Jeremy and Aneela have recently welcomed their new baby girl, Juliet. Others in the church are expecting. Like Sam and Bek, Andy and Chrissie. Mitch and Georgina.
For them the big day, the new arrival, lies in the future.
Now if you ask them the due date they’ll tell you straight off. They’ve rung the date in the calendar. They’ve marked it in their minds. They’re counting down the months, weeks, days. They’re focused on that future event.
And so. They’re getting the gear from Ikea. Making the nest ready. Reading parenting books. Eating nutritionally. Buying wondersuits. Stocking up on nappies.
The baby is coming. And that future shapes their present. The not yet drives the now.
Well, God wants us to focus on the future. On the big day ahead. The arrival of jesus.
Paul’s taught in this letter that followers of Jesus are gospel partners. And Heavenly citizens. Who are called to stand firm. Chapter 4 verse 1.
Which wraps up the central section of the letter. That runs from chapter 1 verse 27. Where they’re also called to stand firm.
Which isn’t inactivity. It’s standing in the sense that we’re grounded in and on the gospel. With a one track gospel mindedness.
Paul appeals for that mature mindset in verse 15. Though it’s easily missed. The word for ‘view’ or ‘think’ is the same word used elsewhere in the letter for ‘mind’. Verse 15.
3:15 “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things [should be like-minded]. And if on some point [you’re other minded], [Paul expects] God will [change your mind].”
Now if checking out Jesus, and investigating Christianity. We’re glad you’re here. We’d love to hear your thoughts. And questions. And just so we’re above board. Our hope and prayer, is that God, through His Word, will change your mind about Jesus. We don’t want to push ..or pull. We hope you’re persuaded.
1. FOCUS ON THE FUTURE
I’ve only got two big points. And here’s the first. God wants to our minds to focus on the future. On a prize that’s up ahead.
You see, Paul kicks of with a ‘not yet’. Somethings that’s in the future. Verse 12. Paul says;
3:12 “not that I have already obtained all this or [that I] have already arrived at my goal ”
But what is the ‘not yet’? What’s still coming?
3:12 “[I haven’t, verse 12] already obtained all this [I haven’t] already arrived at my goal ”
What’s the ‘this’ Paul hasn’t obtained yet? What’s the ‘goal’ he hasn’t arrived at?
Understanding the ‘this’ is key to understanding the whole passage. And we don’t have to guess. Good English comprehension. Context. Read other verses, and it becomes clear. ‘Cos Paul’s just spoken about the ‘this’.
Pick it up with me in verse 10. Paul declares.
3:10-11 “I want to know Christ [to savour the Saviour] – [I want] to know the power of his resurrection [to experience His life giving power working in me] [I want to participate] in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, [that is, suffering for the sake of Christ] and so, [And here’s the ‘this’. Verse 11] And so, somehow, [to attain] to the resurrection from the dead.”
That’s not a wishy-washy ‘somehow’ hope. That’s a ‘somehow’ in the sense of a beyond comprehension, mind blowing guarantee. Paul will attain to the ‘resurrection from the dead’.
But he hasn’t obtained that yet. ‘Cos Paul hasn’t died, and Christ hasn’t returned.
The ‘this’ lies in the future. The glorious resurrection from the dead at the return of Christ. That’s the goal or destination. It’s up ahead. It’s at the end of the road.
This is at the heart of apostolic preaching. In Acts chapter 4, and we could give other examples;
Acts 4:2 “the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus [what?] proclaiming the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul repeats the same point, and expands a little, in verse 20.
3:20-21 “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control, will [will do what?] will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”
That’s what the resurrection from the dead is all about. The death conquering reigning risen Jesus will return. And He will raise us. He will take our frail and feeble bodies. Ravished by decay. Given over to death. And He will transform us. We’ll be freed forever from the presence of sin. And the consequences of sin. Freed forever from physical decay and death.
But. We’re not there yet. That’s the destination. We’re on the journey.
And the mature minded focus on that future. Look ahead to glory. With an intense longing. Aching for the end to our earthly suffering. Aching for our glorious heavenly perfection.
1 Corinthians 15:20-21 “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who’ve fallen asleep. in Christ [we] will be made alive.”
1 Corinthians 15:42-43 “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; [what] is sown in dishonour, [will be] raised in glory ”
At the return of Christ;
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, the trumpet will sound, [and] dead will be raised the perishable [will] clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
Our lowly bodies transformed.
You may be well aware of your own mortality because your body is broken. Whether you suffer from injury, illness or simply you’re growing older. Your knees need replacing. You hobble along with a stick. You need help getting in or out of a chair. Your body is wasting away.
Or perhaps you’re aware of your mortality because you’re emotionally or mentally broken. You’ve suffered trauma. And depression and anxiety are your lived experience.
From time to time, doctors have to deliver some really tough prognosis. Well, listen to the prognosis of the divine physician. Jesus says, ‘I’m going to fix it all up. I’ll make it better. I promise. I was wounded on the cross, so you might be healed in glory. At My return I will take your lowly, broken, scarred bodies. And I will transform them.
We’ll receive renewed, top of the range, first class, perfect bodies. imperishable. immortal.
3:21 “they will be like his glorious body.”
Last week we learnt that the mature minded heavenly citizen savours the Saviour. Rejoice in the Lord ‘cos we’re confident of the finished work of Christ.
And here, this week, the mature minded heavenly citizen yearns for glory. focused on the future. Eyes fixed on the prize, gunning for the goal, longing for Heaven from which, verse 20.
3:20 “we eagerly await a Saviour , the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Who at His return will reward His people with the prize He won, the prize of the resurrection from the dead.
Though, how can we be so sure of that future? why is our future, secure? And guaranteed?
because. And listen carefully. We will in the future rise from the dead because Jesus in the past, rose from the dead. He is the firstfruits of the harvest to come. Our future resurrection is secured by Jesus’ past resurrection.
And on the back of that Christ has grasped hold of me. Verse 12.
3:12 “I press on [Paul says] to take hold of that [the resurrection from the dead] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Jesus saved me, He owned me, took possession of me, so that I, in the future, will be raised to life.
Makes me want to sing that old hymn; ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.’
Jesus is mine but only because he took hold of me. Only because he first loved me. Only because he died. And paid my debt. And won the prize for me.
And because of that I press on. glory is guaranteed. Because Jesus died for me. And because Jesus took hold of me. And because. Verse 14.
3:14 “[Paul] press[es] on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called [him] heavenwards in Christ Jesus.”
God effectually called me. I didn’t put my hand up. I didn’t earn enough brownie points. I didn’t tell God, ‘pick me’. Not because I’m lovable, but because He loves the unlovable God called me. Only on the basis of his steadfast loving kindness God called me.
Norman Clayton was born 1903 in New York, the ninth of ten children. He was converted at the age of 6 he later in life penned these words. ‘Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.’
Our future secured by the past. ‘cos of Jesus’ death and resurrection. ‘Cos Jesus took hold of me. ‘Cos Jesus called me home. Our future secured. By the cross of Christ. The grasp of Christ. And the call of Christ.
On the basis of looking back to the cross and the empty tomb we look forward to glory. And that’s the first big point. We keep a clear focus on our secure future. First point. Done.
2. INVEST THE FUTURE IN THE PRESENT
Though then we need to ask. what’s the future got to do with the present? What difference, if any, will the then make to the now? To your and my everyday existence.
The answer is everything.
Our society encourages us to invest in the present for the future. Equities, properties, superannuation. Invest now for a rainy day.
And there’s wisdom in that. Though, in a real sense, Jesus’ return turns that mindset on it’s head. ‘Cos heavenly citizens should invest the future in the present.
That’s the second point. invest the future in the present.
Of which Paul is a model example.
You see, knowing the future won’t make for a cruisy Christianity. A laid back, low cost, easy going Christianity. Christianity lite.
No. Knowing the future makes for a sweaty Christianity. It translates into cost, commitment, effort.
Paul speaks in verse 12 of ‘pressing on’. ‘straining towards’, verse 13. ‘press on towards’, verse 14. Words that are all athletic.
We love the winter Olympics. And summer Olympics. Cheering on Jakara Anthony, or Emma McKeon, or Usain Bolt.
Athletes who give their all. Every sinew, every muscle straining, stretching onward, forward to the finish line.
The words ‘pressing’, ‘straining’, speak of strenous and energetic activity. This is a heart pumping, sweat dripping Christianity. Not in a sporty way, but in a spiritual way. In our mindset. The desires and ambitions of our hearts. The work of our hands. The words of our mouth.
We’re encouraging everyone on Sundays to speak to each other about ‘one thing’ that hit home from God’s Word, or ‘one thing’ we’re going to do as a result. Well, here is Paul the apostle’s one thing. Verse 13.
3:13-14 “[I’ve not] yet [attained or] taken hold of [the resurrection from the dead]. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind [I] strain towards what is ahead, I [verse 14] press on [I sweat] toward the [glorious] goal the prize [of the resurrection from the dead.]”
Like those race horses who wear blinkers. So they’ll run straight without distractions.
Like athletes who fix their eyes on the prize. So they persevere and press on, they give their best and give their all.
So we need to keep our eyes on the finish line. Don’t shift our gaze. Don’t be distracted.
3:13 “[forget] what is behind [strain] toward what’s ahead ”
You can’t drive forward looking in the rear view mirror.
Which isn’t a once off. The phrases ‘forgetting’ and ‘straining’ are in the present continuous tense. It’s an everyday, all day, week in, week out, Paul’s whole present is shaped by the future.
An Olympic athlete is disciplined. They rise early. Train hard. Eat carefully. For four years they make sacrifices.
Ask them why? What’s all the work for?
And they’d answer. ‘To stand on the podium. To wear a medal.’
The future shapes the present. You invest the future in the present.
Their medal is by no means guaranteed. But our prize is. ‘Cos Jesus won for us.
Which is one way to live. For Paul, there’s only two ways to live.
On the one hand, verse 17, Paul urges.
3:17 “Join together in following my example, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
Paul encourages them to emulate him, the apostles and others in being sweaty Christians. Pressing, straining, pushing.
In as much as Paul, the apostles and others follow Christ, in such they are examples to follow.
Remember, last week, Paul was a religious rock star. The poster boy of Jewish religion. Chapter 3 verse 4 unpacks his religious CV. Circumcised. Member of Israel. Tribe of Benjamin. True blue Jew. He knew the law. Kept the law. Was zealous in the extreme.
And yet he left all that behind. He considers it garbage, rubbish, when compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. He’s now confident in Christ, His atoning death, His victorious resurrection. That’s where Paul’s confidence rests.
And so he can;
3:13 “[forget] what is behind and [strain] towards what is ahead ”
Partnering in the gospel. Proclaiming the gospel. Advancing the gospel.
Now, that’s the one way to live. Living with Jesus as your King. Living in the light of His return.
The other way to live? And this isn’t easy for me to say. But god sees only two groups. You’re either His friend or His enemy. Verse 18.
3:18 “I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross [enemies] of Christ.”
These were religious guys. Respected. Outwardly good. Though their hearts were hardened to Jesus.
They peddled goodness, not gospel. Their way of living denied the power of the cross. Verse 19. Their ‘end’ is damnation. Their ‘god’ is selfish cravings. Their ‘pride’ is actually to their shame. Their mindset is worldly, they’re set on earthly things.
‘Good’ guys go to hell. ‘Cos God says no one is good. The good news is: Bad guys who are forgiven are citizens of heaven.
Either you’re trusting Jesus as King, or you’re not. Either you’re living for Jesus, or you’re not. Either you’re friends with God, or you’re enemies. Denying Christ and him crucified.
Two examples. Two patterns. Two ways to live.
The contrast can’t be more stark. And the consequences more different. Either resurrection to eternal life. Or a destiny of eternal destruction.
CONCLUSION: SO WHAT?
Ok. Two truths to take home. Focus on the future. Invest that future in the present.
Now in your minds, open up your calendar. We don’t know the due date. But on the top of your calendar write ‘Jesus will return.’ And then, ring that truth. Ring it in your heart, and in your head.
Because on that day. The risen Jesus will raise our lowly lifeless bodies. And transform them.
I have a wonderful mother-in-law. And I’m grateful to Annamarie for passing on four things. She passed on her good looks to her daughter. She passed on Jesus to her daughter. She passed on her daughter to me. And from time to time, she passes on words of encouragement.
Last week she passed on something she’d read. A quote from Paul Kauffman. Who says; ‘Tomorrow’s history has already been written – at the name of Jesus, every knee must bow.’
The future IS guaranteed. For we who know Jesus glory is a given. The prize secure.
So may I ask; Where are you in the race?
I take it no one has finished. ‘Cos you’re here. Still breathing.
So there’s really only two groups. Only two ways to live.
On the one hand, there’s those who’ve never started the race. That might be you. You’re here checking out Jesus. Please keep coming.
Now I’d guess you might be a really nice person. Kind, sincere, good. At least in your eyes. Perhaps others. But, until you trust Jesus, God sees you as His enemy. ‘Cos, like all of us at one time, you’re relying on being ‘good’ to get to Heaven. Which simply ignores and rejects what Christ did on the cross. The rest of us, in the past, have been where you are now. Though, at some point, we were taken hold of by Jesus. And we would honestly love to see you too become God’s friend. God forgives anyone. I know, He forgave me.
So, may I invite you to join the race. God freely offers you a passport to Heaven. No cost. At least, not to you. ‘Cos Jesus paid the price. Dying for your sin so you don’t have to. By simply trusting Jesus. We join God’s family. And enter the race. Trust Jesus and you automatically share in the victory He won at the cross. You’re forgiven, once and for all. Glory awaits. The benefits of knowing Jesus are literally out of this world. An eternity spent in perfect happiness enjoying God, each other and the new creation.
If you’ve never started, why not trust Jesus today? You could chat to someone here that you know knows Jesus. Or chat to me. Or Hamish. Or Sam.
On the other hand, there’s another group. Those already running the race. And heading for heaven.
If that’s you perhaps it’d be good for each of us to honestly assess how we’re doing when it comes to actively, strenuously investing? How does future glory shape our everyday priorities and activities? How does the then drive you in the now?
There’s much in this church family that makes me want to follow your example as you follow Christ. ‘Cos among us, there are Pauls, Timothys and Epaphroditus’, who are investing the future in the present. Serving practically. Mentoring someone. Teaching the Bible. In schools, or in the home. Praying fervently. Working or studying with integrity and honesty. Loving the unloved. Giving reason for hope. Showing hospitality. Bearing other’s burdens. Sharing Jesus and His love. investing the future in the present.
Though perhaps, and I don’t presume to know. Perhaps you’ve stopped straining and you’re struggling. Amidst the bright lights of the world you’ve been distracted. In some way, however big or small, you’ve taken a detour. Worldly ambition and worldly possessions, they’ve caught your eye. And taken you off track. Maybe you’ve grown weary. Enthusiasm has waned. Maybe you’ve stumbled and fell. You’re on the sidelines. Immersed in the world. And seemingly detached from Jesus.
If that’s any of us, may God gently rebuke us, and encourage us, to get back in the race. Don’t look back at your own efforts. Or look around and be distracted. Look back to the cross. Look to Jesus. And on that basis, look forward to ‘this’. The goal, the prize, the destiny, our future. The glorious resurrection from the dead. Look forward and invest the future in the present. press on. The prize awaits.
‘Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me. Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.’