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Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 15, 1996

Philippians 3:8-12: “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.”

As this is Rally Sunday, and we are beginning a new “Church Year” of ministry together - we wanted to focus this morning on our personal priorities and our priorities as a congregation. We have 12 months of ministry together - if we’re not going to waste our time and a lot of effort, what should be our focus - our priority - what should be the emphasis of our ministry together? Priorities are those things which are of greatest importance to us.

How are we to know which priorities are of greatest importance? Sometimes it is hard to know which priorities are actually important. Often our priorities change based on changes in our lives. Sometimes things which seemed important at the time - when we think back to the commitment and effort we put in.... and the results - really were a waste of time.

One of the greatest inventors of all time was, the “Wizard of Menlo Park” - Thomas Alva Edison. He has almost 1,100 of his inventions patented . Because of his insightful genius, we have electric lights, batteries, movies with sound tracks, and hundreds of other devices we now take for granted. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Chuck Swindol in his book, "Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life" writes about Arthur Pedrick, who between 1962 and 1977 patented 162 inventions. Which sounds impressive except that not one of them was taken up commercially. Not one. Among his greatest inventions were: 1) A bicycle with amphibious capability, 2) An arrangement whereby a car could be driven from the back seat, 3) Several golf inventions, including a golf ball that could be steered in flight.

The grandest scheme of Pedrick, who described himself as the “One-Man-Think-Tank Basic Research Laboratories of Sussex,” was to irrigate deserts of the world by sending a constant supply of snowballs from the polar region through a massive network of giant peashooters. Your probably thinking I made this up. But it’s true.

If we want to consider what seems important and later looks foolish we really don't have to look very far. One last example.

The prize for the most useless weapon of all time goes to the Russians. They invented the “dog mine.” The plan was to train dogs to associate food with the undersides of tanks. Bombs were strapped to the dog’s backs, in the hope that they would run hungrily beneath advancing Panzer divisions, and then blow up the German tanks.

Unfortunately, the dogs associated food solely with Russian tanks. The plan was begun on the first day of Russian involvement in World War II.... and abandoned on day two. The dogs with bombs on their backs forced an entire Soviet division to retreat.

All of which brings us back to our point with regard to priorities: Some things that seemed terribly important and serious at the time become absolutely hilarious, and worthless, after a little time passes.

If we are to know in advance what priorities are worthy of our greatest effort it is important for us to look at those who have gone before us in life - to ask questions - get help - from those who have greater experience.

Paul was a man who traveled life’s road, with divine guidance, through challenging and changing experiences. Paul says, Philippians 3:8, that there is no greater priority in life than knowing Jesus Christ - the pursuit of anything else - any other priority is worthless.

Paul says, to KNOW Jesus....

is to be found in Him (verse 9) - His righteousness - to know God’s love and grace - His salvation - to know the tremendous value, significance, and purpose which God gives to our lives. To know Jesus is to realize that God Himself has reached to us, to save us from our sin and separation from Him. No greater self-effort on our part is needed - no greater priority - no greater wisdom, power, or morality is needed by us - God, through Jesus has opened the door to restoration - to a right relationship with God.

Billions of people on this world are looking for significance and purpose to their lives. God has given to us significance simply by offering us salvation in Jesus Christ.

Paul says, there is no greater priority that pursuing Jesus through whom we have salvation and significance in this life.

Paul says, to KNOW Jesus is....

(verse 10) to know Him and the power of His resurrection. Billions of people on this world are asking the question, “What is my eternal destiny?” “Is this all there is?” They live empty and hopeless lives. In Jesus Christ - in the reality of His resurrection there is a future hope which is incomparable to any other. No other philosophy, no other religion, no person, IRA, Keogh, or retirement plan can offer the security of our eternal destiny that Jesus does.

Paul says, that there is no greater priority in life than to pursue knowing Jesus - the significance of life which comes only from Him - and the hope of our eternal destiny which can only come from Him.

Now, let me back up for just one minute, and add what we spoke about during the message in Armenian. What do we do with what we know? During the message in Armenian we spoke of the priority of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These two priorities are almost synonymous - they go together like bread and butter (bagels and lebne) - we cannot have one without the other. If we claim to know Jesus, we will be concerned with proclaiming His Gospel. Some have expressed the priority this way, TO KNOW JESUS AND TO MAKE HIM KNOWN.

With this priority, in the year ahead, our Heavenly Father has given us a great adventure - a challenge. An adventure which will require all of our effort, time, and creativity.

Before we conclude, for just a few moments of application, it is important for us to consider the community around us - the community which needs to know Jesus Christ.

These are the people God has given to us to communicate the Gospel to: married couples trying to survive in an anti-marriage culture, businessmen, working mothers, and stay at home moms. People confronted with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, spousal abuse and often overwhelming circumstances - empty, hurting people.

Consider the context of life our youth live in. How many of us spend time watching Beevis and Butthead? MTV? VH1? Plug into the internet and anything is available to you. Imagine what our youth are confronted with. Consider the people around us who are searching for significance in their lives and answers to the question of their eternal destiny.

And, consider the background of this community. Who are we trying to reach with the Gospel? Armenian Americans or American Armenians? Aintabsie American Armenians or Kessabsie Armenian Americans three generations in North America? What about the grandchildren of Vanetsies who lived in Egypt, grandchildren who are now married to odars, and live fifty miles from here.

And, what method reaches this community? Contemporary services in English? Traditional services in Armenian? A 50 - 50 blend? Or a 73.5% English contemporary service with a 26.5% traditional service in Armenian? And, while we introduce drums and guitars to reach the young what happens to those of us who feel more comfortable with a less “contemporary” service.

Years ago our members came to the Armenian Evangelical Church because it was the place to be for community life, Armenian culture, and spiritual growth. When people lived closer, and in many cases within walking distance, they came together 4 or 5 times a week. Church was like the “field of dreams,” “If you open the doors they will come”.

Things have changed. Often our members feel compelled to come because they are Armenians and this is the only Armenian Evangelical Church around. Or, honoring their parents and grandparents, like it or not, compelled by duty and obligation they come. Often these are dissatisfied people who have critical attitudes and a low level of commitment.

While the message of the Gospel - TO KNOW JESUS - may be the same, the context in which people live their lives has changed and so has the context in which the Gospel is to be shared. We are now competing with American churches and American culture. It is safe to say that the methods we used in the past will not work today.

Some people say that Church is boring - predictable. The truth is, the status quo church is boring. But, TO KNOW JESUS AND TO MAKE HIM KNOW is never boring - it is a great lifelong adventure of limitless fulfillment.

When we hear God’s priority for our lives - TO KNOW JESUS AND TO MAKE HIM KNOWN - this is a call to a radical Christianity which few have the willingness to commit to. TO KNOW JESUS AND TO MAKE HIM KNOWN requires the total commitment of our lives, the sacrifice of our priorities and selfish wants - it requires our total dedication and lifelong service - to reach our community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What lies before us in the year ahead is a challenging adventure - a priority - to be different. To not shrink back from our commitment to proclaim the Gospel of life and salvation through Jesus Christ and to give ourselves 100% to that task. To learn to be the Church which God has called us to be and to uphold the uniqueness of that community in a way which compels all men to come to Jesus as their Savior. A church in which Armenian culture - programs - schools - events, and a commitment to our nation are placed alongside a firm commitment to Jesus Christ in such a way where people can see how a relationship with Jesus Christ transcends the limitations of our culture, rises above the mediocrity of today, and gives significance and purpose to our lives.