I. FORGETTING THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND.
A. So many people are trying to live in the past experiences.
1. Paul had an illustrious past.
a. A Hebrew of the Hebrew.
b. He was a model Pharisee.
c. He was exceedingly zealous.
d. As far as righteousness by the law, he was blameless.
2. Those things that were gain to me, I counted loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord, for Whom I suffered the loss of all things and do count them as refuse, that I may win Christ and be found in Him not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by Him.
a. Note that he counted them loss. When? While he was a proud self-righteous, zealous Pharisee on the road to Damascus, to imprison those who were calling on the name of Christ.
b. On that road He met Jesus Christ. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" " Who are you Lord, that I might serve you?" "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." "What would you have me to do Lord?"
c. This is where Paul counted the gains of the past as loss.
d. He is writing this epistle some thirty years later and he declares, "And do count them."
e. Thirty years ago I had a glorious experience with Jesus Christ the result of which I counted all my past glories and accomplishments as loss.
f. Here I am thirty years later still counting the loss.
g. The past experiences are only valid as they have been translated into the present experience.
h. I am not interested in what God did in your life twenty five years ago in the Jesus People revival. I am interested in what He is doing in your life today.
i. If the past experiences have not been translated into the present, they are not valid.
j. Many people had a past experience like Paul's where they met Christ and for the joy gave up the past life, to enter into the new life in Him. In the meantime, trying to live on that past experience they have picked up some of the old ways and habits by which they were once bound.
k. Don't tell me what happened then, tell me what is happening now.
B. There is a certain value in looking back.
1. One is to see what God has done. The children of Israel were constantly being reminded of how God delivered their fathers from the bondage of Egypt. This was the purpose of the Passover feast.
a. Knowing what God has done in the past through His mighty power, gives me confidence to know that He is the same, and He is able to deliver today.
2. The second value in looking back is to show me how far I have slipped away from Him.
a. In Hebrews we are exhorted to take the more earnest heed to the things that we have heard, lest at any time we should drift away.
b. The process of backsliding is often very slow and imperceptible, you do not realize how far you have drifted until you look back and realize that you cannot even see the dock any longer.
c. To the church of Ephesus Jesus said, "I have this against you in that you have left your first love. Remember from whence you have fallen, and repent."
II. REACHING FORTH TO THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE BEFORE.
A. You don't go forward looking backward.
1. What God has done in the past is nothing compared with what He wants to do in your life today, and in the future.
2. Several years ago when I first met Keith Ritter and shared with him the life of the Spirit, and he was filled with the Spirit. He was going to the Presbyterian church, but spending most of his time with me. As he was seeking to share with his Presbyterian friends what new joy and life he had found in Christ, they said, "O Keith, you will come down, you cannot live on that spiritual high."
3. Keith was very disturbed and he came to me and said, "Chuck they told me I was going to come down, do I have to come down?" I answered, "Well Keith, I have been on that high for 25 years without coming down, maybe I will come down some day, but I am just going to enjoy it while I am here." That was over 25 years ago, and to the present day I have not come down, but just keep going higher and higher. One of these days like Enoch, I am going to get so high that I will not have to even step up to get into heaven.
B. Paul had certain goals that he was reaching for.
1. "To be found in Him."
a. Never see yourself outside of Jesus Christ.
b. All that God has for you or will ever do for you is in Him, by Him, through Him, and for Him.
c. I desire more and more of Jesus.
d. Someone says, "I need more love." no, you need more of Jesus.
e. Someone says, "I need more joy." no, you need more of Jesus.
f. I need peace
g. I need patience.
2. "To know Him." The word know here from the Greek is to know by experience.
a. I want to experience the fellowship of His sufferings.
1. Here is where many shy away. They are looking for an easy way, a soft religion. I'm O.K. and you are O.K.; Cool man, just do your own thing; Every day and in every way the world is getting better and better and better.
2. The Bible tells us that if we suffer with Him, we will reign with Him.
3. The Bible speaks of the offense of the cross. Speaking of Jesus and His death for us on the cross, and that He is the only way to be saved offends people, they will turn against you, they will snub you, they will begin to shun you.
4. You now begin to share the sufferings of Christ Who was despised and rejected by man.
b. "Being made conformable to His death."
1. "I am crucified with Christ."
2. When the Spirit warned Paul that when he came to Jerusalem, bonds and imprisonment awaited him there, his friends began to cry and tried to dissuade him from going. Paul answered, "What do you mean with your tears? I am not only ready to be bound for Christ, I am ready to die for Him." How do you stop men like that? You don't.
c. "That I might attain to the resurrection of the dead."
1. It is impossible to attain the resurrection unless you first die.
2. You cannot know the resurrected life in Jesus until you have first been crucified with Him.
d. "That I might apprehend that for which I was apprehended of Jesus Christ."
1. When the Lord saved me, He had a purpose and a plan for my life.
2. I have not yet accomplished that plan, but that is my desire.
3. God has a plan for your life, are you in the process of accomplishing it?
C. "I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
1. Paul said that they that run in a race all run, but only one receives a prize, so run that you might obtain.
a. Have you ever watched on T.V. the beginning of the Boston marathon?
b. The thousands of people that start off on that race.
c. Some only intend to run a few blocks and then wear their Tee shirt that says, "I ran in the Boston marathon."
d. Others only hope to finish the race, they don't really care about first place, they might come in a hour behind the winner, but they finished the race.
e. There are some few in there that are purposed to win. They have been in training for months, their bodies are perfectly conditioned. They have made the sacrifices and are desiring to win.
f. How are you running the Christian race.
2. This pressing toward the mark is the final kick. The goal is in view. I am letting out the stops.
3. I want the prize.
4. The prize is the approval of Jesus, my Lord.
a. I long to hear the words, "Well done, My good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of Thy Lord."
b. Back in verse 8 Paul said, "That I may win Christ."
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
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.