Last week we discussed the way of righteousness. Paul explained that righteousness does not come through human means. God, through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, makes us righteous. Remember verse 9? Paul said he did not have a righteousness of his own but a righteousness that came from God.
This is what we call positional righteousness. If you are born again, you are positionally righteous before God. God has given to you the very righteousness of Christ. Along with the righteousness that has been given to you is a desire to live that righteousness out. If you are saved, you will hunger and thirst after righteousness. You will want to live a godly life.
This morning we are going to see that our salvation is not the end of the story but the beginning of it. Paul is going to tell us from personal experience that when a person is saved, they have a desire to press on in righteousness until the very end. I’m going to show you from the Word of God this morning how we can continue to press on in righteous living.
1. We must properly define what perfection is.
Why did God save us?
What is His goal in our salvation?
Romans 8:29 tells us that God saved us to conform us into the image of His Son.
1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved now we are the Sons of God and it doth not appear yet what we shall be but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him.”
Perfection is complete Christ likeness. To be perfect is to be like Jesus in every area of our life.
Am I holy like Christ? Conquered sin and temptation as Christ in wilderness.
Am I humble like Christ? Turn the other cheek, serve the least of these.
Do I have a heart for people like Christ? Do I share the gospel and call people to repentance?
When we define perfection as Christ likeness perfection becomes desirable.
What do I mean by that? Often perfection seems to have a negative connotation in our culture.
She thinks she’s perfect.
I’m sorry I’m not perfect.
This attitude keeps from people from desiring perfection. Replace perfect with the Biblical explanation of the word. Listen to how that sounds:
I’m sorry I’m not like Jesus.
It sounds different doesn’t it. We are quick to say we are not perfect but not say so quick to say we are not Christlike.
To be perfect is to be like Jesus. That’s the definition. When we define perfection correctly, we are more likely to strive for it.
2. We must humbly admit that we are not perfect (12).
Two times Paul says he has not arrived at perfection. He says it in verse 12 and verse 13.
Again, this is different than what we see in our culture. When we say we’re not perfect it’s normally in a sarcastic way. We say it to justify ourselves. Paul doesn’t do that. He says this to his own shame. He wants to be perfect. He wants to be like Jesus. He recognizes failure in his life.
There are two errors I often see in the Christian life when it comes to spiritual growth:
1) I’m positionally righteous so there is no need to try and live righteously.
2) I can’t be perfect so why try?
Both of those errors are rooted in pride.
Let’s deal with the first error. If you wonder why you should try to live righteously since you are already going to heaven look at the end of verse 12.
Paul says he presses on because Jesus has made him His own. Jesus grabbed hold of all of Paul!
Illustration: Damascus Road experience.
If you are saved Christ Jesus has made you His own!
He didn’t just grab hold of your leg.
He took hold of all of you!
When you think of how Jesus has taken hold of you it ought to inspire you to take hold of Him!
All of Him!
A sign of humility is thankfulness. We show our thankfulness to Christ by learning of Him and living like Him.
The second error- I can’t be perfect so why try?
If I used that logic, I’d never rake my yard. When I rake it there are more leaves in the yard before I finish.
If students used that logic, they’d fail every test.
What about the command to love your wife like Christ loves the church? I ‘ll always fall short of that. But it’s still the goal.
When you think of your imperfections do you do so in a humble way?
How we perceive our imperfections determines if we will seek to overcome them.
Paul did not want anyone to think he had arrived because he hadn’t. But he was a holy man. This is an important thing to understand.
Frederick Meyer “The nearer the saint comes to the perfect life, the farther he feels from it.”
The closer to Christ likeness we become the humbler we will be.
That’s how we know if we are a legalistic or not. Legalism makes us proud, following after Christlike perfection will humble us.
3. We must make adjustments in our life to grow in Christlike perfection (13-14).
Paul simplified his Christian life. He said “One thing I do…”
What is that one thing? Look at verse 14.
What is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?
It’s the day he stands before Jesus complete. It’s the end of his salvation.
Paul looked forward to crossing the finish line. That was his goal!
Why is it called the upward call?
In the Greek games those who won their events would be rewarded on an elevated platform. They would receive an upward call.
Paul knew that one day the Lord would call him up!
One of these days the Lord will call us all up!
Do you think about that day folks? I hope you do! That was the one thing Paul thought of. This was his prize!
Meditation on heaven will motivate you to Christlike perfection. Whether you are young or old you ought to think about the moment when you will be face to face with your Savior!
We ought to think about heaven every day because any day we could be going there!
The old hymnist said
I want to scale the utmost height And catch a gleam of glory bright; But still I’ll pray till Heav’n I’ve found, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.” Lord, lift me up and let me stand, By faith, on Heaven’s table land, A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
The more we meditate on heaven the more Christlike we will become.
Remind yourself every day that you are Marching to Zion!
Paul forgot some things.
He said “forgetting those things that are behind”.
What was behind?
He was a persecutor of the church. He could have allowed guilt of his former life to keep him from Christ likeness. Listen- God will never hold a sin against you that He has forgiven. Don’t hold forgiven sin against yourself.
He had been hurt by Christians. The church had let him down on many occasions. False teachers had slandered him. He had been put in prison. He had been beaten.
Paul had seen wonderful victories. Souls saved, churches planted, rescued from danger. But he couldn’t be satisfied with those victories. He had to keep moving forward.
If you want to grow in the Lord, you can’t live in the past. There are some things you must forget.
The devil can use failures or accomplishments in your life to convince you to stop pressing on.
Paul put great effort into his spiritual life.
Look at verse 13. “Straining forward to what lies ahead”.
The word speaks of an athlete using every muscle in his body to push himself to the finish line. It’s like a runner who sees the goal ahead and give its everything he has.
Listen to me: if we are not striving in the Christian life we are living as if we are perfect.
By our actions we are saying we have arrived.
Everyone knows we haven’t, but we’re acting as if we have.
Could your Christian life be described as striving? Is there great effort in it?
Being a Christian does not mean we are sinless, but it does mean we sin less. It means we recognize where we fall short, and we seek to overcome what has overcome us.
Peter denied he knew the Lord.
Later he got another shot, and he went to prison for Jesus.
He overcame what overcame him.
Spiritual growth means we sin less.
If you’re save you are in the race. The question is how are you running?
Are you giving it all you have? Is there sweat? Are your lungs burning?
Have you slowed down to a trot?
Are you walking?
Are you sitting in the middle of the track?
If you are not dealing with the sin in your life in a godly way you are not straining toward the goal.
Sin is like cancer. We can’t wish it away. It must be dealt with. It must be cut out. It must be removed from our life.
4. We must trust that God will reveal His truth to others (15-16).
Mature Christians will recognize the importance of striving toward Christlike perfection.
Go back to verses 1-11 and you’ll see Paul warning against the false teaching that perfection can be attained through keeping the Law. There were those who thought perfection could come by human means. These were false teachers. They were in error.
Others thought that perfection should not be attempted because no one can be perfect.
Both groups were wrong. Paul says mature believers will understand the truth. The truth is perfection means to be like Jesus and those who are saved will seek to be like Him.
Do you think about your own spiritual maturity?
I need to ask myself that question.
Am I satisfied with spiritual immaturity?
If you are, there is nothing I can do for you. There is nothing anyone can do for you. God must show you your error.
I would recommend that you study Jesus. Study Him from the Word. Lay your life beside His and compare the two.
Ask yourself “Am I like Jesus?”
You may not be a bad person as far as the world’s standards go but are you like Jesus?
If you’re not, what steps are you taking to become like Him?
There are many things quit doing because Jesus would not do them.
There are things I started doing because I saw in the Word Jesus did those things.
Am I perfectly like Jesus? No, I’m not. But I’m more like Jesus than I was. My goal is to be more like Him in the future than I am now. That’s what mature Christians do. They grow in their knowledge of Jesus. They recognize how to adjust their lives in such a way that they resemble Jesus more.
There are going to be people who don’t get this. The responsibility of the mature Christian is to live up to the knowledge we have of the truth. We keep pressing on and trust that God will reveal Himself to those who reject the truth.
I want to give a subpoint on this. Significant spiritual growth will happen if we simply obey what we know to be true.
My point is you don’t have to be a great bible scholar to grow toward perfection. You can obey very simple truths from the Word.
Forgive. That’s not hard to understand. But we can’t approach Christ like perfection if we don’t forgive.
Stop sinning. If you know it’s wrong, quit. Stop doing it.
Get in the Bible. Read it a lot. Meditate on it.
Be a servant. Serve people.
The journey to Christlikeness begins with simple steps. But we must be willing to take those steps.
Are you pressing on?
Are you striving for perfection?