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Dr. Jay P. Cook, Pastor

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More Than Status Quo – January 2, 2011

Philippians 3:12-16

The coming of the New Year seems to always bring new visions for the future and new thoughts for living. We sometimes make New Years resolutions and break them the same day.

Paul in Philippians 3 gives us directives about living beyond the status quo. These directives can be healthy resolutions that make a lot of sense.

I would recommend that you take at serious look Paul's words from Philippians 3:12–16. Writing from prison just before his execution, Paul looked back on a host of negative experiences from his youth and the positive experiences of having come to Christ on the road to Damascus. Just a few verses before, he lists his many accomplishments, noting at the same time how these positive accomplishments had become limitations. In the present passage, he gives us four steps for living beyond ourselves.

Philip. 3:12-16

Not that I have 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.

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. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

I. First We Need To Acknowledge That We Are Not Perfect. If you want to be like Christ and that should be our goal the first thing we must do is face up to the fact that we’re not perfect.

  1. If you are sitting there thinking I am not that bad. And we question the truth, of not being perfect, I'm sure there are people in your lives I know there are those in my life that remind me of my imperfection – maybe your spouse or one of our kids or maybe someone that we work with would be happy to let us know about our imperfection. The reality is that none of us is perfect.

    1. We find humility a very hard commodity to obtain. And here is Paul who did not lack self-confidence, saying in verses 12-13; that he hasn’t gotten it all together, or that he has made it to perfection, yet.

        1. And if he hasn’t made I’m way behind him.

        2. When we think we are getting close something happens to not us down a notch.

    1. Paul believed that he was well on his way toward perfection, reaching out for Christ, who had so wondrously reached out for him.

    1. Then he goes on to say to us that he doesn't’t count himself an expert in being a disciple.

  1. But he does say that he has his eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to be like Jesus.

  1. He is soon to become one of the great veterans of the faith, yet in the last weeks of his life, he doesn't think he's made it on his own. He's facing up to the fact, he's not perfect and encouraging us to do the same.

  1. We pride ourselves on being self-made people – we did it our way and made it on our own. I don’t know anyone who has singularly made it on their own.

    1. Every one of us at least had a parent or grandparent – someone that looked after us. We all have had teachers, a coach, a Boy Scout leader, Young Life leader that made a difference.

    1. Each of us had someone who contributed to what we are. It's very important for us to understand that we didn't get where we are on our own. We're not perfect. We got a long way to go.

        1. Notice the pronoun I am using here – “we” which includes me.

  1. All of us whether we want to admit or not are imperfect and are in need of a goal for our lives – something to shoot for.

  1. The Second Step If You Want To Live Beyond Yourself Is That We Live With Our Backs To The Past. The apostle Paul puts it this way: we should "[forget] what lies behind."

      1. Modern psychologist might argue that practice might be called denial. You might protest, "We dare not too quickly forget…

      1. From a psychodynamic standpoint, you can't tell people to simply come to Jesus and then march on with life, because that leads to papering over things from the past that have to be dealt with."

      1. Don't worry: Living with your back to the past does not mean choosing to ignore real issues you need to deal with.

      1. Our message is based on the cross of Jesus Christ. God created humankind, and we chose to disobey God. Subsequently, we fell and are subjects to original sin.

      1. None of us is perfect. God responded to our situation by breaking into human history. We have a faith that is based on acknowledging what we've done wrong and remembering what God has done for us. It is when we experience grace—God's unmerited favor on our behalf—that we can begin to forget the past.

      1. What do we need to forget? We need to forget the sins we've dumped at the cross. If we have come to God in repentance and claimed his forgiveness, we can put those sins behind us. Quit rehearsing them – God has removed them. God loves us so much that He gave His Own Son to take our sins.

        1. The Psalmist wrote about God’s love for us this way Scripture says, "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12

      1. But some of us need to forget the past positive things that we have done. I like people who are positive in the present – in the here and now.

      1. I like to hear the accomplishments of the past but some folks want to live in the past instead of looking at what they can accomplish in the future.

        1. Since we have messed up in the past we need allow the cleaner to clean up the mess.

        1. Once we have turned it over to the cleaner then we need to move on.

      1. It is crucial for us to live today realizing our future is ahead of us. We must forget what lies behind on the basis of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

    III. Third, We Must Have A Worthwhile Goal. The apostle Paul writes, “… 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”

    1. Is your goal one-dimensional – is it pressing toward the goal to win God’s prize? Is it an upward or heavenly goal?

    1. If our goal is about investments, popularity, power, and material things, it's not an upward call.

    2. If you're not pursuing an upward call – your goal is not God’s goal for your life.

    1. There are many who have not captured the vision of setting God’s goal for living and are extremely frustrated.

    1. What is that goal? It is to live like Christ. It is a matter of discovering the will of God and doing it. That is upward living.

      1. Finally, If You Want To Live Beyond Yourself, Go For Broke. But for God's sake and your own, don't take step four before you've taken steps one, two, and three. The moral highways are littered with the casualties who were simply going for broke.

    1. I have heard the statement over the years “like a chicken with its head cut off.” I never knew what that really meant until I was first entering the ministry and was serving a rural church. One of the farmers used to say that he was so busy that he was like a chicken with its head cut off – so I asked what does that really mean?

      1. So one time when he called me to see what it was like. I didn’t eat chicken for a while but I got to see a chicken that was going to be held over supper get its head cut off – and if hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed. The chicken took off running—showing the greatest exuberant expression of its entire life—only to flop over dead in a few seconds.

    1. That's what happens when you try to take step four without taking the first steps first. If you haven’t hadn’t gone through the preliminary steps first you are going to be like a sparkler that burns our quickly.

    1. But if we face up to the fact we're not perfect; live with our back to the past as a person forgiven by Jesus; and have a worthwhile goal, then we're free to go for broke.


    That doesn't mean you're going to lead a perfect life. Even Paul acknowledged, "I haven't accomplished it." But he was clothed in Christ's righteousness, and he was striving: "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus." Go for broke.

Please click here for attached slides to the sermon.