This is the last Sunday of 1997, so I will present my New Years message today.
I cannot start a new year without Php 3:9-15. However, time requires that we only look at vv. 13, 14, 15. In v. 15, we see that Paul's desire for Christians is that they be perfect--that is, that they be mature followers of Christ. Notice that Christian maturity involves a willingness of mind to be corrected in the Christian walk. God shall reveal even this to you. The obvious purpose of God's revelation to man is so man can change his mind and his actions, and bring them into line with God's word.
Paul is clearly telling us that there is no salvation until the individual is willing to lay aside any and all good works, or confidence in the flesh.
Paul here says, "If you think you have some good works to make you acceptable to God, let me tell you mine."
A) he was a Hebrew, whose parents were very careful to keep the law of God--Paul had been circumcised the eighth day.
B) he was a Pharisee. This group of men were well known for their pride in their keeping the law of God. They were also the ones who taught the law, and considered themselves the protectors of the law as delivered through Moses and the prophets.
C) he was the picture of zeal. He killed Christians, filmily convinced that he was doing God's will.
Whatever was expected of God's people, Paul did it with zeal.
D) he was the picture of obedience to the law. The Lord continually charged the Pharisees with hypocrisy; he told them they were like unto whited seplchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. (Mt. 23:27.)
However, Paul was willing to hold his life up for everyone to see. He could honestly say that he lived everything he professed to believe about God, about the law of Moses and about the Hebrew religion. Folks could look at his life, and he was blameless.
Vv. 7-9, we see that all those things he did were apart from faith in Christ. He tells us that his hope before God was in the righteous life he was living. He tells us that he was depending upon his works of the flesh to be right with God.
V. 15 is given in the above context. He here tells us that those who are otherwise minded will be shown the truth. Otherwise minded is used to say that if anyone is depending upon anything to be right with God other than the righteousness of Christ applied by faith, THEY WILL BE SHOWN IF THEY WANT TO KNOW.
IF THEY WANT TO KNOW is the problem. From my own experience and from the experience of working with others, those who have a blameless Christian life (not the Christian faith) according to the word of God and in the eyes of others have a very difficult time turning lose from that false confidence.
"I do not even need to consider where my faith is, for I have all the works of a Christian."
The mark of a perfect, or mature, person is his or her willingness to face facts based upon the word of God. People today do not want to face facts. They do not want to be responsible to the word of God. They want to claim to be a mature Christian though they be otherwise minded. And many times their words and their actions clearly show they to not have the Christian faith that makes one a new creation in Christ.
When you try to confront them with the word of God over a matter, they may become extremely agitated.
MY MIND IS MADE UP; DON'T CONFUSE ME WITH THE WORD OF GOD. I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT. Thus they are clearly otherwise minded, and they are not going to change.
Before his conversion, Paul's mind was made up, and he had total confidence in his works. The only way Paul's mind was changed was by a supernatural work of God. Only God working through His word could show Paul the truth. Only the word of God could cause him to face reality, and throw out all the good works he had depended upon for all his life.
V. 15, the willingness to face the truth is called humility. Humility, or meekness, is one of key characteristics of a mature Christian.
Those who are unwilling to be responsible and to have their minds changed in accord with the written word of God are not Christians.
Vv. 12-15, the goal is maturity in Christ, to be perfect. Now, let me give two in being perfect, or mature.
The first point that one must face is the one in the context: good works do not make one right before God. The righteousness of Christ is not applied by good works, but it is applied by faith in Christ. GOOD WORKS DO NOT MAKE ONE RIGHT BEFORE GOD; HOWEVER, THOSE RIGHT BEFORE GOD WILL HAVE GOOD WORKS.
V. 13, the second point is an application of the passage. forgetting those things which are behind.
To me this is the key phrase of the Christian life. It is a phrase I have had to memorize and meditate on many times. If one is going to amount to anything for the Lord, one of the things that must be accomplished is forgetting those things which are behind. Our enemy knows that if he can drag up the past failures and difficulties, and keep our mind dwelling on them, he has us in one of his most effective snares.
The picture here is of a person running a race. That runner can not spend his time looking back. To do so will cost him the race, no matter how good of a runner he might be. He must keep his eyes on the goal that is before him, or he will not make it.
Paul says it like this in Heb.12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Here in Phi.3:13 he is talking about straining every effort to obtain the goal, and looking forward to Jesus.
If we stop to look back at the difficulties we have had to overcome, or the troubles we have met, we may become so discouraged that we will not be able to continue with life. The past cannot interfere with what the Lord has for us now. And one of the most difficult disciplines we have to accomplish is putting the past behind. If it has been made right, it must be left behind, or it will drag us down.
Certainly, we failed last year to be what we are to be according to God's word. We are sinners, but that does not excuse sin.
Certainly, we blew it.
Certainly, we made a mess of things.
Certainly, we made wrong decisions.
The only ones who did not make a mess of some things were those who did nothing. And they are in trouble with the Lord because they did not use their talents for the Lord.
In a very serious situation that came up this past year, I charged a pastor with fleecing the flock. I did it by e-mail, and, obviously, immediately had my hand called on it. I had no documentation for my charge. So the immediate thing I had to do was to send an e mail message to all who received my first one. When you send e mail, the program asks for the subject of the message, and then it is filed on the other end by subject. The subject of my second letter was MY ERROR. Then in the letter, I confessed my sin of making undocumented charges against the pastor.
Now, all of that to say this.
I made the sin right, and I am not now going to be bound by that past wrong. However, I learned to document my facts before I proceed.
I tried the get my ducks in a row and my facts documented. I have placed the past in the past, and now I feel I must tackle the evil head on. I have been warned several times that there will be some serious consequences for what I am trying to bring to light, but I have no choice.
1 Tim 1:18-20. 18 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; 19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: 20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
I made the sin right according to the word of God, so now I can enter into the warfare against evil with a good conscience. The next mailing will be a volley in the warfare.
I will mention quickly in passing: It is certainly profitable to look back on the past mercies and grace of God, and how He 'bailed' us out many times. We should look back to remind us to be thankful. We should look back to remind us of what he can do in the future.
The end of 1997 is here:
Are you looking back as I did and saying, "I have all the works to prove I am a Christian," yet you have never been convicted of your sin by God's Spirit and came to Christ?
A new year is about to start. Don't take anger, worry, fear, and sin into the new year. Get it all settled before the year closes.