Pressing On • Philippians 3:12-14


A.  Example

1.   A small boy was consistently late coming home from school.

2.   His parents warned him that he must be home on time one afternoon, but he arrived later than ever.

3.   His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing.

5.   At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate.

a.   there was a slice of bread and a glass of water.

b.   he looked at his father's full plate and then at his father,

c.   but his father remained silent.

d.   the boy was crushed.

6.   The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy's plate and placed it in front of himself.

7.   He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son.

8.   When that boy grew to be a man, he said, "All my life I've known what God is like by what my father did that night."

9.   The use of words in teaching and training is important, but nothing can replace a good example

10. And while the Bible is our sole authority and guide book on how to live, it’s as we see its counsel and direction take shape in the lives of others that we learn how to live

11. Many of us have gone to the auto parts store and purchased a car manual

a.   we have some repair to do and rather than fork out hundreds of dollars to a repair shop,

b.   we determine to try it ourselves

c.   so we buy the manual and turn to the pages that tell us what to do

d.   often there are even pictures that are supposed to help

e.   but a book with detailed and clear instructions can never replace watching a master mechanic at work

f.    we learn far more by watching someone else than by simply reading a book

B.  We learn By Example

1.   We learn how to live the Christian life by watching the example of other Christians

2.   We learn how to worship and how to pray by listening to others worship and pray

3.   We learn how to be an effective witness for Christ by spending time with others who are effective

4.   From marriage to parenting; from leading to serving, we learn by example

C.  Paul, An Example

1.   In Philippians 3, Paul doesn’t hesitate to call on the Philippians to follow his example

2.   In fact, in this chapter, we find out some things about Paul we learn no where else.

3.   He tells us about his past; about his family, his background.

4.   We get a glimpse into what kind of a man he was before his conversion to Christ.

5.   But more importantly, Paul opens his heart to them and gives us one of the most intimate portraits in all scripture.


A.  Paul’s Life

1.   While vs. 12-16 are the focus of our attention this morning, we need to read what comes before if we’re to appreciate what he says there.

2.   After warning them about the false teachers who were trying to turn the grace of God into legalism, he writes half way into verse 4 . . .

4b . . . If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:

5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;

6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.

8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

3.   Before his conversion to Christ, Paul was sitting at the peak of Jewish social and religious life

4.   As a young man, he was a rising star in Israel – a candidate to be on the Sanhedrin, which was the Congress and Supreme Court of the nation all rolled into one.

5.   His future was bright and he was certain to go down in the history of the Jews as one of their greatest minds and lives

6.   As a Pharisee, Paul had excelled at keeping the Law of God and the traditions of the rabbis.

7.   He had wracked up major points with God.

8.   Paul was so zealous for God, he had become the leader of the opposition to the new movement of Christians who were saying Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah.

9.   With official sanction of the Sanhedrin, Paul drove the movement underground in Jerusalem and the surrounding region

10. Then he got permission to carry the campaign to Damascus where the renegade movement had moved its headquarters

11. While on the way there, Jesus appeared to him and Paul realized that while he had been jealous for God, he had been dead wrong about Jesus!

a.   he had zeal, but it was a religious zeal devoid of knowledge

b.   in an instant, he had a complete turn around – which is what a conversion is

12. Within a matter of just a few days, Paul came to realize that while he had always lived his life thinking that righteousness was something he had to earn by obeying the law –

13. True righteousness, the only kind of righteousness God accepts isn’t earned – it’s a gift that God gives

14. And the way a person receives that gift is by faith in Christ

15. Up to that point, Paul had stood before God in Paul’s righteousness

16. But after his conversion, he knew he could only stand in God’s presence if he had Christ’s righteousness

17. Armed with this new knowledge and personal experience of God’s love and grace, Paul became even more zealous for the Lord

18. He says that his chief pre-occupation, the all consuming passion of his life was to know Christ!

a.   not just as some kind of historically interesting person

b.   he didn’t want to do a term paper on Jesus or write a biography

c.   he wanted to know him experientially.

d.   he wanted to be in a vital, living, breathing relationship with Him.

e.   like best friends who spend time together sharing all the things of life

f.    Paul’s passion was to walk with Jesus through every day

1) the joys and sorrows

2) the ups and downs

3) the mountain peeks and the darkest valleys

g.   and then, when all was said and done, he wanted to know the consummate experience of Jesus by leaving this world and entering heaven

19. That brings us to v. 12 . . .

B.  V. 12

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

1.   Paul was a man in process

2.   While knowing Christ was his chief passion and pre-occupation, he had not attained it yet

3.   As mature and godly as Paul was, he still had growing to do

a.   he still fell

b.   he struggled with holiness

c.   there were times when his joy was challenged and he faltered

d.   Paul knew what it meant to repent and confess sin

e.   he wasn’t perfect!

4.   The fact is, no one will is perfect this side of heaven

5.   As long as we are in these bodies, we will stumble and fall, and have to go through the process of repentance and cleansing all over again.

6.   So notice Paul’s attitude in light of his imperfection;

a.   does he get discouraged and throw in the towel?

b.   does he look back over his life and throw up his hands in frustration that after 30 years of walking with the Lord he still struggles?

7.   No, he says, “I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”

8.   Paul was purposeful about going on with Christ toward perfection!

9.   He wanted to lay hold of everything that Jesus had laid hold of him for.

10. Picture a father that reaches down and takes his young son around his waist

a.   he lifts him up and holds him out to a store shelf that is covered with treasure

b.   that’s the picture here

11. Paul sees himself being laid hold of by God to do some special work, to become a special instrument in His mighty hand to accomplish some important task

12. Paul says that he doesn’t want to let his hands hang idly at his side while God holds him up and out

13. He wants to grab all and whatever God is holding him for!

14. Christian – Christ laid hold of you for a reason!

a.   the motive of His laying hold of you is love

b.   but the objective of His laying hold of you is some unique task, some special purpose that only you can fulfill.

c.   therefore, don’t stand there with your hands hanging idly at your sides!

d.   press on and lay hold of it – all of it!

15. Think of Paul as he sat in that prison in Rome

a.   he thought about all he had done; the churches he had planted, the thousands he had led to faith, the letters written, the rulers witnessed to

b.   it might seem that he had done all a man could be expected to do

c.   it might look like he had already laid hold of all that Christ had for him to do

d.   but he says, “No, I’m still in this body, so there’s more.”

e.   “There’s more knowing and experiencing Christ.”

f.    “He has more to show me and more for me to do.”

g.   “So, I press on!”

16. We could ask, “How Paul?  How are you going to press on?  Look at you – you’re in a cell.

17. “How can you press on if your personal living space is enclosed in an 8 by 8 foot box?”

18. The answer is found in the next verses . . .

C.  Vs. 13-14

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

1.   For Paul, pressing on was not an issue of going out and doing something even greater for God than he had already done

2.   For Paul, pressing on meant moving in to an ever increasing intimacy with Jesus.

3.   It was the upward call of God in Christ Jesus

4.   What he pressed on in was dying to self and rising by faith to live with Christ in heavenly places

5.   Listen to how he says it in writing to the Galatians . . .

20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.



6.   Pressing on meant making that confession a day by day and moment by moment reality

a.   where it wasn’t Paul who lived --

b.   so much as it was Jesus who lived in and through him

7.   Paul says, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

a.   what goal?

b.   the prize of the call of God

c.   and what is the prize but Jesus Christ Himself!

8.   God has called us to Himself!

a.   it’s a call to rise above the things of this world

b.   above even ourselves

c.   it’s the call of the Bridegroom who comes at night to His bride

d.   He bids her to rise from her couch and join Him.

9.   Paul says that in order to apprehend, to attain this prize, there was one thing he had to do!

10. This one thing has two parts . . .

1) He has to forget those things which are behind

2) He has to reach forward to those things which are ahead

11. First: He has to forget those things which are behind

a.   what do you suppose Paul meant by the things that were behind?

b.   He meant the past, didn’t he?

c.   whatever was in his past, it would not stand in the way of his pursuit of Christ

d.   both the successes and the failures would not hinder him

e.   Paul knew that the past cannot be changed!

f.    but it can be put under the blood and forgiveness of Jesus Christ

g.   it can be redeemed because God is the Redeemer.

12. Many people are hindered in moving forward because of their past.

a.   they make excuses for their present failures by blaming their past

b.   it’s become fashionable to blame our parents or some other adult during our childhood for the way we’ve turned out

c.   granted, many have suffered great abuse and neglect

d.   and others have contributed to that abuse through the foolish choices they have made throughout their lives

e.   a lot of counseling and therapy today is spent in trying to re-work the past

f.    it’s an attempt to understand it and them disarm it

13. But look at Paul’s method for dealing with the past = He chose to forget it!

14. He made a choice to draw a curtain on what was behind and to see each new day as a brand new opportunity to go forward, unhindered by the hurts of the past.

15. Neither did he dwell on his past successes

16. Those of us who haven’t endured a past marked by abuse and hurt might be tempted instead to look at the past and be proud of all we’ve done for God

a.   we might look back and say, “Wow, look how far I’ve come!”

b.   and then say, “You know, I think I’ve come far enough!”

c.   “It’s time to plant my spiritual feet and stay here.”

17. Paul says, “No!”

18. He chose to put all the past behind him, both the successes and the failures



19. Christian, don’t dwell on the past!  Better yet – do what Paul says here - Forget the past!

20. Each day that dawns is another new gift God gives you to live without the limitations of the past.

21. You don’t need therapy – you need to choose to believe God when He says that His forgiveness and cleansing from sin is complete

22. And that His grace is sufficient for you TODAY!

23. When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. 

a.   ordering his men to halt on the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, he commanded them to look down at the water below.

b.   to their dismay, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. 

c.   Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat! 

d.   now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! 

e.   and that is exactly what they did.

24. The path that God has ordained for us is forward, not backward!

25. And as we faithfully follow His lead, we too will advance and conquer new territory for His glory

26. Second: Paul says that he reaches forward to those things which are ahead.

a.   the word picture he paints here is of a runner who is approaching the tape

b.   as he prepares to cross the finish line, he is so anxious to better his time that he presses his chest forward to shave another thousandth off the clock

c.   it’s the picture of the maximum of exertion – of someone who is giving it their all, there is not one ounce of anything left!

27. Paul was bent on living with a single-minded devotion to knowing God

28. It wasn’t long into Columbus’ first voyage to the New World that the crews of the three ships began to murmur and complain

a.   talk of mutiny was frequently heard

b.   and as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, the situation became so tense there was little doubt it was just a matter of time till the venture turned into a failure

c.   but do you know what Columbus wrote at the end of each day’s entry into his journal?

d.   "Today we moved WESTWARD!"

29. Christian, keep moving heavenward!

a.   no matter what the day brings

b.   no matter what the voices around you say

c.   press onward toward Christ!

D.  Vs. 15-16

15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

1.   Paul urges those who are already mature to make sure they don’t grow complacent

2.   If anyone needs to have this kind of mindset, it’s those who have walked with the Lord for a long time.

3.   New converts tend to be fresh and excited about things

a.   everything is new and they’re constantly learning

b.   as they look around at the old timers, they can’t help but scratch their heads and ask why they aren’t more excited, more motivated.

c.   after all, if a novice is so energized, shouldn’t someone whose been around longer and learned more be that much more zealous?

d.   and the answer to that is “Yes!”

e.   and that is precisely what Paul is saying here!

4.   He says, “You mature believers, be an example of this pressing-on mindset.”

5.   Go for it!  GROW for it!  Press on!

6.   Some of us are like Dorothy and her companions in the Wizard of Oz

a.   we’ve come a long way and overcome a lot of obstacles on our way to the Kingdom of God

b.   but now that we’re in sight of it, while crossing the field ofspiritual maturity, we’ve grown drowsy

c.   and instead of pressing on to the heavenly city, we’ve lain down and taken a spiritual nap

d.   get up and press on!

7.   Paul says that to the degree you’ve already gone, seek to double it.

8.   I’ve come a long way since my conversion 33 years ago

9.   When I was first saved I thought I was pretty bad and that Christ had delivered me from my old habits and self.

10. But the more I’ve grown, I realize I didn’t know the half of how bad I really was

11. Today, in all honesty I can say that while God has done a mind-blowing work of changing me and making me more like Christ, in and of myself I am way worse than I’ve ever known

a.   the evil desires

b.   the selfishness

c.   the filth

12. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I gotten worse in the last 33 years,

13. It’s just that I’ve grown to see it

14. If God had shown me 33 years ago what I know today, without also showing me all these years of victory and change, I would have despaired and never believed He could

15. As God has changed me, He’s increased my faith and confidence in His grace to deliver me and make me new.

16. I am moving forward – but am also ever more aware of how far I have to go.

17. So this morning, as I look ahead, I want to double the distance I’ve already come.

18. Knowing that Jesus is ever before me, helping make that next step

19. He is not another 33 years out there; He is right here, right now to take me farther than I’ve yet been.


A.  Press On!

1.   Columnist Herb Caen wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.  It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning a lion wakes up.  It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.  It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

2.   James says that our adversary, the devil, is on the prowl, going about like a lion, seeking whom he may desire.

3.   The best way to avoid the danger of the one who seeks to devour you is to be pressing on after Christ

4.   Will Rogers said that you can be on the right track, but if you’re not moving, you’re going to get run over.

5.   Christian – Press on!

B.  Fallen

1.   Dr. Raymond Buker had been an Olympic athlete in the 1924 Olympic Games, the same Olympic Games where Eric Liddell had made his mark on athletic history.

2.   A year before the Olympics, he was running in an invitational one mile race with Joey Ray and Ray Watson; two well known milers of the time.

3.   Prior to that race, Ray and Watson both had better times in the mile than Buker

4.   But Buker thrived on competition and had never raced with someone of the caliber of these two

5.   During the second lap, while they were all together, Buker got knocked down

6.   He didn’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden he was on the track

7.   For two or three seconds he couldn’t think. 

8.   He got back up and looked ahead to the other runners and had a split second to decide if he was going to quit or keep running.

9.   He decided to finish the race

10. He said to himself, "I must keep going -- even if I come in long behind.  I must not quit." 

11. So he took off once again, and guess what, he not only finished, he won!

12. Maybe you’ve fallen!  Maybe your spiritual legs got knocked out from underneath you or you stumbled on some moral tripwire

13. Stop looking at the past, stop excluding yourself because of your failure

14. Get back in the race – press on!