Rubbish And Riches

Bible Book: Philippians  3 : 1-11
Subject: Worship

One of the great hopes for every parent is that their child or children would mature and come to understand the difference between rubbish and riches. While some seem to understand what really matters and what really counts early in life, others take a while to reach that point of understanding and recognition. Once I read of a young man who was caught in a situation in Hilton Head that should have taught him the lesson of which we speak. The fifteen-year-old burglary suspect was attempting to make his get-away when he swam through a nearby pond only to be attacked by one of the two alligators who live in that particular pond. A nearby neighbor Lyn Potter said, "I can't imagine the horror of swimming in black water with a black sky and meeting an alligator." To add insult to injury, after emergency vehicles arrived on the scene, the teenager was told to lie down on the sidewalk. He did so, directly on a bed of fire ants.

That is what you call "having a bad day"! I wonder if that young man learned his lesson. Did he come to understand what rubbish in life is? Did he come to understand what comprises true wealth?

Before we surmise the condition of this young man, let us ask that question of ourselves. Do we know what is truly worthy in this life?

If you were asked today what your greatest attainment is, what would your answer be? I can imagine that the answers would be varied. Some of you might point to financial security, some might point to an educational degree...rank in service...number of years on a job. Some may point to a as your greatest pride, attainment. Others may identify a relationship as being their greatest attainment. Some may point to a boy or girl friend, spouse or most probably to a child or even to a grandchild. Some of you are like my mother who said, "If I had known how great my grandchildren were going to be, I would have had them first."

Today, I propose to you that there is a much greater attainment than any I have mentioned. Read with me about this in Philippians 3:1-11.

In these verses Paul begins by discussing various barriers to the true worship of God. He began by refuting the claims of evil workers, or false teachers, who sought to infiltrate the church. In the most solemn manner, he warned his readers against them. We must also be aware of this problem. It is   a barrier to true worship. There are many "church people" today who will believe just about anything if the one teaching acts as if they are convinced of that belief. It is a barrier to true worship.

I would like to spend most of our time this morning, however, on the latter portion of this passage in which Paul supplies a pattern for true worship based on his own spiritual pilgrimage. That is the greatest attainment for a child of God -- true worship.

I. There are things to be Renounced as Loss in True Worship (vs. 37)

According to Paul, he had every human reason to be proud of his attainments. He was a member of the strictest and the most self-disciplined group of the Jewish faith--the Pharisees. They were the most moral of all, the most loyal, and the most patriotic.

He had in his heart a burning zeal for what he thought was the cause of God. He was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, the very elite aristocracy of Israel. He had a record in Judaism in which no man could find fault.

All these things...Paul might have claimed on the credit side of the balance. As this world goes, he was the best. When he met Jesus, however, he wrote them all off as nothing more than bad debts. The things he had believed to be his glories were in fact quite useless in view of the greatest attainment. The proud achievements of Saul of Tarsus were but refuse to Paul. One by one he cast them aside: physical inheritance--"of the tribe of Benjamin," misdirected zeal--"persecuting the church," righteousness--"in the law, blameless," personal attainment--"a Pharisee."

Remember the parable of Jesus about the Pharisee and the publican. I can see Paul in the story as the boastful Pharisee of Jesus' parable is here miraculously transformed into the penitent publican, who smote his breast and cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:10-13).

We too must come to the point that we can renounce those things as loss, which we have held too dear that God has had to take second place. We must come to the Lord in an honest simplicity, stripped of all pride, and say like the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner."

Ray Stedman told the story of a time when, after a Billy Graham crusade meeting, he slipped into a seat on a bus beside a young man who had gone forward in the meeting that night and given his heart to Christ. Pastor Stedman spoke to him of what his new life would mean, and mentioned that he could now be free from all fear of death. The young man turned and looked the older man in the     eye and said, "I have never been much afraid of death. But I'll tell you what I am afraid of - I'm afraid I'll waste my life."

Pastor Stedman then commented, "I believe that fear is deep within each of us. It has been put there by our Creator. No one wishes to waste his life."

II. There are things to be Pursued as Goals in True Worship (vs. 8-9)

A. An Intimate Knowledge Of Christ

This tells us of what ought to be the goal for our life. The first part of this goal is an intimate knowledge of Christ. The words "knowing Christ" (v. 8) mean much more than knowledge about Christ. Paul had this kind of historical information before he was converted. To know Christ means to have a personal relationship with Him through faith. It means a close intimacy with Christ from which springs an ever-growing acquaintance of His Spirit and will. To know Christ is to know God, and to know God is eternal life. (See John 17:3). For Paul, salvation was, knowing Christ in a personal way.

B. A True Righteousness

The second part of this goal is a true righteousness. Verse 9 describes true righteousness. This righteousness is produced by God's Spirit through faith in Christ. Paul's self-righteousness died at the sight of the living Christ on the road to Damascus. But instead of his self-righteousness, he found a perfect righteousness provided by Christ. Paul's abandoning his former gain resulted in a new and true kind of righteousness, a righteousness which included being right and doing right. Both were provided in Christ and were received through Paul's faith in Him. God's righteousness was incarnated in Christ and imparted to Paul by the indwelling Christ. Paul placed this true righteousness in contrast to any goodness, which he once may have possessed. Because of his union and fellowship with God through faith in Christ, he no longer had a self-righteousness which consisted in the strict fulfillment of the Law's requirements.

This goal of knowing Christ and his righteousness ought to be the obsession of our lives. If we are ever to learn and experience true worship, it will be after the goals have become our goals.

Our goals are often quite different, however, our ideas of that which is important often vary considerably from the Lord's ideas. I read this week that in the midst of the Russian Revolution, a remarkable incident occurred. With the revolutionary tide sweeping their country, some Russian clergymen gathered to debate the hot issue of that day--the number of placement of buttons on their clerical robes! In American churches, hot issues may have centered on the color of the new carpet, whether to place cushions on the pews, and similar topics.

In His visit to the home of Mary and Martha, Jesus asked that emphasis be placed on doing the most important activities and letting matters of secondary significance wait their turn.

There are things to be pursued as goals in order to truly worship.

III. There are things to be Possessed as Gain in True Worship (vs. 10-11)

In His parable of the unclean spirit, Jesus warned against leaving empty the house from which evil occupants had been cast (Luke 11:24-26). Paul zealously filled the void with fresh aspirations. He expressed first a longing to possess the power of Christ's resurrection (v. 10). Paul saw Christ's resurrection as victory over the forces of sin and death, and Paul coveted that kind of power in his own life. He knew that Christ's resurrection power was available only to those willing to share the "fellowship of His sufferings" (v. 10). In this phrase Paul referred not to Christ's suffering on Calvary but to his suffering for righteousness sake. If we evaluate our losses and gains and goals in keeping with Paul's example, we shall indeed worship God in spirit and in truth.

We too must long to possess this same power. Paul knew by experience the difficulty of remaining loyal to Christ so that sin's power would not revive its mastery over him. Therefore, he wanted the power that raised Christ from the dead to surge through him and overcome sin in his life.

I wonder if we too want this power. Most do not. Recently an extensive Gallup report was released on Religion in America. It said, "Two-thirds of Americans hold the view that the level of ethics in the United States has declined during the last decade. What makes for the seeming paradox is that very little difference is found in the behavior of the churched and unchurched on a wide range of items including lying, cheating and pilferage. However, dramatic differences were found in behavior of the 'highly spiritually committed' compared with those of less spiritual commitment, with the committed showing a much higher level of moral conduct."

Do we really want to possess the power of Christ? To truly worship requires that we count as loss our attainments, that we pursue the goal of true righteousness, and possess the power of Christ. Can you worship today?