Sermons

Christ-Focused Living in 2012

January 1, 2012

Series:

Christ-Focused Living in 2012

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Philippians 3:13-14

“Christ-Focused Living in 2012”

(Philippians 3:13-14)

New Year’s Day Sermon

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

 

  • Take your Bibles and join me in Philippians chapter 3.

 

I don’t know how many of you have made New Year’s Resolutions.  I happen to think they’re good to make, if we think of them as personal goals they are good to make at any time of the year.

 

If you’re like me, you may be thinking of some kind of personal resolution having to do with health and fitness, especially given the eating you found yourself doing during the holidays.  Someone said it’s really not the eating we do between Christmas and New Year’s we should be concerned about, it’s the eating we do between New Year’s–and the next Christmas!  That’s really our greater concern, but if you’re like me, the eating during December…well, let’s just say there’s something about the Christmas holidays that always seems to make my clothes shrink, you know?

 

Whether you have made any New Year’s resolutions, the Apostle Paul stirs every Christian’s heart to resolve to do one thing, one main thing, a thing more important than any other thing we do in 2012.  I invite you to listen for that “one thing” in the text when I read it in a moment.  While the focus of our study will be upon just two verses, I want to read several verses preceding to properly contextualize our study.

 

  • Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.

 

Paul has just said that he has left behind the old life of legalism and regulations.  He had previously sought to earn his way into God’s favor by striving to keep the Old Testament commands perfectly.  He had endeavored to earn a righteousness of his own.  He has found, however, that the righteousness God desires is not a righteousness of our own making, but rather a righteousness imputed to us, given us by God, a righteousness that comes not by keeping the Old Testament Law, but a righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Paul has been seized by this truth because he has been seized by the Lord Jesus Christ.  So he says he has left behind that old life of regulation having been seized by Christ, “laid hold of” by Christ.  Now, his entire life is shaped by this all-consuming passion to live for Jesus Christ, to know Him more deeply with the passing of every day.  Listen for Paul’s Christ-focused resolution here in the text.

 

7 ¶ But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ (all his former “successes” in keeping the Old Testament regulations and commands).

8 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

9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

11 if, by any means (one way or another), I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

12 ¶ Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

13 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,

14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

  • Pray.

 

Introduction:

 

Most leaders know the value of focus.  Successful business and community leaders understand that none of us is equipped to do everything well.  If we try to “cover all the bases” and micromanage every aspect of operations, our efforts to try do everything well, will likely result in a failure to do anything well.  So rather than taking a so-called “shotgun” approach, expending our energy everywhere like buckshot, scattering our efforts all over the place, we are to take more of the “rifle” approach, focusing in on one main thing we know we can do, making that our singular focus, and hitting that target.

 

The “one thing,” the one main “resolution” of the Apostle Paul is to “know Christ.”  He says that in verse 10, “That I may know Him.”  Paul has an all-consuming passion to know Christ.  And it’s not as though Paul has just become a Christian and is excited now about his new growth in Christ.  Paul is writing this letter as something of a “veteran,” if you will.  He has “known Christ” now for three decades.  And despite his having been a Christian for over 30 years now, he has an all-consuming passion to know Him better.  Look again at verse 10:

 

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

 

A paraphrase of verse 10 would be something like, “I want to go through what Christ went through that I may know Him better.”  I want to go through what Christ went through that I may know Him better.

 

It is a bit like what we have been studying in Luke where Jesus Himself says in Luke 14:27, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”  Paul says, “I want to bear my cross just as my Lord bore His cross.”  I want to go through what Christ went through that I may know Him better.

 

So, verse 10 again, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.”  I want to know Christ, yielding to that same power that raised Christ from the dead.  I want to feel what He felt.

 

He also says in verse 10, I want to know “the fellowship of His sufferings.”  I want to know Christ better by knowing His sufferings.  Paul had written two chapters earlier in Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”

 

So he says–last part of verse 10–I want to be “conformed to His death,” I want to experience what He experienced, including “being conformed to His death,–verse 11 now: “if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.”

 

That phrase “if, by any means” is best translated, “So, one way or another.”  Paul is saying in verse 11, “One way or another I will attain to the resurrection of the dead.  That is, either I will be alive when Christ returns again and so be “called up in to the air” to meet Him when He comes (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) or, I will die first and my soul will go on to be with the Lord because to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).”  So, “one way or another I will attain to the resurrection of the dead.”

 

That’s what Paul seems to be getting at here in verse 11.  By any means–one way or another–I may attain to the resurrection of the dead whether I am alive when Christ returns or if I die first and my soul goes on to be with the Lord, either way I am blessed with the privilege of “being conformed to His death” and “attaining to the resurrection of the dead.”  No wonder Paul could write earlier, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).”

 

Then it is as though Paul pauses for a moment and draws a breath and writes, “Look, I’m not there yet.  I’ve got a long ways to go.  I haven’t “arrived” spiritually.  I haven’t attained this so-called “resurrection of the dead,” nor do I really “Know Christ” as I really want to know Him.  I’ve still got much to learn.  That’s his point here in verse 12:

 

12 ¶ Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

 

Paul says, “I haven’t ‘arrived’ spiritually.”  I’ve still got much to learn and much to do.  I’m not there yet.  I don’t know Christ as fully as I wish, nor am I through growing.  I have not yet been “perfected.”  In other words, I have not yet reached the final state of glorification when I am perfectly conformed to the likeness of Christ.  I’ve still got a ways to go.

 

Christ has “laid hold of me” and so I’m living for Him.  In the same way Christ has seized me and “laid hold of me,” So will I “lay hold” of that purpose for which Christ has grasped me.  I will press on and keep moving forward with my eyes fixed on Jesus, the One who is the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).

 

So the bottom line here is that Paul wants to know Christ.  Although he has know Him for 30 years, he wants to know Him more.  He has an all-consuming passion to know Christ.  That is His singular resolution: “Resolved to know Christ more.”

 

I will venture a guess that this resolution resonates with nearly every one of us listening to this message.  Not everyone, of course.  There are some here today who were dragged here kicking and screaming, some have come out of curiosity.  But it is probably safe to conclude that the majority of us would say, “I want to know Him, too.”  I want to know Christ in a deeper way.  More than anything else, I wish for this to be my “New Year’s Resolution,” resolved to know Christ.

 

If this is how you feel, then you and I may be helped by what Paul says next.  Having given the “What” of the resolution, Paul now gives the “How” of the resolution.  If we ask, “How can I know Christ more in 2012?”  How can I carry out this resolution to know Him more deeply and love Him more fully?  Paul gives us the “How” in the next two verses, verses 13 and 14.   He says:

 

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended (again, “I haven’t ‘arrived’ spiritually); but one thing I do (note this, one thing, it’s one thing with three actions), forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Let’s examine these three actions.  If it’s your resolution to know Christ more deeply and love Him more fully, write down these three actions and do them each day of 2012.  First:

 

I. I Will Let Go of the Past (13)

 

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind

 

Paul had every reason to let go of the past.  He had reason to forget those things which were behind him.  He was not proud of being the man who had once persecuted Christians, being the man who had held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:57-58), of being the man widely-known for his harming Christians, so said Ananias in Acts 9:13.  Why he was on his way to Damascus for the very purpose of arresting and imprisoning followers of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:2).  Paul had every reason to forget the past–such guilt and shame.

 

Some of you may find yourselves dwelling on past failures.  You can’t seem to get over a past sin–or sins.  You feel in your heart as though God continues to hold up this past action before you, rubbing your face into it the way a person rubs the face of a dog into the mess he has made, thinking somehow God will never get over this and that you deserve it, that God will never get over what you have done.

 

The wonderfully good news of the gospel is the liberating teaching of union with Christ.  For the Christian, all sin has been forgiven–all sin past, present, future–because of our union with Christ.  Because we believe Christ and because we have received Christ into our lives, we are fully and completely forgiven.  God forever sees us united together with His perfect Son, Christ Jesus.  Jesus Christ has us “covered.”  Christ’s righteousness covers up all our failures and removes our legal guilt.  How?  Because, like Paul we are “found in Him,”–verse 9–”not having (our) own righteousness…but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”  We wear Christ’s righteousness like a spotless perfect garment.

 

So we can forever “forget those things which are behind.”  Because of the Gospel, we can let go of the past.  When Satan tempts you to bring up your past failures–whether your sin before trusting Christ or your sin since trusting Christ–when this happens, preach the gospel to yourself.  That’s what the hymn-writer suggests:

 

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free.

For God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.

 

Let go of the past.  Know that God accepts you not on the basis of your personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Because of Christ and your union “in Him” you are forgiven.

 

Resolved in 2012: I will let go of the past.  Secondly.

 

II. I Will Look Forward to the Future (13)

 

13 …and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

 

As we let go of the past we look forward to the future.  Some of you may fear what the future holds for you, what 2012 holds for you.  Let me say that this is the wrong way to think.  Stop thinking about what the future holds for you, rather think of the One Who holds the future.  Reach forward to Christ.  Look to the future by looking to Jesus.  Again, the writer of Hebrews:

 

Hebrews 12:1-2, “…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,”

 

When I was in little league I remember our coach teaching us how to run after hitting the ball.  He said, “Don’t look to see where the ball went.  Just run to first base.  Keep your eyes on the goal of first base and run.  Don’t look at everything else, just look to the goal.”  That’s how we’re to run the Christian race.

 

See, letting go of the past includes letting go of past hurts–past hurts in our marriage, past hurts in our jobs, past hurts in our families.  We can’t move forward if we’re going to keep looking back.  We’ve got to forget those things if we’re going to live a life focused upon the goal of an all-consuming passion for Jesus Christ.

 

This takes us to verse 14: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  I will let go of the past.  Secondly, I will look forward to the future, because thirdly:

 

III. I Will Live my Life for Jesus Christ (14)

 

14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Paul says, “In my effort to know Christ more deeply and love Him more fully I am like an athlete running a race.  I will not sit idly by and watch others run.  I will run the race myself.  And I will keep my eyes on the goal, my eyes fixed on Jesus, knowing Him more deeply and loving Him more fully, my eyes fixed on Jesus Christ as I run the race set before me, pressing on toward the goal.  And one day I’ll receive the prize of being with Christ Jesus forever and ever.  What a joy it will be one day to hear my Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  Enter thou in to the joy of thy Lord (Matthew 25:21).”

 

The point is that Paul is not stagnating.  He is always moving forward.  We’re to always move forward, with the singular devotion of an athlete in training, laying aside the things that hold us back, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ.

 

Is that your desire, to “know Him?”  Even after 30 years, Paul still sought to “know Him.”  See, God is infinite.  There’s no end to Him. And because there’s no end to Him, there’s no end to knowing Him.  Isn’t that wonderful?!  You will never know Christ completely.  Because He is God, He is infinite in His attributes.  You can never know Him exhaustively, but you can know Him more today than you did yesterday.  But you’ve got to be running the race.

 

  • Stand for prayer.

 

Many of you are familiar with the popular movie from the 1980s, “Chariots of Fire.”  In the movie there’s a race that occurs between Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, Liddell of Scotland; Abrahams of England.  In this race of 100 meters, Liddell beats Abrahams and beats him badly.  And the scene shows Abrahams afterwards, sulking.  He’s sitting alone in the bleachers replaying the race over and over in his mind.  His girlfriend approaches from the side and sits down, but he says nothing.  Finally, he begins talking and, pouting-like he says, “If I can’t win, I won’t run!”  And his girlfriend, leaving now, wisely replies, “If you don’t run you can’t win.”

 

  • Let’s pray.

 

“God help us run with endurance the race set before us.  As we begin a new year, help us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, that our song would be that of the hymn-writer:

 

More, more about Jesus,

More, more about Jesus,

More of His saving fullness see,

More of His love who died for me.

 

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