On Monday night, I met with my Bible study group and we continued studying Philippians. I would like to share this with you here.
Before we get into this lesson, I would like to review the previous one. The previous lesson was entitled “choose Christ above all else“. This lesson taught us about Paul’s idols in his life before he came to Christ. He warns the Philippians to be careful of their idols, making sure that they continue to count them as rubbish when compared to knowing Christ specifically, the power of His resurrections and the fellowship of His suffering. Christ exposes our idols for what they are and then He sets us free from those same idols by the power of His resurrection. As He works in us, He also begins to work through us and we preach the Word of God to others. His Word pricks their sin nature and they respond in a couple of different ways; 1) they are indifferent to the message 2) the message changes them 3) they attack us even though we are just the messenger. When we are attacked, we join in with Christ and His sufferings.
This lesson continues to encourage us to seek to know Christ intimately. In order to understand this passage and discuss what we learn, let’s first read the passage. Our passage is Philippians 3:12-21. Now that you have had a chance to read it, let’s see what we learn.
I. Paul’s example
Paul always uses himself as an example when trying to teach. He never just taught people “theory”. He had already done and was doing what he was teaching others to do. We see this in chapter 1 when he encourages the Philippians to preach the Word of God in every situation. He is in prison while he writes and he is preaching the same Gospel that got him put in prison. In chapter 2, he tells the Philippians to have the mind of Christ in all that they do, specifically, in the pouring out of their own lives by investing the Gospel in the people around them. He had already done that for the Philippians and he was continuing to do that for the Philippians. Now, here in chapter 3, He admits to the Philippians that he is not already completely mature. He had not fully arrived, even though he had already planted many churches and written many epistles. In his own, personal example, he presses on in his pursuit of knowing Christ. Christ has already grabbed hold of him and he is seeking to grab hold of Christ. Paul is using a word picture here. He is not trying to get more of Christ. He wants to learn more about Christ and experience Him more and more, day by day. Paul does not focus on his past accomplishments. He recognizes them but does not stand on them to gain his satisfaction. His satisfaction comes in knowing Christ intimately. He presses on toward the goal of knowing Christ more and more. Not only does he want to know Christ, he also wants to make Christ known. As we get to know Christ more, He works in us and begins to work through us more. As He works through us, He makes Himself known to others, the people within our sphere of influence. Our job is to get to know Him more and more and open our mouths and share Him in every circumstance of life. Why does Paul have to remind us of this? What are the dangerous pitfalls that could stand in our way?
II. The dangerous pitfalls
Maybe I have been in the faith for many, many years and I feel like I am mature enough now to stop pursuing this intense relationship with Christ and holiness. I have heard similar things said from people in the church. They do not use the exact lingo but here is what is said. “I have read the Bible __ __ number of years and I don’t feel like I need to be in ________ Bible study”. In other words, I have been doing it long enough that I’m good. God teaches us that we must be “firmly planted in His Word, constantly“. Jesus says that we must “remain in His Words and have His Words dwell in us“. How can any of this happen if we are not constantly studying and meditating on the Scriptures?
Another dangerous pitfall would be to claim, “Christ has already grabbed hold of me, therefore, I do not have to do anything“. Yes, Jesus has grabbed hold of us but we are also commanded to grab hold of Him. We are commanded to get to know Him more and more, even though He has already grabbed us.
Yet another dangerous pitfall would be to claim, “I have done enough for the Lord, look at all of this ministry that I have already done“. If we ever get comfortable with what we have already accomplished then we are doomed. We should evaluate our past accomplishments but not hang our hats on them. We must evaluate them so that we can continue on, focusing on what God is still going to do.
Another dangerous pitfall would be “not living by the same standard that brought us to our current level of maturity“. God wants to continue raising you to a higher level of maturity. If you stop allowing God to grow you then you will begin to atrophy. What are the things that should motivate us to continue on and avoid the dangerous pitfalls?
III. Our motivation to continue seeking Christ
Let’s take a look at the positive and the negative. I want to begin with the negative so that we can end with the positive. If we are not careful of the pitfalls, then, here is what will happen to us.
- Become enemies of the cross – the cross sets us free from the power of our sin nature. When you do not seek to know Christ intimately then your sin nature makes your former idols look very tempting. So much so that you actually start walking back to them.
- Begin to be led by our appetites again – Once you give in to your sin nature, you become captivated by them again and begin to be led by them. You have made yourself an enemy of the cross. You deny the power of the cross.
- Glory in what was once shameful – those idols that once caused you so much shame start looking good again and you start going back to them. They begin to control you and you now glory in what once was shameful instead of glorying in Christ, the One who can set you free from those idols.
- Mind is set on earthly things – Now that you have given yourself over to idols again, your mind becomes a slave to earthly things and you cannot focus on the heavenly.
Now let’s focus on the positive. This is what motivates us to do what we do. When we come to Christ, although we still live here on this earth, we are no longer citizens of this earth. We are now citizens of the kingdom of heaven and we are just passing through on our journey there. We eagerly await the Savior. What does that look like? We spend our time getting to know Christ so that He can work in us and through us, making Himself known to the people around you. If this is not happening then you are not eagerly awaiting the coming of the Savior. As we eagerly await the Savior, we battle with our sin nature. This nature wants us to turn back to our idols. They look tempting, especially if we are not actively seeking to know Christ intimately. The good news is that one day, Christ will do away with our sin nature, giving us a new body, a transformed body that no longer has a sin nature. Is that your desire? I know that it is mine.
My dear friends, I have a few questions for you, how are you proving your maturity on a daily basis? Do you have people in your life who are enemies of the cross? How do you respond to them? Are you living like a citizen of heaven? How are you patiently awaiting the coming of the Savior? Is Christ working in you and through you on a daily basis? May the Lord help us have a passion to know Christ intimately so that He works in us and through us on a daily basis.