PAUL’S ONE THING

Phil.3:13,14 – Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Today’s verse in Philippians always reminded me of David when he said, “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.” Like David, Paul too had been captured by this “one thing”. David saw this beauty in the tabernacle in his times of extravagant worship, Paul had been captured by beauty on his journey to Damascus when He saw Jesus for Himself. In a moment he was changed from a profane man into a worshiper. The encounter with Christ was so stunning that it changed the focus of everything in Paul’s life for the rest of his life. Rather than breathing out curses he was breathing out the praises of the Lord. Here are some beautiful thoughts from Daniel Wilcox who lived in 1676-1733.

“O my soul, what sights have I seen in the house of God! what provisions have I tasted! what entertainments have I had! what enlargements in prayer, and answers thereto! what impression under his word, what entertainment at his table, as he has sometimes brought me into his banqueting house, and his banner over me has been love! And though I cannot, it may be, say so much of this as some others; yet what I have found, I cannot but remember with thankfulness, and desire more; and as this was in the house of God, here would I still desire to dwell.”

What insights, what provisions, what enlargements in prayer, what impressions from His word, and what entertainments at His table; these can only be the words of someone who had tasted of the ‘one thing’. This ‘one thing’ is bigger than our enemies, more powerful than sickness, greater than our debt, and stronger than death. This is the one thing we dare not live our life without. Maybe you could never imagine yourself satisfied with this kind of radical spiritual life. It only seems radical because of your perspective. There is no way to imagine beauty without prior experience, it must be seen. So don’t be too surprised if you are ambushed like Paul was, being ambushed by beauty is absolutely irreversible.

PRESSING TOWARD THE MARK

Phil.3:14 – I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I know what pressing is, most guys do. It’s what we do when we really, really want something. Whether its that job or new position at work, or maybe that new motorcycle or new set of golf clubs, or maybe the girl that grabbed your eye; pressing is what we do when we want something desperately. It’s something you just can’t get out of your head. Paul knew about that from his old life. He had climbed to the very pinnacle of the ranks of the world of the Pharisees. He had pressed for that spot for years. Now it meant nothing. In his words he said his former ambitions were like rubbish (what he really said is that it was like a pile of, you know ….“mess”).

What was so, so valuable that his former passions meant nothing? It was what he saw on the Damascus Road, a glimpse of Jesus. The veil had been pulled back for a minute and he saw the beauty and pricelessness of the other side. Paul couldn’t get away from the joy that he had begun to taste that day and the promise of more to come. That’s why Paul was pressing. Here is what Matthew Henry says about this passage.

“A Christian’s calling is a high calling: it is from heaven, as its original; and it is to heaven in its tendency. Heaven is the prize of the high calling; —the prize we fight for, and run for, and wrestle for, what we aim at in all we do, and what will reward all our pains. It is of great use in the Christian course to keep our eye upon heaven. This is proper to give us measures in all our service, and to quicken us every step we take; and it is of God, from whom we are to expect it.”

So that was it, heaven had now become Paul’s prize. This prize had replaced all of those other prizes that had crowded Paul’s life before. In light of the power and beauty He experienced in the presence of Jesus the prizes of ambition and riches faded away into nothing. So how about you? Is your life crowded with pressing for those other things or have you been struck by the heavenly goal like the Apostle Paul?

GRASPED BY GOD

Phil.3:12 – Barclay – Not that I have already obtained this, or that I am already all complete but I press on to try to grasp that for which I have been grasped by Jesus Christ.

I love Barclay’s translation of this verse, especially using the word “grasped”. Do you know what it means to be grasped by the Lord? I feel like that is exactly what happened to me at my conversion and calling into the ministry. I was grasped by His hand and literally stopped in my tracks. He had a different purpose and direction for my life than the aimless one I was involved in. He not only snatched me out of my ungodly lifestyle and world but He thrust me down a new path that has continued (at this point) for over forty five years. The next part of the verse is also quick striking, Paul spoke about pressing on to grasp whatever it was that the Lord had grasped him for. That is what the rest of our life is, the joyful pursuit of God and His plan. Here is how Barclay describes this verse.

“He says that he is trying to grasp that for which he has been grasped by Christ….. Paul felt that when Christ stopped him on the Damascus Road, he had a vision and a purpose for Paul; and Paul felt that all his life he was bound to press on, lest he fail Jesus and frustrate his dream. Every man is grasped by Christ for some purpose; and, therefore, every man should all his life press on so that he may grasp that purpose for which Christ grasped him…..There is no doubt that Paul is here speaking to the antinomians (old school for grace message). They were those who denied that there was any law at all in the Christian life. They declared that they were within the grace of God and that, therefore, it did not matter what they did; God would forgive. No further discipline and no further effort were necessary. Paul is insisting that to the end of the day the Christian life is the life of an athlete pressing onwards to a goal which is always in front.”

So I want to join with Paul and fix my hope completely on Christ in the present. The past is gone and the future is just that, in the future. Grasping Him, pressing through the obstacles, grabbing the hem of His garment, embracing Him and His plan; that’s the way I want to spend my life.

 

 

FORGET ABOUT IT

Phil.3:13,14 – Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

This is one of those amazing Paul passages that causes us to rethink everything. Many people live their lives in the past reminiscing about glory days gone by. Paul had many great things in his past to get all nostalgic about but he would have none of it. There would be plenty time for that on the other side of the eternal curtain but as for now, He had his sights on other things. He was convinced that the daylight of this life was coming to an end and the new day was about to burst on the scene, there were souls in the balance so he was going to press in. How did He stay focused? Here is how Paul says it in his own words “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection”. Knowing Christ was His passion, out of that flowed His passion for the lost. Here is how Albert Barnes describes this passage.

“There is an allusion here undoubtedly to the Grecian races. One running to secure the prize would not stop to look behind him to see how much ground he had run over, or who of his competitors had fallen or lingered in the way. He would keep his eye steadily on the prize, and strain every nerve that he might obtain it. If his attention was diverted for a moment from that, it would hinder his flight, and might be the means of his losing the crown. So the apostle says it was with him. He looked onward to the prize. He fixed the eye intently on that. It was the single object in his view, and he did not allow his mind to be diverted from that by anything—not even by the contemplation of the past. He did not stop to think of the difficulties which he had overcome, or the troubles which he had met, but he thought of what was yet to be accomplished.”

That pretty much tells the tale. People make incredible sacrifices to win sporting events. How much work goes in to winning an Olympic medal or a Super Bowl ring? Paul teaches us what really matters, get your eyes on the eternal reward, everything else will get sorted out.

GOD’S NEW DAY

Phil.3:13,14 – 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.

The new works of God are what I like to call naturally supernatural. That comes close to being an oxymoron but that is the way spiritual things are in this goofy, secular world. I am thinking about stepping in to new things because of the season I believe Victory Fellowship as we celebrate our church’s 40th anniversary. The last forty years have been amazing but with all of the great things we have seen it is still the past. Paul seems almost insensitive when he said he was forgetting the former things to embrace the new. What were some of those former things? They included things like his prophetic calling into the ministry, participating in the great revival in Antiock, launching churches in Syria and in Asia, as well as planting the first churches in Europe. He had seen blind eyes open, the deaf hear, and the lame leap for joy. There had been supernatural deliverance from prison and multitudes coming to Christ throughout the region. Paul loved what God had done but he said he was going to forget those things and embrace Christ. In the same passage in Philippians Paul gives us the key, the way we can forget the good and the bad of the past and embrace the new. This is how he said it, Phil.3:10,11 – “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”.

There are two things in this passage that give us the answer. First, our pursuit is Christ Himself, not the things He has done through us. Our passion is to know Him deeply and out of that ministry takes place. The second key is this, the resurrection from the dead. Paul’s life was consumed by what lies beyond the grave. It is at the resurrection that we will see the true fruit of what Christ has done in and through us. That day is coming and the works of our hands will all be judged.

So, let’s celebrate what God has done and then, forget about it. It’s time to embrace the new because a new season has overtaken us.

PHARISEE INTERRUPTED

PHIL.3:5 – “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;”

Saul of Tarsus, known to us as the Apostle Paul, was at the top of his game. He had been raised for this, being taught at Gamaliel’s feet from his childhood. He was a leading Pharisee, charged with the duty to root out and destroy this new religious cult called the Way. Paul hated these people, these Christians, he saw them as a threat to his stature and prominence as a leader in Israel. It all came to a screeching halt that day on the Damascus Road. Paul was said to be “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” until that life changing interruption when Jesus suddenly appeared and Saul found himself in the dirt. In those moments in the presence of the Lord everything changed. This interruption was one that would change Saul into Paul and a Jewish sect into a worldwide religion. Paul nor the world could ever be the same.

Paul’s dogma was about to experience dramatic and permanent transformation. First he began to see Jesus as the Savior. Rather than a preacher of the law this converted Pharisee was a preacher of the cross. 1 Cor.1:18 – “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The cross that brought salvation became central to Paul’s message. We also see that Paul caught a glimpse of the heavenly ministry of Jesus. Rom.8:33,34 – “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Paul saw Jesus as the resurrected, glorified heavenly high priest. Out of this Paul saw Jesus as our Advocate, Intercessor, and heavenly High Priest.

Paul also clearly saw freedom from our old life in Christ’s work on the cross. Gal.2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Out of this glimpse of the glory of the Lord Paul taught that our old life is dead, we are not the people we used to be. He also saw that we are alive now with the resurrection life of Christ in us. Paul also introduced the modern concept of the local church to us. Gal.2:20 – “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,”

Just one moment changed everything for Paul. Maybe we too need an interruption, an interruption that reveals Christ Himself to us.

PAUL’S REVELATION

Phil.3:10 – that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…

I think the most influential person in the history of man (excluding Jesus Himself) would have to be the Apostle Paul. His revelation of Christ is being preached in thousands of churches weekly and has been for the last two thousand years. It all started that day an angry Pharisee, known as Saul of Tarsus, was struck to the ground by the power of God outside of Damascus, Syria. He was living in an atmosphere of hatred, doing all within his power to stop the emerging Christian Church. That all stopped when Christ appeared to Him on the Damascus Road. In those moments on the ground Paul’s life, as well as millions of others, were being drastically effected. Paul met Jesus of Nazareth for himself that day, our world could never be the same. Out of Paul’s revelation of Christ that began on that dirt road in Syria came most of what we call the New Testament today.

What were some of the foundational truths revealed to Paul? First there was Paul’s understanding of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Here is how Paul said it in Ephesians 2:8,” For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

Paul also had a revelation of the death of our old life so that we could live a new life in Christ. He taught this in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Paul taught us to live our lives for eternity, he had clearly seen the value of knowing Christ and living for him. This is what he said in Philippians 3:7,8 “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ”.

These are just a small sample of Paul’s revelation of Jesus Christ. Studying the writings of Paul will totally change your life.

CHRISTIAN PERFECTION

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

(Phil 3:12 NAS95)

It seems every few years we have to cycle through historic doctrinal errors that get rediscovered and repackaged. Everything from ultimate reconciliation (everyone will be saved), to excessive emphasis on demons, and spiritual warfare (that one decimated the Welch Revival), to a rediscovery of antinomianism and its twin sister sinless perfection. There seems to be another version of sinless perfection filtering through the church today. One version says that once you get a revelation of the cross you won’t sin. An even more sinister version says that because of the cross it doesn’t matter what we do because the Lord can’t see our sin because of the cross. Both versions are destructive. Here is how Spurgeon addressed this in the 1800’s.

“Recollect that there are two kinds of perfection which the Christian needs-the perfection of justification in the person of Jesus, and the perfection of sanctification wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. At present, corruption yet remains even in the breasts of the regenerate-experience soon teaches us this. Within us are still lusts and evil imaginations. But I rejoice to know that the day is coming when God shall finish the work which he has begun; and he shall present my soul, not only perfect in Christ, but perfect through the Spirit, without spot or blemish, or any such thing. Can it be true that this poor sinful heart of mine is to become holy even as God is holy? Can it be that this spirit, which often cries, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this sin and death? shall get rid of sin and death-that I shall have no evil things to vex my ears, and no unholy thoughts to disturb my peace? Oh, happy hour! may it be hastened! When I cross the Jordan, the work of sanctification will be finished; but not till that moment shall I even claim perfection in myself.”

I love that, the two fold work of perfection of Jesus in our lives. First, to those in Christ we are legally free from sin and no longer have its stain on our conscience. Secondly, the Holy Spirit continues His work in our lives to perfect us in our spiritual journey. I have to join Paul in saying, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus”.

MADE FOR HIS GLORY

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Rom. 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Revival really changed everything for me. I never realized how man centered I had made God. I thought everything in creation was about me, or mankind in general. I believed the chief purpose for creating everything was for man’s enjoyment and prosperity. That was radically turned upside down by the touch of God. What do I mean? I was always about God’s gifts to me, not really about God Himself, I was fixated on His blessings. The touch of God brought the Lord to the center of my life. In a moment of time I saw it, it was not His gifts that my heart yearned for, it was Him. That’s why everything in creation is aimed at glorifying God. When God is glorified and I step into that whole arena, I am satisfied, filled with ultimate joy. That’s it, God is glorified and my soul is happified (that is actually a word even if spellcheck doesn’t get it). Here is how John Piper describes this reality.

“It is also intuitively obvious to me that if God’s self-revelation obliges me to thank him, then the revelation of God’s glory is for my good, that is, for my enjoyment. This is what I sense intuitively. Paul expects us to discern this in the things that are made. And this is what I do discern: if there rises in my heart a profound indebtedness to God for the revelation of his glory, then I am a witness to the truth that this revelation is good for me. It is also self-evident to me that a gratitude to God that finds his gifts pleasing but his person displeasing is not a gratitude that glorifies him. Therefore, it is evident that in creation the goodness of God’s gifts are meant to give us a taste of the goodness of God himself. In this way, our thankfulness is a form of glorifying him, not just his gifts.”
So my ultimate happiness comes from knowing the Lord. This is what I was born for, this has become the definition of my life. Like Paul said in Phil. 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” When you find Him for yourself your real life will begin, like Jesus said, it’s in losing your life you finally find it.

MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN ANYTHING

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Phil. 3:7,8 ¶ But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

Have you ever been bored in church? There are usually one or two sources of this boredom. The obvious one is the apathetic, backslidden condition of the hearer. The things of religion are boring because their heart is consumed by other things. The second source is a little more disturbing. More often than we would think the problem is not the hearer but the speaker. Preachers who have no personal encounter with God themselves are speaking only in theory, like a parrot repeating what others have said. If the topic is not real to the preacher you are certain to have a sleepy congregation. What is the solution? There has to be a personal encounter with God. The great example is the Apostle Paul, how could Paul ever be boring after what he had experienced on the Damascus Road. Understanding this helps us in understanding revival. One of the players in the Great Awakening was Jonathan Edwards. His preaching came out of his encounter with the Holy Spirit. Here is a snippet from what he called His Personal Narrative.

“I have many times had a sense of the glory of the third person in the Trinity, in his office of Sanctifier; in his holy operations communicating divine light and life to the soul. God in the communications of his Holy Spirit, has appeared as an infinite fountain of divine glory and sweetness; being full and sufficient to fill and satisfy the soul: pouring forth itself in sweet communications, like the sun in its glory, sweetly and pleasantly diffusing light and life. I have sometimes had an affecting sense of the excellency of the word of God, as a word of life; as the light of life; a sweet, excellent, life-giving word: accompanied with a thirsting after that word, that it might dwell richly in my heart.”
Edwards had tasted the sweetness of the other world for himself. If someone has tasted that for themselves you will know it the moment they open their mouths. So how can we have another awakening in our country? The only answer is to taste and see, the rest is in the hands of the Lord.