Summary: The inner motivation of our hearts must be a response to God's love and not any attempt to earn God's love.
Pressing on to possess that for which Christ Jesus first possessed me
Phil 3:12-21 Feb 13, 2011
I don’t really consider myself a “runner”, though I guess that since I run most days on the treadmill for fitness I suppose I should. But I just don’t see myself that way, it doesn’t fit my identity, I don’t read running magazines or know all about the best shoes or love to defy icy sidewalks and -20C temperatures so that I can “run”. I do it because it is a discipline, and because since I love to eat I have to run to burn off all the calories I love to consume! I guess what I’m saying is it is something I do because I should, not because I love it.
While that is fine for running, it is not fine when it comes to our relationships, and particularly our relationship with God. God’s love for us is so powerful and consuming, when we let it, that if our response is to live as we think we should, rather than because we love God in response to His love for us, it is an insult to God, just like buying a dozen roses for your wife on Valentine’s day would be an insult if you did it because you had to and not because you actually wanted to express your love for your wife. And while I suppose you might be able to pretend well enough in your marriage, let us not forget God sees, God knows, God looks past the surface and into our hearts.
We’ve been learning in Philippians that this inner transformation, this love that must well up within us and become the source of our actions, is the Gospel. Last Sunday, as we studied the first half of chapter 3, we saw Paul looking at his life, at all the things he had pursued in his own effort and strength, and how he sees them as worthless, worthless garbage now that he has known the love of God. He used strong, powerful words completely rejecting any notion of working to earn the love of God.
But now this week, in the last half of chapter 3, he starts talking about effort again, and it might be confusing for us unless we grasp this critical truth: the effort is motivated by love and is a response to God’s love – it flows out of the relationship and is in NO WAY the basis for the relationship.
I’m going to take the time to read all of chapter 3, the part we studied last week and the part we are going to study this week, so that we have the whole piece in context.
Phil 3 (NLT):
1 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.
2 Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, 4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!
5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.