Sunday, October 09, 2005

LWML Sunday, October 9, 2005, Phil 3:12-21

LWML Sunday 2005
Philippians 3:12-21, ESV
from a sermon for LWML Sunday
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Lose 10 lbs in 7 days”; “Lose 20 lbs in 30 days, guaranteed!”; “Check out our new Low Carb menu”; Atkins low-carbohydrate diet, the Ornish vegetarian diet, the Weight Watchers plan, The South Beach Diet, The Zone Diet, The Grapefruit Diet, The 7 Day Diet, and The 3 Day Diet… How many more diets can you name? How many of you have used one or more of these diets?
They all have the same goal, don’t they? You choose a diet because you want to lose weight. You choose a diet because you want to look like the “after” picture you see in the newspaper, but you were afraid you looked more like the “before.” These diets all make promises, but usually we ignore the fact that those promises contain the lines, “individual results may vary” and “a complete program includes diet and exercise.” We usually tend to follow the diet (for a while) and skimp on the exercise, so we never quite get to the “after” picture as we dream.
CNN reported on four major diets asking the question “Which one really works?” The headline said, “Study: Pick one diet and stick to it.” The by-line read, “Researchers say no diet works for everyone, few stay on plan.” The report emphasized that no one diet works for everyone. It also stated that while all four of the diets did the job if you stay the course for a whole year, 3 out of 4 people who began them failed to stick it out. One researcher (Dansinger), in the Journal of the American Medical Association, wrote that no one diet works for everyone. He suggested, “Dating diets” as if looking for a life-long partner. Some will be frogs but once you find your prince, stand by your plan. Finally, an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded, “no one really knows which diets work and which are a waste of time, with the possible exception of Weight Watchers, which had scientific research to back its approach.”
Well, that pretty much fits the way people think about things these days, doesn’t it? There is no one-size-fits-all solution to anything. Oprah Winfrey says that there can’t possibly be just one way to god. So there are lots of people who treat faith and religion just like they do their diets. They spend time “dating religions” looking for a “life-long spiritual partner.” And just like dieters many try Christianity but not everyone sticks it out for the long-term.
Now, the difference between all that diet research and spiritual matters is that there is only one “diet plan” among all the religions that really works for salvation. All the others may seem to have benefits but they lead to a dreadful end. The one true plan is Jesus Christ. His plan is the one that can actually live up to its promise to transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. Not just for a short time, not even just for a life time but also for eternity. Jesus gives us to plan that leads to eternal life that begins right now. His is “The Diet that Transforms Lives”
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. 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. (Philippians 3:12-14, ESV)
He’s talking about “sticking to it” when he uses the words “I press on.” His goal is to make it his own because Christ first made him “his own.” (other versions translate the word as “take hold”) Paul is very careful to point out that Jesus makes the important move here. Jesus takes hold of him and makes Paul his own.
Our Lord takes hold of us and makes us his own. Jesus does this by taking on human flesh and living in the trouble and pain of human existence. He drank the cup of suffering. He prayed in the garden, “’Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ . . . And being in anguish . . . his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:42, 44) His was a diet of suffering, sacrificing His body, and dying on the cross so that we might receive the forgiveness of sins.
This, “Christ has [also] been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep . . . In Christ all will be made alive . . . Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22-23) Through Him, death is swallowed up in victory. Through His death and resurrection, Christ makes us his own (takes hold of us). He won for us hope and life – all of which He gives us as a gift by grace through faith.
In faith, we press on to “make it our own” because Christ has already made us his own through the forgiveness of sins. That’s our diet, forgiveness and life. It is a diet that brings spiritual growth and life and wholeness.
Now in all diets there is always temptation. In our spiritual diet there are the worries and distractions that come up in everyday life. They often seem bigger and more important than the goal of life forever with God. They want to push us out of our faith. We see their effects in the lives of others and even in our own lives.
There is the temptation of discouragement. It’s easy to get discouraged when life hands us lots of trouble. When that happens, we sometimes wonder what good it does to be Christian when God lets stuff like this happen anyway. We pray and God doesn’t give us the answers we want. We still get sick. Our loved ones still die. Our crops are underwater. The nag at work keeps on nagging. Discouragement lies to us and tells us that God doesn’t care about us. The difficult part is learning to trust God in everything, even trouble, even pain, even death. The difficult thing is letting God do what God knows is best for us.
There is the temptation to “pick and chose” what we like from all different religions. It’s called pluralism. It’s very common today. It happens when we are attracted to other religions and other philosophies. We would like to make a religion of our own by bringing pieces of other non-Christians religions into our Christian faith. It happens when we let our brains be the final standard of truth instead of relying completely on God’s Holy Word to tell us what true religion is. It happens when we let our emotions tell us more about how God works than relying on the promises he makes to us in his Word and Sacraments.
These temptations even affect us, who are gathered here. Even we stray from the “diet.” But the good news is that even these failings are forgiven by Christ. We take them and all our sins to the foot of the cross and dump them there on Jesus our Savior. That’s what we call repentance. We see our sinfulness and give it all to Christ. That’s the best part of the diet. We give him all the crummy, slimy, sinfulness in our lives, and he gives us new food to eat. He gives us the Bread of Life. He forgives our sins. So that we can do like Paul says, 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.
By the work of the Holy Spirit given to us in Baptism, we can make this diet our own, because it feeds us with heavenly food and heavenly drink. We receive the very body and blood of Christ, in, with and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. In that “diet” food we receive Christ’s forgiveness right from the cross. And when we are sure of forgiveness our faith and trust in Christ grows. When we hear Christ’s forgiveness proclaimed to us, it’s like the sweetest treat. But it’s not empty it fills us full of joy and peace and prepares us for action.
You see, that’s the diet that transforms our lives. It’s the diet that is guaranteed to work; guaranteed to lose weight… the weight and burden of sin. That’s the diet we stand behind. It’s a diet that changes lives. That’s the one we want to share with the whole world.
Jesus transforms lives. He transforms the lives of those He loves. He transforms the lives of those who are loved by them. He has transformed your life and mine so that we can feed His message of love to others. He transforms the lives of those in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League in their mission “to assist each woman of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in affirming her relationship with the Triune God so that she is enabled to use her gifts in ministry to the people of the world.”
This all happens through the “Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” His diet is one filled with grace and mercy, forgiveness and love, hope and witness. His is the diet that transforms lives in time for eternity. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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