Sunday, June 28, 2020

"I Press On" [Matt's Messages]

“I Press On”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 28, 2020 :: Philippians 3:12-16

For the last two weeks, we have been following Paul’s train of thought as he has told the Philippians his deepest aspiration, the greatest goal of his heart.

We said it could be summed up in the 3 word phrase, “TO KNOW CHRIST!”

For Paul that is the greatest thing. And there is nothing that even comes close.

In the first few sentences of chapter 3, Paul shared a little bit about his own story with the Philippians. Before he became a Christian, Paul was a religious success story as a Pharisee. If someone could be justified before God by following all of the religious rules, Paul would have been the one to pull it off.

But whatever was to his profit, he now considered loss compared to what he called “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Now, Paul rejoiced to be found in Christ and have a righteousness (not through his own following the law but a righteousness) that comes through trusting Christ.

All for the ultimate goal of knowing Christ.

Knowing Christ fully.

Knowing Christ in His resurrection power and even in the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings if that’s what it takes to fully know Christ.

To know Christ. There is no greater thing. Amen?

Paul wants to make sure that the Philippians don’t get the wrong idea about Paul’s progress in knowing Christ.

Paul has said that he wants to know Christ more and more.

He wants to know Christ fully above all things. But he is not there yet.

And so, he presses on. Here’s the three word phrase for this week’s message; get this, and you’ve got it all: “I Press On.”

“I press on.”

Listen to Philippians 3, verse 12. “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.”

I’ve got four points today to show you what I think is the flow of Paul’s thought.

Here’s the first one:


Paul doesn’t want the Philippians to think that he has arrived. In fact, he says it twice to make sure they get it. Verse 12, “Not that I have already obtained all of this [full knowledge of Christ] or have already been made perfect.”

And then he goes there again in verse 13, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”

Paul knows that he’s not there yet.

He is not perfect. He does not have the full knowledge of Christ that he has been talking about.

Yes, he’s started to know Christ; has for 30 years. But he not only wants more, he needs more. He’s not there yet.

To the use the big theological words we’ve be learning:

He has been justified.
But he has not yet been fully sanctified.
Because he has not yet been glorified.

That’s still to come.

In the words of verse 11, he has not yet attained somehow to the resurrection!

He’s still “in process.” He’s still a “pilgrim.” He’s still imperfect in (everything but especially in) his knowledge of Christ.

And I don’t think he’s alone. Let’s take a test: raise your hands (yes, you on the other side of this screen)if you are perfect.

I thought so. By the way, if you do raise your hand, you don’t belong at Lanse Free Church. Our church is for non-perfect people. People who have not arrived yet. You’ll have to go somewhere else if you have been perfected already!

Paul says, “I’m not there yet,” and we have to say the same thing of us.

Now, what do we do with that? What’s the application?

Well, one thing we could do with it 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. That is helpful. No need to lie to ourselves or think that we’re totally on the wrong track because we haven’t arrived yet. There’s something to that.

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

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

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

It’s point #2.


Paul says, “I am not there yet, so I press on.”

He repeats this idea, too. Verse 12. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

And then verse 13: “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.”

“I press on.”

Paul says that it’s the one thing he does. And he does with every muscle straining.

There’s a race theme running here, isn’t there? Paul is talking like an athlete who forgets what’s behind him and races for the finish line with every fiber of his being.

He fervently, passionately pursues his goal.

“I press on.”

Because he is not there yet, Paul focuses his efforts on getting there.

He passionately pursues perfection. He fervently chases after the full knowledge of Christ. And he lets nothing hold him back.

“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind...” That’s not memory loss. That’s not letting bygones be bygones. That’s putting everything in verses 4-6 in the loss category like he does in verses 7 through 9.

That kind of pursuit of legalistic righteousness is all in the rear view mirror now for Paul. And he’s not going back.

He’s going forward towards the knowledge of Christ.

How about you?

Do you press on?

Are you passionately pursuing the full knowledge of Christ?

Everybody agreed that none of us have yet arrived.

But can we all raise our hand that we are straining toward what is ahead?

Here’s some good news for you: You don’t have to do this on your own.

Jesus has taken all of the initiative. Did you notice that in what Paul says here?

This kind of pressing on is nothing like the legalism that Paul was formerly engaged in.

Some people get worn down by Paul’s passion in verse 12 and 14 because they think that this pressing on is just another kind of legalism, another kind of works righteousness, another kind of religiosity.

But Paul says that kind of thing is in his rear view mirror.

This is just working out what Christ has already worked in us.

Remember that from chapter 2? “ out your salvation...for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (vv.12-13).

Paul never gets the order of these things wrong.

Christ has done all of the hard work in saving us. But instead of de-motivating us to also do hard work, His works motivates our work to know Him fully.

Let’s see it. Look at verse 12.

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

I love his play on words. I take hold of that for which I was taken hold of.

I can only take hold of it because He already took hold of me!

He does the same thing in verse 14.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize [that’s the full knowledge of Christ] for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

God has done the calling.

God will see me through.

It’s like "Amazing Grace."

“Thru many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come;
‘Tis [God’s] grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”

So, does that mean I don’t have to go home?

Because He’s given me His grace? I don’t have to do anything. No! Of course not.

Because He’s given me His grace, I can now run home!

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize [that’s the full knowledge of Christ] for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

By the way, Paul is very heavenly minded. We’re going to see that even more next week, Lord-willing. Paul has heaven on the mind. Let me ask you a question that we’ll come back to next week, “Is it possible to be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good?”

Think about that this week. Paul was very heavenly minded.

He had been called by God to go to heaven, and by God’s grace, He was straining to get there.

“I press on.”

Whatever it takes.

“I press on.”

Not in my own strength, but with all of my own strength.

“I press on.”

Could you say the same?

Because Paul says that we all should. That’s point #3.


Look at verse 15. “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

We should all press on. This isn’t just for the super-Christians. For the apostles. For the saints. For the full-time Christian workers. This is for everybody.

“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.”

We should all have this mindset.

Paul is being playful here with this word the NIV translates “mature” because in Greek it’s the same word as “perfect” in verse 12 which he says he’s not yet.

I think he means that everybody who is truly mature knows that they are not truly mature (yet). Everybody who is “perfect” knows that they are not yet “perfect” but are in hot pursuit. (Thanks to the ESV Study Bible’s notes for this insight.)

“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.”

Is that your view?

Does this describe every single person in Lanse Free Church?

I want it to.

I would love it if every single person who calls this church family their church family would be able to say with Paul, “I want to know Christ!” and “One thing I do: I press on!”

Paul knows that they aren’t going to agree on everything. And there is plenty of room for disagreement on lesser matters. V.15, “And if on some [lesser] point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

Give it time. God is working out His salvation in you, and He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion for the day of Christ Jesus (1:6).

We don’t have to agree on all of the finer points.

Maybe they were having that trouble at Philippi. Maybe that was part of their problems back home. Paul says, “Don’t worry. God will take care of that.”

But everyone should do this: Everyone should press on.

Are you pressing on?

The worse thing that could happen is that we give up or go backwards. And that’s our fourth and last point.


Look at verse 16.

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

Only! Whatever else we do, let’s make sure of this. That we don’t go backwards.

Whatever knowledge of Christ we have, let’s live that out today.

We need to put into effect what we know already.

Don’t float backwards.

Press on. 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 Christlikeness?

Are you straining to know Christ?

Are you pressing on?

Or are you just sitting there?

Or are you even actually in reverse?

Press on.

Let’s go!


Previous Messages in This Series: