Make It Your Own
Scripture: Philippians 3:12-16
Make it your only goal in life to strive for the prize of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.
Well, this morning we are going to continue with the Apostle Paul’s line of reasoning that he began in Philippians 3. So if you have your Bibles, you can turn with me to Philippians 3. A few weeks ago, we looked at the first 11 verses where Paul gives us a very detailed description of all the ways that he is better than everyone else. So he comes from a better family, better education, better obedience to religious practices. And after telling us just how much better he is than you and me and everyone, he then says, none of that matters. None of that matters. It’s all rubbish; in fact, he counts it all as loss. He puts no confidence in any of that at all. Some people have this view of Christianity in our culture where they think of Christianity as a group of people who think they’re better than everyone else. Ever encountered people like this? This is what Christianity is, just a group of people who think they’re better than everyone else. Now, I don’t think that’s actually a very fair assessment of the Christians that I know. But it is what some people think about Christians. If there’s any truth to that at all, if there’s any inclination in a follower of Jesus to think that he is superior to other people in any way, Paul’s message here should correct that. It should shake that right out of you. There is no place in true Christianity for feelings of superiority, there just isn’t. In fact, looking at yourself and thinking that you’re better than others in any way is actually an obstacle to following Christ. So you can’t follow Jesus until you see how desperately inadequate you are, and that you have nothing that impresses God. No one is impressive to God with either their status or their behavior. Christianity simply requires admitting what is true. And what’s true of everyone. You have to admit that being from a good family has nothing to do with salvation. You have to admit that being a good person or doing nice things or having a good attitude has no influence on God’s attitude toward you. You have to take everything that the world would put in its win column, and you have to put that over into your loss column, and you have to put no confidence in any of that. What do you gain? What do you gain? I’m a little hesitant to use the phrase I’m about to use in this way because of the way the world generally uses this phrase. But ‘what’s in it for me’? What’s in it for me? It sounds kind of selfish, doesn’t it, when you use that phrase. I know, but the truth is. We always make decisions in our own best interests. You can’t do otherwise. You always make decisions. It’s impossible not to make decisions in your own best interests. So if we take everything that’s impressive about ourselves and we put that in the loss column, there must be a compelling gain. There must be a reason for doing that. There must be something greater than human achievement or status that actually is impressive to God. And there is. There is. That’s the part of Paul’s argument that we’re going to look at today. He says there is something that I want far more than status or achievement. Yes, I’m putting that all as loss, all as rubbish. But it’s because there’s something so much better than anything in that column.
Let me review for you just a few of the key phrases from the first 11 verses here: Verse 3, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh”. Verse 8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. Versus 8 and 9:, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him”. Versus 10 and 11: “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead”. So why isn’t Paul boasting and bragging and glorifying in himself and his status and his achievements? He has exchanged that false glory of self for the true glory of Jesus.
That phrase there that he uses ‘surpassing worth’. That’s actually a really helpful phrase for all this. Jesus worth surpasses Paul’s. So that’s what Paul wants. I mean, who wouldn’t exchange some things of smaller worth for something of greater worth? Right. You always want to make that exchange. When you stop trusting in yourself and you start trusting in Christ, you gain Christ. You gain Him, you’re found in Him, you have something of greater worth. These are ways of describing the spiritual reality that we are united to Christ.
What Jesus did, that’s what’s impressive to God. You want something that’s impressive to God? Get Jesus, because Jesus is impressive to God. Jesus is the one who is acceptable to the Father. And so for us to be included in that acceptance, for us to be accepted by the father, we need to be found in Christ, identified with Jesus. But what Paul is describing here is more than just wanting to be saved from his sins. It’s more than just recognizing that salvation is in Christ. He certainly sees that. He’s not, however, just trusting in Christ for salvation. It’s more than that. He desires Christ. Do you see that? He wants to know him deeply in a relationship. He doesn’t want to just know about Jesus. He wants to know Jesus. He wants to experience union with Christ in an ever increasing way, and that includes Christ’s sufferings. Paul’s not saying he wants to suffer here. He’s not saying that. He’s not saying, I’ll bring on the suffering, I love to suffer. He’s not saying that. But because he follows Christ, he knows that he’s going to suffer. And so he wants suffering to draw him closer to Jesus, because what he’s after is Jesus. And if it requires suffering, then so be it. He wants to become like Jesus in his death, which sounds terribly morbid to us, doesn’t it? But understand the reason he wants his death to be like Jesus’ death. He wants it that way because Jesus died for the glory of God and to save sinners. And that’s Paul’s mission, too. And it should be our mission too with our lives, to live our whole lives, walking in the footsteps of Jesus, suffering like Jesus when suffering comes, dying like Jesus for the glory of God and for the sake of others in the world. That’s the reason that we live our lives for Christ. And there’s a goal in all this. There’s a goal in all this. And Paul mentions it twice. In fact, he frames it around suffering and dying here in these in verses 10 and 11. He wants to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection and by any means possible to attain that resurrection. Do you see how he frames it up like that? Now, don’t misunderstand the phrase ‘by any means possible’. He’s not saying, ‘Well, if Jesus is one of those means, I’m going to use Jesus to get where I need to go’. That’s not what he’s saying here. He’s saying that he’s willing to go through anything God has for him, any means, anything that God is going to do, if it results in experiencing the resurrection of Jesus. In other words, nothing, nothing is going to stop Paul from striving hard after this deeper knowledge and union with Christ and the results of that which are eternity with Him. That’s what he wants more than anything else. And whatever means God uses to get Paul to the place where He is, he will use those means. He embraces those means.
That’s the introduction for our passage this morning. Does that feel like that should have been its own sermon? I had that feeling this week, too. It’s like I should have broken this one out. But that was the introduction. Church, there is nothing I want more for you, and for me, than for our desire in Christ to reflect Paul’s desire for Christ here, to have this level of passion, to have this level of desire for Jesus. I want for us to make it our only goal in life to strive for the prize of knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection. And you might say to me, well, Kyle, shouldn’t our goal be to worship God more, or to sin less, or to have a better knowledge of the Bible, or to do more good works in the world, or to share the gospel and engage in missions, or to teach and to make disciples, or to defend the faith to the world around us. Those are all good things. Those are all wonderful results. Those are great results of a deep, abiding passion for the glory of God that comes through an ever growing relationship with Jesus Christ. See? See all that ministry that I just mentioned? That’s all the fruit. Jesus is the root. You get the root right, you get Christ right, you get the passion for the Lord in your life, correct? If you plug into the Gospel and understand who you are in Christ, the way that Scripture describes it, you’re going to have that fruit. You’re going to do all of those things. The fruit is going to come. Let’s pick it up in in chapter 3:12. Paul is now going to do something that perhaps you’ve experienced before. Paul in verse 12, he’s going to begin his locker room speech. Anybody ever been on a sports team or something, and you had the locker room speech, you get right before the game or the race or the match; someone gathers you in and someone says, let’s break it down. Right? Let’s break it down. I don’t know why they say it that way. I don’t know why that’s the phrase. But let’s break it down. And then they come together and they all put their hands in and they’re about to yell something. They’re going to yell something. They’re going to yell the name of their team, or they’re going to yell defense, or something like that. And then the team leader right before they do that as they’re all standing there, the team leader gives a little speech. We’ve reached the moment in Paul’s letter where he’s going to give that little speech. He’s gathered the Philippians around him. They’ve all they all got their hands in. They’re about to shout, ‘one, two, three, Jesus; one, two, three, Jesus’. You know, something like that? They’re getting ready to go. But right before they do that. Paul gives this little locker room speech to inspire us to keep going, to keep striving, to keep suffering well, and to keep our eyes focused on the prize that is Jesus. Let’s take it a line at a time here. 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.
They just tore up the part of 14 that goes right by my house. If you’ve been on the south side of town lately, you’ve been on 14. You’ve seen they’ve torn it all up. I made the mistake yesterday or a couple of days ago of turning right onto 14, and it added 15 minutes to my drive to church, which, by the way, is only 15 minutes to begin with. So that was sort of doubled it up there. Thankfully, this whole town is just one big circle. So now I’ll just turn left and I just go the same way. And here I am, right? I arrive the same place. So they just tore up the road and they put the barrels – you have to understand the barrels and the cones have been up for a while. They now they’re now doing the work, but the barrels and the cones went up. And so we knew something was on the way. And when the barrels go up and they start to make exits for your little street out of cones, you know, we’re like, no, you can’t turn there you got to turn 35 feet this way. And it’s an exit. You know, it’s bad. You know, it’s going to be terrible for you.
I think every new Christian should be given a sign, an actual physical sign, to hang up in their house that says Work in Progress. Oh, you pray to receive Jesus? That’s fantastic. Let me get you your sign. And then you just go and you just hand it to him and you’re like, here you go. You are now a work in progress. I think the best way to think about your mind and heart as a Christian is that they full of construction barrels. They’re up all over the place. Now let me clarify. Salvation through faith in Jesus is not a project. Jesus finished all the work of our salvation on the cross when he said ‘It is finished’. He meant that there is nothing more to do to save his people. He did all of the work. He paid the entire price. Salvation is a completed project, a completed work. But sanctification or the cleansing is a work that begins once you trust in Christ. Once you trust in Jesus, the barrels and the cones go up and the Holy Spirit starts to tear up all the asphalt of your old sinful habits. And He starts laying down new ways of thinking, new values, new love for God that was there before. New conviction from the spirit that you didn’t experience before. When Paul says that he has not yet obtained this or is not yet perfect, he means that he has not yet arrived at a place where he knows that he has experienced the fullness of Christ. He’s not talking about his salvation, which comes by faith alone. He’s talking about the fact that he has not yet got to the place where he is completely like Jesus in every way. Paul’s been talking about knowing Christ more fully, more deeply and even now he’s pressing on to make Christ his own in every thought, every goal, every passion of his heart and his mind. Now, there is a future component to this, because the physical resurrection of Paul’s body will not come, and nor will it for any of us who follow Jesus, until Jesus returns. There’s a future resurrection component here, but he’s saying, even now in this life, I want to experience the Lord’s power in my life. And he’s not there yet? Not fully. How many of you would agree that with Paul that you’re not fully there yet? I know I would.
In this first sentence of the inspirational pre-game speech, he tells us what motivates him to make Christ his own. What is it that drives him? Well, it’s because Christ has made Him his own. Why does a Christian want to become more like Jesus every day? Because Jesus made us his own. He bought us, he brought us into his kingdom, into his family. We belong to Christ now, not as an object that you might buy from a store, but in the way that family members belong to one another, in the way that you can look at your family member and say, you are mine and I am yours. The reason we want to know and love Jesus is because He first knew and loved us. He did the work. He came and got us. He brought us. We wouldn’t want Him otherwise. We wouldn’t make passion for Jesus our aim in life if he had not first bought us out of our sin and included us in his salvation, brought us into his family. And once we are there, once we have that, once that’s where we are located, then we have this passion for Christ. And Jesus has done that. For those of you who follow him, He has done that in your life. He acted first. So now we can act second. So, Paul is saying that.
Now let me turn this around. I imagine there are a number of you sitting here this morning realizing that you don’t actually have much passion for Christ. This is not how you think. That you would not echo what Paul says here. I’m not talking about those of you who do not trust in Christ. If you’re not a Christian, you certainly wouldn’t have any desire to know Christ more if you don’t know him at all. I’m talking about those of you who say you trust in Christ. But when you look at how you live and how you think, you don’t find an intense passion to know Christ. You say, you know, Kyle, the height of my desire to grow in Christ is right now, here at church on Sundays when I come. This is the big moment for me in the week. And even now, I’m basically sitting here because I’m supposed to or because I have to. You might even find yourself sort of resting in your imperfection. You see that sometimes sort of resting in that imperfection, sort of making an excuse of it. Well, no one’s perfect. No one’s perfect. So I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. I’m like everyone else. Why strive for anything at all? That lack of motivation to strive after Christ could actually be a strong indication that Christ has not made you his own. In other words, you don’t have a desire to know Christ because you don’t have a relationship with Christ. Every once in a while, I will get into a conversation with somebody in the church and they will come to me and they’ll say something to me, and it’s usually something along the lines … this doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes they’ll say something like this and they don’t exactly put it like this. But this is basically what they’re saying. They’re saying how close can I get to sin without actually sinning? You ever had those thoughts? How close can I actually get to sin but still be this side of sin, biblically. Usually it has something to do with how physical a guy can get with his girlfriend, or how often you have to go to church and still be considered attending regularly, or the ever present TV and movie content question. What can I watch? I’m not saying these aren’t important discussions to have. They are actually pretty important discussions, but there’s a concern there. If you’re looking for a loophole, there’s a problem with what you want. If that’s how you’re positioned to try to figure out where you can test the fences. There’s something wrong with how you’re thinking about pursuing Christ. If your passions for life are becoming more biblical, you’re not going to be trying to steer a course as close to sin as possible and still be okay. You’re going to be saying, Christ has me, so I want more of Christ. I want more of Him. Listen to Paul talk about the prize: “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 3:13-14). I like how he repeats that he hasn’t arrived at being fully Christlike yet, and this time he adds the word brothers. He wants to make sure we get it. We get it. You have not arrived yet. Paul, he says, is not a finished product. He wants his brothers and sisters, his fellow Christians, to understand, to know that even the Apostle Paul is not yet completely like Jesus. And that means if we see in ourselves a lack of Christ likeness, a need to know Jesus more intimately so that we can be more like Him, that we are not experiencing anything odd. That’s normal, friends, that is a normal thing. That’s all Christians. That’s your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all works in progress. But what we need to do with that is strive. We need to strive. The prize of knowing and becoming like Jesus is set out there in front of us, and it’s going to take every effort from us and powered by the Holy Spirit to get that prize. Paul is going toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let’s unpack that a little bit because it’s a little bit confusing. Paul’s got a kind of a big phrase there, doesn’t he? And so let’s look at that a little bit closer. I want you to picture a runner striving toward the finish line. Some of you are runners. You’re striving toward the finish line. That’s the goal here in this, right? There’s a goal in the sentence. And it’s that that finish line, Paul. For Paul, that would be the end of our physical lives. He’s saying that’s the goal. The end of life is the goal line. When we cross the goal, we receive the prize of the upward call of God. Okay? So you’re pressing on toward the goal. And when you cross the goal, you receive the prize of the upward call of God.
I just saw an advertisement this week for a race here in town called the Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon. You’ve heard of this? The Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon. I’m not sure I really want anybody handing me a hot cup of hot cider while I’m running a half marathon. I hope that’s not what they’re doing. That’d be really tough. But that’s the name of the race, the Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon.
Here, the race is called the upward call of God. Okay. And there’s a prize at the end of this race. We are perfect, as Paul says in verse 12, that’s the prize. Our faith is perfected. Our adherence to Christ’s commands becomes flawless. Our knowledge and heart’s desire for Jesus no longer wavers. That’s what we’re striving for. We’re striving for Christ, and to be like Christ. A lot of Christian growth has to do with sharpening our focus on that prize. Saying ‘I want to grow in Christ’. What’s the prize you’re striving for when you’re struggling with sin? It is good to remember that sin is wrong. We do need to remember that sin is an offense against the Lord. And that it’s harmful to other people and to yourself. But there’s another way of looking at it that can be just as helpful. Sin is going against your own best interest. Sin is going against your own best interest. I’m going to come back to that earlier question I asked, what is in it for me? See, God actually wants what’s best for you. The God who created you wants what’s best for you. He knows what’s best for you. The prize that he has laid out for those of us who trust in Christ and strive after Christ is far better than any prize that we can give to ourselves. The problem is, we don’t believe that. We can’t imagine that somehow struggling to live for Christ would be a greater prize than living more comfortably for ourselves right now. So let me key in on something here. Let me key in on something here that I find to be one of the greatest advantages to Christianity, in Christianity to our world today. One of the great advantages of being a Christian in our world. This isn’t the only benefit of the prize, but it’s here in our passage. And so I want to focus on it here for a minute. Paul says something here about this upward call and the prize at the end that I think has a distinct advantage over every popular worldview that we have out there today. Christianity is saying something that no one else is saying. Look how Paul describes his own striving. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”, now that is remarkable. Do you know what that means Church? It means we are not defined or captured by our past. That’s what it means. In a world that is hell bent, and I use that word deliberately, in a world that is hell bent on dredging up past sins and defining people based on what they have ever said or done without any actual basis or ability to bring about forgiveness or reconciliation; this idea that we can leave the past behind because of Christ is refreshingly countercultural. If you think about it, without a biblical way of seeing myself, if I don’t have scripture, if I don’t have God’s perspective on who I am, what am I other than a collection of my past successes and failures, mostly failures. What am I other than that? If you have been standing in the shower and all of a sudden your brain just decides to bring up some terrible memory of some embarrassing or awful thing you ever did – you ever done that? Just showering, you’re having a just a normal morning. Oh, yeah, right. I’m a terrible person. Thanks, brain. Ever done that? One of the beautiful things about God’s upward call in Christ is that you can leave that past in the past. Jesus has redeemed and forgiven you for your sins and failures from your past. And you get to leave them there. You get to leave them there. If you’re feeling this morning that you are just hopelessly chained to what you have done or what’s been done to you, there is remarkably good news here from Paul. There is a prize waiting at the end of the upward call of God. You don’t need to wallow in self-pity or self-loathing. You can be set free if you will trust in Christ and strive after him. Can you imagine the number of times Paul must have experienced some Christian coming up to him and saying to him, Aren’t you the one who killed all of us? Aren’t you the one that murdered other Christians? And Paul could say them, I was, but that’s not the guy I am today.
Let’s end with Paul talking directly to us today. Let those of us who are mature think this way. And if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have obtained. Let’s hold true, Church, to what we have obtained. Let’s remember what we have in Christ and let us hold as hard as we can to that. See, Christ has grabbed hold of us by His sacrifice on the cross. He paid for our sins. He brought us into his family. He bought us at the price of his own blood to bring us into his family. So now we don’t strive for lesser prizes. We strive to take hold of him. We strive to take hold of Christ. Someday we will be resurrected. And we will live for eternity with Christ. We will be perfect. But in the meantime, we strive for perfection. We strive for Jesus. We leave our sin in the past where it belongs, and we strive to walk humbly and faithfully in the footsteps of Christ to be guided by His Holy Spirit. That’s the Christian life. Let those of us who are mature think this way. Growing to maturity as a Christian requires this striving. As you grow in Christ, you’ll see yourself striving less and less after sinful, worldly things, and more and more after Jesus
Christianity takes patience. I wish it didn’t sometimes. I wish it didn’t require so much effort and striving and grasping after the gospel and applying it in my life. But it takes patience. This isn’t going to be like updating the software on your phone. You’re not going to be able to just overnight be like, Oh, it’s all done. I didn’t have to do anything. That’s just not how this all works. Inevitably there are areas in your life where you don’t think this way. You recognize that you’re striving is limited to a few particular areas in your life. You see that there’s some areas where you’re not thinking like this, where you’re not striving, where you’re not making Christ your own. One of the great joys of the Gospel is that God’s grace covers our sins. When we are weak, he is strong. We have been singing this line of theology since we were children, right? But we forget it. It’s okay to not yet be perfect, but it is not okay to stop striving for the prize. If you’re seeing that in yourself, that is God’s conviction. He’s revealing that to you. He doesn’t leave his children unattended. He’s going to convict you. And by the way, when God shows you where you lack proper passion for Christ. That’s a gift to you. That’s a gift. That is God’s gift to you. I’m not going to leave you to strive after these lesser prizes. I’m going to convict you, so you recognize where the prize actually is. I want you to come hard after Christ and when He reveals that to you, Church, I want to tell you to pay attention. Pay attention. Feel the conviction where you are falling short in striving for Christ, and then begin striving.
Last week, I went with a group of guys from the church on a trip to the boundary waters. I told them I went for two reasons: for sermon illustrations and for personal leverage over them as. Mission accomplished. One of the things that we did a lot was fish. We spent a lot of time fishing and my group spent a lot of time fishing from shore of the island where we were camping. We could step out onto the rocks and we would throw our lures in and try to catch fish. We did not catch fish really very much at all, but we did catch a lot of rock. We were constantly getting our lures stuck in the rocks. And so sometimes what you do is what you let out a bunch of line and you try to get at your lure from a different angle and you try to release it from a different angle. But sometimes you just could not get it free. And at that point, you only had two options. You could do the easy thing. You could give up, cut the line and lose the lure. Or you could do the hard thing. Set the pole down, change into your swimwear, swim out to the rocks, and release it from a different angle.
Church, if the Lord has revealed to you an area of your life where you are stuck in your sin, where you are mired in your own sinful frailty. Church, do not give up! Do the hard thing. Strive for the prize of Christ. Sure, it’s going to take effort. What good thing in the world doesn’t take effort? Don’t resign yourself to a compromised sinfulness. Press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward Call in Christ Jesus. Because He is worth it. Would you pray with me?