Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”
The Biggest Loser is a popular reality TV show. Over the last several years they have had different themes but the basic premise is “who can lose the largest percentage of weight?” Each week, those who lost the least can be voted off the show which takes place in a secluded location where the people are on strict diets and regimens of exercise.
In season 1 Ryan won the show, losing 122pounds, 36.97% of his weight, from 330 to 208. 5 years later he was back to his old weight.
Season 2: Matt won, losing 157 pounds, 46.31% of his weight, from 339 – 182. He is big again.
Season 3: Erik went from 407 to 193, losing 214 pounds, or 52.58% of his weight. He gained 38 pounds back. Of the first 3 seasons, only 1 person kept all their weight off.
Season 4: Bill went from 334 pounds to 170 pounds, losing 164 pounds, and 49.1% of his weight.
Season 5 (couples): Ali was the first lady on the show to win, losing 112 pounds, 234 – 112, 47.9% of her body weight.
Season 6 (Families): Michelle won this, going from 242 – 132, 110 pounds and 45.45% of her body weight.
Season 7, also with couples started 2 weeks ago. The Biggest Loser also has shows in 12 other countries. The success of the show has been grand, but of the individuals not so much. Big weight losses have almost always been followed by big weight gains. The people on the show are striving for something that is out there, something beyond the weight loss that they can’t see. There is the money and competition but once that motivation is over, then what? They had to be motivated by something deeper, something more that related to lifestyle and energy – and that is hard. These people in the show are in a place for 24/7 until they are eliminated or in the final. They have strict diets and hours of workouts each day. That is not reality. When reality comes in, they didn’t have the tools to cope with it, in spite of their success on the show.
What is our vision of following Jesus? Do we have a good, realistic view of how it fits into our whole life, or does it just fit into a special place like church or Bible studies. It is hard to follow Jesus. It takes effort and work and perseverance. .. but you can do it. Let’s look at what Paul says in Philippians 3:10. He says, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death”.
To Know – To understand completely; emphasizes a practical and experimental knowledge as well as mental; implies relationship
Power – We get dynamite from this word; to have power and ability that resides within
Resurrection – A raising up from the dead
Fellowship – sharing in common
Sufferings – afflictions; intentional abuse
Conformed – growing into conformity; death of carnal self (in relation to Jesus)
Death – separation of man from God; death is always viewed as the penal consequence of sin in the Scriptures
“That I may know Him (as my complete Savior) and the power of His resurrection (raising me from the death of sin into all the life of love) and the fellowship of His sufferings (being crucified with Him) and made conformable to His death (as to be dead to all things here below).”
Keep the main thing the main thing:
“that I may know Him” – This is not just some lofty unattainable goal. It is not some ideal to which we will always be striving but never attain. It is not just a carrot that is always out of reach, driving us forward but ultimately disappointing and discouraging us. God wants to be known by us. He has made Himself accessible. He has given us several things to aid us in this pilgrimage. He has given us the Bible, the Holy Spirit, the fellowship and community of the church, nature and prevenient grace that goes before us, leading us to Him if we but follow. Knowing God has several intangible elements that make it a journey unique to each of us, yet common in destination. Some of these intangibles we need to consider include the following:
Time and disciplines– How much time have you got? How much time are you willing to give to this goal? What is enough? We talk about resources and what we can give to God, and so often we forget about giving of our time. It’s hard as a small church, because there is so much we could do, so much that needs to happen that we can feel overwhelmed by that. Time is irreplaceable, though. Once it is gone, it is gone. Strive to use what you have for Jesus. Jesus wasn’t about Himself. He said it was His Father’s will that He was pursuing. How this looks for each of us will be different. Some of us can spend an hour in the Bible every day, some of us 10 minutes is a struggle. Some can spend 3 or 4 nights a week at church in programs; for others that would be wrong and hard on family relationships.
Don’t do what I do in that sense, do what is right between you and God. You can’t live my faith, and I can’t live yours – the challenge is for you to know God as His unique creation!
Baggage – What are bringing with you? If you accepted Jesus at a young age, you have traditions of how it has “always” been done. Jesus is unchanging, but how He works in us and in the church can change. Just look at how music has changed in the church over the last 2,000 years. What is right? Should we emphasize what they did in the synagogues when Jesus or Paul was preaching? What about the chants and the times of no instruments? Now we have the hymn verses worship chorus debates. Look not to the method, but the principle. There are two principles at work. The first is personal maturity. Where are you at in your Spiritual Maturity. What do you need to have in order to grow? Are hymns necessary for without them you can’t follow Jesus? Or if we never sing another chorus, will you stop worshipping? Sometimes it is an issue of what we like, rather than what we need; an issue of what we like rather than what does the church need. An outworking of maturity is the second principle, the surrendering of self, or concession. Instead of looking at what we need, we begin to look at what the other person needs. These two principles trade off each other. The greater the ability we have to stand firm on our own two feet in Jesus, the greater our ability to help our brother and sister stand firm themselves. It’s not about the form of the message, it’s about the love that the message produces in us. If we want to know Jesus and be like Him, we have to let our baggage go like the Pilgrim in John Bunyan’s story.
Surrender – This is about our relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. You want to know Jesus, surrender your life. Surrender your family, surrender your job, and surrender all the stuff and things you have to God. Does this mean God takes them all away? No. It does mean though, that if some or all of them were taken away, you’d still have God and that would be enough. Down through the ages countless people have given up their property and lives for the sake of Jesus. We have little experience of what that means in our society. We are free and wealthy compared to the vast majority of the world. How are we using that for Jesus. He said to take up our cross daily and follow Him. When we bought our house on Brown crescent, we looked at it a few times. The first time it was a general, “Could we see ourselves living here?” kinda look. We looked for any major problems that were immediate vetoes. When we came back for a second look, it was much more careful and intense. We began to look not just for major stuff, but for little things that would be problematic. Have you ever done that but the sellers said no to look in a room? In fact, they liked that one room so much they wanted to keep it, so on the offer to buy they right in all attached things, the fridge and stove are included, but not the room in the south east corner. You go to get a mortgage and the banker asks how the house is and you say great, except for the bedroom you aren’t buying. The banker looks at you and asks how can you buy only 95% of a house? Sometimes we try to do that top God. Yes God, I want forgiveness of sins, and I want you to be Lord of my life, all except for the closet in the back. That is where I keep my stuff, my little things. It doesn’t make sense at all. What am I hanging on to so tight that I won’t let Jesus have the deed to? Is it worth it? What am I afraid of? Do I really think Jesus is about losing all the fun stuff? We have so much to learn about the Father’s love. Let me encourage you to rest in Him and trust Him completely. You will not be disappointed.