JohnSWilson3 Blog

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
May 22, 2010, 2:34 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

In the first section of Chapter 3 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians he gives them warning of those who were legalistic and who pursued a righteousness of their own “that comes from the law” in contrast to pursuing Christ; knowing Christ “which is through faith…the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Paul then gives his magna carta, so to speak, of knowing Jesus: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Paul told the Roman Christians perhaps just after he wrote this letter to the Philippians, and perhaps things he had been teaching his church planting assistants in Ephesus for a couple years now: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Amen! This knowing Christ’s resurrection and sufferings, is a spiritual matter that involves death to our flesh. When we die to our flesh, no matter how it comes about, we give opportunity for the Spirit to shine forth from our broken lives and we get to know Christ better and his power and fellowship!

But Paul does not want to be a braggart and makes a point that not even he has “already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul said that “whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” What is it of myself that I think highly of? What are things that give me confidence in myself? These things almost always tend to make me selfish or focus on me. That is something alien to God. In Christ, while we are individual members of the body of Christ, we are ONE in Christ, we are given to the body for one another to Christ. Anything that focuses on me, myself, and I is not of Christ. That’s where things of the flesh begin showing up instead of things of the Spirit. Paul says it is about “forgetting what is behind.” It is to be considered a loss, in fact refuse.

The flesh is no longer to be considered important or have any place in us, it is about Christ and His body! It is about Christ’s lordship in the Body of Christ: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…”

Perhaps Paul is also thinking of his second letter to the Corinthians when he mentions not having “already obtained all this.” “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul was tempted to be conceited. Paul, the great church planter, who could brag the most among the apostles! It was not about Paul, it is about the body of Christ, about His glory! That’s what we are to press on to, that’s the goal: “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God”! We are not there yet, not until we are with our Lord.

Of course some will not see things as Paul does, or you or I. Not everyone in the body came to Christ at the same time so we are all at different levels of progressing in Christian maturity, some are ahead of us, some are with us, some are behind us. There is richness of our faith in Christ because of this! But it can also be a source of division if we do not have Christ as Lord in our gatherings. As Paul says: “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” So if you think differently, then in prayer and in loving fellowship with one another we should seek to know Christ in these matters. Again, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Forget the old man and live by the New Man, His Spirit who lives in us! This life is a life of “straining toward,” pressing “on toward” and as Luke says in his gospel: “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” I think this straining toward, pressing on, and presseth into for some, and even me sometimes, has a lot to do with considering “everything a loss,” considering “them rubbish.” I “NOW consider loss” should be our thinking about the old man. We think too much about the old man instead of the New Man, Christ Jesus. Let’s forget the old man, let us strain towards, press on toward, and presseth “heavenward in Christ Jesus” and live by the Spirit with one another!

As Paul explained to the Roman Christians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old HAS gone, the new HAS come!” (bold mine). And all of this “is from God”! “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus…You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness…But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Let us now live in freedom in Christ! “Therefore, there is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death…Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

So Paul says: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Amen!

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