Sunday Sermon: Lose the Clutter

 |  Sunday Sermon

Text: Philippians 3:2-11
Sermon Series: “Gearing Up for a Fantastic Fall”

A little over a decade ago, a new profession began to develop in American culture, one that focuses on providing people help with getting their lives better organized. Most of the demand for this help stemmed from busy housewives and young single adults who had entered the labor force and found themselves with less time to keep their home as tidy and together as they used to could do. And so, you had the emergence of “professional organizers” like Marie Kondo and the explosion of books on the topic of “feng shui” and other ways of making a home “balanced.” You had stores open like the big Container store in Atlanta, and even trendy big box stores like Target started to figure out how there’s a profit to be made in stocking such household organizational items. All in all, people started to see the value in getting not just their space but their souls “together,” a big part of which is coming to a place where they are finally ready to “lose the clutter.” 

As we think about gearing up for the fall, like with the start of other seasons, many of us see this time as a good one for thinking about getting rid of the stuff we’ve been hanging on to for too long a period of time, stuff in particular that we don’t use on a regular basis.  But maybe this season of the year is also a good time to think about the stuff we’ve been lugging around in our souls, stuff that loads us down so much that we don’t have sufficient room for Jesus.

We don’t know what season of the year it was when Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi. We talked just two Sundays ago about the church that Paul had established there when Paul and Silas came to that strategic Roman city to proclaim the Lord Jesus. Philippi was where the woman Lydia, the merchant of purple cloth, had come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It was also the place where the jailer and his whole family had confessed Jesus as Lord also. A significant church must have come from those conversions, given how in his letter to the Philippians, Paul states “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Phil. 1:3). 

But at some point along the way, things became cluttered in the fellowship there. To be specific, a group of outsiders had come into the church, insisting that these Gentiles who had come to saving faith in Christ also be observant of the Mosaic Law. And so, when word reached Paul about the situation in Philippi, he became so distressed that he felt the need to take this heresy, this false belief, head on. 

“Watch out for these people. They have no desire to promote Jesus. They’re only interested in promoting themselves. They’re prideful.  They boast about their credentials. That’s not how we came to you. Even though we could have, we wouldn’t have thought of doing such a thing because we serve God by means of his Spirit and we boast only of his power in Jesus Christ.”

What Paul was telling the church was that in order to find true fulfillment in life, the only thing we really need is Jesus. 

Now, understand, this advice wasn’t coming from someone who had never tried to prove his worth to others or endeavored to get to the front of the line on the basis of privilege. No, Paul had been there. He had been born into the right family, the tribe of Benjamin. He had been educated in the right school; he was at one time a Pharisee. He had made it to the upper echelons of his profession. He was a persecutor of the church and considered faultless in terms of his own observance of the Law. Simply put, Paul had touched all the bases. 

But what does Paul say of his once upon a time impressive resume? “I call garbage on it,” Paul says. “It was all worthless and nothing more than clutter. And so, whatever I once considered gain, I now count as loss. The only thing that matters any more is my desire to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”

In other words, Paul invites us to look at our own lives and to see if there’s anything in them that prevents us from having room for Jesus; and if there is, to let go of it so that Jesus might have the space that he needs to empower us with what we require to face whatever challenges or setbacks may come our way.

Paul’s warning to the Philippians reminds me of the story of the young couple that had moved into their dream home in an upscale neighborhood. The husband had gone out to pick up some supplies while the wife had stayed home to empty out some of the boxes.  When the husband returned, the wife informed him that a neighbor had stopped by to welcome them to the neighborhood, but while doing so she had asked the wife a question she didn’t exactly know how to answer. “What did she ask?” the husband said. “She told me we had a beautiful house, but then she asked me, ‘Did Jesus live here?’” 

“Oh,” the husband answered, “one of them. So, what did you tell her? Did you tell her that we’re respectable people? Did you tell her that we both have important jobs? Did you tell her we go to church when we get a free Sunday?” “No,” the wife said. “That’s not what she asked.  What she asked was, ‘Does Jesus live here?’”

Has anyone ever asked you that question? Have you ever asked it of yourself? Today, as we prepare to receive the Lord’s Supper, is a good time for us to do so. It may be that as we consider it, we may become aware of something that is crowding Jesus out. And if we do, whatever it may be, it would be the perfect Sunday to kick it out to the curb and call it garbage. For only then will we have room for Jesus and know the power of his resurrection, which is the greatest thing to know – the greatest thing in this life and the greatest thing in the life that is to come.