December 26, 1999, New Years, 2000

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Looking Ahead

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 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, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus

It seems my mind is drawn to this passage every new year, and this year is no exception. Maybe I can give some new thoughts to it this year. Let me try to give you a simple outline of this passage:

1) Paul is speaking in terms of Salvation. The church of his day was made up primarily of Jews, and the Jews depended upon their good works according to the law of God and the traditions of men to secure their place in heaven.

2) Paul said his goal is to be found in Christ -- that is, that he would have the righteousness that is by faith, and not by works, as was being so eagerly sought by the Jews.

A) God alone must show a person his natural inclination to seek salvation by good works. Good works are useless for salvation, for only the work of Christ could save him a person.

It seems that everyone has their standard for righteousness before God: Honesty, kindness, courtesy, modesty, morality, charity, obedience to the law as one understands it, &c. Only the grace of God can show how far short these things are of God's righteousness.

Paul says that these things are useless before God for his eternal life.

The Lord showed Paul that all his good works were useless outside of faith in Christ. And God does not show the uselessness of good works to everyone.

B) Note here that though Paul's goal was to have the righteousness of Christ, that sure did not interfere with his righteous works according to the law of God. Paul shows us that the two go together -- faith and works. The child of God will love the people of God, the work of God, the house of God and the righteous works of God according to the Ten Commandments.

3) Paul desired to know him, or be fully acquainted with God's nature and work, particularly in the area of salvation. Our highest desire should be to know him, and that can be accomplished through prayer, study and through the public preaching of his word.

A) one of the things to know here is the power of his resurrection. BY THIS we mean the assurance that we are now raised with him to sit in heavenly places, what is right now ours in Christ, and that one day we will be literally raised to meet him in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

B) fellowship of his suffering... Who does not want to be united with him in his glory, but how about his suffering?

C) being made conformable unto his death... Paul was even willing to die the death as Christ died on the cross.

4) V. 12, Paul's calling, as is the calling of EVERY Christian, was to be like Christ, perfect.

Apprehended -- TAKE INTO CUSTODY as one would arrest a criminal. Paul was taken into custody by the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9.) We have been apprehended of Christ Jesus. The purpose of ourapprehension was not so we could go to heaven on flowery beds of ease, but that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Because of his love toward his people, they (we) are apprehended of Christ Jesus to be holy even as he is holy.

5) V. 11, Paul's message revolved around the hope of the resurrection of the dead, 1 Cor. 15. The doctrine of the resurrection sets the Christian religion apart from the false religions of this world, which many times revolve around reincarnation.

6) V. 13, Paul admits that he had not obtained to the level of service to the Saviour to which he had been called. Though we would say that Paul was the very peak of Christianity, he felt he was far short of what was required of him.

7) Though he had not obtained to the perfection of Christ, that was no reason to quit trying. His failure did not influence him to quit trying to be what he was taken captive of the Lord to be.

8) Paul had one great purpose in life, and that was to be what the Lord called him to be -- to gain the perfection of Christ. It was not to gain both worldly wealth and salvation, both worldly honour and the Lord's crown of glory when his race was over. His purpose was to be what the Lord called him to be, and to lay aside everything that hindered that goal.

9) V. V. 13, forgetting those things which are behind. In running a race, one cannot stop to look behind him.

A) Paul did not stop to think of his shortcomings and errors. He did not stop to think of the past difficulties he had to overcome, nor the past troubles he had to confront.

Looking backward, we see everything to dishearten and to discourage us -- our own unfaithfulness; ourcoldness, deadness, and dulness. Our lack of zeal for the Lord and love for others. All of these things will discourage us.

Those who dwell on the good things of the past, though he may be a true Christian, will be sad, gloomy and depressed that things are not as good now as they were then. That person living in the "good old days" will, more than likely, be a recluse rather than a warm-hearted and active friend of the Lord.

My dad sits around all day looking at a family picture that was taken when I was about 10 years old. My mother is in that picture, and he sits around thinking how good it was when she was alive. We have done all we can think to do to get him out of the house, but he won't budge.

I also know folks who look back over the race they have run for the Saviour and the difficulties they have overcome and the work they have done, and they became self-complacent and self-satisfied -- "I have served my time in the Lord's army. Now it is someone else's turn." He feels his prize is secure, and he can relax and float to heaven on flowery beds of ease.

However, it is profitable for a Christian to look at the past mercies of God to stir his heart in gratitude; it is profitable for a Christian to think on his shortcomings and errors to produce repentance and humility. But these things must not be allowed to move our mind from the purpose established for us by the Lord.

The past can be quite discouraging. He is the most cheerful Christian who looks onward, and who keeps heaven always in view.

10) v. 13 reaching forth unto those things which are before.

Rather than looking back and living in the past failures, and even successes, Paul urges us to look forward -- we should gain encouragement by looking ahead by faith to the promises of the Lord.

A) Look ahead to the promise of a crown.

1 Corinthians 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

This incorruptible crown is not a crown of authority as a king would ware. Rather, it is a crown of success as a runner might win in the games of Paul's day. The runner would win a corruptible crown, or wreath, made ofwild olive tree leaves. This crown recognized the runner's achievements before men. However, the crown offered to the Christians who gain mastery over his own natural inclinations will be a crown recognizing his mastery over his own fallen nature.

Paul is pointing out that the athlete works very hard to control his appetites in order to gain a worldly crown that soon passes away. It only symbolizes victory in a sporting event. He controls his diet and his activity under the watchful eye of his trainer.

We who are Christians striving for heaven, should also do likewise. We should behave ourselves in our use of meats, drinks, clothing, pleasures and entertainment. We should only allow those things that better equipt us for our business of heaven and not hinder our testimony down here.

The Christian's crown here is not for the praise of men, but for the praise of God. How much more should the Christian control his natural appetites so he can win a crown that will not pass away.

It is sad that folks will invest far more time and energy in preparing for a future retirement than they will preparing for the future after death.

B) Look ahead to the promise of the joys of heaven, which is entered into through faith in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

C) Look ahead to the promise of a well done from the Master.

Matthew 25:14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

There is a day coming when we will answer for all the deeds done in this body. Will we hear well done, thou good and faithful servant?

D) Finally, we need to look ahead to Jesus -- we SHALL SEE HIM.

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Look at what was said almost 4,000 years ago:

Job 19:25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

The thing that kept Job faithful in his trials was the faith that he one day WOULD see his living redeemer.

We may remark in general that a Christian will make more rapid advances in godliness by looking forward than by looking backward. Forward, we see everything to cheer us and to urge us to godliness -- the crown of victory, the joys of heaven, the society of the blessed-- the Saviour inviting us and encouraging us.

Let us, then, look onward. Let us not spend our time either in pondering the gloomy past, and our own unfaithfulness, or in thinking of what we have done, and thus becoming puffed up with self-complacency; but let us keep the eye steadily on the prize, and run the race as though we had just commenced it.

And reaching forth. As one does in a race.

Unto those things which are before. Before the racer there was a crown or garland to be bestowed by the judges of the games. Before the Christian there is the crown of glory, the eternal reward of heaven. There is the favour of God, victory over sin and death, the society of the redeemed and of angelic beings, and the assurance of perfect and eternal freedom from all evil. These are enough to animate the soul, and to urge it on with ever-increasing rigour in the Christian race. (Barnes')

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