Author: Ron Graham
This lesson concentrates on Philippians 3:10-21. The passage contains certain principles which one must follow in order to achieve any worthwhile goal.
Paul has in mind a particular goal, of course. He is applying the ten teleological principles to achieving the greatest goal of all —the goal of eternal life in heaven.
The ten principles are so simple and obvious, such plain common sense, that I feel a bit silly teaching them to you. Yet it seems to be a trait of human nature to ignore some of these principles. Some people ignore all ten! So we all may need to be reminded of these principles, as simple as they are.
"...know him and the power of his resurrection..." (Philippians 3:10)
Knowing the right people, and knowing the right methods and means, gives you the power to achieve your goal. When you know someone who has the knowledge you need, and is willing to teach it to you, that empowers you. When you know someone who has influence in the right quarters and can "pull strings" for you, that empowers you. Needless to say, Jesus fulfills this role in empowering us to reach and enter heaven.
When human beings wish to venture into outer space, enormous power is needed —power gained through knowledge. As scientists grew from their earliest theories to understand more of how the cosmos works, they have been able to put that knowledge to work, breaking the space barrier and enabling things which were never before possible. How much more important to gain the knowledge that empowers us to conquer the death barrier and pass into the eternal heavens and dwell there with the Lord Jesus.
"...the fellowship of his sufferings..." (Philippians 3:10)
No worthwhile goal is got without pain. It is born through travail; it is given life through death. To achieve eternal life we must share in the sufferings of our Saviour and be "conformed to his death".
Ask people who have been through traumas that left them physically disabled. Their goal is to become rehabilitated. But the physiotherapy and other treatments they must endure can be very painful for a very long time. Yet they will also tell you that the gain is worth the pain.
"...Jesus has laid hold of me..." (Philippians 3:12)
To achieve anything worthwhile it must take hold of you. You must be possessed by the idea. If Jesus doesn't have you in his grip now, you are unlikely to be with him in heaven some day.
It's like admiring travel posters. If you admire them in idle moments, but the idea of travelling doesn't really take hold of you, then you will probably not travel far.
"...I have not laid hold of it yet... I press on toward the goal..." (Philippians 3:13-14)
If the apostle Paul could not take heaven for granted, then we certainly cannot. We must keep trying very hard to serve the Lord and to win the prize he holds out to us.
The moral of the old proverb, "Don't count your chickens before they've hatched" and of the old fable about the tortoise and the hare who competed in a race, is a moral worth remembering.
"...forgetting what lies behind..." (Philippians 3:13)
All of us have regrets, failures, disappointments, even things of which we are ashamed. But, unless we can learn lessons from them, it does no good to dwell upon them. We must focus on the future with Christ, and let him take away the burden of our past.
Imagine what it would be like on the roads if everybody looked back where they have been, instead of looking where they were going. They may have driven badly back there, but if they keep looking back, then they will drive even worse up ahead. Rear vision has its place, but only in the form of an occasional glance when necessary.
"...join in following my example... you have us for a pattern..." (Philippians 3:17)
We cannot get into heaven by imitating bad Christians, yet it is strange how easily a bad example in the church is copied. Christ, and those who imitate Christ, provide the only example worth patterning ourselves upon.
If you wished to learn how to make fine furniture, would you study bad craftsmen or their cheap and nasty products? No, you would look for craftsmen and products of excellence to imitate. So, imitate Christ and those who follow him with excellence.
"...their end is destruction... who set their mind on earthly things..." (Philippians 3:19)
When we set our hearts on heavenly things, then heaven is where we are headed. But if we take our minds off those things and set our hearts on earthly things, then we are headed for the same end as the world itself —destruction. It is common knowledge that people achieve what they keep their minds connected to, and tuned into. There's only one place that disconnected thinking will get you, and that's nowhere. What is your heart set upon?
Imagine you wish to drill a hole in a piece of wood or steel using a drilling machine. One of the first rules of using such machinery is that you keep your mind firmly on the task until completed. You don't talk about the footy with your mates, or discuss deadlines with the boss. You keep your mind on your task. You keep your mind focussed at the cutting edge. If you don't obey this rule, you may ruin your work, and even lose your fingers.
"...our citizenship is in heaven..." (Philippians 3:20)
You are never likely to achieve something if you feel it's really not you. If you don't think you belong in heaven, if it doesn't seem like home, then you are not likely to end up there. You have to identify with it. Although living in the world, Christians identify with another world and another place. We feel that the ways of that world are more dear to us, and are more our ways than the ways of the world in which we live at present.
Philippi (the destination of the letter we are studying) was a Roman colony. Although a long way from Rome, the citizens of Philippi lived as if they were in Rome. It is said that they were more Roman than the residents of Rome. Similarly, in Australia we find many "ethnic" groups who are more zealous of their traditions, and are trying harder to preserve those traditions, than the people back in their home country! Although living in Australia, they identify with another land and its ways. Do you feel like that about heaven?
"...we eagerly wait for the Saviour..." (Philippians 3:20)
If a person does not expect to achieve something, that person is unlikely to achieve it, except by accident. I don't think anyone will be in heaven by accident, do you? Do you really expect to be in heaven? Is it an eager expectation of yours to see the Lord and rejoice with him? It's amazing how many professing Christians don't really, deep down in their hearts, expect to be with the Lord.
If a person buys a ticket in Tatts —I don't recommend it, but if someone does— they don't really expect to win because they know the odds are against it. Nevertheless they will usually check the numbers just in case. However, a great many prizes remain unclaimed. That's because people forgot or just didn't bother to follow up their entry. They just didn't expect to win, so they never got to collect their prize.
"...he will transform our lowly body..." (Philippians 3:21)
It may seem impossible that our mortal bodies will be changed into the likeness of the immortal Christ, that we shall live forever, and that this will happen even though we die before he comes again. Paul however believed that Jesus is able to do it. If we don't believe in the seemingly impossible, then we ourselves have made it impossible.
My brother is a blacksmith, and he has made me a puzzle consisting of two horseshoes joined to each other by short chains at their tips. Around the chains there is a brass ring of a diameter much smaller than the width of the horseshoes. It appears that the ring was placed there before the chains were welded to the horseshoes, and that it is impossible to remove the ring. But when I tell someone that it is, in spite of appearances, quite possible to slip off the ring, and if the person believes me, it is not long before the ring is got off after some trial and error. But if a person thought it was impossible, because it looks impossible at first glance, then they would not make any attempt sufficient to achieve the solution to the puzzle.
We, however, can make our attempt at heaven with enormous confidence, because all things are possible with God. We can do all things through him who strengthens us.
We might call the principles in this lesson "teleological" principles.
(There's a nice big word for you... almost as big as "corrugated iron").
Concerned with purpose, goal seeking, or achieving an end.
Greek telos, "end"
Also teleo perfected, fulfilled, mature, finished (Philippians 3:12,15).
Strong 5046-5052, 5055-5056