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Clinging To Jesus

March 31, 2024

Clinging To Jesus

Passage: Philippians 3:7-21
Service Type:


Resurrection Sunday - Clinging to Jesus

Rodney Gehman – March 31, 2024


Welcome to River City! My name is Rodney, and I’m one of three pastors here currently, and I do most of the teaching week after week. And so I hope you have a copy of scripture with you today, either on your phone or an actual Bible. If you’re using a device, I am preaching from the Christian Standard Bible, or CSB version. I’d love for you to go ahead and open that up right now, and navigate your way to Philippians 3.

If you grew up in church, or you know your Bible pretty well, you might be thinking, hold on, Philippians 3 is not where the story of the resurrection of Jesus is. It’s Resurrection Sunday – shouldn’t you be in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John? And you would be right. But we’re going there today, because I’m going to do something very dangerous. I’m going to make an assumption. Actually two of them. There are many of you in the room today that I don’t know, which makes this even more dangerous, but I’m going to make two assumptions this morning: 

Assumption #1: There are two stories that are told every December – 1) that a portly man from the North Pole watches your life from a distance, and brings you coal if you’re bad and the gifts you want if you’ve been good; and 2) that a baby was born in a manger. And then here’s my dangerous assumption: I assume by virtue of the fact that we are in a generally conservative, church-in-every-town, MidWest area, I assume that you are aware that the baby in the manger ends up being the man who was crucified on a cross and then came back to life. That’s assumption number 1. 

And here’s assumption #2: I’m assuming that most Americans have no idea what Jesus’ resurrection has to do with their lives today – their divorce or marital strife, their kid being bullied or wanting to transition genders, Israel at war with Hamas, the upcoming Presidential election, a crisis at our southern border, the rising prices of food, or a solar eclipse. My second assumption is that most Americans, even those who would call themselves Christians, have no idea why the resurrection matters. 

And so, that’s my goal today. My goal is to try to persuade you that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important thing that could have ever happened in the history of the universe, and that it matters for the things you deal with on a regular basis. 

If you start in Philippians 3 verse 1, you see the author (who is the Apostle Paul, one of the first missionary evangelists of the early Church), sort of bragging about his credentials as a Jewish Christian. But then, we get to verse 8, and here’s what he wrote right after listing off all the initials and abbreviations after his name:

[8] …I…consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ [9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. 

Most of us in the room are aware of the impact that Caitlin Clark has had on women’s basketball over the past couple of years. There are many in this room I’m sure who never followed women’s basketball at all until this year. But If you have two people in a room bragging to each other about Caitlin Clark – one says they know everything about her, every stat, every record, been to every game she’s ever played, that’s pretty great. Until the other person says I know her. She comes to our house for dinner. We’ve been on family vacations together. That person considers all the stats, the records, the games as nothing because they know her personally. I don’t just know her in my head – I know her in my heart.

That’s what Paul is saying in verse 8. Knowing all the correct theological and religious facts about Jesus is NOTHING compared to knowing Jesus Christ personally, as my Lord. I don’t just want to know him in my head, He says in verse 9 I want to gain Christ and be found in him (I want to have him, and him to have me), not having a righteousness that is my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ

And I think most Americans know more about Santa than about Jesus – it’s because most Americans, don’t think they need Jesus for anything. Especially here in the MidWest where pretty much everyone will tell you they are a good person. Almost 100% of the people I talk to, as soon as they find out I’m a pastor, will try to justify themselves by telling me they are a good person, or they try to do good… even if they don’t go to church. I’m not perfect, they’ll say, but I’m a good person.

Here’s the problem with that. Good compared to what? Good compared to who? The problem with saying I’m a good person is that you are comparing yourself to other people and assuming that God takes the top 50% to heaven and sends the bottom half to hell or something. So just make sure you’re in the top half and you’re good. 

Verse 9 describes that kind of mindset as “having a righteousness of your own” because you consider yourself to be good because you meet your own criteria. But look at verse 8. What word picture does Paul use to describe being righteous or “good” by your own definitions? A steaming pile of fertilizer.  

Where does verse 9 say true goodness, true righteousness comes from? It comes from God. Righteousness comes from God, not from you. God is the one who defines what is good and right and true, not you or me. And God says that righteousness is based on faith in Christ. But what does it mean to have faith in Christ? 

In the summer of 1859, a French acrobat nicknamed Charles Blondin strung up a highwire across Niagara Falls, 1300 feet long, and while hundreds of people watched, walked back and forth from one side to the other like it was nothing. All throughout June and July of that summer, he would put on shows walking back and forth. One time as he crossed the line, he sent a fishing wire down to a boat at the bottom of the falls, pulled up a bottle of wine, took a couple swigs and sent it back down. One time he sat down on the wire, cooked an omelet for himself, and lowered it down to the boat. Another time, he took one of those huge old cameras with him, and when he got to the middle, pulled it out, set it up and made a photograph.  

His manager Harry Colcord had been watching all of this time after time after time. He’d seen Charles do some amazing things on a highwire. Did he believe that Charles could do almost anything on that wire? Sure! He’d seen it happen. He might even have thought it looks so easy. So, on July 15, 1859, with the President of the US watching, Harry the manager walked over to Charles and climbed on his back. Charles made the next trip over those 1300 feet of rope with his manager hanging onto him for dear life. 

That’s what it looks like to have faith in Christ. You can talk all day long about what you know about Jesus. But have you put your life in his hands? Before he stepped on the rope, Charles told his manager – look up, don’t look down. For the next 30 minutes, you don’t exist. You are me. If I sway, sway with me. If I bounce, you bounce. If you try to take over and balance yourself, we both die. 

That manager arrived safely at the other side of Niagara Falls that day knowing that he contributed absolutely nothing to that trip. If someone would have asked the manager, how did you do it? And he started his sentence with, “well I…” he’s already in trouble. The applause and the glory was not for the manager, although certainly people applauded his faith and courage. But the main applause and the glory went to the man who could carry another man across the wire. 

See that’s what active saving faith in Jesus looks like. If you were to die and someone would say, why should I let you into heaven….if your sentence begins with, “well I…” you’re already in trouble. It’s going where he goes, moving when he moves, and recognizing that when it comes to our salvation, trusting our own ability to be a good person is not what gets us there. It’s clinging to Jesus for dear life. 

That baby born in the manger wasn’t just another Jewish baby. He was God. He had lived for all of eternity past in the glories of heaven, surrounded by angels, living in perfect relationship with God the Father. Colossians 1:16 says He was there when the world was created, in fact he had a major part in it. And when we get to Revelation 13:8, we read that somewhere before He and the Father created the world, they knew that humans would rebel and that they would need a Savior – and they agreed that would be Jesus. Every human ever born would be tainted by sin, drawn to sin, enslaved to sin – and since sin is rebellion against God, Romans 6:23 says anyone who sins deserves to die — in fact Ephesians 2 says we are are spiritually stillborn and under Gods wrath unless we repent. 

And sadly because we have all sinned, no one meets the criteria to be righteous according to God’s standards; no one could be holy according to his standards – except himself. And so They planned it all along that Jesus would save the world, not through firepower, armies, or weapons, but through poverty, suffering, weakness and eventually his own death.  

But the only way that plan would work is if Jesus stayed holy for his entire life. If he sinned even once, the plan was over and humans could never be saved. So, Jesus the Eternal son of God came to earth, and added “human being” to all of the things he already was. He had to be fully human so that he could identify with everything you and I experience, including death. And the fact that he was at the same time fully God meant that his death would be enough to wipe clean the record of anyone who jumps on his back and trusts him with their life.

And in his 33 years of life, He never once gave into temptation to sin. Never once did he succumb to the temptation of Satan. Never once did he do anything that was against his Father’s perfect will. Eventually the religious elite of the day had enough of his calling himself God, and they asked the Romans to do their dirty work – to crucify him. 

That death on the cross takes us back to a story in early human history where a man named Abraham was told to sacrifice his only son, but at just the right time, a male sheep was found close by and the ram was sacrificed instead of the only son. 

Jesus willingly allowed himself to receive the full weight of God’s wrath toward sinners so that you and I can escape. And we’re told in scripture that Jesus blood, his death, was Gods plan for the forgiveness of our sin. 

Now. You may wonder, how do I know that’s true? How do I know for sure that the cross did what you say it did? How can we even be so sure Jesus never sinned? What if he did, one time, 14 years old, over behind the tree, when no one was looking, he just did this one tiny little thing? How do you know he didn’t give in to Satan’s lies? And that’s why we’re here today!

THE RESURRECTION! The resurrection is the proof of all of those things! God would not have raised Jesus and welcomed him back to heaven if he failed the mission. If Jesus would have sinned even once, he would be guilty of rebellion, and would deserve to die for his own sin. 

But the resurrection means Jesus completed the mission perfectly. God’s plan to purify sinners was completed to the final detail, and we know this because God raised Jesus from the dead, and welcomed him back into heaven, and not only applauded him, but gave him the highest authority there is – which he continues to this present moment! 

So here’s why the resurrection matters. It means everything Jesus said really is true. It means when you trust him with your life, your sins really are forgiven! You really are filled with his Spirit when you believe. You really do have purpose and gifts and a reason to live. You really do have an identity that isn’t based on your physical attributes but on who you are in Christ, you really don’t have to just try to be good and hope you can get to heaven someday — you can know it for sure

Because jesus was resurrected and sits at the right hand of God right now, you don’t have to live in fear of tomorrow or get all twisted up in conspiracy theories because There’s no earthly power, no dictator, no terrorist group, no Presidential candidate, no athlete or entrepreneur or philanthropist or Supreme Court that Jesus is not Lord over! 

There is no suffering or sickness or cancer or disease that Jesus is not Lord over. There is not a marriage or a child or a family situation that Jesus is not Lord over. There is not a devil, a demon, or an angel – good or evil – that Jesus is not Lord over. There is not a church anywhere in the world that Jesus is not Lord over. That doesn’t mean that every marriage or family or angel or church submits to his Lordship – but he’s still Lord. 

Paul says in verse 10, [10] My goal is to know him – to experience him, to have him in my home, to talk with him, eat with him, walk with him every single day of my life. And here are three ways of knowing Christ:

  1. Through the power of his resurrection – I want to know what it is to be brought from death to life. I want to know what it is to not feel empty and hopeless, but to feel alive! I want to know what it is to not feel anxious and fearful, but to be at peace. Iwant to know for sure that I’m going to be with Jesus when I die. I want to know for sure that I belong to him, and that death isn’t the end for me.
  2. Through the fellowship of his sufferings, – One of the ways we learn to know Jesus is in suffering. He also suffered – not just at the cross, but in his daily life. He was grieved by the death of loved ones like many of us have been. He was grieved by sickness. He no doubt lost friendships along the way. He was grieved by sin. One of the ways we learn to know Jesus is through grief and suffering as he comforts us, walks with us, encourages us, and gives us strength to endure…  
  3. And the third way we learn to know Jesus is through being conformed to his death, We learn to know Jesus is by letting him teach us to stop sinning, and we die to the self-centered life that is natural to us and being willing to face difficulty and hardship that the gospel of salvation may go out to all people.
  4. Sometimes that happens by reading his Word; other times it’s through the counsel of a godly friend; other times it’s through a sermon or a Bible study. But Paul says we learn to know Jesus by letting him teach us to stop sinning – to die to our sin – [11] assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. That in dying to sin, that’s actually where I’ll find what is truly life. 

And just in case you think Paul has it all figured out because he’s an apostle, In verse 12, he says I want to know Christ, but trust me, I’m not there yet…but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. [13] Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. 

Jesus Christ has taken hold of me for some reason, so I’m going all out to take hold of him. I’m not there yet, but here’s the plan…Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, [14] I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 

Look at the words Paul uses. 

  1. Make every effort. 
  2. Reaching (straining) forward
  3. Pursue the prize. 

Being a Christian isn’t just saying you believe, and then sitting on the side of Niagara Falls talking about how amazing Jesus is. True belief is reaching for him, making every effort to be found in him, pursuing him – it’s when you jump on his back and let him take you wherever he goes. Paul then wraps up chapter three with the two possible responses to this:

  • [18] For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things. That’s option #1. To live with a righteousness of your own is to be an enemy of the cross of Christ. To say “I’m a good person, I’ll handle my own business thank you” is to be an enemy of Christ, who tells us that he is our righteousness. These people say, die to myself? No thank you. Instead of accepting a self-denying way of following Jesus, many people will let their own desires, their own will, their own ideas call the shots, and they’ll brag about how they do it. Maybe they get hyper religious, trying to earn your way to heaven. Maybe they get hyper sinful, doing all the stuff they know they shouldn’t. Or maybe they just shrug their shoulders and say, “meh, who cares?” According to verse 19, they are all on a path that could lead only to destruction, 
  • OR
  1. Option #2: you can look at the cross and listen to what it says. The cross of Jesus says you are sinful and you can’t help yourself. The cross says you deserved to die for your rebellion, but it also says someone died in your place. The empty tomb says it worked! That you are forgiven. The empty tomb says God accepted the work of Jesus in your place, if you’ll just jump on his back and trust him to get you to the other side. And if you will, what’s true of you is verse - [20] but our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. [21] He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself. You have a brand new, perfected and glorified body coming one day that won’t carry any pain or sickness or death ever again; Your citizenship is in heaven where moths and rust and termites and decay will never happen, and no thieves can ever break in and steal our peace, steal our joy, steal our security, steal our hope. 
  2. And JESUS is there, right now, as we speak, getting things ready for his return to earth to save us for good. And this time, he’s not coming back as a baby. He’s not coming back gentle and lowly, in weakness and suffering. He’s coming back like a husband who has just caught up to the men who ravaged his bride. He’s coming as a conquering King to wipe out evil and purge the world of everything and everyone that stood opposed to his Lordship, anyone who has manipulated the truth or lived in the dark. And everything that was whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the rooftops, and everything done in the dark will be brought to the light. 
  3. And when he’s finished with evil, and every enemy is under his feet, he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and pain and suffering and sin and death will be gone for good, never to be heard from again for all of eternity. 

And I’m telling you, the resurrection matters because it’s the key that unlocks the door to all of it. None of what I just said is true, unless Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven where he rules and reigns as king of kings and Lord of lords. If the resurrection didn’t happen, and Jesus is still dead somewhere outside of Jerusalem, then Christians are as pathetic and pitiful as someone who believes the Easter bunny lays eggs. 

You can do what you want, but I’m throwing myself on the resurrection. There’s an empty tomb in Jerusalem. He’s alive! And today he stands at the door of your heart and he knocks. You want to be fully alive? Let him in. Don’t be satisfied with knowing he was born in a manger. Open his word. Dig around. Talk to him like you’re talking to a friend. Repent of your sin – that means, don’t just say I’m sorry…to repent means to go the opposite way. If you’ve been running from God, turn around in faith. He’s not far. 

If you’ve never done that before, I’m going to give you a moment to do that right now as we spend a minute or two in prayer. Your prayer can be as simple as, Lord Jesus – I’ve sinned against you by calling myself a good person. I’ve lived by my own standards of what is right and true, not yours. Have mercy on me. Save me. Forgive me. Heal me of my sin. You’re knocking on the door of my heart right now – Lord, I want you to come in. I don’t just want to know about you – I want to know you. Fill me with your Spirit so that I can know your presence today. You don’t have to pray those exact words – it’s your heart that matters. But if you prayed that prayer, please come and see me afterward. I want to pray with you before you leave. 

Secondly, if you’ve already been walking with Jesus, knowing him, knowing his closeness, repenting of your sin…you have been given the righteousness of Christ. You’ve been filled by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is alive and well today, living through you!  So, today let’s ask the Lord to stir us again. To stir up in us again a deep delight in his word, a hunger and thirst for righteousness as Jesus called it in Matthew 5, to stir up in us a move of the Spirit in such a way that Jesus is glorified and praised in our homes, in our schools, and in our cities and towns like never before. Lord Jesus I want to know you!