CONFIDENCE OF THE GOSPEL
Confidence of the Gospel
(A sermon based on Philippians 3: 4b-12)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Friends, our meditation for today comes from Apostle Paul’s letter to Philippian church, wherein he writes:
“…though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more…but whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 on the basis of faith…”
Let us pray:
Gracious Father, your laws were given for our benefit and well-being. At the same time, your gracious love gave us the gospel of Jesus Christ, by which you now save us. Help us not to count the cost but remain confident in your provision through Christ our saviour. May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be pleasing in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen.
Friends in Christ, in the reading you heard, Apostle Paul talked a fair deal about ‘being confident in things.’ If Paul were to be here, he would be asking us, where do you get your confidence from? How would you count confidence? Or what source you might turn to have confidence boost?
People get their confidence from all sorts of things. Some turn to skills, talents that they possess are some examples. While, some, look at their physical abilities to give them confidence, others rely on education, work, money, possessions, security in life, or even their family name or heritage, for that matter to provide confidence in life.
Some of us are blessed with good relationships and are surrounded by people and say our confidence in life comes from them. Let me give you a personal example, this morning I got up and looked at the time in my phone and panicked for a second. The thing is, I did not change time zone in my phone from Victoria to Queensland. And so, it being daylight saving in Victoria, my phone showed I was running one hour late. So, I started to panic, then my wife realising my panic said, don’t worry you got one more hour, we are no longer in Victoria, but live in Queensland where daylight changes don’t impact our lives. The lesson, ‘when you know how to count, you can be confident’. Thanks be to God for my wife’s support to me, I was able to gain confidence and go about life at times.
Whether we gain confidence from others or have enough skills, gifts, talents and abilities in ourselves, we shine through life’s challenges. Confidence helps us to get through each day, making a winner out of us. No wonder, we work at it to gain confidence through many experiences in life.
Sometimes, to gain confidence, we have to practice things. Be it fishing or learning to play tennis or learning to knit, or learning to drive, one needs practice to gain confidence. Even simple skills like learning to use a kitchen peeler or big things in life like managing work life balance, we need plenty of practice. The more we work at things, we acquire skills and become confident.
In relation to become right with God, Apostle Paul says, none of the above principles about confidence help us. No matter how confident we are with ourselves or those around us, no matter what our gifts, talents, and abilities we possess, they are simply not enough to make us righteous. That is the problem! Neither can we gain confidence through practice nor can we ever ‘achieve’ Godliness by doing the right thing by the law of God. This is an important reality we must consider today!
You see friends, Paul was speaking to the Christians in the Philippian churches, who was until that point mistakenly thought they could master the craft of becoming right with God. They thought, if one followed strict guidelines of the law that will work in their favour. Their confidence was they are good and upright people and very ‘religious’ at heart, therefore, God should accept them. Their confidence comes from the way they can count and keep up with the law of God.
Like self-righteous people, Philippian Christians put their hope in things that they were able to achieve for themselves. Be it circumcision, or strictly adhering to the codes and laws. They thought they had it under control. In thinking so, they missed the point of the gospel. So, Paul came down heavily upon them, patiently teaching confidence in ‘self’ or other thing like ‘works of the law’ are like garbage.
From experience Paul reminded them, if there were such parameters, he fits the bill, he could be counted in. For starters, he was ‘circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel. He was from ‘the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless’ (Philippians 3: 4b-6) As you can see, if there was a perfect candidate on merit, it should be Paul.
But here comes the punchline from Paul, after meeting Christ on the road to Damascus, and having come to know what Christ has done for him, Paul started to count things differently. Instead of placing confidence on himself and the works of law he was able to achieve for himself, he started to see things for their real value. To him, his righteous works looked like rubbish when compared to the cross of Christ.
Paul, like all of us, struggled big time in life! He even put his internal struggle to a letter to Roman church. Look at what he says about broken human nature:
‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.’ (Romans 7: 15, 18-20).
If we are real with ourselves, we would agree with Paul and say, this is internal struggle is something we all face. Because sin real and makes imperfect people out of us, how can we ever be so confident our works will be perfect? How can a broken mirror ever reflect a perfect image? God’s standard is perfect, much better than the ‘gold standard’. God said, ‘be holy as I am holy.’ That perfection of God is marred in us. Sin corrupts our bodies, minds, and souls. Decay and death are what our cells experience with passing day. So, how then can we be confident of ourselves, no matter what we possess? Our deeds, no matter how generous and noble they are, they cannot show us the way to perfection.
Sure, our world can reward us with collection of things for our gifts, talents, and hard work. In this world, our success relies on what is achieved. When we make a living, we might support ourselves, when a student studies and pass exams they will have a certificate. We must do things and achieve things in this world. But here is the deal, no matter what we gain in the way of identity, material possessions, and relationships we don’t get to take anything with us.
Just this past week, I was involved in pastorally caring for two grieving families, whose beloved members have left them and entered heavenly glory. From that experience, if I may reflect here for a minute, I can say this, when our time is over, other than memories, we do not get to take anything with us. Our collection on earth is worthless. But, in God’s kingdom, things work differently compared to our world. God’s kingdom operates by the grace of God. Now, ‘grace’ is undeserved favour. God blesses us with plenty of grace.
Paul knew and experienced this grace of God through Christ Jesus. No wonder he said:
‘but whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.’
Friend, did you notice, Paul started to count things differently. To Paul being found in Christ is the ultimate reality of life, that is what really matters. When found in Christ, one can be confident to face anything, be it God, death, and even law of God.
Paul’s righteousness is not a reward for his labour but was given to him because of the sacrifice of God’s beloved Son Jesus.
Jesus did not come to do away with God’s law, but in his body, he fulfilled the law. Jesus achieved our perfection by keeping the law. The innocent Lamb of God took our sin on his shoulders. He was slayed for us. Jesus tasted death, so that through him we can taste life and resurrection. This is the revealed grace of God!
This grace of God is surely applied to us, in the waters of baptism. The water poured over us, washes us clean from every stain of sin in this life. Even today, we receive forgiveness through the water and the word. By the bread and wine, Christ visits us offering his body and blood for our sake. Our lives are nourished by the love and grace of God. By grace through faith we inherit the promises of God. Our confidence relies not on our individual achievements but purely on the work of God.
Our Saviour Jesus imparts this transformative confidence into our lives. Many people think, the gospel provides answers to their problems in life, but the truth is, gospel of Christ provides much more than answers to a few problems of life. Gospel of Jesus Christ, transforms us, it shows who we are and where we stand in the eyes of our maker and redeemer. In His eyes, you are holy, redeemed and sanctified by grace through faith. This is the gift of God!
You are set free, to enjoy this pardon in Christ. At the same time, when you see other counting things differently, gaining confidence trying to keep up with the obligations of God’s law, let them know of freeing power of the gospel. Jesus has achieved this, that is the reason to remain confident in the gospel.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.
Rev. Jaswanth Kukatlapalli
Pastor at Mackay Community Lutheran Church (Mackay), and
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church (Cannonvale)
Office Address: 44-46 Wellington Street, Mackay, Queensland, 4740