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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

October 4, 2020 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Matthew 21:33–21:46

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Philippians 3:4b-14
Date: October 4th, 2020; Pentecost 18; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • “More than half of “Christians” don’t believe in the Gospel.”
  • “Among Americans who consider themselves Christian, 52% believe they are saved by their good works rather than by faith in Christ as Saviour.”
  • This startling statistic was among the findings of a research project conducted by Dr. George Barna, founder of the Barna Group, and it was reported in an article of the Lutheran Witness Magazine last month.
  • “More than half of “Christians” don’t believe in the Gospel.”
  • In the words of the study, the mistaken view is that, “if a person is generally good, or does enough good things during their life, they will ‘earn’ a place in Heaven.”
  • What do you believe?
  • Do you believe that if you are generally good and do enough good things in your life that you will earn a place in Heaven?
  • St. Paul has much to say about this in our epistle lesson for today, which is part of his letter to the Philippians.
  • He said that if anyone should think that they are good and have done enough to make it into heaven - it’s him.  He was about as godly of a man as they come.
  • He was circumcised on the eighth day according to custom. 
  • He was from the tribe of Benjamin out of which came the first King of Israel.  
  • He was a Hebrew of Hebrews – his parents were both followers of Judaism – his religious pedigree was flawless.  
  • He lived strictly according to the law, in fact he was a Pharisee – the most zealous of all of the groups who followed the law.
  • St. Paul’s way of life, his religious zeal and devotion, could not be matched.  
  • According to all appearances, if St. Paul died and appeared before God on the judgment throne - and pulled out his resume of lifelong godly living - God would welcome him into the heavenly kingdom.  
  • Paul essentially challenges us to place our lives beside his to see what it looks like.  
  • Have you devoted your entire existence to God?  Do you spend most of your time studying and reading God’s Word like Paul did?  
  • Do you spend hours and hours in prayer?  
  • Do you closely monitor everything that you do, every move that you make, to ensure that you are following all of God’s Commandments perfectly?   
  • If your answer is yes – then maybe you can begin to compare yourself to Paul.  
  • But most of us, in fact - I will be bold and say that all of us – come up incredibly short when we match our lives up with Paul’s.
  • And this is only comparing ourselves and living up to St. Paul. 
  • It’s much worse when we look into the mirror of God’s Law - which is the true standard.  
  • It’s interesting to hear what Paul has to say about his life after he is finished listing all of his religious accomplishments.  
  • What does Paul see when he looks at his actions, his life of holy living?  
  • A bunch of garbage.  
  • All of it doesn’t merit a single thing before God.  
  • He counts his holy living – as rubbish.  
  • He said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:7-9).
  • Everything and anything we try to hold up to God, those things that we think are holy and righteous that earn his merit, are rubbish.  
  • It’s hopeless to hope in your good works before God.
  • Once we recognize this and stop trying to earn our salvation - it is then, with St. Paul, that we understand the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus. 
  • Once we set aside our self-righteous foolishness - with St. Paul, we realize that in Christ we gain everything.
  • We realize that we are given His righteousness through faith.  
  • The faith that God works in our hearts and minds as we hear and read his Word, as we gather together in Divine Service to pray, to offer our thanksgiving, to receive His true body and true blood.  
  • Our righteousness is not earned. It is received as a gift.
  • This is the Gospel.  
  • This is why Paul calls his so-called holy actions rubbish – he knew that it was impossible to earn his way to heaven.  
  • He recognized that he was chief of sinners and that there was no hope in himself.
  • Now, it’s true that as God’s people we are holy and righteous.
  • But this isn’t because we are able to stop sinning and we become these perfect people.
  • Our righteousness and holiness only comes through Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection received through our faith.  
  • Jesus has accomplished for us what we are unable to do ourselves and he gives it all to us as a free gift.  
  • Paul realized this when he said that he is not counting on his good works, but is tossing them aside to rely only only on Christ.  
  • He said that he wants to be found in Christ, “…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).  
  • It’s true that Paul was a devoted man of God who took living according to God’s law incredibly seriously.
  • But when Paul finds himself before the judgment throne of God, he will find himself in the same position as you and me.  
  • Like you and me he is a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy.  
  • Like you and me he is a sinner who trusts and relies on what Christ has done for him.
  • Like you and me he is a sinner who is holy and righteous in God’s sight – not because of how he lived - before God that is rubbish - but because of the life that Christ lived for him. 
  • To be sure, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to live our lives according to God’s will. 
  • Our good works, the fruits of our faith, might not earn our salvation – but they are God’s will for us and they do benefit our lives and the lives of those around us.
  • As we are immersed in God’s Word and Sacraments we do live our lives according to God’s will.  
  • We keep him first on our lives.  We obey him.  We love and serve others.
  • Not perfectly – in this life we continue to struggle with our sinful flesh.  
  • St. Paul said of himself, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…” (Philippians 3:12).  
  • But with St. Paul - we press on.  
  • We repent of our sin and turn to God for forgiveness and strength – and we receive it.  
  • We dust ourselves off when we fall - forgiven and renewed - and we press on living according to God’s will.
  • Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, we press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus - the prize of eternal life in heaven. Amen. 
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

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