Philippians Day Fifteen
October 16, 2020, 4:00 AM

Living & Working in Hope to the End
Philippians 3:13-14, 20-21

“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.”

“[For] 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.”

When I began this sermon series in Philippians, I talked about the culture of the city— that of being a Roman colony— actually Roman soil, officially. Retired military soldiers populating this flat, fertile, land rich province. This and the Roman – Greek context lent itself to the sporting mindset, Olympic-style. Paul uses many metaphors throughout his letters, and here he takes advantage of the love of sports in this town. “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.” (3:13-14).

“Straining forward” suggests the sweat and effort that calls forth determination. Determination to finish the course. Finish the race. Not being slowed by past failures or stumbles. Not being cowered by being different from the ways things are supposed to be. Looking ahead to the Lord, and the smile of Providence. This is “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Throughout Philippians there seems to be two serious obstacles to finishing the race. First, there is the outward threat. That alien character of following Jesus invites scrutiny from the status quo. It boils down to Gospel Priority over all other priorities. To Roman Philippi, the Christian thing was a strange thing. Subversive, even. Another Lord other than Caesar is sure to leaven suspicion. Even so, look forward, forgetting what’s behind, and press toward the upward call in Christ.

Then, on the inside there was this group known as the Judaizers, the character and flavor of which we’ve touched upon in this blog— brutally, “dogs” and “mutilators of the flesh,” according to Paul. This Jewish-Christian mindset, while appropriately naming Jesus, still named the very burdens for which this same Jesus came to relieve. Temple, Torah, Festivals, Sacrifices, Rituals— all past tense in Christ; all looked to the Day of Messiah. Jesus fulfilled the expectations perfectly. So, look forward now, forget the behind, and press toward that higher call in Christ.

As if these two factors weren’t enough, how about a third to throw in for bonus points? There were internal frustrations of just being the temperamentally variegated people of God. (We will see more about this challenge in chapter four.) This is why there was such an accent on humility and putting on "the mind of Christ" in chapter two— (2:1-4) “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is the way to look forward, forgetting what’s behind, and pressing toward that upward call in Christ.

Despite the challenges, in Christ and the power of the Spirit, we persevere to the end, in hope. Our citizenship is in heaven. This is our sight and in our sights. For… “from [heaven upward] 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[!]” (3:20-21).

When you consider all the trials and worries and anxieties and enmities and fears and various and sundry other crosses we bear (and that bear on us), we (must) come to the realization, in faith, that our Lord Jesus has definite, incontrovertible plans for this terra firma we call earth. It’s called NEW heavens and NEW earth. Our lowly, this earthly-bound, sick-prone, always-aching, sin-susceptible, death-destined bodies will be transformed alive (really alive, never-to-die-again alive) to be like his glorious resurrection body. We are not going be free floating around the heavens up there somewhere like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Body, soul, personality, –less sin, together as originally intended for life with God and inhabiting His good Garden. Once again, forevermore.

A good note on which to head into the weekend. Yes.

Keep your eyes on the prize!
Strain towards the Finish Line!
Press on toward the upward Call!


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