Christian life is about sanctification. Glorification and justification are the bookends of salvation, and in the middle there is sanctification. Sanctification is not effortless. It’s exhausting. Philippians 2:14-15,
"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to do according to his good pleasure."
1. Exhausted People
Of course, not everyone who we meet is in the process of becoming like Jesus. We thought about these people last week. They’re just sort of religious and spiritual. Paul speaks of this differentiation. He’s not a man who’s trying to judge people unnecessarily. Paul says it this way – they "walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is in their belly, and their glory in their shame, with their minds set on earthly things."
It is possible, apparently, to be discipled by Jesus for three years and still not be a Christian. Judaist never loved Jesus. We see the same thing in the words of Jesus where he says in the end, people who stand before him and say, "Lord, Lord, here’s our resume. We cast out demons. We did miracles. We went on mission trips. We gave ten percent. We were a member of the church. We were welcomers and group leaders." Jesus says, "But depart from me. I never knew you. We didn’t have a relationship. You never came to me for forgiveness of sin. You didn’t allow me to work with you on the sanctification of your life. Depart from me. I never knew you."
2. Energised People
He says conversely for those who are in church and in Christ, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body," – there’s glorification – "by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for," – he hasn’t seen them in four years – "my joy and crown, stand in the Lord this way.."
There are two keys to becoming standing firm – forgetting what lies behind and then pressing forward.
a) Forgetting what is behind
i. This is not an excuse not to deal with sin – either sin they’ve committed or sin that’s been committed against them. .It means that you’ve confessed it to God and others. That you’ve got help biblically. You’ve pursued accountable community. That you have let Jesus teach you through it. Sanctify you by it.
ii. Forgetting what lies behind doesn’t mean you don’t remember it. How do you know that you’ve forgotten your past? Answer – you can talk about it. If you say, "I don’t want to talk about that," you haven’t forgotten your past. "That’s in my past. I don’t want to go back to that." You haven’t forgotten your past.
Here’s Paul talking about his past (Phil 3:4). So don’t just read the words "forget the past". Read the words where he talks about the past that set up the discussion of how to move forward in the future.
Chapter 3, verse 4 – "though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also." What he’s done. His religion. "If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh," – what he’s done – "I have more:" – here’s his past – "circumcised on the eighth day," Here’s my background. Here’s my family, my religion, my upbringing, my education, my religion, my morality, my politics, and I also am a murderer.
How do we know that Paul has dealt with these issues? Answer – he can talk about them openly and freely. As a result, he’s worked it through with Jesus and God’s people; therefore he can forget what lies behind. He can talk about what he was like and how Jesus has made such a great difference in his life.
b) Focus of the future
Paul says that real Christians have a heavenly focus.
The language he uses is like a run or running a race – that our finish line as it were with Jesus, we just keep running ’til we see him and then we rest forever in his presence. We enjoy his kingdom. He says that conversely, those who really are not Christians, they have earthly appetites. Their God is their stomach. They care more about breakfast, lunch, dinner. They care more about their favourite drink and their favourite dessert than they do Jesus. Not that eating and drinking is a sin, but when it becomes your God, your functional Saviour
So the real Christian keeps growing. The non-Christian keeps sinning. The real Christian ends up in salvation, eternity and heaven with God forever.
Have you been justified? Have you confessed your sin to Jesus and received his forgiveness through his death on the cross? Are you being sanctified? Is Jesus at work in your life, and you’re humble and repentant and learning and growing all the time? Even Paul after 30 years says, "I’m still learning, changing and growing," so none of us has an excuse to ever stop. Are you looking forward to being glorified like Jesus’ resurrection – one day you rise to live forever with him free of sin in death forever in the world as the person that God intended?
a) One of the ways that Paul says we can help ourselves grow in these things – he says it in Chapter 3, verse 17 as this – "Keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us." What he says is find people who have been justified and are being sanctified, and hang out with them. Learn from them. Watch them. Ask them to speak into your life if you speak into their life. If you have certain sin in your life, find people who used to do that and they’ve stopped, and hang out with them and ask them what Jesus taught them which would be helpful for you. That’s why we say "pursue accountable relationships". Pursue Christian friendships. Pursue small group participation. We do these groups so that you can find people that have worked things out so that they can walk with you.
b) And the other thing I would recommend is read biographies. That is in part what we’re doing here with Paul. We’re reading the legacy of his life in print. Read dead people. Living people could still blow it in the end. So read biographies and read about dead people who loved Jesus and finished well.