Getting Into The Game!
I have a confession to make; one of the reasons that I was glad about being sent to Bel Air, MD was that I was returning to Baltimore football territory. Grew up with colts, watched Johnny Unitas throw his last touchdown pass at memorial stadium. It was hard being a sensitive pastor to Redskin fans, when I wanted to rub it in each time they lost!
So, as I prepared this sermon this week, I couldn’t help to think about how Art Modell took the offensive Tuesday, January 19, 1999 in his bid to get to the Super Bowl for the first time by signing Brian Billick to a six-year contract as coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
This afternoon in Tennessee, we find our Raven’s team ready to play because of the decisions and changes that they have made over the last several years. It didn’t happen over night, but each year built upon the next.
I think that the Apostle Paul also would have been a pretty good head coach. He clearly lays it all out for us.
First he challenges us to get into the game. To stop being a spectator in Christian life, but to join the team, get on the field and make a difference.
How did Paul take this inexperience band of followers of Jesus and turned them into a mighty powerhouse that turned the world upside down? Let’s take a look and I hope that when we finish understanding this passage, we will join with God in making some plays that will change our world!
1. Have the right Priority
Any good coach, any good teachers, any follower of Christ must ask this question.
"What are my priorities in life.?
Listen to the number of times Paul refer to Jesus, Christ Lord. Philippians 3: 7-11.
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 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.
It is apparent that Paul’s priority was to know Christ. Paul is saying In every verse, I want to know him, gain him, to find him, have a faith in him, I want to identify with him.
Isn’t that what Jesus meant in Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
When Jesus said this he was talking about food, clothing, material blessings, the things that we go to work for every day of our life, to try to provide for our family, bread for the table,
We do exactly the opposite. Instead of following Math 6:33, I follow Hidey 6:33 which says "Seek Ye first food, drink, clothing, and your future and if you have any time, some spiritual things will be added unto you."
Isn’t it so easy in our life to turn this priority thing all around, Paul would say, if you want to get into the game, put God first,
What would happen if all of us if we really put God first?
What if we gave God the first day of every week?
Not just coming to worship. What if Sunday really became the Lord’s day? What if we talked with our family about the things of God? What if we gave him the beginning of every day? We stopped and prayed and read a chapter and say okay God this is your day? What would happen is we gave God the first 10% of our paycheck? Can you trust God to take care of your needs, or do you trust yourself?
What would happen if we gave God our gifts first? If we gave God our time and abilities. What would really happen if I did just what Paul said that Hidey is just going to put as his only priority -- Jesus? If you walked into Paul’s life you could immediately find out that when Paul said, "For me to live is Christ". That Paul absolutely lived that believed that and breathed that. What would happen to you and me if we did that?
Do you remember when you first fell in love? O what a feeling. You could not do enough for that person. You thought about them all the time, you only noticed their good points. You wanted to be with them. The sacrifices you would make to be together. Boston to Baltimore while I was in seminary to see Holly! The miles I put on my car.
The Lord’s will be Number one when you really love him. That is pretty simple. Paul is saying that Jesus will be your priority and your consuming drive in your life when you really love him.
And when you don’t love Jesus, a team of wild horse could not drag you to him. All the rules that were ever written wouldn’t be enough to make you serve him. All the cathedrals that were ever built are not enough to make you come and sit and adore him.
It’s a matter of getting your love life straight with Jesus. You want to make him first in all things in your life.
Today’s covenant service will help you decide!
2.Have the right plan.
a. Paul was open minded about his position (12-13)
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."
Paul is saying that he has not arrived that he is not perfect. That is in the game but that he isn’t at his best. As Paul says in Romans 12 - he looks at himself -
He doesn’t compare himself to others, He could have, Paul could shame us all with what he has done for Christ!
Billick said. ’’I don’t have all the answers, but I know how to go about finding them.’’
b. Paul was close-minded about his past. . "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind"
The first thing that comes to mind is that Paul must be talking about the failures of the past. The times when he has blown it, failed God and others, sinned and disappointed God!
And I think that for some of us, we have much that we would like to forget about! We can be forgiven.
I John 1:9
Yet, I think he is saying something deeper. He is making a statement about God’s Amazing Grace (just a commercial) I will be starting a series on Grace next week. I don’t think you will want to miss it!
I think that Paul is reminding us that we can’t live on yesterday. I don’t know how many people try and impress God with what they did yesterday, or impress me and in a sense try to coast to salvation on their Good works. I’m sorry but I can’t live on yesterday’s prayers, or last weeks bible reading, or last months service or last years giving of money or time or talent. We are in a New Year, this is a new Sunday, and we all start fresh with God today!
Most of you know that the Baltimore Ravens - beat Tennessee already this year. They were the only time to defeat them at home. So it would be easy to be over confidant and think that just by showing up they can win. WRONG - they must get in the game today!
On Dec 30, 2000 I filled my car up with gas, I thought I would last all of 2001. No. I must refuel my car all year long. Can’t live off last year blessings, we need a fresh anointing!
C. Paul was single-minded about his future - This is a guy who has a goal. V. 13-14Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Immediately following the Raven’s final game last December, Billick gathered the Ravens and said: "We’ve raised the bar. We can’t go back. We are at a new level, and we will move forward. Our fans, the media, the organization - all have new expectations for us. They’re justified in wanting more success. Eight and eight is not going to get it anymore. We need to take the next steps to become a playoff team."
Illustration of why would you go bowling if you didn’t have pins at the end of the alley?? You need a goal to shoot for!
Why are you here? Does it seem too hard for you to come to worship? Do you find excuses to stay away?
What is the one thing?
Are you seeking after what God has laid for us????
3. Have the right attitude - Do you know that Paul wrote this book while in prison?? Yet this is a book full of joy!
1:4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.
2:17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
So lets get into the game and make this a great year of ministry and outreach!!!