks-feel-good-underdog story by clicking here. How is it that Golding only gets a thousand dollar bonus for winning the Southland Conference title and making the NCAA dance? How is it that he won’t see that money until June? And why in the world does he only own one suit? I know it’s Abilene and I know it’s Church of Christ, but come on! Somebody plan a bake sale or something!

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“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2:3-4

This is what it looks like to prioritize the realities. This is how we live the Gospel together the way our God intends. You get the order straight. You always place others ahead of yourself. I always place others ahead of myself.

Not really. I’m not very good at this at all. For some really beautiful people I know, it seems natural. It seems really easy for them. But for me and, I would guess, most of us, this is not natural. We have to work at it. It’s difficult for us because we’ve all grown up being taught to assert our rights. That’s how we’re raised. Our culture has told us that our Creator has given all of us absolute rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And somehow we’ve bought into that. We come into church — all of us — believing that we deserve to be made happy, even at the expense of others. Where does that come from?

Not from our Lord.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~Mark 10:43-45

The apostle Paul didn’t make this up. This is not Pauline theology in Philippians 2. He got this from Jesus.

So, thinking the same thing and having the same love and being united in spirit and purpose is not an intellectual thing. This isn’t something you accomplish in your brain or up in your feels. This is something you do. This is about concrete expressions and physical actions. You don’t just see everybody else at your church as more important than you, you treat them that way. You don’t just understand that everybody’s needs at your church are more important than your needs, you go out of your way to meet those needs.

Paul is not saying that all Christians in the church have to come to the same beliefs and opinions on everything. That’s impossible. He’s saying, for the sake of relationships and the mission, put the beliefs and opinions of others ahead of your own.

Peace,

Allan

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