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Certified Ambition

• Kevin Johnson

We were blessed to have Kevin Johnson, our Community Pastor, speak to us today about ambition. The message centered on Paul’s self-assessment in Phil. 3:3-10. “Ambition” is like “power” in that it can be a good thing when the motive behind it is good, but it can be devastating if the motive behind it is self-serving or ungodly.

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We were blessed to have Kevin Johnson, our Community Pastor, speak to us today about ambition. The title of the message was “Certified Ambition” and was centered on Paul’s self-assessment in Phil. 3:3-10. “Ambition” is like “power” in that it can be a good thing when the motive behind it is good, but can be devastating if the motive behind it is self-serving or ungodly. Just like the CEO’s who recently have been asked to certify the accounting practices of their companies, Kevin is challenging us to “certify” our ambitions in life as well. To get started with this, Kevin asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We need to identify our “default” ambitions and desires in life. We are never really “too old” to ask this question because with God, things can be new at any moment and there is always room for growth in our lives.

Kevin noted that our ambitions often change over the course of our lives. Many things can cause this change to take place. Three were mentioned: a. different seasons in life, b. different circumstances, c. spiritual revolution. As we grow older, things change gradually and our ambitions change with them. Kevin mentioned his “ambition for sports” waning over the years as an example of an ambition that changed gradually. When our circumstances change dramatically, our ambitions are often modified to reflect this change. Examples of this sort of change may include the death of a loved one or a job or career change. The most important way for our ambitions to change, however, is through spiritual revolution. This is what Paul experienced and it completely redirected his ambition. In Phil. 3:4-6 we read about Paul’s previous ambitions and aptitudes. Verses 7-9 denounce these “grounds for boasting” in favor of a higher goal—a supreme ambition. Kevin points out that Paul’s new ambitions are: a. to know Christ, b. to know the power of Christ’s resurrection, and to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. The first is the most central and it includes the other two. We are able to focus our motivation and direct our ambition toward continually knowing Christ more deeply. This is the heartbeat of the Christian life. As we do this, we will come to know both the power and the sufferings of Christ in this world.

Kevin discussed how coming to know Christ is not about “intellectual assent” to a set of doctrines, but rather entering into an intimate and engaged relationship with Christ. “Engaged” can have a double meaning here since in means both “actively involved” and “preparation for a marital/covenantal relationship.” Both are appropriate since we are to know Christ with our whole being as we participate in the Bride of Christ, the Church. It is a humbling thing to be engaged with God! We cannot do this and remain unchanged. As Kevin pointed out, we can know if we are engaged in this way by asking ourselves “how has my life changed in the past three or six months?” Knowing Christ is to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Here Kevin encouraged us to jump in and start participating in the building of the Kingdom of God! God’s power is in you and can work through you!

The last point here is the most difficult. Paul made it his ambition to suffer with Christ. Kevin compared this with the vow we make in marriage to love our spouse for better or for worse. We need to understand that “knowing Christ” in the way that Paul was talking about, will mean that we will suffer. We should not relish the pain and suffering, but we must sharing in it willingly. Since the world punished Christ while he was here, we should expect that we will receive some punishing as well (see Luke 6:22, for example), for we are setting up an alternate and opposing Kingdom to the one currently in power. Jesus came to give his life for us, we are called to give our lives to Christ and to serve the world in the way that Christ did. There is a huge contrast between the request of the sons of Zebedee and the response they got from Jesus. As Kevin put it, the sons asked, “set me up real good, will you?” and Jesus responded, “following me is sacrifice and servanthood. If you are going to strive for anything, strive for the heart of a servant—then you’ll be like me.”

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Focus Scripture:

  • Philipians 3:3-10

    3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

    If others think they have reasons to put 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; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

    7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

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