The life of Christ – Philippians 3:7-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 13, 2016
The Game of Life, also known simply as Life, is a board game originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley, as The Checkered Game of Life because the game board was set up like a checker board. The Game of Life was America’s first popular parlor game. The game simulates a person’s travels through his or her life, from college to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. You spun a six-sided top; dice were seen as gambling, to move to your space. Two to six players could participate in one game. The modern game was introduced in 1960 and consists of a track on which players travel by spinning a small wheel (in the center of the board) with spaces numbered 1 through 10. You collect a spouse, kids, jobs and cash as you head around the board.
Of course the real “game of life” which one lives is a lot more complicated. However God has given us a way to live our lives in Jesus. As easy as it sounds it is a whole lot more difficult than we often imagine because good and bad things still happen to those who live in this sin-fallen world. Faith in Christ does not do away with the day-by-day effects of sin in creation. Paul describes for us how believers can live the life of Christ. Let’s discover what this means for each of this morning…
Human beings can become so captivated by their successes in life that they lose sight of what life is all about. Paul brings us back to earth, so-to-speak when he teaches us about our life in Christ. Paul teaches us that…
I. A life in Christ begins with faith! (Vv. 7-9)
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What 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 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 and is by faith.
1. Paul, as a believer in Christ, was not only a pragmatist he was also a faithful realist. He knew whom he followed and why his life had been changed so dramatically. This is why he wrote, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” Paul did not dwell on his past life. This is good advice for all believers. Far too many of us stay spiritually stunted because we either stay focused on our past flaws or think we should elevate our past life in order to elicit some kind of spiritual notoriety. Shame on us! Paul reinforced this by stating “What 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.” When we come to Jesus we sacrifice ourselves, all that we are past, present, and future. “Everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Now that Jesus is our master and king everything in our life is to be considered “rubbish”, literally human waste, that we “may gain Christ and be found in him”. This is extremely important. We often forget who and what our focus in life is to be and it isn’t to be ourselves. Why, because when we focus on ourselves, what we gain, what’s in it for us; we become self-centered and myopic in our lives. Everything begins to revolve around us and our happiness and it becomes a shallow reflection of what we are to be as God’s children. We are “not to have a righteousness of [our] own” that comes from following a set of rules or regulations, like “the law” but rather “that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” A life in Christ begins with faith!
EXAMPLE: What is faith? Is it a wish I may, a wish I might? Some in our world today think so and equate it with wishing upon a star or believing in fairies, but this is not the case. The Christian’s faith is squarely placed in the facts of history and the assurance of who Jesus was and is. Jesus is not some made up person nor a myth based speculation or supposition; his life, death, and resurrection were seen by hundreds of folks, testified to by his enemies and friends alike, and written about by those who followed him and those who wrote about the contemporary history of his day. This is why those who walked with him, saw him, and were changed by him can say with absolute certainty, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see… Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 11:1; 12:2 NIV) Where is your faith is placed this morning? A life in Christ begins with faith!
Shinning like stars in a sin-darkened world is impossible if we are trying to do so through our own effort or resolve. We will fail. Paul understood that…
II. A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God! (Vv 10-14)
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not 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. Brothers, 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
1. Paul’s answer was that “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” We all want the “power of his resurrection” but few of us desire the “fellowship of sharing in his suffering”. This is understandable; few folks want that kind of suffering in life. Yet, God came as a man to experience our hardships himself and to suffer and die for us. In this we know God now intimately understands our sufferings in this life. Peter would remind us that “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21 NIV) We obtain our resurrection through our faith as we live our lives for him who saved us. Paul was well aware that in this life we are often weak in our will to totally follow Jesus, so he confesses, “Not 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.” While his life in Jesus was imperfect, he knew he was perfect in Jesus and he could therefore “press on to take hold of that which” God had called him to in this life in Christ. It was a daily effort for Paul like that of running a race: “Brothers, 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” We can only press on as we forget what was in our past. What Paul meant here is that like a runner we do not concern ourselves with what was behind us, we look forward to the obstacles and rewards ahead. God knew we could never forget our sufferings, but do not have to dwell there with them in the past. We have a new life in Jesus that encourages us to move forward. A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God!
EXAMPLE: A life without a goal is a life blowing in the wind of circumstances; it is blown away by whatever comes along. I often ask the fifth graders what their goal in life is. Some do not have a clue, while others already have a plan they are willing to follow. The Christian’s goal in life is to be like Jesus. Paul would bluntly write, “We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (2 Corinthians 5:7-9 NIV) A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God! What is your goal this morning?
As we run life’s course with Jesus we focus on what is ahead. And as we do we soon realize that there is one running ahead of us encouraging us onward to the goal of God. Paul knew that…
III. A life in Christ follows him! (Vv. 15-17)
All of us 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. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
1. Paul was desperately trying to get these new believers to focus on their new lives in Jesus and not their old lives nor the things they would face as they followed Christ. He writes that in fact “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” Interestingly, Paul’s salvation experience had taken place about 30 years before he wrote these words. He had won many spiritual skirmishes. Paul had matured spiritually in those years, but he candidly confessed he was not a perfect disciple of Jesus. He also knew there would be those who while in the trenches of a spiritual battle would be at odds with what Paul was teaching them. Saying is one thing, doing is another. And so, he writes that “if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Paul trusted God to make it clear to those who doubted Paul as long as they followed Jesus. The greatest need among believers is to live up to what they already have in Christ. James, Jesus’ brother, would write, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV) This is why Paul tells the Philippians, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Paul would also write the Ephesians, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV) Believers are to be examples to others in the world and to those we walk with in Jesus. We are to “Join with others in following [Paul’s] example… and [we are] take note of those who live according to the pattern” Paul and others who are mature in Jesus gave us! A life in Christ follows him!
EXAMPLE: I have often told the story of how when I was little, like a lot of small children, I would walk in my father’s footsteps. Here’s what I mean: When we would walk in deep snow or on the beach in the soft sand, I would follow my dad and try to take the same stride as he did and try as hard as I could to walk in his footprints. Later, when he became crippled and walked with a cane, I learned that while he could not take the same strides he used to, he was still the same person that I would often try to live up to. John would write, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7 NIV) Who do you follow this morning? A life in Christ follows him!
A life in Christ begins with faith! A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God! A life in Christ follows him!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.