Sermon – October 18, 2020 – Pentecost 20

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Pastor Wagenknecht ~ Pentecost 20 ~ October 18, 2020 ~ Philippians 3:12-21


If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die to the Lord; whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. – Romans 14:8

Paul wrote those words to the Romans six years before he was in prison before Caesar. The words in our text from Philippians were written while in prison toward the end of his two years under guard, and he was expecting to soon be released and to come back to Philippi. This epistle to the Philippians is one of encouragement and joy.

In Philippians 1, Paul wrote “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” In Philippians 2, Paul wrote “If there is any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any affection and compassion,” then imitate the humble attitude of Christ, who humbled himself unto death, even death on a cross. Here in Philippians 3, Paul wrote “Press on toward the goal” – the goal of heaven.

Already when I was in grade school here at Grace, I believed “to die is gain,” “if we die, we belong to the Lord.” Probably about 6th grade we were studying time, days, months, years, and we thought about the year 2000. I wondered if I would ever live till 2000, I would be 60 years old by then.  Wow! Well, I made it by the grace of God. I was ready to die, because I knew Christ my Lord. Philippians 1:21 – For me to live is Christ; to die is gain. To live for Christ or depart to be with Christ. I’m pulled in two directions. Paul wrote that to die and be with the Lord was better by far, but he also realized he had a calling to live on for the sake of the believers in Philippi. I suppose that is why I lived till 2000 – to serve.

So now I press on, and I even lived till 2020 – Like Paul, I have remained in the flesh to serve Christ – to fill in today for Pastor Clark. If I live past 2020, Paul today reminds me to PRESS ON.  Press on toward the goal of heaven in the power of Christ.

  1. PRESS ON toward the goal of heaven.

Today’s epistle reading in Philippians 3:14 tells us “I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” That upward call from Jesus is, “Come, follow me, and I will give you the crown of life. He told us “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live” John 11:25. Paul wrote “We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us…I am convinced that neither life nor death…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37ff. Whether we live or die we belong to the Lord. And especially to die is gain!

In Philippians 3:11 Paul tells us to press on toward this call, which he says is “the hope that he will arrive at the resurrection of the dead.” That is the goal we are talking about. The resurrection to eternal life in heaven. “Not that we have already obtained this or have already reached the goal.” We are still living here in 2020, so now we press on walking according to the pattern we gave you. That pattern was in the epistle reading from last Sunday, Philippians 2:5 – Let this attitude be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. We are to imitate Christ’s humility and consider others better than ourselves. We are to look not only to our own interests, but to the interests of others. Although he was God, he emptied himself and became fully human, and went to the cross for us. We are to imitate that humility. “Though he was by nature God, he did not consider equality with God as something to be displayed, but he emptied himself taking the nature of a servant and was born in human likeness” Philippians 2:1-4. In the same way that Jesus pressed on toward Calvary, toward the resurrection, and toward the return to his glory in heaven we are to press on toward the goal of living for Christ here, heading for heaven, and living with him in glory forever. In these days of 2020 we need to press on in serving others; press on with the masks and distancing; press on without fear of illness or death; press on, persevere, keep on keeping on.

In verse 9 of this third chapter between last week’s epistle and today’s epistle, Paul writes about how we can reach that goal. I know Christ Jesus my LORD…not having a righteousness of my own, which is from the law, but that righteousness which comes through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God by faith. Not by works of the law, but by faith in Christ’s works. We reach that goal of heaven on the strength of the righteousness of Christ, and not by our keeping the law.

  1. PRESS ON in the power of Christ.

Verse 12 of our text reads, Not that I have already reached the goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus also took hold of me. Christ reached down and took hold of us. We were sinking down, and he pulled us up. Here on earth our daily struggles will continue until we die. We nightly pitch our moving tent a day’s march nearer home. Find strength to persevere in Christ. Paul encouraged the Philippians in 1:6, “I am convinced that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” What was begun in baptism, encouraged in Sunday school, prayed for by your parents and god-parents, guided in every sermon you have heard, will be completed when you gain heaven through death.

After Christ humbled himself unto death, paid for our sins, and called us heavenward, God highly exalted him and gave him a name that is above every name that, “at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD” Philippians 2:10. This mighty Jesus is the one who gives us the power to press on.

How do we press on? In the power of Christ…

  1. Get up in the morning and thank God for another day of Grace.
  2. Read or meditate on some of God’s promises that he will be with you today.
  3. Pray for his strength, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”
  4. Conduct yourself in a way that is worthy of the Gospel letting your light shine.
  5. Press on all day making deliberately loving decisions. Tell yourself over and over, “Press on!”
  6. Take some time to read through the four chapters of Philippians.
  7. Find in this letter the encouragement: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice!”

The last verses of our text remind us that “Our citizenship is in heaven. We are eagerly waiting for a Savior from there, the LORD Jesus Christ. By the power that enables him to control all things he will transform our humble bodies to be like his glorious body.” See why “to die is gain.” Jesus will transform this weak, sickly, aging body into a glorious, perfect, eternal body. Amen

Let me close with these words from next Sunday’s epistle:

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7.