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Brand New Day

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Phil 3:13-14 – “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Do you have any goals for the future? Financial or family or personal? Sure you
do. We all have goals, even if we never write them down on paper. We have places
we hope to one day be in life. That’s called dreams, and the minute you stop
dreaming, you start dying. Paul had a dream of what God would do in the days
ahead.
So how do you make sure that you are doing what Paul talks about here in
scripture? The first thing is:

Forget the Past

Paul says that he remembers no longer the things in the rear view mirror. Well, this
can’t be taken literally, of course. Paul didn’t want us to forget everything. History
is important! Paul remembered his knowledge of Scripture, he remembered his
conversion experience, he remembered the call that God had placed on his life. He
did not forget God’s grace and what Christ had done for him and in him and
through him. There were lots of things on the forefront of his mind that involved
his history.
So what does he mean when he says that he is forgetting the past? He means that
he will not let the past overshadow the present. He will not let “where he has been”
dictate “where he will one day be.” He’s keeping his eyes on the road and he
would not be distracted.
All of us who drive cars can understand this illustration. Which of us, has not been
distracted by a child in the back seat, or a police car in our rear view mirror?
Suddenly, we don’t see that the brake lights of the SUV before us. When we focus
on what is behind, we get distracted from what is ahead. And I don’t have to tell
you, what is right in front of you is far more important than what’s 100 yards
behind you. That’s true in driving, and it’s true in life! The secret to our happiness
is learning to look ahead at what God is going to do next.
And let me just say a word to those of us in the room who are getting “older,”
whose skin is starting to wrinkle—those of you who now qualify for good parking
and 10% discounts. You know who you are! Let me say something to you. We live
in a culture that fights the process of aging at all costs. It is considered a disgrace
in our country when a woman loses her shape or a man loses his ability to play full
court basketball. We don’t want to admit that we are getting older, but I want you
to know how refreshing it is when an older person says, “I love my life. I love this
season of life. It’s good and it’s blessed. And I wouldn’t go back. I lived high
school once and now, I’m living this season with joy.” That kind of person who
lives in contentment—that person is a breath of fresh air, an inspiration.
We should not spend our moments wishing we could hop in a time machine. We
should thank God for days we have right now, and the days we have coming in
heaven. This is the day that the Lord has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.
You remember, in the Old Testament, when God led the people of Israel out of
Egypt toward the Promised Land, he provided everything that they needed for their
journey. They had shade by day and light by night. They had water to drink and
manna to eat. The time came, however, when the people took their eyes off the
future and the land that God was giving them and they focused on their old life in
Egypt. They said,
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons,
leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see
anything but this manna!‖
(Num. 11:5–6).
The people of Israel began to look back and failed to trust God for their present
and future blessings. Should we be thankful for previous blessings? Absolutely!
An attitude of gratitude is essential, but if your Christian testimony is entirely
taken up with what God did for you thirty or forty years ago, or if you are
constantly talking about the good old days when God’s blessing on your life
seemed great, then you are living in the past.
You are living a leeks-and-garlic type of Christianity, and Paul warns against it.
There can be no progress without this proper forgetting. What is there in your life,
that God says, “You gotta let that go!”
What are those things that are holding you back from the life that he NOW wants
you to lead?
The second thing Paul claims to have done…

Reach Forward

Look again at v.13…
Phil 3:13 – “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,”
Someone once asked a famous missionary, David Livingstone, when he came off
the field in Africa, “Well, Dr. Livingstone, where are you ready to go now?”
Livingstone answered, “I am ready to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”
That is what Paul would have said. Paul’s sense of the Lord’s leading was always
linked to his awareness of open doors. Paul expected the Lord to open doors, and
when he did, Paul went through them instantly. Paul was constantly striving
toward those things that were ahead.
Now, many people misunderstand this verse. When Paul says that “I’m striving
toward what is ahead, he has called me heavenward,” many people take that to
mean a far off distant point in the future. So, to live life successfully today, I
should just sit around and think about heaven all day long. I should look at this
world with total disgust, reject everything I see, and focus all my energy on the
rewards that will come with the new heaven and the new earth.
This is NOT what Paul means. Far too many people get wrapped up in endtimes
discussions that paralyze them for the present. The only reason Jesus gave us
information about the end was because it would motivate us for the NOW! Don’t
live your life way back in the past, and don’t live your life 50 years in the future,
press on in the present.
Now, there are two textual clues that help us understand this idea. First, verse 14
speaks of the “heavenward” calling of God in Christ Jesus. This throws the
emphasis of the verse upon the ascent, the climb, the journey. We are on are way,
but we are not there yet! We’ve got to keep striving with all our might. This word
“heavenward” helps us understand this better.
Second, Paul mentions God’s “call” in v. 14.
Phil 3:14 – “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called
me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
He has “called me” heavenward. In the New Testament when this word is used of a
Christian, it almost always refers to God’s calling to be conformed day by day to
the image of Jesus Christ. That, too, is a reference to the present.
What Paul is saying is: Run this race! Today is a new day, with new lessons to be
learned, new victories to be won, new memories to create for the treasure box. And
at the end of every day, lay your head down on your pillow and pray, “Lord, I have
done my best with this day, and I thank you for the blessings it held. Give me rest
now, and let me put these experiences behind me, that I might serve you better
tomorrow!
And that’s true for all of us. God’s mercies are new every morning and there are
new things to run after. He is leading you on an upward journey. You are going
heavenward if you follow Jesus day by day.
Look back at v.12…
Phil 3:12 – “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at
my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of
me.
What does this say? I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way!!!
Conclusion
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