Have you ever run a marathon? If so, the training is hard but on the day of the run, when you you cross the finish line, it is an exhilarating feeling. I remember running the full marathon (26 miles). When I reached 22 miles I felt like my legs were blocks of cement that I could barely lift. However, my mind was seared to cross that finish line. If I did not have that goal, there is no way I would have completed it.
Such is the same with the Christian life. It is a journey. There are times when it is exhilarating and there are times when those steps of faith feel like cement blocks. I am excited to continue our journey to run hard toward Christ this week as we observe, interpret, and draw application from Philippians 3:12–21 where Paul exhorts believers to pursue the goal of becoming like Christ.
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.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Paul uses athletic imagery to parallel it to the Christian life. He compares the Christian life to a race encouraging believers to fix their eyes on the goal ahead and not look back. He also encourages people to continue along the Christian path by growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though Paul was a strong believer, he was far from perfection like all believers. He, along with other believers, must strive to become like Christ in their journey of faith.
(v.12) – “Press on” means to pursue a goal with great intensity; to be single focused on reaching the goal
(v.13) – “one thing I do” means Paul’s only goal in life is to become more like Christ
“forgetting what lies behind” means letting go of anything from the past that can cause one to stumble while running towards the goal such as past sins or failures
(v.14) – “the upward call of God” means the time when believers will be brought up to heaven and receive the prize for their faithfulness to God
(v.15) “reveal” means God will ‘unveil’ the truth to those who are not pursuing Christlikeness
(v. 16) “walk” means to stay in line and pursue sanctification
(v. 17) “my example” means to follow Paul’s example, who is imperfect, to be imitators of Christ
(v.17) “Note those who walk” means to follow examples like Timothy and Epaphroditus
(v.18) “told you often” means Paul’s frequent warning against false teachers
(v. 19) “earthly things” means the Judaizers’ preoccupation with ceremonies and laws as well as the Gentiles’ preoccupation with worldly things
(v.20) “our citizenship in heaven” means our home is in heaven when our name is registered and our inheritance belongs.
(v.20) “eagerly wait” deals with anticipating the second coming of Christ
(v.21) When Christ returns our bodies will be transformed and Christ will physically rule over all and supersede all natural laws
Most successful people in the world have a vision and goal they are pursuing. They are singleminded in their pursuit of accomplishing their goal. Those who do not have a clear or become distracted in their pursuit do not succeed.
Such is the same for the Christian life. Paul encourages believers to run the race toward the goal of Christlikeness. He exhorts believers to intensely pursue to become like Christ. He motivates believers by reminding them their home is not on earth but in heaven where their names are written and their full inheritance awaits. All present sufferings will be gone and they will receive their new bodies.
He exhorts believers to pursue God and His kingdom over their personal comforts. He encourages them to be like Paul who is imperfect but singleminded in His pursuit of being like Christ. Is there anything that is distracting you from the goal to become Christ-like? If so, bring it before the Lord and surrender it to Him. The adventure, joy and peace of living for God will far outweigh any sacrifice you give up for Him.
Scripture Memory and Homework
Memorize Philippians 2:1-10 and work through observation, interpretation, and application of Philippians 4:1-7 in preparation for next week.