Study Notes

Philippians 3:12-21


When we left off in chapter three, Paul made the statement that he had forsaken the things of this world in order to know Christ. He was no longer caught up in what the world thinks of as benefits and accomplishments. He just wanted to be close to Jesus. He wanted to be sure that this life that he lived directed him to the next life. He said,

Phil. 3:8-11 ...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 but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him ... that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection ... in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul was reaching for that finish line, living this life with life after death in mind.

3:12-14 Press On Towards It

You will find a number of Christians today who claim to have attained sinless perfection. "I haven't sinned since 1978," they claim. Well, they certainly have - they just lied to you!

Remember that John wrote,

1John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

There is no way to be sinless while we are in these bodies. Remember,

Rom. 14:23 ...whatever is not from faith is sin.

Paul knew he wasn't there yet. He knew he was far from perfect. But he kept pressing on, kept persevering in the Christian walk.

He uses the descriptive language of someone striving forward, pressing on, reaching out. You can picture a hiker trying to make it to the peak of a mountain. A runner trying to make it to the end of a marathon. A swimmer trying to cross the English channel. An Olympic cyclist trying to win the race.

Whatever illustration you keep in your mind, the words hold true: forget what lies behind. There is no bigger defeat than to dwell on what you've already past, how many miles you've already gone, how many steps you've already taken. Paul says that he was forgetting what lay behind and kept reaching forward.

This is how to avoid a trap in our Christianity. I have met a lot of people that say, "Oh yeah, I gave my life to Jesus back in the 60's. I was filled with the Spirit in 1974. I used to do street evangelism. I used to teach a Bible study." But where are you doing now? You see, the past doesn't matter - it's already past. Are you growing in Christ now? Are you ministering now? Are you praying now? You can't rest on your laurels. What matters is where you're at in the Lord today.

The old saying goes, "Winners never quit, and quitters never win." If you're talking about a person living their life for Jesus Christ, it is absolutely true. Don't talk about what you did last year, ask yourself, "What am I doing this year?" Don't rest on the growth you experienced in the '90's. Ask yourself, "How much am I growing now?" Remember,

Phil. 1:6 ...He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

God wants you to keep growing, to keep serving Him.

3:15-16 Attitudes

Well, if Paul hadn't yet become perfect, but wrote, "as many as are perfect," then what is he talking about? This is a different form of the word "perfect." Whereas before, Paul was talking about being perfectly completed, this time he is talking about being perfectly in the right place. When a baby boy is born, they weigh him, measure him, and take all his vital signs. If everything is as it should be, they say, "Congratulations, your child is perfect!" But ten years later, if your sons weighs 9 pounds, is bald, weak, and crying, something is terribly wrong. He was perfect for his age, for the state he was in. But that is not a completed perfection, it is a growing perfection. So before, Paul said, "I'm not there yet - I'm far from being perfectly completed." But then he was able to turn around and say, "Some of you are in a perfect place in your walk, in your growth. You're just where you should be today."

The people who are in that place should have the attitude of pressing on to the next step, to keep growing in God. And if you don't have that desire for continual growth, Paul trusts that God will make sure to let you know in no uncertain terms that this is not okay with Him.

The Lord will not let you stagnate in your spiritual life without prompting.

When Adam fell into sin, the Lord entered the garden and asked him,

Gen. 3:9 ..."Where are you?"

When Elijah ran away in fear and was hiding out in a cave, the Lord came to him and said,

1Kgs. 19:9 ..."What are you doing here, Elijah?"

Jesus asked His disciples,

Luke 6:46 "...why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"

Maybe the Lord has seen your attitude this morning - no desire to grow up into spiritual maturity, completely content with where you are. That's not okay with Him, and He will challenge you - "Where are you? What are you doing here? Why do you call Me Lord if you won't do what I say?"

3:17-19 The Good And Bad Examples

We have talked in the past about the necessity of imitating the faith of people who are like Jesus. The writer of Hebrews said,

Hebr. 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

But just as there are good examples in the church for us to see, there are also bad examples in the church. There are those who claim to be walking with Jesus, but in reality are sold out to their fleshly desires. Today, we see these people in the form of those who are selling "cheap grace." Those who say, "Since I'm saved by grace, I can do what I want. All things are lawful for me."

But the true Christian does not abuse God's forgiveness and grace in this way. Paul wrote,

Rom. 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

People who deny this teaching are clearly not saved. That's not my opinion, that's Paul's doctrine. He says right here that their end is destruction. They have fooled themselves. Christ died to forgive sin, not to give us a license to commit it. Jesus clearly taught,

Matt. 7:22-27 "Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and {yet} it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall."

How can you know if you're deceiving yourself? How can you make sure that you're not an enemy of the cross of Christ? Look at the descriptions Paul uses:

Their God is their appetite. Do you live your life to serve your appetites for money, power, or sex? Do you follow after whatever you desire, no matter whether it's right or wrong?

He also says that their glory is their shame. What do you glory in, what do you brag about, regarding the Christian life? Is it that even though you're a sinner, Christ loves you and forgave you? Or is it the fact that now that you're a Christian, you can do anything you want, because it's all forgiven? "I can get drunk, sleep around, make bad business deals, and cheat on my taxes, since it's all forgiven!"

Finally, he says that their minds are set on earthly things. Where is your focus? Are you consumed with the things of this world? The cares and desires of this life? God doesn't want you to waste your precious life obsessing about the matters and pleasures of this life - it's so temporary. Is money your focus? Is it sports? Is it success? If your mind is set on this earth, you're in a bad place as a Christian, because this isn't supposed to be your permanent residence.

It is the enemies of the cross who have their minds set on earthly things. We must remember that we are not of this earth. The writer of Hebrews lists great people that had great faith in God, and then says that they...

Hebr. 11:13-14 ...confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.

This world is not our home. We are aliens, strangers, pilgrims, and sojourners in it. We are people passing through. People who are traveling don't pack heavy. They don't get weighed down. They only bring what they need, and they accomplish their purpose. Peter said,

1Pet. 2:11-12 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe {them,} glorify God in the day of visitation.

We are too weighed down, too over-burdened. Many of us have forgotten our purpose for being here. It is to grow in Christ and lead people to Him. It is not to find fame and fortune.

3:20-21 Heavenly Citizenship

Our citizenship is in heaven, not here.

Col. 1:13 For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son

Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth to take us to heaven. When you are waiting at the airport, how much thought do you give to making yourself comfortable for the long-term? Do you look around for the ideal place to set up a tent? Do you attempt to establish long-term residency? Of course not - it's simply a stop-over, a place you are temporarily in, but you're headed home. Most of us need this new perspective in relation to this earth.

Jesus Christ is coming soon, to bring us home. Are you watching and waiting?

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