Vision - 2023
Today is special. Today we celebrate communion. We begin again with a fresh understanding of God’s grace. In the last year we have seen some incredible things in our family here. Big things. God things. And we have been through some hard things. Some world shattering things. Some - I just need to be at the feet of Jesus because everything else is chaos things. We are blessed to be able to be there.
As a church in the last year we have been through some stuff. We have seen and done some stuff. We did some things we have never done before that I have thought - we need to do that a lot more often! And we have done some things this year that I have lamented over, I never want to do that again...
Each year as we come to this first Sunday, I come back to Philippians 3:12-15
Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you.
I believe this passage of scripture is a good place to start the year, especially for us. Because many of us have been believers for a long time. We have been church folks for a long time. And in that - we get stagnant.
The Apostle Paul, having known who God was from the what we know as the old testament… having his own experience and appointment with Jesus the Christ on the Road to Damascus… having found company with the disciples that walked with Jesus, planted churches himself, shared the gospel countless times himself, worked himself over… that apostle Paul… wrote to this church in Philippi and said…
I don’t think I have all of this figured out.
I don’t think I am doing all of this perfectly.
I’m Not settling for who I have been, what I have done, where I have gone.
I don’t think - even after everything else, that I have taken hold of this.
Paul was there. He wanted to express that he didn’t have it all figured out - and that is where we should be also.
As believers though, we tend to go the other way. We get stagnant and lethargic.
We set goals for ourselves in every other aspect of our lives.
Better job - More money.
Health - we are going to lose those 15 pounds this year for sure!
Relationships - Going to work on that this year - I’m going to talk nicely to my wife at least 3 times each month - I am going to be a better parent.
And yet our walk with the lord is.... good enough?
If we do set goals for our christian life - they end up being just like that gym membership we keep buying every year - Going to read the bible in a year - only to fall off January 15th.
What are we supposed to do?
Paul says here, I make every effort to obtain perfection, because of Jesus. I know I don’t have it, but Jesus has me! And I want it. I want it so much.
Jesus has taken hold of Paul. His experience on the road to damascus, and everything that followed that had a real and lasting impact on Paul’s life. He had a real relationship with the triune God.
For many of us, our conversion story isn’t nearly that glamorous. In fact, some of us became believers when you were a child - your testimony is as simple as “I have been a christian for as long as I can remember”
There isn’t a time in your life where you remember not following Jesus.
For some of us - we got saved, prayed the sinners prayer - and now we are at a place of “what’s next?” Do we just go about our lives trying to be a do-good’r?
Paul’s example here tells us that the next thing for all of us, is to consider Jesus.
Think about all of the good things that Jesus has done for you and in you.
Consider first your salvation - then the specific moments in your life where God intervened. The special moments of grace - the incredible outpourings of God’s mercy.
And if you don’t have those - if you feel an underwhelming sense of “God’s not doing anything in my life” Then we need to go even more basic than that. We have to go to the beginning and give God glory for creation - and literally everything that has ever happened since then.
As believers - one of the most important things that we can do, especially as we enter into a new year, is to put God in his rightful place in our lives. In our church, we understand that the whole purpose of existing is to Glorify God. To honor him, and ensure that he is weighted correctly in our lives. Paul directs us to the same here. Because I have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
Forget the past.
Forget the past.
I just shared with you that one of the most important things that we can do as believers is to remember - the next important thing for us to do is to forget.
There are things holding you back in your walk with the Lord, and those things we have to step away from.
Overwhelming successes - one of the things that I get stuck on, is that our youth group used to be 40-50 kids. Eden and I ministered to groups of 15 kids. We have been there… and there are times, because we aren’t currently that big - that I get discouraged.
Our own mistakes. Our failures and shortcomings have a tendency to keep us from doing and expanding into new and better things.
The mistakes of others. - Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and said “you say you love people, but you don’t do it well. Love keeps no record of wrongs” We have to forget some things.
Church hurt. It may have been something that I did or said, it may have been a previous pastor or church leader, it may have been just bullies in the church… most people who have gone to a church have been hurt by a church.
Paul says I forget what is behind and reach forward to what is ahead.
To forget means to put it out of your mind. To fail to remember.
And there are so many things that fall into this category of the past. We have to forget.
Pursue the prize promised.
Pursue the prize promised.
For the last several months we have been studying in the book of Romans - and we have been learning all of the things that it means to be called by God. All of the wonderful things that God puts together with that so that it isn’t just a life of service but a life of blessing - and an eternity in perfection with Jesus.
We are called heirs with Christ.
The ones that God glorifies.
We run forward, reaching for the prize - that being that God puts us in a place of Honor.
He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.
And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
This is the wonderful nature of our God, this is the wonderful reality of our prize. We glorify God. He glorifies US.
That is the prize we are promised. That is the thing that we pursue. And God gives to us.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
And then he goes on, in vs 15.
Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you.
He said let those of us… who are mature, need to think that way about ourselves. We need to know - we aren’t finished yet. We can’t count ourselves out just because we know a little bit. Because we have known the lord for a while.
And so we look forward. Pushing towards the Goal - the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
As we go into the new year:
Let go of the past.
Pursue the prize.
A Church that Loves
A Church that Gives
A Church that Prays
A church that Worships
A Church that grows
Remember our purpose this year as a church:
My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.
Equip the Saints
We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Share the Gospel
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So, then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself; in this way let him eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.