Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

April Newsletter 2024

“For the sake of Christ I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of 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 by any means 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.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:8-14

We get a preview in the section above, of what drives Paul forward in life—and what the Scriptures would say should drive us all forward in life.  As said by St. Paul, the goal of life for a Christian is to share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is what we would call salvation.  Salvation is to share in the victory of Jesus Christ over death even if we must die to share in it.

Salvation is something that Jesus has given to Paul, but as Paul goes on to say, he also strives to receive it.  In our minds this doesn’t connect, but for those who have been a part of the Sunday Bible classes recently, this both/and is how it is.  Jesus gives salvation without our work and at the same time it is the responsibility of Christians to work toward it.

Paul notes in verse 12 “not that I have already obtained it or am already perfect.” When we think of perfect, we think of something without fault.  Morally good we would think.

But that translation is a bit misleading.  The word for “perfect” is from the same word that Jesus used on the cross: “It is finished.”  The meaning behind both these uses is the idea of a runner who completes the race.  It is the idea of when you finish a book.  You have reached the end and the meaning for why you have struggled.  Jesus’ death then is a completion of everything Jesus set out to do in the 30 plus years he was on earth.  Paul notes that the work in him is not yet finished, namely, he has not been resurrected yet.  It is coming, Jesus has given it to him, but it is also not yet here.

In the meantime, before you are completed/finished, there is work to do, lest you miss the goal and your end is destruction.  Paul notes that his entire life is bent to the prize that is to receive the resurrection to eternal life.  That means that everything behind Paul must be let go of.  “forgetting what lies behind and striving forward.”  For Paul, that is not the bad things in life.  Forget the past for Paul is forgetting how good he was. (read verses 2-7).  Paul had everything.  He had the standing, the birth rank, the knowledge, and the righteousness that made him a credit to his people and a credit to society around him.  He was zealous, a mover and a shaker, someone who has a lot going for them.  In short, someone that everyone wants to be.

But the coming of Christ and the conversion to the faith has made St. Paul say about his former way of life, “that was a load of nonsense.”  The accolades and the prizes he received through his work and accomplishments are actually in the way of the resurrection.  So Paul suffered those to be lost in order that he might gain a better prize.  Namely, resurrection from the dead, given to him by Jesus.  Jesus has already made Paul his own.  Paul now wants to make Jesus his own, all done of course, by faith.

So for you, beloved by Jesus and who has made you his own.  Why do you do the things that you do?  Most people probably just do what they see everyone else doing without a thought as to why.
Why do you work?  Is it just to get a paycheck?  Is it because you want to make enough money to retire comfortably and be done?  Is that your goal?  Your end?  As a parent, why do we have children?  What do I want for them?  Do we just want them to get good grades and be in all the activities because we want them to succeed?  Why?  Is it just because that is what everyone else is doing?
An implication for what Paul is saying in Philippians 3 is that those goals that we all press on for, are the wrong goals.  The only goal that matters is attaining to the resurrection.  To achieve that goal will then change how you live.  Those things that take you away from Christ are evil, not good.  That promotion at work could cause you to no longer have time for hearing God’s Word and gathering with the Lord’s people.  That promotion is evil, not good.  Sending your kids to that place of higher education that has standing in the world might cause them to lose out on the resurrection because they will be flooded with unbelief.    

Keeping the goal in view makes life become more focused.  Which is a relief to me.  The world is seeking to divide your focus away, or at least deceive you into thinking it is not worth attaining to the resurrection.  But let Paul close us out as he continues:

“Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.  Brothers join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end (here is the word perfection again in Greek!) is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to even subject all things to himself.”  Philippians 3:15-21

Continue to strive, dear brothers and sisters in Jesus.  The end for you is resurrection and completion.  Don’t lose sight of that goal.  Amen.  You can start striving by reading the rest of this newsletter which has many things that you should note, pray about, and join in working and doing together with the brothers here at Christ Lutheran.  The Lord Jesus be with you all!