Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SALVATION FROM YOUR SUCCESS”

Philippians 3.4-6

Turn to our text for this evening, looking to Philippians 3.4-6, and then standing for the reading of God’s Word. In this passage we read Paul’s recounting his so-called successes prior to his conversion to Christ:

4      Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

5      Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

6      Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Most of you have heard the testimonies of various preachers down through the years. However, if you have not, allow me to comment on a common occurrence. The one guy will stand up and tell everyone what an evil, wicked, mean, and nasty person he was. How he was a gang banger, a pimp, a whore monger, a drug addict, a gambler, a liar, a profane cusser, a thief, and a fighter. Others are variations on this theme. The testimonies of these guys show them to have been in every way disreputable characters, surely worthy of hellfire. And, when you think of it, aren’t so many of the very public testimonies this way? Sure. Such is virtually mandated in order to serve as a pastor of a Victory Outreach congregation or many independent Baptist churches. Now, don’t get me wrong. Through faith in Christ the vilest sinner can receive full and free pardon from all of his sins and the joy that comes from a new standing before God. However, do you have to be a drunkard to be a sinner in need of salvation? Do you have to be a drug addict? Do you have to be a rapist? Must you have aborted a child? Must you have had a child out of wedlock?

In contrast, I want you to consider some of the well-known men in Christian history who have come to God through faith in Christ. Consider what their lives were like before their conversions. Luther was a priest. Wycliffe was a priest. Tyndale was a priest. John Wesley had been an Anglican priest. George Whitefield had been an Anglican priest. And these guys were not the vile child molesting reprobates that we read about in the Catholic Church today. Not at all. Before these guys were saved they had been strictly religious, devout, and very much God-fearing men. They had not been profligate sinners at all. Then they were saved. And what about Charles Spurgeon? The son and the grandson of godly pastors, Spurgeon was raised up in a devoutly Christian environment, was concerned about the things of God, and was convinced that God’s Word is true and that God is righteous, sovereign, and holy. His life as an adolescent was better than almost any so-called Christian alive today. He read God’s Word, studied its doctrines, and memorized its passages. He prayed to God and attended church every single time the doors were open. Then he was saved.

My friends, these men I’ve listed to you are not men who were saved from the gutter. These are men who were saved while they were living lives that in every way appeared to be upright and moderate, Christian and sincere. They were not raucous or wild, they were not rambunctious or railing. These men are examples quite foreign to us today who think you have to consort with whores before you need to be saved, who think you have to have a testimony of how bad you were before you will ever amount to anything for God. With Paul being the very best example, let us understand that the Lord Jesus Christ saves sinners from their “successes” as well as from their “sins.”

This evening I want to set before you some series of successes that you may very well be relying on, either in whole or in part, to pave your way to heaven. Maybe you are in some way like those men the Apostle Paul was preparing the Philippians for. Possible? Let’s see.

First, THERE IS MATERIAL SUCCESS

So many people think they are set for heaven because they have been successful in business or career. It amazes me the number of men in churches across America who think they should have special influence over the pastor because they put a great deal of money in the offering, or because they know how to run a business. Let me tell you something, sir. The church isn’t a business, at least a real church is not a business. And a church should not be run along the lines of good business practice. A church should be run along the lines of good sheep herding principles, or good vine tending principles. The problem with too many churches today is with the pastor listening to businessmen instead of seeking to become a better vine dresser or a more capable shepherd.

You who think that material success will stand you in good stead come Judgment Day, listen to me. Maybe you’ve got your pile or you’re feverishly working to get your pile. Your pile of money will not stand you in good stead come Judgment Day. Let the Lord Jesus Christ put things in perspective. Luke 12.16-21:

16     And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

17     And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?

18     And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

19     And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

20     But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

21     So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

You may be rich in material goods, but are you rich toward God? Have you laid up treasures in heaven? “Well, I’m not rich now, pastor, but I’m on my way. I’m earning money, going to school, doing what I have to do to be a success. Pastor, I’ve got big plans.” Good. James 4.13-14:

13     Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

14     Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

My friend, serve God while you can. But first, make sure you’re saved the Bible way, because “riches profit not in the day of wrath,” Proverbs 11.4. Are you relying on material success to stand you in good stead come Judgment Day? Would you like to rely on material success come Judgment Day? No good. What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, yet he loses his own soul?[1] You need to be saved from your material success.

Next, THERE IS MARITAL SUCCESS

It seems to be a goal of the X Generation to seek out successful marriages, perhaps as a counter to the failed marriages of their Baby Boom Generation parents. At any rate, there are a tremendous number of young adults in our society who are focused on their homes, who are intent to be good parents, and who are looking for the good life and fulfillment based on marital success. They naively think that love will be enough. Let me tell you something. Love is not enough. Go back and look at the most wonderful love story between a man and a woman imaginable, the Song Of Solomon, and you will see what can happen to even the most powerful love that a man and a woman can have for each other.

She was Solomon’s Shulamite maiden. A popular Christian hymn identifies him as the type of Christ, her lily of the valley, her bright and morning star, the fairest of ten thousand to her soul. Oh, how they loved each other. What communion. What intimacy. What pleasure and delight they gave to each other after they married. My friends, they had the marriage you will only dream about. However, something happened. It went sour. Other women came into his life and he yielded to their temptations and their wiles. What bitter disappointment she must have been confronted with, his Shulamite bride. How utterly unprepared she was to deal with the courtesans in the palace, with all their sophistication and finery, their ruthless opportunism and cunning. You laying all your hopes on a great marriage to see you through? What will you build your marriage on, great looks, great sex? Listen to Proverbs 31.30: “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”

You think you will base a life on a good marriage? You’re delusional. Ephesians chapter 5 and Colossians chapter 3 show us that God gives to no one a great marriage. What He gives is His Spirit to indwell, to fill, and to empower for service. The byproduct of Spirit-filled service will be the makings of a good marriage. But if you think you are going to just have a good marriage, you are a naive child. You need to be saved. Then, and only then, perhaps, God will give to you a good marriage as a result of faithful devotion to Him. You need to be saved from marital success.

Third, THERE IS MORAL SUCCESS

Perhaps you’re not banking on material success. You can’t, you have no money or possessions. Perhaps you’re not banking on marital success. You can’t. You are not succeeding as a husband or a wife, as judging by your complete inability to locate and marry a good husband or wife. However, perhaps you are counting on success in the moral sphere.

Maybe you are faithful to church. Maybe you give to the March Of Dimes. Perhaps you feel great compassion and even contribute money to Muscular Dystrophy, Jerry’s kids. It’s even possible you participate in the United Way campaign at work and raise money that will eventually go to Planned Parenthood and their abortion clinics. In other words, you are moral. It’s possible that you’ve never smoked in your life. You’ve never consumed beverage alcohol. Never done drugs. Never committed a sexual sin. Never bossed a boyfriend around, calling around and demanding to know where he is, who he’s with, and what he’s doing. You always read your Bible. You always pray. You are very organized and systematic in the living of your fine and moral life.

There is only one problem. Despite all your external goodness and morality God views you as an unclean thing. Isaiah 64.6 reads, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” You see, you look at yourself as others look upon you, on the outward appearance. But God looks upon the heart. And the great problem there is that your heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, Jeremiah 17.9. Until you see yourself as God sees you, dead in trespasses and sins, you’ll never be truly convinced of your need for a Savior, at least not the kind of convinced that results in conversion.

Are you relying on moral success to stand you in good stead come Judgment Day? And would that not include excellence in spiritual things? Listen to this, my moral success, spoken of by the Savior in Matthew 7.21-23:

21     Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22     Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23     And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Amazing! Moral and good things done by people who are not saved are accounted by the Savior as being iniquity. No, my friend, your moral success will not be accounted as success by God on Judgment Day. You need to be saved from your moral success.

Fourth, MONUMENTAL SUCCESS

Just a passing reference to monumental success. Perhaps you think you will achieve such success in the field of your choice that you will be measured by different standards than the rest of us. Perhaps you will think that if you are so notable that you end up having your likeness carved on Mount Rushmore next to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt, God will smile on you. I am reminded, however, of Revelation 6.12-17:

12     And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

13     And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

14     And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

15     And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

16     And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

17     For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

God’s wrath will fall on small and great alike. Then there is Revelation 20.12:

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

It says there that the small and the great will stand before God to be judged. That means the important and also the unimportant. That means the powerful as well as the weak.

Make no mistake about this: Albert Einstein, and Plato, and Socrates, and Aristotle, and Alexander the Great, and Adolph Hitler, and Uncle Joe Stalin, and Augustus Caesar, and Bill Gates, and the Rockefellers, and the Gettys, and the Kennedys, and all the rest, no matter how big and powerful you are, no matter how monumental your life’s work is thought by some to be, you will stand before God and when your deeds and exploits are read from the books, God will say “So what?” Where were you when God laid the foundations of the earth? Can you loose the bands of Orion? Can you send lightning? Do you know the ordinances of heaven? Do you cause it to rain on the earth? You see, you’ve never really done anything compared to God. That’s why even your seemingly monumental success will help you not one bit on Judgment Day. You need to be saved from your monumental success.

Finally, WHAT ABOUT ACHIEVING MENTAL SUCCESS?

You are very smart. You are extremely intelligent. It is obvious by your attitude toward God and spiritual things that you have estimated your intelligence to be quite high. You may even be a genius. Your academic record shows how bright you are. Your honors in school, those based objectively on the standardized tests you’ve taken, show your superior aptitudes with respect to intellectual pursuits. Granting your intellectual capacity, there is still a tremendous problem. Proverbs 16.25 tells us that “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” In other words, no matter how you figure things out, you cannot figure things out correctly. To reiterate that, listen to Isaiah 55.8-9:

8      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

9      For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Therefore, no matter how bright you are, and you are smart enough to deny that you are all-knowing, you cannot be as smart as the infinite God. That being so, you will, if you are intellectually honest enough, conclude what Solomon concluded in Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.” My friend, there is only one thing to do, according to Ecclesiastes 12.13-14:

13     Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

14     For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Mental success, even the kind of intellectual achievements of such a man as Solomon, will not stand you in good stead come Judgment Day, when every work, and every secret thing, will be judged. You need to be saved from your mental success.

What kind of mountain top of personal achievement do you think you can someday realize? Will it be material success, like Bill Gates of Microsoft fame or Apple’s Steve Jobs? Will you be as rich as Ted Turner? Perhaps you will achieve marital success. If you do, what will that achieve for you in eternity? Moral success, we have seen, is only an illusion before a God so holy that even your best deeds are filthy rags. Monumental success? Will you do great things? Not great enough to impress God, I am sure. And mental success accomplishes nothing with God, Who possesses all knowledge. Success, you see, always produces pride of accomplishment, such pride as God abhors, because of man’s sinful nature. That is the reason the Apostle Paul wrote these words about those who enjoyed great success, whether by inheritance or by personal pursuit and accomplishment, First Corinthians 1.26-31:

26     For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27     But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28     And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29     That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30     But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31     That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Not that God cannot save a man despite his successes, for the Lord Jesus Christ most certainly can and does save every kind of sinner. But you see, those who enjoy great success seem to think they are somehow superior, somehow meritorious, somehow deserving of God’s unmerited grace. And their success clouds their judgment so that they see not their great and profound need of the Savior.

My friend, what about you? You don’t have to fall to the bottom of the heap in order to be saved. You don’t have to lose your job, your family, your reputation, and all else. It’s just that when you’re not enjoying any success in life it is frequently so much easier to see your need of Christ than when you’re still surfing that wave of success. The Savior is mighty to save sinners, even successful sinners. Consider your need of Christ’s salvation, and pray He will save you from your successes as well as from your failures.



[1] Mark 8.36



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org