12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining 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 those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16)
Paul says some interesting things here as he relates back to his own life, and there is an important message for us here. The title of this message is, “Rejecting Lies, Embracing Truth.” With that let me just ask you: what lies have you believed? What did you do when you realized you were believing a lie? We have all believed a lie before, we can all be deceived. But when you found out, what did you then do? That may sound like a simple question. We may reason and say, “If I am told a lie and I am deceived into believing that lie, as soon as I learn the truth, I will then believe what is true.” Simple enough. That definitely sound logical. That makes a lot of sense. I mean who wants to live life believing a lie? And yet, many will live life today and tomorrow upon a foundation that is not true. Many will shape and build their lives upon lies.
Would you agree with me that it is a sad sight to see a person build his or her life on lies? Fashion his or her worldview, walk in this world based on lies, being ignorant of or uninterested in truth? And yet, not only do we see people live this way, sometimes from adolescence to death, but we too as believers can succumb to lies. We too can build aspects of our lives on what is false instead of what is true.
Paul had at one time built his life upon lies. He is now, however, embracing truth. I want us to see this as we move into verses 13 and 14 of Philippians 3. In verse 13 Paul speaks personally to those he loves, calling them “brothers.” He is speaking with affection with the word “brothers.” He is saying, “My dear and loved siblings, my equals, I do not consider that I have made it my own.” Made what his own? Perfection, spiritual perfection. He was countering some who must have claimed spiritual perfection. He is being open, honest, or as we like to say today, transparent. He was not one who claimed perfection, far from it. He had changed, no doubt. Change had taken place in his life, from a murderer, a persecutor of Christ and the church, to a follower of Christ and devoted to the church. He was a man who had changed, and yet he was a man who still needed change! Why? Because he was not yet perfect.
The goal of the Christian life is that we will glorify God. How do we glorify God? By being like His Son, Jesus Christ. So the closer we get to being like Christ, the closer we get to perfection. Are any of you almost there? Some of us have been Christians a long time, right? So who is almost there? Speaking of time, we are closer as believers. Every day that we live we can click off one more day that becomes history, and that means we have one less day to live. So on a timeline we are getting closer to heaven, closer to perfection. But if we measure it by our thinking and actions and attitudes, we have a long way to go, right? I mean on a scale from 1 to 10, maybe a 1 being the worst enemy of Christ ever, and a 10 being just like Jesus Christ. Where are we? I don’t know if we will make it to 2! Maybe we’re shooting for a 1.3. Maybe Paul was a 1.4! Maybe we are just trying to get to 2 in this life. I mean, we are more like the worst sinner that has lived than we are like Christ. We have a sin problem. The question is what do we do with that? We are easily deceived, so what now? We have a tendencies to believe lies that lead us into sin, every day. That is a part of our sin problem.
What kind of lies do we tend to believe? Well, Paul had believed that he was doing just fine as a person before Christ. From verses 4-6 we see he had believed many lies such as: his heritage defined him as a good person, his religious heritage made him holy, his hard work and dedication made him a person deserving of respect from others, that his zeal and passion made him special to God, even that he was righteous and blameless before God. He had believed some pretty outrageous lies, and these lies shaped him as a person, a person who thought he was righteous and holy, but who was in fact headed to eternal damnation in Hell. Can you imagine being so deceived that the entire basis of your life was a house of cards? What you see as good is evil, what you do in the name of righteousness is actually sinful, what you believe about yourself is a sham, and your relationship with God is as an enemy when you thought it was as an ally. This is where Paul had been, he had believed many lies.
How would you like to wake up one day to that reality? He did. By God’s grace he was awakened by the Holy Spirit to truth, he saw truth, and by God’s grace he was changed, and so was his view of what was true and what was false. Even as believers though, we are susceptible to believing lies. What kind of lies? Lies like, “In order to be happy and fulfilled…
- I must have respect
I must maintain my current standard of living
I must be healthy
I must have free time to relax
I need a vacation
I need well behaved children
I need to maintain my reputation
I need believing children
I must have a spouse who loves me how I want to be loved
I must financial freedom
I must have peace and ease
I must have friends
All of these are lies that we may live by. When Paul says, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind,” what he is choosing to forget or put behind him or put off is a lifestyle of thinking and acting that was consistent with the lies he had once believed. He needs to forget those things so he can move forward. If he keeps those lies close to his heart and his mind he will revert back to look more like who he had once been instead of who he now is in Christ. I don’t mean he would go back to being a lost man once he is saved, but what I mean is he will look like who he had once been. That 2 or 3 decimal points he had gained toward Christlikeness would be erased. His life would look more like his past than what it will look like in his future, that is if he begins believing those old lies regarding what will give him satisfaction in life.
How is it that we, who know Christ, who are in fellowship with the Father through His Son, how is it that we can so easily revert back into our old ways or even find new ways to live sinfully? We have tasted the goodness and grace of God, haven’t we? We have received His blessings and daily care, we have understood that our future is bright and our home is heaven.
Paul says he must forget all those things that lead him to sin, forget those lies he had believed, that had once driven his behavior. Why do we struggle with sin, why are we tempted to believe lies that then take us into sin? James says…
14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:1-3)
Our desires and our passions, James says, drive us to sin. Simply put, we want what we want. But how are our wants determined? How are our wants formed? Why don’t we just always want to please God? That is a huge question. I mean if our wants are right, won’t we then live rightly before God? Where do our wants come from?
There are in many places in the Bible where we see steps or progressions that lead us to sinful behavior and thinking, or you could say that lead us to alienation from God. Certain almost predictable steps that we can clearly see in the Bible. Or I should say that we can clearly see in other people’s lives. We do have a hard time seeing these steps so clearly in our own lives. So let’s look at someone else’s life and see what a progression into sin looks like. Now remember as we do, we are focusing this morning on the danger of believing lies. That is what Paul is putting away in his life. Turn with me to Genesis 3 as I read verses 1-13…
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:1-13)
I want to point out six steps that show where deception and lies lead. In verse 4 we see step one. Prior to verse 4 Satan enters as a serpent and speaks to Eve with a question. He starts with a conversation over what God had said. Eve clearly understood that God didn’t want her to eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. That is what she says, she understood God’s command. Now remember, up until this point, Eve had believed God fully. She had not yet sinned, which means she had fully trusted God, believed God, and had not sinned. But we get to verse 4 and what happens? The serpent said, “You will not surely die.” God had said what? God had said, “Don’t eat it lest you die.” What do we call what Satan did here? Deception, a lie. So that is step 1 – deception, a lie.
In verse 5 we see step two – “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” What is happening here? Satan is leading Eve to doubt God. But what in particular will she doubt about God? I would say she is beginning to doubt God’s goodness, or at least Satan is casting doubt on God’s goodness. Think about it, here is Satan saying basically, “God is holding out on you.” Here is something good you can have, it will do wonders for you, it will be all you could ever imagine or want, but God is holding it back. You will be like God, and God is keeping you from it! If God were good, He would not withhold good from you, but He is withholding it, and so what creeps into her mind? A lingering question: “Is God really good?”
So verse 4 we see deception, verse 5 we see doubt, doubting God’s goodness, now let’s go to verse 6, in verse 6 we see step three. This is really interesting. Look what happens here. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took.” For the first time we see a desire. Eve looked at the fruit as she had never looked at it before. A desire sprung up that had not existed before. She was looking at it differently. It was now a delight to her and to be desired. Another word for desire is lust. Do you see what is happening? Before she ever took the fruit and ate of it, what we think of as the sin here, she first was deceived by a lie, began to doubt God’s goodness, and then she began to desire or lust after what was forbidden.
In verse 6 we also see step four, which is disobedience. This is where we tend to focus, isn’t it? This is the act of sin, but this sin didn’t come out of nowhere. It followed deception, doubt, and desire.
We can follow through and see verse 7 which is step five which is distress. Their eyes were opened and for the first time they experienced distress or shame. Their eyes were opened and they were ashamed of their nakedness. They had been naked and not ashamed, but now that has changed.
So what do they do in verse 7, which is step six? They disguise or cover themselves in their shame. We do this, we cover ourselves with blame-shifting, “she or he made me do it,” with chemicals, alcohol or drugs, with busyness, we justify our actions, and so on. This is is a common pattern that we see in Genesis 3. We also see it in James, in Psalm 73, and many other places.
The point is that we live in one of two ways: we live in truth and faith, or we live in deception and doubt. We see where deception and doubt lead. Deception and doubt in our thinking lead to sinful living. When Paul says in Philippians 3:13, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind,” I think he is saying he is going to forget about living according to his former lifestyle of deception. In other words, he is determined to put off living according to the lies of Satan that he had once embraced. Like Eve in the garden, he had been deceived, his life had been planted in the soil of deceit, which dictated how he then lived. He says, “That is behind me, that is my past, I want to forget about that kind of foolish living. Now having gained the truth I want to, I am determined to, live according to God’s truth in faith.” I say determined because of his words, he says he is “straining forward to what lies ahead.”
This straining is an intense word. It is to stretch and describes one who is straining every muscle to reach the finish line. This how Paul now views living in the truth of the Gospel. He strains forward in his effort, presses on with every muscle. Having lived in deceit and seen where that leads, he is now straining forward in gospel truth. He is determined to reject the lies of his past and embrace the truth of Christ. He is determined not to believe the fruit is good when God says, “Don’t eat it.” He is determined to believe that God is good, and is not therefore withholding good from His children. He is determined to forget those things from his past and to embrace truth with great effort.
He goes on in verse 14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” What is the goal for the prize of the upward call? He wants to hear God call his name in heaven where he will meet Jesus Christ, where he will become sinless, where he will move from that 1.3 or 1.4 to 10. He knows that earthly things will pass and eternal prizes will be just that, eternal. Paul knew he was not where he would eventually be, but he was intent on putting the past in its place and straining forward until, not stopping until, he meets his savior face to face. That is the prize of all prizes! That is living in truth, embracing truth, rooting our lives in what is true instead of rooting our lives in the predominant lies of Satan in this world. Where is your life rooted?
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)