As I read through the New Testament, my favorite sections are always Pauline Epistles. I love the way that he writes so logically; he makes arguments, supports them, unpacks them, and makes his point. The way that God used him to explain and unpack Christian theology of salvation has left the world forever changed. The only problem I have with Paul is that he just seems so together. He’s not like David who, one Psalm is praising God for his goodness and then one Psalm later is crying out to him wondering where he is. I can relate to that spiritual schizophrenia! But Paul, most of the time he just seems like he has it so together. Which is one of the reasons that I love the passage that I get to preach on tonight. Here is how Philippians 3:12-16 reads,
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. 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. 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.
So here is what Paul said. In verses 3:7-11 Paul sets out the goal of the Christian life. That Christ would be ALL. That he would be our supreme desire, our highest motivation, and that we might consider everything else garbage compared to the surpassing greatness to knowing him. But in this passage he says that he hasn’t achieved that yet. And all of a sudden Paul gets a little bit more accessible! I love that he admits that to us. Think about everything that Paul has seen and done. He’s planted numerous churches, heard the voice of God audibly, seen people healed… and he says, “Yeah, but I haven’t arrived yet.” The reason that I love this passage so much is that it’s real. I can relate to it.
I know that I’m moving forward and that I’m growing like crazy in my relationship with the Lord, but I also have this deep seeded conviction that I haven’t arrived… and that I never fully will this side of heaven! As I thought about it, the sense that this is extremely good news for us welled up in my soul. Here are 5 reasons that I think this is really good news for us:
- It keeps you dependent on Christ. You are tethered to him because you know you haven’t arrived. Grace is (hopefully) fresh to you daily. It isn’t that you needed grace… you need grace.
- It keeps your pride in check – and as a people, we need that. If we haven’t arrived, what do we have to be prideful about? Hopefully we never come off hypocritical – because we are saying that we haven’t arrived and that we are still people in need of the grace of God today.
- It allows you to hear other people. If you know you haven’t arrived, you should be open to hearing the way that your actions may have hurt another person and ways that you can improve. If we have this attitude, there is no reason for us to make excuses or blame other people. You don’t need to keep up the facade of perfection – we know you’re not… and you know you’re not.
- It allows us to be a community of grace. We aren’t expecting perfection from ourselves, nor are we expecting it from other people, we are resting and relying on grace. And… it’s GRACE that really transforms. Moralism can restrain the heart, but only grace can transform the heart. And God wants for you the freedom and joy of a transformed heart – and that’s a life long process dependent on his grace.
- It brings about your freedom: This is connected to point 4, but needs its own slot. Freedom does not come from perfection or arrival, freedom comes an acknowledgment of our need for God’s grace and His provision of it. It’s this realization of our justification that brings about our sanctification. That’s freedom. If freedom were to come through arrival, then none of us would be able to live in it.
So, to quote Paul… “Press on!” Chase after Jesus. strive by grace to be more like him, to submit more of your life to him, and walk in the joy and life that he designed you for. Hopefully Philippians 3 is an encouragement to you today. I can’t wait to preach it tonight!