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Pressing On

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 22, 2022 12:01 am

Pressing On

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 22, 2022 12:01 am

The Christian life is not characterized by coasting on past progress in sanctification. Today, Steven Lawson calls us to renewed motivation in the lifelong pursuit of spiritual growth.

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Pressing on. That's how the Apostle Paul refers to his life and ministry. Paul isn't shuffling his feet. Paul is bearing down and pressing on toward the goal. And we know what this goal is. It's to know Christ more intimately. It's to know Christ more personally. It's to know Christ more experientially, not just in the head, but in the heart. And Paul is encouraging us to do the same.

He's echoing what our Lord Jesus said. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday.

I'm Lee Webb. Today Dr. Stephen Lawson speaks to the challenge of standing firm in faithful obedience. Our perseverance is for the good of Christ's church and the glory of His name.

Here's Dr. Lawson. Alright, Philippians chapter 3. The title of this is pressing on, but let me begin by reading the passage and setting it in front of you. Philippians 3 verse 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.

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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. There are many different metaphors that are used in the Bible for the Christian life. And believers are represented as soldiers, farmers, sheep, students, branches, a bride, citizens, sons. And each one of those metaphors represents a different aspect of the Christian life. And each one of those are vitally important for us to have a holistic view of what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Each one of those are like a link in the chain, and the breaking of one of those links, the entire chain, breaks. What we have here is a totally different metaphor and one that is very needed for us to understand how do I live the Christian life. And it is the metaphor of an athlete. In the Christian life, in many different passages, the first book I ever wrote was to take all of the athletic metaphors that are used in the New Testament and to write a book on each one of those passages because there are many parallels. There's a starting block for the Christian life.

That's the new birth. There is the track on which we run this race of faith, and that is the will of God. There are rules by which we compete in the race of faith, and that is the Word of God.

We must compete according to the rules. There is progress. It's a long obedience in the same direction.

It's not just a step or a little walk. It's a marathon for the rest of our life. And there's a finish line, which will be the time of our death or the time of the return of Christ. And there's a reward.

There's a prize at the end of the race. And some will compete far better than others. Some will live their Christian life with greater commitment than with others. And it will not be all the same when we stand at the judgment seat of Christ, and we will be given the stefanos, the crown that will be placed upon the head of those who have competed according to the rules. This text is very important because today in many circles of the church, there is a very defunct view of the Christian life that is having a devastating effect, especially on young men and women in their 20s and 30s who are sitting under kind of rock star preachers who have never been trained or taught in the Word of God. And they say that it really, all that matters is your justification. Just to look back at your justification, God can't love you anymore, He can't love you any less, which is true, and it has produced a passivity. It has produced a form of the Christian life that is almost antinomian. In fact, it is antinomian, which means obedience is not important. And we need these verses and other verses like this to remind us that in order to live the Christian life in a way that pleases God and glorifies God and honors God, it requires an all-out effort, that we must discipline ourselves for godliness, that we must run with endurance the race that is set before us, that we must resist temptation, that we must buffet our bodies and make it our slave, that we must put on the full armor of God. All of these passages that I literally just quoted are nowhere near a part of their understanding of the Christian life.

They just want to sit and stare at their spiritual navel. And so, we need to understand that the moment you were converted, you were put into the race, the race of faith. And there is a narrow path on which we run. And there's not one of us in this room who has arrived.

And there's still much of the race yet before us. And we must work out in the Word of God. And we must work out in prayer.

And we must discipline ourselves, which is a Greek word, gymnazo, from which we derive the word gymnasium. We have to be a dedicated athlete. I've never been a farmer. I've never been a sheep. I've never been some of these other metaphors, but I have been an athlete.

I played college football. And this resonates with me. So, I want us to try to quickly walk through this passage and just extract some truths from this for your Christian life. And so, let's begin in verse 14.

He says, not that I've already obtained it. And the it refers back to verse 10 in context to the knowledge of Christ and to the full power of the resurrection and full conformity to Christ's death. He realizes I've not yet obtained a full knowledge of Christ.

I've not yet realized all of the power of the resurrection to enable me to live my Christian life in a dynamic way. I have not yet been fully conformed to the image of Christ. And there was a time in Paul's life when he was a Pharisee before he was converted. He thought he had arrived. But then he met Christ on the Damascus road, and he was knocked off his high horse. And in that moment, he was sovereignly regenerated and converted and brought into the kingdom.

And from that moment on, Paul realized, I have not arrived. He had met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. And there was so much more of Christ that he must learn in his Christian life and emulate. He then repeats it after he says, not that I've already obtained it or have already become perfect.

And here's the deal. The closer you draw to Christ, the more you realize I have not yet arrived. The people who are the closest to Christ are those who are most aware of their own sinfulness. And those who are the furthest away from Christ are those who think, you know, I'm doing pretty good in my Christian life. And so Paul has come to the realization, I'm not yet perfect. There is so much more. And so because of this realization, he understands his responsibility as a believer.

And let me just say this. I remember the conversation I had with R.C. Sproul as we were talking theology.

And he said, Steve, regeneration is monergistic. There is only one active agent, and that is God. We are entirely passive in the new birth.

There is only one active agent, capital A, and that is God and God alone. What did you do to be born? Absolutely nothing. What did you do to be born again?

Absolutely nothing. It was entirely an invasion of God into your life. But sanctification, you understand what sanctification is? It is your progressive growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

It is not monergistic. It is synergistic, which means there are two active agents in your Christian life. There is God the Holy Spirit who indwells you, and that is agent capital A. And Philippians 2 13 says, For it is God who is at work within you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. And so it is God who is driving your Christian life.

But there is a second active agent, and that is you. Because you now have a new mind and a new heart and a new disposition, and God has given you the gift of faith. And it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to be engaged and to be involved in the pursuit of holiness and in the pursuit of Christ's likeness and in denying ourself and following after Christ. And so where we were inactive in the new birth, it is necessary for us to be active in sanctification. And so that's why he says in the middle of verse 12, I press on.

Do you see that? But I press on. And there is an indication there of the expenditure of effort and pouring yourself into the pursuit of Christ. Now I want to comment on this verb, press on.

Do you see it, press on? It means to run after something. It means to flee as fast as you can. And what's interesting is this verb is used 44 times in the New Testament. And in almost every one of those 44 uses in the New Testament, it is translated persecuted. And the word persecuted means you are being run out of town, that the enemies of Christ and the enemies of the gospel are so hounding you and chasing after you that you're being run out of your families, you're being run out of your business, you've been run out of your synagogue.

In fact, you are now scattered. It's the very same verb. And this is a rare time in the New Testament where it is actually translated press on. And what Paul is saying is before he became a Christian, he was a persecutor of the church. And that's why he was going to Damascus.

He had letters in hand. And he was going to apprehend the Christians. He was going to chase after them and track them down and drag them back to Jerusalem and have them no doubt be stoned to death like he observed Stephen being stoned to death. But now that he has met Christ, he's no longer chasing after Christians. He's now chasing after Christ. And he's pursuing Christ with his whole heart to know Christ, to become like Christ, to preach Christ, to make Christ known.

And so there's not one drop of passivity in Paul's Christian life. There's not a drop of let go and let God mentality in him. No, he's disciplining himself. He's resisting temptation. He is devouring the Word. He is running the race. He is putting on the new man. He is guarding his mind. He is completely engaged with his whole being and pressing on in the Christian life.

And I don't know where you are in your Christian life, but it just may well be that even in these few moments that we're looking at this, this may be a very significant time for you as a kind of a wake-up call, that you've really got to be in this race of faith and pour yourself into this and to run after Christ. And notice he says, so that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. This verb lay hold. So that I may lay hold of that. It's a very strong verb. And it means literally to seize something, to take possession of something, to overtake something.

And he says that I may lay hold of that. The that refers to the knowledge of Christ, an ever deepening, ever growing, ever maturing knowledge of the person and work of Christ. The whole Christian life, it's about Christ.

That's why we're called Christians. The Christian life is to believe in Christ. It is to worship Christ. It is to adore Christ. It is to obey Christ. It is to serve Christ. It is to make Christ known.

Everything revolves around Christ. That's why Paul said in Philippians 1, verse 21, for me to live is Christ. And to die is gain.

Why would it be gain? Because he would go be with Christ. And for you to live for anything or anyone other than Christ, for you to die is loss.

Only if you live for Christ is for you to die and it be gain. So this is the imagery of an athlete who is with sweat and effort and expenditure of energy and widening his stride and pressing on, chasing after the knowledge of Christ. That I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ. Think about when Paul was on the Damascus road and suddenly there was a bright light that appeared and it was the glory of God in Christ and it knocked him off his high horse and he fell to the ground. And in that moment, Christ aggressively overtook Paul. Christ laid hold of Paul. And Paul now says, I want to lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of.

Christ came after me so aggressively that day on the Damascus road. I must now spend every day of my Christian life aggressively chasing after Christ's likeness and the knowledge of Christ and nothing must deter me, nothing must keep me back from progressing in the knowledge of Christ. And so he says in verse 13, he repeats himself from what he said in verse 12. And the repetition here is to lay stress and emphasis to the church at Philippi in their Christian life.

I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet. But one thing I do, I love this, one thing I do. The two words I do are not in the original text. Literally as Paul writes this, he just says but one thing. He has one supreme goal in life. He has one chief priority. He has one driving ambition.

He has one undivided focus. One thing, and it is to know Christ. It is to become like Christ. It is to walk like Christ. It is to sound like Christ. It is to sacrifice like Christ. It is to preach like Christ. It is to teach like Christ.

That's what it is to follow Christ. And so he gives us more insight. He says, forgetting what lies behind. No one can run a race and win the prize if you're looking backwards.

You can only look ahead if you're going to win the prize. And so he understands the necessity of forgetting what lies behind. And there are some of you here today who need to forget what lies behind.

There's baggage that you're carrying around. Paul had to forget his past sins. He was a violent aggressor of the church. He was a persecutor of the church.

He had a party in the stoning of Stephen. He could have carried guilt around for the rest of his life, but he understood that Christ had wiped the slate clean. He had full and free forgiveness. He has to forget past sins. And he also has to forget past sufferings, as he has been plummeted and shipwrecked and whipped and beaten. And he could have had a little pity party about how hard it has been for him to follow Christ. And the rejection and the persecution and the suffering under which he has taken. And Paul says, I cannot let that hold me back.

And even past successes. Sometimes the most deadly thing for our Christian life is past victories. Because it causes us to stop praying. It causes us to go into a self-reliant mode.

Almost an automatic pilot mode. And sometimes, because things have worked out in the past, we begin to just kind of coast in the present. And so whether it's past sins or past sufferings or past successes, Paul says, I am forgetting what lies behind. And I wonder what you need to forget from your past. That is like trying to drive your car with the emergency brake on.

It just won't let you excel. Forgetting what lies behind. And reaching forward to what lies ahead. And this reaching forward in the original language is a compound word. It's actually three words brought together to form one word.

There's two prefixes and then the main root word. And the two prefixes really intensify how strongly he is reaching out and reaching forward to the prize. With every inch and every ounce of energy that he can expend, which is being ignited by the operation of the Holy Spirit within him. And the grace of God that is being given to him. He is reaching forward to know Christ. To be like Christ all the more.

So he comes to verse 14. And this very familiar phrase, I press on. I am chasing after Christ.

I am sprinting after Christ's likeness. And this verb, I press on. You see it there in verse 14?

Let me just parse it for a moment. It's in the present tense. Which means it's a habitual lifestyle. Every moment of every day. I am continually and always in an ongoing way, as a lifestyle, pressing on to know Christ.

It's not just a momentary, fleeting desire that he has. It's not like just coming to a conference like this and for two days being excited for the Lord and then going back to where you live. And that begins to settle.

The dust begins to settle and it wears off. No, Paul, every moment of every day. It's in the present tense.

It's a habitual lifestyle practice. I am pressing on. There's not a day that I take off from pursuing Christ. It's also in the active voice, which means he's not waiting just for God to somehow grab him by the lapels and thrust him forward.

He understands that he bears great responsibility to be in the Word, to be in prayer, to meditate on the truth of God. I press on. And again, this verb means to run swiftly in order to catch another person. I used to run track.

In fact, I just took my family to a stadium where I ran the anchor leg on a track team when I was younger and can remember the baton being given to me, and we're behind in the race, and running that last leg and running as fast as I could to overtake the other runner who had the lead. And that is what Paul is saying. I am running as swiftly as I can to reach Christ. I press on toward the goal.

The word toward, it's a word kata in the Greek, and it means to bear down. Paul isn't shuffling his feet. Paul is bearing down and pressing on toward the goal. And we know what this goal is. It's to know Christ more intimately. It's to know Christ more personally.

It's to know Christ more experientially. Not just in the head, but in the heart, and in the life. I press on toward the goal for the prize. And he understands that the prize is at the finish line. In this life and in this race, there will be resistance and buffeting and difficulties and trials. You don't get the prize in this life. The prize is at the finish line. And so therefore, you've got to press on through the pain and not let anything slow you down. And keep your eyes on the prize, because as you are focused upon the prize, it gives strength that pulls you forward.

You're almost pulled like a magnet is pulling something toward the object. And as he remains focused on the goal and on the prize, it has an extraordinary magnetic pulling power in Paul's heart and in his soul. He says, for the prize of the upward call of God. The upward call of God is that time when God will call him home. Whether it would be in his death, or whether it would be at the time of the return of Christ, everything in his life is riveted upon that time when God will call him home. He can rest once he gets to heaven. But while he's here and in the race, he must press on. He must run the race of the Christian life.

And so, as we bring this to a close, I wish I could give you a full exposition of this. But where are you? Where are you in this race? Are you even in the race? Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?

Have you been born again? If not, you're not in the race. Are you in the race? Have you committed your life to Jesus Christ?

And if not, why not? And if you are in the race, how long have you been in the race? How long have you known the Lord? And if you have been in this race for many years, what progress do you see in your Christian life?

Are you standing in this very same place where you were last year? Are you where you are in your spiritual maturity? Where you were two years ago, have you plateaued? Or are you advancing to the next level of spiritual maturity in your life? Have you slowed down in the race? And maybe something has discouraged you.

Maybe in some way you've been deflated or defeated. You can't slow down. You've got to widen your stride and pick your pace back up and press on to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And just understand that even trials in your life God is using to mature you and to deepen you and to wean you off of this temporal world to help you focus upon the world to come. Press on.

And are you forgetting what lies behind? Have you let it go? Have you just committed it to the Lord and now press on?

Have you come to accept in the sovereignty of God and in the providence of God, whatever it is that you're looking back, that either God caused it or God allowed it, but it was a part of your life, but you can't let it slow you down. And as you focus upon Christ, that gives you supernatural strength and supernatural ability to run the race that God has set before you. So don't slow down. Run.

Sprint. With all your heart, with all your might, with all the energy that God will give you, run with endurance the race that is set before you. This is what Paul said to the church at Philippi, and this is what Paul says to us here today. Do not be content with where you are. You haven't arrived. You haven't even come close to arriving. There is so much more of Christian growth for you to experience in your life.

We can't slow down. Such an important call for believers in this world where God is hated and immorality is celebrated. Today on Renewing Your Mind, we heard a message by Dr. Stephen Lawson from the 2022 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. Our speakers considered how God's Word takes the moral confusion that surrounds us and puts it in proper perspective. You often hear us refer to a Christian worldview. What does that mean, and how do we develop it? Well, it starts with Scripture, not just reading it, but studying it and understanding what it says, discovering the source of essential Christian doctrines.

R.C. Sproul's book, Everyone's a Theologian, is an introduction to systematic theology. In it, Dr. Sproul surveys the basic truths of the Christian faith, and if you've never contacted us before, we'd like to send you a free copy of this hardbound book. You can make your request today online at, and I do hope we'll hear from you. Renewing Your Mind is the listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Thank you for joining us today, and I hope you'll make plans to be with us again next Saturday. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-14 02:23:40 / 2022-11-14 02:34:47 / 11

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