Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

7-1-04

Title: A Magnificent Obsession



Text: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)




Bible Reading: Philippians 1:21; 3:7-11





Introduction:


The title of today’s lesson is “A Magnificent Obsession.”  


So let’s begin by answering the question, “What is an obsession?” 


 I want to give you two definitions:


1. It is having a total passion with something to the point that nothing else matters.

2. It is the pursuit of an idea, purpose, or goal that takes precedence over everything else. 


I believe that all of us, at one time or another, has been obsessed with something, and that’s ok.  


But, there are some people who suffer from what’s called Obsessive-Compulsive disorder.  


It’s a mental illness in which a person experiences recurring, disturbing thoughts and feels compelled to do certain behaviors again and again. 


Most people have experienced bizarre or inappropriate thoughts and have engaged in repetitive behaviors at times. 


However, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder find that their disturbing thoughts and behaviors consume large amounts of time, cause them anxiety and distress, and interfere with their ability to function at work and in social activities. 


Most people with this disorder recognize that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational, but they cannot suppress them.


I have been obsessed with many things in my life; such as my children, my wife, the Lord Jesus, Football and my job.  


But, I don’t believe that it’s gone too far, or could be classed as obsessive-compulsive behavior.  


I know people with this problem.  


Sierra’s mother has it, and in her case she worries about things that are unimportant or may never happen.  


The result is that she is very unhappy.


Now, I believe we all understand what it means to have an obsession and what obsessive-compulsive behavior is.


However, today I want to talk to you about a magnificent obsession.  


It goes beyond your common or day-to-day obsession.  


To be magnificent, it has to be an idea, purpose, or ambition of great beauty or worth.


I know someone who had a magnificent obsession and you do too.  


It was the apostle Paul.


In our text, it’s easy to see that Paul’s testimony from a Roman jail was an admission of an obsession.


Paul is saying, “Life and Jesus Christ are inseparable to me.”  


He could no longer separate the two, since he was obsessed with Jesus.  


He was completely devoted to the Lord and to giving the gospel to those who were lost.  


That was his life, and he was obsessed with it.  


Paul made this statement in his letter to the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  


One preacher interpreted his words this way: “Life means Christ to me.”  


Christ is not something; He is everything.  


If more people knew that and believed it much more would be accomplished for the kingdom of God.  


That’s one of the great questions for our day.  


What does Jesus mean to you; is he everything to you?


Now, I want to read our text for this lesson: Philippians 1:21 and 3:7-11.


21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.


7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 


8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 

9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 

11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.


There are only two points to be made today, and the first is LIFE MEANS DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE.


Some people are obsessed with earthly pleasures. 


For example: Many sports figures become so obsessed with their performance that they train constantly.  


Men and women who aspire to be world class gymnasts and to compete in the Olympics must train the year around.  


I watched a piece on TV that followed a young female athlete through her day.  


She got up very early, around 4:30.  


She didn’t eat breakfast, since she had to keep from gaining weight if she wanted to stay on the team 


Her day began at the gym with exercise and practicing her routines over and over again.  


After spending 3 hours under the watchful eyes of her coach she headed off to school.  


School began at 8:00 am.  


But when school was over at 3:00 pm, it’s back to the gym for more training.  


She would usually get home at 7:30 in the evening.  


After supper and doing her homework, she had has time for an evening run of 5 miles or more.  


Bed time came at 10:00.  


This type of schedule is stressful; it takes a toll on the body and mind.    


Why did she work so hard?  


It was because she was obsessed with becoming a champion gymnast.  


Very few people are as obsessed over earthly pleasure, as this girl is over being a champion.  


But many people are obsessed with earthly possessions.  


For example: Some people have amassed great wealth at the expense of their families.  


That’s why there are so many workaholics.  


They work two or three jobs.  


On the weekend they work instead of spending time with their families.  


Their goal in life is to make a lot of money so that they can buy expensive possessions—cars, homes, boats, jewelry, clothes and the like.  


They have a fat bank account, but the obsession for wealth costs them their family and might even cost them an eternity with Jesus.  


This type of person doesn’t have time for their family or God, because they are selfish and proud.  


They will never be satisfied, since they will always want more.  


I believe that’s why Jesus said that it easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.


These things—the obsession with earthly pleasures and earthly possessions—create boundaries to life’s joys.

   

When these worldly things come to an end, so does the joy of life.  


The best illustration of this is what happened during the Great Depression.  


Some of you were alive then, so you know about hard times.  




You can remember the rich investors in the stock market that threw themselves from the roofs of buildings, because they preferred death to experiencing the loss of their possessions and pleasures.  


Those who chose to loose their life like this could do it, because they had nothing to fall back on.  


The god they worshipped was wealth.  


They didn’t know the God of heaven and earth and they didn’t know His Son.


This condition puts limits on when, where and how we enjoy life.  


Everything depends upon how much pleasure we are receiving and the wealth we have at that moment.  


Everything else is placed on the back burner; a relationship with family, friends and the Lord Jesus must wait until some imagined time in the future when the individual has everything he wants. 


The verses we read prove that Paul looked at life differently.  


Simply stated, “To Paul, life meant Jesus Christ.”


In another place, Paul would write that there is freedom in Christ.  


We are not held in check by the Old Testament laws.  


Rather, it is our love for God and Jesus that leads us to be obedient to the will of God as it is revealed in His Word.  



And the Christian has the Spirit within to help him live the Christian life.  


Jesus gives us a life without limits.  


We can say as Paul did, “We are free to do anything, but we must not do something that would offend a weaker brother.”  


For example: I don’t believe it is a sin to drink a beer now and then.  


But, I wouldn’t do it, because I am a representative of Jesus, and I don’t want anyone to say, “I guess I can drink beer, since Tom Lowe does it and he is a deacon in his church.  


And, I don’t want to cause confusion for a weaker brother.  


Folks, we know that Jesus is everywhere, and His Spirit is resident in the heart of every believer.  


He sees what we do, and we take Him with us where ever we go.  


Just think about some of the terrible places you have taken your Savior.  


I can look back at my life, and I would have to say that I am embarrassed and very sorry that I took the Holy Spirit into some very filthy places.  


It says in Hebrews, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8).  


Earthly leaders will come and go, but Jesus always remains the same. 


The followers of Jesus Christ can rely on Him. 


They can base their conduct on the certainty of His unchanging nature. 


The first readers of Hebrews and those who follow should never lose heart. 


They can trust His help, His grace, His power, and His guidance forever.


He never comes to an end, since He will be the same forever.


To truly experience Jesus and all He has done for us, He must be our obsession.


That means that we must desire to read God’s Word and listen to it preached.  


And that we must have a deep-down desire to witness to those who are lost.  


He should become the most important person in our life.  


We must love Him with our entire mind, and all of our heart, and all of our soul, and He must be the source of our joy.  


In other words, we should be obsessed with Him.


We’ll know it when Jesus has become everything to us, since He will become as natural to our lives as breathing.  


And He will take all the struggles of life away.  


Oh, the problems will be there, but they won’t defeat us any more.  


The question will no longer be “How big is the problem?”  


Rather, it becomes, “How big is my God.”  


Friends, nothing and no one is as big as He is.  


I used to go to a church in Iowa that had a pastor whose favorite saying was, “Your arms are too short to box with God.”  


Just think about that for a moment.  


It is amazing that the King of the universe is on our side.


I have already stated that PAUL WAS OBSESSED WITH JESUS, so now let’s see what happened to make him that way.


Before he met Jesus on the way to Damascus, Paul had been obsessed with the legalism of the Pharisees.  


He must have come from a well to do family, since he attended the best school and was taught by Gamileal, who was a highly regarded teacher.  


He had studied the Old Testament his whole life, and he did his very best to keep all the commands of God.  


He said of himself that he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, meaning he was obsessed with being a good Pharisee. 


However, this obsession made him hard, critical and mean.  


He believed that the new religion called Christianity was of the devil and that it was his job to stamp it out.  


The result was that he became the most feared persecutor of Christians of the first century. 


He dragged Christian men and women from their homes, and put them in prison or saw to it that they would never again be a problem, as he did with Stephen.


Paul’s priority in life became defending Judaism against what he saw as a threat by this new religion. 


It’s no different today; whatever has the major priority in our lives determines our attitude towards everything else.  


Let me return to the story of the girl who wanted to be a champion gymnast.  


She was obsessed with the idea, but her mother was also possessed by the same vision that her daughter would someday win a gold metal at the Olympic Games.  


What did she do?  


She went in debt to pay for lessons, and the cost of traveling to contests.  


She mortgaged their home so her daughter could live close to her coach.


By-the-way, that was hundreds of miles away, therefore, she wasn’t able to see her very often.  


She gave up everything, because she was obsessed with the vision she shared with her daughter.


It’s clear that this mother thought only of her daughter’s future.  


If things don’t work out, the way she wants them to, her life may come to an end.


Paul’s attitude changed at the same time his life was changed.  


It happened on the Damascus Road, just outside that great city.  


That’s where he met Jesus in a face-to-face encounter.  


He was struck blind by the Lord.  


He couldn’t see for several days, until God sent a man to restore his sight.  


That was a miracle, but there was an even greater miracle that took place as Paul knelt on that dusty road and cried out to Jesus and called Him “Lord.”  


That’s when he lost sight of a lesser goal and gained the greater one.  


Later, he had this to say, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ."


Jesus makes everything else cheap and unimportant, by comparison.  


That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” 


Paul says that since the moment of his conversion he lived for Christ.  


He had suffered the loss of all things.  


But, Jesus Christ is uppermost in his thinking.  


The things he used to consider most precious he now considers to be garbage.  


In the King James Bible the word used here is “dung.”  


That’s strong language.  


He says he flushes his religion down the drain.  


He flushes away all the things he used to trust.  


Now he trusts the Lord Jesus and Him only, for his salvation.  


Today a great many people need to lose their religion and find Jesus the way Paul did.


Finally, I want you to see that Paul became obsessed with Jesus.


Paul talked about Jesus everywhere he went.  


Today, people have a lot of different interests and they are ready to talk about them.  


Sports, families, the war on terrorism and politics are always topics that interest Americans.  


But, I have discovered that the closer a person is to God, the more he wants to talk about Jesus.  


I find that it is difficult to talk to anyone very long, before I bring up Jesus.  


That’s the way it is when He is on your mind and in your heart.


Paul burned out his life running around the world to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  


In the epistles he wrote, he talks about all the hardships he faced, and it’s a long list.  


He suffered for Jesus, but he never complained, since he was obsessed with Him.  


He had set his sights on a higher objective; he wanted more than anything to gain heaven and to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


One illustration of Paul’s obsession with Jesus is that it inspired him to make the missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts.  


He would never have worked so hard and placed himself in so much danger, unless he was obsessed by the idea of serving the Lord.


Everything Paul did had one goal, and that was to lift up Jesus.  


Oh, he had opportunities to promote himself, if he chose to do so.  


For instance there was the occasion when those in one of the cities he visited thought he was a god, because of a miracle they witnessed.  


But Paul said, “I am just a man the same as you.”  


There must have been some who looked at Paul’s life and said, “He had such great potential as a Pharisee, why did he waste it all by becoming a Christian?”  


But Paul didn’t see it that way, and neither do I.  


You see, Paul’s activity was not meaningless effort from the head.  


It was the burning ambition of his heart.


Conclusion


We need to be people like Paul—obsessed by the desire to experience more and more of Jesus. 


The more we become obsessed with Jesus, the more we will share Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:7-11.


There’s a hymn we sing that reflects our desire to know more about Jesus.  


Let’s conclude with the words to that hymn.


More about Jesus would I know,

More of His grace to others show;

More of His saving fullness see,

More of His love who died for me.


Amen.



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