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Joy in Christ-Centered Goals- Phil. 3:12-16

Joy in Christ (Philippians)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A sermon discussing the goal-oriented life of a disciple of Christ


Joy in Christ-Centered Goals- Phil. 3:12-16

He is risen! We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord this morning. Our passage of focus builds upon Holy Week, providing the so what to the why Jesus died.
Paul, in 3:2-11, warns against a dependence upon one’s works in the Law for salvation. He contrasts his accomplishments in the life of Judaism with the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ. He ends that section with these words, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible, I may attain the resurrection of the dead.” This past Thursday we looked at Scripture and spent time in serious contemplation and soul reflection at the betrayal, torture, and death of Jesus.
This morning we are talking about the results, or the ramifications of Easter Sunday. What does the resurrection of Jesus change? It changes everything, no doubt. We now have direct access to God. We are saved from our sins. We are transported out of the kingdom of darkness and into his marvelous light. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the sacred Word of God, and the Church to help us grow. Everything has changed.
But one often overlooked change involves our goals. While there are certainly exceptions, most people have goals for their lives. They may be short (such as making through this sermon) or long (such as achieving a highly successful career). They may seem insignificant (like beating the rush hour) or without equal (such as marrying the girl of your dreams).
Jesus is risen from the dead, and that changes everything, including, and I would say, importantly, our goals. What are you living for? Or, to put it more biblically, for whom are you living?
If you are to celebrate the resurrection of Christ in a way that glorifies the triune God and helps you the most, you must live with Christ-centered goals.
Now, before we dive in and it is apparent that I am using the word goals in the plural rather than goal in the singular. This is purposeful. While, in general, we are all to live for the glory of God (i.e., our goal), we are all called to different lives (hence the need for goals). On this thought Francis De Sales writes, “in a similar way He [Christ] commands Christians, who are the living plants of His Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each according to his calling and vocation.”
The single mother’s goals will look differently than the retired man’s. The widow’s goals will be drastically different than the teenager about to graduate high school.

I. Christ-Centered Goals are inherently present- 3:12

While some view the work of Christ as only a get-out-of-hell card, it is much more. It deals with our present lives, our roles and responsibilities as citizens, spouses, children of God. It changes the life of the new father and the retired grandfather. It changes the life of the recent college graduate and the widower of 15 years. It changes you, where you are and to what God has called and gifted you to do.
Paul states that Jesus made Paul His own. This happened in Acts chapter 9. Paul, the persecutor of the church, was on his way to Damascus to continue imprisoning and persecuting the church. But Jesus changes His plans (or, goals). Rather than persecuting the church, Paul would now be planting churches. Rather than imprisoning followers of Jesus Christ, Paul would be encouraging followers of Jesus Christ.
Though Paul has changed tremendously, he is not perfect. Paul realizes his state. He has not obtained the knowledge of Christ (see verse 11) and he is not perfect (see vs. 9). He is in the position in which we find ourselves: the present life. Paul, as well as us today, are in the realm of transformation. We live in the now and not yet part of the Christian life. I find the words of the Baptist Faith and Message helpful here,
“Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.”
Paul, though not having achieved the perfection that comes in glorification, realizes that his life is differently. As such, he presses on, he pursues, like a race (the analogy here) that goal of knowing and being like Jesus. He puts forth effort. That is Paul’s goal, it is present, it is timely, it involves this life.
Are your goals centered around Christ today? I mean, are you actively learning about and living like Jesus Christ? He is risen, and because He is risen, our present goals change. Our lives change right now. We do not say we will serve God in the future, because Jesus is risen, we serve Him now.
What are you actively doing now, to achieve your goals? If you are a father or a mother, your privilege is to raise your child (or, children) in the discipline and instruction in the LORD. Your goals as a parent, while also teaching your children education, health, and financial responsibility, must include the Christ-centered goal of seeing them become like Jesus.
Christ-centered goals are inherently present. They focus on life in the here and now. But they (as is evidenced in the name), are intensely focused.

II. Christ-Centered Goals are intensely focused- 3:13-14

Our goals are Christ-centered, and only Christ-centered. We serve one master, because as our risen Lord taught us, we cannot serve two masters (cf. Matt. 6:24). Too many Christians attempt to live for two masters, Christ and self, Christ and work, Christ and (you fill in the blank). The resurrection changed everything. It not only changed our goals to Christ-centered goals, they are changed into intensely focused goals.
While there are many who are intensely focused on ungodly goals, Christ changes our focus on HIs goals to become intense. Notice Paul’s description here in these two verses.

A. Paul does not look to the past- 13a

Paul says he does one thing, he forgets the past. It passes from his memory. It is not a spiritual amnesia, rather it is an indifference. Most of what occurs in our lives simply pass from memory. Why? Is it because we do not care about the daily stuff? Of course not, it has more to due to the fact that we are simply indifferent to the daily things.
We remember anniversaries, weddings, the birth of a child, and similar events because they are important. Now, there are two possibilities to what Paul forgets: his past accomplishments and his past sins. Either way, he was not focused on them.
If we are not careful, we can become satisfied at an accomplishment and stop pursuing the goal. We think we are good because we did such and such. But this is not an event, it is a race. We continue to run.
Likewise, we cannot be held back by mistakes. We cannot run an effective race while constantly looking backward. Here is Paul, a former persecutor of the church, now preaching the Gospel he formerly imprisoned people. We all make mistakes. Some mistakes are bigger than others, no doubt. But God has forgiven us in Christ, and we are no longer to focus on the past. We forget it, it passes from our memories as we strain toward the goal.

B. Paul strains toward the goal- 13b

Like a runner leaning toward the finish line, Paul was straining toward the goal. This picture does not give the impression of apathy. It is intense. Its the face that Tom Brady makes when he knows he has to score a touchdown. His face is intense. That is how Paul handled his goal of reaching Christ. He pushes to the end, the goal.
Can this be said of us? Jesus is alive, it changes everything, how are we focused, apathetically, or intensely? Strain toward the goal!

C. Paul knew his goal- 14

What is the goal? In a word, Christ. But it needs elaboration, as Paul does for us in verse 14. The goal is the full realization of Christlikeness. It is spoken about in 1 John 3:3 and here in this letter in Phil. 1:6.
This specific goal helps up increase our intensity. When we know our destination, it makes the trip seem easier. If you have even run a race, you know how seeing the finish line gives your a burst of energy. Paul wants to be like Christ (see verse 12) and runs the race accordingly, knowing that the prize will be received as the hand of God due to God’s saving of Paul.
What is your goal? While we all have different lives, callings, or vocations, our main goal is to be like Christ. Are you intensely focused on that? It is a Christ-centered goal, if you will. Christ should be the goal from which all other goals stem. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
Christ-centered goals are inherently present, they involve the here and now. They are also intensely focused—forgetting about the past failures or success—pressing with all our efforts to the goal of Christlikeness. But these all factor on ourselves, in our own situations and callings. How does this affect others? To that we turn our attention to Christ-Centered Goals Leave Room for Growth.

III. Christ-Centered Goals leave room for growth- 3:15-16

Paul attaches what I find to be an encouraging statement as well as a convicting statement. He desires that mature people be patient with others as they grow in their relationship to the LORD.
We need to practice brotherly and sisterly love with each other as we all grow together. But Paul gives us three thoughts to help us as we strive for Christ-centered goals.

A. Maturity involves godliness in life and knowledge- 15

At times we are tempted to think of maturity (in the faith, I mean) as tied to giving, or family ties, or even length of membership. None of these things, however, demonstrate maturity.
God’s view of maturity depends on godliness (like-God-ness) in life and knowledge. We have discussed the idea of lifestyle with Paul’s phrase “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). The Christian life, having Christ-centered goals, involves our lives (how we think, speak, and act).
But maturity is also tied to knowledge of God. That is, doctrine. It would be a wise use of your time to set aside a few hours and look at all the doctrines that are found in the book of Philippians.
So, is your life like Christ? I do not mean are you perfect. Do you know the Scriptures? You do not have to have a theology degree. We strive for maturity (an off-shoot goal).

B. Maturity is demonstrated with patience- 15

How do you know if you are mature? I mean, besides the life and knowledge. You are mature when you can hold a differing view (biblically) without being onerous or mean or separatist. It means you can hold to your understanding of Scripture (rightly, I may add) without a look of condescension on your brother or sister in Christ.
Christ’s work makes all of this possible. We celebrate the resurrection in particular today, but His person (who He is) and His work (what He did and is doing) is the way, the means by which we grow (i.e., mature).
Apparently, there were some in the church at Philippi that were not growing as quickly as others (isn’t this true of any church). Paul exhorted these believers to be patient. While striving for our goals, we must remember to be patient with one another. We all, as physical and spiritual beings, mature at different rates. Let us be patient with one another.

C. Regardless of maturity, faithfulness to Truth is necessary- 16

Slowness in growth is not an excuse not to grow. Paul reminds us that we should hold fast to what we have learned already. I am not a learner, I cannot think like that, or I am too old to learn a new trick are not viable excuses in on our way to maturity.
We spend our lives striving for all sorts of goals, some outright sins and others just plain pointless. If we are to have joy, true, biblical and God-honoring joy, we must have Christ-centered goals. Paul has given us great insight into how to obtain these goals.
Consider your present goals. What are they? Do they align with God’s desires? Confess or commit accordingly.
Consider your intensity. While we acknowledge there is always room for improvement, we need to ask ourselves, has my life been intently focused on God?
Consider your interactions with others. Are you patient, or easily irritable? Do you look down on others for their knowledge or lack thereof?
Each one offers an opportunity to witness the power of the resurrected Christ. Remember, Christ Jesus made Paul His own, just as He makes all who believe His own. He works in everyone who believes to realign their goals to match His, to make them focus, intently, on His goals, and then provides them with maturity to help others on their path toward Christlikeness.
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