christianity faith sermons

press on toward the goal

Apostle Paul says he of all the people have a life he could boast about. He has more confidence in the flesh than anyone else. 

4bIf anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4b-6)

Can anyone of us boast of being blameless under the law? Paul was not only circumcised on the eighth day, he was also a member of the people of Israel, God’s people. And of all the tribes, he was a tribe of Benjamin, the tribe from which King David came. He was following the law better than anyone else, even to the point, from the point of law, even persecuting the church as he understood the church to be threatening following the laws that God gave the Israelites. So, what comes next is to be understood that if given Paul’s righteousness, whatever is true of Apostle Paul must also be true of those who followed the law to lesser degree. 

Even though Paul was blameless before the law and he did everything right that he possibly could, compared to knowing Christ, everything else was so much less valuable for Paul. Not only that, he was willing to suffer the loss of all things, to recognize that everything else he had done and had were “rubbish” in order that he may gain Christ and to be found in him. 

7Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. (Philippians 3:7-9).

To be found in Christ is to know Christ, and to have righteousness that comes through faith in Christ. 

There are three things I would like us to reflect on. What is our goal? What are we to forget? And how do we attain the goal? 

What is our Goal?

Paul says, I want to know Christ. – 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

Even Paul hasn’t reached his goal. But forgetting what lies behind, he presses on, keeping his eyes on the goal. Forgetting what lies behind. Time for forgetting and keeping eyes on the prize.  

There is a time for forgetting and time for remembering. For an example of forgetting, we can see these following scripture passages where God tells the Israelites over and over again that God will remember their sins no more.

12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

25 I, I am He
    who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
    and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)

19 He will again have compassion upon us;
    he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
    into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

But there is a time for remembering also. When we forget, sometimes the forgetting leads to difficulties. Israelites were made slaves in Egypt when the Egyptians forgot that who the Israelites were. The Egyptians forgot that the Israelites were descendants of Joseph who had been the right hand of the Pharoah. Joseph had saved Egyptians and neighboring countries from famine. For sure, there is a time for forgetting and a time for remembering. 

In Exodus, when God gives the Israelites the ten commandments, God spoke these words:

1Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. (Exodus 20:8) 

In the ten commandments, God tells the Israelites that the Lord is their God, and that God brought them out of the land of Egypt where they were slaves. God commands us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. 

So why is Paul saying to forget?  To focus, not to be distracted or to be discouraged. Thanksgiving – in order to be thankful, you have to look back and remember. Especially during the times of hardship when you feel God is not helping you, we can look back and remember or be reminded of what God has done for us in the past. Remembering has its purpose and a place.  

So how do we attain our goal? Forgetting what lies behind and pressing onward toward what lies ahead. What lies ahead of us? How do we press onward?

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

The goal is to know Christ. To know Christ is not only to know about him, but to know him as we know ourselves, our friends, and our family. How do you get to know someone? You spend time with the person. You ask questions. You find out what they are passionate about. You learn about who they are, and what they have done. You learn about what bothers them, what breaks their hearts. And what makes them happy.

To know Christ, to be found in him is also to know and to pursue the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. It is to know in relation to Christ, who we are, what meaning and purpose our lives have in relation to Christ. We have two commandments, two greatest commandments. To Love the Lord your God, and to love your neighbors as you love yourselves.

36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40). 

In the 2 commandments, we actually have three things to focus on: 

  1. Love God
  2. Love your neighbors as you Love yourself 
  3. To love your neighbor as you love yourself implies that you have to love yourself also.

This coming week, let us press on toward our prize, and pursue our heavenly calling of God. Love. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And Love yourself so that you can love your neighbors as you love yourself.

Let us pray – God, our beloved, you set before us the goal of new life in Christ. May we live in the power of his resurrection and bring forth the fruit of your gentle and loving rule. Amen.

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