Lessons from the Book of Philippians
Greetings precious people, I do hope that you are doing well today and enjoying the goodness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In today’s article we will continue our study in the Book of Philippians. In our last study we saw how the Apostle Paul expressed his hearts desire of knowing Jesus Christ and making Him known. He was of a single mind and purpose and no matter what the cost of accomplishing that goal; he was willing to pay it. As we continue our study now in the Book of Philippians, we see further proof of this single mindedness that Paul had.
In Philippians 3:12-14 we read, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
It seems that some people are attempting to do many things in their life only to do none of them well. Others are doing well at doing nothing of any importance. It’s the proverbial 10% of the people do 90% of the work while remaining 90% of the people complain about how the work is done. Which category do you fit into?
For sure, as you set your mind on doing what is right and doing it well, there are no shortage of distractions and interruptions to finishing the task. The Apostle Paul knew this all too well. As he set out to know Jesus Christ and to make Him known, numerous obstacles and interferences arose. There were the “religious” Jews who fought him every step of the way and many times tried to silence him by death. Then there were the idol makers and worshipers who felt threatened by this “new religion” known as Christianity that demanded allegiance to only Jesus Christ. Then of course there was Paul’s past, his being responsible for the deaths and imprisonment of an untold number of Christians before he himself became a Christian.
Any one of these is enough to discourage most from continuing on with the task. And without doubt, Paul had his share of times of discouragement and doubts but he kept on going. Aside from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit working in his life, the greatest asset that enabled Paul to keep going, stay focused, and finish his course well was the ability to “forget those things that were behind him and press on toward the mark”.
The past, whether good or bad can be one of the greatest inhibitors to finishing what God has called us to do. As we are facing opposition in our attempt to obey the Lord, the “easy life” of the past can become very appealing. When I speak of the “easy life” I mean that time in our life when we were living for the world and ourselves. When obeying the Lord and living a holy life meant nothing at all to us except maybe sheer boredom. Our ability to exercise “selective” memory helps us look back at those times with fondness and longing. If we are not careful we will find ourselves turning to go back there and recapture the moment. The problem with this of course is our inability or unwillingness to remember the bad parts of those times. How empty our life was, without meaning and purpose, and the hopelessness that we felt.
The children of Israel that were freed from bondage in Egypt exemplify this point. Soon after they left slavery in Egypt we find them complaining to Moses and wanting to go back to the “easier” life. In Exodus 16:2-3 we read, “Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, "Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
Moses saw their complaining for what it was and responded in Exodus 16:8, "This shall be seen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the LORD hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the LORD."
Though they never went back to Egypt physically, they never left it in their hearts. The entire forty years of wandering in the wilderness were spent longing to go back and once again experience what they remembered to be the “easy life”. Imagine desiring to return to horrible slavery and bondage! This kept them from ever experiencing the “good life” that God had for them in the land that was flowing with milk and honey. The root cause of this was unbelief. They chose not to believe God and His Word. They allowed the difficulties and trials that come when we obey the Lord to dissuade them from taking God at His Word.
We read this warning in the Book of Hebrews 3:12-19, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
Unbelief is the opposite of faith. True Biblical faith is obeying God’s Word regardless of how I feel inside, or the circumstances that surround me, or the circumstances that await me. This is the only kind of faith that pleases God and will enable you to finish what God has called you to do.
Another aspect of our past that can keep us from finishing well what God has given us to do is the “bad” things of the past. Paul had more than his share of bad things. Prior to meeting Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus where he surrendered his life to Jesus, Paul was a killer of Christians. He felt it was God’s will for him to find every Christian he could, arrest them, force them to denounce their faith in Christ or be put to death.
This horrible past could have been used to keep Paul from fulfilling God’s call on his life. Just think of how unworthy he could have felt in traveling around telling others of the love of God when he used to kill Christians. Satan loves to remind us of our past sin and failures. It is amazing how easily I can remember the past that I would rather forget and yet struggled to remember the Word of God and His goodness.
To not allow the past to dictate your life calls for faith, faith in taking God at His Word. Listen to what God has said about forgiving us of our sins. In 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Isaiah 43:25, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Jeremiah 31:34, “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
This is what God promises to any and everyone that will humbly come to Christ asking forgiveness, repent of sin, and trust Him for salvation. I know some people say concerning their past sin, “I cant forgive myself.” This may sound humble and noble but in reality it is stupid. If God has forgiven you then are you greater than God? Take God at His Word and accept His forgiveness and begin living for Jesus. Quit allowing Satan to remind you of your past sin and failings and get on with finishing what God has called you to do.
Next time we will continue our study of this wonderful book. Until then may the Lord richly bless you beloved. Also, please keep me in prayer as I am in Israel right now.
If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our web site to read all previous articles at www.calvarychapel.org/alpine/index.htm
Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine