Summary: What does it mean to share in Christ’s death?
“Impressive Credentials, But…”
By Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN www.gbgm-umc.org/grace-sdtn
What do you want more than anything else in the world?
Is it a higher paying job?
Is it a bigger house?
Is it some “perfect career”?
Is it to be the envy of your friends, co-workers; classmates?
Is it 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?”
Hold it…wait a minute…something I just said doesn’t fit with the others.
Remember when, on Sesame Street, they would have like three ice-cream cones and one hot dog, or three squares and one circle and then they’d sing that song: “Which of these things is not like the others…”?
It’s kind of like that isn’t it?
In this world we can become so focused on the things that fill us up, and puff us up…
…things we do to keep up with the Jones’…
…that we lose focus or never even get a glimpse of what it is that is most important in life.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning that Ron read earlier, Jesus tells us not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth…
…but instead, treasures in heaven…
…He also says: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Where is our treasure?
What is most important to us?
In our Epistle Lesson Paul reminds us that he has pretty good reason to be confident in his earthly achievements, and to basically be an egomaniac obsessed with self.
He lists his very impressive credentials that gave him high status in the community and the world.
Paul had been a rich and powerful man…
…he had been able to push his weight around to get things done…
…people looked up to him and those under him quivered when he headed their way.
That’s power, and power is a very expensive commodity in this world.
It’s also something that most people would find very hard to give up.
Remember the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life?
What did Jesus tell him?
“Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.”
Did the young man heed Christ’s advice?
No, instead he became very sad and walked away from Jesus “because he was a man of great wealth.”
Then Jesus made that very famous statement: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
And then the people listening asked Jesus: “Who then can be saved?”
And Jesus replied, “What is impossible for [people] is possible for God.”
In other words, God can get a rich person to heaven, but a rich person can’t get him or herself there.
So Paul had been a very rich and powerful man.
And he had been building up a lot of political and religious clout by persecuting the people called Christians.
But one day, Jesus appeared to Paul…
… and Paul’s entire purpose…
…Paul’s entire direction changed!!!
He became like the camel who can indeed go through the eye of a needle due to the miraculous and gracious saving power of God!!!
So anyway, having been saved on the Damascus Road…having begun to taste the goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul cast aside those claims, those credentials and worldly achievements on which he had once grounded all his self-esteem…
…he called them “rubbish”…
…and he considered them “rubbish”…
…because they were obstacles, stumbling blocks, weights and impediments in his race toward gaining Christ and being found in Christ!
What do we consider as “rubbish” in order that we may “gain Christ… know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings?”
What do we consider as “rubbish” due to the fact that our greatest goal in life is to become like Christ “in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” ?
Is it our bigger house?
Is it our perfect career?
Is it the envy and adoration we receive from colleagues and friends?
Do we consider these things “rubbish”…which is a nice way of saying “cow dung”?
Or are we not truly following Christ due to the fact that we are still possessed by the demons of the passing and perishing things of the world?
What do you need to give up…to give to Christ…to consider as “cow dung” in order to experience the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” as “Lord”?