Study 7: Pressing on Towards the Goal
Sermon Date: February 12, 2017
Reading: Philippians 3: 12- 4:1
Paul was an ambitious man. Before his conversion, Paul was focused on his goal of persecuting the church. After his conversion, his ambitious nature did not change but his focus did. With the dedication of an athlete wanting to win the race and obtain the great prize, Pauls reorientates his life, with a transformed character, to pursuing his goal that is to know Christ, to be like Him and achieve what Christ wants of him. Paul knows that his future hope does not depend on himself but on what Christ has done for him on the cross. Accordingly, in his letter, Paul encourages the Christians at Philippi to follow his example.
Enduring many trials and tribulations, Paul was not a weak man but the many people who live as enemies of the Cross reduced him to tears of sadness. This was because for them there will be no resurrection but only destruction. These are people who reject Christ and give priority to their own personal satisfaction, they boast of the shameful things they have done and their minds are focused on earthly things; whereas Christians are to live as citizens of heaven. Paul tells us that our earthly bodies will decline but then Christ will transform our bodies to be like “his glorious body”.
Would you describe yourself as ambitious?
What are the positive and negative qualities of this trait?
What type of ambitions do we celebrate in society in general and what does that tell us about our values?
Questions: (see Helpful Hints at the end of this section)
In Philippians 3 Paul gives us his spiritual biography about his past (Phil 3:1-11), his present (Phil 2: 12-16) and his future (Phil 3:17-21) in session 6 we looked at how Paul had re-evaluated his values in relation to knowing Christ. In this session we come to know Paul the athlete pressing onward towards Christ and Paul “the stranger in this world” but having citizenship in heaven and looking for the coming of Jesus Christ.
1. In this passage, Paul makes it clear that he is ambitious for Christ. What does Paul mean by this?
Can you say the same?
2. a) In verse 13 Paul says “But one thing I do….” What is this “one thing”?
b) Considering verse 14, what area(s) of your life in Christ do you feel that you may need to focus on so that you can live in the fullness of Christ?
3. Read verses 15-19. Paul writes of the “…tears” in his eyes for those who do not know Christ. This is a catalyst for his ministry. How do we feel about non-believes today and how can we respond?
4. What does it mean to be “citizens of heaven”? How does/ought this to impact our daily lives?
5. a) Read verses 20-21 and consider why Christens should look forward of Christ’s return?
b) Has ought the certainty of Christ’s return affect our daily living today?
6. Read Philippians 4:1. In your situation right now, what does it mean to “stand firm in the Lord.”
Prayerfully consider an area in your life in which you think God is calling you work or on the gifts and talents he has given you to carry out his work. If you are willing, consider sharing this with another or your group to seek their prayer and help in the weeks ahead.
Helpful Hints for discussion questions:
1. Being ambitious for Christ does not mean that we cannot have ambitions for our career, marriage, family life and ministry. It is good and healthy to want what is good in these areas of our lives. However, it does mean that these ambitions should not be more important than our ambition to know Christ and live for Him. Remember the first of the two greatest commandments, " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” [Matthew 22:36-38] It is also our responsibility, like Paul, to gently remind our Christian brothers and sisters of where our ambitions should lie.
2. “One thing” is an important phrase for Christians. “One thing you lack” said Jesus to the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21), “but only one thing is needed” Jesus said to Martha when she complained about her sister (Luke 10:42). “One thing I do know” said the man who received healing for his blindness (John 9:25). “One thing I ask of the Lord” said the Psalmist (Psalm 27:4). The one thing – the overlying and all embracing thing– for believers is to know Christ and to live fully in Him and for Him.
4. Many of us will have British citizenship or the citizenship of the country in which we were born. However as Christians we have dual citizenship because our citizenship is first and foremost in heaven; our name is written in ‘the book of life’ (Revelations 20:15). This gives us peace, joy and a new perspective on life. Assisted by the Holy Spirit, this means that Christians live in way that honours Christ and not ourselves. We live in the imperfect present as citizens of the kingdom of God that will be completed when Christ comes again.