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Pressing On

July 2015
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PrintLast evening I started writing a blog post but it wasn’t coming together so I gave up on it a bit after midnight. Usually, I write my blog posts over several hours in one sitting. Actually, they write themselves as I never know what the topic is going to be or even the direction the post is going to take as I am writing it. In other words, I am “compelled” to write them. I suppose some writers might attribute it to a “muse” of sorts. I call it an unction of sorts.

It is now 3:30 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. Well, I almost fell asleep, but this feeling kept gnawing at me so I finally got out of bed and turned on the laptop. So here I am, in the middle of the night, writing again. Fortunately, most of the time it is in the morning or early afternoon when I feel compelled to write. Rarely is it in the middle of the night, like now. However, unemployment does have a couple of “up” sides and writing at any time during the day or night is one of them. For example, I don’t have to wonder how I will get through the next day at work if I write in the middle of the night. In fact, if I was working it is most likely that I never would have started this blog in the first place five years ago. However, on to the topic at hand . . . .

In Chapter 3 of Philippians, the Apostle Paul brings up a very important item–that he puts “no confidence in the flesh” (verse 3) even though he had many reasons for boasting about his accomplishments until he met Jesus Christ. Here is what he had to say in Philippians 3:

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

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.

Paul gives us his credentials “in the flesh”–circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” However, he tosses it all out the window when he goes on to state, But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. . . .”

Let’s think about what he is really saying here as it has a very real application to our own lives. How often do we boast about our own accomplishments? That somehow we have managed to accomplish what we’ve done on our own and we’d like to receive some accolades for our efforts. We might get promoted up the line to a very high level position with a big salary to go with it. We purchase a house in a good neighborhood to keep up with the Joneses and impress others. We climb the social ladder and accept the praise as we go higher. Appearances matter to us. So does being admired by others. And if anything happens to damage that image we’ve built, whether it is something we did or something done to us by someone else, we scramble to still try and look good. We don’t want people talking about us behind our backs. And we certainly don’t want to lose our public image that we have worked so hard to attain. If our reputation went down in flames, we’d feel like we literally died. What others think about us is of primary importance to us, as well as our socio-economic status in society.

Read Paul’s words again after he talked about his own accomplishments. What was it that he said? He said:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. . . (verses 7 & 8).

Think about that for a moment. Would we consider losing everything we have and what we worked so hard for for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord? Paul had an excellent reputation with all the honors associated with it as a Pharisee and he lost it all once he met Jesus Christ. And he spent 30 plus years preaching Christ and being persecuted by the very people he was once a part of, in fact, a very big part of, all because of knowing Jesus Christ. Not only that, but he went on to say the following in verses 8-12:

I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

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.

surrenderDo we really understand what it means to follow Jesus Christ? It means giving up our pride and our ownership in anything that we do or that we have as it all comes from Him in the first place. It is not us that needs to be honored but Jesus Christ. But do we really understand what that means? So often we have it totally turned around. We climb the social and career ladder and accept all the accolades that go along with it and may even thank God for all of it, but we do like to take the glory for it, and at least to be acknowledged in the public eye for being “successful.” We’ve learned to toot our own horn as if we accomplished it all on our own and we want everyone to notice. And, of course, we want to be admired by others, too. So you ask, “What’s so wrong with that?”

First off, understand that it’s not that the things Paul had learned in the past didn’t directly impact what he did in the future after he met Jesus Christ. In fact, it was his very background as a Pharisee that gave him the education he needed to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Israelites after he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, and eventually to the Gentiles, too. Without that knowledge he could not have written the New Testament books that he wrote. But he didn’t boast about his knowledge or his background or hold it over anyone as a way to make them appreciate him or follow him. No, he always pointed to Jesus Christ and never to himself. He knew he was not the focal point, but that Christ was the One to receive the glory. And he did lose everything he had to pursue the mission Jesus Christ had for him. And he did it gladly.

Let’s pick up from verse 12 through verse 14. Paul continued by saying:

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.

Jesus Christ can’t be Lord of our lives if we are constantly in control and seeking accolades for ourselves or looking out for our own welfare all the time. If we insist that our own reputation is more important to us than that of Jesus Christ, we are not serving Him. We are serving ourselves and what we want. We have to lose our own lives in order to gain what Jesus would have us to do with the rest of our lives. And if we don’t get that, we don’t really understand what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. It’s about transformation (see Romans 12:1-2) and it’s about being “conformed to the image of God’s Son” (see Romans 8:29-30).

In March 2015, I published a post on an article written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) and available online titled, Five Vows for Spiritual Power.” The article is available at this link and it provides full explanations for each of the five vows listed below. For this post I’m just going to list them:

  1. Deal thoroughly with sin.
  2. Never own anything. (This does not mean that you can’t actually own anything, but rather it means the need to, as Tozer stated, “get delivered from this sense of possessing them.”)
  3. Never defend yourself.
  4. Never pass anything on about anybody else that will hurt him or her.
  5. Never accept any glory.

Humility is not our strong suit in America, in or out of the church. We like taking the credit when we think credit is due, but as a Christian that is a very dangerous position to be in. Psalm 115:1 states, Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” 

Once Paul met Jesus Christ, nothing was ever the same again. In fact, Paul gladly counted it all as loss “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Do we have that kind of passion when it comes to knowing Jesus Christ? If not, who do we really belong to and what do we really live for? This world? Or the next world where eternity stretches out forever.

I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous posts that we have a somewhat warped idea of what success is supposed to look like for a Christian living in America. Far too often, it looks just like our culture’s idea of success. Paul’s life before he was converted to Christ looked just like what we might describe that a Christian’s life is supposed to look like in our culture. And nothing could be further from the truth. If we will allow Him to, God determines what success looks like for each and every one of us, and it’s not according to our culture. He did that for all the people in the Bible, too, who yielded to Him and not to themselves. And many of them wouldn’t fit very well in a lot of our churches today. History records that Paul was beheaded at the end of his life (although it is not mentioned in the Bible). However, at that point his real, eternal life had only just begun. So which is more important to us?

The “here and now?” (See James 4:13-16) . . . 

Or “forever?” . . .

The choice is ours. . . .

YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul,” by TobyMac (with Kirk Franklin & Mandisa):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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1 Comment

  1. nhiemstra says:

    Reblogged this on Flotsam and Jetsam and commented:
    Here is another excellent post from Sara. I hope it ministers to you.

    Like

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