#1 (The “Forgetting” Series)
“FORGETTING THE FAILURES!”
TEXT: Philip. 3:12-14; 4:8-9
INTRO: We are living in an age where everyone is looking to their past to explain their problems or to excuse their behavior in the present. While we have made it a science digging into the past to understand ourselves only Jesus Christ can heal that past and get us living in the present and future with a new life.
While the world emphasizes looking backward Christ emphasizes looking forward! We are now new creatures, the old has past away and new creatures in Christ with a whole new clean start! No scientist in the world can do this!
So how does one forget the past? You can’t literally forget it; but you can learn from it and move on! The term “forget” as Paul used it means to “not regard the past as having any bearing or influence on your present spiritual outlook or behavior” (this is the meaning of the Greek word translated here “forget” Philip. 3:13). It is not an issue of the memory functions of the brain, it is an issue of the motivation to go beyond our history and not get stuck in it.
God’s Spirit gives us the strength and power to move on no matter the failures of our past. His love brings healing for past pains; His love grants total forgiveness from past sins, we are allowed the emotional freedom to begin again, fresh and whole – as though we had never sinned before!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that in Christ we are free to experience a new life, old sins and painful past events don’t have to rule our present experience. Healthy people learn to move on, to learn from the past and “press” on toward the future. Christ gives us the power to do this!
I. PRESENT POSITION 3:12
A. Performance 3:12a
1. Paul is evaluating his present state of life by announcing the fact that at the present he still has not arrived at perfection!
a. His performance in the present is still imperfect, he hasn’t been made perfect yet but he is not what he used to be either, yet in spite of all this God has declared him to be totally whole in Christ!
(1. He is whole in that he is “justified in Christ” – declared whole “justification” by Christ’s work.
(2. He is progressively growing however, this is the work of “sanctification” – the Spirit’s work, becoming what he has been declared!
b. The previous verses were spent on dealing with his past, how he has laid the past aside and how he now embraces a new life, but one that still hasn’t become perfect!
2. He has come a long ways and has made great progress from his terrible past but there is still room to go!
3. His point is simple:
a. He has overcome his past pain, though occasionally his overcoming this still shows itself flawed.
b. He has become strong but not enough to yet boast, he still has more room to grow!
c. Thus he is neither overwhelmed by past mistakes nor arrogant about progress, he simply is grateful for progress and seeks to experience more!
4. Paul’s performance was one of progress, victory didn’t come immediately or without effort and he still didn’t have all the answers, all he knows is that he wants to reach in reality the level of standing he has in God’s eyes!
a. His point is to keep going forward but not to become arrogant.
b. Progress is a process!
B. Pursuit! 3:12b
1. “I press on” ... the Greek word used here is taken from a word that was used to describe a hunter and an athlete, especially the foot runners. The word means literally to “chase and capture.”
a. When used of hunting it meant chasing down the game and capturing it, of not quitting until you got your game!
b. When used of the foot runner it meant running until you captured first place ... you pushed yourself and ignored everything else except that prize!
2. Paul’s meaning here is clear, while it would be easy for him to feel terrible about his past; remember he actually killed Christians before he got saved, he ruined whole families of good people, he put in prison mothers and fathers who professed Christ as Lord, but now he didn’t have the time or energy to give in to his bad past! The cost of dwelling on it would have paralyzed his present walk with God!
a. To get his message across of how he handles a dark past he says he just “presses on.”
b. There is no going back so why waste the time trying to undo what can’t be undone!
c. The only thing to do with past failures is to ask God for forgiveness and then accept that forgiveness and move forward!
d. In fact ... TO PRESS FORWARD!
ILLUS: THE LEVEL OF DISCIPLINE PAUL IS TALKING ABOUT CAN ONLY BE UNDERSTOOD WHEN YOU TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE USE OF HIS WORLD COMING FROM THE “FOOT RACER” AND “HUNTER” REALM. THE WINTER OLYMPICS ARE ALMOST UPON US; THESE PEOPLE WHO WILL COMPETE HAVE GIVEN OVER THEIR LIVES TO ACHIEVE A GOLD MEDAL. MANY OF THEM SACRIFICED THEIR CHILDHOOD; THEIR WHOLE PAST EXISTENCE HAS BEEN SPENT WORKING TOWARD THIS ONE GOAL. PAST FAILURES MUST BE FORGOTTEN WHEN THEY START OFF AT THE OLYMPICS, THE ONLY THING THEY MUST THINK ABOUT IS WINNING! ASK ANY OF THEM HOW THEY PLAN TO DO AND THEY WILL TELL YOU THEY PLAN ON WINNING! EVERYTHING ELSE BECOMES SERVANT TO THIS ONE GOAL – TO WIN THE GOLD! IF THEY CRIED OVER A PREVIOUS LOSS THEY MUST NOW FORGET IT. THEY MUST CONCENTRATE ON WINNING! THERE IS NO TIME TO PINE OVER THE PAST, NOW IS THE MOMENT THEY LIVE FOR AND STRIVE FOR, AND SO MUST WE! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. Paul’s other point is similar, he won’t become so self-satisfied with his progress to date that he doesn’t press on for further improvement even though he has made tremendous gains from his past; he still must press on for he still hasn’t arrived yet at perfection!
4. He can’t get preoccupied with some success and so forget to address other needs in his life, so he will continue to press on!
ILLUS: LIKE THE GOOSE, SHE WILL SIT FAITHFULLY ON A DOZEN OR SO EGGS AND WILL NOT MOVE FOR ANYBODY OR ANYTHING. BUT AFTER 3 OR 4 EGGS HATCH SUCCESSFULLY SHE BECOMES SO PREOCCUPIED WITH HER SUCCESS WITH THESE 3 OR 4 HATCHLINGS THAT SHE WILL LITERALLY WALK AWAY FROM THE OTHER 8 OR 9 EGGS STILL WAITING TO HATCH. SHE DOES NOT FINISH THE JOB! THE RESULTS ARE OFTEN TRAGIC! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
II. PERSONAL PLAN 3:13
A. Participant 3:13a
1. “Join the Club” ... Paul now confesses his need of further progress and then shares with us the secret to how he has gotten as far as he has so that others can learn from him and his struggle to overcome his past.
a. Paul does not claim a magic formula for success here, he doesn’t claim that his Damascus road experience ended his struggle for perfection, in fact he is effectively recognizing here that one experience with Christ, even a fabulously miraculous one, didn’t end his struggle to grow in Christ!
b. He is very much a participant in growing up in Christ!
2. He is not above his brothers and sisters, he is with them in the journey!
3. He has not found a “magic wand” that will instantly cure his past pain or cure him of evil desires, what he has found is the secret to maturing however; and he is about to share the one thing that has helped him to overcome much of his past and paved the way for his growth, a growth that he is still experiencing!
a. Miracles don’t always solve our problems; Lazarus was raised from the dead and yet died later! Those who were healed by Jesus eventually got sick and died later also! While miracles help us, they don’t eliminate the need to learn to grow and become wise and make good choices and mature!
b. Paul doesn’t put all the pressure for his growing up on Jesus, he recognizes that he must participate in choosing Jesus’ ways over those of this world, victory in Jesus is not a passive process, we participate in that process!
4. God provides the way, God provides the strength, God provides His Spirit, but we provide the will and the submission to His ways!
a. God doesn’t want anyone to perish but there will be people who will perish, not because God can’t save them but because they won’t be saved!
b. Becoming a Christian doesn’t eliminate struggle and consequences, some Christians live a miserable life, we have to actively submit to God’s laws and His ways if we want to experience His promises!
c. We are active participants in the quality of our Christian experience and its expression to the world!
5. When we choose wisely God’s name is honored, when we choose unwisely the whole reputation of Christianity is on the line!
ILLUS: AUSCHWITZ WAS THE FIRST GERMAN CONCENTRATION CAMP TO BECOME AN EXTERMINATION CAMP. THE GAS CHAMBERS WERE IN CONSTANT USE, BUT BECAUSE OF THE GREAT INFLUX OF NEW PRISONERS DAILY, THE GERMAN NAZIS BEGAN TO USE FIRING SQUADS AS WELL AS THE GAS CHAMBERS. ONE DAY THE COMMANDANT SELECTED TEN MEN FROM ONE BARRACKS TO BE EXECUTED BY THE FIRING SQUAD. ONE OF THOSE SELECTED WAS THE FATHER OF A LARGE FAMILY. WHEN HE WAS PULLED FROM THE LINE HE FELL TO THE GROUND, BEGGING THE COMMANDANT TO SPARE HIS LIFE FOR HIS FAMILY. THE COMMANDANT WAS UNRESPONSIVE UNTIL THE MAN STANDING NEXT TO HIM, A CATHOLIC PRIEST BY THE NAME OF MAXIMILLIAN KOLBE STEPPED FORWARD TO OFFER HIS LIFE IN EXCHANGE FOR THIS MAN. SURPRISINGLY, THE COMMANDANT AGREED TO SUCH AN ARRANGEMENT. THE MAN WAS FREED, BUT FATHER KOLBE WAS LED AWAY AND THROWN INTO A TINY DAMP CELL WHERE THE COMMANDANT GAVE ORDERS FOR THE GUARDS NOT TO SHOOT HIM, BUT LET HIM STARVE TO DEATH OVER SEVERAL DAYS. THERE FATHER KOLBE SUFFERED THE HORRIBLE AGONY OF A SLOW DEATH BY STARVATION. HE HAD MADE A CHOICE TO FLESH OUT HIS COMMITMENT TO CHRIST, JESUS DIDN’T PUSH HIM OUT OF LINE, HE CHOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN CHRIST’S CALL TO LAY DOWN HIS LIFE. THE RESULT OF THAT SACRIFICE IS STILL HONORED BY MILLIONS TODAY THROUGHOUT EUROPE. JUST AS JESUS CHOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN SAVING US WE MUST CHOOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN FLESHING OUT HIS LIFESTYLE TO THIS WORLD, IT ISN’T AUTOMATIC! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
B. Pointed! 3:13b
1. Paul now shares the one secret that helped him make progress, he did one thing in particular: “Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead…”
a. Life is too precious to get stuck in the past! ... Paul had huge painful past memories; murder, deceit, punishing innocent people, inflicting pain on good people, etc.
b. How do you deal with this stuff of the past? For Paul, he “forgot it all!” not in the sense of “memory loss” but in the sense of not letting it have a bearing on the present or the future; not regarding it as something that needs a great deal of attention!
2. Getting rid of the past has got to be more than just talking about it!
a. It can be very helpful to have a counselor work with you about your past, to help you understand where you have come from...
b. But if all you do is just talk about it or dwell on it, you won’t improve! You must also act!
3. Unlike the other apostles, Paul had to prove himself at first to gain their trust, this took a couple of years! The consequences of his past actions against Christians required him to do this, but Paul submitted to the process without grumbling about it and kept moving forward!
4. There was too much to do to just pine away over the past, so the best thing to do was to forget it! Paul also did not get upset with his brethren when they needed time to see the real change in his life, they knew his past too.
a. Essentially this is what God does with our past when we present our failures to Him – He forgives and forgets it in the same sense of forget here, God still knows everything, but He forgets it in terms of not remembering it against us anymore, as though it never happened – this is called GRACE!
b. This is not just a simplistic rambling of Paul’s ... it is very practical in nature!
5. Paul was still learning, this same lesson he continued to practice because he still made mistakes.
a. Our crazy fallen nature makes us prone to doing the ridiculous and we continue to have to grow up!
b. It is amazing how dumb we can still be!
ILLUS: LIKE ONE LADY WHO BELONGED TO “FIRST CHURCH.” A DOCTOR HAD COME TO A GROUP OF LADIES IN THE CHURCH AND TAUGHT THEM A RED CROSS EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE COURSE. ONE EVENING A SERIOUS ACCIDENT OCCURRED IN FRONT OF ONE OF THE LADIES OF THIS GROUP WHEN THE CLASS WAS OVER. AT THE NEXT RED CROSS MEETING SHE SHARED HOW HORRIBLE THE ACCIDENT WAS, DESCRIBING THE TERRIBLE BLOODY SCENE AND THE BROKEN BONES AND BRUISES SUSTAINED BY THE VICTIMS. SHE THEN ADDED, “I WAS SO GLAD TO HAVE HAD YOUR COURSE ON EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE.” HER TEACHER ASKED HER THEN, “WERE YOU ABLE TO USE WHAT I TAUGHT YOU?” “OH YES” SHE REPLIED, “I PUT MY HEAD BETWEEN MY LEGS AND BREATHED DEEPLY, AND NEVER ONCE DID I FEEL I WAS GOING TO FAINT WHEN WATCHING ALL THIS!” SOMEHOW, SHE HAD MISSED THE WHOLE POINT OF THE COURSE, BUT I’M SURE SHE WAS CHECKED ON WHAT TO DO NEXT TIME! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
6. The past should be a training ground for us, good or bad events should be viewed with the idea of learning from them, not viewed as a prison cell or cage that continues to hold us captive!
a. Good therapy understands that a process of healing includes action!
b. There is nothing wrong with talking through the past as long as one doesn’t try to keep you living in that past over and over again!
7. From tragedies we must pick whatever good out of them we can and move on!
ILLUS: A MAN NAMED JOHN CLAYPOOL SHARED HOW ONE YEAR A TERRIBLE STORM SWEPT THROUGH THE SOUTHERN KENTUCKY FARM THAT HAD BEEN IN THEIR FAMILY FOR 6 GENERATIONS. IN THEIR ORCHARD THE WIND HAD BLOWN DOWN A SPECIAL PEAR TREE THAT HAD BEEN THERE AS LONG AS ANYBODY COULD REMEMBER. HIS GRANDFATHER WAS GRIEVED TO LOSE THE TREE ON WHICH HE HAD ONCE CLIMBED AS A BOY AND WHOSE FRUIT HE HAD EATEN FROM ALL HIS LIFE. A NEIGHBOR CAME OVER AND SAID, “DOC, I’M REALLY SORRY TO SEE YOUR PEAR TREE BLOWN DOWN, IT WAS LOADED WITH FRUIT.” “I’M SORRY TOO SAID HIS GRANDFATHER, IT WAS A REAL PART OF MY PAST.” “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW?” THE NEIGHBOR THEN ASKED HIM. HIS GRANDFATHER PAUSED FOR A MOMENT AND THEN SAID, “I’M GOING TO PICK THE FRUIT AND BURN WHAT’S LEFT.” THIS IS THE WISE WAY TO HANDLE OUR PAST, TAKE THE GOOD FROM IT AND ENJOY IT, AND THEN BURN AWAY THE REST – DON’T JUST LET IT SIT THERE FOR YOU TO LOOK ON YEAR AFTER YEAR! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
8. You will of course notice how Paul describes the dynamics of doing this with our past: “forgetting” and “straining!”
a. This implies that it isn’t always an easy process!
b. It will require repeated efforts just like athletes experience!
c. It will require great effort just like athletes.
d. It will require persistence like an athlete.
e. It will require wisdom and possibly help from others!
f. But it is possible!!!!!!
III. PURSUING THE PRIZE! 3:14; 4:8-9
A. Pressing! 3:13a; 4:8-9a
1. Again Paul uses the term “pressing” ... stubborn persistence!
2. This implies the fact that it will require more than just a single attempt!
3. The direction of the “pressing” is “ON TOWARD” ... not backwards!
a. Some people go the wrong direction when they are plagued by guilt or pain over the past, the movement should be forward, not backward!
b. The pressing should be toward overcoming!
4. This might mean relearning something, being open to doing things in a different way so as not to repeat the same mistake again!
a. If a way has failed try something new, listen to others who have overcome, they might have some important information that is helpful!
b. Fight instincts at this point and listen to someone who has succeeded!
ILLUS: BEN PATTERSON, AN AUTHOR
WRITES ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCE OF MOUNTAIN CLIMBING ON
5. The process can be a “straining one” according to Paul’s comments here, but the continuation of that effort will bring success!
a. Again, like the runner, the only thing he sees when he is running is the goal line, his eyes are fixed on that spot and he pushed himself toward that one single goal!
b. The runner doesn’t look around at the view and examine every detail while he is racing; he can’t do that and hope to arrive at his goal first!
6. In practical terms how does Paul stay on course? How does he keep focused? (SEE 4:8-9a)
a. His focus mechanisms are shared in this next chapter, he finds “whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, and he thinks on these things!” 11:8
b. Then he invites his listeners to check him out and learn from his experience of actually doing this and to then PUT THIS INTO PRACTICE! “…and the God of peace will be with them!” 4:9
7. Athletes can’t dwell on failures, or fractured bones, or setbacks; just like Nancy Kerrigan, she got back up and pushed herself to get her knee back in shape, that goal is still out there and it is a good goal, one to fight for and not quit over!
B. Prize! 3:14b; 4:9b
1. The prize Paul is referring to is yet future – the resurrection body and eternal life!
a. He will keep pressing on toward that goal!
b. He wants to be a winner, not a loser, which will require constant running and effort!
c. He also doesn’t just see the future prize, he already stated in 4:9b that there is also a present prize for those who focus on the right stuff and keep going ... “THE PEACE OF GOD BEING WITH US!”
2. Trauma of the past can be overcome! God’s Word and His nature prove that!
a. It might require effort, even persistent effort ...“straining” as Paul’s says it.
b. But the results can be wonderful; Peace now, Eternal life later!
3. Why not go for the gold, the streets of gold that is! Keep pressing on saints!
4. Forget the past and keep moving forward – press on!
CONCLUSION: Everyone has past failures in their lives. If you dwell on the past you can get stuck there! We are to learn from the past, not live in the past! Paul’s call to “forget what is behind” means to not allow the past to influence your present and future behavior, let the prize at the end of life influence your present and future behavior. Keep focus and run! When you’re running a race it makes a difference where you’re looking, look straight ahead to the goal line!