130317 Philippians 3:8-11

Last Updated on Monday, 18 March 2013 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Text: Philippians 3:8 – 11
Theme: "It is Not By Luck That You Are Saved!"

I am going to guess that most of you here this morning know that today is St. Patrick's Day. While many people use today as an excuse to eat corned beef and cabbage, and then wash that down with a green colored beer, March 17 is an official, religious holiday in many Christian churches. "The Feast of St. Patrick", as it is called, celebrates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. What are some of the other things that we often times associate with St. Patrick's Day? Maybe three leaf clovers, or leprechauns, or the phrase "the luck of the Irish." From what I have been able to gather, the phrase "the luck of the Irish" does not have its origin in Ireland but in America. Professor Edward T. O'Donnell, who is a Professor of History at the College of the Holy Cross College in Massachusetts and the author of the book 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History, writes this: "During the gold and silver rush years in the second half of the 19th century, a number of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish and Irish-American birth. . . .Over time this association of the Irish with mining fortunes led to the expression 'luck of the Irish.' Of course, it carried with it a certain tone of disrespect, as if to say, 'It is only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains, that these fools could succeed.'" There are those who think that it is only by sheer luck that people will succeed in getting into heaven. Someone may say, "It is only by luck that you were born into a Christian family." Someone else may think, "If I am lucky, maybe God will let me into heaven when I die." Today, as we take a closer look at several verses from our Second Lesson for our Worship Service today, we will see that IT IS NOT BY LUCK THAT YOU ARE SAVED. I invite you to hear again verses 8 – 11 of Philippians chapter 3:

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The Apostle Paul once thought that he might get lucky in earning God's favor; that he could earn his way into heaven. One author has written about the Apostle Paul, "If salvation were by works, Paul would have been guaranteed clear entrance into heaven." However, when it comes to being saved, when it comes to getting a place in heaven, Paul says he now sees all the things he had done as "loss". He even goes so far as to say they are "rubbish", or "garbage" which needs to be taken out and thrown away. By the grace of God, Paul was led to see that there is only one way to gain entrance into heaven. There is only one way to be saved. And it is NOT by luck. Rather, it is through the only Savior the world has – the Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul puts it this way in Philippians chapter 3, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ . . ." The Bible is clear, so we need to be clear: you and I cannot, CANNOT, earn our way into heaven. God's Word states that clearly here in Philippians chapter 3 and in other portions of the Bible that teach us the same thing. As Paul writes in God's Word before us he wants to be "found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."
It wasn't by luck that the Apostle Paul was saved. Rather, the loving Father in heaven found him. By the power of the Word, God the Holy Spirit worked faith in his heart; faith to believe that it is only through his Savior, Jesus Christ, that he enjoys a right relationship with the one true God. Paul goes on to say, "I want to know Christ . . ." By the grace of God, Paul already knows Jesus as his Savior. But what Paul is saying here is now that God the Holy Spirit has given him faith in Jesus, he wants to continue in that relationship as he lives out his life for his Savior. Empowered by the message of the Gospel, Paul desires to grow in his knowledge of the Savior through that same Gospel message that brought him to faith. Paul writes, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Paul knows that he will suffer through this life, just as Jesus had to suffer. Paul knows that he will die, just as Jesus died. And Paul says that he looks forward to his resurrection from the dead, just as his victorious Savior conquered the grave.

The temptation to look at what we have done as a way to earn our place in heaven is a very real temptation for you and me. We give in to that temptation when we think things like: "Overall, I think I am a pretty good person. God has to be happy with my effort." Or, "At least I am in church each week." Or, "I was baptized and confirmed in this church." Any sinful pride in "all that I do" or our church attendance stands in the way of totally relying on Jesus Christ alone for our forgiveness and eternal life. As one author has said, "When these things become objects of trust for righteousness before God, they need to be thrown out like smelly, stinky garbage." My dear Christian friends, it is not by luck that you are saved. The central message of Lent is that the gracious Savior-God loves you and me. It is because of Jesus that you and I enjoy the forgiveness of our sins. It is because of Jesus that you and I are able to look forward to our own resurrection, and living forever at the side of our Savior in the perfect joys of heaven.

As we close out this Lenten season, we will watch as Jesus, moved by his great love, carries out the plan to save you and me. Next Sunday we will watch with thankful hearts as Jesus willingly rides in to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, knowing that later that week his enemies would have him arrested and executed. We will be there in the Upper Room, as Jesus gives us his Holy Supper on Maundy Thursday. We will stand at the foot of the cross and witness Jesus offering up his life as the full payment price for all sins on Good Friday. And with great joy in our hearts, we will give our Ever-Living Savior all thanks and praise as he rises in great victory on Easter Sunday. My Brothers and Sisters in Christ: It is not by luck that you are saved. Rather, you are saved because of the great love of your one and only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Next Sunday, when you and I gather together here in God's house on Palm Sunday, we will begin the journey of Holy Week. As we once again have the opportunity to walk with our Savior to his cross and to his empty grave always remember that it is not by luck that you are saved. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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Oconomowoc, WI 53066
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