A Race to Run | Philippians Week 8 | Dr. Chip Bennett
- What is distracting you from the race God has called you to run?
- Of all the things Pastor Chip mentioned that mature Christians need, which one stood out to you?
- How can you reflect Christ in your community this week?
So, you may or may not know this, but the first person to break the four-minute mile was a guy named Roger Bannister. And I don’t know if you know this or not, but when people break something that everybody thinks couldn’t be broken, everybody’s like, “There’s nobody who could ever break a four-minute mile.”
Well, when he did, it wasn’t long after he broke the four-minute mile that John Landy came along, broke the four-minute mile and beat his record, which setup for this incredible race, in 1954, in Vancouver. And there may be some people in here that remember that.
The race was like a heavyweight fight. It was just runners. It wasn’t boxers, but it was runners. These two guys who had run sub four-minute miles were going to race. Their racing style was completely different. Landy was a guy that would kick out of the gate and just go for it. He’d go as hard as he could until he finished. Bannister was a guy that would pace himself and try, at the very end, to really kick it up another notch and get past the finish line.
This is a picture from that particular race. That is Roger Bannister in front of John Landy. But the way the race went is sort of unique because when they came out of the gate, Landy took off. He was, at one point, about 15 meters ahead of Roger Bannister. Roger Bannister said, “I remember he was so far ahead of me that I started to question whether or not I could catch him.”
But he pushed and pushed and pushed. On the very last lap, as they came around the last bend, Landy, who had been in the lead the entire time, looked back to see where Bannister was. At that particular moment, Bannister came past him and went on to win that race. It was the first time ever, in the history of the sport, that two men finished under four minutes, and Landy was only eight tenths of a second behind Bannister. That’s how close it was. But the important thing here is this: There was a lesson that was taught in that race that many of us have learned in our lives. When you’re running, when you’re pushing forward, when you’re trying to get to the finish line, the last thing you ever want to do is look back because, in looking back, Bannister said this: “I didn’t know, but when I saw him look back, it gave me such strength. I thought, ‘He thinks I’m going to win.’”
And he shot around him and he won that race. Why do I say all that? You may go, “This is church. Why are we talking about racing? Chip, you don’t even run.”
You’re absolutely right. I don’t run. If you find me dead on a racetrack, somebody killed me and drug me there. So, just know that. Now, my wife’s a whole other story. She does run, but I’m from Kentucky. The only thing I run from is my problems. So, there we go. But why do I bring that up? I bring that up because athletic metaphors are part and parcel of a lot of the biblical texts that we read. Oftentimes, when we’re reading through the texts, we maybe miss these sort of athletic metaphors, these athletic figures of speech. Now that we’re in Philippians 3, Paul is going to employ a lot of this “running a race” type of imagery, and I want us to be able to catch it as he goes through.
What happens here, in Philippians 3 — and I believe this with everything. I think this is the greatest section of the Bible that deals with one of the most perennial issues that you and I have in following Jesus. It goes something like this: “How do I know that I’m a Christian?”
Well, you know that you’re a Christian because you have believed in Jesus.
“Well, don’t I have to do anything to earn it?”
“Well, don’t I have to do something to get it?”
No. It doesn’t start with “do,” it starts with “done.”
Then you go, “Okay, but I know, in the Bible, it talks about how we should live a moral life and we should do good things. It says, ‘Faith without works is dead,” so aren’t we supposed to be doing good things?”
“Well, hold on now. So, if I’m supposed to do good things, is it the good things that keep me in? Is it the good things that got me in? How does that work?”
If you’ve been in church long enough, if you’ve been around this thing long enough, you know that this is always the perennial issue.
“How is somebody saved? How do they know they’re saved? Aren’t I supposed to be doing X amount of things? Maybe I got saved by grace, but don’t I keep my salvation by what I do?”
All of these things are things that Christians struggle with, and you may be struggling with that. Maybe you’ve struggled with it. Maybe you never got a good answer. So, Paul, as he’s just been talking to us, as we talked last week, about how we can’t put confidence in the flesh at all — we’re not saved by anything we do. We are saved solely by the grace of God, but there’s also a race to run. How does that work in conjunction with each other? I think this is the greatest text in Scripture to deal with that. And Paul does what he always does, and the Scriptures do what the Scriptures always do. They teach us what we need to know. They don’t teach us, always, what we want to know. So, we have to go with what Scripture tells us, not with what we want it to be or how we want to dissect it.
Paul gives it to us straight. It’s clear enough to understand how it works, but we’re going to have to work through the text to see it. What I’m hoping and praying is that this will be one of those really good meat and potatoes messages that helps you out. Because, as your pastor, not only do I want to see people come to faith, not only do I want to see people who are lost move to being found, but I also want to equip you, as Christians, to be able to live this thing out, and I want to give you some really, really good, clear, and precise teaching here out of Philippians 3:12 so that we can sort of understand this thing of, “Okay. Am I saved? Have I got works to do?”
And all of this stuff. How does that all work out? Well, Paul’s going to show us. So, we’re going to start in Philippians 3:12 because, up to this point, Paul has said, “Hey, you can’t put any confidence in the flesh. Put everything behind. It’s all about Jesus.”
Then he starts in Philippians 3:12 and he says this: “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.”
I really thought, this weekend, about just doing Philippians 3:12 and nothing else because there’s so much richness in here. But I was like, “Well, I need to sort of expand the chapter here and work through the chapter.” But I want you to see the density of what’s going on here. First of all, he says, “Not that I have already obtained this.” Now, what is the “this?” Well, in Philippians 3:11, he talks about the fact that he wants to attain the resurrection from the dead. In other words, the sort of end game of the race. He says, “I’ve not obtained that yet. I’m not there.”
I mean, anybody who’s a Christian knows that, that we’re looking for that city that’s to come. We’re looking for that day when our faith becomes sight, when Jesus is as real as we know that He is, but He’s as real as what we see right now. He goes, “I’ve not obtained this yet or am already perfect,” which is interesting because Paul will tell us many times in his letters that we’re the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, that we have life, that we no longer live but Christ lives in us.
So, we go, “Well, we know that we’re perfect in one sense,” — and we are. As a Christian, everything that God could do for you, He’s done in Christ and you have now. But you also know this: By experience — you don’t need anybody to preach you this, but we know this for a fact — we don’t always look like what we are told we are in Scripture. Like, there’s this, “Huh?”
It was interesting. I heard a Greek Orthodox priest make a statement one time. It was sort of funny. He said, “The conundrum of Christianity is what you do from baptism.”
Because in the Greek Orthodox Church, getting baptized is the most important thing. So, he says, “The conundrum is what you do between baptism and the return of Christ. What do you do in the middle there?”
And that’s what many of us struggle with. We know we accepted Christ. We know we’re looking for His return. What do we do in the middle? How does that work out? Well, Paul says, “Listen, I’ve not obtained the resurrection from the dead, nor am I already perfect. I’ve got problems too. I haven’t arrived. Now, in Christ, I am forgiven. In Christ, I am made perfect. In Christ, I have the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. But in my practical life — not my positional life, not the positional things that I have in Christ, but in my practical life, I don’t always look like what I am in Christ.
He says, “So, it’s not that I have already obtained or am already perfect. This is just a fact. But what I do is I press on.”
In other words, “I’m in a race and I’m not looking back. I’m running. What I would do is I would press on to make it my own.”
What does he want to make his own? He says, “I want to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me His own.”
Some translations I think may be a little bit of a better translation here is that he took hold. The idea here that Paul is saying is, “Jesus took hold of me and put me into a race, and now what I need to do is I need to make that race my own. He took me and put me in. I didn’t deserve it, I didn’t earn it, I didn’t pay tickets for the race, I didn’t show up on time to get into the race. I was just taken hold of by Jesus.
And Paul is probably thinking about his conversion, in the book of Acts, on the Damascus road. He’s on his way to go persecute Christians and God — bam! — just hits him upside the head. All of a sudden, he’s now in this race. And Paul says, “I want to make it clear that, yes, we can’t glory in the flesh, there’s nothing we can do to earn it, but we’re in the interim. In the interim, I’ve not obtained it already, and neither have you. And I’m not already perfect, but what I’m going to do is I’m going to press on. I’m going to keep moving to make what Jesus put me in — He’s made me His own. I want to make it my own. I want all those things that Jesus has said about me to be a part of who I am. I’m pressing on. I’m pushing forward.”
He says, “Brothers, look. Here’s the realty. I’ve not made it my own yet. I still have a ways to go.”
And this may be shocking for many of you all because I grew up in a tradition where if you weren’t perfect, then God didn’t love you. I was like, “How is everybody doing this? Because I can’t do this. Man, I have a bunch of struggles, I get mad at things and frustrated at things.”
And then I realized they were all lying. They were telling me all the things that they were doing, but they weren’t because I hung out with them long enough to go, “Well, hold on. You ain’t any better than I am.”
Like, we’re all sort of messy. Do I have anybody in here that would say, “Amen?” We’re all sort of a little messy, right? And it’s okay to be that. It’s okay to admit that. Like, I don’t know why we’ve done this so long in church. We’ve made it the most untenable place to be because if you’re not perfect, you feel bad. And everybody gets up here and you know how it is. You roll people out and go, “Oh, here are these people that came to Jesus. They believed and now they have this and that. They got healed and Jesus talks to them every day.”
And you go, “That’s sort of not my life.”
What you need is somebody to get up here, like me, and go, “Hey, let me tell you something. I get frustrated at my kids. I get mad at my wife, every once in a while. I get frustrated at my kids again. I sometimes don’t enjoy what I do for a living. I get mad at my kids, every once in a while. I don’t like my dogs a whole lot. Sometimes Christians bother me. Sometimes I think the things I shouldn’t be thinking. Sometimes I get mad at people. Sometimes I really get frustrated at my kids.”
But my point is that you go, “That’s my life.”
That is our life. He’s like, “Listen, I don’t consider that I’ve made this my own yet. This is the interim. This is where I’m at.”
He goes, “But this is what I do. This is the one thing I do because I’m in a race. I forget what lies behind and I strain forward to what lies ahead. I’m not going to look back. I’m going to keep focused.”
He says, here’s the deal: “…I press on toward the goal for the prize…”
“I’m running a race. I want the prize.”
“…of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Now, of course, obviously, the upward call means being with Jesus for eternity, but I think in the context here, and sort of the metaphors that he’s using, especially being a race and prize, I think what he’s talking about here is at the end of a race, if you’ve won the race, you get called up to the podium. What he’s saying is, “I want, in my life — I know Jesus put me in the race. Like, I’m not worried about being in the race. He’s the one who put me in the race. The same God that put me in the race is faithful to continue to do what He said He would do.”
He actually says that in Philippians 1:6. He’s like, “I know He’s going to get this stuff done, but I want to make this my own. I want to press on. I want to be, at the end of the race, everything that Jesus said that I was. I want to be there when He calls my name and says, ‘Come up here onto the platform.’ That’s what I want. I want to make that. This is who I want to be.”
This is part of what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus, to say, “I’m in a race. I want to finish this race. I want to stay focused on it. I’m not going to look behind. I’m not going to do what Landy did, take peek back, and have Bannister come around the corner. I’m going to stay focused because I want to hear the upward call of God calling my name, saying, ‘Here’s the prize.’”
He had the prize when Jesus called him, but he’s like, “I want to make it my own. I want all those things that God says that I’m supposed to be. Loving, kind, generous, and fruitful. I want those things to be mine. Those things don’t make me a Christian, but I want them in my life because I am a Christian, because I have been called of God and He’s put me in this race. I want the race to become my own now. I want it to be a part.”
This is what we do, as Christians. Sometimes you’re in the race and sometimes the leg hurts, or sometimes you stub your toe and you’ve got to take a moment to take a swig of water. Or maybe you’ve got to rehab for a little bit. We all have a struggle, but the idea is we’re in a race. So, these are important concepts, as we’re going to see as we continue to go through, and especially as we get to the take-homes.
But he says, “Let those of us who are mature think this way,”
Do you want to know what a mature Christian is like? A mature Christian says, “I’m an imperfect person who has not obtained and is not already perfect, but I’m running the race with everything I’ve got.”
A mature Christian isn’t one that goes, “Oh, no. I’ve got it all together. Everything. I’ve got it together. Everybody at my house walks on water. The Lord meets us in the morning, in the cool of the day, at the front of the door. We open it up and the Lord’s there. ‘How’s it going, Lord?’ He’s like, ‘Fine.’ We talk.”
No, no. Mature Christians realize that they’ve not already obtained everything. See, when that happens, it’s great because when you think that you’re perfect, you look down upon everybody else. But when you realize that you’re not, it allows you to embrace people in a real human way. But you’re not just going, “I’m imperfect, so I’m just going to hang out here and just be imperfect.” No. You’re like, “I’m imperfect, but I’m running the race. I don’t want all these imperfections that I have to continue to be the imperfections that I have.”
He says, “Let those of us who are mature think this way,”
This is the way you ought to think. And I love how he does this here. He says, “And if any of you think otherwise, if you’re believers, God will reveal it to you also. Don’t worry.”
I love the confidence of Paul in God. Like, Paul doesn’t think it’s his job, always, to get everybody on the right page. Sometimes he just goes, “God will do that.”
Can I tell you, as a pastor, this is what I’ve learned in 12 years here of pastoring Grace? There are times where things will be going wrong, or somebody will be saying something that’s not true, or something will be going on, and I’ve just learned to go, “Do you know what? I’m not going to fight that battle. I don’t care what they say or what they do. God, You’ve got it. They’re probably believers and they love You. You just work it out in their life and You do it.”
Sometimes you’ve just got to let God do what God does. Can I give you something for free? Some of your family members, and sometimes people that you’re really contending for and who you want to see get right, and maybe you’re concerned about the way that they’re living — do you know what? Sometimes you’ve got to just let that go to God. He’s way better at dealing with stuff than we are. Okay? He says, “Think this way.”
He says, “…and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”
“He’ll get you on the right page. He’s God. He’s the one who put you in the race. He’ll get you to the end of the race. He’ll make it happen.”
He says, “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
In other words, don’t lie to yourself. Don’t say something that you are that you’re not. If you’ve still got a bad temper, you’ve still got a bad temper. Don’t act like you don’t. Let us be true to what we have attained. How far in the race have we gone? Just be honest. Be vulnerable with where you’re at in the race. Then he turns a little bit here because this is important.
He says, “Brothers, join in imitating me,”
“Follow. I’m telling you I’m imperfect, but I’m telling you I’m in a race. I’m trying to push forward.”
He says, “…and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
In other words, keep your eyes focused on the race. Keep your eyes on the people that go. Then he turns here because this is a little bit of a turn and it’s important that we hear this because this is an important part of the text.
He says, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”
He says, “What I’m telling you here is important. You didn’t get in by anything you did. There’s no confidence in the flesh, but we’re also in a race. If you have no desire whatsoever to want to run the race, if there’s nothing in your heart, at all, that wants to move forward and keep your eyes on Jesus, that’s not a good thing.”
He’s not telling you that you’re not a Christian. You could be going through moments of doubt. You could be going through moments of problems. You could have all kinds of issues going on, but the New Testament is like, “Okay. You can’t earn your salvation. There’s nothing you can do to get it. But if you really have it, then you’re going to want to sort of want to run the race that God has for you. And if you find yourself not wanting to run the race, there are all these passages in the New Testament that say, ‘Hey, take a little bit of inventory here. I’m not saying you’re not a Christian, but if you have no desire to do it God’s way and no desire to want to go the way God — maybe you never got in the race to begin with.’”
That’s why Paul says, even in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.”
He says, “Listen, I want to tell you because this is the reality here. There are going to be some people — I say it with tears. This is not something that I’m just flippantly throwing out. There are people who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”
Then he lays that out for us. He says, “Their end is destruction,”
That’s not a good place.
“…their god is their belly,”
We’ve got to talk about that.
“…and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
What he says here is this: “Listen, there’s nothing you can do to earn your salvation at all. It is completely because of what Christ did, and it is by faith alone because of the grace of God alone. There’s nothing we can add to it. But if we genuinely have come to know Jesus, then there is a race we’re involved in. There’s a change in our hearts. The people that walk as the enemies of the cross of Christ, they just do whatever they want to do. Their God is their belly. They just do what they want to do. Just whatever they feel is their — like, ‘Forget what God says.’ That’s not a good place to be. And they glory in their shame. In fact, they actually say how great it is when they do the things that they shouldn’t be doing. In fact, their minds are set solely on earthly things. These end of these people is destruction.”
He’s not saying that to shame Christians. He’s not saying that to give anybody a hard time. He’s not saying that to be snarky. He’s just saying, “Hey, listen. If you’ve been put into the race by God — and He’s the only one who can put us in the race.”
Ephesians 2. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God, with His rich love and mercy, made us alive together with Christ. That’s as clear as can be. We were dead. Who made us alive? God did. Did we bring anything to the table? Nope. Did we give something? No. But when you have become alive and you truly know Jesus, then you’re going to want to do the things that Jesus wants you to do. Paul is saying, “Hey, listen. If you find yourself where you’re just like, ‘I just don’t care, at all, about what God wants me to do,’ you should take a note of that because people that love God are going to be imperfect, we’re not going to do everything right, but we really want to run the race. There’s something on the inside that wants to run the race.”
He says, “There are people that are enemies of the cross of Christ. Really, when it comes down to it, their minds are on earthly things.”
He says, “But our citizenship is in heaven,”
We’re heavenly citizens. Like, our mindset is not here. Now, sometimes it is. Sometimes we get in the race, our foot hurts, we pull over to the side, and we just get out of the race for a little bit. It happens to all of us. But we know, even when we’re on the side of the road, and we know that we’re not in the race, and we really don’t want to get back in the race right now, we sort of know that we need to be in the race. Like, there’s something inside. Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven. We have a completely different outlook as people who have been put in that race by God.”
He says, “…and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” — listen — “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body,”
Do you want to know what it’s going to look like at the end of the race? It’s going to be glorious. All the stuff that we struggle with in the bodies that we have now are going to go away. That’s when this world gives way to the next world. He goes, “And this is who we are. Our citizenship is in heaven.”
He says, “…by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
So, a lot of stuff here. Now, what I want to do is I want to try to unpack it. I want to try to make it make sense and help us to understand how this thing works. First of all, mature Christians clearly understand their imperfections as they run the race. Mature Christians are not the ones that always have it all together because none of us do. You know that. I don’t have to preach that to you. You know that, deep down inside, that there’s nobody here, in this room, and nobody online that has it all together. In fact, I like what Billy Graham, one time, said. He said, “If you find a perfect church, if you go there, it will cease to be perfect.”
Right? Because we know that imperfection abounds. It just does, and we know that. That’s why we need a savior. Mature Christians clearly understand their imperfections. Why is this important? Because if a church can be vulnerable and honest about who we are and about who God is, you talk about a place that people will want to be. Where they don’t want to be is where they’re judged and where everybody acts like they’re holier than everybody else. I can tell you this: Without Christ, the only holy that we have is H-O-L-E-Y. Do you follow me? Some of you are like, “Hold on. Holey.”
Yeah. Holey, like Swiss cheese. So, listen to what he says here.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect,”
That is maybe one of the greatest lines that you need to say to yourself at any given moment. I have not obtained yet. I’m not already perfect. None of us are. We are positionally in Christ. Your sins are completely forgiven. Your name’s in His book. You’re a child of God. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. But practically speaking, we don’t always look like what we look like. Did you ever grow up and — I don’t know what your last name is. Smith. Jones. Whatever it may be. Mine is Bennett. My dad would say to me, “That’s not what Bennetts do.”
Sort of like I wasn’t living up to what a Bennet is. Whatever that is. Like, I don’t even know what that meant, to be honest with you. My family wasn’t even that great, so I don’t know why being a Bennett was even that great anyway. But for whatever reason, he thought that being a Bennett meant whatever it was. My point being that sometimes we don’t look like we’re the children of God, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not the children of God. But this is important.
So, how do we cultivate this? How do we cultivate a place where maturity is willing to say, “Hey, I’m not perfect?” I’ll give you some practical things here. Pray honestly. Like, this is a really important thing. We all have this tendency. Let’s say, last night, you were snippy to somebody. A friend. You just let your tongue go against your friend. Typically, what we will do, we’ll either not pray about it or we’ll do one of these: “You know, God, what I did last night was wrong.”
And we move on. That’s not what God’s looking for. God’s looking for, “God, I used my tongue to assault one of Your kids, and I need to learn to control that tongue. God, I’m asking You, please, to allow me to be led by the Spirit of God so that…”
Pray honestly. Like, talk to God. The word “confess” is a compound Greek word which means “to speak the same thing.” You want to know what confession is? It’s to say the same thing that you actually did. And all of us have done that before.
“Well, last weekend, God, that little thing I did…”
First of all, it wasn’t little. It was big. You know that. Tell Him what it was. He’s not up there, going, “Oh, I didn’t see that. Thanks for telling me.”
No. But pray honestly. Or stop comparison. Comparison Christianity is the worst thing we can do because what we do is we go, “Oh, well, look at them. I’m not like them.”
Then what you start to do is you start to try to lie to yourself to try to get — just stop comparing. Can I tell you something? People’s lives on Instagram and Facebook are not reality. It’s just not. Like, stop it. God didn’t call you to be somebody else. He called you to be you. Be you in all of it. You know? You’ve got some warts? So do I. You’ve got some things that you wish — so do I. You’ve got some areas that you wish — so do I. You get angry, on University, when they’re driving slow? So do I. I get mad on Sundays, in between sermons.
“What is going on? God, I’m sorry. Oh, that’s one of the people who goes to our church.”
Anyway, stop the comparison because it’s just not right. And how about examine and confess unhealthy pride? Like, areas where you go, “I’m not that bad.”
Just stop it. Maybe you don’t sin the same way they do, but you’ve got your stuff too. I want that shirt made that says, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”
You know? Somebody actually made me that shirt, too. Seriously. It appeared in my office. This is the truth though. We do that. We’re like, “I’ve got this area in my life better,” and then we just talk about other people. What we try and do is make ourselves feel better, but there are other areas where we’re just as broken as can be. So, examine and confess unhealthy pride, and have some real friends. Like, I tell people all the time that I want my friends, the people that I have close in my life, to tell me when I have a booger hanging out of my nose. I don’t want friends that will just go — tell me. Say, “Hey, I think the way you just handle that was terrible, Chip. Why would you do that?”
Have some real friends. I mean, if we could just get this right in the church in America, people would be pouring in. Everybody knows they’ve got issues. Everybody knows they’ve got problems. They’re looking for a place where they can come, not get judged, and maybe, in the process, if we could create such a healthy environment, maybe, just maybe, they might come to meet Jesus. How about that. Huh? Amen?
Second: Our security in Christ, which is absolutely secure — your security in Christ leaves no room for complacency. You can’t go, “Oh, the Lord’s got me, so I just do whatever I want to do.”
That’s not what security is for. Security, in the New Testament, is not to tell us that we can go do whatever we want to do. Security, in the New Testament, is there for us when we’re running the race as hard as we can and we mess up along the way. That’s what security is for. The security of the believer is not so you go, “I just go do whatever I want to do.”
No. That’s nowhere in the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Say a prayer and then just live however you want to live.”
You can’t find that anywhere. Period. You go, “Oh, it’s in First Opinions,” but that’s not a book of the Bible. Okay? So, you can’t do that. He says, “I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call.”
Like, I want to have God call me up. I ran that race. I didn’t run that race. I didn’t run that race to earn something. I ran that race because of what God did for me, because He put me in the race and He told me I was secure. Do you know when you can do your best work? When you’re free to fail. God doesn’t give you the freedom to fail because He wants you to go fail all the time. Your security is to let you know that as you’re running the race and you have those imperfections, you’re still in the race. God’s still there for you. Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? Nobody. God’s the one who justifies. He’s going to complete what He started in you, but we race.
Just some practical things here for us to think about. He says, “This is what it looks like to not be people that are really focused on what the cross has done. We don’t want to live this way. We don’t want to live just doing whatever you want to do.”
So, people go, “Okay. Well, if there’s nothing I can do to earn my salvation, that’s great. But then I’m supposed to go live this out?”
Absolutely. You’re supposed to bear fruit. You’re supposed to do those things, but those things don’t get your salvation. Those things are just sort of showing — I would say it this way. Good works are not the root of your salvation. Christ is. Good works are not the root, but good works are the fruit of your salvation. You should see some stuff in your life. You should be better than you were. If you’re not, then you need to go back and sort of have a moment with the Lord because He changes those whom He calls. Those who embrace Him, He gives the right to become the children of God, He puts His Spirit within us, and we are a new creation. There’s a change in the life of the believer, and we don’t look like this anymore.
So, what are some practical things? Well, first of all, a healthy and correct view of God. That’s why I do what I do, at this point in my life. I mean, I do what I do because I have such a desire to help people walk with a better — I don’t think I have everything right. I don’t think every single thing that I believe, biblically, is perfect. I don’t know which ones are not. If I did, I’d change them. But what I do want to do is I want to help bring some balanced Christian teaching to people to help them in their life. God’s not out to punish you, and God’s not the big teddy bear up in the sky, either, who just goes, “Oh, just do whatever you want to do.”
He’s neither one of those. He’s holy and righteous, but He’s loving and gracious. He’s all of it together. So often, we have these polarized views of God that just really beat us down. We need to have a better view of God to understand, “Man, the security I have is not to help me to be complacent. The security I have is to give me the freedom to understand that even in the race that I’m in, when I make detours and I do dumb stuff, He’s still for me.”
It doesn’t give you the right to go do whatever you want to do. It gives you the security when you do it. There’s a big difference. And how about an accountability partner? This is something that used to be sort of popular in church and has just gone by the wayside. I think we just have listened too much to Frank Sinatra. “I’m going to do it my way.” And everybody just thinks that they’re this individual that does everything. You need people in your life. You want to really not be complacent? You want to find yourself not getting in ruts? Find some people in your life that are a couple of seasons ahead of you, who will speak into your life, who will say, “Hey, how’s your prayer life?”
“Okay. Well, let’s get together.”
“How’s your devotional life?”
“Let’s get together. Let’s talk about it.”
It all depends on do we want to run the race. The last thing I want to say out of this passage is this: We should be looking for every opportunity to bring heaven to earth while we’re running. The race should be that everywhere we look, we should be looking for, “How can I be in this moment?”
Because Paul tells us our citizenship is in heaven. The Roman colonies that would be on the outskirts of the empire, they would bring Roman culture to people that didn’t know Roman culture. And in those colonies, you could actually, at some point, sign up for Roman citizenship. It was trying to enculturate people who maybe didn’t know how Rome did whatever. Paul employs the same usage for you and I. Wherever we live, whether it’s here in the United States or it’s in China, Russia, the Middle East, or wherever we live, first and foremost, we’re Christians. We’re to be the outposts of heaven, letting people know what heaven looks like so that we can get some more people signed up to spend eternity with you and I.
In fact, we should be asking this question all the time: What does it look like to bring what will be into this moment? As we’re running the race, imperfect as we are, we should be looking for every opportunity to say, “How can I bring what will be, out there, into this particular moment?”
And let me end with this here. Christians were never told in the New Testament to flee their pagan cities. That’s not what they were told. They were told to suit up and reflect Jesus to them. In fact, Paul says it this way: “Put on the whole armor of God and go be the Church to Ephesus,” which was a totally pagan town.
So, what we’ve got to do is step back and go, “Okay. I understand that my salvation is solely because of what Jesus did for me, but I’m in a race. If I really have known Jesus and Jesus knows me, there’s going to be a desire to run that race. I’m probably going to mess up in that race. It’s okay. God’s got my back. He’s going to get me where I need to go, but I need to run that race and I want to do it His way.”
Along that race, realizing, “Hey, we’re citizens of heaven, and every person that we run in front of or we see is an opportunity for you and I to be kingdom people in their lives, and to make a difference because we’re citizens of heaven.”
This is just good, fundamental, biblical 101, how to walk this thing out in the world that we walk out. Now, I’m done with my message, but I want to end here, which is not anything I spoke about. But I felt really strongly, right as I came out, that I needed to do this. I believe some of you all are in situations, right now, where you really need a miracle. You need a victory. You need God to work in your life. You need it. And I want to ask you to stop for a moment. Right here in this moment — I mean, I just taught you how to be a good Christian, how to walk this thing out, and how to parse all this stuff out. That’s great. Take that teaching, go home, marinate on it, listen to it again, and all that stuff. But right now, in this moment, there’s no doubt in my mind that at least somebody in here needs something major in your life. I want you to know that sometimes it just takes you and I to say, “I’m done with this. I’m done.”
Some of you all may just have to look at those walls of Jericho, shout, and watch those walls fall. It’s like, “Oh, I don’t really want to shout. I don’t really want to get that. I just want to be on the down-low.”
Listen to me. You can’t be on the down-low about Jesus. He rose from the dead. Some of y’all get more excited about Tom Brady coming to the Buccaneers than Jesus being raised from the dead. I mean, sometimes you’ve just got to go, “You know what, God? I need You in my life. God, I need You to do something big.”
Sometimes you’ve just got to get passionate. So, we’re going to sing a final song. I’m going to ask you, in that moment, to just let God do what only God can do. And that’s here and online. And I want to pray for you because I want God to do great things in your life.