The Upward Call
TEXT: Philippians 3:12-14
TOPIC: The Upward Call
Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama
Sunday Morning, January 7, 2007
I hope you took notice of our 2007 Church Ministry Budget. We decided at the last moment to use today’s text and this morning’s topic as our Ministry theme for the budget year 2007, “Pressing on to the Upward Call of God.”
12Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV)
NOW – Every sincere Christian will admit two things. First, he will concede to past failure. That is, he has not realized the goal that God has set for His children. Secondly, he is not satisfied to remain in his present spiritual state. When a Christian is satisfied, he ceases to grow spiritually.
THEN – That was the challenging message of the Apostle Paul as he addressed the Christian church at Philippi in or around the year 61 A.D. Paul found himself sitting in a Roman prison reflecting upon his past, present and future aspirations.
ALWAYS – That may very well be where many of us find ourselves at the close of 2005 and on the eve of another New Year. Most are spending these final hours of 2006 in a state of reflection and anticipation.
As a church, First Baptist Church, Center Point, is also in a state of reflection over the past, restructuring the present, and anticipating the future.
The Upward Call of God in Christ Jesus first calls us to…..
I. AN HONEST ADMISSION, Philippians 3:12-13
12Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; …........ 13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; *
*Paul says, I have not attained, arrived or apprehended that for which God called me. As great a Christian as the Apostle Paul was, he openly confessed he still had a long way to go.
The word “perfected” does not mean perfection or without fault. It refers to complete spiritual maturity. Paul would agree with Peter that we should “… grow in the grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ …” (2 Peter 3:18). Paul was still on the journey. And so are we.
I don’t know about you, but the more I get to know God the more I realize I don’t know about God. The closer I get to God; I realize how far I have yet to go. The Upward call of God in Christ Jesus demands it.
T/S – Not only an Honest Admission, but notice secondly, we must make
II. A HEARTY ATTEMPT, Philippians 3:12/12
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me./ *
*Paul is enthusiastic in his attempt to progress toward his goal. When he speaks of pressing on and laying hold of something in this verse, he is using very vivid language to describe his passionate pursuit of that which God has called him to do. He is speaking of a hearty attempt at running the race and finishing the course.
“I press on…to achieve, to capture the goal, to win the race, to take control over, in hope of winning the mastery. /
/There is no tragedy so great as a Christian at the end of life’s journey with the bitter knowledge that he failed to achieve that for which his Lord saved him. What a shame it will be in the Judgment for the Christian who has missed the mark of the Upward call of God in his life.
T/S – Last of all, and most important, we must have
III. A HOLY ASPIRATION, Philippians 3:13-14/13
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus./
Paul was a specialist with a singleness of purpose. Paul was focused on one thing. He said, “this one thing I do.” What was that one thing? I believe Paul had a holy aspiration to be everything God wanted him to be, to do everything God wanted him to do.
Was he? Did he? The answer is no. Paul humbly admitted, as all of us would have to admit, that he had not reached that goal. He had not arrived. He was still on the journey.
To get there Paul’s singleness of purpose involved three actions:
1) Leaving the Past, forgetting those things which are behind, v. 13
2) Living in the Present, I press toward the goal for the prize of the Upward Call, v. 14
3) Looking forward to the Prospect (future), reaching forward to those things which are ahead, v. 13.
Do you have a holy aspiration to be everything God wants you to be, and do everything God wants you to do? If so, listen up. Would to God that every member of FBCP desire to be everything God wants them to be and do everything God wants them to do in 2007.
First, forget the past. Leave the past where it is, in the past. Someone called this holy amnesia. Paul was determined not to allow his past to hinder his present. Just like Paul, there are some things we must forget and put behind us if we are to fully serve God.
Ø PAST GUILT
Paul was a murderer. (And you think you have a past!) Paul was a blasphemer. He was a persecutor of the church. Burned into his memory was the day he held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He had to put that behind him in order to move on.
Ø PAST GRIEF
Paul suffered terribly for being a Christian. He was beaten, shipwrecked, stranded, scorned, scoffed, and separated from his family. He literally was left to die on at least one occasion. Paul had to forget all of that.
Ø PAST GLORY
But there were some good moments. Paul had some accomplishments, some victories. But even his past glory had to be forgotten. No room for boasting or pride. Paul would say, not I but Christ.
Ø PAST GRUDGES
Paul had his enemies. He faced opposition, misunderstanding, misplaced accusations. He was mistreated, betrayed, lied upon, and sold out by family and friends. He had to forget those things if he was going to serve God.
By the way, the word “forgetting” does not mean that you will not remember some of the mistakes of your past, or the sins you’ve committed. The word here means to refuse to be affected by.
Hebrews 10:17 says, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
God doesn’t have a bad memory. He just chooses not to allow the sins of our past to interfere with our relationship with Him.
ILLUSTRATION - Some of us need to lock the skeletons in our closets and give God the key. Robert E. Lee, the great general of the South, visited a lady in Virginia after the Civil War and she was extremely bitter toward the Union. She showed him the scarred remains of one of her prize trees in her front yard. During a raid all of the limbs had been shot off by the Union Army. They had carved their initials on it and just totally defaced this beautiful old tree. She said to General Lee, “What do you think I ought to do about that?” General Lee replied, “My dear madam I think you ought to cut it down and forget it.”
Listen to me: you will never be all God wants you to be or do all God wants you to do, until you leave the past, forget the past, don’t let it interfere with your relationship with God or anyone else any longer.
There are too many weak and weary Christians who have been carrying around the weight of their past for too long.
Once we leave the past in the past, we need to learn how to live in the present. I press toward the goal for the prize of the Upward Call, v. 14
Twice Paul said, “I press on.” Imagine an Olympic runner turning the corner of the final leg of the race. As he nears the finish line, he stretches his body forward, reaching out toward the finish line, straining every muscle to win the race. That’s how we are to live the Christian life in this present moment.
It’s a sad commentary on today’s contemporary Christianity that so many Christians have stopped pressing on to the Upward call of God. They’ve quit. Just given up.
You know Paul could have quit many times. I can just see that old grizzled Apostle, with that weather-beaten face, that scarred back, that emaciated body, lying somewhere out on a desert beaten and robbed. He could have easily given up. The devil whispered in his ear, "Why don’t you just give it up, Paul? Why don’t you forget it? Why don’t you just take the easy road?"
And I can hear the Apostle Paul as he says,
I WANT TO LET GO
BUT I WON'T LET GO
THERE ARE BATTLES TO FIGHT
BY DAY AND BY NIGHT
FOR GOD AND THE RIGHT
AND I'LL NEVER LET GO
I WANT TO LET GO
BUT I WON'T LET GO
I WILL NEVER YIELD
WHAT LIE DOWN ON THE FIELD?
AND SURRENDER MY SHIELD
NO, I'LL NEVER LET GO
I WANT TO LET GO
BUT I WON'T LET GO
I'M SICK TIS TRUE
WORRIED AND BLUE
AND WORN THROUGH AND THROUGH
BUT I'LL NOT LET GO
I WANT TO LET GO
BUT I WON'T LET GO
MAY THIS BE MY SONG
MID LEGIONS OF WRONG
OH, GOD, KEEP ME STRONG
I'LL NEVER LET GO.
Pressing on to the Upward call of God in Christ Jesus requires more than just inspiration and aspiration. Sometimes we need perspiration and always, we need determination.
Finally, focus on the future. Leave the past, live in the present and look to the prospect of all our tomorrows, reaching forward to those things which are ahead, v. 13.
Again, Paul is using an athletic metaphor. The Christian life is like a runner running in a race. But he’s not just running to be running, he’s running to win. But you cannot win a race looking back. No runner will win a race looking over his shoulder. You cannot run forward if you are always looking backward.
ILLUSTRATION – I heard about a little fellow who was listening to his Sunday School teacher tell about Lot’s wife, and how she looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. He said, "That’s nothing. My mom was driving a car yesterday and looked back and turned into a telephone pole."
Now listen to me church. If we think we can focus on our future while constantly looking back then we are heading for a collision.
Our Lord Jesus taught us that “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
Our future as a church is as bright as we choose for it to be. But we must strive for the Upward call. We must press on. Forgetting the past, living in the present and focused on the future.