But One Thing I Do
May 28, 2017
One of the best ways to get to know people is to ask them what their goal is in life. What do you hope for and dream about? Where do you see yourself at the end? Who do you want to become? Why do you get up each and every morning?
A bright-eyed kid might say, “My goal in life is to be an astronaut and walk on Mars!” A graduating college student might say, “My goal in life is to get a good job, have a happy marriage and family, and just settle down.” A rookie basketball player might say, “My goal in life is to win a championship.” An old man or woman might say, “My goal in life is to see all my children and grandchildren for the holidays.”
Your goals reveal a lot about who you are when you have a full life ahead of you - whether you’re blowing out ten candles on your birthday cake or smiling at the camera with a diploma in your hand, whether you’re playing in your first professional game of basketball or even buying gifts for all the kids and grandkids.
But if you want to know the ultimate truth about people, ask them what their goal is when they are at or near the finish line of the race of life. Ask them when there are ninety-nine candles on the cake. Ask them when they look back and see how job and marriage and family didn’t quite end up the way that they thought it would. Ask them well after they’ve walked away from the game. Ask them when they are ready to die.
When the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Philippi, he was ready to die. It was a long time since Jesus called him to repentance and faith on the road to Damascus. Paul traveled far and wide and endured great suffering for the sake of the gospel. And now there he was in Rome, at the end of his earth, far away from home, in chains and under house arrest, waiting to be put on trial for his faith and facing the real possibility of death. Paul was realistically aware of the possibility that this was it, that he was in the final stretch of the race of his faith, in the closing chapters of his service and adventure for the Lord, in the last part of his travel to the place that Christ has prepared for him.
In this moment, Paul writes these inspiring and encouraging words about what he does at the end of his life. And it’s all quite remarkable. It turns out that there is a goal yet to be had. There is something that he continues to press on toward. Instead of finishing his life by nostalgically looking back and reflecting on everything in the past, Paul forgets what lies behind him and strains forward to what lies ahead. Most people see death as the end of any more conversation about goals. But for Paul, and for all believers in Christ, there is one final and ultimate goal that exists beyond death. And that goal is resurrection life and fellowship with God in Christ Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, let me remind you that this goal is the ultimate goal of your life. When God made Adam and Eve, they had but one thing to do: earn an eternal life and fellowship with God. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the starting line. The tree of life was the finish line. And Adam had to run the race of obedience to his Maker. If he ran with perfection, then he would receive the prize of sabbath rest and glory and eternal life and fellowship with God.
But that didn’t happen. Adam and Eve sinned against God. And so the race was never completed. The goal of mankind was never fulfilled. The prize of heaven was never won. But God made a wonderful promise of salvation. He declared that there would be another race. And he declared that there would be a special runner who would run it to perfection.
That person was Jesus Christ. Jesus died for the sins of a graciously chosen people. Jesus was the second and final Adam who was eternally and truly God but also became eternally and truly man as well. And Jesus did what Adam failed to do. He earned heaven for a people chosen by grace. He paid for their sins by dying on the cross and taking the punishment of the wrath of God the Father. And he rose again in resurrection power and glory. Now the ultimate goal of our lives is about Jesus. Now we have but one thing to do: to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ, who earned an eternal and resurrection life for us, who earned a fellowship with God through his life and death and body and blood.
And so when Paul faced imminent death, he grew in excitement for the final goal, which is resurrection life in Christ and having Christ himself. While the rest of the world would see death as the end of all things, Paul looked beyond death and forward to what was ahead of him. Paul have something to press on toward. Paul had something to make his own. Thus, he declared, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Brothers and sisters, let us not be immature believers who have forgotten the point of everything. That would be sad. Christian maturity is when believers remember the big picture and do not let anything take their eyes off of it. This is how mature believers are to think.
Brothers and sisters, let us also not be immature believers who think that everything is all good and that we can just coast now. That would be foolish. Christian maturity is when believers understand that we are already saved and at the same time not yet fully there. We are not already perfect. We still continue to heartbreakingly struggle with sin and realistically live in a world that is fallen and miserable. We have not already obtained resurrection life. We are still like jars of clay. We have not yet seen the Lord face to face. We know him truly right now, but we do not know him fully now as we would at the end. We embrace the tension of having attained resurrection life and Christ himself on one hand, and needing to hold true to what we have attained. Brothers and sisters, it is indeed all over, and we have won. But right now we still have to run.
Running is hard. It is hard to press on and strain forward toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. But when you feel like you can’t go on, may God bless you with the ultimate motivation to keep going. Paul says, “I press on… because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
At the end of his life, Joseph could have easily given up on the promises of God. But instead, he pressed on and made sure that his family would bury his bones in a land that did not yet exist for them. Why? Why do this one final thing? Because Christ Jesus made Joseph his own.
At the end of his life, Samson could have easily let his life conclude in worthlessness and regret. But instead, he pressed on and cried out to the Lord, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Why? Why do this one final thing? Because Christ Jesus made Samson his own.
At the end of his life, the criminal on the cross could have easily sided with the other criminal. But instead, he pressed on and turned to the Lord and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Why? Why do this one final thing? Because Christ Jesus made the criminal his own.
At the end of his life, Stephen could have easily said nothing as he was stoned to death. But instead, he pressed on and fell to his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Why? Why do this one final thing? Because Christ Jesus made Stephen his own.
Brothers and sisters, when you feel like you cannot run anymore, may Christ be your motivation. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
When you feel like you cannot run anymore, be encouraged by the saints of old. We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. Therefore, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. There are many people in heaven right now who have finished the race. There are many people in heaven right now who are cheering for you. And since your citizenship and home is in heaven, you have home-court advantage. Be encouraged by the saints of old.
And when you feel like you cannot run anymore, be encouraged by the saints of today. We run together. When a brother or sister feels like they cannot run anymore, let us help them to run and finish the race. In the middle of a race in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, runner 749 tore his hamstring and fell to the ground in pain and agony. Medics and officials came to him, but he got back up and started hobbling toward the finish line. As the whole world watched, a man broke through security and came to the runner’s side. The man was his father. And runner 749 was his son, Derek Redmond. With all of his olympic hopes and dreams crushed, Derek, crying all the way, was helped by his father. And together, they finished the race to the sound of a roaring crowd. When we meet like this at church, we are here to stir up one another to love and good works. We are here to encourage one another, and all the more as we see the Day drawing near. Let us run together. Let us help each other finish the race. Be encouraged by the saints of today.
And when you feel like you cannot run anymore, don’t stop or lose sight of the finish line or look back. Don’t shipwreck your faith like Hymenaeus and Alexander did in 1 Timothy. Don’t turn around like Lot’s wife and look back. Don’t have regrets like Israel did when she complained in the wilderness and wanted to go back to Egypt. Don’t stop or lose sight of the finish line or look back.
When you feel like you cannot run anymore, know that the past is the past. As you take the bread and the cup, forget about your past sins and mistakes. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our church, let us not rest on our laurels. Know that the past is the past.
When you feel like you cannot run anymore, continue to fight and kill your sin. They say that sweat is fat crying. Well, spiritual sweat is sin crying. We are told in the book of Hebrews to lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely. And we are told not to regard lightly the discipline of the Lord. It is for discpline that you have to endure. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. So hit the gym and torch that sin. Continue to fight and kill your sin.
In closing, listen to the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Listen to how Paul readies himself to die. He writes, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
These are words of faith and hope and love. And for Paul, it is all worth it. Maybe you will be an astronaut and walk on Mars. Maybe you won’t. But at the end of the day, there is but one thing for you to do. And that is because there is but one Jesus of surpassing worth. Keep going, Highland Church. Press on. Hold true to Jesus. Don’t forget the ultimate goal. Keep the big picture of everything in sight. The finish line is right there. Jesus is coming back soon. So run, Highland. Run.