Friday, September 16, 2016
Thursday, September 1, 2016
Monday, May 16, 2016
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Key Verse: 10-11
“I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Hey guys! We are finally here! The last message of this wonderful 2016 Easter Conference! So have you guys been enjoying the conference so far? What has been your guys’ favorite part so far? Personally for me, I have actually enjoyed the meetings more than the free time this year. These last few days, we have been blessed to be able to listen to five wonderful messages. So what have you guys learned in these last few days? Becky’s, Mary’s, David Won’s, Wolff’s, Kim’s? In Becky’s message we learned that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. In Mary’s message we learned about the reckless spending of grace God pours out on us. In David Won’s message we learned about how both sons were lost because they did not have a relationship with the God the father. In David Wolff’s message we learned about Jesus, our true older brother, who came down to earth to lead us back to God. And in David Kim’s message we learned that through Christ’s death on the cross, anyone and everyone can be forgiven. In this passage we will come to what it means to know Christ. From Paul, we can learn three things. FIRST: Knowing Christ is to put our confidence in Him; SECOND: Knowing Christ is to share in His death and life; THIRD: Knowing Christ is worth it all.
Part I: Knowing Christ is to put our confidence in Him (1-9)
At this time, Paul had been put in prison because of his faith. He was most likely in a dirty cell with rats crawling around, food crumbs everywhere, and it also probably reeked of pee and poop. On top of all that he was isolated from people and must have started to feel very lonely. Given his circumstances, it could have been very easy for Paul to just complain or become angry with God. Yet rather than complain, Paul was a source of encouragement for the people in Philippi. We have all been in a difficult or unfavorable condition before, and if you haven’t, you’re either lying or you’re just a baby who hasn’t really experienced life. Haha…jk. Here for example, maybe you aren’t satisfied with a certain grade you have in school, even though you insist that you have been studying as hard as you possibly could; or maybe, you’ve been having trouble with a certain relationship in your life and feel that the person is being unjust and treating you unfairly; or maybe, life itself just seems to be so meaningless or stressful. Paul, who was suffering in prison, teaches us to rejoice. He encouraged the Philippians to do the same. Verse 1 reads, “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” Paul was genuinely happy and was able to rejoice because he knew that Christ was right beside him even in his time of trial. He had confidence in Christ. And because he was able to rejoice, the Philippians could also rejoice. Even though it may not be easy, I pray that we can rejoice in all circumstances, putting our hope in Christ, and doing so, we are able to genuinely become happy.
While in prison, Paul was trying to encourage the Philippians, and warn them about people that would hinder their faith. In verse 2 Paul says, “Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.” Paul was referring to those that believed that followers of Christ must be circumcised, and that those that didn’t could not receive salvation. Like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, this mindset was very legalistic. Rather than focus on the redeeming power of Jesus, some Jews wanted to focus and hold onto traditions, minimizing Jesus’ death on the cross. However, Paul warns us of those that are mutilators of flesh. These “Christians” were very lost. They did not really know Christ because they put their confidence in the flesh. We cannot gain salvation through our actions or through holding onto traditions. Rather it is solely through God’s one sided grace that we can be saved and redeemed. Paul says in verse 3, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh-“Now, I am not saying that doing good deeds or holding onto some sort of tradition is bad. I think it is good for us as Christians to write and share testimonies, profess our faith through baptism, go fishing to spread the gospel message, and to partake in fellowship through attending Sunday service. If you do these things, great, it can really help you grow in faith. However, let me ask you a question, if you do do these things, why do you do them? If we do these things just because our parents make us do them to because we think that it’s good for us, aren’t we just being like the older son in the parable of the prodigal son? Doing these actions should be out of love for God, not because we “should” do them. It is because of God’s grace on us that we are saved and can inherit eternal life. And because of this, we are able to rejoice and in our happiness we can gladly and willingly serve God by his Spirit.
The grace that we receive from God also enables us to have a new identity in Christ Jesus. Before Paul had become a Christian, he was a Pharisee. And he was not just any ordinary Pharisee, no; you see Paul was a perfect Jew. In verses 4-6, Paul says, “..though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” Before he had met Jesus, Paul had done all these things to try to gain his salvation. Paul’s attitude in a sense was pretty similar to the older brother. As we learned in David Won’s message, the older brother was just as lost as the younger brother, in the sense that he had no relationship with the father. He viewed himself as a slave, and was only working so that he could receive the inheritance. Both sons cared nothing about their relationship with God, but rather were only looking to try and gain some sort of reward. Likewise, Paul had no relationship with God the father, and instead was only looking to see what he could gain from keeping all the laws.
On the way to Damascus, Jesus turned Paul’s life around to use him to proclaim the gospel message. Paul, who was hopelessly wandering around, persecuting Christians, believed that he was doing God’s work and that through this he could gain some sort of salvation. However, Jesus came to save him and showed him how he could really serve God. Through this conversion, Paul’s identity changed from being a law-abiding Jew into becoming a follower of Christ. He didn’t put his confidence in his Jewish identity anymore, rather he put his confidence in Jesus who gave him a new identity. That is why in verses 7-9 Paul says, “But whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 on the basis of faith.” Ultimately, we cannot do anything to gain our salvation. Our confidence can only be in Jesus. It is through His grace we receive salvation. And in that grace we can also come to have a clear identity as Christians who put our faith in Christ.
Part II: To Know Christ is to share in His death and His life (10-14)
Now what does it really mean, “to follow Christ?” To be completely honest with you guys, I had a very difficult time understanding what this meant. Most of us here have all grown up in UBF or in a Christian household, learning about Jesus from when we were very young. We know that God sent him down to be with us, to show us how we can please God, and ultimately to die for our sins. But then, what does it mean to really know Christ? Paul says in verses 10 and 11, our key verse for this passage, “I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Paul, largely considered the most influential Christian of all time, said that he wanted to know Christ more. How is this even possible? How is it that someone like Paul who devoted His life to Christ could still say “I want to know Christ?” It is because when we really meet God, we see how great the grace of Jesus is on our lives. And the closer we come to God, the more we realize how much we sin. However, we can also come to see how much more God’s grace increases on our lives. That is why Paul says I want to know Christ, so that he can constantly be reminded of God’s grace on his life, and in that way his passion and love for Christ can be stirred up newly.
It may seem that I have everything figured it out. But to be completely honest with you guys, I don’t even fully know what it means to know Christ. When I first received this passage, I didn’t really know how this passage could apply to me. At first I was angry and thought that I was just given a filler passage totally unrelated to the conference. However, after studying this passage, I was really humbled to see how little that I actually know. For my entire life, I have obeyed my parents and just gone with the flow of things. Unlike most of my peers, who in my opinion are very intelligent and observant asked many questions during Bible Studies to see if they could accept Jesus as their own savior, I never really questioned whether or not I actually believe in Christ. And it started to get me thinking, do I really know who Jesus is? I was baptized in the eighth grade, but how much did I really know him, and did I even love him? These feelings of doubt and uncertainty made me feel frustrated and realize how inadequate I am to deliver this message. However, through a lot of prayer, and I mean a lot of prayer, from my parents, from you all, and especially the HBF leaders as well as my fellow seniors, I was able to come to understand, that no I don’t know everything there is to know about my faith. But one thing I do know is that God is surely alive. And I can say this with certainty. When I look, I can see how much God has worked in my life. I really should not be here today. There have been many points in my life where I should’ve died. When I was born, my mom had complications during her delivery, which had put both her and I at risk of losing our lives. Shortly after, doctors had found that I was born with a birth defect and that I couldn’t digest any of my food because my esophagus was not connected to my stomach. Even later on in my life, I had chronic pneumonia as many of you know and have even been hospitalized several times. There are many other things that I can name where I can see that God has worked in my life, but then we would be here all day.. and I know some of you guys want to get back home ASAP. Yes, I may look like a weak and helpless person, but really that’s where I have been able to see how gracious God has been on my life and that he is indeed alive. What is more, I know that Jesus came to save me, a worthless sinner who was lost in his sins of pride, lust, jealousy, and self-centeredness. Jesus died on the cross for my sins and in that way was able to forgive me for all of my shortcomings. But the real beauty is in his resurrection. Because Jesus rose again from the dead, I can be alive in him and really have a new identity in him and by coming to him I can develop a new relationship with him. I am also coming to see that knowing Christ is not something that happens once in our lifetime. Rather it is something that we must constantly and daily do, so that our love for Jesus can continually be renewed. I pray that as I continue onto college in the next year, that I may be able to hold onto my faith and come to know Christ more.
Now let me ask you guys a question, do you know Christ? Have you ever met the risen Christ, or are you leaning on someone else’s faith? Or let me ask this, how do we get to know a person, and what is the best way to get to know a person? Isn’t the best way to get to know someone by spending time with them? Then isn’t also the best way to get to know Jesus, by spending more time with him? However, there is only one problem, Jesus is no longer alive and here on earth. We can’t just go over to Jesus’ house and chill on his couch or mooch off of his family by eating lunch with them every day. So then, how can we really come to know Christ if we can’t physically spend time with him? I truly believe that the only way that we can know Christ is reading the Bible, prayer, and sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Can we all read the key verse again? “I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” In order to know Christ, we need to participate in Christ’s sufferings. Paul says this is like dying. What this means is that, as Christians, we must die to ourselves daily just as Jesus died so that we may experience the power of the resurrection from when we were spiritually dead. Through denying ourselves, we can partake in Christ’s sufferings, but even greater, we can experience his resurrection power which frees us from the bondages of slavery to sin. Can someone read Romans 6:4-5: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” To know Christ is to share in His sufferings so that we also share in His resurrection power. Through Jesus, we can be found again and brought back to the Father. We are no longer dead in sin, but alive in Christ. To know Christ is to realize God’s grace on our lives and to want to follow him.
Part III: Following Christ is worth it all (15-21)
Following Christ is not easy because we have to partake in his sufferings. But through partaking in Christ’s sufferings, we gain something even greater--we can experience his resurrection power which frees us from the bondage of sin. Again, I say, participating in Christ’s sufferings is not easy. It could require us to miss out on some experiences that life has to offer. One of my friends recently told me that he believed in God, but did not want to follow him, because he wanted to be able to whatever he wanted and to be the master of his own life. I, myself, struggle with this mindset and for a while regretted being born into a Christian household, and especially into UBF. Having to go to CBF every Saturday morning and eventually Praise nights on Friday, and service on Sunday’s, I was not able to participate in many club sports, hang out with friends, or even go to certain school events. I felt like I missed out on a lot of fun experiences and had many regrets. But through this passage, Paul teaches us that Jesus has so much more to offer than what the world has to offer us. He gives us His resurrection life. As a good-standing Jew in community, Paul was highly respected and also had a lot of influence. However, he says that he considered everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus. Paul was also not living for this world but rather was looking forward to his reward in heaven. In verses 13-14, Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind 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.” Paul knew that Jesus had so much more to offer, which is eternal life with God in heaven. And because of this, Paul had no regrets because through Jesus he could find true joy and meaning in his life. William Whiting Borden was born into affluence in Chicago, Illinois, on November 1, 1887. Borden's family was wealthy and his father prominent in Chicago, making his money in silver mining in Colorado. After his mother converted to Christianity in 1894, she began taking him to Chicago Avenue Church (now the Moody Church). He soon responded to the gospel, turned to Christ, and was baptized. Borden’s father wanted him to take care of the family company and even offered to give him $1 million dollars as an inheritance. However, to his father’s dismay, Borden decided to become a missionary to the Muslims of northern China, and donated that $1 million to the China Inland Mission as well as other Christian agencies. But before Borden could even make it to China, he died of cerebral meningitis in Egypt during his training at age 25. From a worldly and human perspective, Borden’s death was tragic and his life was cut short. However, soon after his death, his Bible was recovered, with three things written inside. In it were the words, "No Reserve" and a date placing the note shortly after he renounced his fortune in favor of missions. At a later point, he had written "No Retreat", dated shortly after his father told him that he would never let him work in the company ever again. Shortly before he died in Egypt, he added the phrase "No Regrets." Borden’s message of not living for this world shows just how much of a better experience Jesus offers to us when we live our life for him. Even though we may suffer and face difficult situations, ultimately, the life that we have following Christ gives us the most joy and meaning in life. When I look back upon my experiences of growing up in a Christian household, I can really see how blessed that I am, and how gracious God has been to me with enabling me to know and meet him from such a young age. I pray that we all may become like Paul and be able to consider everything garbage compared to knowing Christ more.
This leads me toward the end of my message. So how has everything that we’ve learned over the last few days apply to us today? At the beginning of this passage, Paul warns us of evildoers who put confidence in the flesh. But who are these people? Whether we like it or not, these people are actually us. We are all lost because of our sin. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and have been separated from him because of our sin. Some of us are like the younger son, who only want to seek pleasure and indulge in the world, without any regard to God’s calling. Others of us are like the older brother, who do many works, but not because we genuinely love God, and have become like slaves, thinking that we can gain our own salvation. However, there will come a point in our lives, where nothing that we do can fully satisfy us and life becomes so bleak. Our hearts long for something more. And like the welcoming father, our God lavishes his love on us trying to lead us back to him. And the great thing is that God has already done this for us, and is continuing to pour out his love on us. He sent Jesus to us to be our true older brother and lead us back to him. However, Jesus had to go through so much pain and suffering to bring us back to the Father. He gave up his glory in heaven to become a human like us. He was our true older brother by teaching us how to live a life that pleased God. He spent time with the social rejects, the lonely, and the sick. And ultimately he paid the ultimate price by dying on that brutal cross for our sins. But even while on that cross, he was spat on, mocked, beaten, and worst of all, he was isolated from God in order to bear my sin and your sin. How painful it must have been for him! But the one thing that really moved him to fully obey God was his great unconditional love for us. Jesus knew the heart of the father, and came to seek us and bring us home. Jesus could only do this because like God the father, he loves us so much! You know, last night for the first time in my life I really came to see how much God loves me, and thinking about his love for me really brought me to tears. And the only thing that I kept asking myself was why? Why does Jesus love someone like me? I am like both the older brother and the younger brother. I can’t fully commit to God’s plan for me and am afraid to give into whatever God has in store for me. However, I am also so self-righteous and in order to feel right with God, I do numerous sorts of things to try to gain redemption. So why would God love such a terrible sinner like me who is not even capable of reciprocating the love that he shows for me? And the beauty of it is that Jesus loves us because we are who we are. What is more, we are his God’s precious children, and because of that God is willing to go to any lengths to bring us back to him. If Jesus was just an ordinary man, his death would’ve just been another tragic story. However, we know that this is not true. Through his resurrection from the dead, we can have full assurance that Jesus has defeated death and forgiven us of our sins. What is more, we can be brought back to God, if we just believe! So what are we waiting for? Do you want to know Christ and be brought back to the father? Then let us come to know Christ and love him, growing in a deeper relationship with him.