Love speaks sac­ri­fi­cially

The Covington News - - Religion -

He was one of my child­hood heroes. He had won just about any award base­ball could give. I didn’t see it my­self and don’t re­ally want to be­lieve it, so I won’t use the guy’s name, but I’m told that when this Hall of Famer moved out of his home in my friend’s sub­di­vi­sion, he left it all be­hind. Boxes of tro­phies, in­clud­ing an MVP award, out by the curb. Why? His life had taken some turns, and sud­denly, those things didn’t mat­ter to him any­more. He gave it all up be­cause to him it was now worth­less.

In Philip­pi­ans 3:4-11, the apos­tle Paul talks about how he gave up sim­i­lar ac­co­lades, but he didn’t do it out of de­pres­sion. He had a new mo­ti­va­tion — love. Open your Bi­bles and read about all that Paul had go­ing for him in his life as a su­per­star in the Jewish world — the right tribe, the right teacher, the right track record, the best of the best. And in verse 7 he said, “What­ever was

loss for the sake of Christ,” a box of garbage by the side of the road. In fact, more than garbage, it ac­tu­ally takes him back­wards, away from his goal. So now it is time for the ques­tion you should ask ev­ery time you look at Scrip­ture: “So what?” Where are we in here?

Even though I’m guess­ing none of you read­ing this are be­long to the Pharisee sect, the same things hap­pen to­day as did in Paul’s day. Our world, our so­ci­ety, our hearts get caught up on the things that don’t re­ally mat­ter, that don’t bring us closer to the goal. Par­ents, what do you spend your time and money on to make your chil­dren into? What kind of things do you brag about them to your friends? Ath­letic ac­com­plish­ments? Mu­si­cal skill? Pop­u­lar­ity? Looks? Grades? Lead­er­ship abil­ity?

But it’s not sur­pris­ing be­cause all too of­ten we view our own lives in that same light. Have you ever let the pride slip into your think­ing when some­one didn’t treat you like you thought you de­served? “Doesn’t he know who I am?!” “Don’t you see my ac­com­plish­ments, my value, my im­por­tance?”

Paul throws that out the door, call­ing it “rub­bish” — “garbage.” That tro­phy fish you were so proud of you mounted and put on your man­tle is the rot­ten veg­eta­bles you threw out yes­ter­day. The raise you got at work is the dirty di­a­per tied up in the Kroger bag. Even the Olympic gold the ath­lete worked so hard to get is used alu­minum foil — all of it — garbage. Com­pared to know­ing Je­sus, it is rub­bish. And if any of that has robbed me of op­por­tu­ni­ties to get to know my Sav­ior bet­ter — it ought to make your stomach turn like the swarm­ing mag­gots in that egg bake that was left in the oven at church for three months last year.

Prob­lem is, too of­ten it doesn’t. Too of­ten we treat the rub­bish of this world as the trea­sure we seek, in the time we put in to it, in the way we talk about it, in the de­ci­sions we make for their goals in­stead of God’s. And as nice as all those things may be in and of them­selves, they be­come garbage that is truly toxic, garbage that de­stroys our re­la­tion­ship with God, that kills us. And what good is all that stuff any­way? Even­tu­ally, we’ll die, and none of that will mat­ter.

Think of how that de-

mol­ishes ev­ery ex­cuse I’ve ever made for skip­ping my morn­ing de­vo­tion. It smashes ev­ery ex­cuse ev­ery par­ent has ever given me for why their child won’t be in Sun­day school this week. It oblit­er­ates ev­ery rea­son for not speak­ing up and shar­ing your Sav­ior, even when it was dan­ger­ous.

Af­ter all, look at what Paul said. It is all loss, verse 8, “com­pared to the sur­pass­ing great­ness of know­ing Christ Je­sus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

Do you see why love can speak sac­ri­fi­cially, throw­ing all that self stuff out the win­dow? Real love knows the value of Je­sus, the One who sac­ri­ficed ev­ery­thing for me — even his life. There is no greater sac­ri­fice, so of course, noth­ing could be more im­por­tant than him — in how I think and how I act and how love speaks. Love speaks be­cause it speaks love. Love speaks sac­ri­fi­cially be­cause it speaks love that we see in Je­sus’ sac­ri­fice. Love speaks Je­sus. It knows his power over all things.

I’m re­minded of the scene at my sis­ter’s cof­fin. She was only 20. There were lines of peo­ple down the aisle, around the side and out the door at church, peo­ple com­ing to try to com­fort my par­ents. Friends were com­ing for­ward say­ing all the awk­ward things peo­ple say when they don’t know what to say. But then, one of my dad’s old­est friends came up, gave him a hug, and said, “Ralph, do you re­mem­ber what your goal is for all of your kids? Bot­tom line, you want to see each

of your chil­dren in heaven. Well, your daugh­ter has reached the goal. Con­grat­u­la­tions!”

How could he say that? How could he con­grat­u­late him? That was love speak­ing. He re­mem­bered not just the power of Je­sus’ death. He re­mem­bered the power of the res­ur­rec­tion.

That’s where Paul is go­ing in our text. He sac­ri­fices ev­ery­thing, he said in verses 8-10, “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 and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his res­ur­rec­tion.”

I want that right­eous­ness that is re­ally right­eous­ness — Je­sus’ per­fect record on my ac­count, his per­fect keep­ing of the law, and his per­fect pay­ment that re­ally paid for all my sins. We’ve got heaven com­ing. Let that ad­just your pri­or­i­ties.

Live in the power of that res­ur­rec­tion. In­stead of our earthly wealth buy­ing us ac­cess to the best clubs, nicer homes, more re­spect — the wealth we have from Christ, that right­eous­ness that is by faith — that has bought us ac­cess to heaven, an eter­nal home, the sta­tus of kings, the re­spect of God him­self.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day is at 10:30 a.m. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at abid­ing­


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