Sunday, October 02, 2011

Our Treasures

Philippians 3:4-14
4 If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:
5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;
6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9 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.
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
13 Brothers, 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.

Paul is writing to the Philippians and in his letter he talks about his system of values.
What is the most valuable possession you own?
What do you value in your life?

Years ago, I read in one of Ann Landers' columns an interesting story about a woman who had married a tightwad. This man married a real skinflint and she could never get any thing out him -- not even an extra quarter. He controlled every little bit of money in the household. And he would take his money and put 20% of all of the money he earned, and save it.

But he would save it by putting it under his mattress, because he did not trust banks.
Whenever the woman would ask for money from her husband, he would refuse, and would insist that the money was going to come in handy in their old age.

When the man was 60 years old, he was diagnosed as having cancer. Toward the end, he made his wife promise, in the presence of his brothers, that she would take the money he had stashed under the mattress and put it into his coffin so he could buy his way into heaven if he had to.
They all knew he was a little odd, but this was clearly a crazy request. But sure enough, the wife made the promise.

Then, when the man died, the first thing she did was to take the money to the bank and deposit it in a new account.

But she found a way to honor her promise.

The first check she wrote was for the full amount -- $300,000. She made it payable to cash, so that anyone could cash it, and then -- right before the burial -- she very quietly put it in her dead husband's casket. Let's see him cash that check.

She had the best of both worlds – honoring her husband’s request, and yet also having the ability to spend the money in that account.

We all value the strangest things. We go through life being told, "You can't take it with you," but this man sure tried.

What do you value? What commitments have you made with your life?

In 1923, nine of the world's most successful financiers met at Chicago's Edgewater Beach Hotel. Financially, they literally "held the world by the tail" -- anything that money could buy was within their grasp -- they were rich -- rich -- rich! Listen to their names and the high position each held:

1. Charles M. Schwab, not related to the Charles Schwab of the famous stock firm, but the president of the largest steel company.
2. Samuel Insull, the president of the largest electric utility company.
3. Howard Hopson, the president of the largest gas company.
4. Richard Whitney, the president of the New York Stock Exchange.

And on down the line. Each person a CEO of a great company, or a person who held enormous wealth and power.

A tremendously impressive group. But let's look at what happened to them a few years later, after the famous Wall Street Crash, the Depression, and World War II.
Twenty five years later, you'd find that
1. Charles Schwab was forced into bankruptcy and lived the last five years before his death on borrowed money.
2. Samuel Insull not only died in a foreign land, a fugitive from justice, but was penniless.
3. Howard Hopson was insane.
4. Richard Whitney had just been released from Sing Sing prison.

And on down the line. Many were poor, some had died, and several had died at their own hands.
Still impressed with this group? A vast amount of talent and potential went down the drain with these men. What happened?

Their lives were out of balance!

They valued the wrong things. They committed themselves to the wrong things of life. What do you value?

It is said that about 200 years ago, the tomb of the great bishop of Europe was opened. The sight the workmen saw was startling. There was his body in a sitting position, clothed in the most elaborate of kingly garments, with a scepter in his bony hand. On his knee lay the Holy Scriptures, with a cold, lifeless finger pointing to Mark 8:36: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

What do you value? That is an important question, because if you value the wrong things, you lose meaning to your life. You lose your very soul.

Paul's life, on the other hand, is in perfect balance and harmony, because he knows what he should value. He knows what he needs to be committed to.

Not the money.

Not the fine home.

Not the car.

Not the CD player.

Not the clothing.

Paul said, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
For Paul, nothing was more important than Christ.

Most of us think of Christ as important to our lives. But for most of us, Christ is NOT the most important aspect of our lives.

But for Paul, he said everything else in life was rubbish compared to knowing and following Christ.

Sometimes it takes a crisis in our lives for us to think about what is important -- really important -- in our lives.

Fred Craddock tells a story about friends of his who were missionaries to China many years ago. At one point all missionaries were being forced out of the country. Fred Craddock's friends were told they had 24 hours to leave. Each adult missionary would be allowed to take with them 400 pounds of luggage, but nothing more.

So the missionaries began to ask themselves, what is it that we value? What are those things that are most important to us?

The typewriter? No. Too heavy and too easily replaced.

The vase that has been in the family for generations? Yes. Pack that.

The family photos? Sure.

The candlesticks the church had given them in honor of their work? Hard to say. They mean a lot, but they are so heavy. Set them aside, we'll decide later.

Finally, they had their luggage. Each adult missionary had packed 400 pounds each. They had measured and remeasured and they had left no room for error.

They got to the boat docks and they were being checked out by the authorities when one of the Chinese officials said, "Did we not explain this to you? The 400 pounds includes your children."
So much for the candlesticks, the vase that belonged to great grandmother and many of the other items they thought they had valued.

In the moment of the crisis it had become clear what they really valued most.

We live in an age that seems to value all of the wrong things.

We put great value on the home, but not on the family within the home.

We take time for golf, but not for Christ.

We want to be served by others, but we've forgotten how to be servants of God.

We really don't know what we value most.

There is a point in the Gospels when people are ready to make a commitment to Christ, but Christ turns them away.

Why? Because to be committed to Christ is an all or nothing experience.

You can't make half a commitment to Christ.

It is all or nothing. Because God's commitment to us, was all and total.
In Luke's Gospel, (Luke 9:57-62), Jesus encounters a man who says; "I will follow you wherever you go."

Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

"He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

I think we all value Christ; otherwise we would not be here today.

We have a commitment to Christ.

But how deep is our commitment?

We cannot follow Christ with half of our heart.

We cannot be half way committed to him.

Christ himself rejected such followers, telling them that it was better for them not to follow at all, if they could not follow all of the way.

What do you value?

If you do not value Christ above all things,
if you have not committed yourself to Christ above all things,
then you have no commitment to Christ at all. Your life is out of balance.

It is an easy thing to value Christ.

It is a difficult thing to value him above all other things in our lives.

How can that be possible?

Tom Long is a friend of mine who served a church in Georgia as a pastor. A man came into his office he hadn't seen in years. A high school buddy he'd lost track of.

Tom greeted his friend with open arms. The laughed and talked about old times. They talked about this. They talked about that. And finally, they talked about IT.

Tom's friend said, "You know I'd heard you'd become a minister, so I thought I'd look you up. I really need to talk to someone about my life. I don't seem to value anything. Nothing is important to me. And that bothers me. I've been thinking about it, and I've come to the conclusion that my problem is that I'm not committed to anything.

Tom told me that he had just written a stewardship sermon, and he was tempted to preach it to his friend right then and there. "You better believe your life won't count for anything, so you'd better get your life in order and find something to be committed to." But then, it dawned on Tom that this might not be the right approach. He looked at his friend and said, "I hear you saying you don't believe you are committed to anything. I'm wondering if what you're really feeling is, 'no one is committed to you.'"

Paul was not committed to anything, until he learned how committed Christ was to him.
Paul is in the midst of a crisis. He is in prison. He is writing a letter to the Philippians and he says, "Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him."

Christ is fully committed to us.

Therefore we need to be -- we are able to be -- fully committed to him.

Most of us are not.

We value our CD collection, we value our car, and we value our home.

And we value Christ -- but He is way down the list of priorities. There are things in our lives that are more important than Christ.

Which is sad, because Christ is so fully committed to us.

The Apostle John wrote in his letter (I John 4:18-19), "We love because he first loved us."
Elsewhere, John says, (I John 4:10), "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

What do you value?

What are you committed to?

Before you answer that question, you need to know how deeply committed God is to you.

What does God value?


What is God committed to?


The most familiar text in the entire Bible comes from John 3:16, where it says, "God so loved the world that He gave his only son so that whoever believed in him would not perish, but have eternal life."

God did not wait for you to commit to him.

He made that commitment to us long ago.

And for Paul, his commitment comes as a result of knowing that God values him.

And for John, his commitment comes as a result of knowing that God loves him.

Copyright Maynard Pittendreigh, 2011All Rights Reserved