Psalm 8; Philippians 3:10-11
One of my closest friends is a Jesuit Monk. We went to graduate school together and we often check on each other. A couple weeks ago, he sent me this joke that I am using as an introduction to my meditation today. He said, “I heard about this Protestant man named Bill. Bill liked to sneak off to the horse races and bid. One day, after losing so much money, he saw a Catholic Priest step onto the tracks and blesses a horse. Sure enough, the horse won the first place. He blessed another horse, that horse won again. Seeing this, Bill went to the ATM, took out all of his money and this time he saw the Priest not only touch the horse’s forehead, but he touched his eyes, his ears, and all his legs. Feeling confident, Bill bid all of his money. But in the middle of the race, the horse fell over dead. Bill couldn’t believe it. He went to the Priest and asked him, “What in the world happened?” The Priest said, “That’s the problem with you, Protestants. You do not know the difference between a blessing and the last rites.” Friends, believe me, it is not about being Catholic or Protestant; it is not about how much rituals you observe. It is not about how much religion you’ve got in your life. It is all about growing up to be like Christ.
As I pointed out last week, in the Christian life, it is so easy to get sidetracked. A follower of Jesus needs to be clear and focused at all times on what it is we are after. In our text, the apostle Paul sums up what we’re supposed to be aiming at. Paul says that the goal of the Christian life is two-fold: (1) to know Christ and (2) to be like Him.
In our post Easter sermon series, we are looking at Philippians 3:10-11. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Needless to say, Christianity is a personal, growing relationship with the risen and living Lord Jesus Christ that results in our growing conformity to Him. Our goal is to know Him and to become like Him.
First: The Goal of the Christian Life is to Know ChristLast week we looked at the first half of Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:10 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings.” God desires that we constantly SEEK MORE OF HIM and give Him the rightful place in our lives.
Paul had known Christ for over thirty years when he wrote Philippians. He was regarded as one of the most important leaders, teachers, and evangelists of the early Church. Yet, he wrote in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings.” Paul was so determined, so committed to know Christ ~ “I want to know Christ.” Yes, there will be a cost involved for knowing and following Christ, but Paul was immovable; no turning back. “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present not future,” Paul says in Romans 8:35-39. Paul makes it crystal clear here that we won’t experience the power of Christ’s resurrection unless we share Christ in His suffering. This knowledge, the knowledge of Christ, the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings will eventually lead to becoming like him.
Second: Becoming Like Christ
Many many years ago, I had the joy of teaching a Sunday School Class in my home Church in Egypt. One time I gave the kids an assignment to write out what they would like to be or to do when they grow up? They wrote down all kinds of things like fly a jet, becoming a doctor, or a police officer, earning much money and be a millionaire, be like this or that celebrity. In all the list of hopes, dreams, and future goals, one stood out for me. It was from a 5th grader who said, “I want to be like Jesus.” Of all the things we could strive for in life, shouldn’t this be on the top of the list for every Christian?
Every living creature on earth resembles its parent. A duckling looks like its parent duck, a lamb looks like a sheep, a calf looks like a cow. Even in some cases where the resemblance isn’t that close, it can be proven that the child belongs to the parent by the DNA testing. As sons and daughters of God, we have been created to look like Christ.
God desires that we become like Jesus. When God first created human beings, He made them in His own image. Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” As soon as Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit and as soon as Adam joined her in that disobedience, they destroyed much of the image of God in them. Sin distorted the image of God in humanity.
But God is not easily deterred from His purposes and so He sent Jesus to this earth. Jesus was God in the flesh. He was fully God, but He was also fully human. Through His death on the cross and resurrection, he made it possible for human beings to have their rebellion forgiven and to once again enter into the newness of becoming what they had originally been created to become and that is like God.
Friends, this is God’s plan. This is His intention for us. Let us not settle for less. The idea is put very clearly in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” The phrase “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” indicates God’s plan for those who follow Him. He has created us and intends for us to be just like Jesus. Rick Warren, the author of Purpose Driven Life, says, “Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper; He wants to make us like Himself before He takes us to heaven.” So, let me ask you today my friends: are you living like Jesus? Do we love as He did? Do we have His compassion? Are you willing to obey the Father as He did? Do we live generously and graciously as He lived? May it be so, friends. In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday May 5, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor