I am so happy I am the pastor here at Grace. You should be happy too. I am a pretty great candidate for being a pastor. I was born into a WELS family, my mom a grade-school teacher. Almost all her siblings are called workers (that’s insider speech for active in Christian ministry full time). Her dad was a pastor and some of you heard him preach for my installation, and what a great preacher! His dad also pastored with a heart like Jesus himself. Then me, I was born a Bishop. As long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a pastor. Along that journey, I have attended Lutheran grade schools, Lutheran high school, Martin Luther College, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. I have done several evangelism/leadership trips to enhance my pastoral art. I have a strong passion for preaching a great sermon. I am the greatest pastor a church could ever ask for. You should be happy I am here.
There is little love when in the presence of arrogance. You’ve seen it in people and you’ve felt it. When arrogant people are around, you do not feel love. You don’t love yourself, and you don’t love others. It is very hard to love yourself when someone else is so much better than you are. You can tare yourself up when you see someone else more successful, healthy, driven, and prestigious than you. Or in the presence of arrogance you feel very little love for others. When someone else trumps their triumphs, you begin to list in your own mind what you’ve done. Have you ever seen two fishermen get together to talk fish stories? What about you? There is a cost to be a Christian. The cost is not to get you into heaven but being a Christian costs everything. Are you willing to lose yourself and all you’ve accomplished in order gain glory?
The apostle Paul, the writer of Philippians, was arguably the greatest pastor of the first century, quite possible ever next to Jesus. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is full of joy and passionate encouragement to those who were beaten up by persecution. Philippi was not the best place to live as a Christian. It was a colony north of Rome that was basically a retirement spot for the military. That means most of the population worked very hard to be where they were in life. Roman converts would be hard pressed to give up their towering accomplishments. Paul had a great history to look back on to consider how much he has gained in life.
Paul explains. 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. It was and still is a big deal to Jews to be able to trace their ancestry. When the people were taken into captivity 700 years earlier, many of the family records were destroyed. So it is Paul’s great privilege to be part of a clan with outstanding heritage but also still on record. Throughout his life, he displayed his great piety, development, and superiority to others morally. He was the kind of guy that little Jewish boys would put the poster up on the wall and say, “I want to be like him.” If anyone could put confidence in themselves for being right in God’s sight, it was Paul. If anyone can look back at his life to see how much he has earned or gained, it was Paul. Of anyone, Paul could say “God loves me because I am so good.” And here is how he assesses all that, But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. Some of those in the group were retired military, very proud of their accomplishments and work ethic. Paul considered his life work a loss because it was all for himself. He rejoiced to lose himself and gain Christ.
Does God love you? Yes? No? How do you know? How do you know in your heart of hearts that God loves you? We all do this. We all take the pulse of God’s love on the baseline of how the day went. when do you feel your worst? When you were performing at your worst. When do you feel your best? When you were performing at your best. You judge God’s love for you based on how you feel about yourself and how well you are accomplishing. What a miserable way to live. Therefore many of you also struggle with feelings of self-worth.
What does Paul say about self-assessment based on personal accomplishment? What is more, I consider everything (especially his goodness) 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, 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. It is a loss because we lose out on Christ when we look to our own works to gain anything from God. How much is enough? Perfection is where we need to be and we are far from it. Let go! Give in! I am happy to give that to God. Rejoice to lose self and gain Christ. We lose all our baggage of good works when we surrender to receiving the righteousness of Christ by faith, which God also creates. Paul calls knowing Jesus surpassing greatness. The surpassing greatness is described as reaching higher than what the previous person has done. I am so happy to consider all my good works a loss when I know Jesus because I have such a great gain with Christ. All that Jesus has done is for us.
Paul continues to describe how it is possible to gain Jesus perfection. 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. We gain so much from Jesus by knowing him and the power of his resurrection. We gain that by the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. This is all real when you suffer. Some of you know by experience through suffering all you have in Jesus to cling to. We have a fellowship in Jesus’ suffering because we lost our sins and gained his perfection.
So we also become like him in his death because that was when it was all finished. No more sin. No more earning favor with God. No more burden on myself because it is complete. All of Jesus perfect life, suffering, and death is yours and you didn’t have to go through the pain. So keep serving the Church and serving Jesus because he has earned everything for you and the only thing left to do is to thank him.
Paul started out this section with the long list of qualities of an outstanding person at that time. It was not to make himself feel great. It was not to shame his hearers on how worthless they were by not living up to the same standards. It was to show them how meaningless works are when it comes to your status with God. I’m really not the best pastor. My life history, training, pastors in my family, they do not bring me any closer to God than you are. I am happy to consider all that a loss in comparison to the great gain which we have in Christ Jesus.
My pastor growing up is my best, Tim, friend’s dad. Tim and I stood up in each other’s wedding. We still talk on the phone regularly even though we are thousands of miles away. His dad was one reason why I stand before you today. A few years ago, his dad, my pastor growing up, passed away very quickly from an aggressive form of lung cancer. In my mind, he wasn’t one that the world would normally consider a “great” pastor. He was great because Jesus loved him. Pastor Scherschel’s last form of communication a half hour before he passed away was the sign of the cross with his index fingers in the air in front of him and then on his chest. And the nurse who he asked to come to church a month ago witnessed it.
We know peace as we strip all the outward show of actions off and cling to that cross with all our might because that is the only thing that saves us. Somehow, in the end, we may attain the resurrection of the dead. Pastor Scherschel is in heaven. You will be to. Don’t stop doing what you are doing because you don’t know who is watching you and what witness you will have for Jesus. Sunday school teachers, you have a mission to do. All of you have a mission to do. Rejoice in losing self and you gain Christ, you gain everything.