February 15, 2008

The Surpassing Greatness of Knowing Christ Jesus - Feb 15, 2008

Funeral Sermon for Arthur Walter Mantei

May the undeserved love which God has for you be known to your hearts today, through His Word.

For the past two and half years I have had the privilege of serving Art Mantei Sr. as his pastor. I have been blessed with the opportunity to meditate on God’s Word together with Art and Chick here in this house of worship, and also at their home.

The thing that brought me and Art together into a relationship was our shared belief that a man named Jesus is the Son of God. We both believe that Jesus is the reason that our sins have been erased in the sight of God the Father.

In Art’s biography, we have briefly considered some of the events of Art’s life. But to truly honor this man whom we were privileged to know and love, we must consider that which he considered to be his highest privilege – the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.

To help us do this, we read from the Word of God from which Art’s faith sprung. Our selection for meditation comes from the third chapter of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians of Philippi.

8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and 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 and is by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9 NIV).

These is the word of God.

To truly understand what the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus means, we must first understand how hopeless a person is apart from Christ.

The Bible says that the world was once perfect. At that time Adam and Eve lived in a close relationship with their Creator, and knew neither sin, nor death. But faced with temptation, they sinned against God, separating their souls from Him and bringing death into the world. Since that time all children have been born sinful, destined to die and doomed to one day be separated from God forever.

Both the apostle Paul and Art Mantei were born into this world in this same hopeless condition. Thankfully, God is full of love and compassion, and provided a way for them and all people to be brought back into a perfect relationship with Him. God sent His Son Jesus to suffer the punishment that our sins have earned. Trusting that Jesus truly did this, is what it means to know Jesus. The greatness of knowing Christ Jesus means freedom from sin, freedom from fear of punishment, and freedom to live life under God’s gracious smile.

Art first felt the smile of God on the day he was baptized into Christ. Galatians 3:27 says,

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27 NKJV).

When Art was baptized, the sinless life of God’s own Son was wrapped around his little soul, covering all his failings and sins completely.

The apostle Paul, however, was not as privileged as Art. For Paul lived many years before being introduced to Jesus.

The apostle Paul grew up studying the Old Testament of the Bible, but missed its point. Paul falsely believed that he could make up for his own sins by creating a righteous life of his own.

As a man, the apostle Paul was considered highly knowledgeable in religion matters. When his fellowmen looked at Paul they saw a man who kept all the laws that God had written down in the Old Testament. And more than that, Paul also worked hard to keep all the extra rules and regulations that the religious teachers of his day had set up beside God’s Word.

Paul was not just a talker, he was a doer. He took his religion seriously. When people called “Christians” started teaching that a man named Jesus was the Savior predicted in the Bible, Paul didn’t believe it. So, Paul tried his best to destroy this group of people.

This all changed when Jesus Himself appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul came to believe that the Christians were right, Jesus was the promised Savior from sin.

After coming to trust in Jesus, Paul considered all his former greatness to be nothing at all. Rubbish. Something to be tossed away and forgotten. Paul felt this way because he had come to see that all his great learning and his brilliant reputation before men didn’t get him anything before God. As good as Paul looked to others, before God he was still a sinner.

But connected to Christ by trust in Christ, Paul had something worth holding on to. Through his faith in Christ he had been given a perfect righteousness in God’s eyes. All his former sins were swept under the rug of Christ’s sinless life and innocent death. When God looked down on sinful Paul, He now saw only the righteousness of Jesus.

Paul summed all this up by saying,

“…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” (Philippians 3:8 NIV).

Paul’s life was dramatically changed through this new relationship with God’s Son. The once hateful persecutor of Christians became a man who was willing to take a beating in order to introduce others to their Savior. In short, Paul’s life was now molded and defined by Jesus’ love for all people.

Art Mantei also knew the freedom and power of knowing Christ. As we read through his biography the outward manifestations of his inward faith were obvious. Art didn’t travel abroad preaching the Good News of forgiveness like Paul did. Instead Art served in the often overlooked and underappreciated job of Sunday School teacher.

The resources that he had, Art used in serving his Savior. With his mind and with his hands he helped build churches so that Christians might gather together in Jesus’ name. With his example he showed his family and friends his priorities.

Don’t get me wrong, Art wasn’t perfect in his walk with Jesus. And that’s why he faithfully returned to confess his sins to God in prayer. That’s why he continually returned to sit with his fellow Christians and hear the Good News that his sins were forgiven through Christ.

In the book of Hebrews it says,

23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25 NKJV).

The apostle Paul endured hatred and ridicule to encourage his fellow Christians to hold to the hope of forgiveness and eternal life that was theirs in Jesus.

Art endured the pain and weakness of an aging body to encourage his fellow Christians. He may not have brought a sermon to share with us on Sunday, but his quiet and slow steps to his pew lent an encouragement all their own. With no words at all he said, “I consider the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, worth the trip.”

Art will no longer join us for worship on Sunday. But through the righteousness that Jesus gives, we will one day join Art for worship in God’s own presence in Heaven.

Until that day, I pray that you may enjoy the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as your Savior. And I pray that as we mourn Art’s death, we may be led by the Holy Spirit to rejoice in the fact that Art no longer enjoys the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus by faith. Now he enjoys the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus by sight.


May the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

-Pastor Caleb Schaller

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