3-D Christianity

Bible Book: Philippians  3 : 14-16
Subject: Progress; Determination; Commitment; Chrsitianity Living; Growth

In the expression of the choir and Travis this morning, along with our instrumentalists, we've been reminded that God is a Father......to His children. We've come today to be pleasing to Him, at least that's my heart's desire and I believe it to be your heart's desire. But you see, the problem is that God sees things differently than we do. He sees us as three-dimensional people. Sometimes we see Him as a one dimensional God and rather than be shallow in our understanding, we need to be solid in our understanding of all that God has for us and what He wants us to see.

Some of you, like me, years ago went to the ophthalmologist and you had your eyes examined. Maybe it's just been this past week; I don't know. But this I do remember. Each time I go for an eye examination, I go and get the promise from the physician who says, "Now this won't sting," but it does, and he puts the little drops in my eyes and of course you know what that does. It dilates your eyes so that he can look deeper into what's really there to discover if there's a problem. You see, there is a problem in some of our lives today that we don't see it like God sees it.

Today's sermon title is "3-D Christianity", God's vision becoming our vision. Our heart's desire and our drive being just like that of our Father who loves us so. Well when I would go to the doctor and I would get my eyes examined, you know they would give me those little cardboard glasses, you remember those? You put them on and you look so silly and so I got real smart as I grew older and I decided, "Hey I got my own," and so I pulled out my own sunglasses like I'm doing and I'd say, "Doc, hey, no cardboard for me, okay; I don't want to look like I've just come out of one of those 3-D movies where it has one red lens and one blue lens, where you get a better perspective and the monster from Japan jumps out and leaps on you. So maybe, just maybe, today the vision that you have can be expanded for the cause of Christ. I believe it to be true.

Let's look at 3-D Christianity and of course what it involves is to take three words that begin with the letter "D" and to help us understand more of what God wants for our lives. I'm opening my Bible to Philippians. It's the letter that we've been studying now for these several months. And as we open we look for chapter 3 and I'm going to highlight verses 14, 15 and 16. Would you open your Bible with me? If you didn't bring one today, reach into the pew or get close to someone who has one because this is the Word of God. Beginning with verse 14 the scripture reads this way, "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things and if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained."

I. Determination (v.14)

Today we begin with the first "D" of 3-D Christianity. It is that of determination. I wonder today how determined you are. You've done well the first step; you've made your way to the corner of Washington Road and Fury's Ferry. You were determined to get here no matter what obstacles were out there. You made it. But you see that is but a small step in comparison to all that God has for us.

Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the message for the hour for us at Warren Baptist today begins this way. He said, "I press on.." Have you ever thought about those words? It doesn't mean that he gets the iron out and begins to make all the creases straight. It doesn't mean that he's pushing with his finger. It means with all of his strength, with all of his body he is running swiftly or he's pursuing eagerly.

It literally gives you two kinds of pictures and one I want to follow today and one is that of a runner and the other is that of a hunter, a hunter who is pursuing quickly his prey, looking to find a way by which to capture him. But today I want you to see yourself as a runner. But the truth of the matter is that some of us have not chosen to run; we've just chosen to take it easy. In fact, I thought in Korean style I would preach in my sock feet, but I'm not going to do it. I brought my slippers with me and I'm just going to put them on because you see they feel so good, they're so cushy. You know, it just makes this padded platform feel so much better and I could just preach for hours!! But I won't! But you see this is representative of some of our lives. It's so comfortable and instead of pressing on we like to just pull back on the Lazy Boy and get real comfortable and coast in our Christianity.

Oh but my dear friend that is not the picture that Paul has for us, nor is that what God would have us to do in our Christian walk and run for Him. In fact, as you can guess I probably brought another pair of shoes. I did, I brought my running shoes and these have fresh mud, well dirt, from New Mexico on them. I just returned yesterday from New Mexico, having the privilege of teaching there at Glorieta Conference Center and what I had the privilege to do in that 7500+ above sea level altitude was to get out and run and to note that the effort I made up there made my heart beat even more. But still I pressed on, I was faithful, I ran up to the top of the mountain called Glorieta View Point and I looked out across the city. But you see, this is representative of what Paul wants in our lives. What God wants is that we press on, that we don't back off; but that we eagerly pursue and as we eagerly do, he tells us another thing. He says, "I go for the goal."

A. Warning! Two Extremes to Avoid:

But before that I want to give you a couple of warnings, okay? Here's the warnings. There's two extremes here.

1. I Must Do It All (activist)

The first extreme is to simply state that, "I can do it all; I must do it all!" Because you see when we strap on our running shoes and we get ready to run in the Christian life, sometimes we think that our efforts are all that God needs. So we get real busy. We get on every committee that we can, we say "yes" to every person that asks us to do a task because after all, we've been successful. We've felt pretty good about the accomplishments that we've had and so we say, "I must do it all." That's not valid.

2. God Must Do It All (quietist)

There's a second extreme that we've got to avoid and it is simply this: God must do it all. Now lest you think that I'm taking the God factor out, I want you to understand that there must be a balance here. It is God with us, God through us as well as God in us that allows us to accomplish the goals for the Lord. Sometimes we've learned this little statement. I've even used it in preaching in the past. I simply said it this way: Let go and let God. Well that's not 100% accurate because if I let completely go, then the Lord doesn't have me to continue to do what He's equipped me to do nor will He have you as the body of Christ.

So it's like this. Let's pretend that it's football season because we're this close to it. And a quarterback gets down in a huddle and he's got all of his guys surrounding him. And he says, "Okay guys, we've been through summer practice, we've learned the plays, but I want you just to forget what the coach has taught us, forget all the plays. Here's what I want to do. I want you to go fifteen yards out, I want you to cut the right; I want you to go long and I want you to go to the left about ten feet and then curl back in and on three I'm going to get one of you. Okay, break!" Now that's foolish. They've been practicing everything before, why should they start something brand new and exclude the coach?

It would be even more foolish to say this, "Alright guys, I don't know what to do. I mean would somebody go get the coach, bring him into this huddle. I'm tired of calling the plays. In fact I don't know where to go." So they go get the coach and they bring him into the huddle and then he says, "Coach, I can't do it, you've got to do it." Of course neither one of those extremes are going to make good sense. The warning is ours and as we press on it is God and us; it is our teamwork together. It is simply, "I go for the goal."

When Paul said, "I press on toward the goal, the prize, the high calling of God, he's literally talking about a goal marker. You'll remember carrying on the athletic analogy here his name was Grant Knox. He was my senior varsity football coach and we'd won seven games in a row. And at that time, he knew that our heads were about as big as a pumpkin and he knew that we thought that we were invincible so he took before game day and he got us around in that Thursday afternoon practice, before the Friday game, and he went down to the goal line. And back then the goal line was with chalk and it wasn't while chalk, it was gold chalk. The goal lines on both ends were made of gold, not real gold, but they were gold chalk. And he picked it up and as he did he said, "Gentlemen I want you to look at this.

This is what I want you to get. Every time you get the ball, I want you to be going for the goal, I want you to be running toward that." Back then as a 195-pound fullback, that was my drive; that's where I knew I was supposed to go and of course it led us to an undefeated season during that time.

B. I'm Going Home (heavenward)

But nonetheless, God has a better goal for us. He's got an accomplishment that he has for our life and for our church and that is simply to be on target for Him and to be going toward the goal marker. Now the goal marker ultimately is what this third statement will represent and it is simply this, Paul said, "I'm going home." "Heavenward" is the word that he used there. He wanted us to be pointed heavenly, and how do we do that?

Well if you've trusted Christ as your personal Savior, you have already a promise from God. Jesus said, "If go.."(and literally it's translated "since I go") and prepare a place for you, I will come again that where I am you will be also." You see that? "In my Father's house," he said, "are many mansions, many dwelling places, many houses." Hey there's enough room for all of us. Paul was pointing heavenward.

But you know also what he was doing? He was reminding us that just as the Olympian runner in Greek time would run for the prize, he would come up literally up to the judge's stand and there he would receive his reward. He knew if he was first place he would win the wreath, he would get that ivy circle that would be placed upon his brow and there he would receive the accomplishment for the effort he had given. I see that's the way it is for us in Christianity as well. Though not all of us can win the race on this earth, all of us who've trusted Jesus Christ have a heavenly reward that God is waiting to give to us.

II. Disqualification (v. 15)

But the problem is the second "D" of 3-D Christianity. Some of us are in the period of disqualification. Disqualified!

A. Every Runner Has Rules (2 Tim. 2:5)

The point that I'm trying to make here is simple. It comes from verse number 15 and it is a reminder that every runner has rules. Every runner has rules! And if you're running and you're pressing on in the Christian life, you've got to do it according to the rules. Where are the rules found? Well I'm glad that you asked the question. They're right here in this book. Some of us have read the rules. Some of us are following them; some of us are ignoring them; some of us know enough about them to be dangerous because we know enough to know what to be doing and when we don't do it, we don't go toward it.

I want you to turn with me in your New Testament and look at Timothy 2:5. Let's glance at that for a moment. We read what Paul was writing to his young preacher friend. As he gave him this admonition and reminder, so God gives it to us today. The scripture reads this way: Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. Disqualification. Some of us have been disqualified. Now do not take this analogy too far, because you see if you have stepped out of bounds with God, you do not lose your salvation, but you lose the reward that can be given to you. And the giving of glory that God shares from Himself with us who have been found faithful, is a wonderful path toward following.

I trust today that none of you will ever think that you have stepped so far out of bounds that you cannot come back because you can. But you've got to follow the rules.

B. The Judge's Word Is Final

I want you to note with me also that no matter how many fans and friends that you have around you in the stands of life, whether it be music competition, athletic competition, whether you think that you've done the very best that you can and all of those fans and friends have applauded you and said, "Yeah, that was the best," I want you to note with me that the judge's word is final! It doesn't matter how you feel about it compared to everybody else and it doesn't matter how everybody else feels about you, it's what the judge knows to be the truth. And of course our Father in Heaven is our ultimate judge and the Lord looks down upon us today and He knows that some of us have stepped way out of bounds.

I would invite you to turn back in the New Testament toward the front and look toward a passage in Romans, chapter 14, and look with me to verse number 10 and following; here's the way the scripture reads: "You then, why do you judge your brother or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written 'as surely as I live', says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me and every tongue will confess to God. So then each of you (and each of us) will give an account of himself to God.

If you look at those three little words back in the first verse that I read, "God's ", in the Greek that is literally the word "Bema". Every one of us will stand before the Bema, the judgment seat of God. All of us will hear the words either, "Welcome, well done, good faithful servant," or "I never knew you, depart from me." Which is it for you? Have you been disqualified because you've never really become a part of God's team? Are you disqualified?

In the sense that you are a part of God's team, but you've broken or bent the rules and you've thought, "Well you know, just this time, just for now it's okay, taking short cuts for God." He always knows and He looks and He loves us and He woes us back to Himself saying, "I died so that you can live abundantly." Are you living for Him that way today? The Judge's word is final.

C. The Bottom Line: Be Mature!

I guess the bottom line is this and it goes right back to what the scripture says in verse number 15. The bottom line is be mature. Just grow up! Some of us have sought to bend and to take short cuts and do anything and everything we can just to avoid being all that God wants us to be and He's saying, "Grow Up!" Be mature; you know what to do. You've read the rules; follow them. It's for your best. Not because God wants to put you down or to put you into a box so that you can't have the freedom that you want, but because He wants you to be more free than you've ever been in all of your life.

The person who led me to Jesus Christ years ago as a college student had these words to say to me. I had all of the religious trappings of anyone. I was a church member, I'd been baptized, I'd been faithful in Bible Study, I was the chaplain of my athletic team, I was a partner in my fraternity of being a chaplain there to help them to clean up and stay straight. I'd done all the things on the outside except the main thing on the inside and this person said this to me, "Would you quit worrying about what you have to give up and look at all that you have to gain." Is that a word for you today? It sure was for my heart then. Grow up; be mature. Look at all that God has out there for you.

III. Discipline (v.16)

We the final "D" of "3-D Christianity" is this: it's discipline. No athlete, no Christian can make an advance for the cause of Christ without discipline. I can't strap these shoes on and prove I'm an athlete. It's not by the outer clothes that I wear, it's what's on the inside that makes the difference. It's the same thing with you as a Christian. God is calling you to be disciplined.

A. Keep In Step

In fact He uses these three little words in verse number 16, "Live up to.." Paul writes it, "Live up to these things." Do you know that that means? On your screen you can see it there. It means literally to "keep step" and it's imperative. That means that it ought to have an exclamation mark after it. Live up to these things! It's not an option; it is an absolute. Live up to these things. Keep step with God.

Now here's what I've discovered in many, many churches. There are people who are put in different positions. Some of them are above or ahead of others. But the people, who may be at the backside of a line, may be complainers. It may you today. You're saying, "You know I can teach and talk and sing better than they." But God has put you into this position for a purpose, somewhere to prepare you for an even deeper work. Yet you are always constantly wanting to get out of line and get ahead and say, "Hey, look at me, look at me, look at me." God is reminding us here that if we'll stay disciplined to the little things of life, He will bless us with even greater things in the life to come.

Oh how good it is to know that you are safely fulfilling what God has given you to do right now right where you are. No worry about what other people have and what you have. Stay faithful and focused right now where you are. Keep step.

B. A Disciplined Walk (the Savior's Soldiers)

In fact I'd like to remind you that really this place is a matter of a disciplined walk and I would look at it as soldiers who are gathered together. No soldier can ever meet the mark and be the best that he can be if he falls out of the rank. We are a part of the Savior's soldiers. We are under the Great Commander who has called us and commissioned us to be the very best that we can possibly be and so if we decide that we want to do it our way rather than saying, "Yes Sir," the penalty will come because of disqualification. Stay disciplined.

C. Keep On Keeping On - End Well

I want to put on those slippers again, I want to be comfortable. It's so cushy! I don't like to strain and move ahead. Could I just share with you that if you just keep going ahead, God is going to bless you more than ever before. I think in my life the greatest thing that I want to do is to end well. I mean 28 years of ministry, 48 years of living is not enough. I want to end well whether it be next week that God calls me home or whether it be 40 more years from now. I don't know, but I want to end well.

As I was preparing for the message, I looked through the scripture and I discovered some people who did not end well. They started great. I think of the like of Lot and as I looked to the Old Testament in Genesis 19, he started well but oh he ended in failure. Then I think to the strong man, Samson. Every spiritual benefit; I mean his resume read with great riches. He was the best of the best; he was admired; he was a man's man. But his fault was lust and he lost. His decline became evident and he did not end well. The King, Saul, who was given all of the command of the entire nation of Israel, he did not end well.

Then I think of Ananias and Saphirra, who in their religious trappings and their routine were outwardly saying, "Look at me, I'm giving all of this to God," and yet they were not. They were living in a lie. They said that they were tithers and they were sharers and they were disciplined givers for God, but they weren't and God immediately took their lives from them. The discipline of God is for our own good and my friend, I'm calling on you to end well. Stay well, stay strong with Him.


Three questions and we'll close.

The first is simple. It's this and it pushes us back to the point of where we need to be all that we can be for Him, "Do you feel like quitting?" Do you? I mean you don't have to shout it out loud, but I know in our hearts some of us have said, "This Christian race is too hard." Well have you quit? Have you backed up on God? Have you put on the easy slippers of spirituality or do you have your running shoes on? Which is it for you?

The second question is this, "Is there anything in your life right now that would disqualify you from winning the prize that God has for you? Anything at all? Thought life, attitude, action, bitterness, anger, lying, stealing? I don't know, but you do. If God raises to your consciousness anything that would disqualify you, I'm going to ask you to just spend a moment here with God, to come forward in just a moment and to say to Him, "Lord I don't want to be disqualified; I want all the reward that you have for me."

The final question is this, "Are you in line with the Lord right now?" I mean are you in the position that He wants you to be in and are you disciplined enough to stick with it knowing that God knows more than we know and He sees into your future and He knows what's best for you right now. Are you in line with Him right now?

Some of us have strapped on our spiritual shoes and yet we're not really a part of the team. We get up to the line but we've never really been runners because we're never trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior. Today you can do that.