Not Perfection But Progression (Philippians 3:12-16)
First Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-19
Second Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:17-32
Sermon Text: Philippians 3:12-16
Each one of us has participated in some kind of race in our lives. Whether it was running in an organized marathon or a spontaneous race during recess at school, we know what a race entails: striving toward the finish line. This is the analogy the Apostle Paul uses in Philippians 3:12-16 to describe the Christian life. He writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13). What is motivating Paul to run with such endurance and hope? Is it his own self-will? Is it his desire for works-righteousness? We see in the context of these verses that it is his conviction that he is saved by grace and therefore desires to be more and more like the God who saved him. This is, among many other things, what motivates us as Christians to strive after holiness. We know that we are justified in Christ—he has taken our sin and given us his righteousness. We have the Spirit and the means of grace. We are children of the Father. And so we run, not fearful of failure, but desiring to live for God’s glory and assured that we will finish the race because of his grace which so powerfully works within us. We read this same assurance in the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 14.3 which explains that saving faith is “different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.”
1. For review, read Philippians 3:10-11. What does it mean to “know Christ” according to these verses? What are the means God has provided for us to know Christ better?
2. Are you encouraged in reading that the Apostle Paul did not believe he was perfect? (Philippians 3:12) Why is the end of this verse so important to understanding the right motive for striving in the Christian life?
3. As you read verse 13, what are some of the things in your life that are hindering your running the life of faith? What do you need to forget in order to run more effectively?
4. Read Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 13. How does sanctification begin? What does sanctification look like on a daily basis? What is the goal of sanctification?
5. Read Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 17. What does our perseverance depend upon? As you read section 3, can you think of believers in Scripture whose lives matched up with what is described? In what ways was God’s grace still evident in their lives?
6. In preparation for next week, read Philippians 3:17 - 4:3. In what sense is our citizenship in heaven? How does Paul describe our resurrection when Christ returns in verse 21? How does this truth affect your view of suffering in this life?
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