Summary: Don’t let the past hold you back
As a counselor you learn a lot about how the past affects people. I knew one woman in her thirties who had a terrible childhood. Her father left when she was a baby, her mother was terribly abusive both physically and verbally. She ended up in foster care where she was sexually abused by a foster brother for a couple years. Yet here she was coming to me because her brother was dealing with addiction and she wanted to help. She had successfully finished university, had her own business, and was happily married with two children.
Another woman I knew was a mess. She struggled with addiction and depression since she was 11 years old. She had terrible self-worth, couldn’t hold a job, had a series of abusive relationships. She admitted that she came from a very healthy family and couldn’t have asked for a better childhood. But she said that in grade 3 one of her teachers told her that she would never amount to anything, and this one episode caused her to see herself in that way for the next 18 years.
How could this be? You would expect the reverse. Here’s one person thriving even thought their past was awful, yet the other person had one relatively minor negative event in her childhood, and it negatively affected her whole life. Clearly one of these women somehow knew how to either release and/or relearn the past, while the other hung on to one thing and allowed it to destroy her life.
You’ll notice as we are working through Philippians that we are skipping verses 1-11 in the third chapter because it felt appropriate that we return to it on Easter Sunday. Through today’s scripture passage we are going to look at what Paul says about the past, and what we should do with it.
First of all he says:
I. Release the Past (vv 12-14) and he gives us a few examples.
A. The first way to release the past is Through Dissatisfaction (vv 12-13a)
Paul is dissatisfied with the past, and this is coming from one of the Great Saints. He knows he has not attained the goal yet, and this is not acceptable to him. He wants to become like Christ in his death and attain the resurrection from the dead. Let me just talk about what Paul means by knowing the power of his resurrection from verse 10, which he is really talking about here.
Paul wants “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection”. This power is the whole point behind Christ’s resurrection. Without the resurrection, which by the way is probably the most substantiated event in ancient history, our faith has nothing to stand on.
If he did not rise, death is not defeated and the Holy Spirit which is “the power of the resurrection” would not be available to us, and his death would just be another martyr dying for a cause. So let’s remember that this is the precursor of what we are talking about today.
Back to verse 12, it is not just failure to achieve that he is talking about in this passage, but also he’s encouraging Christians not to be satisfied with their successes either.
We are all still sinners. If we’re satisfied with the successes of the past we can get complacent. Paul only ever compared himself with Jesus, not other Christians. It’s easy to get into self-satisfaction with thoughts like “I read my Bible more than most”, or “at least I go to church regularly”. You know what I’m talking about. We can always find a Christian somewhere who we are doing better than in our spiritual life.
Paul’s not talking about berating oneself, but to have a divine dissatisfaction with where we stand in our spiritual walk, and to have God’s perspective that He does not want even one to perish. It doesn’t matter what we achieve in our spiritual life, if there are still lost people on the planet, we should never be satisfied.
So Paul is saying, no matter what the past held, good or bad, release it, forget it and keep moving forward.
Why? … We see from previous verses that Paul wants to make everything about Christ his own. His righteousness, his faith, the power of his resurrection, his sufferings, and his death and resurrection from the dead. He wants to be exactly like Christ, and this in verse 12 to me is one of the most profound statements in the entire Bible: he wants all this “because Christ Jesus has made me his own”. Paul wants what Christ wants for him, and the motivation is that Jesus took hold of him and adopted him.
Remember that even the evil spirits believed that Christ rose and was the Son of God, but they do not claim the power of the resurrection within them. Likewise a professing Christian, is no more a Christian than these spirits if they have not accepted and received the power through the Holy Spirit which transforms us on the inside. We will look at this in much more depth at Easter.