Sunday, August 18, 2019

“Are We There Yet?” [Matt's Messages]

“Are We There Yet?”
Good News Cruise 2019
August 18, 2019  :: Philippians 3:12-4:1

I know it’s a little weird to just parachute into the middle of a New Testament letter like that, but this verses 13 and 14 have been our Hide the Word memory verses for the last two months as we’ve had our car-themed Family Bible Week and our car-themed Good News Cruise.

And I thought I’d round off our time together this Summer memorizing this passage to preach a little bit on what this passage means and what it means for us today.

“Are We There Yet?"

Have you ever heard that question when you’re a road trip?

It floats up from the backseat in a little voice, “Are we there yet?”

And depending on how patient the driver is the answer is often “Not yet little smurf.”

“Just a little bit longer.”

Or “No! And don’t ask me again!”

Well, that’s just the question that the Apostle Paul is answering in a spiritual way in this part of the book of Philippians.

In the first part of this chapter, verses 1 through 11, Paul gives his testimony and a short statement of the gospel of grace.

Paul warns the Philippians about false teachers who would want them to try to believe a false gospel of legalism and works-righteousness, that is, putting your confidence in your flesh, in your own self efforts and in your own performance.

Paul talks instead about being saved by a righteousness that comes from God and is by faith–a righteousness that makes it possible to know Christ–which is better than everything.

Paul says the core of Christianity is not putting your faith in your flesh (we are to put no confidence in the flesh–our self efforts, our performance, our achievements no matter what they are)–it is to put our faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross on our behalf. And then because of that faith and because of that righteousness, we are able to consider EVERYTHING a loss COMPARED to knowing Christ. The power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. Knowing Christ.

That’s our purpose as a church.

To bring people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

That was the whole point of yesterday’s event, and that’s the whole point of this morning, and that’s the whole point.

It’s a powerful passage. I wish I had time to preach verses 1 through 11, as well.

Listen to just to verse 7 and verse 8.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

Wow. Powerful words, huh?

“The surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

And so as we come today to v.12, Paul doesn’t really started a new thought.

What he has to say now flows right out of what he’s been saying so far in chapter 3. And he basically says, that as powerful and passionate as his testimony was (from legalistic, Pharisaical, Hebrew of Hebrews to considering that all of that rubbish compared to simply and gloriously knowing Christ)–as powerful and passionate as his testimony was–Paul himself had yet not arrived.

He was “Not There Yet” himself.

Paul was “Not There Yet.”

And neither are we.

Let’s see how he puts it and what he says to do about it.

I’ve only got 2 short points this morning. I think Paul’s teaching here can be divided into two parts. Two points with one application each.

Here’s number one.

#1. WE ARE NOT PERFECT YET.  V.12 again.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Paul has just given his testimony. And it was passionate and powerful! He had gone from putting his confidence in his law-keeping flesh to considering that as worthless as dung and desiring to KNOW CHRIST in the most powerful and intimate way possible.

But even the great apostle Paul was “not there yet.” He had not obtained all this.  That is–he hadn’t arrived yet. He (v.12) had not “already been made perfect.”

V.11 talks about attaining to the resurrection from the dead. That hadn’t happened yet for Paul. And he had not been perfected yet.  He was still as we say “in process.”

He was not yet perfect. And he says so.

In fact, he says it again in verse 13!

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”

Paul is stressing that he has not yet arrived. He is not perfect yet. He is being perfected. But he is not yet perfect.

He has Christ’s righteousness–a righteous standing with God because of Christ and His Crosswork. But He is not yet fully righteous himself.

In theological terms, Paul is fully justified. But He is not fully sanctified.  Because He is not fully glorified.

He’s not there yet! The great apostle Paul. Arguably the most mature Christian ever to follow to Jesus–had not yet become perfect.

Brothers and Sisters and Friends, We Are Not Yet Perfect.

Little test to prove this.

Raise your hand, if you are perfect.

If you raise your hand, you don’t belong here.

This meeting is for non-perfect people. People who have not arrived yet.

Yesterday, Lonnie and I were putting up a canopy together out there, and I wasn’t doing a great job, and Lonnie said, “It very encouraging to me, Pastor, that you aren’t you aren’t perfect yet.” And I said, “I got lots of encouragement for you then! Because I am very far from perfect!”

Paul was very aware of his im-perfection.  And he made it clear to his Philippian friends.

He said it 3 times. “Not that I have already obtained all this” (V.12). “Or have already been made perfect” (V.13). “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”

Paul was not yet perfect.

And neither are we.

So, what are we going to do with that?

Well, one thing we could do with that is to take comfort in it. If the great Apostle Paul didn’t reach perfection, then it’s probably okay on some level that I’m not there yet, myself.  We could do that.

And there’s probably something to that that we could take home with us. And we could definitely cut some other people in our lives some slack realizing that they’re not there yet either. That would probably be a good thing to do with this truth.

But Paul does something else with that, doesn’t he?

And I think what Paul does with it needs to be our main application.

We Are Not Perfect Yet, So...What?


Listen to v.12 again.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect [so I just give up. No!], but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. [So I just give up. No.] But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

That’s what we were teaching the kids at Family Bible Week.

We Are Not Yet Perfect, So We Need to Press On!

We need to strive towards that perfection.
We need to run towards sanctification.
We need to pursue spiritual growth.
We need to discipline ourselves for godliness.
We need to chase after Christ-like-ness.

We need to put the pedal to the medal.

We Are Not Yet Perfect, So We Need to Press On!

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Did you catch that?

Why did Jesus take hold of us? To make us like Himself. To create worshipers that reflect His image. To create a people who are zealous for good works and for His name.

Notice Who has done the initiating!

“Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

So I press on to take hold of that for which He took hold of me. He has done the hard work. He’s gone to the Cross! I am called to just live out the implications of that work.

Notice the same thing in v.13.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize [that almost sounds like works, doesn’t it?  Legalism. To earn my righteousness by my flesh. But Paul just got done saying that that route is dead end street. Paul is not teaching legalism. This prize is a prize that I am already called to! V.13 “the prize”] for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

God has called me heavenward, and I’m heading there because of Christ Jesus [“in Christ Jesus.”] Now, I strain [because of that] to win the prize.

Paul never gets that order wrong. He always puts work Christ first and our work second flowing out of His.

I Press On.

Notice what Paul doesn’t say!  He doesn’t say, “I have not arrived yet and until Christ comes I will not arrive. Therefore, I need not do anything. I can just rest on my haunches and not change. And not become like Christ. And not become conformed to his death. I can just sit here and wait for Jesus to come get me. ‘Once saved, always saved’–so now I can just live like the devil. I’ll never be perfect, so why bother?”

No! Paul says, “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on. I press on. I press on!

What’s he talking about in v.13 when he says “what is behind?”

What is behind Paul now?

I’m sure that it’s the things that he used trust in (the things he lists in verses 4 through 6).

Paul has put everything that he used to trust in behind him now. This is not talking about “let bygones be bygones.”

This is talking about “let flesh-confidences be bygones! Let everything that I once considered greater than Christ be bygones. Let the rubbish that passed for greatness and significance and meaning and righteousness and fulfillment be now bygones.  Let my old way of life be bygones.”

“I leave it behind.” And now, (v.13) “straining toward what is ahead, I PRESS ON.”

I press on!

Are you pressing on?

Are you running the race?
Are you striving towards perfection?
Are you running towards sanctification?
Are you pursuing spiritual growth?
Are you disciplining yourself for godliness?
Are you chasing after Christ-like-ness?

Are you pressing on?

Or are you just sitting there?

Are you growing?

We Are Not Yet Perfect. But that is no excuse for spiritual laziness.

Instead, it is a call to the zealous pursuit of perfection.

It is a mark of maturity to realize that you have a long way to go.

The most mature people I know have a good sense that they have not yet arrived.

But that maturity is only real if it gets us off of our behinds and into the race of following Christ.

Are you pressing on?

Kids. This is for you. This is not just for grown-ups. Are you pressing on? Do you claim to be a Christian by faith in Jesus? Press on. Pursue godliness. I would love to say that Lanse Free Church has the godliest children that I know.

Teenagers. This is for you. This is not just for when you graduate from school. This is for right now. Today. Press on! Chase after Christ-like-ness. Put your old way of life behind you and strain towards what is ahead!Yes, you’ll look a little crazy to your classmates. But you won’t look crazy to God! Chase after Him. Put the adults in your life to shame by your zeal!

Young Adults. This is for you. This is not just for when you get married or when you have kids. This is for right now. Press on! Run after sanctification. Get in the race.  Take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you. Press on. Chase after godliness. Press on.

Parents. This is for you, too. This is not for when the kids grow up and you have time again to focus on a relationship with Christ. You have to MAKE TIME right now.  Press on. Get in the race. Toward the goal to win the prize God has called you heavenward.  Discipline yourself for spiritual growth.

Will this cost you?

Will this mean sacrifice of time and energy and earthly pleasures? Yes!  It will. But (v.7, v.8) it’s worth it! Christ is worth it! Press on!

Middle Aged People. This is for us, too. This is not for when you retire and have time to get involved again in your spiritual life. This is for now. Press On!

Retired People. This is for you. Now is not the time to slow down spiritually. Now is the time to rev up your spiritual life! Zealously pursue perfection.

You have not arrived yet. You have a ways to go. So press on. Press on. Press on.

Don’t just sit there.  Press on.

V.15. This is for all of us. V.15

“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. [If you are mature {a little play on words here, that’s the same Greek word for perfect.} If you are mature then this is the way to see yourself–not there yet but pressing on.] And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

If you are immature, then as you press on, you will begin to see it more clearly. V.16

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” As much as we understand of this, we need to live it out.

We Are Not Yet Perfect. So We Must Press On.

I long to see more spiritual fervor in our whole church family. Don’t you?

I want it for myself, and I want it for all of us.

We all need to become like Paul. He knew that He wasn’t there yet. But He was getting there. He was committed.

He was pursuing perfection with a passion! He was pressing on.

And He calls us to follow Him. V.17.

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”

Paul is saying, “Follow me! And follow men and women like me.” Not those who have arrived. But those who are running on the right track.

Do you know who those people are in your life?  Do you know who is running on the right track so that you can follow them?

Everybody is following somebody.  Did you know that?

Everybody is following somebody. Who are you following?

Paul is saying follow him as He follows after Christ.

And he’s saying, “take note” of those who are also following after Christ. And follow them. Earlier in Philippians he gave somee good examples in Timothy and Epaphroditus (check back in chapter 2). But he means more than them. He means whomever is following the pattern of gospel living that Paul set out for them when he was with them.

Who are you following?

Who is running ahead of you on the race of discipleship and you’re caught in their draft? Paul says to get intentional about whom you are following.

I realized this summer that I still have mentors in the faith.

That’s really good because sometimes when you reach middle age many of your mentors are dead or falling out of the race.

I have mentors who have gone before both in great books and personal relationships. I am reminded every week of something that Blair Murray taught me. And my counselor instructor David Powlison who died this last June.

But I have mentors that are still living, as well. Some are in this room.

And I’m thankful for Super Jeff and for Greg Strand who have taken me under their wing, and not just encouraged me as a brother but shown me the way as a Paul to a Timothy.

Who are you following?

Maybe a better question is who are you leading? You can turn v.17 on its head and realize that if everyone is following someone, then someone is probably following you!

Who is following you?

Dads, this one is especially for you. Whatever you are doing in your Christian life is what you are discipling your kids to do. Especially your sons. Whatever they see you doing, that’s what they will probably do. Unless God intervenes.

If you are making Christ and His church a priority, they will be discipled by that. If you are not, they will probably not. You are a spiritual thermostat in your home. You set the temperature. And you set it in a way that even your wife cannot. If you leave the spiritual leadership of your home up to your wife, you are discipling your sons to abdicate their spiritual responsibilities, as well.

Who are you leading? You are what they are becoming.

Moms, this is true for you, too. Those kids are watching.

And church leaders. This is for all of us.

Sunday School Teachers, Youth Group Leaders, Kids for Christ Leaders, Link Group Leaders. Deaconesses. Facilities Team. Hospitality Team. Missions Ministry Team. Elders. You are setting the temperature. Are you following the pattern? Are you pressing on?

The church family will (v.17) “take note of [leaders at Lanse Free Church] who live according to the pattern that [Paul gave us.]” Are we pressing on?  This church will not be more spiritual than we are as its leaders.  And I am saying this to myself most of all.

This stuff is caught much more than it is taught.

We are not there yet! So we must press on. And people will follow us.

Because everybody is following somebody.

That’s why Paul warns them against following those who don’t press on in v.18.

“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears [this chokes him up!], many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”

I believe that Paul is talking about people who THINK they are Christians but they do not live like it.  They have given lip-service to Christ, lip-worship to Christ, but they have not trusted in Him for their righteousness in such a way that it leads to knowing Him and pressing on.

They THINK they are Christians [and this makes Paul cry!] but they are really, functionally, enemies of the Cross.

They make the Cross seem like nothing by the way that they live.

Don’t follow them!  “Their destiny is destruction.” They’re lost!

“Their god is their stomach.” They are driven by their desires, their lusts, their motives, their passions that are not godly.

“Their glory is in their shame.”  They claim Christ, but they live shamefully and glory in it.

And ultimately here’s where they have gone wrong, “Their mind is on earthly things.”

“Their mind is on earthly things.”

They act and behave and talk and really believe that this world is really what is important.

What they don’t realize, what they don’t believe, what they only give lip service to is truth number two.


“Their mind is on earthly things.” And it is their destruction.

But we are not home yet. V.20

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there [from heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

We are not home yet.

But Jesus is coming soon to take us home and make us like Him.

We are not home yet.

But so often we act like it!

How many of us actually act as though our citizenship is in heaven?

How do we think about ourselves?

I think that a lot of church people in the US think about themselves as Americans first and Christians second.

Their primary identity is American.

Some even make the mistake of thinking that if you are an American that means you are a Christian. As if the two things are the same.

But that’s not how it works.

Look at how Paul saw himself.

Where is Paul a citizen?

We know that he had Roman citizenship.

But what does he say here? V.20

“But our citizenship is in heaven.”

If we are Christians our TRUE citizenship, our DEEPER, more IMPORTANT citizenship–a citizenship that should affect how we view and how we use our American citizenship is our citizenship in heaven.

We don’t pledge allegiance (ultimately) to the United States of America. We pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. And those two things are not the same.

Sometimes, we can get them confused. And then our eyes begin to creep down to looking only at earthly things.

But the Bibles says that our citizenship is in heaven. Not Rome. Not Israel. Not the United States of America. Not ultimately.

Our citizenship is in heaven. And that should affect everything we as Christians do and say in America.

We’re actually on foreign soil where it counts the most.

So we shouldn’t get too comfortable here.

We Are Not Home Yet....So, we need to:


“Their mind is on earthly things...But our citizenship is in heaven. [And what do we do about it? We’re not there yet!] And we EAGERLY AWAIT A SAVIOR FROM THERE, the Lord Jesus Christ!”

We look up!

We get our mind off of just earthly things. What we can see, what we can touch, what we can feel. What seems important but isn’t really.

And we look up. We orient our lives around what is coming. And Who is coming!  A Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control (sovereign resurrection power), will transform our lowly bodies (these dust-formed, earth-suits) so that they will be like His glorious body (the power of His resurrection unleashed in new glorious bodies.)

That becomes our focus. That becomes our lens. We begin to live NOW with THEN in our view.

And chapter 4, v.1.  “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!”

You want to know how to stand firm in the Lord?

Look up! Eagerly await a Savior from heaven.

You say, “Wait a second! Isn’t that just wishful thinking? Isn’t that just pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by kind of talk? Doesn’t that make you so heavenly-minded, you are no earthly good?”

Paul says, “No!”  you can’t be too heavenly minded. Because that’s where everything is moving. And that’s where our Savior is and is coming from. And we need to orient our lives around the future and what and Who is coming for us.

Peter said,“Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:13)

You can be too earthly minded to be any earthly good!

Paul says that that kind of living is animosity towards to the Cross.  Their destiny is destruction.

But our citizenship is in heaven.

We are not home yet. But Jesus is coming to take us there and make us like Him.

So Look Up.

Orient your life around Lord Jesus’ Return.

Live with eternity’s values in view.

Don’t follow those who claim to be Christians but are only concerned with this world and what it offers.

Look up. And eagerly await a Savior from your true Homeland.

At lunch today, I want you go around the table and ask these questions and then follow up with the answers.

#1. Are you pressing on? Are you pursuing godliness with a passion for Christ?

#2. Whom are you following? Who is discipling you? That could be a significant discussion today around your table. Who’s in the lead? Is that good or bad?

#3. Are you looking up? Is your mind on earthly things?  Is your god your stomach?  Or are you eagerly anticipating and living like Jesus is on His way to get you? What are you acting like is your home?

No, We Are Not There Yet.

We Are Not Perfect Yet. So We Must Press On.
And We Are Not Home Yet. So We Must Look Up.

And, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you can stand firm in the Lord, beloved.