We are fast approaching resurrection day, and this is my favorite time of year. It is also a time that causes me a bit of grief. I love the fact that Jesus conquered death and rose on the third day to ascend to the Father. This is the foundation of Christianity. The problem I have is the days preceding that day. The betrayals, the torture, and the degradation that Jesus endured for us. This causes me pain to know that some of those stripes that Jesus endured were because of me personally. That hurts me, every time that I think about it. It’s not some distant far removed feeling that I imagine. It is immediate and personal. I am not going to stand here and pretend that I know what it feels like to be scourged with a cat-o-nine tails, for those of you who don’t know what that is it’s a whip with nine leather thongs and attached to them are small pieces of sharp metal. Basically, a flexible barb wire whip. Nasty. The reason that I say immediate and personal is not because I know what torture feels like but because that’s the relationship that I have with Jesus. It is intimate and personal, not distant and impersonal. It is spiritual and not of the flesh, yet it is real and not imagined. I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and know that I am connected to Jesus and through Him to God. Although the feeling is not in the flesh it’s in the Spirit and that’s where we lack confidence. Paul understood this when he admonished the church at Philippi. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Paul was well off in the flesh indeed. Paul had no physical needs whatever.

Paul had it made. He was born and raised to strict obedience of the law and studied at the foot of one of the most renowned Rabbis of his day. This is not a guy who sought a relationship with the Lord in fact it was the other way around as it always is. We never seek the Lord on our own. He must first come to us and lift our eyes up to Him. It is at that point that we must decide. Do we want to have a relationship with Jesus? Even Paul had that choice to make. It may not seem that way when you read about his conversion in Acts 9:1-19. Jesus chose him as His instrument, and I am positive that I could no more say no to the Risen King than Paul could. Still, the choice is there. Even as Paul regained his sight, he could have rejected the Lord. But instead He was baptized straight away, had lunch, went to work and never counted the cost from that day forward. And there was a price. Jesus said to Ananias as he went to heal Paul, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” And suffer Paul did. My point is this when Paul spoke at Philippi, he knew what he was to endure and still he forged ahead, still he put the Lord before him. All these things he did because he had a direct and personal relationship with Jesus. Nothing else mattered to him. Yet whatever gains I had; these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. The value of knowing Christ. There is an old saying among computer programmers. It is GIGO or “Garbage in Garbage Out” I am sure that in this day and age everyone is familiar with this term. Simply put it means you get out of any system whatever you put into it. We think that we invented this term and that may be true of this saying, but the meaning has been around forever as in: Nemo Potest Dare Quod Non Habet “No one can give what he doesn’t have.” — Anonymous. Throughout the age’s humanity has come to realize that we get out of this world what we put into it and that goes for our spiritual life as well. What we put into our relationship with Jesus determines the quality of that relationship. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

If we spend time in prayer and in the word, then we will benefit from the knowledge that is promised us. So, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24) Give to the Lord your best and He will repay you with the best that life has to offer. …Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38) Luke is not just measuring your relationship with others but with all things. How do you measure your relationship with Christ? Is it full? Are you overfilled with the Spirit? Is your heart and mind open to God’s will for your life? Are you right with the Lord? “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:37-40) The work that is expected is not tedious or tiresome. Jesus tells us His expectations, Gods expectations for us and He offers us so much more in return for so little effort. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger to your home. Clothe the naked among us and comfort those who are sick and those who are imprisoned. Jesus asks us simply to love one another, He asks that we offer our love so that others may receive the same love that we were first offered. You see, God offers us the most precious gift, His love and an eternity to know Him and walk with Him in grace. In verse 10 Paul says: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow, I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. We are made new in Christ. It is this surety that we can offer all regardless of their past. Jesus has redeemed us with His blood. We have but to ask for it. Simple. Ridiculously simple and still people reject the Lord because they do not want to admit their need. Our pride often works against us in the here and now, because the goal is not achieved just by saying a few words and repenting for 40 days. We have to work at it constantly. Salvation and redemption are eternal goals, unattainable until we are granted them by God. They are not magically bestowed because you gave some televangelist $50 dollars.

Be aware “for many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for but may win a full reward.” (2 John 1:7-8) Be aware of the garbage that is out there and pass it by, no matter how tempting it may look, because not all garbage looks or sounds like garbage. The enemy is slick as a snake oil dealer. I’ve been caught many a time and it takes a considerable will to put it behind you, but Jesus has given us even that ability so that we can continue on without succumbing to the nature of the beast. We must endure the race and “for this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) The key is perseverance and faith in Jesus. Because it does not matter how much garbage we have to put up with, everything is garbage beside the glory of Christ. Go for the goal, do not settle for the garbage of this world, for the cast off remains of the prideful. Seek Christ in all that you do. Make Him your goal Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this 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 heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Amen!

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