December 31, 2020
Pastor John Hering
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus also took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it yet, but there is one thing I do: Forgetting the things that are behind and straining toward the things that are ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, let all of us who are mature continue to think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you too. 16 Only let us think the same thing and walk in line with what we already have attained.
17 Brothers, join together in imitating me and in paying attention to those who are walking according to the pattern we gave you. 18 To be sure, many walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. I told you about them often, and now I am saying it while weeping. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their appetite, and their glory is in their shame. They are thinking only about earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. We are eagerly waiting for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 By the power that enables him to subject all things to himself, he will transform our humble bodies to be like his glorious body.
How fast can you run? It was the evening of May 6, 1954 when it happened. It had not been recorded happening before this day. But, since it happened hundreds of other people have done it. And I’m guessing there are several of you here this evening that have come very close.
So, how fast can you run a mile? If you timed me, you’d need a calendar not a stopwatch. When was the last time you ran? Years ago? Last month? Last week? Well, I would guess all of you have been running around quite a bit these past couple of weeks, right? I don’t recall anyone coming up to me a few weeks ago and saying, “Hey, Pastor! I’ve got so much extra time on my hands I was wondering if I could help you out?” But, I did have more than one say, “These are such busy days! I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done?!” I know, I can’t wait to retire—but wait—retired folks will tell you get more busy because their calendar gets jammed up! Time management has become quite a topic for webinars, podcasts and even workshops at our Grow Conference. I get it. We all try to balance home, work, personal time off and personal time to refuel our spiritual batteries. I know single people have it tough, too—you have to grocery shop, oil change, garbage to take out, laundry to do, schoolwork, job seeking, job getting, job changing, etc.. This fast-paced life might be exhilarating for some and exhausting for others. But, tonight on New Year’s Eve we pause. We don’t want to run right past what counts most. We catch our breath and read from Paul’s letter to the Philippians to help us get a good look at the past, the present and the future. He does so while he urges us
Press On Toward the Goal
By looking into the Word
Join me in thinking about a few things that have happened this year:
- Kobe Bryant died
- Australian Brush Fires – Killed 34 and burned 47 million acres!
- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle quit royal family
- Covid-19 Pandemic, Toilet paper shortage, sports cancelled, layoffs
- President Donald Trump face impeachment
- March 9 Stock Market Crash
- Fireworks explosion in Beirut
- Demonstrations and Riots protesting Racial injustice
- Joe Biden becomes president elect
- Covid – 19 Vaccine is begun, Stock Market setting records
Now join me in thinking about the things you’ve thought, said and done. The fellow worker you thought should be called out, but they got the raise! Words you wish you could get back! The people you could have helped, but didn’t!
Well, then things haven’t changed, because the same sort of things were happening in the Philippian congregation and they felt horrible when compared to God’s Word. Lots of retired soldiers living here – without the integrity and honor of our soldiers, soiled past and skeletons in the closet. Local Judaizers that had bad mouthed Paul, but after the conversion felt horrible about their words. The opportunity they had to support Paul’s missionary journeys, but didn’t.
It was to these people that Paul wrote: “17 Brothers, join together in imitating me and in paying attention to those who are walking according to the pattern we gave you.” This was Paul’s model: He rejoiced knowing and believing what Jesus Christ had done for him. “I consider everything to be a loss because of what is worth far more: knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake, I have lost all things and consider them rubbish, so that I may gain Christ” ( Phil 3:8). Paul knew his past, too, but when he compared his life to the life he had by God’s grace, revealed in God’s Word, he was eager to Press On Toward the Goal.
Brothers and Sisters, have the same attitude and mindset of Paul! He looked back at his life, and he also looked back at God’s promises. There he discovered God’s forgiveness, eternal life and deliverance from the devil. He looked into God’s Word to see God’s faithfulness to drunken Noah, wimpy Abraham and lusting King David. He also saw parted seas, crumbling walls and crushed enemies of Israel. He saw God’s love in action by looking into the Word and seeing God’s love for you. This is our motivation for “Pressing on Toward the Goal!” “15 Therefore, let all of us who are mature continue to think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you too. 16 Only let us think the same thing and walk in line with what we already have attained.” God’s Word tells us what we already have through faith in Christ Jesus as we Press On Toward the Goal. And as we strive forward, we are also aware of our surroundings,
By Looking Out For The World
I’ve have not been arrested for a crime and put under house arrest. But, many in our world think that quarantining due to Covid-19 comes close. Whether free or in quarantine the pressures of living in this broken world have not stopped. You hear it in the news today that they are afraid to shut down businesses and schools because of the mental fatigue this is causing on families. The CDC reported that this year those susceptible to suicide due to Covid-19 has gone up 23%. With the pressures of life, jobs, school, relationships building the temptation is to let the world around us get in the way of our relationship with God.
Let’s put this into perspective for Paul as he wrote this letter. He was under house arrest in Rome for his testimony about Jesus when he wrote this letter. His activities and movements were limited. It was hardly a joyful experience. He was also dealing with the reports that many were rejecting the message of the gospel, so he wrote, “18 To be sure, many walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. I told you about them often, and now I am saying it while weeping. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their appetite, and their glory is in their shame. They are thinking only about earthly things.” Paul must have been tempted to say to people like this, “Go ahead! Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Greet the Devil when you see him! Serves you right!” But, that wasn’t his attitude toward the world around him at all. Instead he wept. Like Jesus weeping over Jerusalem when they had rejected him. Oh, how he yearned for everyone to love Jesus, trust in him, and be saved!
So, how can we cope with political wrangling, Corona Virus mandates, economic instability and employment challenges? Apply the goodness of God of the past to the present. It’s a little like traveling in a foreign country to which you haven’t been. You listen to the advice of those who have gone before you: “Keep an eye on your bags. Watch out for crooked cab drivers. Stay on the main roads. Don’t drink the water!” When you know what to look out for, you can enjoy your vacation time a whole lot more. So, St. Paul tells us, “Don’t be naïve. Look out for the world! Listen to the news. Study the trends. Watch time management podcasts. Be aware of the pitfalls of living in this sin-broken world. But also know that none of it can separate you from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus! Then Press on Toward the Goal Looking into God’s Word, Watching out for the World, and…
Looking Up To the Lord
How old is your computer at home? If it’s more than 5 years old, it’s old. How about your phone? I remember not too many years ago when I got my iphone 7 and was thinking about awesome it is. Nope – now we need an iphone 11! A year ago I hardly knew what a Zoom meeting was. And as fast as all these changes have come, I’m sure we’re going to experience more in the near future. How are we going to keep up in 2021?
Well, the future for the Philippians wasn’t particularly bright. Many of the soldiers were bums. Others living in Philippi were at poverty level. We would expect them to ask Paul how they could change their situation. They needed to be reminded that our goal in life is not to change this earth into heaven. Rather, to rejoice because, “13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it yet, but there is one thing I do: Forgetting the things that are behind and straining toward the things that are ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Yes, we press on toward the goal of what is better. And sometimes by the grace of God, it is better here. But, the best we’re looking forward to is this: “20 But our citizenship is in heaven. We are eagerly waiting for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 By the power that enables him to subject all things to himself, he will transform our humble bodies to be like his glorious body.” It is God’s promise of our perfect lives in heaven that has a direct bearing on our lives right now. Look up to the Lord where the future is bright. Press on Toward the Goal with your eyes set on Jesus.
It was the evening of May 6, 1954 when it happened. Did you figure it out yet? It was the first time recorded in history when Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile. He was huffing and puffing, but with arms raised, he did it. It is not my ambition in life to run a 4 mile minute. But, let our goal be to run the race of life leaving behind 2020, but not leaving behind God’s Word. Looking out for the world, but not forgetting to look for people who need to hear the gospel. And Looking up to Jesus where we will spend eternity. I can’t hardly wait for that. I’d say, Let’s Press On Toward the Goal in 2021. Amen!