Pressing On – Philippians 3:12-14

Goal

INTRODUCTION:

Walvoord: "On the one hand, discontent with one’s spiritual life can bring discouragement and unnecessary resignation to spiritual defeat. On the other hand, in overestimating one’s spiritual attainments, it is easy to become complacent with the measure of transformation which has taken place. Either alternative is falling short of the scriptural standard. What Paul is teaching in this section is that absolute perfection, such as exists in heaven, or attainment of spiritual victory which makes defeat impossible, is never achieved in this life. But there is the possibility of a high plateau of victory in Christ, of joy in the Spirit, and of the satisfaction of having served the Lord acceptably. It is this proper doctrine that the apostle is attempting to teach in this section."

BIG IDEA:
PRESSING TOWARD THE GOAL IS THE ONLY WAY TO RUN THE RACE OF CONFORMITY TO JESUS CHRIST

I. THE GOAL IS CONFORMITY TO JESUS CHRIST

"in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus"

"the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus"

THE MOTIVATION OF A LOFTY GOAL:

  1. Salvation is Just a Starting Point
  2. Christ Jesus Sets the Standard
    Rom. 8:28-29 = the purpose for which we have been called by God
  3. The Prize is Worthy of the Effort

II. IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE ALREADY "ARRIVED" YOU ARE OFF TARGET

"Not that I have already obtained it"

"or have already become perfect"

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet"

THE DELUSION OF PERFECTION:

  1. Some People Feel They Have Reached the Spiritual Mountaintop
    1. He had not received yet all that God has for him.
  2. Some People Feel They have Arrived
    1. He had not been matured yet to the point where he was like Christ.
  3. The Reality is That We All Have a Long Way to Go

III. LOOKING AT THE PAST WILL SLOW YOU DOWN

"forgetting what lies behind"

THE PITFALLS OF THE PAST:

  1. Weighed down by Sins/Failures of the Past (Heb. 12:1-2) / OR
    Complacent because of Past Spiritual Success
    (Past Positive Performance is no Indication of Future Success — cf. the warning on commercials for mutual funds)
  2. Tainted by Bitterness and a Lack of Forgiveness / OR
    Over confident because of the evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit
  3. Resigned to Powerlessness / OR
    Distracted from continuing to Rely on the Lord

Bruce: "A competitor in a race does not look over his or her shoulder to see how much ground has been covered already or how rivals are getting on: the runner keeps eyes fixed on the winning post."
(cf. my experience in sixth grade relay race)

Boice: "What is the nature of the forgetting then? I believe that it is the kind of forgetting that occurs when we cease to let things that are in the past overshadow the present, that lets the past be past, both the good and the bad, and that constantly looks forward to the work that God still has for us."

IV. PRESSING TOWARD THE GOAL IS THE ONLY WAY TO RUN THE RACE

"I press on"

"but one thing I do… reaching forward to what lies ahead"

"I press on toward the goal"

THE CHALLENGE OF PERSEVERING IN MAKING PROGRESS:

  1. Requires a Perspective of Hope
  2. Requires a Work Ethic of Diligence
  3. Requires a Large Dose of Perseverance

DEVOTIONAL QUESTIONS:

  1. Have you ever encountered someone who claimed sinless perfection? How do you think they would be able to respond to these verses?
  2. How do these verses provide a healthy perspective of Christian ambition? We are warned against selfish ambition and looking out for number one, but often the problem is more one of complacency.
  3. What are some things in your past that sometimes distract you from pressing forward in the Christian race? (could be either positive things leading to complacency or negative things leading to discouragement) How do you focus on the future and running the race God has set before you?
  4. What is the prize Paul talks about in verse 14?

QUOTES FOR REFLECTION:

Motyer: "To be ‘perfect’ means to become increasingly like our Lord Jesus Christ, with his righteousness, not only as an inward, spiritual gift but as an outward way of life. His pattern of life is reproduced as we suffer even unto death which alone issues in a resurrection like his. In all this Paul has not yet ‘arrived’ but was still on his way. Truly, knowing Christ has brought Paul to a very different self-estimate from that which his Pharisaic upbringing had inculcated (verse 6) — and a more realistic and sobering one at that. He did not ‘think of himself more highly than he ought to think’ and this lowly self-estimate was a springboard to progress."

Carson: "… Paul is not stagnating… If Paul knows that he is a model to be imitated, he also knows that he is a model in transition to greater glory. If he wants to be followed, he wants to be followed as he himself is still following hard after Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1). He is pressing on. He does not think of himself as having already been made perfect."

Wiersbe: "So ‘forgetting those things which are behind’ does not suggest an impossible feat of mental and psychological gymnastics by which we try to erase the sins and mistakes of the past. It simply means that we break the power of the past by living for the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past. There were things in Paul’s past that could have been weights to hold him back (1 Tim. 1:12-17), but they became inspirations to speed him ahead. The events did not change, but his understanding of them changed."

Wiersbe: 5 Essentials to running the race in a way that wins the reward:

  • Dissatisfaction — "Not as though I had already attained"
  • Devotion — "this one thing I do"
  • Direction — "forgetting the past"
  • Determination — "pressing forward"
  • Discipline — vv. 15-16

Boice: "Someone once said to David Livingstone when he was back in England briefly after having worked for many years in Africa, ‘Well, Dr. Livingstone, where are you ready to go now?’ And Livingstone answered, ‘I am ready to go anywhere, provided it be forward.’"

Kent: "Perhaps there were perfectionists in Phillipi who had resisted the Judaizers with their emphasis on works and ceremonies by going to the extreme of claiming to have acquired already the consummation of spiritual blessings. Paul understands clearly that he has a continuing responsibility to pursue the purposes Christ had chosen him for. Spiritual progress is ever the imperative Christians must follow."