Summary: Christians today can attain Christ-likeness by doing the same thing Paul did—dealing with the past, living in the present, and pressing toward the prize.
What does it take to attain greatness? First, I guess you have to figure out what greatness is. If you’re a salesman, greatness might be selling a million dollars worth of stuff. If you’re a working man, greatness might be owning your own business. If you’re a football player, greatness might be winning the Super Bowl. For a mom, greatness might be raising successful children. So, if those things are considered greatness, what does it take to achieve them? If you were to ask the so-called great people in every field what it took for them to achieve greatness, what would they say? I’m sure each of them would say different things, but whatever their response specifically said, it would all boil down to attitude. Each one of them would tell you they had an attitude of attaining greatness. No matter what you do for a living, if you’re a Christian, greatness can only be one thing. It can’t be any of those things the world considers greatness. It’s not money, or trophies, or even perfect kids. Greatness to the Christian is being like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Having that kind of an attaining attitude is what we should be about. The Bible tells us of an earlier man who had that kind of an attaining attitude. In the verses leading up to the passage we just read, Paul instructs the church at Philippi on the goal of the Christian life. He tells them plainly what that goal is in chapter 2 verse 5. Flip back a page or two and read that with me. In chapter 2 verse 5, Paul says that the goal of the Christian life is to, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Then he goes on to explain what that means. But now he’s to the point of telling them and us how to get there. He tells us that the goal is to have the mind of Christ, in other words, to be Christ-like. That’s the goal. Then at the beginning of our passage this morning, he said that he hasn’t gotten there yet. In verse 12 he said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” He hasn’t attained the goal yet. Then he uses a very important little word. He says, “But.” He hasn’t attained the goal yet, but he has an attaining attitude. I want each of us here this morning to see the attaining attitude Paul had. But not only do I want us to see it. I want each of us to leave this place determined to develop that attitude in ourselves. In order to do that, we’ll look at the three steps to having an attaining attitude. The first step to having an attaining attitude is we have to deal with the past. Read with me in verse 13:
We have to deal with the past. Have you ever walked in a room to get something and forgot what you were looking for? Come on, be honest—I know it’s not just me who does that. Well, that’s not what Paul is talking about here. He’s not talking about having a well-orchestrated senior moment where we can blank out things that have happened in our past. The fact is, we can’t forget the events that make up our past. Even if we could, we wouldn’t want to. Those events in our past are some of the things that have shaped us into who we are today. Paul recounted the events in his past all throughout his writings. He traced his history of being persecuted as a Christian in 2 Corinthians 11:24-25: