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Posted: September 13, 2012 8:38 p.m.

Scharf: Love speaks sacrificially

He was one of my childhood heroes. He had won just about any award baseball could give. I didn't see it myself and don't really want to believe it, so I won't use the guy's name, but I'm told that when this Hall of Famer moved out of his home in my friend's subdivision, he left it all behind. Boxes of trophies, including an MVP award, out by the curb. Why? His life had taken some turns, and suddenly, those things didn't matter to him anymore. He gave it all up because to him it was now worthless.

In Philippians 3:4-11, the apostle Paul talks about how he gave up similar accolades, but he didn't do it out of depression. He had a new motivation - love. Open your Bibles and read about all that Paul had going for him in his life as a superstar in the Jewish world - the right tribe, the right teacher, the right track record, the best of the best. And in verse 7 he said, "Whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ," a box of garbage by the side of the road. In fact, more than garbage, it actually takes him backwards, away from his goal. So now it is time for the question you should ask every time you look at Scripture: "So what?" Where are we in here?

Even though I'm guessing none of you reading this are belong to the Pharisee sect, the same things happen today as did in Paul's day. Our world, our society, our hearts get caught up on the things that don't really matter, that don't bring us closer to the goal. Parents, what do you spend your time and money on to make your children into? What kind of things do you brag about them to your friends? Athletic accomplishments? Musical skill? Popularity? Looks? Grades? Leadership ability?

But it's not surprising because all too often we view our own lives in that same light. Have you ever let the pride slip into your thinking when someone didn't treat you like you thought you deserved? "Doesn't he know who I am?!" "Don't you see my accomplishments, my value, my importance?"

Paul throws that out the door, calling it "rubbish" - "garbage." That trophy fish you were so proud of you mounted and put on your mantle is the rotten vegetables you threw out yesterday. The raise you got at work is the dirty diaper tied up in the Kroger bag. Even the Olympic gold the athlete worked so hard to get is used aluminum foil - all of it - garbage. Compared to knowing Jesus, it is rubbish. And if any of that has robbed me of opportunities to get to know my Savior better - it ought to make your stomach turn like the swarming maggots in that egg bake that was left in the oven at church for three months last year.

Problem is, too often it doesn't. Too often we treat the rubbish of this world as the treasure we seek, in the time we put in to it, in the way we talk about it, in the decisions we make for their goals instead of God's. And as nice as all those things may be in and of themselves, they become garbage that is truly toxic, garbage that destroys our relationship with God, that kills us. And what good is all that stuff anyway? Eventually, we'll die, and none of that will matter.

Think of how that demolishes every excuse I've ever made for skipping my morning devotion. It smashes every excuse every parent has ever given me for why their child won't be in Sunday school this week. It obliterates every reason for not speaking up and sharing your Savior, even when it was dangerous.
After all, look at what Paul said. It is all loss, verse 8, "compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."

Do you see why love can speak sacrificially, throwing all that self stuff out the window? Real love knows the value of Jesus, the One who sacrificed everything for me - even his life. There is no greater sacrifice, so of course, nothing could be more important than him - in how I think and how I act and how love speaks. Love speaks because it speaks love. Love speaks sacrificially because it speaks love that we see in Jesus' sacrifice. Love speaks Jesus. It knows his power over all things.

I'm reminded of the scene at my sister's coffin. She was only 20. There were lines of people down the aisle, around the side and out the door at church, people coming to try to comfort my parents. Friends were coming forward saying all the awkward things people say when they don't know what to say. But then, one of my dad's oldest friends came up, gave him a hug, and said, "Ralph, do you remember what your goal is for all of your kids? Bottom line, you want to see each of your children in heaven. Well, your daughter has reached the goal. Congratulations!"

How could he say that? How could he congratulate him? That was love speaking. He remembered not just the power of Jesus' death. He remembered the power of the resurrection.

That's where Paul is going in our text. He sacrifices everything, he said in verses 8-10, "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 and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection."

I want that righteousness that is really righteousness - Jesus' perfect record on my account, his perfect keeping of the law, and his perfect payment that really paid for all my sins. We've got heaven coming. Let that adjust your priorities.

Live in the power of that resurrection. Instead of our earthly wealth buying us access to the best clubs, nicer homes, more respect - the wealth we have from Christ, that righteousness that is by faith - that has bought us access to heaven, an eternal home, the status of kings, the respect of God himself.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.

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