Born Again To Win

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Again we are reminded of Jim Eliot's words:
"He is no fool to give what he cannot keep gaining what he cannot lose." This is what Paul experienced: he lost his religion and his reputation, but he gained far more than he lost.
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(1) The knowledge of Christ (0. 8).
This means much more than knowledge about Christ because Paul had that kind of historical information before he was saved. To "know Christ" means to have a personal relationship with Him through faith. It is this experience that Jesus mentions in John 17:3.
You and I know about many people, even people who lived centuries ago, but we know very few personally. "Christianity is Christ." Salvation is knowing Him in a personal way.
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(2) The righteousness of Christ (0. 9).
Righteousness was the great goal of Paul's life when he was a Pharisee, but it was a self-righteousness, a works righteousness, that he never really could attain. But when Paul trusted Christ, he lost his own self-righteousness and gained the righteousness of Christ. The technical word for this transaction is imputation (read Rom. 4:1-8 carefully). It means
"to put to one's account." Paul looked at his own record and discovered that he was spiritually bankrupt. He looked at Christ's record and saw that He was perfect. When Paul trusted Christ, he saw God put Christ's righteousness to his own account!
More than that, Paul discovered that his sins had been put on Christ's account on the cross (2 Cor 5:21). And God promised Paul that He would never write his sins against him anymore. What a fantastic experience of God's grace!
Romans 9:30-
Rom 10:13 is a parallel passage, and you should read it carefully. What Paul says about the nation Israel was true in his own life before he was saved. And it is true in the lives of many religious people today; they refuse to abandon their own righteousness so that they might receive the free gift of the righteousness of Christ.
Many religious people will not even admit they need any righteousness. Like Saul of Tarsus, they are measuring themselves by themselves or by the standards of the Ten Commandments, and they fail to see the inwardness of sin. Paul had to give up his religion to receive righteousness, but he did not consider it a sacrifice.
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(3) The fellowship of Christ (vv.. 10-11).
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When he became a Christian, it was not the end for Paul, but the beginning. His experience with Christ was so tremendous that it transformed his life. And this experience continued in the years to follow. It was a personal experience ("That I may know Him ...") as Paul walked with Christ, prayed, obeyed His will, and sought to glorify His name. When he lived under Law, all Paul had was a set of rules.
But now he had a Friend, a Master, a constant Companion! It was also a powerful experience ("and the power of His resurrection … as the resurrection power of Christ, went to work in Paul's life. "Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20 Read Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:13-21 for Paul's estimate of the resurrection power of Christ and what it can do in your life.
It was also a painful experience ("and the fellowship of His sufferings . . "). Paul knew that it was a privilege to suffer for Christ (Phil. 1:29- 30).
In fact, suffering had been a part of his experience from the very beginning (Acts 9:16). As we grow in our knowledge of Christ and our experience of His power, we come under the enemy’s attack. Paul had been a persecutor at one time, but he learned what it means to be persecuted. But it was worth it! For walking with Christ was also a practical experience ("being made conformable unto His death . ..").
Paul lived for Christ because he died to self (Romans 6 explains this; he took up his cross daily and followed Him.
The result of this death was a spiritual resurrection
(v. 11) that caused Paul to walk "in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Paul summarizes this whole experience in Galatians 2:20, so take time to read it.
Yes, Paul gained far more than he lost. In fact, the gains were so thrilling that Paul considered all other "things" nothing but garbage in comparison!
No wonder he had joy- his life did not depend on the cheap "things" of the world but on the eternal values found in Christ. Paul had the "spiritual mind" and looked at the "things" of earth from heaven's point of view. People who live for "things" are never really happy because they must constantly protect their treasures and worry lest they lose their value. Not so the believer with the spiritual mind; his treasures in Christ can never be stolen and they never lose their value.
Maybe now is a good time for you to become an accountant and evaluate the "things" that matter most to you.
Most people read biographies to satisfy their curiosity about great people, hoping they may discover the "secret" that made them great. I recall sitting in a grade school assembly program many years ago, listening to an aged doctor who promised to tell us the secret of his long, healthy life. (At one time he was a physician to the president of the United States. I've forgotten which one, but at that stage in my life, it seemed it must have been Washington or Jefferson.) We all sat there with great expectation, hoping to learn the secret of a long life. At the climax of his address, the doctor told us, "Drink eight glasses of water a day!"
In Philippians 3, Paul gives us his spiritual biography, his past (vv. 1-11),
and his present (v.12-16),
and his future (vv. 17-21).
We have already met Paul, "the accountant,” who discovered new values when he met Jesus Christ. In this section, we meet Paul, "the athlete" with his spiritual race. In the final section, we will see Paul "the alien, having his citizenship in heaven and looking for the coming of Jesus Christ. In each of these experiences, Paul is exercising the spiritual mind; he is looking at things on earth from God's point of view. As a result, he is not upset by things behind him, around him, or before him-things do not rob him of his joy!
In his letters, Paul uses many illustrations from the world to communicate the truth about the Christian life. Four are prominent: the military ("Put on the whole armor of God"), architecture ("You are the temple of God"), agriculture ("Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap"), and athletics.
In this paragraph, it is Paul, the athlete. Bible students are not agreed as to the exact sport Paul is describing, whether the footrace or the chariot race. Either one will do, but my own preference is the chariot race. The Greek chariot, used in the Olympic Games and other events, was really only a small platform with a wheel on each side.
The driver had very little to hold on to as he raced around the course. He had to lean forward and strain every nerve and muscle to maintain balance and control the horses. The verb "reaching forth" in verse 13 literally means "stretching as in a race." It is important to note that Paul is not telling us how to be saved. If he were, it would be a picture of salvation by works or self-effort, and this would contradict what he wrote in the first 11 verses of this chapter. In order to participate in the Greek games, the athlete had to be a citizen. He did not run the race to gain his citizenship. In verse 20, Paul reminds us that "our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven." Because we are already the children of God through faith in Christ, we are responsible for "running the race" and achieving the goals God has set for us. This is a graphic picture of Philippians 2:12-13: "Work out your own salvation . . . for it is God which worketh in you ..." Each believer is on the track; each has a particular lane in which to run, and each has a goal to achieve. If we reach the goal the way God has planned, then we receive a reward. If we fail, we lose the reward, but we do not lose our citizenship.
(Read 1 Cor. 3:11-15 for the same idea, only using architecture as the symbol.)
All of us want to be "winning Christians" and fulfill the purposes for which we have been saved.
What are the essentials for winning the race and one day receiving the promised reward?
Winning Attitudes
1. I Have Not Attained (3:12-13a)
"Not as though I had already attained!" This is the statement of a great Christian who never permitted himself to be satisfied with his spiritual attainments. Obviously, Paul was satisfied with Jesus Christ (3:10), but he was not satisfied with his Christian life. A sanctified dissatisfaction is the first essential to progress in the Christian race.
Harry came out of the manager's office with a look on his face dismal enough to wilt the roses on the secretary's desk.
"You didn't get fired?" she asked.
"No, it's not that bad. But he sure did lay into me about my sales record. I can't figure it out; for the past month, I've been bringing in plenty of orders. I thought he'd compliment me, but instead, he told me to get with it."
Later in the day, the secretary talked to her boss about Harry. The boss chuckled. "Harry is one of our best salesmen, and I'd hate to lose him. But he has a tendency to rest on his laurels and be satisfied with his performance. If I didn't get him mad at me once a month, he'd never produce!"
Many Christians are self-satisfied because they compare their "running" with that of other Christians, usually, those who are not making much progress. Had Paul compared himself with others, he would have been tempted to be proud and perhaps to let up a bit. After all, there were not too many believers in Paul's day who had experienced all that he had! But Paul did not compare himself with others; he compared himself with himself and with Jesus Christ! The dual use of the word “perfect” in verses 12 and 15 explains his thinking. He has not arrived yet at perfection (v. 12), but he is
"perfect" [mature] (v. 15), and one mark of this maturity is the knowledge that he is not perfect!
The mature Christian honestly evaluates himself and strives to do better.
Often in the Bible, we are warned against a false estimate of our spiritual condition. The church at Sardis had "a name that thou livest, and art dead" (Rev. 3:1). They had a reputation without reality.
The church at Laodicea boasted that it was rich when in God's sight, it was "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).
In contrast to the Laodicean church, the believers at Smyrna thought they were poor when they were wealthy! (Rev. 2:9) Samson thought he still had his old power, but in reality, it had departed from him (Jud. 16:20).
Self-evaluation can be a dangerous thing because we can err in two directions: (1) making ourselves better than we are, or (2) making ourselves worse than we really are. Paul had no illusions about himself; he still had to keep "pressing forward" in order to "lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold" of him. A divine dissatisfaction is essential for spiritual progress. "As the heart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God" (Ps. 42:1-2).
2. I Am Focused (3:13a-"this one thing I do")
"One thing" is a phrase that is important to the Christian life. "One thing thou lackest," said Jesus to the self-righteous rich young ruler (Mark 10:
21). "One thing is needful," He explained to busy Martha when she criticized her sister (Luke 10:42).
"One thing I know!" exclaimed the man who had received his sight by the power of Christ (John
9:25). "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after!" testified the psalmist (Ps. 27:4).
Too many Christians are involved in "many things" when the secret of progress is to concentrate on "one thing." It was this decision that was a turning point in D. L. Moodys life. Before the tragedy of the Chicago fire in 1871, Mr. Moody was involved in Sunday School promotion, Y.M.CA. work, evangelistic meetings, and many other activities; but after the fire, he determined to devote himself exclusively to evangelism. "This one thing I do!" became a reality to him. As a result, millions of people heard the Gospel.
The believer must devote himself to "running the Christian race." No athlete succeeds by doing everything; he succeeds by specializing. Few athletes seem proficient in many sports, but they are the exception. The winners are those who concentrate, keep their eyes on the goal and let nothing distract them. They are devoted entirely to their calling. Like Nehemiah, the wall-building governor, they reply to the distracting invitations,
"I am doing great work, so I cannot come down!" (Neh. 6:3) "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). Concentration is the secret of power. If a river is allowed to overflow its banks, the area around it becomes a swamp. But if that river is dammed and controlled, it becomes a source of power. It is wholly a matter of values and priorities, living for what matters most.
3. My Direction Is The Future (Phil 3:13b
Philippians 3:13b KJV 1900
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
The past controls the unsaved person, but the Christian running the race looks toward the future. Imagine what would happen on the race course if the charioteers (or the runners) started looking behind them! It is bad enough for a plowman to look back (Luke 9:62), but for a charioteer to do so means a possible collision and serious
injury.
We are accustomed to saying "past, present, future,
" but we should view time as flowing from the future into the present and then into the past.
At least, the believer should be future-oriented,
"forgetting those things which are behind." Please remember that in Bible terminology, "to forget" does not mean "to fail to remember."
Apart from senility, hypnosis, or a brain malfunction, no mature person can forget what has happened in the past.
We may wish that we could erase specific memories, but we cannot. "To forget" in the Bible means "no longer to be influenced by or affected by." When God promises, "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. 10:17),
He is not suggesting that He will conveniently have a bad memory. This is impossible with God. What God is saying is, "I will no longer hold their sins against them. Their sins can no longer affect their standing with Me or influence My attitude toward them."
"forgetting those things which are behind" does not suggest an impossible feat of mental and psychological gymnastics by which we try to erase the sins and mistakes of the past. It simply means we break the power of the past by living for the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past. There were things in Paul's past that could have been weights to hold him back (1 Tim. 1:12-17), but they became inspirations to speed him ahead. The events did not change, but his understanding of them changed.
An excellent example of this principle is Joseph (Gen. 45:1-15). When he met his brothers the second time and revealed himself to them, he held no grudge against them. To be sure, they had mistreated him, but he saw the past from God's point of view. As a result he was unable to hold anything against his brothers. Joseph knew that God had a plan for his life a race for him to run and in fulfilling that plan and looking ahead, he broke the power of the past.
Regrets of the past shackle too many Christians. They are trying to run the race by looking backward! No wonder they stumble and fall and get in the way of other Christians! Some Christian runners are being distracted by the successes of the past, not the failures, and this isn’t good.
"The things which are behind" must be set aside and "the things which are before" must take their place.
It is possible to have dissatisfaction, devotion, and direction, and still lose the race and the re-ward. There is a fourth essential.
4. I Am Determined To Finish (Phil 3:14
Philippians 3:14 KJV 1900
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
"I press!" This same verb is translated "I follow after" in verse 12, and it carries the idea of intense endeavor. The Greeks used it to describe a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey. A man does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures, watching movies, reading books, or cheering at the games.
He becomes a winning athlete by getting into the game and determining to win! The same zeal that Paul employed when he persecuted the church (v. 6), he displayed in serving Christ. Come to think of it, wouldn't it be wonderful if Christians put as much determination into their spiritual lite as they do their golfing, fishing, or bowling?
There are two extremes to avoid here: (1) "I must do it all!" and (2) "God must do it all" The first describes the activist, the second the quietist, and both are heading for failure. "Let go and let God!" is a clever slogan, but it does not fully describe the process of Christian living. What quarterback would say to his team, "OK, men, just let go and let the coach do it all' On the other hand, no quarterback would say, "Listen to me and forget what the coach says!"
Both extremes are wrong.
The Christian runner with the spiritual mind realizes that God must work in him if he is going to win the race (Phil. 2:12-13). "Without Me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). God works in us that He might work through us. As we apply ourselves to the things of the spiritual life, God is able to mature us and strengthen us for the race. "Exercise thyself rather unto godliness!" (1 Tim. 4:7-8
1 Timothy 4:7–8 KJV 1900
7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
Toward what goal is the runner pressing with such spiritual determination? "The prize of the high [upward) calling of God in Christ Jesus" (3:14).
When he reaches the goal, he will receive the reward! Again, Paul is not suggesting that we attain heaven through our own efforts. He is saying that just as the athlete is rewarded for his performance, the faithful believer will be crowned when Jesus Christ returns. (See 1 Cor. 9:24-27 for a parallel, and note that while only one athlete may receive a prize, all Christians may receive the reward. Furthermore, the laurel wreath of the Olympic Games will fade, but the crown Christ gives will never fade.) The important thing is that we reach the goal He has established for us. No matter how successful we may be in the eyes of men, we cannot be rewarded unless we "take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [us]"
(v. 12, NIV).
5. I Am Disciplined (Phil 3:15-16
Philippians 3:15–16 KJV 1900
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
It is not enough to run hard and win the race; the runner must also obey the rules. In the Greek games, the judges were very strict about this. Any infringement of the rules disqualified the athlete.
He did not lose his citizenship (though he disgraced it, he did lose his privilege to participate and win a prize. In verses 15 and 16, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Christian remembering the "spiritual rules" laid down in the Word.
One of the greatest athletes to come out of the United States was Jim Thorpe. At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, he won the pentathlon and the decathlon and was undoubtedly the hero of the games. But the following year, officials found Thorpe had played semiprofessional baseball and therefore had forfeited his amateur standing. This meant that he had to return his gold medals and trophy and that his Olympic achievements were erased from the records. It was a high price to pay for breaking the rules.
This is what Paul has in mind in 1 Corinthians
9:24-27. "Any man who enters an athletic contest practices rigid self-control in training" (v. 25, wws). If the athlete breaks training, he is disqualified; if he breaks the rules of the game, he is disqualified. "No game contestant is crowned unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Tim. 2:5, wms). The issue is different from what he thinks or what the spectators think but what the judges say. One day each Christian will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12).
The Greek word for "judgment seat" is bema, the very same word used to describe the place where the Olympic judges gave out the prizes! If we have disciplined ourselves to obey the rules, we shall receive a prize.
Bible history is filled with people who began the race with great success but failed at the end because they disregarded God's rules. They did not lose their salvation, but they did lose their rewards (1 Cor. 3:15). It happened to Lot (Gen. 19), Samson (Jud. 16), Saul (1 Sam. 28; 31), and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). And it can happen to us! It is an exciting experience to run the race daily, "looking unto Jesus" (Heb. 12:1-2). It will be even more exciting when we experience that "upward calling and Jesus returns to take us to heaven! Then we will stand before the bema to receive our rewards! It was this future prospect that motivated Paul, and it can also motivate us.
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