Toward The Goal

Philippians 3:12-16

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PERFECTION

  • Paul did not count himself as having yet attained; he was not perfect.  We are not perfect and our righteousness is lacking in many different areas of our lives.  We are continually striving toward perfection and toward living a righteous and holy life.  For many perfection is hopeless; righteousness is hopeless.  Holiness is just not going to happen.  That is because those individuals are relying on their own ability and strength to be perfect and righteous before Christ and it is definitely not going to happen.  If we could be perfect and righteous on our own merits, Christ would not have had to go to the cross. 
  • No person ever achieves perfection on this earth.  That fact is so obvious to the thinking of a honest man that it is actually ridiculous to even think about being perfect.  But, at the same time, too many are so closed minded in their thinking that they seldom grasp what perfection really is.
  • Consider the brain and the mind.  It has been estimated that man only uses one-tenth of one percent of his mental capacity.  Imagine how far short this is of perfection.
  • Consider the body.  What would a perfect body be like?  A body that never desired, thought, or did wrong; that never came up short; that never aged, deteriorated, died or decayed?
  • The examples could go on and on.  But, in the beginning, the creation stage of this earth, we find that man and woman were created in the image of God.  He and she had the perfect body and mind because God created perfection.  It was mankind’s desire to be wise as God that brought about the imperfection that we have in our lives and in our world.  Look at the creation story in Genesis.  Every time God created something, it states over and over “And God saw that all was good.”   

Romans 7:18-20 – “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh.  I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it.  (I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out.) For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do are what I am (ever) doing. Now if I do what I do not desire to do, it is no longer I doing it (it is not myself that acts), but the sin          (principle) which dwells within me (fixed and operating in my soul).  The Amplified Version

2 Corinthians 3:5 – “Not that we are fit (qualified and sufficient in ability) of ourselves to form personal judgments or to claim or count anything as coming from us, but our power and ability and sufficiency are from God.  The Amplified Version

PAUL’S EXAMPLE FOR US TO FOLLOW

  • Paul followed after perfection.  When Paul was saved on the Damascus Road that was just the beginning.  He had been saved to live for Christ and to serve Christ.   He was saved to follow to pursue, like a runner in a race, that perfection that Christ desires in all of us.  Paul was going to do all he could to help the Lord in the Lord’s great task of perfecting him.  Paul was going to do all he could to lay hold of perfection – the perfection for which the Lord had laid hold of him. 
  • There is no such thing as a genuine believer sitting still after he has been saved.  The believer must not become comfortable, complacent, lethargic, or lazy.  The believer should neither waste time nor opportunity.  He should not begin to think he is safe and secure forever.  The believer can not begin to do what he wants to do and give in to his own desires.  The believer must follow, run, and press after perfection – the perfection for which Christ has saved him.  The believer must be active in living for Christ.
  • START WHERE YOU ARE
  • USE WHAT YOU HAVE!
  • DO ALL YOU CAN!

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but (only) one receives the prize?  So run (your race) that you may lay hold (of the prize) and make it yours.  Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things.  They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we (do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness) that cannot wither.  Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim).  I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary.  But (like a boxer) I buffet my body (handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships) and subdue it for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit (not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit).”   The Amplified Version

Galatians 5:7 – “You were running the race nobly.  Who has interfered in (hindered and stopped you from) your heeding and following the truth?   The Amplified Version

2 Corinthians 4:7-8 – “However, we possess this precious treasurer (the divine Light of the Gospel) in (frail, human) vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves.  We are hedged in (pressed) on every side (troubled and oppressed in every way), but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair.”  The Amplified Version

Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (who have borne testimony to the Truth), let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, looking away (from all that will distract) to Jesus, Who is the Leader and Source of our faith (giving the first incentive for our belief) and is also its Finisher (bringing it to maturity and perfection).  He, for the joy (of obtaining the prize) that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  The Amplified Version.

WHAT MUST WE DO?

  • Paul worked at forgetting the past.  If we are going to have a good future, we must now, in the present, forget the past.  We must burn bridges if necessary.  We must sever relationships if necessary.  We must change jobs if necessary.  For us to live like Christ intended for us to live, holy and righteous and striving toward perfection, we have to make a change.  The first change must be to bury the past.  Leave the stinking, rotten actions and memories of the sin of your past and never resurrect it again.  If Christ forgave you of wrong doing and does not hold it against you anymore; then who do you think you are resurrecting something that has been forgiven?  It’s over.  It took you down the wrong path the times you were involved in it, and it will again if you resurrect it.  The one thing we must do is forgive ourselves and go on and live our life in Christ to the fullest. 

1 John 3:2 – “Beloved, we are (even here and) now God’s children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be (hereafter), but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall (as God’s children) resemble and be like Him just as He (really) is.”  The Amplified Version

A Changed Man

Galatians 1:22-24

And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me.

Dr. Harold Wilmington of Liberty University writes “they (the early church, Peter, Paul, & others) took the teachings of Jesus at face value.  They refused to compromise with any pagan or secular code.  They were absolutely happy always getting into trouble.”

PAUL THE APOSTLE AS HE WAS BEFORE CHRIST

  • His zeal in attacking the Church.

Philippians 3:6 – concerning zeal, persecuting the church.

 Acts 7:57-58 – Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him.  And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

  Acts 8:1-3 – Now Saul was consenting to his death.  At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women committing them to prison.

Acts 9:1-3 – Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high pries, and asked letters from him to the synagogues of  Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Acts 22:4-5 – I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.

  • Causing Christians to be imprisoned.

Acts 26:9-11 – Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.  And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

  • Opposing the Way.

I Timothy 1:12-13 – And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent (violently arrogant) man but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

PAUL THE APOSTLE AS HE WAS IN CHRIST

Acts 26:19-23 – And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me.

Acts 22:12-21 – Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’ So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’

  • Great in ministering the Word.

Acts 9:20-22 – Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.  Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’  But Saul increased in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.  

HE WAS A CHANGED MAN! – Everywhere Paul went; he either started a church or created a riot.

Acts 14:1-7 – Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. And they were preaching the gospel there.

Acts 16:20-34 – And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

I Corinthians 2:2 – For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

I Corinthians 15:3-4 – For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…

  • Great in appointing bishops to churches he had established.  Throughout the Epistles there is evidence of his establishment of churches and appointment of bishops.
  • Great feats of power manifested in and through him.
  • Great in miracles and signs following.

Acts 14:8-10 – And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked.

Acts 19:11-12 – God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

Acts 28:8 – And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him.

The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons.  He is still in the business of changing men and women who surrender to Him.