Knowing Jesus

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church. My name is Phil Human and I’m the lead pastor here at Journey. Happy Father’s day!

Today we are going to continue our series on the book of Philippians and I want to start with a story that is a bit risky for me to tell.

It’s risky because it is about a man who I assume lives here in Gretna but I don’t know him. And so maybe if this is your first week here I am about to tell a story about you – and please know that I am not doing it to embarrass the person – but I just think it fits really really well with the passage.

The second reason it’s risky is because the story involves dog poo.

Last year I was a substitute bus driver for the schools, and I subbed in the morning for one driver who got quite ill and missed quite a bit so I drove the same route many mornings every week. Which meant that I got to drive by the same place at the same time every morning I drove. Of all the things I saw – there was one very unusual thing that seemed to happen at about 8:05 every morning at the corner of Bryan St and Hwy 31 – just across the street from the Shell station.

There, at 8:05 in the morning, I drove by a man walking his dog. The man, whom I do not know, was dressed like a million dollars every day I saw him. Dressed in what appeared to be an expensive suit and tie, black dress shoes with a gleaming shine. He was meticulously groomed and perfectly dressed.

Even his dog was amazing looking. He owns a huge – what appears to me to be some kind of Siberian Husky kind of dog – always well groomed. Well, I don’t know what this man is feeding his dog – but that dog is as regular as Old Faithful. You can set your clock to that dog’s constitution.

Because at 8:05 I would drive by and this dog would be taking care of his business on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the thousands of cars passing by… And that man, dressed like a million dollars, stands there with a plastic baggie covering his hand, waiting for his dog to wrap things up.

And I couldn’t help but feel for the guy. Here is a guy who, I imagine, walks into a room as the best-dressed guy in the room. Here is a guy who, in my imagination, looks like the kind of guy who would hop a is about to drive his Bentley to downtown Omaha to seal the million dollar deal. Here is a guy who looks like he has got it all going for him.

But at 8:06 every morning, he is a guy who is standing on highway 31 with a giant bag of dog poo in his hand.

Now – let’s read the scripture for the day. The book of Philippians chapter 3.

7-9 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.

If you were to read the verses just before you would have read Paul’s impressive credentials as a former Jewish Rabbi – a Pharisee of the highest order. And see – in Paul’s nation – Israel – a nation that took much pride in their religion there was nothing more impressive to them than the credentials on Paul’s Resume.

Paul – religiously speaking – was always the best dressed guy in the room. Hehad very impressive credentials. Paul explains that he was a pure blooded Israelite, a member of the exclusive tribe of Benjamin – he obeyed the law without fault and everyone who looked at Paul – they said – now there is a guy who has got it all together. There is one impressive fella.

And here Paul says, it’s all a pile of dog crap. And does that sound too harsh of a word? Well I promise you the Greek word is the worst word – I’m actually lessening the crudeness. He uses the harshest term available.

Why? Well he isn’t being crass – Paul is driving home a point the readers of this letter will not soon forget and I hope you don’t either.

Because there are people in this world today who are banking on their credentials, and I’m telling you what Paul said, that unless you know Jesus, it doesn’t matter how many letters are next to your name – it doesn’t matter how many degrees are on your wall. It doesn’t matter how many digits are in your bank account.

Those things are very important to some people. These are the kinds of things that people chase in an effort to find purpose and meaning – in an effort to make sense of this life. Vainly, of course.

Do I even need to find an illustration of someone who has huge sums of money in their bank account and yet live a life completely empty of joy and purpose?

How long would it take me to find an illustration of people who appear to have their act together but die from overdoses of drugs or alcohol in a vain attempt to numb the pain that comes into a life that has tasted the emptiness of all these things that appear to be something special?

Here’s one – not so recent but certainly appropriate – I read this week about an actor named George Sanders – who, twenty years later winning an Oscar in Hollywood for best supporting actor committed suicide – and left a note that said, “Dear World, I am leaving you because I am bored. Good luck with your worries in this cesspool.”

Perhaps the saddest thing any human being will ever face is to achieve what they think will bring significance to their life, only to discover that it’s meaningless, meaningless, it’s all dog dung.

I’ll even grant that there is a certain level of reward for achievements – I mean, if I were an actor ad I won an Oscar – you bet I would be proud – I mean – you bet I would display that thing proudly somewhere in my home – I mean, it’s an Oscar – it’s beautiful, it’s a recognition from peers of outstanding work, it’s coveted and gorgeous, it’s gold! and you know what else it is? A big bag of siberian husky poop – compared to one thing that far outshines them all.

Knowing Jesus.

Paul meets Jesus and everything changes for him. All these things that were once something special, they pale in comparison to the one thing that makes sense of our existence. Knowing Jesus.

What a joy to know Jesus. To receive from him purpose of life lived in His Kingdom. What a thrill to live life today as a player in the great theater of all – life under the direction of a loving and wise Shepherd?

All of those things that once brought life to us – they seem so small in comparison to the electrifying experience of knowing Jesus. Of Walking with Jesus. Of being one with Him.

Suddenly it doesn’t matter if I have plenty of money or not, because I know that either way Jesus is with me – I know him, and he knows me, and he is leading me this very day and making this day count in the universe.

So I don’t know where you are today in your walk with the Lord. Maybe this is your first Sunday in church in forever and a day. Maybe you are here because some things in your life are a little out of control and you thought, maybe I’ll try a little religion.

Forget religion. Religion will suck the life out of you. Religion is exactly what Paul was all about, and here is Paul’s testimony regarding being religious – it’s worthless. Throw it away. Instead, know Jesus. Know Him and let him begin to reshape you. Remold you into HIS image. Now you’ve really got something special.

What does Paul mean when he says to know Jesus? He digs into it in the next two verses… Paul says

10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Paul wants to know Jesus. Not just know about him. There is a world of difference between the two.

In the first letter that Paul write to his friends living in Corinth, Paul reminds them that there is a kind of knowledge that is actually detrimental to the faith. He simply says in 1 Cor 8:1 Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

Without trying to sound too judgmental – some of the most unloving people I have ever met are religious people who many times are unbelievably versed in the Bible. They know theology. They can quote scripture, and yet somehow it has only puffed them up.

They can quote scripture all day and yet their hearts are tiny little specks of granite. Do you know anyone like that? Jesus ran into a few.

In order to become a Pharisee, Paul needed to memorize most of the first five books of the bible. I wonder what verse he was quoting as he was killing Stephen? Did you know that Paul was an accomplice in a murder? The book of Acts tells us that. Here is a guy who can quote scripture all day long and at the same time was helping murder innocent people who placed their faith in Jesus.

Paul says, it doesn’t matter how much scripture you can quote, that’s not the same thing as knowing Jesus, and knowing Jesus is what really matters. Because really knowing Jesus will make you the kind of person Jesus was – and it is summed up in the word love. Knowledge puffs up. Love, builds up.

Knowing Jesus, to Paul, is worth more than anything and everything. 
Everything else is garbage compared to Knowing Jesus. Because when we know Jesus…

1. We experience His power.

In Paul’s day, the Jews took great pride in their religion. The greeks took pride in their wisdom. But the Romans took pride in their power. Power was everything to the Roman.

We love power too, don’t we? We are alot like the Romans. How many horse power that thing got? No one ever asks the guy who drives the prius that. We don’t value prius power.

I remember when I was in High School we went to this christian camp and they brought out these guys – they were called like, the John Jacobs Powerlifting team – and they would like, pick up cars, and they would be like, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength and they would then like bend iron bars around their necks.- and then they would be like, “Now brutha, little sista – I gotta talk about real power – the power of the blood of Jesus to take away your sin. And I want to talk to you about Jesus, But first let me break this cinderblock with my face!

We love power in America! But here’s the deal – Paul says, there is a power far greater than anything one might experience in Rome. And Paul wants to see it active in his life. It is the power of God to change a life.

You want to see real power? Jesus has the power to change you – to make you less selfish. More patient. Less angry – More loving. Here’s power – the power of Jesus to rescue a marriage, to make you a more loving spouse. A more patient parent.

No power on earth can compare to the power at work within followers of Jesus. The power to create a new kind of human being out of you.

When Paul met Jesus, he learned what the power of Jesus is able to do – even transform a murderer into a man of God.

Everything else is garbage compared to Knowing Jesus. Because when we know Jesus…

1. We experience His power.
2. We can endure suffering the way Jesus endured suffering.

When Paul says he wants to suffer with Jesus, he isn’t wishing for pain. He is not seeking to suffer for the sake of suffering. It means he wished to stand so closely with Jesus – in such indivisible union – that when the persecution that Christ endured would also fall to him – he would be able to receive them as Jesus received them.

Knowing Jesus changes the way we deal with adversity. Because we have a good shepherd who promises to be with me in the valley of the shadow of pain… He is with me. When we walk with Jesus there is no need to freak out.

By the way, Paul is sitting in a Roman prison as he writes this letter. He will soon be beheaded by the Romans. Do you get that sense of panic in Paul’s voice? No.

Becoming a follower of Jesus is a wonderful thing – it means that God is by our side as our good shepherd. It means that his power is actively at work inside of all who desire him to bring change and transformation. We get to live wife with an entirely different perspective than those who are slugging it out in the trenches of life.

But it also might lead us to difficulty. To opposition. Some of you have felt the opposition of your faith from friends or family. You are some kind of religious freak or part of a cult, or your have wandered from the “true faith” of your childhood into this one.

Your faith might bring opposition, it might bring persecution. It might cost you your very life.

Paul’s attitude? It’s worth it. Everything else was a big pile of garbage compared to knowing Jesus. And if I suffer for my faith, well then, Jesus and I will be even tighter because he suffered for his faith. We will have even more in common. And I can pray that God would help me suffer with as much love as Jesus suffered.

Everything else is garbage compared to Knowing Jesus. Because when we know Jesus…

1. We experience His power
2. We can endure suffering the way Jesus endured suffering.
3. We can die to ourselves the way Jesus died to himself.

When Paul says that he wants to share with Jesus in his death, again, it’s not a death wish. Paul knows what Jesus told his followers that if anyone wants to follow me he needs to deny himself and pick up his cross and follow me. (Luke 9:23) Following Jesus involves a dying to self.

It’s Father’s Day today. And you know, although it’s not one of these things that I look forward to, it’s a nice day. Know why? Because today, my family is telling me, go ahead and do what you want today. So.. we are going to eat Bacon for lunch. Lot’s of bacon.

And then I’m going to watch the US Open a bit on TV. And my family will be happy to see me do what I want. And you know why it’s special? Because it’s unusual. I’m like other dads in here. A lot of time I do things I don’t want to do – but they need doing. I’ve never enjoyed a house project in my life.

But again, once we get in touch with Jesus and we learn from him, we have less problems giving up those selfish things that we want. Not every day has to be Father’s Day. You do know that right?

In Christ we begin to understand that we don’t always have to get what we want. It’s going to be okay.

So Paul says, listen, I want to walk so closely with Jesus that he can ask me to do anything and I’m ready. Ready for any sacrifice. And whether that means figuratively laying down my life, or literally laying down my life for the sake of others, I am ready to live like Jesus lived.

Because nothing compares to being so close to Jesus that we can die to ourselves the way Jesus did.

Lastly
Everything else is garbage compared to Knowing Jesus. Because when we know Jesus…

1. We experience His power.
2. We can endure suffering the way Jesus endured suffering.
3. We can die to ourselves the way Jesus died to himself.
4. Live a resurrected life today.

When Paul writes that one way or another he wants to experience the resurrection from the dead, he is not writing it in a “hopefully I will get lucky and be able to experience the resurrection someday.”

He is not doubting that it will occur. And for those who don’t know the Bible says that one day Jesus is going to come back and bring all those who have died back to life – but we will be a different kind of person – different body – and I know it sounds like the Zombie Apocalypse, right? We will have to save that for another day. But you can read about it in 1 Corinthians 15.

What Paul is saying is that he wants to experience the resurrected kind of life right now, while here right now if possible. He wants to be so changed from the inside out, so different, so loving and trusting – that people would look at him now and compare him to the religious zealot he used to be and say – this guy is completely different.

He wants that now. But if he needs to wait until the actual resurrection, then he’s willing to wait. One way or another, knowing Christ leads him to want to be a different kind of human being.

Imagine what this church would look like with a bunch of people who had this kind of enthusiasm that Paul has? Imagine a church filled with people who are being changed – recreated – resurrected – so that we are becoming the kinds of people who feel like Jesus, and speak like Jesus, and act like Jesus, and love like Jesus.

Knowing Christ will do that for you. Knowing Christ is everything. And so I want to encourage you that today can be the day you begin to trust Him, and know Him, and experience his power in your interior life.

All of these promises are available through faith in Jesus. Who, in love, made it all possible when he willingly laid down his life for us on the cross. And now we will turn our attention to communion.

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