“Run To Gain the Prize of Glorification”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 3.12-16
Philippians 3. I was a track athlete in high school. I was captain of that team in grade 12. Our team was so good that we didn’t bother to run against the schools in our immediate area. Richard Tucker was our track coach, whom I believe I nominated to receive a national reward for coach of the year for our small school division and he won.
I ran anything from the 100 m dash to the 2 mile relay. My specialties were the 400 m and the long jump.
I believe our 2 mile relay team still holds our school record, set in 1996, 20 years ago. That’s the only race that I remember in great detail.
Even though this was my first state meet, my coach decided to put me last at the state championship meet at Eastern Illinios University Stadium. Out of the four runners on the team, being last has the most pressure. I received the baton in first place and ran my first of two laps in the time I normally run a single lap. So halfway through my last lap, I begin to fade. With just 50 m to go, I can’t hold on to the lead. … my whole body feels like it’s on fire from the lactic acid building up in my muscles… One runner passes me then another and then another.
We finish fourth. I get to the finish line and I collapse… The Lane official says “get off the track we have runners coming through”… So I roll off the track and I got sick 8 times.
But I did win many of my races in those years. And it took a desire to run, a vision for the goal, listening to the coach, allowing for time in which to do it, and plenty of effort and self denial.
Paul on our passage today in Philippians 3:12-16 uses running language to describe our lives as Christians.
Let’s read Philippians 3:12-16 and see if you can spot the running words.
Philippians 3:12–16 12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
We too as Christians have to have a desire to run the Christian race, have a vision for the goal, listen to the coach, allowing for time in which to do it, and plenty of effort and self denial.
Like a runner, we have to “press on.” That term “press on” in verse 12 and in verse 14 is the same word.
It is translated “run” in 2 Kings 5:21… where it describes Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, running after Naaman who was in his chariot to get some money off of him after Elisha didn’t demand any, if you know the story. But he was running!
To run. And Paul is running verse 14 toward the goal, the finish line. And at that finish line is the prize. And that prize is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And that upward call of God, or that heavenly call from God, is what Paul says in verse 12 that he has not already obtained.
And what he has not already obtained is… if you would back up to verse 11 and at the end of that verse… Paul has not obtained the resurrection from the dead.
So Paul says verse 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings being conformed to his death in order that I obtain to the resurrection from the dead … not that I have already obtained it…. I mean, I have not already become perfect.
And that resurrection from the dead, that perfection, is what we call glorification… Or it is what happens at our resurrection which is that we are ultimately conformed completely and entirety to the image of Christ.
Now, this is for those who verse 14 are “in Christ.” All of humanity is either in Christ or outside of Christ. Jesus says broad is the way that leads to eternal destruction and many find it and narrow is the way that leads to life, and there are few who live on that narrow way.
And I’m no judge of who is and who isn’t on that narrow way, but the Bible is. And Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life no one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus alone is the way to the Father. Other religions are wrong!
And to be in Christ requires saving faith in Christ. Saving faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Trusting in Jesus and losing not only your sin but losing your life for Jesus is required to be his disciple and ultimately be found in Christ.
And for those who are in Christ, there is a flavor in their lives of what is in our passage today. And so what Paul is doing is he is giving us his example of running the Christian life.
And here’s the big point today: “Run To Gain the Prize of Glorification” … “Run To Gain the Prize of Glorification.” Or Run to gain the prize of Christlikeness.
And by way of application, simply now… you need to apply effort toward your Christian growth.
If you are in Christ, God’s design for your life is to make you more like him. Like him in his conduct, speech, behaviors, and devotion to the Father.
And as you grow in this area, you are gaining victory after victory during the regular season until you reach the world championship as it were and you gain glorification!
But if you’re not running in races today, you have no reason to think that when you reach the championship track meet you’ll gain the prize.
A Christian is somebody who is in the race today and is growing to be like Him and is actually becoming like Christ and has an eye toward being completely conformed to his image. That is a Christian.
Are you a Christian? You say, “Well, I’m here at church, aren’t I?” Billy Sunday the early 20th century evangelist said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile” and he said, “You can go to hell just as fast coming through the church door as through the door of a bar or a brothel.”
So, first this morning, a Christian is someone who has a holy dissatisfaction. Notice Paul’s language in verse 12…
Paul’s admission of his need to grow (v.12a, v.13a) [holy dissatisfaction]
He hasn’t already obtained it
He hasn’t become perfect
Philippians 3:12 12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect,
Paul says that he has not obtained it or has already become perfect.
He has not obtained complete conformity to the image of Christ. He’s not perfect. Paul the apostle himself, after 30 years of walking with Christ to this point can say that he himself has not obtained perfect knowledge of Christ… Verse 10 he says that I may know him and the power of his resurrection verse 11 that I may attain the resurrection from the dead… But I haven’t obtained it yet.
I don’t have that perfect knowledge of Christ… That perfect knowledge that changes me entirely into his image. I still fall short.
ILL: I was pretty good at running, but … not that good, really. I had a lot I could improve upon. So if I just strutted around like I was something else, I wouldn’t get anywhere; I wouldn’t improve.
ILL: With 100 meters left in the 1980 5000m race at the Crystal Palace in London, [deacon name] Ovett, who had just won the 1500m Gold in Moscow, is in the lead and waves to the crowd…but he breaks a cardinal rule and looks over his shoulder only to see the fighting Irishmen John Treacy at his side. But Ovett pulls away again and in celebration, lift his hands in the air 10 meters from the line. But John Treacy floors it and sneaks in just ahead of him for the photo finish.
Ovett was full of himself; he thought he had it in the bag. Maybe looked at his past achievements and thought this was just another race to add a gold medal to.
1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
“I have not already obtained it or have already become perfect” Paul says …there is still a lot of work to do.
Someone who is a Christian knows there is a lot of work still to be done on him to become like Christ; he hasn’t arrived.
ILL: whenever I use Google maps I am reminded of this. Sometimes there’s a place I need to go in Edmonton and I don’t know how to get there. I use Google maps on my phone. I type in where I want it to take me and when I get there … you know what it says? “You have arrived.”
I always think to myself, “No I haven’t!”
I fail here and there; I could improve here, I could grow there. Be more wise, be more patient, not think those wrong thoughts or say those things.
A Christian is aware of his need for growth.
And so Paul’s example that he is aware of his need for growth runs contrary to the teaching of entire sanctification that is found in many churches with an Arminian background or a Wesleyan background. The Methodist movement or the Assemblies of God or the Church of God, church of the Nazarene.
Entire sanctification, they teach, is that after a person comes to Christ for salvation, there is a second blessing, or a second work of grace that occurs later in the Christian life, an event during which the Christian is entirely free from the chains of the sin nature, being effectively sinless. Mistakes and un-willful sins don’t count, the teaching goes. But …name me one sin that isn’t wilful? But Paul knows of no such event. He denies that he has reached any sort of spiritual condition in which he does not grow. Paul knows of no single experience by which he is entirely freed from the sin nature. For Paul, the growth into Christ likeness is still before him and he is pressing on to it.
He hasn’t reached that point yet! And if the apostle Paul … perhaps the greatest Christian whoever lived can say that, how much more we?
Spiritual growth is a process, as reflected here, and it takes an awareness of your need.
APP: A Christian then will pray about his sin and confess it. Do you confess your need to grow at least to God?
Every Christian wants to be like Christ, and so every Christian is willing to be painfully aware of his need to grow.
He hasn’t laid hold of it yet
And Paul repeats it to focus on this … he’s painfully aware. “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet.”
Paul restates his lack of perfection in verse 13, “brother and I do not regard myself as having laid hold of that yet.” Paul repeats this for a third time… I have not already obtained complete conformity to Christ … He says he has not already become perfect… Verse 13 I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet…
The repetition tells us that Paul is painfully aware of his shortcomings, mistakes, areas of growth and his sin.
He is also calculating. The word “regard” is an accounting term, like balancing a checkbook if anyone still does that anymore. Your apps and your computer programs may do it for you. But some people don’t keep track of their money at all.
Just like that, many Christians haven’t sat down and calculated what’s in their hearts, their spiritual checkbooks. There is no accounting for their spiritual condition.
They are too complacent; to happy-go-lucky about their lives and not sitting down and giving careful account before the Lord for their spiritual lives. Their are too shallow and do not reflect upon the reality of their condition. So it’s very easy to just meander through life and say to yourself, “well, I’m in Christ, I’m going to heaven, so what’s the big deal?”
That’s not maturity, that’s not progress, … And I’m here to tell you, that’s not Christian.
A Christian is somebody who is painfully aware of their need and does something about it and they are growing spiritually.
ILL: When you realize what kind of prize it is that is at the finish line, you’ll want to taste of it now! What desert connoisseur walks into a home and smells cinnamon buns or chocolate chip cookies and, when offered, refuses a taste of it now! What Christian doesn’t want a taste of Christ now?
So, “taste and see that the Lord is good!”
So let’s discuss your need! Sin is heinous and you have a great need before God. Without Christ, you’re lost! Nothing you could ever do would ever save you. And you know that, because of sin, God is not pleasantly disposed toward everyone. He loves everyone, but he’s also terrifyingly angry.
And so you who are called Christian, knowing the fear of God, are you content not to grow? Is that really someone who has any sort of experiential knowledge of God, who is in Christ? If you are content not to grow, how can you say you’re a Christian?
One foot in the world and one foot in the church is to be 6 feet under, spiritually speaking. No spiritual life in you! And if in the church you put your right foot and in the world your left foot out… you’ll be shaking all about and it won’t be from doing the hooky pooky. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
So you need to make your calling and election sure, as Peter exhorts us in 2 Peter 1. Add to your faith moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
If these qualities are yours and if they are increasing you will be fruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these qualities is blind, Peter says… I wouldn’t want that on my spiritual resume.
So be diligent to make certain about God’s calling and choosing you by growing in Christ. That’s how you’ll gain assurance.
TRANS: It’s a lifelong process…but it takes an awareness, a painful and calculated awareness of where you need growth. You need to be aware of your deep need and now secondly… you need an attitude of resolve. A resolve to grow.
Paul’s attitude of resolve to grow
I forget what lies behind v.13b
First 12 he says in the middle of the verse, “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”
He says verse 13 “I haven’t laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
This is Paul’s attitude of resolve. He is resolved to grow.
First, he forgets what lies behind, second he reaches forward to what lies ahead, and third he presses on.
So first he forgets what lies behind. He forgets about his past failures and even his past successes. Satan can attack on both of those counts..
ILL: Satan attacks us on our past failures. You remember Ovett who looked over his shoulder John Treacy was pulling past him?
If you have a failure and you commit some sin, you ask God to forgive you and grow in that area. Don’t look back. Don’t recall all your failures. Don’t consider them. This isn’t God keeping you humble if you do; it’s Satan attacking you. You are to forget those things which are behind. If you don’t, you’ll never move forward. You’ll constantly be stuck in the past if you keep remembering the things that have set you back.
“Every time you get back up you alwaysssssss fall down, ssssssso why even try anymore.” Do you hear the hisssss of Sssssatan in that?
Forget the things that are behind press forward. Forget your past failures.
Forgetting what lies behind is also a forgetting of your past successes.
Paul has had past successes in his Christian life. Oh … his call on the Damascus Road… How God that must’ve favored him so much… And the vision of heaven that he had how he was caught up to the third heaven into paradise and heard inexpressible words… How he was beaten with rods three times and stoned once and shipwrecked three times … a night and a day he spent in the deep waters of the ocean…. Living a life of danger, danger from Rivers and dangers from robbers, dangers from the Jews and the Gentiles in the city or in the wilderness or on the sea or from false teachers… Sleepless nights and hunger and thirst…
I mean, boy! What a spiritual resume he had before God!
ILL: Ovett the runner had just won the gold medal in Moscow… But now he’s in this race. He can’t depend on past successes; he must press forward! But perhaps he was focused on his success in the past … and how easy is it for you to focus on your success and past?
“You have been ssssssoooo sssssuccessful in your ministry businessssss…family…and you are sssssomething before God…God honorsssss you. You dessssserve to relax a little.” And can you hear that hisssss of Ssssatan? Forget what lies behind! Forget your past successes and failures, and reach forward.
I reach forward to what lies ahead v.13c
Reach forward to what lies ahead, verse 13 says. That’s a straining that’s a reaching that’s… All out run… muscles on fire nothing is going to stop me by the grace of God… I’m going to reach forward and focus on the future and press forward…and follow Christ and become like Him!
Soldiers of Christ arise and put your armor on!
Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve,
And press with vigor on;
A heavenly race demands your zeal,
And an immortal crown,
And an immortal crown.
A cloud of witnesses around
Hold thee in full survey;
Forget the steps already trod,
And onward urge thy way,
And onward urge thy way.
I press on
Paul says verse 12 I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Verse 14 … same word I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Forget what lies behind, streeeetch forward toward Christlikeness like a runner striving to pass the runner ahead of him. And press on!
“To press” here means to follow or to press hard, to pursue with earnestness, with diligence to obtain, to go after with desire.
That’s the attitude we need to have. Earnest! Paul also says that he wants to lay hold of that for which also he was lay hold of by Christ Jesus.
To lay hold of is also a reference to running. It has the idea of obtaining the prize with eagerness with exertion to grasp it to seize it…
Turn to 1 Corinthians 9:24.
This is the other common passage where Paul talks about running. Kind of makes you think that maybe Paul was a runner, or especially liked running. But at least the Corinthians did. And he says…1 Corinthians 9:24–27 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we [do it for] an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Just like they, the physical athletes, just like they press on and attempt to lay hold of their prize at the finish line and exercise self-control in all things, so also we, the spiritual athletes in Christ, we press on and lay hold of and stretch every nerve out with eagerness in order to grasp a hold of the prize that is set before us.
That prize of ultimate conformity to Christ will one day be true for all believers.
So press on now, seek to lay hold of it more and more now! Strive hard after it …
Back in Phil. 3:12, Paul says “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”
What he means is he is striving to grab a hold of Christ’s purpose of grabbing him. Christ Jesus grabbed a hold of Paul on the Damascus road for a reason. That reason was to be like Christ.
Paul wants to grab a hold of being like Christ. Why? Because that’s why Jesus grabbed a hold of Paul in the first place! Jesus declared Paul righteous so that Paul would live up to that standard!
“I lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Christ saved me so that I would become like Christ … now my goal is to become like Christ… Christ’s purpose for me is now my purpose for me: conformity to Christ.
Each day is a race and many days has its victories and many days for the victorious Christian he and others will [hmmm.] taste the sweet savor of Christ likeness in his own life. And that will be a joy to him… And it will be refreshment to him as he presses on and strives hard until that day when he will be with Christ for ever in glory, everlasting life…conformity to Christ, final perfection is coming! But it takes the daily races to get there.
APP: The spiritual life is not measured by what you have attained spiritually but how much you’re pressing forward. The spiritual life is not measured by what you have attained spiritually but how much you’re pressing forward. Don’t slow down an inch!
What was your goal before coming to church this morning? Your goal in life? If this isn’t on your mind, to become like Christ… if this doesn’t climax your heart, are you a believer? Or are you a worldling, on the broad path toward destruction?
People ask for what they want. Do you want to be like Christ? Is that on your heart at all during the week? Do you pray to become like Christ? Pray for your own growth! I pray for your growth. Do you pray for your own spiritual growth?
You can’t live a worldly life and desire to be like Christ; you can’t desire spiritual growth if you’re living in the world. If you begin not to want spiritual growth, you are not pressing forward as you should.
It takes effort to become more like Christ. Be motivated by the end result: To be motivated, realize it’s a prize … here it is … you’ll be like Jesus in body and spirit.
1 John 3:2–3 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself [today], just as He is pure.
There is coming a day so powerful, so glorious…that the very sight of Christ will change you … can you taste it? Don’t you want it?
ILL: Making steps today to be like Jesus completely in eternity is like winning small races along the way heading toward the national championship track meet. I’m not as angry anymore, first place! I’m more patient today, first place! You win a trophy…. all on your way to winning the ultimate prize in the end of being entirely like Jesus, seeing Him face to face!
That prize with peerless glories bright,
which shall new lustre boast,
when victors’ wreaths and monarchs’ gems shall blend in common dust,
shall blend in common dust.
That day we will behold the glories of heaven so common everywhere, common as the dust.
Every Christian wants to be like Christ, and every Christian is willing to say … resolved: from this day forward, I’m striving to be more like Christ and will do whatever it takes. One thing I do, one goal: Christ in me! Run to win!
TRANS: A Christian will recognize his spiritual failures, he will strive to become more like Christ, and lastly he will submit to God when convicted.
Paul’s advice on growth (vv.15-16)
the perfect to have this attitude
God will reveal if you have a different attitude
Philippians 3:15–16 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
Or another version has verse 16 this way … Philippians 3:16 Nevertheless, let us live up to the standard that we have already attained.
“Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude” … but I thought no one was perfect… that’s right, that’s the irony. If someone is considering himself mature or perfect, he’ll be pursuing spiritual growth, knowing he hasn’t attained perfection yet!
Paul is playing with them a little bit. You think you’re perfect, especially maybe you Judaizers from the beginning of the chapter? Ok then, you’ll have this attitude…of not being perfect yet and pursuing growth.
And if you don’t have that attitude, God will reveal that to you. So the Christian will submit to God’s conviction of the heart.
And we are to live up to the standard that we’ve already attained. A Christian’s greatest need is to live up to what we already have in Christ.
We have a perfect standing before God. Those who are in Christ of a perfect standing before him. But we are constantly attempting to live up to that standing. We’re striving hard after it. We’ve been set apart in Christ. Now we must live up to the high calling.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 3.12-16
Heather Dorniden is an American middle-distance runner and four-time United States National Champion in the 1 mile road race. She will forever be remembered for one race in particular — a final heat in the 600-meter race at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in March of 2008. Minnesota hosted the event, so Dorniden was running in front of a friendly crowd, including scores of U fans and her parents. “When I watch [the tape], my heart rate still goes up like crazy and I almost shake,” she says. “You get nervous all over again for races when you watch them.”
Especially when you know what happens on the last lap.
With 200 meters to go and in the lead pack of four runners, Dorniden’s feet got tangled up with those of a Penn State runner, and she fell in a heap on the unforgiving track of the Field House.
“I literally thought that I just skinned my knees and put my hands down and got back up,” she says. “I never realized that I skidded on my stomach on the ground. I was bouncing on the track.”
By the time she got back up, she trailed the lead pack by about 30 meters with less than 200 meters to go. In a race that’s essentially a sprint. No chance, right?
At first, Dorniden just vowed to finish the race. Then she was bolstered by the enthusiasm of the fans, who saw her making her move. “It got so loud, and then I heard the announcer saying, ‘And watch out for Heather Dorniden!’ I was like, ‘I’m actually still in the race. Sweet.’”
She exploded past one runner and another. “That last 50 meters, I hit a gear that I never knew I had,” Dorniden says.
And squeaking past the last runner at the last second, she won. The Big Ten Network named Dorniden the first-ever recipient of its Most Courageous Performance award last June.
She says, “It’s probably one of my greatest running memories of all time. It’s something that is completely unexplainable to me besides through a higher power. I feel like the Lord just filled me up and gave me the opportunity to show what amazing things can happen through Him.”
God is at work in you. You may feel like you’ve had a setback or a failure, some sin. Forget what’s behind, forget the old you, forget the failure, forget the fall. Never give up; wrestle and fight and pray…seek the Lord and his strength…Press forward into the future each time by the grace of God! “Run To Gain the Prize of Glorification” … run the race today and tomorrow and the next day and one day you’ll gain ultimate conformity to Christ…when we get to heaven.