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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Are We Pressing On to the Mark?

Chapter Three speaks to the Joy we have in Believing: The Joy we have in pressing toward that Goal in Christ: The Joy we have in remembering that our citizenship is really in heaven.

It's all about the matters of our hearts.

I.                  That Matter of the Heart

Philippians 3:1-3 

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
·         To rejoice in the Lord
·         To press on
·         To worship God in the Spirit and not in the Flesh

In other words, giving our all for Christ

But a body of believers even when full of faith and growing spiritually can at the same time find itself in need of warning and caution to be ready to stand strong against disturbances that come and could bring problems in, around, through, and with the church.

Back in the Book of Acts, Luke speaks to this when he says (in paraphrase) 

How can that be? Isn't everyone who goes to church there to seek unity, spiritual growth, humility and the truth of Jesus Christ without being confused or causing confusion for others?
As a flourishing church, the body in Paul's day had to also face those in leadership who were still hung up on keeping the Law -- Judaizers. These folks were neglecting the grace God had for them (that free gift we have all been given in Christ).
The Bible tells us He came to set the captives free
John 8:33 John 8:36
Reflection: Why was it unwise and even harmful to try to live as Christians while at the same time want to keep the law rather than live in that freedom the Lord provided? What was so wrong with the practice?
Note: Mixing observances of the law with the doctrine of Christ and with the standards of the Christian church caused dire confusion during Paul's day. This would be the same for the average Christian today while at the same time the Bible tells us GOD is Not the Author of Confusion.
Ps 71:1 tells us "Let me never be brought to confusion"
(Titus 3:5  1 Corinthians 14:33)
That confusion can bring doubt in what it means to have that personal relationship with Jesus and living a victorious life. It also can make a believer come to think he or she is made righteous by works over faith. But the Bible in Titus tells us: It's not by works of righteous which WE have done but according to HIS MERCY HE saves us)
Paul warns often in his letters of why the unwise tend to follow the traditions of man, which takes away our freedom…which makes that freedom secondary. It causes people to focus more on their traditions rather than focusing on God and what He did for us, through Jesus Christ on the cross. It focuses on what a person can DO for God or to make them think it is bringing them closer to God, rather than what He does for them.
What can we do for God? NOTHING.
But think about what He did for you and me right there on the cross. He was able to say  IT IS FINISHED.
The faithful services we do, though they are good and pleasing to the Lord, are still the natural responses of our love for the Lord. We serve Him because we love Him.
Living in our Faith is our spiritual response to our love for the Lord. It is the spiritual outgrowth that shows by our actions.
Why would Paul say to the Philippian Christians and us "To write the same things to m , to you indeed is not grievous but for you it is safe." Here, once again, Paul is reminding the believer how important it is to know these things, he must write to us about, and for him to share them is for our good.
Paul wants to share with us what is SAFE for our walks. It should not be Grievous to hear these warnings about dogs or about evil workers. They are out there. He just wants us to be ready and not to be brought to confusion by them.  
Sin and its effects are going to be out there throughout our lives, and we are going to have to face them; and we're going to have to deal with them, but it's important to note, our  praise and thanksgiving to  Him is because He can deliver us from those sins and forgive us when we lay them at His feet and no longer look back.
It's in verse 2 that Paul emphasizes his warnings to the Philippians about the false teachers. Though the Jews had called the Gentiles "dogs" We see it turned around here when Paul instead shows us that it was the Judaisers who were the dogs because it is defined here that dogs were a class of people who lived in rigid ceremonialism -- as non-conformists, as evil workers, and those who lived their salvation by doing works rather than by faith, and who tried to convince those who were living by grace to do the same. (Those who were dogs had a way of literally dicing up the word of God)
In verse 3 Paul is just bringing out that to be of the circumcision was a spiritual matter of the heart. To rejoice in the Lord and have no confidence in the flesh, in other words.
Galatians 2:16, Romans 3:27, 2 Corinthians 11:13, Ephesians 2:9, 2 Timothy 1:9
II.                Outward Show Inward Grace
Philippians 3:4-8
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Paul is showing here that, while he could have easily boasted on his own upbringing because of his birthright, being a native Israelite, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, being taught by Gamiliel, a doctor and scholar, he counted all these things as meaningless when compared to his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But he didn’t. To Paul, those things simply didn’t matter. In fact he goes so far as to call them nothing more than dung.  "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ"

He's teaching the Philippian believers the same thing, and for us to consider this too. Paul's glory was NOT in the things of the flesh (according to the law) but the things that are of the Spirit.

He made the choice to trust in Christ, not his heritage  (Which we can also read about in Acts 26:5). Paul shows of the great difference in trusting in the Lord over trusting in the flesh. Not proving his Christianity by outward performance which means little to God but by inward Grace which is God evident in him.

"But none of these things move me, neither ount I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God. " Acts 20:24

III.             Knowing Him 

Philippians 3:9-14

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul again reiterates what he was trying to say earlier that the righteousness of Christ is so much better for all of us than the righteousness we earn by keeping the law but we also need to understand that as we come to know Him better each day and as we continue to grow in Him, we also will be sharing not only in the power of Christ but also in the sufferings that take place in everyone's lives. The Bible tells us it will rain on the just and the unjust. A trial is real, but we can get through these as we look to him.
None of us have attained. None of us are perfect. But just as it was shared in a Bible Study I recently attended, it is so important for us to press on toward that mark -- press on to that high calling God has for us -- press on in the race we are in to attain the prize that awaits us.  To press also means persecution will come. We just need to press through it.

Are we willing as Christians to forget the past and not allow ourselves to rest in our past works, but instead push ourselves ahead? Are we willing to give our Christian walks everything we've got?

Reflection: What are some things that hinder you in your spiritual walk?

"Many people are hindered in their progress because they are always looking at the past, either hung up by their failures, or bitter against those who have hurt them, or resting on the laurels of their past successes."
Chuck Smith:

How important it is to look forward to what God has planned for our futures rather than how we might have messed up in our past. Yesterday is gone. He grabbed hold of you and me for a purpose.

IV.            Keeping Our Conversation Heavenward

Philippians 3:15-21

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)  For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Paul was able to set himself before the believers as one who could be followed because of his example.

What are some ways they could follow him. And we can follow him today? Let's remind ourselves once more...

·         Be likeminded
·         Stay faithful to set our hearts and minds toward heaven
·         Stay faithful to keep our focus on Jesus Christ
·         Make Christ our all
·         Press toward the mark
·         Bear with one another

Once again in the section of Chapter three, Paul warns of the enemies of the cross for whom we must watch. That it is the design of those enemies of the cross to draw the believer away

·         Their end for us is for destruction
·         Their God is their belly (they mind earthly things not heavenly things)
·         Their glory is in themselves and is to their own shame

It would be a dangerous thing for us to even desire to follow them. Just as Matthew Henry writes in part: while we are on earth…keep our conversation about heavenly things…the world is not our home.

It is better for us to have fellowship with those who have fellowship with Christ. Verse 20 explains why. Because we look for our SAVIOR who is from heaven; we keep our eyes on Him. We know He is coming for us. We know He could come at any time.  And I say Lord please come quickly.

Though yes, this chapter is full of warnings to us all as believers I love most the parts about joy. 

·         The Joy we can have when we stay faithful to keep pressing toward our Goal in Christ --
·         The Joy we have in remembering that our citizenship really is in heaven
·         The Joy that He is transforming us each day into the person he wants us to be.  (1 John 3:2)

His exhortations to us? To follow his example - to beware of enemies of the cross - to be heavenly citizens and to look for God's return.

Paul was sold out to Christ. He was serious about pressing on to reach his goal. He was in a position to be able to encourage us to follow in his footsteps as we follow Christ.

Ask yourself:
  1. Are you sold out to Christ?
  2. Are you serious about pressing on to reach that goal?

Other things to consider
Why did Paul feel it necessary to warn the Philippian Christians about dogs?
What does the “fellowship of his suffering” mean to you?
Why is it important for us to forget the Past?
According to Paul's teaching in chapter three, what is the difference between walking in the spirit and walking in the flesh?
Read Revelation 22:15 and Acts 16:16. What types of people are characterized there as dogs?
How much do you as a Christian today rely on traditions for your salvation?
The end of this chapter once again tells us about these aspects of the enemies of the cross.
Where is their focus? here they will wind up
What are they taking pride in?
What will happen to them in the end?
What else can you say about them? 


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