Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lent 5

Whatever was to me a profit, these things are to be considered on account of the Christ, forfeited. But, on the contrary, also all things are to be considered to be forfeited, on account of the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, through Whom I suffer loss of all things, and consider them excrement, so that Christ I may profit, and let me be found in Him, not having my righteousness, the one of the Law, but the one through faith of Christ, the righteousness out of God, upon the faith, the knowledge of Him, and the power of His resurrection and the communion of His passion, taking the same form in His death, if somehow, let me come unto the resurrection, the one out of death. Not that already I have received, or already have been completed, yet I pursue, if even, let me receive, upon which also I was taken upon Christ. Brothers, I myself do not consider myself to have taken; and one thing: on the one hand I forget the things behind, on the other hand for (what is) ahead I reach out. According to the destination I pursue unto the award of the call from above of God in Christ Jesus.

Why would God want to let you into His heaven? There are two predominate schools of thought on this issue. The first, Paul encountered in Philippi, where law-focused Jewish members like Spike Lee insisted that everyone must “do the right thing” for God to consider you worthy of His kingdom. So to counter this, Paul offers a different point of view, one which looked at all the so called “right things” he did as nothing but, well, for lack of a better word: “excrement!”. Another righteousness was needed.

St. Paul urged them, and urges you to consider everything which you value in this world as something completely lost to you. Your own pride, your own supposed “goodness”, your own skills, talents and abilities are to be forfeited on account of Christ. For nothing you do contributes to your own goodness at all. You have a righteousness that is alien to yourself, one that comes from another world, the world to come. For you have been given the righteousness out of God, from above, given you through faith.

Now the first challenge you face with regard to this foreign righteousness is that you want somehow to be the one in charge of obtaining it. But you aren’t. Deep down you want to do something to get it, you think that you must at least reach out a little to take it, but you must understand that you are like Paul, not considering himself to have taken it. Instead, all the taking is done by Jesus Who takes us to Him.

The true righteousness is not taken from God, but given to you by God. You don’t actively take it. You passively receive it as a gift. The righteousness you have is by the faith of Christ Jesus, Who willingly took your sins as His Own on the and, so that in Him you would become the righteousness of God! This blessed trade Jesus made with you at Calvary, and delivered it to you the day of your baptism, your sins washed from you all the way to the tree of Golgotha, in exchange for Jesus holy righteousness.

The second problem you have concerning this gift of Jesus’ righteousness is that you are tempted to consider everything you already have as “good enough”. You seem “alright” at this juncture of your life, working hard, caring for your family, having made provisions for the future... Yet St. Paul reminds you that you are not to consider yourself as somebody who’s already received it all in this world.

No, the best is yet to come. Like the woman buried with a fork in her casket, because at every church dinner she was told to keep her fork for dessert, you have far surpassing things awaiting you. Oh, you have some knowledge of Christ your Savior now, but you know that you look forward to one day seeing Him face to face in heaven, as you behold His everlasting wounds which Thomas touched, as a permanent reminder to you that Jesus gave up everything for you, even His life unto death on the cross.

A third difficulty you face when it comes to Christ’s righteousness is that you are tempted to believe that you are complete already, and need nothing further from Jesus. This is simply not the case. You might feel self-satisfied with what a good Christian person you perceive yourself to be, but you remain in this world tainted by sin, corrupted thoroughly by your sinful flesh, in need of a drastic solution..

God alone can solve this problem by connecting you with the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Sinful you needs a participation in Jesus’ suffering and death, so that you can be raised by God to new life again. This fellowship with the death and resurrection of Jesus is given to you in a special communion of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus feeds you with His very body given in death, so that it become for you a feast of life eternal through the forgiveness of your sins, salvation for your soul!  

So your own righteous efforts placed behind you, you reach out in faith for your heavenly destination.



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