8 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.

10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:8  -14

You are all familiar with the American Dream.  It means a person strives for a better, fuller richer life that is usually achieved by Sacrifice, Risk-taking and Hard Work.  So, people pursue a good education, job, family and life.  But, then you run up against the effects of sin in our world that don’t want us to enjoy this creation of our gracious Lord, but becomes difficult.  That is what Lent is all about.  One person recently said, “If you don’t go through Lent you won’t really appreciate Easter.”  I get that.

I do wish Easter was today.  I mean, it is only the 5th Sunday in Lent and this Sunday is kinda like a test or a marathon.  Some of you know what I mean.  You have come to worship every Sunday the past month and we’ve heard about this season of repentance, sorrow over sin and what we deserve from God because of our sins.  Some of you have even come to every Wednesday evening special service to meditate on Jesus’ betrayal, capture, unjust court proceedings, accusations, condemnations and ridicule.   Lent is like a marathon for Christians!  It takes endurance and focus.   Maybe you can relate if you’ve ever run a long race and when you’re about ¾ of the way through, before you can see the finish line, it is hard to keep going because you’re worn out, tired and wondering if you’ve go enough in you to finish the race.  It’s easy at this point in Lent to grow weary and tired, overwhelmed with sorrow over sins that infect your life that caused Jesus to have to suffer and die!  You have the baggage of guilt, shame and pain you’ve caused others due to your selfishness and stubbornness.  So, what’s next?  Dare we throw up our hands wishing all this hadn’t happened and try to smooth out our life by saying, “Oh well.  Life still goes on!”  Or shall we Strive Toward God’s Treasure?

Yes, join me today to walk through the valley of suffering and death with Jesus during Lent, but knowing full well the prize won for us by Jesus is waiting for us at the other side.  Therefore, let us

Strive Toward God’s Treasure

Investing with Confidence

Paul’s confident investment in Jesus was not always the case growing up.   Paul grew up hearing things like this from his parents and rabbis at the synagogue: “Here are the things you need to follow to get right with God,” OR “You’re a true Israelite, as Hebrew as you can get,” OR “You’ve had the best training at Pharisee school and have strictly and faultlessly keep all their rules!”  You see, Paul spent his life investing with confidence in what seemed to him to be all the right things, and had done all the right things.  If his salvation depended on what he had done, he was guaranteed a clear entrance into heaven!   If Paul were living today he might have heard things like this, “No more dancing, smoking or drinkin’ and you just might make it into heaven!”

But, then Paul met Jesus and the confident investment of all the things he had done in this life changed!

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.”

All the things Paul had been so confident in, all the advantages that he thought had had for really securing eternal life for himself, he came to realize were all worthless!   Listen!

“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.”

Paul had spent his life doing some confident investing for his eternal good, but he had been confidently investing in the wrong things.  He had been investing in himself, building an education that he thought would bring him rich gains, and following the advice of the world that appealed to his sinful nature—“Do it well, and get ‘er done!”   Then, in the end, he learn his confident investments were worthless.  His best efforts weren’t perfect—or in his own words,

“They were garbage!”

That is, when compared to the perfect righteousness won by Jesus.   His earthly investments ended with earthly returns=nothing!  But, he didn’t say, “Life goes on” but rather “Life goes on trusting in Jesus!” or in his words,

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.“

God changed his whole life from investing in his own goodness, that he was better than everyone else, that he tried hard enough, that he did more good than bad, to investing—that is believing—in the goodness that was given to him as a free gift and became his very own through the channel of faith in Jesus.  That inspired Paul to confidently invest toward his newly discovered Treasure from God.   Yes, his eternal gain was found in believing in Christ Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

If you’re like me you’ve invested your energies in family, school, work, society and wanted to see a good return on your investment to be sure.  However, for your eternal life let us be clear where we confidently invest ourselves.  I could very easily be tempted by Satan to invest my salvation in my upbringing in a Christian home, living a moral life, attending Christian schools, confirmed and married in a Lutheran Church!   As for being zealous about God’s kingdom work—I go to church, do good stuff around church, around home, for my family.  These are all good things, aren’t they?  No, not if I’m relying on these things to get me the heavenly prize of eternal life.  Then I’m investing in the wrong stuff for the wrong reason.   All of this Christian stuff cannot make me right with God.  Paul would say they’re all garbage if these things stand in the way of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ through faith.  Dear Christians friends, let’s invest with confidence in Christ as we strive toward our eternal treasure.  And as we carry on, let’s

Invest with Care!

Simple investment doesn’t make you rich.  If you invest your money when the market is up, then you’ll lose your money when the market is down.  So, you have to invest with care!  Paul speaks about his careful investment in Jesus Christ.

10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

You know about Jesus’ life, his suffering, his death and his resurrection, right?  Do you know what it means to really know Jesus?   Think of it like this?  Do you know the game of football?  You could ask Siri and she would football is a game between two eleven player teams on a field with goal posts at each end.   Or you could ask Google and learn that football is a “team game played with an oval ball on a field marked out as a gridiron. Points are scored mainly through touchdowns and field goals. Each side has eleven players on the field at any time.”  But, if you really want to know what football is, ask someone who plays it.  They suit up in pads and helmet, squat down in a stance and spring into full action to either block, run, throw or tackle the opponent.  Sweat is pouring off your body and after a series of downs you have so exhausted your energy that your muscle start to scream, unless you’ve scored a touchdown, in which case you forget all that hurts and scream with your teammates!  You really can’t know what football is, until you’ve played it.

Knowing Jesus is more than just knowing he lived 2,000 years ago, did some good stuff and died on a cross.  Paul explains,

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.“

Pressing on means carefully investing your attention to walk into the High Priest’s kangaroo court,  beaten at the hands of soldiers, hair and beard pulled out, crown of thorns wedged into your heard, beat with a staff, spit on and ridiculed as you carried your own cross to a hill to be nailed to it.  It is carefully investing your time to re-live Jesus’ cruel crucifixion from noon to three on Good Friday, to take on himself the eternal wrath of God the Father punishment for sin—YOUR punishment for sin.  It is careful investment to mourn over his death and then to rejoice of his resurrection from the dead.  It is knowing and confidently believing that Jesus did all of this for you to win the eternal prize of life with God in heaven for you.  Confidence in anything else is garbage!

The prize is won by Jesus already, but we don’t hold it in our hands just yet.  It’s like when you buy a car or purchase a home, you sign all the papers and the funds are all transferred so that you legally own it, but it’s not until you have those keys in your hands that you really take ownership of it.  Likewise the heavenly prize of eternal life with God is won for you by Jesus.  He paid it by his life.  The proof of your payment for sins was guaranteed when Jesus rose from dead.  The papers were signed by his blood.  Today you possess all the blessings of FED through faith.  We will receive the keys to our heavenly home upon our death.  So, until then, we are investing our time, talents, treasures and testimony with care!   We press on toward the prize with confidence.

I also know that while we are waiting for the prize there are plenty of distractions!   You are tempted to become lazy about your careful investment.   Suffering for Christ is not easy.  The world wants us to give up training your spiritual muscles by avoiding God’s Word and nourishing your soul through regular meals of Word and Sacrament.   Satan loves Christians who have lost their focus and are in danger of letting go of the prize.   Therefore Paul gives us some godly encouragement:

13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

In know this isn’t easy when life throws challenges at you.   Of course I wish I was in heaven already, but I can’t spend the rest of my life wishing that bad things hadn’t happened!  Life still goes on!   But, our life goes on with Jesus.  We know nothing in this world is permanent—especially the things achieved through the American Dream.  Nothing belongs to us forever.  Even the air we breath in must be exhaled out at some point.  Rather, spend the rest of your life living for Jesus who did it all for you!   Life still goes on because we are pressing on toward the goal of our Treasure Stored up for us in heaven by Jesus!  So, invest in Jesus with Confidence.  Invest in Jesus with Care.  Strive With Jesus Toward your Heavenly Prize!  Amen!