Summary: Spiritual maturity means moving forward in the Spirit on a daily basis.
November 15, 2009
Text: Philippians 3:12-21
Subject: Spiritual Growth
Title: Onward and Upward
When I married into Charlotte’s family I married into a really close family that liked to spend a lot of time together. Almost every Sunday was spent at Charlotte’s Mom and Dad’s house. There were football or baseball games to watch or play. There was supper to be eaten. Those were great times.
It didn’t take long to find out that there were some things that the men in the family liked to do and these were things that I was not very good at; they liked to play pinochle and they liked to pitch horseshoes. Pinochle I picked up pretty easily. The problem with pinochle or any kind of cards is that you have to get good cards to play with. If you don’t have the cards you can’t win. You can’t practice pinochle and get good at it. Well you can to some degree but not really.
Horseshoes, however, are different. I was so bad at horseshoes that nobody ever wanted me on their team. So here is what I decided to do. I set up some pegs out in the yard and every day when I came home from work, before I would go in the house, I would set my lunch box and thermos down at the back door, walk down to the horseshoe pits and throw fifty shoes. Now there was a method to my madness. In throwing those practice shoes I began by learning how to make the shoe do one complete turn. (I throw a flip-flop shoe – end over end). That was the hardest thing. Once I got that down I began working on my distance. Then the right height. And finally, I work on direction. All of those things are important on an individual basis, but they cannot stand alone. Hitting the peg without having the shoe open won’t produce good results. I may make a lot of noise but no result. Having the right distance without being able to hit the peg won’t do any good. Throwing an open shoe without the distance may look good – but the results are empty. Everything has to be working together for any of it to be good. So I practiced and practiced and finally I believe I got to be the best horseshoe pitcher in the family, all because I was willing to do whatever it took to be the best.
Your Christian walk is very much like pitching horseshoes. If you are going to be good at it you must be willing to do whatever it takes to get there. In his letter to the church in Philippi, the great apostle, Paul, wrote, 7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Here we see what Paul was willing to go through to be the best he could be.
If you want it, the Lord will continue to take you higher and make you better than you ever thought you could be.
Read Philippians 3:12-21.
Lord open my eyes to see and my ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
I. CONFIRM THE PROCESS. Paul understood one thing – he wasn’t perfect. But everything he did in his life as a follower of Jesus Christ was moving him toward the point of perfection. 12Not 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. The word translated “press on” means to pursue. I t can also mean, “to persecute”. Paul wasn’t just walking the walk. He was pursing Jesus with the same zeal he had when he pursued believers with the intent of persecuting them. Paul didn’t go from being the persecutor of the church to the great apostle overnight. He took the necessary steps. Paul’s life was much like a stepladder. Until he picked it up and put it to the use for which it was intended it was just an obstacle. Before his Damascus road encounter, the gospel was a stumbling block. But as soon as he picked it up and did something with it, it became a stepping - stone and not a stumbling block. Let’s call this stepladder “gospel”. I have picked it up. It is no longer a stumbling block but I am curious about it. It has gotten my attention. So now I have it here. I’m observing it. I’m trying to figure out what to do with it. Acts 2:36-38, 36“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do? 38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. You see, the gospel of Jesus Christ has absolutely no value unless you do something with it. You have to take a step of faith. That is the first step of a new life in Christ – repenting of your sin and putting all your trust in Him. In Philippians 3:12 Paul sees this as just the beginning of the process. I pres on – I am pursuing, chasing after everything that God has for me. Now, some of you, if I had you come up here and get up on this first step of this ladder would hold on for dear life and say, “That’s far enough. I’m good!” But when did good ever become good enough? Verses 13 and 14, 13Brothers, 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, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. The word “forgetting” means to put out of mind or make something hidden. It is a choice that you make. So Paul could say, I’m saved and that’s good enough – but he didn’t. He forgot what was behind (what had already happened) and strained forward toward what is ahead. He didn’t dwell on his past experiences but looked forward to what was next. Look at this – Paul didn’t just see his Christian walk as a series of events that would enable him to do what God had called him to do. He saw each event as moving him in an upward direction… 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus… So we move to the next step – the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I remember my very first day as a carpenter apprentice. It was the first warm day of the spring – about 85 degrees. I was up on a garage roof on an 8/12 pitch, laying plywood. I started out about 10 feet off the ground but it might as well HAVE been a mile. I was scared to death. Within a year I was on scaffolding 35-40 feet in the air putting on vinyl siding and never even batted an eye. How did that happen? 1) I wanted it to happen. I wasn’t satisfied with being a good carpenter. 2) I knew it was going to make me better. I wanted to be the best and if that meant going a little higher then I was willing to do it. 3) I was willing to take the first step… and then another… Ephesians 3:10, 10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Each step you take is according to God’s eternal purpose but it is for right now. Turn over to Acts 19. 1While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.