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Summary: Paul, Pt. 20

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NOT PROGRESSING IS REGRESSING (PHIL. 3:12-14)

Time and tide waits for no man. Can you imagine using the typewriter to type your paper today? How about typing a dissertation over a hundred pages thick? Times were we had to use “white out” in liquid or paper form, embarrassingly leaving blotches behind on the paper.

What do people use before the copier machine was the standard for printing worship bulletin? How many of you have seen a cyclostyling machine at work? Remember the tubes of black ink you have to feed the machine to get it to work? I can assure you nothing is worse than typing in Chinese on the wax paper. Have you seen a Chinese typist finding a word from rows of rows of Chinese words, more than a thousand of those words?

Finally, how many of you have actually used a floppy disk before? That was what my first PC used for storing data when I was at DTS in 1987.

The beginning or the end of the year is as good a time to ponder making new demands upon ourselves, asking greater things of ourselves and revisiting and reexamining previous commitments and pledges made. In the book of Philippians the persecutor turned convert Paul reveals his perspective on what is old – the past, what is new – the future, and what is ongoing – the eternal.

What things hinder our maturity and growth? How are we to make a breakthrough? Why is stagnation slipping in growth, not merely suspension of growth?

Move Out of the Old to The New

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Phil 3:12)

Getting rid of old stuff is a must when you move, as I found out recently. I have disposed of at least 10 huge bins of trash and old stuff. Besides that at least 10 good bags of clothing were handed to the charity. We have also left behind three good sofas, three good TVs, three good Queen’s size beds, 10 collector Starbucks mugs.

Some things are hard to give up, especially for my wife, including her exercise rubber ball and Speedo aquatic dumbbells that she gave up on the last day. She even wanted to bring to Hong Kong a firm but thin therapeutic mattress we slept on.

I was relived to give up my fading Khaki pants, my beige socks and a few T-shirts soiled with coffee stain, food sauces and oil marks that were only for home use.

In negative terms, we are not told what Paul did not obtain or receive (v 12), but we know that no one is perfect, or almost perfect. In fact, we are anything but perfect. “Perfect” does not mean a person’s inability to sin, but the end of one’s goals. The word is generally translated as “over” (Luke 2:43), “reach the goal” (Luke 13:32), finish (John 4:34), completing (John 17:4) and fulfilled (John 19:28). In fact, Jesus used this word three times in John, stating his food is to “finish” or “complete” the work the Father has sent Him to do or gave Him to do (John 4:34, 5:36, 17:4). Famed Greek scholar A.T. Robertson says there is no “sudden absolute perfection by any single experience. Paul has made great progress in Christlikeness, but the goal is still before him, not behind him.” Growth is a continuing education, a lifelong quest, an ongoing journey. The Chinese say, “Live till old, learn till old,” “Learning has no boundaries” and “A hundred feet pole has room to extend.”

The verb or positive action, in contrast to the previous “not,” is to “press on to take hold,” which occurs three times in the passage (vv 12, 12, 13) and is a word modification of the previous Greek verb “obtain” (v 12). “Obtain” is “lambano” and “take hold” is “kata-lambano,” adding the prefix “kata” or “down.” The former means obtain or receive, but the latter means seize or possess. Jesus Christ had seized you and made you his possession, now it is up to you to grab the opportunity, take the reins and seize the day.

Are you stuck on your glory days or on your glorious past?

Move Out of the Backdrop to the Forefront

13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (Phil 3:13)

The biggest success in China’s 2008 Olympics and the greatest Olympian of all time is eight-gold medal winner Michael Phelps. The 23-year-old swimmer measures 6’4” but his wingspan is 3 inches longer.

When Phelps was 9, his parents divorced. As a child he took Ritalin for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 11-year old Phelps spent lots of time sitting near the lifeguard stand as a kid, benched because he was being too disruptive. When he was in elementary school, a teacher told his mom that Phelps would never focus on anything.

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