The Letter To The Philippians, Part 11

Philippians 3:12-16

Let’s begin with intentional reading.

  • Read Philippians 3:12-16 and consider the following:
    • Did you notice anything in this set of scripture you have never noticed in the Bible before?
    • Did you read any familiar verses? Which ones?
    • Were any of the verses you read particularly meaningful to you today? Why?
    • When Paul begins in verse 12 by saying that he has not yet attained “all this” or been “made perfect,” he is making a direct reference to the verses that come just before it.

  • Read Philippians 3: 10-14 as one set.  What is the “all this” that Paul has not fully attained? As zealous for the Lord and evangelical as Paul was, does it surprise you that he feels he hasn’t achieved “all this”? Do you find his attitude encouraging in any way?

Paul continues this idea by saying that he has forgotten the past and is straining toward the future. The word translated straining is the Greek word epekteinó, and in the original language, carries the idea of extending, reaching forward, or stretching toward.  Paul wants the brothers and sisters in Philippi to know that once they have come to faith in Jesus Christ, the sins of their pasts should be forgotten. Their focus should be on pursuing the new life God has for them in Christ.  The idea that believers are to stretch and reach and extend in order to move forward into the future God has designed for us moves us in a direction closer to our Lord.  Focusing on the past and the mistakes that live there moves us in direction further away from the Lord. Paul’s encouragement for them is not only for spiritual purposes so that they can stay focused on their new lives in Christ, but also for practical ones.

  • Read Philippians 3:13. What 2 things does Paul tell believers to do? What is the danger of only “straining toward what is ahead”?  Why is “forgetting what is behind” a necessary component of walking in discipleship? Why would this have been especially important for Paul (See Acts 7 and 9)?
  • Read Philippians 3: 14.  The phrase “press on” means to aggressively chase in Greek.  What prize is Paul “aggressively chasing”? (Hint: reread beginning in verse 10).  Are you aggressively chasing the spiritual goal of being Christlike? Is it possible to aggressively chase Christlikeness while being weighed down with the guilt of sin?
  • Read 1 John 1:9, Hebrews 8:12, and Isaiah 43:25.  What does is God’s attitude toward our sins and our pasts once we have confessed and come to him for salvation?
  • Is there something that tethers you to you past that Jesus wants you to release?  What is it? Read Isaiah 43: 18-19.  What does God want his people to focus on? Why? How can releasing the sin and guilt of the past make room for God to do “a new thing” in us?

Paul, in Philippians 3:15 writes that believers who are mature should embrace his same attitude about forgiveness and striving for spiritual growth. Spiritual maturity is far different than being spiritually perfect, and Paul notes this in verse 12.  Yet, even though perfection is not attainable, striving toward Christlikeness is.

  • Read Philippians 3:10-16.  How would you paraphrase what Paul thinks it means to be spiritually mature?  
  • How does releasing the past, accepting forgiveness, and pursuing Christlikeness demonstrate spiritual maturity?

For all of his efforts and for the characteristics we admire, Paul never considered himself to have reached the pinnacle of Christian discipleship or Christian living.  Accepting that we are sinful and confessing our sins keeps us humble and keeps us reliant on God.  Only when we understand our sin and the separation it causes can we understand our need for Jesus and our need to pursue Christlikeness.  While achieving perfect Christlikeness is unattainable, making this our goal keeps our lives in line with the will of God and keeps us “straining toward” what is ahead. This is the position Paul wants all believers to be in: focused on Christ and moving forward in His will.

Be blessed. Be a blessing.

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