Forgetting those things which are behind, let us advance for the things which are ahead.
HYMN: STAND UP STAND UP FOR JESUS
TEXT: Philippians 3:1-21
The Christian life is a race. But many people today think that Christians are people who have achieved holiness, people that are beyond foulness. Indeed, children of God are beyond reproach in the sense that their sins are not only forgotten, yet they may err! The Christian is holy. He is clean and void of contamination. However, the Christian does not make a practice of sin (1 John 2:15-17; 3:2-10).
While salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit at the time that the sinner accepts the Lord Jesus Christ, subsequent growth by the individual child of God is definitely not sudden. And like natural growth, one may have stunted growth or normal growth, depending on several factors. And
particular experiences in the process of maturity differ. The child born to a family learns from how to breathe, to how to breastfeed, to how to drink other milk, solid foods and then eventually how to feed themselves. Finally, he learns how to fend for himself and for his family; a learning curve that should be normal for every child and it is applicable to the child of God also. During this leaning period, blunders are committed, not as right or by intention. And though these are sins, he does not intend to do them. Each time he looks back, he sees a few blunders mixed with some good as he grows. The good encourages him to try harder while the blunders discourage him. If he keeps brooding over the past he may not make progress in growth and maturity.
It is a healthy piece of advice to learn to forget the past, especially if it does not encourage a better tomorrow. The Apostle Paul wrote that he learned that lesson, not only to put the bad past behind him, but to also avoid spending time celebrating the good past, losing valuable time for a better today. A bad past may be a sinful past or a sinful mistake. A good past may be a pleasant deed for the Lord in the past. What is definitely true is that we can always improve. The child of God is someone set on the tight road to perfection; he is not yet perfect, but he is moving unto perfection. No matter how much we mature in the Lord, there is a lot more room for “forward movement”.
To press forward, for the Christian means to leave yesterday and strive for excellence today! It means thanking God for strength for yesterday and believing Him for an even finer tomorrow. It means to reach for greater achievements for the Lord on a daily basis. It does not matter whether yesterday was bright or dark; it is not related to how much recognition you got for yesterday’s exploits or how much “thanks” we received when the other good deed was done. What matters is for the Lord to receive more and more glory by my life every day; for the Kingdom of God to increase by me more and more every day! It means to actually strive towards perfection by daily improvement in holy living; striving to excel in holiness and obedience more than before.
The objectives of this study are:
- To understand Self Righteousness and its implications
- To know Christ Jesus
- To know the Christian standard
- To know how past failures and successes can become a hindrance to progress
- To know what it means to be an enemy of the cross of Christ.
Q1. LEGALISTIC RIGHTEOUSNESS
The commonest sight among “strong” brethren is people with great confidence in themselves. Indeed, everyone is a “boaster”, either in Christ or in himself. Trusting the flesh is the way to fail as a child of God because it is weak and sinful and does not deserve our confidence. The deceit is to consider how wonderfully you have observed all the “rules”. But at a second look, you may be able to discover with Apostle Paul that self and the knowledge that is associated with it is rubbish compared with the knowledge of Christ.
There is no portion of the law whose observance would enable us merit God’s approval and blessings. This devilish thought of attempting to merit God’s blessings by giving or being good is legalistic righteousness which (Philippians 3:9) is opposed to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (see Romans 3:27, 28; 4:1-5; Galatians 2:16; 3:10-12).
Q2A. KNOWING CHRIST JESUS.
This means knowledge gained through experience that in its surpassing greatness transforms the entire person. It is not merely knowledge of facts. It includes the experience of the power of His resurrection (Ephesians 1:17-20), of the fellowship in His sufferings (Acts 9:16) and of being like Him in His death (see 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 12:9,10).
Q2B. THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION (SEE JOHN 11:17-44).
Our understanding of the Lord must of necessity include the fact that He is the resurrection and the life. This means that He not only gives resurrection and life, but that these are identified with Him, and that in His nature, final death is not possible with Him! He is life (see also John 14:6; Acts 3:15; Hebrews 7:16) and conveys this life to the believer so that death will never triumph over him. This power first was manifest in us by resurrecting us from our dead state in sin. He delivered us from our several fetters, setting many free from demonic oppressions, habits, etc. No one experiences this power and remains the same. It is the first and most vital aspect of knowing Christ. This is the whole concept of all things being possible with God: the power of His resurrection! You must experience the power that the whole universe trembles beneath. It is the creation of power: the power of the one that call the dead up to life because in Him is life…
Q2C. FELLOWSHIP IN HIS SUFFERINGS.
Knowing Christ also involves sharing in His suffering. The Lord did forewarn all that would follow Him to carry their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). The cross is not for enjoyment! It is for suffering. Let nobody be deceived, following Christ does not end at the mount where He provides bread and fish. It must continue to the presence of Pilate where He is being cursed and embarrassed. Every believer should prepare to face similar or worse situations. If you know Christ well enough to suffer for Him then you know Him and He knows you (John 15:18, 16:4).
Q2D. LIKE HIM IN HIS DEATH.
The human weakness provides the occasion for the triumph of divine power and daily “dying” magnifies the wonder of daily resurrection life. The Lord demonstrated in His death that the way to win is not to do a lot of struggle in the flesh but rather to submit the flesh (not to the flesh); victory is by surrender! Again, the way to know Him is to be like Him in dealing with the flesh so that the exceeding greatness of His power could be revealed in us.
Q3. THE STANDARD FOR THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
In Matthew 5:48, the Lord plainly stated that we should be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. It is therefore amazing that several standards have arisen today, contrary to this one and only standard for all God’s children. Christ set up the high ideal of perfect love, not that we can fully attain it in this life, but that it is God’s high standard for us. If, therefore anyone wants to measure himself, let him consider the Lord and would find out that he needs to do more work! This is the idea of pressing forward. The standard is not what could be achieved by the standing and gossiping folks, or by the sect copying themselves and competing with themselves. It is for those who have signed and resigned for heaven. If you cannot stand with God’s children how can you stand with God?
The preacher is not the standard. The big sister or brother, the deacon and the deaconess, the presbyter, the bishop and great evangelists and missionaries, great writers etc. All these at the best were in the way like every other believer, servants (and the children) of God. They are not our standard. The Holy One is the standard.
Do past failures and successes not hinder progress in faith? They definitely do! They could become stumbling blocks for success today, or even gods for worship. But consider our example and standard, victory is normal for us. It is a novelty that is celebrated not a norm. And we have been forewarned about failures. If you fall/fail, stand up and be courageous, those that went before us succeeded by standing when they fell. Although the Lord Jesus Christ did not have occasion of stumbling, His brief life on earth is full of encouragement for us. Persist on what is good and right no matter how difficult. Leave the stories of “in those days …” for the dying and inactive, who have resigned to failure and liability. The key to success is not giving up on yourself, remember that the Lord has not given up on you (He never gives up on anyone!). And avoid bringing your successes to the forefront all the time. The way to be humble is to tuck all these in and live for today.
Q4. WHAT CHARACTERIZES THE HYPOCRITES (“ENEMIES OF THE CROSS”) AMONG THE CHURCH?
In this world, Christians are aliens, fully in it but not of it. There are those in the midst of God’s children who profess to know the Lord, who are actually enemies of the Lord. These people sabotage the church in many ways. They disgrace the name of the Lord by their sinful lifestyle and over indulgence. They are characterized by a deep self-centeredness; their appetites and desires come first. They have set their minds on the things of this life and would do ridiculous things to achieve their myopia goals. Anyone who loves their wat would be hindered in the race and would end like them. Their end is destruction. None can deceive God.
Daily Living Application:
Observe that the issue in today’s lesson is a race. How can you run to get a price? (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). In what wats can you run aimlessly in this race, or fight like a man beating the air? 1 Timothy 6:12). Meditate on these… Hebrews 12:1-2.
- Beat your body under severe discipline
- Take care of your pet sins
- Run the race with perseverance
- Fix your eyes on Jesus Christ
- Forget the past; remember the goal!
“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.”