If you have your Bibles I invite you to turn to Phil 3:12-21
The ESV Bible gives our passage a great title, Straining Toward the Goal.
Opener Many of us have had goals that have cause us to strain, to push ourself, goals that took determination. If you are married you know the goal of having a healthy marriage and a lasting marriage can be difficult. Having a healthy lasting marriage at times demands that we strain to hold our relationships together. Why do we strain to do this and make sacrifices? Because our relationships with our spouse is worth it. Because we want to glorify the Lord with our marriage. So at times we strain and work hard to meet the goal.
Start in the context of verse 10
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Paul is desperate to reach His goal. He is willing to sacrifice to meet his goal.
What is his goal? Grasping on to Christ (X2)
I. Grasping on to Christ, vs. 12-13a
What is this, “Not that I have already obtained this”?
What is this, “I press on to make it my own”?
What do these statement mean?
See if you can relate to this.
Paul knew that Christ had fully apprehended him. Paul knew that Christ had all of him. Paul was fully in the grip of Jesus. He was saved.
But - While Christ has all of Paul, Paul did not have all of Christ.
Paul realized that he needed to have all of Christ, not just some of Christ.
Paul realized that there was more of Jesus that he still had to grow into.
Illustration - As a child have you ever given clothes that were a little too big and told - you’ll grow into that. Maybe a hand-me-me down shirt that hung on you too much.
One of the frustrations and the beauties of walking with Jesus is that in this lifetime you will never get to know all of Jesus.
Illustration - Getting to know Jesus is like discovering a cave that has precious stones in the walls. The further you go the more you find of Jesus’ beauty, splendor, goodness & grace. You think, this amazing cave can’t be more than half a mile deep at the most. Little do you know, the cave is 10,000 miles deep, plus it has many fingers and branches that can be explored. You will never in your lifetime be able to explore and discover all splendor and treasure of this cave.
It’s the same with walking with Jesus.
It takes a lifetime to begin to know Jesus. Every step there is a new facet to his greatness for you to discover.
So Paul tells us in verse 12, “…but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
Paul continues to grasp on to more and more of Christ.
Christ is his treasure, everything else disappoints. So Paul grasps on to Christ.
Transition - Then Paul tell his reader not only that he continues to grasp on to more and more of Christ, but how to grasp on.
How to grasp on (x2)
By Pressing on toward Christ. x2
2. Pressing on toward Christ, vs 13b-16
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Paul gives this emphasis...
“But one thing I do...” Shows this is Paul’s highest priority, which captivates his full attention and focus. Paul says, “If i do anything, I make sure that I do this one thing.”
It’s not, debate in the synagogue about who Jesus is.
It’s not, write more letters to the churches telling them how t follow Jesus.
The one thing comes in in 3 parts in verse 13 & 14.
A. Forgetting what lies behind: Paul has 2 things that lie behind.
1) A lifetime of following the O.T. Laws exactly.
Paul has trophies from his past. He has accomplishments. When he was a jew, following the Pahrisee’s way, he obeyed and followed the O.T. law as well as anyone. He was set up to be a major influencer and possible spiritual leader.
Paul had worked hard, he was good at following the O.T. law, he was professional, he was accomplished and had a lot to show for it.
-He forgets what lies behind. Phil 3:8 says that He counts all things as loss compared with the worth of knowing Jesus.
He looks back at his earlier life and lays the trophies of his past accomplishments down.
Paul, refuses to find his identity and his value in the performance of past accomplishments.
Application - If you are a Christ follower, Your accomplishments are not what defines our identity.
Being a follower of Jesus is what defines you identity.
Transition - When Paul looks back at His life he not only has trophies in his past, but he has failure in his past.
Paul forgets not only the trophies of the past , but he forgets the failure of the past.
b. Failure of the past - Paul was a harsh persecutor of Christians. He approved of their killing. He threw Christians in jail. Paul has a lot to be ashamed of.
If Paul is going to Press Into Christ he must forget the failure of the past.
I want you to listen carefully.
Like Paul these 2 big things will hold you back spiritually.
1. Finding our value/identity in past achievements instead of Christ.
2. Allowing yesterday’s failures to destroy today’s successes.
-There are so many Christ followers who believe that because of a sin in their past that God cannot use them in His Kingdom.
That is a lie straight from the pit of hell.
Don’t you think Satan got in Paul’s face multiple times and remind him of his past failures.
-Approving of the killing of Christians.
-Arresting and throwing Christians in jail.
-Satan says, God can’t use you.
Not only did God use Paul, but made him the most influential apostle.
Paul made a conscious decision to receive God’s forgiveness and “forget what lies behind.”
-To go forward spiritually you must spiritually reach up, take the rear view mirror with your hand, tear it off and give it to Jesus. If Jesus is going to be your highest priority there is no looking back at past regrets, sins and mistakes, but excepting his forgiveness and going forward. Forgetting what lies behind.
Transition - In our passage Paul says, “One thing I doL forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.
vs. 13, Straining forward
“straining forward (“reaching forward” KJV) to what lies ahead” - shows the energy that Paul is willing to give. Paul is lunging for the goal. He is pushing himself to sprint the last 100 yards of the race. He is stretching and diving to catch the overthrown pass. He knows what the goal is.
WHAT IS THE GOAL? Paul lives all out to have a daily deep walk with Jesus. The goal is not just to casually know the Savior, but to walk with Him, to commune with Him.
Paul is willing to strain forward. Give energy. Challenge himself to more deeply learn to connect with and commune with Jesus.
There are some who are listening who are not as close to God as you would like. You want more of Him, but you don’t have more of Him.
Paul strained, reached and pressed himself to know Jesus more.
Q - Let me ask you this question. Do you need to give more effort?
A good relationship takes serious effort.
Your Father and mother can’t do it for you. Your Sunday School teacher and deacon can’t do it for you. Your pastor can’t do it for you. You have to make the effort to grow closer to Him.
Q- What do you need to do to strain forward to be closer to God?
-Spend time with Him in the Scripture and prayer on a daily bases?
Add to your Bible reading a good Christian book.
Memorize scripture, listen regularly to helpful podcasts?
If you have
Paul, leaves the trophies of the past and rejects his past failure to walk close with Jesus.
So far in our message we see the challenge to:
Grasp on to Christ, by pressing into Christ. Finally, we are called to...
3. Preparing for Eternity with Christ, vs 17-21
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Q - Have you as a Christ follower ever found yourself longing for something more?
Have you ever thought, I love Jesus, I’m walking with Him, but I know there is something I am missing.
Commentary - A baby desires or longs food & there is milk, and college young man desires companionship and there is marriage. When God gives us desires, He gives us means for these desires to be met. When you find yourself aching in your heart for something, something that cannot be found in this world, something that this world cannot offer. That desire is meant to be met in another world. It is these desires that will only be met in heaven with Christ.
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Paul reminds us in this passage that this world is not our home. You were not created for this world. You were created for heaven, to be with Jesus.
As Christ followers we don’t live for today, not living for the pleasure of this world. We are to be living for eternity.
We strain and make Christ Jesus our own now on this earth in preparation for seeing Him face to face.
Eternity illustration - Imagine a rope stretch out from where I am standing to the stop sign (200 feet). That rope represents your life including your eternal life. Your life from birth to eternity. There is a portion of this rope that represents your life on earth and a portion of this rope that represents your life in heaven.
-The portion that represents your life is only the first inch. You are just starting to live. How you grasp on to and press into Christ now will effect the rest of your eternity.
The Bible says this about Heaven...
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
-So we live now preparing ourself for an eternity With Jesus.
We grasp on to Him now, We press into Him now, as we prepare for an eternity with Jesus.
Unbeliever, What is holding you back from following Jesus?
Jesus has a place for you in heaven.
He died on the cross to make a payment for your sins.
He desire to forgive your sins.
He desires to give you a new identity as one who follow Him.
Will you give your life to Him now?