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Philippians 3:12-16 - Going All Out

Philippians - Joy for the Journey  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:31
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You can go all-out for Christ because He went all-in for you

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Introduction

Have you ever walked into a new situation where you felt completely out of place, completely out of your depth? Maybe it was your first day at a new job, or the first day of class in college; maybe it was stepping onto the practice field for the first time in a sport—whatever the specific circumstances, we’ve all been there. It seems like everyone around you is so much more competent, so much better at everything, it’s easy to feel so intimidated that you just want to hang back, keep your head down, just try not to make a fool of yourself by saying or doing something wrong.
And it’s not just in sports or a new job or a new school where that kind of thing takes place—it’s not unusual to feel that way the first time you walk into a church, too. Maybe you’ve had that struggle—it seems like everyone else is so much farther along in their Christian life, so much more “spiritual” than you. You feel like your questions are too silly to ask, your struggles are so far beneath the rest of the church that you don’t want to share them—sometimes you don’t even feel like you belong in church.
And unfortunately, though most churches would never want new Christians to feel that way, there are some people who do embrace some pretty destructive teachings in this regard. There are some churches that teach a very harmful doctrine that says that when you become spiritual enough you actually stop sinning in this life. This idea of “sinless perfection” for a Christian (also called “entire sanctification” or “higher life theology”, or “second indwelling of the Holy Spirit”) basically teaches that believers must seek to have another spiritual experience beyond their initial salvation—whether it is “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” of Pentecostalism or the “higher life” of Keswick theology or the “Carnal Christian/Spiritual Christian” distinction of teachers like Lewis Sperry Chafer and Charles Ryrie. No matter what you label it, it all comes down to the teaching that some believers have arrived at a level of spiritual superiority that makes them “next-level Christians”. To paraphrase George Orwell, “All Christians are equal, but some Christians are more equal than others!”
Here in our text this morning, the Apostle Paul is tackling this destructive idea head on—he has been dealing with his ministry competitors who are setting themselves over him in his imprisonment, he has been warning the church about the false teachers who want the Philippians to observe the Mosaic Law in order to become “next level” Christians, he has to rein in the selfish ambition and arguing going on in the Philippian church. And all of it seems to be stemming from the notion that there is some kind of “next-level Christianity” out there that has everything figured out, that never struggles with sin, that always has it together spiritually, that has the resurrection power of Christ flowing through it so completely that there are no more trials or pains in this world.
So the first thing you hear Paul say in this passage is basically, “If there is such a thing as a ‘next-level Christian’, I ain’t it!!!” “Not that I have already obtained this, or am already perfect...” (3:12), “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own...” (3:13). Paul wants to make sure his readers know that he is not some kind of superstar spiritual Christian—he strives and reaches for that perfection, he wants to see more Christlikeness and holiness and victory over sin in his life—but the only reason he can strive and work and reach for the kind of holiness God calls him to is because Jesus has laid hold of him!
Philippians 3:12 ESV
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.
Here is what I want you to see today, that
You can go “ALL-OUT” for Christ because He went “ALL-IN” for you
There is no reason to stand on the sidelines, or try to shrink into a corner because you don’t think you can keep up or because you don’t think you belong with all the “spiritual” people in church—the only reason anyone can go “all-out” in ministry or in evangelism or in Bible study or prayer or worship or discipleship or anything else is because Jesus Christ has laid hold of us!
That’s the first thing we see in verse 12—you can go “all-out” for Christ because of

I. His HOLD on you (Philippians 3:12)

Look again at verse 12:
Philippians 3:12 ESV
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.
The word for “made me his own” has the idea of “laying claim to something by laying hands on it”—to be “laid hold on by Christ Jesus” as it says in other translations. Paul says he is “pressing on” to grab hold of the promises of his salvation because Jesus has His hold on Paul! Christian, you can go “all-in” for Christ because
He MADE you His OWN
Think on this for a moment, Christian—Jesus said in Luke 19:10
Luke 19:10 ESV
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus came to earth looking for you! Paul wrote to Timothy
1 Timothy 1:15 ESV
15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Do you understand this? Jesus Christ came to this earth looking for you! And when He called you, you heard His voice and followed Him (John 10:3). And He laid hold on you and “gave you eternal life, and you will never perish and no one can snatch you out of His hand! (John 10:28)! And He sealed his possession of you by “purchasing you with His blood” (Revelation 5:9) so that you belong to Him forever!
And Christian, if Christ made you His own, then that means
You BELONG in this RACE
When Paul says in verse 12 that he “presses on to make it his own”, the word for “press on” has the idea of running to catch a prize—
Christian, don’t you be intimidated by the way other believers are pressing on toward that goal of Christlikeness and holiness—don’t feel like you “don’t belong” or “can’t keep up”, because everyone in this race—from the Apostle Paul to that former demon-possessed drug addict that he met in Philippi in Acts 16—everyone in this race is pressing on and striving for the holiness and maturity that God has promised because Jesus has laid hold of us! As we will see a bit later on, the only Christians who think they have “arrived” are the ones too immature to know better!
Paul says that you can go “all-out” for Christ because He went “all-in” for you. You can go all out for Him because of His hold on you, and in verses 13-14 we see that you can go all out because of

II. His PROMISE to you (Philippians 3:13-14)

Look at verses 13-14:
Philippians 3:13–14 ESV
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.
The word underneath the English translation “pressing on” gives the idea of chasing down something in order to get hold of it—like your dog takes off running and you have to chase it down to get hold of its leash. Paul says that he has been “called upward” in Christ—God has called him to greater holiness in this life, God has called him to become more like Jesus, to have greater victory over sin,
Philippians 3:10–11 ESV
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.
And there are two characteristics of Paul’s “pressing on” that he wants us to see—two things that you must do if you want to “press on” toward the goal of God’s call to you.
First, he says, because of Christ’s promises to you, you can
FORGET about YESTERDAY (Romans 8:1)
Isn’t that what he’s saying there in verse 13? “Forgetting what lies behind...” How often do those voices of your past guilt and shame whispering in your ear, “You don’t deserve to be numbered among Christians! If these people knew what you did back there, they’d throw you out on your ear and never speak to you again!” Now, the Bible makes it clear that if you have come to God in repentance for that sin, if you have pleaded for the blood of Christ to cleanse you from it and you have turned away from it, then you are forgiven, then He has promised you that
Romans 8:1 ESV
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
He has promised you that
Psalm 51:7 ESV
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
He has promised that
Psalm 103:12 ESV
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
He has promised that
1 John 1:9 ESV
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Whether it is sin from twenty years ago, or a battle with sin that you fought and lost last week—Paul says, “Don’t let one loss beat you twice!” Don’t look back and fret over sin God has already promised He has forgiven you in Christ!
Forget about yesterday’s sins, and as we saw earlier in Chapter 3, we are also to forget about yesterday’s successes—don’t “rest on your laurels” or coast by on things that you have done for God in the past—Paul says that we are to
REACH for the PRIZE (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Paul says he is “forgetting what lies behind” and “straining forward to what lies ahead”. The word for “straining forward” means to stretch out ahead as far as possible—like the runners we see in the Olympics who get close to the tape and thrust their heads forward to gain maybe another fraction of an inch closer to the finish line. Paul is not passive about reaching the finish line, he is straining to get there! He is “forgetting” what lies behind him—he is not counting on his past successes, he is not resting on some former ministry accomplishment or past height of spiritual health. He wants to press on and get there to the reward God has promised him in Christ.
And make no mistake—Paul is not telling us that we need to strain ahead because of a fear that we won’t get there. The straining ahead to reach the finish line is out of our eagerness to get there! Paul says, “I just can’t wait to reach the goal of my resurrection in Jesus! Everything in me wants to be like Jesus in this life and to be with Jesus in the next! That’s what he has in mind when he says that he is pressing on to the “upward call of God in Christ”—God has called him upward out of his sin and guilt and shame, upward out of the power of sin to entangle him. He hasn’t reached some tranquil plane of “next-level Christianity” where there are no more battles with the flesh, no more sufferings and trials of this world.
No, Paul strains and reaches and stretches just a little bit more every day—every day another little victory over sin, every day another habit of Christlikeness, every day one more step towards his reward when he will be called upward to eternal life in the presence of Christ in Heaven. And he says, “I just can’t wait!” Because of God’s promises in Christ Paul can forget about yesterday’s sin and press on towards tomorrow’s rewards, reaching for the prize of eternal life in Christ!
Christian, you can go “all-out” for Christ because He went “all-in” for you—He went all in on His hold on you, purchasing you with His blood and making you His own. He goes “all in” in the promises He has made to you that your sins are forgiven and your reward with Him in Heaven is utterly secure. And He has gone “all-in” to show you the way to maturity in Him—all-in in

III. His REVELATION to you (Philippians 3:15-16)

Paul wants his readers to understand that there is nothing that can intimidate them about going “all-in” in their walk with Christ—no reason for them to hang back or be timid or uncertain in their Christian life. And in verses 15-16 he makes it clear to the so-called “next-level Christians” that the Christians who think they have “arrived” spiritually are the ones too immature to know better!
Philippians 3:15–16 ESV
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.
The word translated “mature” here gives the sense of something (or someone) who has been “completed”—a finished work, an accomplished task. Paul says that God will reveal to you
What SPIRITUAL MATURITY really is (Philippians 3:15)
If you take verse 15 in its context, what Paul is really saying here is that “mature” Christians are the ones who realize how far they have to go to be “perfect!” Only an immature Christian believes that they have it all together in their spiritual lives. But the more you grow into maturity as a Christian, the more Christlike you become, the more unlike Christ you will feel yourself to be! The more clearly you see Jesus, the more you see how far you have to go to resemble Him! The more victory you experience in your daily war against the sin that still dwells in you, the more sinful you will see yourself to be!
Think about this for a moment, and you will see that it is true. Think of the most Christlike, most personally holy individual you have ever known—I think of one of my professors in Bible college; his kindness and patience and joy and gentleness and love for Christ still stands out to me decades later. But when I imagine saying to him, “Dr. Showers, I’ll bet you don’t even sin anymore, do you?”, all I can think about is him bursting into laughter at such a foolish statement! It is a “trustworthy statement, and worthy of full acceptance”, that the most Christlike person you know will tell you how full of sin he still is, and the Christian who behaves in such a way as to make you feel like they are so far beyond you in holiness and sanctification is a Christian who doesn’t really understand what Paul is saying here in these verses!
Paul says that Christian maturity teaches us how far we still have to go as we press on to arrive at the resurrection glory God has promised us in Christ. God reveals to us what perfection really is, and in verse 16 we get a glimpse of
What a FAITHFUL LIFE really is (Philippians 3:16)
Look again at verse 16:
Philippians 3:16 ESV
16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
The idea of “holding true” here is to “keep on the same line”—have you ever seen how some hospitals will put lines on the floor to direct you to different departments? That’s the idea here in this verse—keep following the line that Christ has laid out for you! Do the thing that He has shown you to do! So many people believe that the Christian life advances by these great and glorious moments of spiritual mountaintops—miraculous deliverance from disease or addiction, broken families coming together in spectacular displays of reconciliation, instantaneous and complete victory over a pattern of sin.
Make no mistake—we serve a God who can do these miraculous things, and sometimes does. But don’t fall into the mistake of believing that God does those big miraculous things in other Christians’ lives and ministries because they are somehow more advanced, more worthy, more “next-level” than you are! That is not what we read in these verses—Paul is saying here at the end of our passage that we are to “hold to what we have attained”—whatever God has revealed to you to do as you walk in Him, do that thing.
Beloved, your Christian maturity does not come about by the big, miraculous, mountain-top experiences of God’s acts of power—it can, and sometimes does. But far more often—far more often!—your growth in maturity comes as you “press on” in the small, everyday moments of your life. With each morning that you pick up your Bible to read a few pages, every time that you respond to a harsh accusation with grace, every time you turn aside for a few moments of prayer, every Sunday morning wrangling kids into carseats to head to church, every time you turn your desires toward Christ and away from the images on your phone screen, every time you put a couple of tracts in your pocket as you head out the door in case you get to share the Gospel...
These small, ordinary things that nobody will ever notice, that will never make a flashy “testimony”, will never get you your own segment on The 700 Club, those little “insignificant” moments of faithfulness that you carry out because of Jesus’ hold on you, in light of His promises to you, as He reveals Himself to you more and more. THESE are the building-blocks of Christlike character and Christian maturity that He is pleased to use in your life as you press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!
Christian, don’t ever let anyone cause you to believe that you are “not good enough” to go “all-in” for Christ! Don’t let the memory of past sins and failures—sins that have been repented of and washed away by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ—cripple you as you press on toward God’s call to you! Press on to lay hold of all of His promises for you knowing that He has laid hold of you—He has made you His own by His own blood, and He will not let you go!
And don’t look back and coast by on all of your past spiritual successes and mountaintop experiences—you press on to Christ! When you see how much He has promised you, when you treasure Him beyond anything else in this life, why in the world would you want to just coast? Look at the promises He has made to you about the joy and the glory and the delight and the perfect fellowship that awaits you in His presence, and spend yourself—even down to the last breath of your life—straining ahead to reach the prize of your resurrection from the dead in Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

What does the Apostle Paul say about his satisfaction with his spiritual maturity in his life as a Christian? What does this tell us about the way we should understand our progress in becoming more like Christ?
Are you more likely to be discouraged from going “all-out” for Christ by your past sins, or because you are “coasting” on the strengths of your past successes and victories? What does Philippians 3:13 tell you about how you should relate to your past?
Paul says that pressing on toward becoming like Jesus in his life is the “one thing” that he does. What would people who know you well say is your “one thing”? What is the overriding passion, the greatest goal of your life? Pray this week that God would draw you more and more to going “all-out” for Christ.
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