Newsflash: You Have Not Arrived

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the congregation which was located in Philippi. More specifically, today’s selected passage is found in verses twelve through twenty-one of the third chapter. When you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular passage of scripture you will find a tremendous amount of humility in the words he wrote. What’s more, is that in addition to the humility that is displayed within the words of the apostle we find an overwhelming amount of reality as well. In fact, I would dare say that what we find and read in this passage is a balanced approaches to spiritual life and one’s life in Christ. Before even getting into the words which the apostle Paul selfie in this passage of scripture I feel it absolutely necessary to bring our attention to words which the apostle wrote in the second epistle he wrote unto the Corinthian saints. If you turn and direct your attention to the fifth chapter of this particular epistle you will find the apostle making an incredible declaration concerning one’s life life in Christ. As you read the words of the apostle unto the Corinthian saints you will find him emphatically and boldly declaring unto them that if any man is in Christ that individual is indeed a new creature. What’s more, the apostle goes on to write and declare of that one who is in Christ that old things have passed away and, behold, all things have been made new. Now, while I’m the surface of this passage one might think that once we are found to be in Christ that all things before Christ are automatically and immediately passed away and done away with. There is a misconception that when we find ourselves to be in Christ absolutely everything done away with, and all things have become new. If you study the words of this passage, however, you will notice and discover that what the apostle is speaking of is essentially a two-fold reality that surrounds the already but not yet. In other words, there is the reality within our lives that old things have passed away, ur there is also the reality that old things are continuing to pass away. This same reality is true when the apostle writes and speaks of all things becoming new, for while it is true that all things have become new, that process is a continual and daily process.

As I read the words of the apostle in this passage of scripture I am absolutely gripped and captivated by the reality that when the apostle Paul writes that old things have passed away, that which he is speaking of is that process in our lives when that which is old within them truly do in fact pass away. I am convinced that there is an instant and immediate work that takes place when we our buried with Christ in baptism, and that our old lives and our old man is indeed buried beneath the waters. There is in fact a work which takes place beneath the waters, for not only does the Lord brig about a mighty salvation as He drowns our enemies and adversaries in the waters, but so also does he destroy wickedness, evil, iniquity, and immorality. With this being said, it is absolutely necessary and imperative to recognize and understand that when we are found to be in Christ there is a process of our lives and our nature before Christ passing away. Furthermore, there is a process that is begun where all things have are beginning to be made new by the One who makes all things new. I absolutely love the words which the apostle Paul writes in this particular passage of scripture, for the apostle Paul declares that those who are in Christ are in fact a new creation, and that a mark of being a new creature and creation In Christ is that old things are passing away, and all things are becoming new. What’s more, is that I absolutely love how the apostle Paul declares that “all” things are becoming new, for it was never the design of Christ that all things within our lives become new. It was never the will or desire of the Lord that absolutely everything within our lives become new as a result of our being in Christ. The simple fact that the apostle Paul wrote that all things have been made new suggests and implies that there is to be nothing left behind, and there is to be nothing excluded from the work that is performed when we find ourselves to be in Christ.

NOTHING CONCEALED! NOTHING WITHHELD! NOTHING HIDDEN! When I read the words which the apostle Paul writes concerning old things passing away I can’t help but be incredibly challenged within my heart and spirit. It would be very easy to read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation and conclude that when he writes of old things passing away, he doesn’t necessarily mean or reference all things in our lives passing away. If we are being honest with ourselves and with the Lord of hosts, when we come to Christ, there is not always a complete willingness to allow absolutely everything within our lives before Christ to pass away. There is a natural tendency to withhold a part and piece of us from the work which Christ has begun within our lives, and to actually make an attempt to hide and conceal it. I can’t help but be reminded of Achan who transgressed against the command of the Lord, and as a direct result of his disobedience to the command of the Lord, the children of Israel were defeated at Ai. If you read the account of the children of Israel at Ai, you will discover that when the children of Israel were plundering the city of Jericho, this man Achan saw and coveted certain vessels in the ruin and rubble of the city. Not only did this man Achan see and covet certain vessels from within the ruin and rubble of Jericho, but Scripture also records how he took those vessels, and attempted to hide them. As a direct result of his taking those vessels, as well as hiding them beneath his tent among the children of Israel, the children of Israel were defeated at Ai by their enemy and adversary. The reason I mention and include this particular instance and occurrence is because the Lord specifically instructed and commanded that absolutely everything that was accursed the children of Israel were to destroy and keep themselves away from. In fact, the Lord specifically declared “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord” (Joshua 6:18-19). With these words the Lord provided very clear and specific instructions unto the children of Israel that not only were they to keep themselves from the accursed thing, but all the silver and gold were to be brought into the treasury of the Lord. When Achan sinned and transgressed against the Lord—not only did he take the accursed thing from among the ruin and rubble of Jericho, but he also took of that which belonged to and that which belonged within the treasury of the Lord. When Achan sinned and transgressed against the command of the Lord he essentially took that which belonged unto the Lord and kept it back for himself.

There is another passage found within the Old Testament book of First Samuel where we read of Saul king of Israel being given a very specific set of instructions by the Lord through the prophet Samuel. If you journey to the fifteenth chapter of this Old Testament book you will find Samuel instructing the anointed of the Lord to utterly destroy that which the Lord had purposed for destruction. Consider if you will the account as it unfolds from the moment of the instruction to the moment of the transgression: “Samuel also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over His people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley. And Saul said to the KEnites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the failings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly” (1 Samuel 15:1-9). When reading this particular passage of Scripture it is important to not only note the instruction and command, but also the transgression and disobedience. Upon reading this passage you will find that Saul was instructed by the prophet Samuel to utterly destroy Amalek and to spare absolutely nothing from destruction. What Saul king of Israel was instructed to do and what he actually did were two completely different things, for Scripture records how Saul spared the best of the, the best of the oxen, and the best of the failings and lambs, and all that was good. What’s more, is Scripture also specifically declares that Saul and the children of Israel “would not utterly destroy them”—thus indicating that there were actually certain things among the Amalekites which they would and could not destroy.

Upon further reading of this Old Testament passage of Scripture you will find that the word of the Lord came to Samuel concerning Saul, and what’s more, is that it was actually a word of regret and remorse. Beginning with the tenth verse of this same chapter we find the following words: “Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night…And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fright against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord? And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep, and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal. And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king. And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me that I may worship the Lord. And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel” (1 Samuel 15:1-26).

I am utterly and completely convinced that what we find and what we read in this particular passage of Scripture—in addition to that which we read in the sixth and seventh chapters of the Old Testament book of Joshua—directly apply to what we find and read in the fifth chapter of the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. The more I read and the more I consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation, the more I find myself being directly confronted with the two accounts found in the Old Testament. Even as I am sitting here right now I keep hearing within my mind the words “nothing withheld” and “nothing held back.” What I mean by this, is that while the apostle writes that old things have passed away, and that all things have become new, there is a tendency within our hearts and lives to make a valiant attempt to withhold and keep back certain things which the Lord has called us to utterly and completely destroy. Like Saul king of Israel who was instructed to utterly and completely destroy Amalek and to spare absolutely nothing and no one, so we are to utterly and completely destroy every part of our old man who existed before Christ. The danger we all face is when we make an attempt hide and conceal those parts of our lives which we seek to keep back for ourselves. Much like Ananias and Sapphira in the New Testament book fo Acts who sold property, and brought a portion of the proceeds to the house of the Lord, while keeping a portion of it for themselves, so also we bring what we want unto the Lord, and make it look like we are bringing everything to Him, when in all reality there is a part, or perhaps there are parts and pieces of us we are withholding and holding back. We enter into the presence of the Lord and present the false reality that we are truly presenting everything we have unto the Lord, and in all reality what we are actually doing is the furthest thing from that. Saul king of Israel refused to utterly destroy Amalek, and chose instead to spare the best of the oxen, the best of the sheep, the best of the failings, and the best of the cattle, while at the same time believing that he actually carried out and fulfilled the command and word of the Lord. I can’t help but sit here this morning and be absolutely and completely captivated and gripped with the reality that there are many of us who just like Saul refuse to utterly destroy absolutely everything the Lord has called us to destroy. What’s more, is there are many among us who like Ananias and Sapphira attempt to present the reality that we have brought everything unto the Lord, when the real truth is that we have withheld and kept back from the Lord. Furthermore, many of us—like Achan of old—take that which belongs to the Lord and attempt to hide and conceal it for ourselves.

The more I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints in his second epistle which was delivered unto them, the more I can’t help but be absolutely and completely gripped with the reality that when the apostle Paul writes and speaks of “all things becoming new,” he literally meant “all things.” When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote to this particular congregation I find myself being confronted with the reality that while many of us may have a desire to be in Christ, many of us do not live in the reality of all things becoming new in Him. In fact, I would dare say without hesitation and without reservation that until and unless we are willing to allow [all] old things to pass away within our lives, we cannot and will not experience the reality of all things becoming new. I am convinced that one of the truest and greatest marks of being in Christ is in fact old things passing away, and all things becoming new. Show me a man or a woman in whose life old things are passing away and I will show you a man or woman who will walk in the reality of all things becoming new. The problem many of us face is that we are unwilling to let go of certain parts of who we are, and certain parts of who we once were before Christ, and we like Achan attempt to hide and conceal it from Christ. Perhaps the single greatest question I find myself asking right now—first of myself, and then of you—is what we are withholding from the person and presence of Christ. I am finding myself asking the very pointed and powerful question of what we are attempting to withhold and hold back from that work which needs to take place within our lives if we truly desire to be in Christ. If we truly desire to be in Christ, there can be absolutely no part of us which can be held back and refused to be presented and offered unto Christ. In fact, I would dare say that if we are unto willing to allow ourselves to utterly destroy absolutely everything in our lives the Lord has commanded and instructed us to destroy, we cannot truly walk in the fulness of the reality of being in Christ. Oh we might think and believe the false reality and deception that we are truly experiencing the reality of being in Christ, however, the exact opposite is true of us. I am sitting here right now and I am finding myself asking what within my life I am withholding and holding back from the work which Christ desires to do within my heart and life. What’s more, is that I am finding myself asking what areas of my life I am unwilling to surrender completely to Jesus who is the Christ. What areas within my life have I been instructed and commanded to utterly and completely destroy, and yet there is a stubborn refusal and unwillingness within my heart and spirit to carry our and perform the work of the Lord.

In writing to the Philippian saints in this particular epistle we find the apostle Paul making a tremendous statement of humility and reality—a statement which more often than not goes widely overlooked. In order to truly understand that which the apostle Paul is writing and speaking of we must turn and direct our attention to the previous verse within the third chapter, for in the eleventh verse of this chapter we find the following words: “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:11). These words which were written by the apostle Paul are directly built upon the reality that the apostle Paul sought to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, in order that He might be made conformable unto His death. It was this reality—the reality of knowing Christ, the reality of knowing the power of His resurrection, the reality of knowing the fellowship of His sufferings, and all this enabling him to be made conformable unto His death that he hopes to attain unto the resurrection of the dead. This resurrection of the dead which the apostle Paul speaks about was expressed in the first epistle which he wrote unto the Corinthian saints and congregation: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). The words we find in this passage within the first epistle which Paul writes unto the Corinthians are what we must understand he speaks of when he writes of “attaining to the resurrection of the dead.” For the apostle, the single greatest treasure he could possibly attain was to attain to the resurrection of the dead—for to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord. The ultimate byproduct of the apostle Paul knowing Christ, and knowing the fellowship of His sufferings, and knowing the power of His resurrection, and of his being made comfortable unto His death was that he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

What is to incredibly challenging about this particular passage is that immediately after the apostle Paul writes of attaining unto the resurrection fo the dead, he then goes on to make an incredible statement concerning his own spiritual journey and life in Christ. In the twelfth verse of this third chapter within the epistle unto the Philippians the apostle Paul declares that he had not already attained, nor had he already been made perfect. In fact, if you continue reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture you will find that he would go on to write how he did not count himself to have apprehended—thus, within this passage we not only find the apostle writing and declaring that not only had he not attained, but he also had not apprehended. I have to admit that I absolutely love the words which the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find him making two powerful statements of humility and reality. The apostle Paul knew what he was living for; the apostle Paul knew what He was working for; the apostle Paul knew what He was fighting for; the apostle Paul knew what he was striving for. Despite all of this, however, the apostle Paul counted himself and considered himself to have not yet attained, nor to have apprehended. In all reality, that which the apostle Paul is declaring unto the Philippians in this epistle is that he had not arrived. It is no small thing for the apostle Paul to write such words, for the apostle Paul recognized that he himself had not arrived, and that he had not attained the fulness of the reality of what is available and found within Christ. The apostle Paul did in fact count all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, and I am convinced that this is where this process ultimately begins—the willingness within our hearts and minds to count all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. The process and path of knowing Christ, of knowing the power of His resurrection, the path of knowing the fellowship of His sufferings, and being made comformable unto His death begins with a willingness within our hearts to count absolutely everything within our lives as loss. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto the Ephesian elders when he called them unto himself prior to his departure. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul spoke which Luke recorded for us in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book fo Acts: “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in very city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24).

When you read the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto the Ephesian elders you will find that he did not count his own life as dear to him, in order that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he received of the Lord Jesus. For the apostle Paul there was only one thing that mattered in his life, and that was finishing the course that was set before him. Remember the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in the first letter which was delivered unto him: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (1 Timothy 4:6-8). When the apostle Paul came to the end of his life he declared unto his spiritual son in the faith and ministry that he had in fact fought a good fight, that he did in fact finish his course, and that he had kept the faith. I am also reminded of the words which the apostle wrote in the first chapter of this same epistle which was written and sent unto the Philippian congregations and church: “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:19-24). In the second chapter of the same epistle we find the apostle Paul declaring that if he be offered upon the sacrifice and service of their faith, he joyed, and rejoiced with them all. Oh, there must come a point within our lives—a marker if you will—where we determine that we cannot and will not hold our lives as being so dear unto us. There must come a point and place within our lives when we determine and purpose to count all things before Christ as loss in order that we might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. There must come a point within our lives when we purpose very clearly and very deliberately to not count anything within our lives as being dear and precious to us, and that the only thing that is of worth and value within our lives is knowing Christ, knowing the power of His resurrection, knowing the fellowship of His suffering, and being made comformable unto His death.

As we come to this latter portion of the third chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Philippian congregation we find the apostle Paul declaring that he had not already attained, nor was already perfect. What’s more, the apostle Paul goes on to write and declare that he did not count himself to have apprehended of Christ Jesus, thus indicating that there was still a further work which needed to be done within his life. We must remember that earlier on in this epistle the apostle Paul expressed his confidence that He who began a good work in the saints would perform and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul firmly believed that there was a work which was begun within his own life, and that he had neither attained, or had even apprehended. Furthermore, the apostle Paul wrote how he had not already been made perfect, for he recognized and realized that there was still a great work which needed to be done within his life. In all reality, the apostle Paul recognized and realized that he had not yet arrived, and that so long as he was still in this earthly tent and natural body he needed to continue to strive, he needed to continue to fight, he needed to continue to lay hold of, he needed to continue to press forward, and move ahead. I am convinced that one of the greatest dangers we as men and women face is when we quit pressing forward—when we quit moving onward and upward in order that we might attain that which is before us. There is nothing more dangerous than an inactive saint of God and follower of Jesus Christ—that individual who feels as though they have nothing left to work for, or to press on toward. Show me a man or a woman who feels they no longer have anything they need to lay hold of or apprehend and I will show you a man or a woman who has lost their fight, and how has lost their willingness and ability to work in this life. Notice what the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture, for the apostle goes on to declare how he counted not himself to have apprehended, but there was one thing he did do—he forgot those things which were behind, and he reached forth unto those things which are before. This the apostle did in order that he might press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. What we must make note of when reading the words of the apostle Paul in this passage is that in order for him to reach forth unto those things which were before him, he needed to first forget those things which were behind him. So long as the apostle Paul was continuing to lay hold of and hold on to those things which were behind him, he would be completely unable to reach forth unto those things which were before. I feel the great need to emphatically write and declare unto you who would read these words that there is none among us who has arrived, and there are none among us who have already been made perfect. So long as we are found to be within these earthly and natural tents we must continue to forget those things which are behind, we must continue to count all things before Christ as loss, in order that we might reach forth for that which is far greater than anything we left behind. The only way the children of Israel could enter into the land which was before them was to not only leave the land of Egypt behind, but also to completely and utterly forget about Egypt in order that they might attain and lay hold of that which is before them. Oh that we would purpose and determine within ourselves to forget those things which are behind, to count all those things before Christ as loss, in order that we might lay hold of that which is before us—both in the here and now, as well as in the life to come.

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