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Philippians 3:12-21

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Philippians 3:12–21 HCSB
12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. 17 Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, 20 but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.

Pressing on towards the goal

Philippians 3:12 HCSB
12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
He says there’s a goal. What’s the goal?
Knowing Christ.
What is knowing Christ?
Paul seems to define it for us here.
Knowing the power of his resurrection, participating in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
So that’s the goal.
And Paul says he hasn’t achieved it yet.
This verse is relief and encouragement.
Paul knows the difficulties of living in this age.
Remember how the Hebrew understanding of time works?
Present evil age and the age to come?
Paul identifies the resurrection as both the power from the age to come, but also the completion of the work of grace in the life of the believer.
The verse is a relief and encouragement because if my salvation means that I am now perfect in justification AND perfect in action than I am surely not saved.
This was possibly a teaching that the Philippian church was tempted to believe.
That if we are saved then we have recieved the fulness of perfection.
But that’s not the case is it?
Paul sees the resurrection from among the dead as the fulness of perfection.
The day that we are finally and ultimately liberated from sin will be the day that we reign with Christ in the new creation.
And in that new creation, everything will be made new.
Jesus gives us that promise in the book of Revelation as he says
“Look! I am making all things new.”
Your body, plagued and marked by sin, falls under the category of all things.
You too will be new.
Now no one here has experienced that.
But here’s the promise that Paul is offering.
Those who know Christ, have experienced the POWER of this resurrection now.
Really?
What is the greatest evidence of this?
Two parts.
1. Christ’s resurrection
and
2. Your baptism into his death.
How is that evidence of resurrection power?
Because your baptism is an image of what God’s spirit has done in your heart.
He has taken a dead rebellious heart,
and turned it into a living thing.
A living thing that actually desires what God desires.
This is only possible on the basis of Christ’s death.
You have been baptized into His death,
Paul calls it being conformed to His death.
And that it’s part of knowing God.
But what about this tension?
A tension between life and death.
Paul acknowledges this plainly.
He says,
“Not that I have already reached the goal or am fully mature.”
He’s like “Listen, the final act of grace in my life will be when my dead body is resurrected and I am free from sin and death. That hasn’t happened to me yet.”
Now there’s a temptation here right?
The temptation is,
“Well, if it’s impossible for me to be perfect shy of the resurrection, and if I’m still gonna have to deal with sin, why should I try?”
We all know people who have given up.
Whether it’s in their job,
with a family member,
or with their faith,
We all can identify with the feeling of futility.
But Paul says it’s not futile.
To give up would be to deny the real resurrection power that is ours now through the Spirit of God.
Imagine if you were an orphan who lived under the roof an abusive foster parent.
If you were delivered papers, signed by the governor of your region that certified that you had just been adopted by a loving father,
you wouldn’t throw away your adoption papers the moment you encounter something hard.
Similarly, if you were the citizen of a country that terrorized it’s citizens with torture and murder,
and you received a letter saying that a good king has defeated your oppressor and is coming to liberate you,
and along with it came a gold ring that had been on the king’s finger to ensure that the message was true, you wouldn’t throw away the ring the moment you see something hard happen.
We talk about this concept in perspectives:
The time between D-day and V-day
In World War II, V-E day is the day that victory was secured for the allied forces.
This occurred on May 8, 1945.
But many scholars of the second World War remark that the war was really won a year prior.
On June 6, 1944, hundreds of thousands of allied troops executed Operation Overlord, storming the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy, and beginning the liberation of France.
Those who study this bloody war understand that this was the definitive tipping point where victory was now SURE for the Allied forces.
This helps us reflect on our spiritual reality.
Paul is saying:
Jesus HAS done something in my life.
Which is for the ultimate purpose of something that Jesus WILL do.
And He IS working in Paul’s life now.
Three truths. HAS. WILL. IS.
PAST. FUTURE. PRESENT.
This is the tension of living between two days.
It was the same in Europe 80 years ago.
The Allied forces HAVE accomplished a stunning victory,
and they WILL accomplish total victory,
and they are ARE actively fighting the battles in Europe.
When Jesus died to sin, and then rose from the dead,
He greatly hindered the works of Satan.
He BOUND him.
If there was a bell, that once rung would announce the future death of death,
Jesus wrung it and the sound of that bell is still reverberating around the world.
Now there’s still battles going on.
The war rages in places doesn’t it?
Darkness struggles against the light.
But those know Christ,
and this is the point of this message,
know where they’re going.
And I don’t mean in this “beam me up, Scotty” rescue plan where we leave this evil world behind.
I mean that Christians, by nature of their knowledge of Christ’s death and resurrection, know that their lives are hidden in him, and now they can RUN.
Christians can run ahead with joy and confidence because they understand that their elder brother has already announced the end of the bloody war.
Which brings us to the second point.
If all this is so, how then shall we live?

Live as if your justification is true

I would venture to guess, that many of us in this room, when we think about our future,
Whether it’s our future life in this age, or in the age to come,
That we actually really struggle to even think about our future because we are very weighed down by our past.
This can manifest in a couple different ways.
Firstly, maybe you are weighed down by something that someone else has done to you.
You can’t fathom pressing forward because your life in many ways is marked and defined by what has happened to you.
You are burdened.
When you think about the age to come, you tend to think of it as more of a rescue mission.
Where one day you’ll finally die and you’ll finally have the chance to be happy.
The other way this manifests is when we are weighed down by something that WE have done to other people.
That sin.
You know the one I’m talking about.
The one that wakes you up at night and makes you question if God could ever forgive you.
The one that you hold in your back pocket as a trump card of sorts.
You say things to yourself like,
“I believe that I’m saved, but if Jesus decided to reject me over this sin, I can’t say I’d be surprised.”
You are burdened.
Your past sins are greatly hindering your ability to grow in Christ Jesus.
Let’s look to Paul here.
Philippians 3:13–14 HCSB
13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:15 HCSB
15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” —and I am the worst of them.
When Paul said this he wasn’t humble bragging.
He really meant it.
He had hurt a lot of people.
He found himself living right at the very moment in history where people were having to make a choice about what they were going to have to do about this Christ figure.
And what was Paul doing?
Arresting and killing Christians.
That is until he was arrested by Christ.
And then set free as a new man.
But Paul lived decades after that.
He had to walk into churches where he very likely had arrested or killed family members of people who were there.
How’s that for skeletons in your closet?
Do you think that was hard for Paul?
I assure you it was.
But he doesn’t camp there.
He pushes past it.
Forgetting what is behind, and reaching forward to what is ahead.
Paul doesn’t have amnesia.
He remembers his sin.
But it does not define him now.
How about a modern day example.
Steve Mccully story.
Steve Mcculy: “God is probably not going to ask you to die for him. But he is going to ask you to live for him.”
Philippians 3:15–16 HCSB
15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.
Paul makes it pretty clear here that those who are mature, pursue sanctification.
But notice how he comes across as pretty low stress as to whether someone agrees with him.
“If you think differently than me, God will reveal it to you.”
Kind of a diss IMO.
But honestly, why is Paul not concerned?
Remember what he said in the beginning of the letter.
Philippians 1:6 HCSB
6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul isn’t relying on himself or anybody else’s work to bring about the work of sanctification in the life of other believers.
It’s God’s spirit that brings this change.
And he trusts that.
So should we.
We should always be interested in how God is maturing those around us.
And we should also be confident that God is going to do it.
Are you concerned about the spiritual maturity of someone in our church?
Pray that God would bring about the fruit of righteousness in their lives, just like Paul does.
Pray for maturity in your own life too.
Resurrection power is ours now.
Ask for growth.
Now even though Paul doesn’t seem to be stressed about the sanctification journey of others,
he does want to make it clear to them yet again that those who are mature look a certain way,
and those who are enemies of the cross of Christ look another way.

Observe the two citizens

Philippians 3:17–20 HCSB
17 Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, 20 but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Two cities.
Two citizens.
Two lifestyles.
Two Masters.
One is dead.
One is alive.
One master is sin.
The other master is Christ.
First of all, we see here what our response is to be when we speak of the reality of hell.
“I say again with tears”
We need to remember the context here.
Paul has been instructing them that their righteousness comes from faith, not by outward acts like circumcision.
There were those among them who were teaching this.
And Paul says, “Their end is destruction.”
Their god is their stomach with their laws concerning foods.
Their glory is their shame.
These men were teaching that you must make a change to your body in order to be saved.
This they saw as their glory.
But because they were changing the gospel and thereby becoming enemies of the cross of Christ,
what they meant to be their glory was actually their shame.
They are focused on earthly things.
The amazing contrast of these views with the gospel that Paul teaches is that while they are trying to change the body to be saved, Jesus reverses the order.
Philippians 3:21 HCSB
21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.
He saves you, and then changes your body.
Not by the removal of a tiny piece of flesh,
but by the total renewal of your whole person.
Jesus real bona fide flesh and blood body is the prototype for our own resurrection bodies.
A resurrected Christ is the reason why our faith is not simply an intellectual one.
It’s the faith of the poor and the poor in spirit.
It’s a faith that our elder brother will raise us up to be like him.
He already defeated our enemies.
Now he’s going to heal us forever.
How?
By the power that enables him to do all things.
By God’s power.
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