Summary: Are you in the fight as a contestant, or are you on the sidelines as an observer? The contestant pursues for the prize (Gold medal) whereas the observer just watches others receiving the prize but himself / herself doesn’t attain anything.
Opening illustration: Show a video of 2 events during the 2012 World Olympic in London.
Do you ever consider the Christian walk to be difficult, like it is always an uphill climb? Maybe you’re doing okay, but does there still seem a long way to go? Perhaps you have even become weary and tired or even a little frustrated at times? I have felt that way at times.
Ever wish God would give you some sort of spiritual zap by which you would be immediately transformed into someone who would always say and do the right thing with a perfect attitude? That would be nice, wouldn't it?
Ever wonder why some people seem to have it all together while you’re still trying to find all the pieces, much less put them altogether? That is just a misconception, because no one has it altogether, including the Apostle Paul, as we will see our study today. Let us turn to Philippians 3 in our Bibles.
Introduction: Paul was addressing the people of Philippians who were already saved (believers). In our Christian life we are on a pilgrimage. We will come across all these difficulties. There is a problem for how some people take this analogy. They come into difficulty, struggling with the idea of Christianity and whether they want to make their commitment to Christ and all these temptations come to them and finally they make their commitment to Christ. Somehow they have gotten confused. They think now their pilgrimage is over and they have finally reached the Celestial city. That is not the way the Bible portrays our Christian pilgrimage.
The Bible talks about the Christian life as a pilgrimage. When you become a Christian you have only begun the pilgrimage. Once you become a Christian, then you are called to press on in Christ toward the great goal of becoming like Jesus.
There may be a struggle in coming to Christ, but no one should consider that when they become a Christian they have arrived. No, the journey has just begun. There is a saying; Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. That saying may be true, but it is not an excuse for a sinful lifestyle.
We recognize that nobody has arrived and Christians are not perfect. We are on a journey to become more like Jesus Christ. Christian maturity does not come instantly. That is why there are many, like those in the current discipleship class, who discipline themselves and work hours weekly in Bible study, prayer, improving relationships and in scripture memorization. Because Christian maturity is a process and requires discipline, to become more like Jesus Christ.
Paul's goal was simply this: to be like Jesus. What a goal! Therefore, I believe that we should be dissatisfied until we have the image of the Son of God conformed in us. Paul was not self-satisfied. He didn't think he had arrived.
There are two basic statements that every growing Christian will agree with -
• We have failed in the past. That is, we have fallen short of God's goal for our lives.
• We are dissatisfied with our present spiritual state. That is, we want to become more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Therefore you have to decide who you are: Are you in the fight as a contestant, or are you on the sidelines as an observer? The contestant pursues for the prize (Gold medal) whereas the observer just watches others receiving the prize but himself / herself doesn’t attain anything.
Now, How to go for the gold?
1. Be Challenged to Pursue Perfection (v. 12) - Undergo Rigorous Training
This verse is punctuated by a word and an idea, whose meaning is not difficult to understand in the Greek original but is difficult to transfer in English. The word is ‘Perfect.’ Paul is not speaking as though he were already perfect but in v. 15 he brings it up again but addresses to those who are perfect. The Greek word is teleios which has interchangeable meanings. This signifies what we call a philosophical and abstract perfection which in fact is a functional perfection. It implies an adequacy for some given purpose. It is used to mean one who is mature in mind as opposed to a beginner in Christ. When used in the context of Offerings, it means without blemish and fit to offer God. In the early church it quite often used to describe martyrs. A martyr is said to be perfected by the sword, and the day of his death is said to be the day of his perfecting. The idea is that a person’s Christian witness and maturity cannot go beyond martyrdom.
Therefore Paul says here that he is by no means a complete Christian but continues to be challenged and presses on giving us this vivid picture.