TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF (PHILIPPIANS 3)
A Protestant moved into a completely Catholic community. Being good Catholics they welcomed him into their community. But, also because they were good Catholics they did not eat red meat on Fridays. So when their neighbor began barbecuing some juicy steak on Friday night, they began to squirm. They were so annoyed that they went to talk to him about it. After much talk they convinced him to become Catholic. The next Sunday he went to the priest and the priest sprinkled holy water on him and said, “You were born Protestant. You were raised Protestant. But now you are Catholic.”
And so, the next Friday, as the neighbors sat down to eat their fish, they were disturbed by the smell of roast beef coming from the neighboring house. They went over to talk to the new Catholic because he knew he was not supposed to eat beef on Fridays. When they saw him, he was sprinkling ketchup on the beef saying, “You were born a cow. You were raised a cow. But now you are fish.”
Is the change in your life sudden, slow, superficial, stable or Scriptural?
Paul was at the pinnacle of his success, the peak of his potential and the prime of life when he met Jesus and accepted Christ. The two brothers Peter and Andrew left their nets, and followed Jesus (Matt 4:18-20) while James and his brother John immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Jesus (Matt 4:21-22). Zacchaeus, on the other hand, gave half of his goods the poor; and was willing to restore fourfold those he wronged or defrauded (Luke 19:8). Paul followed Jesus as all other disciples would: forsake their all, follow the Lord and further His kingdom.
What kind of values does God require from His children and disciples? How do we as believers grow in Him? Why is His path for us a reason to rejoice and not regret?
Let Go: Be Up to Date
1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and 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 on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
THE OLD THE NEW
Schoolmaster (Gal 3:23) Savior
Laws Love Gal 5:14
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
law of sin and death Rom 8:2
law of the Spirit of life in Christ
Written in stones Written in their hearts Heb 10:16
I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them
Rejoice (v 1) means glad (Mark 14:11) and God speed (2 John 10). The verb “rejoice” occurs nine times in the book (1:18 twice, 2:17, 18, 28, 3:1, 4:4 twice, 10), more than any epistle, four times as imperative (2:18, 3:1, 4:4 twice). Paul uses the imperative present for “rejoice” six times in his letters (2 Cor 13:11, 1 Thess 5:16), four in Philippians alone - all present tense imperatives, occurring, ongoing, on and on. The themes and tone of the rest of the chapter is serious, but Paul did it with a smile because he was not afraid, abandoned or alone. Also Paul wrote the rest of the chapter out of cheer, calm and contentment.
The verb “watch out” (blepo) is translated as look (Matt 5:28), see (Matt 6:4), behold (Matt 7:3), take heed (Matt 24:4) and perceive (2 Cor 7:8). Have you noticed how many times he repeated the verb? It is also an imperative but of the strangest, sharpest and sternest type, with three imperatives of the same word in one verse. There are only twelve verses in Paul’s letters with three or more imperatives in one verse, but only one is repeated another two times same verb. It is to be watchful, to be warned and to be wise. For these evildoers, mutilators and Judaizers, circumcision was the prerequisite, path and pinnacle of faith. True circumcision is not based on confidence in the flesh, which results in futility, failure and fatigue. The verb “confidence” occurs twice (vv 3, 4) and the noun once (v 4). It is translated as persuade (Matt 27:20), trust (Matt 27:43), obey (Acts 5:36), believe (Acts 28:24) and assure (1 John 3:19). It means dependence on our ancestry, appearance, achievement, ability or advantage. It makes one feel superior, self-centered and smug with race, refinement or righteousness.
Loss (v 7) is “damage” of the ship and goods Paul was in on the way to Italy (Acts 27:10). “Garbage” (v 8) is what is thrown to the dogs – what is unwanted, unfit and unpleasant. There are two greater purposes (“hina”); one is to gain or win (active) Christ – the journey, and to be found (passive) righteousness grounded in faith (get vs. given, obtain vs. done) – the justification, but the ultimate purpose is to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (v 10). This reminds us Christianity is not a list of do’s and don’ts but about Christ, getting to know Him, His power and His sufferings (plural) – the person, the power and the passion.
The person refers to His greatness, the glory of the Risen Lord, and His grief Relationship with Him. Imitation of God, incorruptibility in Him, Identify with us.
Majesty, Might, and Meekness.
To know Christ The power of His resurrection The fellowship of His sufferings
The person The power the passion
The glory (of the Risen Lord) His grief
Imitation of Christ Incorruptibility in Him Identify with us
Residence in Him Revival in Him Reliance in Him
Mind Might Meekness
Christ has come and displaced religion and rituals and regulations with redemption, restoration and relationship with him. Today we separate between the Law and the laws, the spirit of the law from the letter of the law, and Jewish and Gentile believers, of whom are free from Jewish ceremonies, customs and
Lean Front: Be Up to Speed
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
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. Perfection is the enemy of progress, performance and production. “Perfect” (v 12) 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.” (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6:254-55) 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.
Press on (vv 12, 14) is in the present tense, not past tense. It is persistent, progressive and permanent.
The first contrast - old and new - is about time, the second - before and ahead – is of space.
Paul states that he lives by one thing or one principle in life, not two (v 13). The Greek is sharper and has more punch - the words “I do” is missing. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead is one thing, not two. There are three types of people: one that cannot forget, the other can forget but cannot strain forward, and the last wisely forget and strain forward. The second is no better than the first because “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” is one thing, though double-sided.
The verbs “forget” and “strain forward” are the means, but not the message. The Greek word “forget” occurs eight times in the Bible and has always been translated as “forget” (Matt 16:5, Mark 8:14, Luke 12:6, Phil 3:13, Heb 6:10, 13:2, 13:16, James 1:24). Usually, forgetting the positive is not a good thing, but forgetting the negative is a good thing. What are the “behind” things we should forget? The gain and loss Paul mentioned in verse 7.
The second method “straining toward” means “reaching forth.” This Greek word “epekteinomai” occurs the first and only time in the Bible. Curiously, it has two prepositions within the word - “after” (epi) and “forth/ahead” (ek). Literally it means “after (and) out.” A Christian is one who looks ahead, not look back. Looking back is a temptation, a trap and a heavy toll; he makes a concerted effort, not a weak attempt, to move on.
The most obvious contrast in the passage is the “behind” and “ahead/before.”
I am an expert in pressing on out of necessity. I joined the gym out of necessity, not pleasure. Due the patella tendon injury I suffered several years ago, my weak knees started shaking when I was speaking from the pulpit during colder winter time in 2002. I signed up for the three years’ offer, actually paying only two years upfront rather than monthly. Endurance is everything in exercise. I always tell people exercise is mental, not physical; it is mind over matter; your mind tells you to go but yourself feelings tell you to stop.
When I first started swimming laps to strengthen the legs, I could barely manage a 75 feet lap (to and fro) - frog or dog style in two minutes per lap. Every stroke and every breath was a step from giving up, trying another day and calling it a day. I forced myself to stick to a “add one lap” target a month. After completing one lap the first month, I ventured for two laps the next month; again I felt I was dying and swore I would never survive it. The third month brought the same feelings, thoughts and struggles but I added another lap. After several months, lo and behold, I capped it at 10 laps ever since.
On the even days when I am not swimming laps, I do the treadmill. It was the same with treadmill. I started at the lowest rate possible: 3 mph. Then every month I added .1 mph. After two years I capped it at 6 mph.
On top of that I jog, skip and jump in the water for a total of 1,000 times six times a week – a mere 20 minutes each time.
The first contrast involves time, the second concerns space, and the third – heaven and earth – is of sphere.
The Greek word “press” is a controversial word; it is the same word for “persecute,” something negative and familiar to Paul. The book of Acts has the most references to this word, most notably the seven references to Paul’s persecution of the church (Acts 7:52, 9:4, 9:5, 22:4, 22:7, 22:8, 26:11, 26:14, 26:15). Basically, it means “pursuing or following after,” the way Paul did when he zealously “persecuted” the followers of Christ to their death, arresting them as far away as in Damascus to bring them to Jerusalem to be punished (Acts 22:3-5). This word is not limited or confined to religious zeal, but it used to show resolve, determination, intensity, persistence and follow-up. Growth is not a neutral or passive; it is active and proactive. The shocking thing is Paul transformed a hateful word to a hopeful word, from disgrace to distinction, from shame, scandal and suppression to service, strength and steadfastness.
A lot of people’s goals are existential - live longer, live happier, live simpler. We live our lives pursuing the idols of the world – power, pride, profit, pleasure, popularity. The real goal in life is never earthly, but heavenly.
The “goal” in Greek is “skopos” (micro-scope) – a goal or target or a view. “Prize is “brabeion” - an award, not necessary gold, silver or bronze. There is always someone breaking records for sales made, shots made, success tallied, but there is only one record no one else can break - the heavenward prize of God in Christ Jesus.
Look Up: Be Up to Sample
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
A good example is the best sermon. Benjamin Franklin
A good example is far better than a good precept.
A good example has twice the value of good advice. Albert Schweitzer
Example is not the main thing influencing others. It is the only thing. Albert Schweitzer
If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.
Your child will follow your example, not your advice.
Children close their eyes to advice but open their eyes to example.
Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.
It’s good to follow a good example, but it’s better tto always seta good example for others. Roy T.Bennett
Verse 17’s first imperative “Be followers” (v 17, sum-mimetes) is derived from “mimetes,” where we get the word “mime,” or “mimic,” not necessarily the pace of following, but the person to imitate. It is to exemplify, emulate and extend. Some translators translate is as imitating (RSV, Holman, ESV) or imitators (ASV). Imitate means to see him as our master, model and motivation. We are to reflect Him, represent and reproduce Him in our lives and to others. There is a certain conduct, conversation, conscience, credibility and change expected in us.
The second imperative “keep eyes” (skopeo) means take heed (Luke 11:35), mark (Rom 16:17), look at (2 Cor 4:18) and consider (Gal 6:1). It is not just to see but to be alert, attentive and active. Not to follow, fellowship or fraternize with bad apples – the enemies of the cross, including their destination, diet, decadence and dimension (v 19)
Verse 20 tells us the reason why we have to be imitators and to keep eyes. Citizenship (v 20, politeuma) is derived from polites, a townsman or community. Politics therefore is the activities associated with the governance of a country or area,
earthly things in heaven
vile body glorious body
The book begins with joy but ends with judgment.
Conclusion: Are you stuck on your glory days or on your glorious past?
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even
to subdue all things unto himself.