Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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.

All of us, then, 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. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! – Philippians 3:12-4:1

What is your goal in life?

The big all-encompassing question of the purpose of life is one of great significance. We’ve address how we defined the past year. And as we dive further into the letter of Philippians we have a very similar concept to think over.

You have heard of a vision and mission statement. Businesses, churches, and any type of organization should have an end goal in sight. There is a purpose behind their actions. There is often a simple question to measure the worth of their actions time and energy, does it a line with the mission or vision, a synonym would be goal.

This is something we should ask ourselves in our daily life, our regular schedule, and our future focus. How does what I do line up with the goal of seeking God for eternity? This is an important question to ponder. We as a gathering of believers are called to focus on Christ with every aspect of our lives and to inspire others to do the same. We are given the great task of restoring the people of the world with the God whom we are all made in the image of, who suffered to be known to them.

Yes, Christ being our prize seems simple. But we often lose sight of our prize, we take our gaze off of where we are aiming and like in archery or when you are driving where you are looking is where you are aiming.

How often has our time management lead to frustration with people, and so time became more important than family. How many times has an expectation been failed, so grace falls far behind, how many times have we said I will read the Bible through this year only to stop in Leviticus? How many times has there been an unnecessary financial burden that caused us to be angry at someone in our family or even a stranger that caused us to neglect the cost of our grace? God is our aim, our King, our all in all, and yet we fall severely short of living for Him, intentionally making Him known, all the time.

 

Further than the momentary situations, how do your plans for the future line up with reaching eternity with God? We are together as a church there should be no need to lie. We can be honest with each other. What is one thing you have planned for, or previously planned for, in retirement that was centered on your eternity with God, and more aptly in this scriptural context, another’s eternity? What do you plan to do with your "free” time?

These plans do not have to be about going to church more, or starting a church, attending more Bible studies, this is a question about you and not the program functions of a church facility and community. The question is what are you planning to do that will intentionally shine for Christ in the life of others?

It is important to have a goal and not be an Individual Out Wandering Around. Yet, even wandering can have a goal, to relax, to reflect, or to simply explore and have fun wandering, or even wandering with the hope to be found or to find something. Wander so that you can meet others you would not have before to talk to them about Christ! Remember that relaxing is a command that you should obey fifty-two times a year for a whole day, try explaining why to others.

Press on to cling to Christ!

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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.

There is rarely a more engrossing phrase found in scripture than one that commands one to move. This verse is one that does not beg, it does not skip around its purpose instead it gives a direct call for the reader, the hearer, the believer. It persists that we who believe in Christ have not obtained our prize yet.

We have the Holy Spirit. We have been granted the honor to have God in us. We have grace. We have hope. We have peace surpassing any situation. We have a family that supersedes skin, generations, and heritage. We have God! Yet our goal, our prize is still ahead for us press on to!

So, how do your daily and weekly activities and interactions line up with the goal of seeking eternity? Think seriously about this you have daily activities both scheduled and circumstantial. You go to the grocery store, the coffee house, the path to which you take to go to these destinations. How you utilize these regular situations impacts not only your eternity but others.

Think about what Paul writes to the Ephesians in this well known passage, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10

Your good works are prepared by the Lord so that you can display who God is. You have been saved by His grace and His power so that you can display who He is. Paul writes further about how we are to address our present circumstances intentionally when he writes to the Colossians, be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:15b-17

And most effectively as we understand our freedom from sin and our willful choice to become bondservants to Christs, we can with confidence follow Paul as He presses on to the prize found in Christ for eternity to imitate Christ no by living like both saying, Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. – 1 Corinthians 9:19

When was the last time you thought yourself a slave to anyone let alone a slave to the lost so that they might find Christ and eternity. No, we demand our rights and to be treated with dignity not shown the King of kings for me. Paul went on to display his desire to please others over himself when he writes, Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. – 1 Corinthians 10:32-33

This Paul wrote to those who questioned whether or not he was worthy to even be called a disciple because he never demanded money of them but rather offered the gospel at his own cost and brokenness. He planned to be broken and tired through labor so that the free gift of God would not be laborious or costly to those who would hear of it and receive it from him.

But that was just your week and daily life. How do your plans for the future line up with reaching eternity with God? Now do not mishear this the bible aptly teaches us to trust the Lord with tomorrow and to not store up riches for ourselves, and I would not presume believers would do such a thing. Instead, we say if the Lord wills, because as James puts it,

What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:14-17

Yes, we are sinning if we do not do the good before us and if we do not prepare to do good in our life is that not the same. Paul writes to his disciple, his spiritual son as Timothy prepares to lead the church, Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.1 Timothy 6:18-19

This is how we press on toward our heavenly kingdom with God. We care for those in our lives. We prepare our lives around the simple premise that we are to care for those God cares for. We prepare to be broken so that others can be whole in Christ Jesus. We prepare to love in the midst of despair. We forget what has been before and strain forward to our life in Christ.

Do not be distracted by who someone has been, what they have done. Do not be distracted by the patterns of life around you, instead put your hope in eternity. In pursuing Christ and eternity we are not called to abandon life and responsibility. No, rather we are commanded to be responsible for the lives around us and their heavenly calling. To pursue heaven and to not be distracted by the current and past circumstances that chain us down and distract us from hope in Christ.

Maturity and thinking of it like Paul, to live for the future with Christ.

All of us, then, 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. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

“Just be you,” is not a biblical phrase. Think of the incarnation of Christ, God became man to be broken for us. Think further along those lines, The King became a servant to die innocently like a criminal. Think of Moses who finally wanted to join his people was exiled to live with another foreign people for decades before returning to join the Hebrews. Think of Ruth the Moabite who joined the heritage of the greatest King because she forsook who she was for God’s people. 

Then you have Paul who openly says, Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

And later he emphasizes, My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. – 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

This past week I had the privilege to go and see some of my previous students, particularly a group of athletes. These are some fantastic athletes that for one reason or another are struggling this year. Some are struggling because they are not living up to their own hype. Others are beating themselves up every time they make a mistake. Some are distracted by their own lack of playing time and place on the team.

I spoke to one student in particular about being a motivator and inspiring his teammates. He said, “It’s hard, I am frustrated with them.” The answer is simple and should be simple in every circumstance and with every person we meet. Do we see the people we are with first and foremost as image bearers of the King of kings? Do we value the people we are interacting with the way Jesus did by being broken on the cross for them?

When we think that strength and success define someone’s greatest worth we forget how God does His greatest deeds throughout history through the broken and shamed. David, was the least of his family. Joseph may have been the favorite son but he was the youngest brother and continually broken and disgraced. Gideon was the least of his family and yet every time God made his victories more difficult, God did more.

When Hezekiah was broken behind the walls of Jerusalem because the Assyrian army outside God did more than Hezekiah could have dreamed of. Esther was a nobody Jew without parents and God used her to save an entire people. Moses had privilege and power but was not used by God until he was broken having been separated from wealth and privilege. Paul may have been a Roman Citizen and a Pharisee from the tribe of Benjamin but after rejecting the Jewish leadership command he had to hide and even be lowered down a wall, meanwhile he was stoned till it appeared he was dead, beaten with rods, and numerous other shameful events because of one simple thing, Paul wanted others to know the grace of Jesus Christ.

So, do you value people more than your own comfort? Do you value others more than your status? Really! What have you done that was uncomfortable to share who Jesus is or show who Jesus has made you recently? What have you decided not to do because it was too costly to show grace to others?

When we live up to what we have attained in Christ Jesus and through His broken blood stained Cross and empty grove we both embrace the cost of grace and the joy found in the hope of eternal life. Christ is more than enough and each person is worth more than enough for us to be broken in order that they might know and see grace. Are we mature enough to show that grace in Christ?

How easy is it to say that knowledge is the mark of maturity in God, yet maturity in Christ is revealed in our imitation of the God we know, our steadfastness in showing grace no matter how broken we might become to show it. And to be what Jonah refused to mimic in the Lord when, [Jonah] knew that you, [the Lord], are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. – Jonah 4:2

Be broken for the wicked’s impending destruction and delight in your destination in and with God.

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Yes, celebrate the joy of eternity, celebrate the coming justice where wrongs will be made right! But, think about when the last time you saw someone did something wrong and thought I wish I could give them grace. The normal thought we believers, who have been made righteous through the blood of the cross, tend to have when we see wrong is about how wrong it was and how wrong others are who do wrong.

Instead we who have been washed clean through the blood should see and be excited about the immense opportunity to give grace that they may obviously need more of! How significant is the opportunity to not simply understand wrong and right but to understand the grace available to all people and the opportunity for them to know God more. How stress relieving must it be for the church to know that we are not the ethical police of the world, rather we are like Santa the bringer of gifts and instead of the naughty getting coal we can offer them cookies and milk with no end if they would repent and receive the same free and undeserved grace we received!

We so often sound like Habakkuk, How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. – Habakkuk 1:2-3

Meanwhile the Lord has taken the violence and death deserved by all man for all time and paid the price for them if only they would turn to Him. His sheep hear His voice and come. So, every person we meet could be a person whom we could look at and say what the Lord says, Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. – Habakkuk 1:5

Judgement has been paid for by Christ for grace through the cross so that judgement can be everted, and joy unending hope is available to the wrongdoer around us. If only we could be cheerful enough in eternity, broken enough for the broken, and gracious enough to speak truth with the aim to give grace and not just to teach right and wrong.

When and where tears are present for the judgement to come rather than anger for the momentary sin, grace will be more evident in our responses and intentional actions.

How do you prepare yourself to respond to sinfulness? How do you prepare yourself to respond to sinners like yourself and worse than you? 

Reflect on how you have built up and valued others in the Lord.

Be careful not to look too far past the first verse of chapter four here in the letter to the Philippians. Paul’s address to the people is priceless. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! Paul address the believers as more than simply friends, as more than family members, but speaks of them as a joy and a crown.

Think about your life. Think about your prize in Christ Jesus, that great hope of glory. And, think about who you have helped to establish in your life. Who do you value? Who is it when you look at the history of your life that you cherish? We should have people throughout our life that we have helped see and know God more and have become so valuable to us that we will call them our joy.

Remember when Paul first went to Philippi, he knew no one. He went to pray and ended up with a family. Then when he went to pray another time, he was so annoyed due to constant antagonistic behavior that he freed a girl from a demon. His reward was an unlawful brutal public beating and a shameful night in jail. His next step was to give grace.

What may seem like the most unideal time to share grace may be the very moment you could change someone’s eternity. You do not need to wait for the right moment, the most dramatic situation, or the perfect time. Rather, step out in faith, in prayer, and in gracious love to share the hope of Christ with others.

           Questions to Consider

-       How do your daily and weekly activities and interactions line up with the goal of seeking eternity? (Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 & 10:31-33;)

-       How do your plans for the future line up with reaching eternity with God? (James 4:13-17; 1 Timothy 6:18-19; Matthew 6:19-24; Ephesians 2:8-10)

-       What kind of goals have changed your life? (Colossians 3:1-4; Job 42; Joshua 24:14-28; Deuteronomy 10:12)

-       Who in your life do you cherish because of faith, and not just friendship or family? (Philippians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; Philemon 1:1-7)