Summary: Introduction to our church's Discipleship Path.
During the 2016 Summer Olympics, Allyson Felix was attempting to become the most decorated female athlete in U.S. track and field history in the 400 meters. After trailing the leader, Shaunae Miller, from the Bahamas, for the entire race, Felix began to gain on her down the back stretch, leading to this amazing finish.
Miller’s dive at the finish allowed her to win the gold medal by .07 of a second.
Here’s my question to you this morning. Is that the kind of effort that you’re giving in your journey to become more like Jesus?
As we begin a new year today, this is certainly an appropriate time for us to evaluate our walk with Jesus and think about the answer to that question. And as we do that, there will undoubtedly be some here this morning that will look back over the last year and who can honestly say that it was a pretty good year and that today you know Jesus much better than you did a year ago and that you are more like Jesus today than you were on January 1, 2016. And it is also likely that some of you would have to admit that honestly your relationship with Jesus isn’t much different than it was a year ago. And then there are the rest who fall somewhere between those two extremes.
But regardless of what your past year has been like, what God expects from each of us for this coming year is exactly the same. So go ahead and turn with me to Philippians chapter 3 in your Bibles. You’ll find that letter of Paul after the books of Galatians and Ephesians and before you get to Colossians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
The city of Philippi was located in Macedonia (now northeastern Greece) and Paul had visited there and founded the church on his second missionary journey around 49 AD. A little over a decade later, Paul wrote his letter to the people of that church, likely from a Roman prison. It’s important to keep in mind that by the time he wrote that letter, Paul had been a disciple of Jesus for over 30 years and had spent the last 15 years or so establishing and building up churches all throughout the area around the Mediterranean Sea.
I’m just going to read three verses this morning – verses 12-14:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)
In just three verses, Paul gives us a pretty comprehensive guide to how each and every disciple of Jesus needs to approach the idea of spiritual growth. While we are going to take some time to look at several important aspects of that process, we could summarize this entire passage with the words that appear at both its beginning and end and which make up both the title for this message as well as the entire six-week series that we’ll start the year with:
Without going any further or even defining what Paul meant by those words, I think we’d all agree right up front that Paul is making it clear here that there are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. If the apostle Paul needed to still press on after all that he had accomplished in the name of Jesus over the last 30 years or so of his life, then certainly all of us in this room need to do the same.
HOW TO “PRESS ON” IN MY RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS
1. Be hungry
Self-satisfaction is the biggest barrier to growth. Almost every invention in history was the result of man being dissatisfied with something about his condition. The first known invention, the wheel, was undoubtedly a result of man being dissatisfied with having to carry around heavy loads on his back.
The same thing is true with our spiritual growth. Being satisfied with where we’re at today may very well be the biggest obstacle to growing in our relationship with God. But that was really not a problem for Paul, was it? Notice how he begins this section:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…
The “this” that Paul has not yet obtained is described in the first part of the chapter. While it’s possible that he is writing only of the “resurrection from the dead” at the end of verse 11, it seems to me that he is referring to the entire process of knowing God and becoming like Jesus that he describes in the first 11 verses of this chapter.