Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church Experiencing Christ In Community

Eric Liddel we know of because of the movie “Chariots of Fire” while he was studying at the University of Edinburgh.  He was selected to represent Scotland in the 1924 Paris Olympics in the 100m dash, and tipped to be their first gold medal winner ever in the Olympic Games.  Liddel’s troubles started when months before the race he found out the heats were to be held on a Sunday. 

Liddel was a committed Christian Liddel refused to participate, feeling that it would dishonour the Lord’s day, and so he began training for the 400m race which he won, setting a new world record.  At track meets or in towns where he was staying Liddel would speak openly about his faith in Jesus, and even if this story stopped right here we would all be amazed at Liddell’s example of someone who’s life Jesus had transformed.  Here was an Olympian with a gold medal & a world record; and yet he turned his back on all of it, when in 1925 he went to China to serve as a missionary, seeing many won for the cause of Christ.  During WWII Liddel was taken as a prisoner of war in a Japanese Prison Camp in occupied China, and died there of a brain tumor aged only 43.  Langdon Gilkey, a fellow internee of that camp remembered, "The entire camp, especially its youth, was stunned for days, so great was the vacuum that Eric's death had left." Liddell's last words were supposed to have been "It's complete surrender."[1]  Liddell never considered what he gave up as a loss he was running to win the prize.  As Paul tells the Philippians   I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  verse 14.  We are told to have a courageous faith, as we see the continuous story of God calling and pursuing us, calling us heavenward.  We are to see God pressing us on the finish the race.  It is where we keep on being pointed as we drill down into Philippians 3 this morning.  Verse 1  Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.    Pause and think about it Paul reminds us how might God’s love transform you?  How do you rejoice in the Lord!  He is at work to make you treat other people in the very the ways he treats you. Can you imagine never abandoning another person, bringing blessing and grace to others, being patient, forgiving, generous, self-sacrificing, considering the interest of others…. How does heartfelt gratitude for God’s forgiveness change you, so that you become forgiving? How might your life become different by his power? The call is to ask him for this. To even be bold enough to ask him every day. [2]  What Paul says here is against the back drop of what we’ve read earlier in Chapter 2.  In Philippians 2 having just commended Timothy & Epaphroditus as leaders you want to have leading your church when the times get tough, they’re leaders who are looking out for the interests of others, and not their own self-interest.  Paul writes to confront the Philippian church where false teachers had entered the church.  These false teachers were called the Judaisers, and we’ve met them before. These Judaisers taught that to be the true followers of Christ you had to still practice all of the old Jewish customs; and so baby boys needed to be circumcised, and there were foods you couldn’t eat, or things you couldn’t do on the Sabbath.  The outcome was all it did was confuse what the grace of God was.  The question is asked how is it grace if it about what I do to win God’s favour.  It is why Paul’s as blunt as we’re ever going to read about these false teachers 2  Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.  It’s blunt because the stakes are high as Paul should know he was once a Pharisee of Pharisee whose credentials if they could have earnt him grace they would have, verses 7-9

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. 

Notice that he promises mercy and help in the very places where you most struggle, those times of greatest need. Jesus will help you to do the right thing. In your times of struggle, he will help you do the courageous thing, the loving thing. Even when it is hard, especially when it is hard, draw near to him with confidence.  Even when the road seems hard, God will keep working in you. And when you see Jesus face-to-face, you will be utterly changed forever to be like him and to love him.  Paul says run to win this prize, verse 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.  For Paul we’re to experience God’s enabling strength most fully when I confess my inability and inadequacy humble ourselves before God.  Paul warns us to follow Jesus means sharing in the suffering of Christ and like we saw back in verse 10 following Jesus means knowing the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.  We live constantly with our brokenness, as we know the pain of our bodies and the strains on our lives.  Paul’s prayer is to press on, to forget what is behind, strain on to what is ahead, to be determined on heaven.  We are called to follow Jesus no matter what the cost, verse 17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. There are those saints we should copy, or those saints who teach us what prayer is like, or what endurance in the midst of suffering is like.  They are people filled with the grace of Jesus.  Follow these people and see what they do and do it ourselves.  For Paul his eyes are fixed on the prize of heaven, as he is so aware of what will obscure that view he goes on to list some of those things verses 18-19  18  For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.    Imagine Paul has tears dripping down his face as he writes, telling the Philippians again how many live in opposition to Christ, so keep your eye on the prize verse 20-21  20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,  21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  Jesus chooses the incarnation He made himself nothing, taking on the character of a servant, even going to the point of death. We can imagine being in Christ as being “taken-up” into Jesus. The dwelling place of God is now with men. He is a God who comes toward his people, and this is most pronounced in the incarnation. Jesus takes on flesh, and as a servant he absorbs the suffering of those around him. He pursues the outcasts and touches them. Jesus willingly contaminates himself by touching, and in that touching he absorbs “the death” of contamination.

 

Christian maturity is about how we’re living how we’re seeing Jesus at work in our soul and seeing what God keeps putting on your heart.  We are called to courageous faith.  The question is are your eyes set on the prize? Are you running the race? Are you asking God to apply his word to change your life? See the continuous story of God calling and pursuing us.  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.

David Hassan @ Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church 18/11/18

 

 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Liddell

[2] Idea taken from David Powlinson


Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church
EMAIL: minister@TCPC.org.au
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