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Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 17, 2004

I’d like to share two verses from Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi - Philippians 3 - verses 20 and 21.  We’ll come there shortly.  But, before we get there I’d like share some background on how this fits to where we are this afternoon.

Philippians is very personal letter.  Paul really bares his soul in this letter - his struggles - his feelings - what he’s longing for.  Philippians is the letter where Paul goes down a list of all his credentials - a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin - a Hebrew among Hebrews - a Pharisee - zealous for God - blameless in keeping of the law.  Things that were near to his heart - important to him.

Paul writes,
“I’ve let go of all that because of Jesus.  All that was useless compared to knowing Jesus as my Savior and Lord - being found in Him - his righteousness - not mine - serving Him - looking forward to eternity with Him.”  (Philippians 3:8)

Paul writes in Philippians 1:21 - words of great passion coming from a heart that’s had a 180
º turn of direction:  “For me to live is Christ, and to die is - what? gain.”  That’s powerful.  Isn’t it?

It would be so easy for us to think about Paul in these glowing terms - the great apostle - sold out to God - living for Jesus.  Living the Christian life the way its suppose to be lived.  To think about Paul that way and to miss Paul’s heart.

Rob Lacy, in the Word on the Street version of Philippians - translates Philippians 3:12-14 this way - listen to what Paul says about himself: 
“I’m just scratching the surface; I’m miles off where I should be.  But I’m working on it, like the Liberator, Jesus is working on me.  Guys, I’m not “there,” I’ve not “made it,” but I’m focused forwards not backwards.  Pushing through the pain barrier to hit the finishing tape and collect the medal God’s got up there with my name on it.  Since the Liberator, Jesus, entered me in the race, God’s been “whooping” me on up the slope towards heaven.” (1)

That’s a side of Paul that we can all relate to.  Right?  We’re not there yet.  We’re just scratching the surface of what God needs to do in our lives. 

As Paul puts it - the race we run - life - even with God - life is a struggle.  There’s stuff in life that tears at us - wounds us.  As we run we learn - as Paul learned - that what we’ve been hanging on to - what we accomplish and accumulate in life - all that isn’t as important as learning to hang on to God.  To realize how desperate we are for God to keep us moving forward with Him towards the finish line - the medal - eternal life with Him in heaven.

Salvation is a gift.  Not a result of being a part of some church or doing religious things.  As we come to God trusting in Jesus as our Savior He - God - gives us the gift of salvation.  Gives us the gift of being able to run through life and into eternity with Him.

Paul encourages us - don’t get stuck in the past - keep going forward - hang onto God’s gift.  You can’t win the race looking backwards.

God isn’t hung up on our past.  He isn’t caught off guard by our inadequacy.  He’s not bothered by our feelings of failure.  God knows where we’re at.  That same God desires to lead us forward - revealing - correcting - healing - stretching - enabling.  Life in Jesus is a process of continuous improvement.  We’re not there yet.  But in Jesus we will be.  Amen?

_____ could be really irritating - especially when we got into discussions about theological or doctrinal issues.  I’d be teaching - Sunday School or a Bible Study - something - and I’d make some point.  I’d didn’t even have to look at _____.  I knew there was a discussion coming.

_____ was the kind of guy that I could push at and he’d push back.  Most of the time that was a good thing.  I miss our discussions.  _____ helped to keep me share in my thinking about Scripture.  I believe that the source of that in _____ was because he had wrestled with God over Scripture.  God at work in _____’s life.

After Sunday services _____ would sometimes give me pretty blunt feedback about my delivery - posture - gestures.  One time he told me that I should have clothes that were more tailored.  Which I thought was interesting coming from a jeans and “T” shirt kind of guy.  I appreciated his feedback.  It was honest - helpful.

_____ could be blunt.  But he cared about people.  As _____ ran the race - as he was learning to hang on to God and run towards heaven - as he struggled through life with the rest of us - he was concerned that others come to know the same Savior who was at work in his life.  He was concerned about the others who were running alongside him.

Coming to Philippians 3 - verses 20 and 21 - listen to these verses and think about what it means to be a work in progress - verse 20: 
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

The church lives here.  But if we’re trusting in Jesus as our Savior - our citizenship is up there.  We live in this world of struggle - of death and destruction.  But we long to go home.  We’re longing for Jesus to come to take us there.  To transform us - these bodies that are falling apart into bodies that never wear out.  To realize our eternal life in Him.  For Him to reign - to end all this failure and sin.  To set right all that’s wrong - even in us.  To end the race in victory. 

_____ struggled through life longing for that.  By God’s grace he’s home.  He’s finished the race.  Been given the medal.  Where _____ is God’s word describes as a place more beautiful - more awesome - than anything we can imagine.  A place of great joy and peace.  No tears.  No mourning.    No death.  No decay.  No sin pulling us down each day of our lives - entangling us.  Its the dwelling place of God Himself.  Whatever the crud of this world it no longer matters. 

_____ is with God.  Praise God.

Ever hear someone say,
“Get your mind out of the clouds”?  In this case, “Get your mind in the clouds.” 
What Paul writes - what we celebrate today - together with _____ - is a reality to long for - a certain hope to hang on to. 



1. Rob Lacey, the word on the street, Zondervan, 2003-2004


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.