Pressing On Toward The Finish Line
November 18, 2018 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Philippians
Topic: Rooted in Christ Passage: Philippians 3:10–15
PRESSING ON TOWARD THE FINISH LINE
An Exposition of Philippians 3:10-15
By Pastor Brian Wilbur
Date: November 18, 2018
Series: Philippians: Gospel Partnership on Mission in the World
Note: Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Bible utilizes different metaphors to teach us about the nature of the Christian life. There is the metaphor of a growing body in Ephesians 4: preachers proclaim the Word, and Christians speak that same Word to one another, so that the whole body is strengthened and built up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16). There is the metaphor of walking in Ephesians 5: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us” (Ephesians 5:2) and “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). There is the metaphor of warfare in Ephesians 6: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11) There is the metaphor of journeying through the wilderness to the promised land of rest in Hebrews 3-4: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by… disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:11)
This metaphor of a journey is closely related to another metaphor, the metaphor of a race. Hebrews 12 says “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul tells the church to “run that you may obtain it [the prize] (1 Corinthians 9:24) – that is, the imperishable crown of glory. When his earthly life drew near to its end, Paul told Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
Finishing the race, reaching the finish line, and entering into glory ought to be the conscious and cherished goal of every believer. How do you reach the finish line? By running toward it! How do you obtain the goal? By laying hold of it with all of your might! How do you finish the race? By never giving up and always staying the course! There is no coasting, no lackadaisical lifestyle, no aimless wandering, no zoning out. Instead there is careful discipline and passionate pursuit and steady progress forward: “Look carefully… how you walk,” “take up the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13), “strive to enter that rest,” “run with endurance,” “[fight] the good fight,” and – in the words of Philippians 3 – “press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:14).
There is a clear goal, and a clear path to the goal, and a clear call to pursue the goal by moving forward on the path that leads to it.
THE SCRIPTURAL TEXT
Philippians 3:11-14 will be the focus of this sermon, but in order to help us stay connected to the larger context, let me read Philippians 3:7-15.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. 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, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 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. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Philippians 3:7-15)
PURSUE THE GOAL!
God’s glorious salvation, which He freely bestows on those who trust in Him, has a beginning, middle, and end. Philippians 1:6 and 2:13 teach us that God “[begins] a good work in” His people (Philippians 1:6), continues the work (Philippians 2:13), and “[brings] it to completion” (Philippians 1:6). As Christians, we receive all of this as grace from God. It is our privilege to first of all believe in Christ and receive Him as our greatest treasure. Then as believers who love Christ it is our privilege to follow Him on the path of obedience, service, and love. Then as faithful followers who are becoming like Christ in suffering and death, it is our privilege to be glorified with Him at the dawn of eternity. This is a package deal! This is what it means to be a Christian! This is what it means to know Christ and be destined for glory.
Now the main issue that we need to unpack in verses 11-14 is the issue of pursuing this ultimate goal of sharing Christ’s glory. Pursuit! Paul is not writing these things in order to merely satisfy our intellects. Yes, our minds do need to be instructed; yes, it is our privilege to love God with our minds and to understand His purposes; yes, we must grow in the knowledge of God’s truth. But the purpose of sound teaching – of good theology – is not to build a community of big-headed people. The purpose of sound teaching – of good theology and biblical doctrine – is to build a community of big-hearted people who passionately pursue God and God’s eternal purposes. This is the very thing that Paul is doing in Philippians 3. He trusts and treasures Christ as the most trustworthy and wonderful Person in the universe. He wants to grow in His relationship with Christ, He wants to know Christ and become like Christ. At the present time He wants to become like Christ in His suffering and death, but this has a larger purpose: He wants to become like Christ in His suffering and death now so that afterward He will become like Christ in His resurrection and glory.
A CLEAR VIEW OF THE GOAL
Paul seeks to live for Christ and lay down His life for Christ’s sake, so “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (v. 11). Paul has this clear goal in clear view. In verse 11 he speaks of attaining this goal. In verse 12 he speaks of obtaining this goal and arriving at perfection. In verse 14 he refers again to this goal – “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” In Philippians 3:21 he speaks of bodily resurrection in terms of transformation, glory, and power. Do you see that Paul has the clear goal in clear view? The clear goal is resurrection, perfection, and glory – in other words, becoming like Christ in His resurrection glory and enjoying heavenly fellowship with God and with Christ forever. The goal is to attain it, obtain it, possess it, enjoy it. The goal is finish the race and so obtain the prize.
But in order to finish the race, you must run the race. You must keep your feet on the path! You must keep putting one foot in front of the other! You must keep moving forward and making progress! Paul has a clear view not only of the clear goal, but also of the clear path that leads to it. This path is the path of loving one another, building up the church, and carrying out God’s mission (Philippians 1:3–2:4). This path is the path of trusting the Lord, obeying the Lord, and worshiping the Lord, rejoicing in the Lord (Philippians 2:12–3:9). In terms of Philippians 3:10-11, verse 10 is the clear path that leads to the clear goal of verse 11: the clear path is the path of knowing Christ and becoming like Him in humble service and sacrificial love (v. 10), which leads to the clear ultimate goal of resurrection (v. 11).
So, Paul has a clear view of the goal and a clear view of the path that leads to the goal. Do you have such a clear view of these things? Keep in mind that Paul is not mainly interested in scoring an “A+” on a written exam in Bible college. Paul is living it! Paul’s main concern is to vigorously pursue progress on the path that leads to the final goal, and the reason that he vigorously pursues progress on the path that leads to the final goal is because he wants to make it to the finish line and thereby lay hold of the prize that is waiting for him. The prize that he has in mind is nothing less than being raised up and glorified with Christ.
What we really need to see and understand from verses 11-14 is the urgency and passion with which Paul runs the race and pursues the goal. Paul isn’t a spiritual couch potato who recognizes the obvious – that he hasn’t been glorified yet – and then with very little interest expresses the sentiment that it will be nice when better days come – yeah, resurrection, that sounds nice, would like that I guess – and all I have to do is fill out a spiritual registration card? What a deal! – while he continues to lounge on the sofa with no apparent concern for godliness and holiness in his everyday life, much preferring his potato chips, remote control, and endless smartphone apps.
But that is not Paul’s attitude, is it? And no Christian should have that attitude! After describing his mindset and manner of life, Paul says in verse 15: “Let those of who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” God wants His people to grow and become mature in their spiritual walk, and true Christian maturity expresses itself in the passionate pursuit of God and energetic running toward the finish line of being received into glory! It is possible, of course, that some Christians are immature or poorly taught, and Paul shows grace to them. He doesn’t write them off, but is confident that God will bring them to maturity in their walk with Christ. In either case, whether you are more mature or less mature in your walk with God, the basic point remains clear: God’s will is that you be mature, and maturity in these verses means that you run the race with all diligence, always keeping your eyes on the prize.
EIGHT LESSONS ABOUT PRESSING ON TO THE FINISH LINE
Let’s slow down and take some time to let Paul’s mindset sink into our own hearts and minds. Here are eight lessons that we must consider.
LESSON #1: LOOK FORWARD TO REACHING THE FINISH LINE
Lesson #1: Look forward to reaching the finish line. In verse 11 he identifies the finish line, the grand finale, the ultimate goal: “the resurrection from the dead.” He looks forward to reaching the finish line and then sharing in Christ’s resurrection glory!
LESSON #2: PRESS ON TOWARD THE FINISH LINE
Lesson #2: Press on toward the finish line. After identifying the goal in verse 11, in verse 12 Paul immediately tells us that he has not yet obtained the goal, he has not yet reached the finish line, he has not yet completed the race. What does a runner do who is in a race and intends to finish the race but hasn’t finished it yet? He keeps on running! “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own.” Paul pursues the prize by pressing on toward the finish line. Paul intends to “make it my own” – in other words, he intends to seize the prize, to lay hold of eternal life, to make resurrection glory his own.
G. K. Chesterton once said that “there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.” In other words, there are many ways to go wrong. And there are many ways to go wrong when it comes to the Christian life.
Some of us have been schooled in an overly passive view of the Christian life. In this overly passive view of things, we do nothing because we suppose that God does everything, so therefore there is nothing for me to do. This is a half-truth, and half-truths are dangerous lies! It is true that God does everything, but the application that therefore we do nothing doesn’t follow. Just think about what Paul teaches us in Philippians: “it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Do you understand what this means? Yes, God is the One who is working and producing – but what is He working and producing? He is working to produce holy will and holy desire and holy resolve and holy work and holy effort in you, which means that those who are saved, those in whom God is working, will demonstrate it by having the same kind of holy will and holy resolve and holy effort that Paul shows us in Philippians 3:12. God has promised to bring you from the starting line to the finish line, but He has promised to do it by giving you the legs of faith, by upholding you and empowering you to run the race!
God’s intention is to “bring to completion” (Philippians 1:6) the good work that He has begun, His intention is to bring you to the finish line of glory and resurrection! And He is working in you (Philippians 2:13) to empower you to run the race and complete the race with the very same finish line in your clear view. So don’t make the deadly mistake of trying to be wiser than God. Don’t say that you don’t need to seize the prize because it’s already promised to you; don’t say that you don’t need to lay hold of eternal life because it’s already promised to you; don’t say that you don’t need to make resurrection glory your own because it’s already promised to you. Instead, you ought to think and say that you are seizing the prize and laying hold of eternal life and making resurrection glory your own precisely because they have been promised to you. Everlasting glory has been promised to you so that you would prefer it to anything else, so that you would cherish it, pursue it, run toward it, seek it with all your heart, and seize it. The promise of resurrection has been given to you so that it would shape your life, so that it would motivate you to be ripened for eternity.
LESSON #3: PRESS ON TOWARD THE FINISH LINE BECAUSE YOU ALREADY BELONG TO CHRIST
Lesson #3: Press on toward the finish line because you already belong to Christ. Notice something very important at the end of verse 12. Paul says, “I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” This shows us that our pressing on, our running of the race, our Holy-Spirit-empowered effort to persevere to the finish line and claim the prize, is rooted in something far deeper than our own activity. What is it rooted in? It is rooted in fellowship with Christ. Christ has laid hold of you, if you are one of his true followers; Christ has captured you and made you His own. Christ has brought you into fellowship with Himself, given you His Holy Spirit, and called you to glory. Which means that your holy will and holy desire and holy resolve and holy work and holy effort, all of which are vitally important and necessary, is not an impersonal religious system. The Christian life is not about working hard to check boxes. What is the Christian life about? It is about staying true to Christ! It is about staying true to the One who has redeemed you by His blood and claimed you as His own. It is about staying true to Him and His purpose and His way. When Christ said ‘Follow Me’, He meant that you should follow Him along the humble path of service and suffering, all the way to glory. You should give Him 100% not in order to get Him, but because you already have Him – or rather because He already has you!
Indeed, the reason that you already have Him is because He has you – He chose you out of the world and put you on His team. By His own grace He ushered you through salvation’s starting line (and therefore you are born again and forgiven and justified and reconciled to God and sealed by the Spirit), and He put you in the race. He has promised to be with you every step of the way – at every turn, at every steep hill, at every narrow pass, at every injury or moment of exhaustion. He has promised to be with you and strengthen you and lead you to the finish line, and then across the finish line into glory and rest and joy forever. Paul doesn’t “press on” because he thinks it depends on Paul; Paul presses on because he has been captured by Christ and now his life is linked with the life of Christ and he cannot do otherwise. He is overjoyed about having been put into this race to glory, and he wants what every sane Christian person wants – he wants to be faithful to the One who called him, he wants to honor the Lord who saved him, he wants to become like the Savior who suffered and died for him, and he wants to be with Christ in glory forever. Therefore, “I press on to make it [resurrection glory] my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
Verses 13-14 Expand Upon Verse 12
What Paul tells us in verse 12, he tells us again with more detail in verses 13-14. At the beginning of verse 13, Paul reminds us that he has not yet reached the finish line, that he has not yet seized the prize: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.” The goal is to make resurrection glory your own, but you won’t come into possession of resurrection glory until the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Then and only then will you be clothed in immortality and shine triumphantly in the light of your King. In the meantime, you lift up our eyes to glory-land and run toward it. And in verse 13 Paul makes it clear that this ought to be our singular focus: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing…” One thing!
LESSON #4: MAKE PRESSING ON TOWARD GLORY YOUR ONE THING!
Thus we come to Lesson #4: Make pressing on toward glory your one thing! This one thing ought to be the one thing that envelops all other things. This one thing ought to be your central focus in all of your relationships and responsibilities. You have all kinds of legitimate involvements – marriage and family and extended family and friendships and life-at-home and life-and-ministry-in-the-church and connections-to-the-wider-community and education and the workplace and whatever other legitimate tasks are set before you – but in all these things you ought to have a central focus. You ought to have a Christ-centered, future-oriented focus with your eyes on the prize of glory forever. One thing! One thing, 24/7! One thing, daytime and nighttime! One thing, weekday and weekend! One thing, by myself or with others!
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on…” Now let’s pause right there. This is obviously the picture of a passionate runner! Paul said “I press on” in verse 12 and says “I press on” again in verse 14, but before he says “I press on” in verse 14 he adds a couple of important descriptors. If you are going to “press on toward the goal,” if you are going to run toward the finish line, then you must have a certain mindset, a certain outlook, a certain posture. If you can imagine a marathon runner who is always looking back, always looking at what is behind him, always looking over his shoulder, then you will see a runner whose focus is all wrong and who is in grave danger of veering off the path, crashing to the ground, and not making it to the finish line.
LESSON #5: PRESS ON BY NOT LOOKING BACK
So learn Lesson #5: Press on by not looking back. Passionate runners “[forget] what lies behind.” They don’t look back. They aren’t preoccupied with the portion of the race that they have already completed. They don’t run on the memory of yesterday’s grace or yesterday’s strength, because what belonged to yesterday is gone. They don’t let past successes or past failures go to their head.
If you let past failures go to your head, what happens? You feel defeated, you feel like a failure, you feel unworthy to remain in the race, you feel like throwing in the towel, you feel defined by the past failure. If the past failure was a real failure – a real sin – the beauty of God’s grace is that He forgives your sin and remembers your sin no more. So why are you remembering it? If you are a Christian and you have confessed your sin and turned away from it, then it is forgiven, covered, canceled, cast into the sea of forgetfulness, and gone forever.
We need to trust the Lord’s grace not only with our past sins, but also with our past disappointments and past hurts. Trust Him, knowing that He has promised to work all things together for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). Trusting God frees you from living in a world of past pain, and frees you to live fully in the present moment as a runner who is looking ahead to glory.
You must not let past successes go to your head, either. What happens when past successes go to your head? You get proud, you get smug satisfaction, you get a false sense of accomplishment, you get complacent and lazy. So what if you ran well the first mile, if now you are losing steam and in danger of giving up? So what if you scored an “A” on the mid-term but are neglecting your present assignments and setting yourself up for a big fail on the final? So what if you were serious about discipleship for several months after you were baptized, but have been spiritually ‘checked out’ in recent years? So what if you can testify to a visitation of God’s grace twenty years ago, but you can’t testify to the sustaining power of God’s grace today or tomorrow or the next day, and your ‘grace tank’ is running on empty?
Paul’s point, by the way, is not that we should forget God’s saving and sanctifying grace to us in the past – Paul himself, even in this letter, remembers what the Lord has done for him and for the Philippians. It is all good and well to draw upon the graces and lessons of the past insofar as we draw upon them to propel us forward and strengthen us on today’s leg of the journey. Paul’s point is that we must not live in the past, we must not run with a ‘looking back’ orientation. In this sense we must forget about “what lies behind” and instead keep looking ahead to the next stretch of the race.
Whether it is past successes or past failures or past hurts, you really do need to let it go – not by a heartless act of willpower, but by a heartfelt entrusting of the past to the God who calls you into His future.
LESSON #6: PRESS ON BY STRAINING FORWARD AND INTENDING TO RUN
Lesson #5 leads naturally to Lesson #6: Press on by “straining forward” and intending to run. Passionate runners not only “[forget] what lies behind,” but also “[strain] forward to what lies ahead.” Their body is square, their center of gravity is low, their knees are properly bent, their arms swing in harmony with their legs, and their eyes are looking ahead to the path in front of them. Everything about their posture reveals that their mindset is to run, move forward, and make progress. Spiritually speaking, “straining forward to what lies ahead” means that you have a mindset to “run with endurance the race that is set before [you]” (Hebrews 12:1). The runner who runs doesn’t do so by accident; the runner intends to run. The runner wakes up, puts on his running gear, makes sure he is hydrated, stretches his muscles, warms up, and then runs. He runs because he intends to run. That which is true of the runner is also true of the hiker, the skier, the gymnast, the dancer, the basketball player, and any athlete: you run, you compete, you play because you intend to do so. You are ready, prepared, engaged – and then you devote yourself to the appointed task that will lead you to the appointed goal.
Fellow Christian, let me ask you a question: do you intend to run? Do you intend to make progress in your walk with Christ? Do you intend to advance in Christian maturity? Do you intend to become like Christ in His suffering and death so that afterward you will become like Christ in His resurrection and glory? Do you intend to pursue this glorious goal? Paul teaches us a very important lesson here about growing and progressing on the path of following Christ. Some of you might have a sort of vague interest in maturing in your faith, but frankly that’s all it is – vague interest, nice if it happens, and if it does happen it will be by accident, and should it happen by accident you will spiritualize the whole thing by saying how wonderful it is that God gave you growth when you weren’t even seeking it. Listen, passionate runners don’t have a vague interest in running. They are earnest about it: devoted and serious, disciplined and regimented, training and preparing, eager and ready to run, and then they run and keep on running until they finish the race. God’s will is that you be that kind of runner in your spiritual life, always keeping your eyes on the final goal.
I appreciate the words of D. A. Carson on the subject of holiness:
“People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”
Passionate runners don’t drift to the finish line. Straining forward with “grace-driven effort” is how we make progress on the path of holiness that leads to final glory.
The reason that passionate runners “[forget] what lies behind and [strain] forward to what lies ahead” is because there is “one thing” on their minds. And what is this one thing? It is getting to the goal, making it to the finish line, completing the race, and winning the prize.
“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.”
LESSON #7: RUN!
Simply put, here is Lesson #7: Run! The whole point about having the mindset and posture of a runner, is to actually run – and not to run aimlessly for the sake of running, but to run purposefully along the appointed path that leads to the appointed goal: “I press on toward the goal.” Don’t be duped by the lie that what matters is the journey, not the destination. That is a lie, and a false dichotomy. The Christian life is a journey with a destination: a God-appointed journey that leads to a God-appointed destination, a God-appointed path that leads to a God-appointed goal. The destination shapes the journey, and the destination-shaped journey leads to the destination. The goal shapes the path, and the goal-shaped path leads to the goal.
When Paul says “I press on” in verses 12 and 14, he is using a very active and powerful verb. The Greek word translated “press on” means to pursue something in order to capture it, to “aggressively chase, like a hunter pursuing a catch.” It is worth pointing out that the Greek word translated “press on” is the same basic word that Paul uses in Philippians 3:6 where he describes himself as “a persecutor” (Philippians 3:6). Persecute and press on – same basic word, same basic concept. As “a persecutor of the church” (Philippians 3:6) before he became a Christian, Paul pursued and chased and hunted Christians and sought to capture them. But now Paul is a Christian. He isn’t a persecutor anymore, but he is still an aggressive hunter – not in the negative sense of persecuting but in the positive sense of pursuing the glory that has been promised to him in Christ. In other words, the Christian life is to be characterized by a zealous, aggressive, energetic pursuit of Christ, of knowing Him and becoming like Him and ultimately sharing in His glory. Are you “[pressing] on toward the goal”?
And what is the goal? What is the prize that awaits you at the finish line? We already know the answer from verse 10 (“resurrection from the dead”) and verse 21 (which again speaks of resurrection glory). But in verse 14 Paul specifically says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The word “upward” is really important here. The Greek word means “up” or “above” and it conveys the idea of upward-ness, above-ness, heavenward-ness. In fact, the New International Version translates verse 14: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 NIV). Speaking of “upward” or “heavenward,” verse 20 says in a similar vein: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21, italics added).
Christian, do you understand the high-ness of your heaven-ward calling? The Lord Jesus Christ is “highly exalted” (Philippians 2:9) and dwells in the highest heaven, sovereign over all other things “in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10). And what is your calling? What is the prize? It is to be with Him in His heavenly glory, and to become like Him so that you are a reflection of His heavenly glory. That’s the whole point of resurrection, that you would share in His glory and be a radiant reflector of His glory forever and ever, amen. And in that day Christ will be glorified as the Lord and Savior of a glorified people.
LESSON #8: RUN TOGETHER!
As we put Lessons 1-7 into practice, we must remember Lesson #8: Run together! “[Pressing] on toward” resurrection glory doesn’t mean that you are only concerned about your individual progress toward glory. It also means that you are concerned for each other’s progress – indeed for the whole church’s progress toward this final glory. To run well includes helping our fellow runners run well; to press on includes helping our brothers and sisters to press on. Paul is writing to the Philippians and setting forth an example for them (Philippians 3:15, 17; 4:9). Paul loves the Philippians (Philippians 1:8, 4:1) and wants to promote “[their] progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:25). “[Pressing] on” means pressing on together: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Together let us press onward to glory!
A FINAL APPEAL
Are you pressing on toward the goal? Are you pursuing the prize of resurrection glory? Are you keeping your feet to the right path and running with strength and endurance?
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Hebrews 12 urges us to pursue “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Are you making progress on the path of purity that leads to the everlasting blessedness of seeing the Lord in glory?
Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven….” (Matthew 6:19-20). Are you making progress on the path of investing in heaven’s trust fund, which leads to gains and dividends that will pay forever? When you die, will you be leaving your treasure behind (because it is on earth), or will you be going to your treasure (because you made deposits in heaven)?
Jesus said, “… when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” (Luke 14:13-14) I read this passage last Sunday, but I didn’t call attention to how the promise of resurrection is the basis of the instruction. Jesus said, “and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:14). Are you making progress on the path of self-giving generosity to the last, the least, and the lost, which will be richly rewarded by the Lord when you are raised up to share in His glory?
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10) Are you making progress on the path of faithfulness to God and His righteousness – even though the world thinks you’re crazy! – knowing that this path leads to great reward in heaven (e.g., “for your reward is great in heaven” in Matthew 5:12)?
The Bible says, “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, [shall shine] like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3) Are you making progress on the path of wisdom and of turning others to righteousness, which is the path that leads to bright shining splendor in the world to come?
Paul teaches us that growing in love for one another is the path that leads to an honorable entrance into the presence of Christ on the last day (Philippians 1:9-11, 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13). Are you progressing in open-hearted love to others, which leads to glory, or are you regressing in self-enclosed world that shuts others out?
Peter teaches us that “since” (2 Peter 3:14) “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13), we therefore ought to “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter 3:14). We ought to be holy and godly in all our conduct, and at peace in all our relationships with one another. It is “in this way [that] there will be richly provided for [us] an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:11; the character set forth in 2 Peter 1:3-10 is substantially the same as the character set forth in 2 Peter 3:11-14). Are you straining forward to the prospect of a warm welcome at the gate of the eternal city?
John teaches us that everyone who has the confident expectation of seeing Christ face to face and as a result of that sight being transformed into His likeness, “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3) Are you making yourself ready for that day when you will appear before the Lord?
Is your “one thing” to “press on toward the goal” so that in due course you will complete the race and share Christ’s glory forever? This is the “one thing” worth living for. This is the “one thing” worth dying for.
Let us pray.
 G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. Kindle Version: page 94 of 154.
 D. A. Carson, quoted by Trevor Wax on his blog at The Gospel Coalition website, March 19, 2007. Available online: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/drifting-toward-holiness/.
 Quotation from HELPS Word-studies, available online via Bible Hub under entry “1377. diókó,” at https://biblehub.com/greek/1377.htm.
 See Philippians 3:6 and 3:12, 14 in the “Philippians 3 Interlinear Bible,” available online at Bible Hub: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/philippians/3.htm.
 Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Accessed online through Bible Gateway at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians+3%3A14&version=NIV.
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