Quick Note – STOP PROCRASTINATING – Acts 22:12-16

Acts 22:12-16 – “‘And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.”  And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him.  And he said, “The god of our fathers appointed you to know His will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from His mouth; for you will be a witness for Him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.  And now why do you wait?  Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”’”

We are masters of procrastination; no matter what the assignment is we can find a reason for not doing it when we have the opportunity to do so.  Back in high school and college, I often left my homework and lab reports undone until the last minute.  I would know a week, and often times, months in advance when each one of these assignments were due; but instead of working on them ahead of time, I would just wait until two or three days before the due date and stay up late putting something together.  This bad habit continues to creep up on me even now.  I put off presentations that I need to do for work till the day before.  I put off writing things to post on this blog for the night before (when I used to try to post weekly).  I put off applications for advance degree programs and scholarships.  Just the other day, I sent an application in for a scholarship two days before it was due, when I knew two months beforehand that I had to fill one out.  I even procrastinated writing this specific post.  I seem to procrastinate with everything in my life.  The funny (not in a HAHA way but a sad way) thing is that I probably am not the worst procrastinator you know.  I’m sure that you can think of at least two or three people in your life (which may include yourself) who don’t only put off things a few days before it’s due but minutes before it’s due.  In high school, some of my friends would try to finish their homework assignments while waiting for the teacher to enter the classroom the day it was due.  It was amazing that they managed to pass!  I can almost safely say that most of us have accepted that procrastination is a part of our lives.

What’s worse is that we procrastinate with spiritual matters!  So many people procrastinate when it comes to things related to God.  If God told them to do something, they will put it off.  If God has called them to salvation, they will say, “It can wait till later.”  I read a chapter from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters just the other day and found that one of the ways Screwtape, prevented an atheist from turning to Christ was simply to make him put it off to another day.  In the letter he wrote to his nephew Wormwood, he basically told him, the key to preventing a person from turning to God was to simply move his attention to something else – make him put off the decision to accept God or to even think of Him to another time, and he will be trapped forever.  I think this act of spiritual warfare was probably used on Governor Felix in Acts 24:24-27.  Paul shared the Gospel with Felix and when convicted of his need for salvation instead of turning to God at that moment he said, “Go away for the present.  When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”  He put it off for another day, and from the following verses, it sounds like he just kept putting it off and never became a Christian.  This is why there is a Bible verse that says, “…Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2b).  If God is calling you to search for Him, if He is calling you to know Him more, if He is calling you to receive Him as your Lord and Savior, then do so today!  Don’t procrastinate, because the time will not always be there.  The more you say, “No!” to the Holy Spirit’s prodding, the more your heart will grow hardened to hear it.  Our passage today has Apostle Paul sharing his testimony to the Jewish people.  He was going to Damascus to persecute the Christian church, when suddenly on the way, Christ appeared to Him and told Him that a disciple named Ananias would tell him what to do next.  When Ananias came, he shared the Gospel with Paul, told him why God had called Him, and said something very poignant, “And now why do you wait?”  He was telling Paul not to linger, and Paul answered the call that night.  We should not linger; we should not wait.  When God has called us, it is time to answer immediately.

This post is not simply for unbelievers who are on the fence about Christianity though.  I am writing this post to speak also to those who are already disciples of Christ.  God has given us a job to do as His disciples and that is to share the Gospel and make more disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).  So often we procrastinate.  We say that we can put it off for another day.  We can share the Gospel with that person tomorrow or another time when we get the chance.  BUT WE MAY NEVER GET THAT CHANCE AGAIN.  It is said that D. L. Moody, a famous Christian evangelist in the 1800s, once preached in Chicago and instead of making an altar call that night told the people listening to think about what he had said and come back another time to decide whether they really wanted to give their lives to Christ.  That night, the Great Chicago Fire occurred, and many lost their lives.  Who knows who might have put off the decision for salvation because of what he had said?  When God has called us to do something, we should no wait or linger either.  We should respond to the call immediately.  We should not use prayer as an excuse for not doing it.  We should not use seeking godly counsel as a reason for not doing it.  If you aren’t sure God said it, then wait; but if God has made a certain call, then answer immediately.  Maybe He is calling you to a mission field.  Maybe He is calling you to the ministry.  Maybe He is calling to seminary.  Or maybe He wants you to share the Gospel with your best friend or family member.  The truth is that if you choose not to do the work, God’s work will still happen; it will just happen without you.  And trust me, you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity God is giving you.  You will be amazed to see what will be accomplished when you respond to God immediately.  STOP PROCRASTINATING AND GET TO WORK ON WHAT GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO DO!

Sermon – What Do You Place Your Value In? – Part 4

Philippians 3:3-11

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

IV.  Place your value in Jesus Christ and your personal relationship with Him.

As Paul grew more and more in His relationship with Christ, he realized more and more what he should put his faith, value, confidence, and pride in.  It was not in his family lineage, his accomplishments, and his own righteousness; it was in Christ Jesus his Lord.  7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Compared to Christ, everything in his life was rubbish.  He counted it all as loss, and in reality, he gave all of his accolades, his accomplishments, his righteousness under the law up, so that he could have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  This Pharisees of Pharisees, this persecutor of the church eventually became a martyr for Christ.  This man who could have enjoyed a privileged life decided to endure stonings, beatings, imprisonings, revilings all to know Christ more.  Paul gave up the pride he had placed in himself and placed his dependence on God.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul said that he would boast all the more gladly in his weakness, so that the power of Christ would rest on Him.  All he ever sought was to have a closer walk with God.  All he valued in life was Christ.  The way he valued his life was by his relationship with Christ.  He saw himself as worthwhile, because he had a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, the Savior of all.  When he preached, he did not use elaborate messages that drew people to him, but preached the simple message of the cross, because he wanted people to know that all that mattered was Christ and that their value and faith should be in Christ not himself.  Paul recognized the surpassing worth of being dependent on God.

We need to start considering our value by considering where we are in our relationship with Christ.  We should not judge whether we are worth something by the world’s standards of education and salaries.  We should not judge whether we are worth something by how righteous or good our actions are.  We should not judge our worth based on our family relations.  But our pride should be in our weaknesses, because it is in our weaknesses that we are most dependent on God.  In the past few weeks, God has been sharing lesson and lesson with me on pride.  He saw how dependent I was on myself and how I was seeking my own glory and wanted me to realize that what was most important was Him.  I needed to be torn down, so that I could see how much I needed Him.  Where I placed my value should have been in His cross, His love, His righteousness, not my own accomplishments.  Christ deserved my praise.  Christ deserved my love.  Christ deserved everything from me.  It was only when I started to value myself in this way that I started to realize how much I needed God and that produced in me a heart of gratefulness.  Take the time today to think of what you have been placing your value in and begin to place it instead on God.  Seek to know Him more.  Seek a closer walk with Him.  Seek a heart of dependence on Him, for everything else is loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.  Oh! To know Him more!

Sermon – What Do You Place Your Value In? – Part 3

Philippians 3:3-11

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

III.   Do not place your value in your own righteousness.

Paul goes on to describe himself in this way in verse 6, “…as to righteousness under the law, blameless…”  Paul would have easily been seen as a righteous man.  Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, and the Pharisees were the strictest party of the Jewish religion (Acts 26:5).  He would have followed the law to the uttermost part.  When the law said, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” and he was told that he was not allowed to walk a certain distance he probably cut that distance in half to make sure he would never break that law.  He was a stickler to the rules and a righteous man according to the law.  Compared to all the other people around him, he had every right to think that he deserved to go to heaven based on his works.  But when he met Christ on the road to Damascus, he realized that his righteousness meant nothing for what he needed was a personal relationship with the Savior.  He was moving through the world blind and needed Christ to let Him see.  His righteousness was based on his own merits rather on the saving grace of Christ.  And it was at that moment when his heart was humbled that he started to see what mattered most.

After what I have already told you about how I prideful I become because of my family lineage and educational accomplishments, it should not come as a surprise, that I have often lifted myself up because of my presumed righteousness.  Like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, I have thought of myself as better than others, because I knew God’s Word very well.  I had read the Bible in its entirety multiple times.  I did not struggle with the common base sins that other guys my age struggled with.  I was teaching Bible studies, preaching when I was given the opportunity, and even writing a devotional blog.  I like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11-12 who thought, “‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”  I thought of myself as righteous and holy and upright and because of that, I did not put in the appropriate protections to keep me from falling into sin and temptation.  I even judged those who did fall into temptation as weak and unable to stand strong for God.  1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”  And boy, did I fall.  I was flying so high that I thought sin wouldn’t affect me and then fell into sin that I never thought I would struggle with.  It’s so sad that I had to go through this to learn this lesson, but it helped me realize how much I needed God to fix me.  I wasn’t as righteous as I thought.  I wasn’t as independent and able to fight sin on my own.  I needed God more than anything, and I still need Him today.  My pride in my own righteousness was shattered, and I finally began to understand my need for Him.

So often today, people do not turn to God, because they think of themselves as “good.”  They help others when they need help.  They don’t hurt other people intentionally.  They go to church when they can and even serve on occasion.  They think that their righteous acts set them apart and make them good enough for God, but it matters not, for their righteousness are but filthy rags in the sight of God.  They still need God.  Though they pride themselves in the many good things they have done, it means nothing in God’s sight, for God values one thing – your relationship with Jesus Christ.  You can be as good as the Pope, Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham put together, but none of that matters without God.  The sad thing is that even Christians struggle with this, in that, after we are saved and start to grow in Christ, we start to think that we don’t need Him as much anymore.  As we conquer our past sin struggles and are no longer enslaved to them, we begin to think that we can be independent of Him, but we still need Him and then more than ever.  Because it is when pride creeps in that we begin to fall.  Instead of building up pride in ourselves, we should actually become more humble and willing to submit to Him.  We are righteous because of what Christ has done for us not our own good works.  Our value should not be in our own righteousness, but the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God, for it is not our works that saved us but His infinite grace.

Sermon – What Do You Place Your Value In? – Part 2

Philippians 3:3-11

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

II.  Do not place your value in your education or career.

In today’s culture, people have shifted from determining a person’s value based on their family lineage and now determine it based on their education and career.  Like I stated earlier, in science, this is all that matters.  The school you came from, the person you were trained under, the publications you received – these are what get you a good job.  There is no doubt in my mind that it is the same in other fields.  People don’t ask about your character in a resume.  All they care about is the place you got your degree from.  I didn’t realize how important this was, especially to me, until recently, when I had to decide where I would go to obtain my doctorate degree.  This might sound boastful, but I had offers to Harvard, Yale, UPENN, NYU, UCSD, and UCLA.  And I was even given an award for being a researcher with high potential for excellence at Yale when they tried to recruit me.  If I were to ask you all where you think I should have gone for graduate school, I can almost guarantee that most of you would have said, Harvard or Yale.  But the truth is that that wasn’t God’s plan for me.  When I prayed and asked God to give me a sign on where He wanted me to go, He pointed me to UCLA, a school whose reputation was nothing compared to Yale or Harvard.  I agonized over this decision up until the day I had to submit my decision.  The truth is that I waited until 10 minutes before the deadline to give my answer, because I was hoping God would change His mind.  But He did not; He continued to point me to UCLA.  That night, I had to decide what I wanted to place my value in, the education and career opportunities provided by Yale or the desire of God.  When I came into work the next day, my colleagues were shocked when I told them what I had chosen to do, because most of them thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life.  I tossed the guaranteed value of Yale for the unknown of UCLA.  I was putting my value in God.  Now, I will tell you that recently in the past few weeks, I have struggled with this decision.  I have thought over and over that I wasted my potential.  How could a valedictorian in high school, a summa cum laude in college, and a person who got accepted into Ivy League schools, be stuck here in this rut?  I pitied myself, because I valued my education and my academic accomplishments more than anything else.  It was where I excelled, where I placed my pride in.  And God had seemed to just tear it all down and said, “Enough!  It is time for you to place your trust in me instead of your own accomplishments.”  Now, I don’t know if that was actually the reason, but I can understand it if that’s what He felt needed to be done to make sure my heart was dependent on Him.

Like me Paul could have placed his value in his education and career, “…as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church…”  Paul had been taught under the Pharisee Gamaliel, who was one of the well-respected teachers of that time (Acts 5:34).  Gamaliel was actually so well respected that when he told the Pharisees to back off on the apostles after the Resurrection, they did.  Paul could have definitely boasted about his education.  When other people and other apostles were nothing but fisherman and tax collectors and people who had little to no formal training in the Word of God, Paul had a ton.  He was born and raised to do this job, yet he counted his education as nothing when he valued himself.  He did the same with his career.  He was a top dog with the Pharisees.  He would probably be considered the top persecutor during that time, and he did it with a heart full of zeal for God wanting to protect His name.  He was allowed to throw people into prison, persecute them, and make them recant.  He certainly must have had a high position, because when he asked for letters to persecute Christians in Damascus, he got them with no hesitation.  Paul career-wise was set, yet he threw it all away because he found his value in something else.  He realized that these things were nothing compared to Jesus Christ and gave them all up for Him.  His accomplishments were nothing; all he wanted was Jesus.

Jesus warned against people putting their pride in their accomplishments in the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:16-21, “16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”  He put his treasure and value on the things of this earth rather in Christ, which eventually puffed him up and made him think of himself without God.  Just look how many times, he uses the word I.  He thought he accomplished so much by attaining all these things and did not even consider that they were all blessings from God.  His heart was not of gratefulness to God but of pride in himself.

We may place our pride and our value in our careers, education, and other accomplishments like all the people on this earth do, but there is something much greater for us to put our values and pride – God.  Place your value in God.

Sermon – What Do You Place Your Value In – Part 1

I occasionally watch a show on the History Channel called “Pawn Stars,” which is a reality-based TV show relating the everyday business activities that go on in the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Like any other show, it has an opening credit scene, and in that scene, Rick Harrison, the owner of that pawn shop always says, “Everything has a story and a price.”  And it’s true, because for the thirty minutes of that show, you see people tell the stories of their items and haggle out a price to sell it to the pawn shop for cash.  Every item has a price.  But the major question is how do they determine the price of an item?  What is it worth and how much should they buy it for?  Usually, they evaluate the item based on its condition, its rarity, its age, its desirability, and sometimes its uniqueness.  For example, if a classic novel was brought in like Pride and Prejudice, the first thing they would do is check the edition.  First editions are always worth a lot more, because they are harder to find and more desirable.  Next, they will examine its condition, checking the spine of the book, the pages, the binding; they make sure that the book is presentable.  Of course, if the book is much older, they give it some leeway.  But a good condition book always fetches more.  Then, they decide if they can work out a price to buy it.  Books are usually one of the easier things to value and make decisions on.  Sometimes though, they get these weird items like collectible toys or plates or letters from famous people.  In those cases, they usually look to an expert in the field who then evaluates it on the same premises.  Again, the value is fairly easy to assign by the expert.  The only time things get difficult is when a unique item is brought in like a bullet or a Native American tomahawk or a barber’s chair.  In those cases, the item is usually bought simply for its unique quality or history like if the bullet was used to shoot a famous person or the barber’s chair was used by Al Capone.  Then, Rick will often buy the item just to have it be displayed at the store.  Although the primary purpose of the show is entertainment, not surprisingly, you actually learn quite a bit of history, being that it is on the History Channel.  Even a cousin of mine when he was back in high school, once told me that he passed his history tests simply by remembering what he learned watching “Pawn Stars.”  Surprisingly though, what I find most people learn more about from the show than history is how to value an item.  After watching multiple episodes of the show, you quickly learn how to tell if an item has any value and approximately how much you can get for it.  Derrick for example started to get into this antiquing phase after he started watching the show.  He knew exactly what something could be worth on Ebay and bought it for resale accordingly.

But placing a value on an item is actually much easier than placing a value on a person.  The people who are usually good at this work in sports or entertainment.  Very often, you hear about how people know how much a player is worth in basketball, baseball, or any other sport.  They comment on whether a team spent their salary caps wisely in obtaining a superstar free agent or not.  For example, many people commented on whether Kobe Bryant was worth the millions that the Lakers paid him being that he is nearing forty and the end of his career.  They valued him on his age, his athleticism, his ability to shoot the ball, make clutch shots, win percentage, and all these other statistics.  Some people included his leadership skills and his drive into the mix when evaluating his value as well.  Nonetheless, people in sports are valued by their ability and potential to win.  In other fields, people are valued by other things.  For instance, I work in scientific biological research.  In this field, people are valued by two things:  your previous research experience, specifically who you trained with, and your publications.  If you published in a high impact factor journal that is widely recognized like Science, Nature, or Cell, then it is easy for you to get a faculty position at a university, because your peers automatically assume that you are smart based on that.  The alternative way of getting that position is to be associated with a famous professor in the field, which once again causes your peers to assume that you were well-trained because of that.  Your value in science is determined by who you know and your publication record.  In every field, your value is determined by different things.  Your value in business is determined by your ability to make money, in education by your grades, in gaming by your kills, and so on and so forth.

But the question I want to ask you today is “How do you value yourself?”  What do you find your value in?  Is it your career and how much that job allows you to take home each year?  Is it your family lineage and who you are related to?  Is it the friends you keep and who you know?  Do you value yourself by your educational degree and where you got it from?  Or maybe you value yourself based on your righteousness?  The way you value yourself is usually where your pride is.  And pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).  We need to make sure that we place our value on what Christ wants us to, so that we will never be puffed up.  The passage we will talk about today is found in Philippians 3:3-11, where Paul describes all the various things he could have placed his value in, but in the end, he finds that the only thing worth putting his value in is Jesus Christ.  This sermon in and of itself speaks to me personally, because much of what we will be talking about today are things that God has been taking out of my life, so that I can learn to place my value in Him.  He has been slowly tearing down the things that I pride myself in so that I can humbly submit to His calling.  To serve God, we must come to Him in humility and to do that we must value ourselves the way God values us.  By looking at this passage, we can evaluate whether we are finding our value in the right things or not.

Philippians 3:3-11

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

  1. Do not place your value in your lineage.

More often than not, people are valued based on their familial relations.  This was actually a common practice up until recently, when people started to become more independent, separating from their families and becoming their own separate people.  Royalty was always treated well and with respect simply because a person had some blood-ties to the king or queen, baron or baroness.  The person’s character never really mattered; what mattered most was that that person was related to someone with power.  Just think of the number of romantic movies or books that are based on the plotline of a person from a wealthy family wanting to marry someone out of poverty.  Just last weekend, I watched Pride and Prejudice with my dad, and one of the key reasons why Elizabeth’s sister Jane had a hard time marrying Charles Bingley, a wealthy man, was because of the state of her family.  She was born into a poor family and was valued so.  Look at Romeo and Juliet.  Each young lover was only seen as an enemy because of their family line – one a Montague, one a Capulet.  They were valued solely based on their family lineage.  The sad thing is that we continue to see this today, in that, people who are related to celebrities or government officials often get special treatment just because of their parents.  Look at how many children today get a role on TV or in a movie simply because they have famous parents.  We uplift people as well as break them down because of their family lines.

The first thing Paul describes that he could have put his confidence in was his lineage (vs. 5), “…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews…”  Paul was the crème de la crème of people who could have said that they were chosen by God.  Remember God selected the people of Israel out of all the people of earth to be His people.  This alone gave Paul an advantage from all the Gentiles he was talking to in Philippi.  In addition, he came from the tribe of Benjamin, a favored tribe in Israel – the tribe from which Saul, the first king of Israel was chosen.  Certainly, he could have boasted more if he had come from the line of David in Judah; but nonetheless, he had a great lineage – one that he could have easily placed his faith and value in.  Paul could have used his lineage as a way for him to increase his value in his own eyes, yet he didn’t, because he realized there was something greater to put his faith, courage, and pride in.

Turn to Matthew 3:7-10.  Matthew 3:7-10 “7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  In these verses, John the Baptist rebukes the Pharisees and Sadducees who placed their faith in their lineage.  They thought that maybe they could escape from God’s upcoming wrath and judgment on sin simply because they were children of Abraham and were chosen people of God.  They thought they would get special treatment, because of their family line; but John corrected them letting them know that their lineage didn’t matter but the condition of their hearts.

This hits home with me, because I come from a great family.  We aren’t rich and famous like the Kardashians.  We aren’t from a royal lineage of emperors in China.  We are nothing like that.  But as a pastor’s son, I take pride in my spiritual lineage.  I thought of myself better than others simply because I came from a pastor’s home and was raised in a Christian family.  I figured that I was more approved of by God than the next guy.  Like many people who were born into Christian families, I for a short time even road the coattails of my parents, thinking that their faith could probably get me to heaven.  But it cannot, for the only way to the Father is a personal relationship with Him.  Don’t get me wrong.  Being raised in a Christian family is certainly influential in bringing a person to Christ, but it cannot save.  Only Christ can do that.  Your family lineage is not where you should place your value or pride in, for it matters not in the sight of God.  Rather than allowing it to puff me up, I should have been grateful for the blessing that God had given me to be born into a Christian family.  It should not have led to pride and a judgmental attitude but a drive to share the Gospel with those who were not as fortunate.

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