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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Oct. 25, 2020 | 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

    The Gain of Sacrifice
    Philippians 3:1–14

     Y OU’VE BEEN GIVEN an assignment to write a résumé. What would you include? Or maybe your grandchild wants you to talk about your life’s story. What’s important in your life that you would include?

    For high-schoolers preparing for college, what you’ve done and accomplished means a lot. For you children, what do you value being and doing (riding a bike, being on a travel sports team, playing a musical instrument, getting good grades on your report card)?

    † † †

    PAUL WRITES ABOUT what is important to him. First, he lists his successes. What he’s done and what he’s good at. And it’s quite a list. But then Paul says something interesting and important. Knowing God and doing what God made him to do is more important than any of those things — wonderful though they be.

    Here’s Paul’s list. It is very, very impressive. He has more reason to boast in the flesh than anyone. He lists seven advantages he could claim — some are inherited.

         ■ He is a full member of God’s covenant people.
         ■ He is an Israelite by birth with all the rights and privileges.
         ■ He hails from one of the two tribes considered to be faithful to the covenant.
         ■ He is the son of Hebrew parents with no Gentile contamination.

    The last three are achievements:

         ■ He practices strict observance of the law.
         ■ He exhibits avid devotion to God.
         ■ He is above reproach according to a Pharisaic interpretation of the law.

    † † †

    PAUL SAYS HE GAINED a lot because of privileges and accomplishments. They gave him a lot of significance. They gave him power. They gave him authority. They gave him a sense of identity.

    All of that was fine and good until Jesus bumped into his life and, boom, everything is ripped out from underneath him. In great humility, Paul says that all his résumé is worth nothing. Dung. Garbage.

    Paul thought he was doing and had done a lot of good stuff and that the very most important thing in his life was God and doing the job God had given him.

    † † †

    HERE’S MY RÉSUMÉ. I was born into a family that went to worship multiple times every week. Awarded perfect attendance pins for Sunday school. Baptized at 10. Sang in the youth choir. Sang in the adult choir. Called to ministry at 15. Attended a Christian college and majored in religion. Pastored a small church at 18. Attended seminary. Three years of Hebrew. Two years of Greek. Presidential scholar. Sacrificed family. Approved for ordination. Pastor, preacher, minister for 33 years.

    Don’t be impressed by that. It means nothing. What only matters is faith in Jesus Christ.

    † † †

    WHAT PAUL AFFIRMS with great confidence, I have to ask and answer for myself.

    Is all I want is to know Christ and the power of his rising from death? Do I want to share in Christ’s sufferings and become like him in his death? If I have those things, then I have hope that I will be raised from death.

    I’m not there yet. I am not who God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that. That is the reason Christ made me his.

    † † †

    THIS PASSAGE invites us to reflect on what we value most.

    A Reuters poll reveals that Americans value “time” first, with “career,” “success,” and “money” coming in as close seconds for certain groups of people. What we value most is likely demonstrated by how we spend our time and how we spend our resources. How we live our lives.

    † † †

    NOW IS THE TIME to reflect on what we value most as individuals and as a church.

    Perhaps we tend to value certain inherited qualities or achievements as “gains” that give us value before God.

    Now is the time to examine our lives. Now is the time to examine our faith.

    Now is the time so that we may count such gains as loss and deepen our reliance upon Jesus Christ.

    — Keith Cardwell   

    «What only matters is faith in Jesus Christ.»

    SCRIPTURE FOR THE DAY


    ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:


    Philippians 3:1–14
    Holy Bible, New International Version


    No confidence in the flesh
    3 Further, my brothers and sisters, 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. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh — 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

    If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 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; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

    7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 1and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

    12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

    — This is the Word of the Lord.
    — Thanks be to God.


    Footnotes:

    a Philippians 3:9  Or through the faithfulness of


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    23208 Swift Church Road
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    Phone: (251) 943-8367
    email: swiftpc@gulftel.com