페이지 정보작성자 최고관리자 작성일15-11-27 16:10 조회1,397회 댓글0건
Philippians 3: 4-14
Today is the last Sunday of the year 2001. This year has been a chaotic year that had seen all types of events and happenings around the globe, with some being unheard-of and unimaginable, such as the September 11 terrorist attacks. In uncertain times as these, where we cannot even predict what will happen minutes from now, it is amazing that we can even carry on with our lives.
Each of us probably has different feelings and emotions in closing out this year. No matter how each of us led our lives, we all probably share a common sentiment—regrets and reluctance over the past year and the determination to lead a better and more meaningful life in the upcoming year. The new year brings another 52 weeks for us. As we spend this last Sunday of this year, we need to look back and reflect on the previous 51 weeks of our lives.
First, we need to introspect—or do some soul-searching—on how many days of Sabbath we failed to keep this year. A person dozed off, fell asleep at his desk and had a quick dream. He was climbing a ladder to heaven when he came across a missing rung to the ladder. “God, why did you take this rung out to make my climb difficult?” He complained. He continued climbing, and not far above the missing rung was a section of the ladder with three missing rungs, which made his climb all the more difficult. “God, it was difficult enough to overcome one missing rung, which required twice as much strength to negotiate; this time, there are three rungs missing. What am I to do?” At that instant, an angel appeared to break the news to him. “God did not take those rungs; in fact, you took out those rungs yourself, for those rungs are representations of all the Sunday services you missed during your lifetime!”
How nice would it be for us to believe that missing a Sunday service will take out a rung from our ladder to heaven? Missing a Sunday worship service hints at the attitude that does not place God above all things. One does not keep Sabbath because one has been engulfed in bragging about one’s life, fulfilling one’s physical and secular desires, placing God on the back burner of our minds. In looking back over the past year, we need to reflect on our theft of God’s resources and material; but more importantly, we need to repent on spending God’s time as our own.
In truth, we need to confess and repent over many things that we have done over the past year. There are many things to regret about. Today, we need to hear God’s voice, given to us on this last Sunday of the year, with true repentance in our hearts.
Today’s scripture is an answer, a reply, to the enemies that threatened and disrupted the good order of the Philippian church. The Bible is reticent about just who these enemies of Paul are. One clue may lie within verse 2, chapter 3 of Philippians, where the word ‘dogs’ are used. The term ‘dogs’ is a derogatory term that Jews used to refer to the pagans who did not know or believed in God; therefore, we can assume that enemies of Paul were the pagans, or foreigners.
Furthermore, the fact that Paul stresses his circumcision gives us the clue that perhaps these pagans, too, received circumcisions after converting to Christianity. According to the scholars, these people were not only circumcised, they believed that a special magical power was bestowed upon them as a result of the circumcision ceremony. Therefore, these ‘pagans’ did not understand Judaism, and they certainly did not understand the truths of Christianity. They did not understand nor knew much about Judaism since they were not Jews. Because they linked magical powers to circumcision, they did not know much about the ceremony of circumcision and what it meant. And the fact that they were circumcised after converting to Christianity—where foreigners converting to Christianity were not required to be circumcised—shows that they did not know much about Christianity, either. In Paul’s eyes, these people were ignorant of Judaism and they certainly knew nothing about Christianity.
As a Jewish Christian, Paul felt the need to teach these pagans about Judaism and Christianity. First, to let them know that their knowledge regarding Judaism and circumcision is false, Paul proudly asserts that he is of the traditional Judaism background. If being a Jew depended on being circumcised, belonging to a clan, and following the law, or the commandments, to the letter, then Paul is asserting that he has nothing to be afraid of. In terms of physical attributes, Paul was second to none in being a pure, traditional Jew. He could boast with the best of them.
Yet, because he met Christ, Paul cast away all this boasting of physical attributes, his lineage, like how a body discards feces and urine. Because of Jesus, Paul’s life changed. Because of Jesus, he lost his secular boasting; instead, he found joy and everlasting life. When we ponder and think over today’s scripture, we can learn important lessons regarding how we must close out the current year and usher in the new year.
1. We must forget what lies behind us.
We must forget the past. “I was a somebody once.” We often bring up our past exploits or accomplishment as a source of bragging and vanity. Excessive referencing of past scars and failures are indeed a problem, but overt reliance and attachment to past glory is also a problem. Whether our past is good or bad, glorious or embarrassing, it is only what it is at face value: The past. No one is more foolish than one who is captured by the grasp of his or her past.
When Thomas Edison, perhaps the greatest inventor in human history, was 67 years old, his laboratory caught on fire one winter night. All his research work and equipment were turned into ashes. In this desperate situation, Edison called his wife, his children, and his neighbors out to watch the fire burn. Edison’s son asked Edison a question, who was calmly and emotionlessly watching decades of his work go to waste. “Dad, are you not disappointed?” To this Edison replied, “That fire cannot be put out—there is nothing we can do. Given that, we cannot lose our smile just because we lost our lab.” Edison displayed a very insightful attitude, indeed.
Nothing can be done about the past, no matter how hard we try. The good past, the bad past, no matter what happened in the past, we must let things be as they were. Our past, of course, always leaves us with invaluable lessons. But that’s all they are—lessons. They must not become the shackle and chain that keep this day imprisoned. Those who remain attached to the past or dwell in the past cannot become masters of their present and their future.
Forget what happened over the past year. Whether you did something you are proud of, or you are embarrassed about something you did—forget about it and leave it behind. Paul had endless source of accomplishment and past glories to brag about; yet, after he met Christ, he forgot all about his past exploits and deeds.
Take a look at verses 5 and 6 of today’s scripture. “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
Paul was born into a strict traditional Hebrew family; therefore, he was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. He was born into the tribe of Benjamin, an old, royal family of Israel that produced King Saul of Israel. People of the Benjamin tribe took great pride in the fact that the castle and the temple of Jerusalem fell within their territories. Moreover, above his pedigree and lineage, Paul was a Pharisee—one that was distinguished from the masses by his obedience of the law and the commandments.
Lineage, pedigree, scholastic background, regional affiliation—Paul has absolutely nothing to feel inferior to others about. As he expressed, he was “a Hebrew among Hebrews,” a purebred among purebreds. He had the conviction that no one could hold anything on him in terms of background as a Jew. Then what happened to this glorious past once he met Jesus Christ?
In verses 7 and 8, Paul viewed his past as unproductive, counted it as rubbish and threw it away like trash. How could he make the decision to throw all that source of pride away? It is quite surprising, indeed. What changed Paul’s life so drastically?
2. Because the knowledge that came from Christ is above all else.
Paul discarded everything that he treasured from his past like trash because of Christ. After knowing Christ, he realized that all past glories and pride were futile. He realized that past efforts at upholding and abiding by the commandments, to the letter, was in vain after discovering Christ through his faith. After knowing about and gaining the most precious thing, he efficiently discarded the lesser things.
A teacher said the following to his pupil as he was bequeathing a precious gem to him. “Take this gem to the market and ask about its value. But do not sell this gem at any price.” The pupil first took the gem to the fruit store and asked the shopkeeper. “What will you give me for this gem?” The shopkeeper replied, “I’ll give you two oranges.” The pupil then went to a potato stand. “I will give you four pounds of potatoes,” was the reply. The pupil went to a blacksmith; having had some experiences working with jewelry before, the blacksmith told the pupil that he would give him $500 for the gem. After stopping off at few more places, the pupil eventually arrived at the largest jewelry store in the market. After taking a good look at the stone, the jeweler said, “This stone cannot be bought or sold with money. It is priceless.”
Even though they all were looking at the same gem, each person assessed different value to the stone. For some, it was worth only two oranges; for others, it was priceless. Jesus is the same way. For some, He may be some religious genius, or the founder of Christianity. But for Paul, Jesus was a priceless being, One who was worth much more than his own life. Therefore, after discovering the gem called Jesus, Paul devoted his entire life in serving Him.
If you consider Jesus as a precious being, then all that you have viewed as valuable or priceless will seem worthless to you. And because of Jesus, your past will not matter. No matter how glorious or bright your past was, you will not reminisce about your past. Nor will you be embarrassed about your past. I hope that your knowledge of Christ, your discovery of Jesus, will become the most important thing in your life. As a result, I hope that you will forget about your greed, your attachments to, and your vanity of the past year.
3. We need to drive forth, towards the goal that lies before us.
Take a look at verses 13 and 14 of today’s scripture. “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press towards the goal for the prize of upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
A person as great and energetic as Paul is admitting here that his life is incomplete. We do not attain this completeness through believing in Christ. Like verse 12 states, we have not attained nor have we perfected. As long as we live on this earth, our lives are incomplete. Despite that fact, we must do something, for we are creatures striving for perfection.
As we look back on the past year, we must forget the good things, the bad things, things that have gone well, things that have gone bad, the happy moments, and the sad moments. Sometimes, having too good a memory can be a bad thing. The painful, sad moments in our lives, the events that upset us—it is better to quickly forget about them. It is better to forget those things that can negatively impact on our present and our future. And we must strive forward towards our goal, keeping our eye on that goal—Jesus Christ. Our goal lies ahead of us, not behind us. We must strive forward, not backwards.
Some time ago, a man lived in Greece who did not have enough money to get himself an education. One day, he took a civil exam to become a security guard, but failed the test because he could not read nor write. He cried to Heaven, “God, how can I not even become a security guard?” This man immigrated to the US, and after years of hard work, eventually became a tycoon of the Wall Street. At his sixtieth birthday party, countless number of guests came to congratulate him. One of the guests came up to him and asked, “Why don’t you write a memoir?” The man replied, “Sorry, I don’t know how to write—I can barely write my name.” “Really?” The guest replied, “Had you known how to read, you could have become much more successful than you are today!” To this reply, the man responded, “No, if I had known how to read, then I would be a security guard today.”
Paul speaks in Romans 8: 28. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Looking back on the past year, I am sure that everyone had felt the gamut of emotions. Just as clear days are followed by overcast days, happy days precede sad days. The important thing to remember is that the God makes the aggregate sum of all our days good and positive—that God leads all the days to eventually turn out good. All things, as commanded by God, will turn positive.
When a person is about to die, he often says the following three phrases: “I should have been more thankful…” “I should have retrained myself more…” and “I should have provided more to others.” As we spend this last Sunday of this year, let’s be more thankful, more restrained, and more generous to others.
Now is the time to forget about the past and look forward to our goal in the new year. The grace of God, which has protected and guided you over the past year, will again fill your homes and preside over your families in the coming year.
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