- Sermon Notes
This morning we are going to turn to Philippians chapter three, where the church is given an athletic analogy using imagery from an athletic competition, to help the church at Philippi leave the past behind and pursue the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:12-14, Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
In this text, Paul acknowledges that there is a past, but he tells the church to put the past in its place (the past) and reach forward toward all God has! It is a section of Scripture that informs us of what we are to do while we are in the in-between, when we understand that there is much the Lord has for us to pursue, when we know that we are to “run the race” but there are great challenges we all face, and many obstacles that have gotten in the way.
Athletic analogies and illustrations that are given frequently in the New Testament and often come specifically from Paul. It is apparent that Paul believed there were some important realities that athletic competitions can give as we live out our lives for Christ.
Bible References: 2 Timothy 4:7, 1 Corinthians 9:26(b), Ephesians 6:12(a), 1 Corinthians 24, 26(a), Philippians 2:16, Galatians 2:2, Galatians 5:7, Hebrews 12:1.
With these Scriptures and analogies in place, we are going to look at some specific aspects of running a successful race and reaching forward regardless of where you have been or where you find yourself currently that Paul wrote about in Philippians 3.
- Be Aware of Where You Are
Philippians 3:12, Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
- In verse 12, Paul displays a recognition of his place and the importance of pressing on from that place.
- In the verses leading up to verse 12, Paul spoke about the transformation in his life when he encountered Christ. He spoke to his impressive credentials.
- After recounting his impressive resume e wrote, “if anyone thinks he had reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more reason.”
Philippians 3:7-8, But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ…
- Paul’s desire in his life was to pursue Christ, he knew that Jesus had taken hold of him, and he wanted to take hold of the reason Jesus took hold of him…He tells us here, he was not there yet!
- We recently studied Acts chapter 9, when Paul was on his way to persecute Christians and Jesus stopped him on his way saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” We know from Acts 22 as Paul recounts the story that he first responded, “who are you, Lord?” and he knew it was Jesus, they then asked, “what shall I do, Lord?”
- The Lord told him to get up and go and he would be told what he must do. Here Paul says, “I am not there yet, I have not “arrived,” I have not grasped it.”
- He repeats that statement in verse 13.
Philippians 3:13(a), Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet.
- Paul is making a confession. He had been walking with Christ for 30 years by this time. He makes it clear, I haven’t arrived, I’m not there yet, I am not perfect.
- Paul had an impressive resume for the cause of Christ: He had planted churches around the world, he was spiritual, knowledgeable, and educated; he was fighting the good fight, and God had given him the power to perform unusual miracles.
- Paul had given up many things, but what he received in Christ was so much better.
Philippians 3:9-11, Not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if somehow, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
- The Philippian church may have looked at Paul and thought, there is nothing more for him to do, nowhere else for him to go, and Paul here says, “not so.”
- He was aware of the perfecting work the Lord would continue, and make sure the people know that the perfecting work would continue in them as well.
Philippians 1:6, I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (NASB 95’)
- If we are going to reach forward, we need an awareness that we are not at the finish line…We will not reach perfection this side of heaven.
- So, no matter what a person has done, or how far they have come, there is still a race to run.
Philippians 3:13-14, Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Illus. Your Five.
- In verse 14 Paul speaks of the prize, but first, he points out that there is something that must be done in order to press on towards the prize. Specifically, he says “forgetting what lies behind.”
- Move Beyond What Should be Left Behind
- If we are going to effectively reach forward and run the race marked out, we must look ahead, not behind.
Illus. Look forward!
- Paul wrote, in pursuit of the prize, it is critical to forget about what is behind.
- In the Bible, forget doesn’t mean to lose your memory, or that you are unable to recall something. Rather, to forget means that we do not act according to something, it does influence our present.
- For example, in Jeremiah 31:34, the Lord declared, “I will forgive their wrongdoing, and their sin I will no longer remember.” Isaiah 43:25, “I am the one who wipes out your wrongdoings for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
- This does not mean that the Lord has a bad memory or is not aware. Rather, it means that He does not deal with us according to our past, in the present. The Lord does not act according to our sins, they have been forgiven.
- In that same chapter of Isaiah 43, where the Lord says I will no longer remember your sins, there is instruction to His people…
Isaiah 43:18-19, “Do not call to mind the former things, or consider things of the past. Behold, I am going to do something new, now it will spring up; will you not be aware of it?
- Paul says here, forget about the past, in other words, don’t act according to it.
- Paul had a past. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, and some of it was ugly.
- Some would have been impressed by his past, others would have been appalled by it. Either way, he says, forget about it!
Illus. I remember forgetting that.
- While the past will get in the way of the prize, the writer of Hebrews gives us some additional insights into what gets in the way of us running the race well in this life.
Hebrews 12:1, Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us.
- We are told “let us also” lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that easily entangles.
- The acknowledgement is that there are certainly encumbrances, other translations say things that hinder, or every weight that slows us down.
- Those three make up the definition of the Greek word here, “ogkas” (ogg-koss): A burden or weight.
- This would have meant something to those who understood racing in the ancient world. Racers in that day would often run without clothing, get in the best shape possible, removing all excess weight possible so that they could run unencumbered.
- Here we are being implored to throw off every weight, no limits, no lines, if I find something is an encumbrance, I am to throw it off.
- The next thing we are to lay to the side is the sin which so easily entangles us.
- The word entangles us is an interesting word in Greek as well, euparistatos, which depicts a skillful surrounding.
- In order to run the race, we have to lay aside the sin which so easily entangles.
Galatians 5:7, You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.
Illus. Cut in on.
- As you think about forgetting the past and reaching forward to what lies ahead, you may be thinking “that would be a stretch.”
- And the reality is, Paul thought so too. I know that to be true because in the original language, when Paul says, “reaching forward,” he is literally telling us “to stretch.” It describes stretching a muscle to its limit, picturing a runner straining every muscle to reach the finish line.
Philippians 3:13(b)-14, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Know the Goal
- The idea of press means, to exert oneself. Paul was pressing for the prize of upward call in Christ Jesus.
- In verses 12 and 14, we read Paul write “I press on.”
- And it is interesting because same word used in those places for “press on” is used earlier in Philippians 3:6, where Paul says he was a persecutor of the church. The word for “persecutor,” is the word for “pressing.”
- In other words, the energy and intensity that he had put into persecuting, when he turned to Christ, he put into pressing for Christ. The zeal, passion, and focus of his life shifted, from pressing on a people, to pressing into a person and the calling for Him.
- Paul was pressing for the prize of upward call in Christ Jesus.
- There are many prizes we get for running races. When I was in high school, I got a ribbon. In the Olympics in Paul’s day, they got a perishable wreath, a laurel wreath.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the game’s exercises self-control in all things. So they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
- Paul found a prize in knowing his life’s purpose, and a recognize the prize of eternal life in the upward, or heavenward call.
- His life was oriented toward the finish line, the threshold of heaven and the reward he would receive from Christ alone.
Hebrews 12:1(b)-2, …Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.