Beth Moore - Philippians 1, Reaching Forward to What is Ahead
You and I are going to be looking at verses 12 through 14 together, but I want to start us back at 3, so that I can get us, we're in Philippians chapter 3 and verse 3, and I want to read all the way through 15. "For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh, although I have reasons for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more". I mean, this is a man that does not lack confidence when he writes, does he?
"Circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding righteousness that is in the law, blameless. But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus".
I have to take it one more verse, because there is something about verse 15 that makes me want to burst out laughing. I just want you, I just love it, I just love it. It's inspired by God. "Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you". In other words, I feel sure, like let us all that are mature take on the same view. And if you have another view, God will straighten that out, and you'll come to my view. And, of course, this is the truth of God given to us down on the sacred page, but I just love it.
There's something about that, that is so beautifully Paul. We're going to have plays on words that are very, very intentional in Paul's writing here. This, to me, these three verses are so gorgeous, and I pray that God would just come by way of his Spirit and bring them with the conviction that I think that he wrote them under. And so, I want to read them to you. So, "Not that I have already reached the goal," Paul writes, "or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I have also been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters," it says in verse 13, "I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it". Here we go again. "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus".
This is the passion of the Apostle Paul. You will see this same kind of passion drive him every second of his life that we have recorded in Scripture through his letters, all the way to the very end, when that pen goes dry, at the closing of the letter, the second letter to Timothy, when he simply says, "I have finished the race. I have kept the faith, now the crown of righteousness is in store for me". What in the world makes that kind of sustained passion? Let me tell you something. When we look at the writings of the Apostle Paul, we look at the writings of John, the passion in these letters, and I'm thinking even of John's first letter where he says, "Listen, this is the one..." And I'm paraphrasing this. "We've seen him with our eyes. We've touched him. We know this one that we've been invited into fellowship with".
Then we see Peter, who just says that, "We wait for him with this inexpressible joy". You think about these who knew him, who had experienced him, and they were absolutely unstoppable. Because whatever it was that they knew, drove them past everything else toward one goal, and that was seeing that face again. I prayed for so, so long that God would sustain my fervor for his Word. It has been two things that I have prayed more than anything else over my own life, and that is that I would him with everything that I had in me, and that I would love the Scriptures.
And, you know, you just never know what he's going to do to answer those prayers. And I think if we did know, it might scare us to death; because what he used largely for me was that I stayed so desperate that the words stayed fresh, because I needed them so badly that it was like, okay, I'm gonna need this to live. Anybody know what I'm talking about? But you look back at the passage again, because he says, "Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it, because I have also been taken hold of by Christ. Brothers and sisters, I don't consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus".
What on earth is the goal? What is it? It seems to be because it's right next to the resurrection of the dead. I mean, of course, that's the most immediate place that we could go just right beforehand, but I think that it begins way back where we started in verse 3 just a few moments ago, where he begins talking about all the things that have been behind him, all the things that were of credit to him, all the things that made him legit to the people around whom he lived and served and the ones that would hear him teach, all of things that would have been his credentials, that he comes to the place of saying that he has laid them down to win Christ.
So, he says to us, "I want to know Christ. I want to be found in him, that I may..." I love the wording in the NIV, "that I may win Christ and be found in him". He's wanting to see him face to face. He's wanting to know him in a way he does not yet know him. He's saying, "I haven't reached the goal yet. I don't know everything. I haven't found it all. I haven't won it all, but I press on after it". I want you to hear these beautiful words. They're just, I've read this just here recently in my lectionary reading, just in my prayer time at home. And, you know, it was just sort of out of the blue for me. I had not read it in a while.
And we were in the middle of Philippians, and so Paul is so on my mind. And it's the gorgeous words of 1 Corinthians 13, and you know them. It's the love portion. I'm just gonna read this much of it, but I want you to understand a little bit about what he's saying right here in Philippians. It says in 1 Corinthians 13: 9-12, "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes". You remember him saying this. "I've not already been made perfect, but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man, I put aside childish things. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. I will know fully, as I am fully known".
In that moment that he beholds his face, "I will know fully, as I am known". I think about so many things that Paul only knew in part. If you read toward the very end of acts, the last couple of chapters, when he's talking about being in the terrible storm, 14 solid days on the sea in the storm-tossed winds and waves and water without seeing the sun a single time, 'til they almost lost track of time, and he says to them, because they're scared to death that they're going to have loss of life, and he says to them, "No, no, we're not going to". And, again, I'm paraphrasing. You'll need to check this out in Acts 27. "No, no, no, we're not gonna lose any life here. The Lord appeared to me". So, he appeared to him somewhere in the boat. "The Lord has appeared to me. The Lord has said the following things". And then he says the most interesting piece of information: "We're going to run aground on some island".
Now, I don't know if that appears to be a little strange to anyone else, but the Lord told him all of this, but he has no idea what island they're gonna run aground on. Anybody getting that with me? Because he prophesies in part. There is always the unknown, always the unknown. But what he knew was enough that he would not stop, that what would press him forward every day of his life was getting to that point where he would know, as he had been known, where he who had seen in part, as in a mirror, would see face to face. I don't know, I don't know. We can't get inside the mind of Paul, but he was a Hebrew of Hebrews.
I mean, if there's anything that these Jewish little boys, growing up in a home like he had, and you've seen some of his background in your homework this week, if there's anything they knew about, it was Moses. It was Moses. It would've been the law. They would've known that gorgeous portion of Scripture in Exodus 33, where it says, "God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend". Nobody, nobody had known him like that. And it doesn't say that Moses...our...we will tend to switch it and think that it says that Moses talked to God as one speaks to a friend. That's not what we see. No, no, God spoke to Moses face to face, it says, I really did see his face, but he was presence to presence with him. I think that's part of what Paul was going for. "And I know in part, but I will know as I've been known, and I will see face to face".
I want you to look at the very first half of that Philippians 3:12. So stare into it. "Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect". And that word "perfect" means complete. It doesn't just mean finished. It doesn't mean to come to the end. It means to come to completion, "but I make every effort". "I make every effort". I want you to look at those words, "every effort," first of all. In Greek, I put a phrase for you there so that you can see it, if you happen to read it. "Make every effort to take hold of".
I want you to notice that very first word, and I've got the transliteration for you there. It's dioko, dioko. It's too long o's in it, three syllables, dioko. And Paul has already introduced a form of that word in this very chapter. One of my very favorite things to do with Bible study is to pick up on terms that appear; and if it's by the same writer, that's fabulous. So, if I can look letter to letter, that's a beautiful thing that's gonna help me understand what he means when he uses that term. But what's best of all is if he uses the same term in the same book. What's even better than that is, is he gonna use it close to it? Then you begin to see, and you know that he is using words in such a beautiful way.
You see, with the Scriptures, it's not just what is said. It is how it is said. It's such a beautiful thing to see how, just the pure art of it, the pure beauty of it, and you see it here. Look in verse 6 with me, all the way back to 3:6 where he says this. We're looking for what the form of this word... what is the word? Well, we looked at it, dioko, dioko, but he's already introduced this word in his testimony in the same chapter, "regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church..." There you go, persecuting, a form of the same word. It's gonna be a present active verb there, using a form of the exact same word that he's gonna use for making every effort, making every effort. I mean to press in with zeal for something, and it's used for when he chased down Christians to have them imprisoned, and it's also used here in its positive sense, when with everything in him he is chasing down Christ Jesus, this gorgeous, gorgeous play on words.
Now, I want you to look with me in verse 13. "Brothers and sisters, I don't consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as the goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus". So, he has just said in 12, "I make every effort to take hold of it, because I've been taken hold of by Christ". Listen to the wording again. "I make every effort", so I'm gonna chase it down, "to take hold of it because of what Christ has taken hold of me for". It's very obvious to us there that there is a play on words going here.
I'm going to give you a quote by scholar P.T. O'Brien in his commentary on Philippians when he says, and he's talking about his explanation of the latter part of 3:12, and he's quoting here. He's paraphrasing Paul here. "'Because I was indeed grasped by Christ.' In words that recall his conversion on the Damascus Road Paul asserts that the risen and exalted Lord Jesus had mightily arrested him and set his life in a new direction. He'd been turned right around in his tracks". Mightily arrested him. I just love, I love the whole theme of it. I love the whole picture of it, because he's saying in our terms, he's using synonyms here in the Greek, but I want you to get the picture of it with me, because he's saying, "I want to grab hold of, I want to apprehend, I want to arrest, I want to grab, I want to seize onto that for which Christ arrested me".
Remember with me that that's what he was doing out on that road to Damascus. So, I want you to hold right here, because I think this is a trip worth taking. You can either go with me, or you can listen to me read it, but I'm going to Acts 9, because I want you to hear it, and I want you to understand that he's being very intentional here with the wording that he's using. Acts chapter 9, verses 1 through 5, "Now Saul was still breathing threats", and Saul is Paul, "and murder against the disciples of the Lord. Came unto the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogue in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem". It's gonna say later, when Christ calls upon Ananias to go and to pray over Saul, Ananias says to him, "You know that this is the one who was sent to arrest people of the way".
So, this is very much what he's doing. Says, "As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'" So, he's using this, he's bringing all this same terminology up in his testimony in Philippians chapter 3. "Saul, so why are you persecuting me"? Well, listen to him respond, because he goes, "Who are you, Lord"? He said, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting". I love this so much, and I know this point isn't wasted on anyone in the room and anyone on the other side of that screen, but this is such a beautiful thing that Jesus is going, "You know what? I tell you, when you mess with my people, you mess with me. When you persecute my people, you persecute me. Whatever you do to one of them, you do to me".
You can know, no matter what, that he takes any harm that comes to you very, very personally. "Saul, why are you persecuting me? But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do". Okay, go back with me, because I want you to look back at the terminology that's being used. Because look at a couple of things where it says, because this is a heavenly call. In verse 14, "I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus". I want you to remember the light comes from heaven; and, of course, the call is coming from heaven, but it's also calling him heavenward. Stay with me, and you're gonna understand what I mean. Then he's, "Why are you persecuting me"? It's a present active form of that same verb we saw a moment ago, dioko. And you'll see that Christ has won him here.
So, he's showing us, when he talks about reaching ahead to take into his grasp, to arrest, to apprehend that for which Christ apprehended him, he is reenacting what Christ did for him. I want you to think of it this way, because he's saying to us, and, of course, in a word picture, that Christ grabbed him, I mean just seized him. I bet somebody could testify to something like that. That wasn't how it went for me, but I've heard testimonies and stories like this. Yeah, I was just raised in church to know him. I mean, it was one of the most natural things I could possibly do in the environment I was in. I just believed from the time I was a little bitty girl, but I've heard stories of people saying, "No, no, he grabbed me. He just like whoosh".
And so, he's doing that same picture, that same idea of Christ as if he's reaching down from heaven and grabbing him. He is reaching up to grab him. Does anybody understand what I'm saying? Because that reach is coming from heaven to earth. He is reaching from earth back to heaven, and he's saying, "I haven't grasped it. I can't apprehend it, but with everything I've got in me, what will drive me all the way home is grabbing hold of that for which I have been grabbed hold of". To think in more specific terms about what Christ has called each of us to do and that the goal of our lives would be whatever that is, I want to have done that when I'm done. Whatever it is you had in mind, Jesus, when you just as surely as you did the Apostle Paul, reached down and grabbed me, for whatever you grabbed me, I want to, I want to fulfill that, however simple, however complex.
In effect, he's saying, "You chased me down, and I will spend every breath I have chasing you down. That is what I want". So, Jesus reached down and grabbed... Paul is reaching up to grab him, ever pressing forward. I just love the picture of it. I want you to look real carefully where it says, "But one thing I do," he says. "I haven't taken hold of it. I can't grab onto it, yet, but I tell you what I do. I forget what is behind, and I reach forward to what is ahead". This is so important. I want to make sure that this is well understood. Because when I was growing up, I am absolutely sure, somewhere along the way someone explained this, but if you don't have ears to hear it, it just goes right over your head. But in my thinking, it meant forget everything bad that ever happened to you and just go on, just go on.
When I was a young woman, I knew from the time I was 18, when I surrendered, I wanted so badly, I had a heart for God. I wanted so badly to please him. I couldn't think of anything in the world I wanted to do more. And so, the thing was I'd come from a very, very unstable home, very unstable. I had been abused as a child. I lived in all manner of madness. And so, here I was, wanting so much to serve God and wanting so much to please God, so broken in the inside, I didn't even begin to know how broken I was. I couldn't have even stood the reality of how messed up I truly was. I couldn't have even handled it. And so, my thought is, just go. You put that behind you. You forget it, and you go.
Well, the thing about stuff like abuse and instability, there's no forgetting it. Even if my mind, even if my conscious mind forgot it, my subconscious most certainly had not forgotten it. And I mean, I just lived out that belief system. I continued over and over again to just cycle right back into that ditch, over and over and over again. It was like my foot constantly was on mud, and I was gonna go right back in that hole, right back in that hole over and over again, because I thought it meant forget every traumatic thing that ever happened to you and go on. That's not what it means. He is saying, all those trophies, all those things that you thought gave you value, oh, you leave them behind.