The all-consuming goal in the life of Paul was to know Jesus and to become more like Him. In his letter to the Philippian Christians Paul explains the goal. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Philippians 3:10) Paul was well aware that he had not yet reached the goal, yet he was always striving (Philippians 3:12). If Jesus is truly Lord of our life and we are his subjects this will be our goal as well. When the New Testament speaks of becoming more like Christ it employs words like sanctification and holiness. Certainly every child of God knows the importance of holiness and all of us want to be holy. The question is how are we to become more holy? How can we become more like Jesus? In Philippians 3 Paul helps us with this. He admonishes the Philippians and all who follow Jesus in three areas.
LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND
Paul begins by telling us that if we are going to become more like Jesus we must let go of the past. “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13).
We must be willing to leave sin behind. We can never become all that God wants us to be if we continue living in sin. Paul would say to the Romans that we must seek to rid our lives of sin (Romans 6:11-15). We must “put off the old man, and put on the new.” (Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9)
We must also be willing to leave the guilt of sin behind. One of the reasons that so many Christians struggle is that they are not certain of their salvation. They don’t feel forgiven. When our God forgives, He forgets.
Think about the terminology Scripture uses to describe God’s forgiveness. “...For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” (Isaiah 38:17) “Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) “As far as the East is from the West, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) “Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Our God is described as the forgiving God, who abundantly pardons. (Micah 7:18; Psalm 103:3).The more we learn about God, the more we will learn the meaning of forgiveness. The more we learn about God, the more we will be able to know that we are truly forgiven.
One additional thought about leaving the past behind. If we are going to be able to grow in our faith and become more like Jesus we cannot dwell on our past accomplishments. Many Christians live in the past and believe they can rest on their own past as well as the past of others. “My parents were such good Christians. When I was growing up I never missed church. I used to be committed to Christ, but my life has changed.” In the early part of Philippians 3 Paul discusses his heritage and his past. “...I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has 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 legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Philippians 3:4-6)
However, notice how Paul says that he feels about all of his past accomplishments after meeting Jesus. “...whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...” (Philippians 3:7-8)
LEAN ON PROPER EXAMPLES
We must lean on the right examples. In this text Paul speaks of this idea negatively and positively. There are some things as well as some people in this life that Christians need to flee. “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19) Peter reminds Christians “to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)
On the positive side there are many wonderful examples that we can follow. “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17) Not because any of these people are perfect, but because they have proved themselves to be faithful.
Later Paul would say, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Only those who are seeking to follow Christ are worthy of our imitation. We would all do well to find people who have lived godly lives that we can imitate as we walk through our own life.
LOOK TO THE PRIZE
We must look to the future. It’s not enough just to forget the past. We must also focus on the future, the eternal future. Where we are going to spend eternity should be the highest priority in the life of every child of God. What matters most in this life is not how far we climb the corporate ladder, it is not how much money we make, it is not what kind of car we live, or how big our house is where we live, what matters most is our eternal destiny. Where will spend eternity?
Paul’s speaks clearly, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21)
The word Paul uses here for citizenship (politeuma) is similar to our word politics. Paul is saying that regardless of where we live, regardless of who rules over us here on this earth, our government is in Heaven. We always follow God rather than man! It is true brothers and sisters that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13). Like those faithful saints of old we are looking for a better place, our homeland (Hebrews 11:14).
As long as we are here, “...we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) Jesus has prepared a place for those who will become and live as His subjects (John 14:1-3). When Jesus comes again in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) He will take us home to live with Him.
We seek to follow Him, to become more like Him, to be sanctified and holy. If we remain faithful in our lives He “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” (Philippians 3:21) What we spend our entire lives seeking will be bestowed upon us by a loving Savior. The goal of every child of God will become the prize received by those who are faithful to Him. Praise God for the help of Jesus in being victorious. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Dear Father in Heaven, we thank You for our salvation that comes through Jesus. We pray that every day we will strive to become more like Him. We pray that we will grow in our relationship with Him and that we will become stronger in our faith. Help us dear God to show those around us what it means to have Christ in us. In His Precious Name we pray, Amen.