Let us run together to seek Christ, our treasure (Phil. 3:12-21)

Publié le 27 mai 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Damien Jourdain

Last Sunday, Vincent preached his message on the first part of Philippians chapter 3, verses 1 to 11. He showed us how Paul effected a drastic transfer in the bank account of his life. All the qualities, the successes, whatever gave him a name and a reputation, he transferred them from the “profits” column to the “loss” column. For he understood the excellence of Christ. And when you take hold of it, the « Excellence of Christ », everything else pales in comparison. There is no competition, Christ becomes the ultimate gain, and everything else becomes loss.

Like many of you, Sara and I on Tuesday evening logged onto Zoom to discuss this message with our cell group. One of the questions asked was « What is Paul’s goal? Is it also yours? » Paul’s goal, it was clear, was Christ. Christ, Christ, Christ. That was the easy part to answer. Now, is that also your goal? So there, a little more embarrassed silence … I think it was Donatien who broke the silence for us: “Yes, well, we too must have Christ as our goal. But do we do it?… that’s harder to answer. » Indeed, it is more difficult…

It is true that when you take to heart what Paul says, it is difficult to compare yourself to him: « these qualities which were for me gains, I regard them as a loss because of Christ. Besides, I consider them to be a loss. Just like a loss because of the supreme good that is the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. Because of him I have allowed myself to be stripped of everything and I consider it all as rubbish. « 

This is radical! And if indeed we want to think like that, we have to be honest, that’s not really how many of us live. While Paul is like that, well, he’s a great example, we admire him, but … for us that’s another story. We are clearly inadequate. So what to do? Are we giving up? Do we resign ourselves to being second or even third class Christians? Or do we resign ourselves to spiritual hypocrisy, proclaiming “yes, I am like Paul” on Sunday, knowing that it is not really us?

I think Paul suspected we could react like that. Whether his radical vision, his desire to live 100% dedicated to Christ could discourage us, or tempt us to become hypocrite. We will see this morning that Paul connects this wonderful passage with specific instructions to encourage us to follow him on this journey to Christ. For he will say it clearly, he too is walking to Christ. He didn’t arrive, he didn’t finish. But he’s going to show us how to do it in a practical way, with him, all together.

12  Not that I have already l 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

17  Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the
example you have in us. 18  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even
with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19  y Their end is destruction, their god is
their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20  But our
citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21  who will
transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even
to subject all things to himself.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Here is our roadmap for this morning’s plan for this post. In order to take hold of Christ, Paul will give us three marks of spiritual maturity:
(1) We will see that the mature Christian has an insatiable thirst for Christ, (2) the mature Christian lives his life as a race to seize more of Christ, (3) the mature Christian imitates those who also run to Christ.

I. The mature Christian has an insatiable thirst for Christ
The prize
In verse 12 Paul says, « It is not that I have already won the prize, or that I have already achieved perfection; but I am running, trying to catch it. » The word prize is not in the Greek original, literally Paul writes: “Not that I have already won it.” What is this thing he wants to win? As Vincent showed us last week, the price Paul pursues is the knowledge of Christ. He says it clearly in verse 8: « I even consider everything a loss because of the supreme good which is the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. » He expresses this purpose again in verse 10 « Thus I will know Christ ».

Paul wants to know Christ. And he’s not just talking here about factual knowledge of Christ, intellectual knowledge. No, he wants to know him as we know his wife or his best friend, in an intimate way, in a relational way. Verse 10 continues « Thus will I know Christ, the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings as I become conformed to him in his death. » Paul wants to be with Christ, and to know him fully. This is the prize Paul wants to win.

A prize not yet acquired
The first thing we see Paul stress in our passage is that he has not yet won this award. He’s going to stress that in verses 12 and 13: « It’s not that I’ve already won the award, » « I don’t think I got it. » I think he is emphasizing this because he knows what you are going to think as you read verses 3: 4-11. It’s the same as the Plaisance cell thought on Tuesday: Paul is a superhuman, a Christian version of the superhero. He is to the Church what Thomas Pesquet is to the French: we are proud of him, he makes us dream, we are made to travel (literally) in the stars, but in the end we know very well that we will never be like him.

No! Paul insists that he did not acquire this invaluable prize either. It is as if he was telling us, “Do you think I have reached spiritual zenith, Buddha-style, and that I am writing to you from above? No ! Know that I also continue to walk, I too have not arrived at the perfect knowledge of Christ. ”

There are certain things that are binary in the Christian life: you either have it or you don’t. Our salvation is like that. Jesus says it clearly in John 3:36 « Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not believe in the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God on the contrary remains on him. »

Those who have placed their trust in Christ have eternal life. It’s a given now. Those who disbelieved in Christ are still under God’s condemnation, and if they persist in this way they will suffer the wrath of God for their sin eternally. There is nothing gradual about it. We are not more or less saved. We don’t have eternal life more or less. But in our passage Paul does not speak of conversion, but of the spiritual life of the Christian on this earth. Has the Christian already acquired everything on the day of his conversion? No, Paul tells us, he will grow in his knowledge of Christ throughout his life.

Or rather he should. Think about a wedding. Do you know everything there is to know about your groom on the wedding day? Of course not. And maybe it’s better that way … But even if the wedding day marks a “forever” achievement, it does not mark the end of the adventure, but rather the beginning. The beginning of an intimacy which, if the marriage is
good, will continue to deepen over the years, through the joys and sorrows of life. It’s the same with Christ. In our conversion we know Christ in a real way, it is true. And that seals our eternal destiny. But this is just a taste. Our journey with Christ has only just begun.

The mature Christian is never satisfied with his knowledge of Christ
One might think that the mature Christian will be the one who knows the most about Christ. But it is interesting to see that when Paul perfects in verse 12 he uses the same word in Greek in verse 15 when he speaks of « grown men » or « ripe ones. » Paul tells us that he has not yet reached perfection (verse 12), and that all of us who are perfect must think so (verse 15). So Paul, what is it: are we perfect or are we not perfect? Paul is telling us here that those who are perfect are those who realize that they are not yet!

Those who are ripe realize that they have yet to mature. The mature Christian is therefore one who always thirsts for more of Christ. This is the first mark of maturity that Paul teaches us. The mature Christian is never satisfied with his knowledge, his intimacy with Christ. You might call it « holy discontent. » We don’t tend to associate dissatisfaction with something good, as we will see in chapter 4, Paul is going to call us to be content in all circumstances, but then he will have material circumstances in mind. Here he calls us all never to be satisfied with our knowledge of Christ, to always want more. Spiritual maturity is marked by this holy discontent.

And vice versa. Those who are satisfied with their knowledge of Christ are showing immaturity. A very dangerous immaturity, as we will see, which makes their faith vulnerable to many pitfalls. Of course, none of us would dare say this morning that we have nothing more to learn, that we know Christ well enough. It doesn’t sound like that. But is
this the testimony of our day to day life? Does the way we spend our time or spend our money testify that we think we already have enough of Christ? Just what we need, don’t we want more? As we will see, adopting such an attitude is very dangerous.

II. The mature Christian sees his life as a race to take hold of more of Christ
Paul wants more. He is thirsty. He is not satisfied. He understood that Christ is a priceless treasure, and that he still has so much to discover in Christ, right now. And this dissatisfaction therefore naturally leads him to orient his life towards this pursuit of Christ, this is our second point. The mature Christian sees his life as a race to get hold of more of Christ.

Paul runs
For what does Paul’s insatiable thirst for Christ lead to? Look at verses 12-14: « I run, to try to seize him » (12), « but I do one thing: forgetting what is behind and carrying myself towards what is ahead, I run towards the goal, to win the prize »(13-14). Running, winning, grabbing / grabbing, carrying, goal, prize… These are words borrowed from the vocabulary
of sport.

Paul runs to Christ like an athlete runs in a competition. An athlete has a clear goal, like Paul: “I’m running toward the goal(what goal?)To win the prize for God’s heavenly calling in Jesus Christ.” Paul will not be satisfied until he holds the trophy, Christ, in his hands. He knows very well that he will not have it fully until God calls him in the final resurrection,
but he is running today anyway. To get a little more of Christ right now. Likewise, the athlete’s goal will influence his preparation program. We don’t prepare for a soccer match with friends like we train for the World Cup. In the same way Paul, because his goal is Christ, will make sure not to let himself be diverted by anything, he will run “forgetting what is behind” (13), which reminds us of those qualities which made him proud in the past but now considers garbage. So he pays no attention to them, he forgets them.

Rather, he tells us that he is “going towards what is ahead” (13). “Carrying” refers to chariot races, where all the muscles of the body are engaged in the effort. He bends over what is in front, his Christ. Just as all the muscles of the athlete are used during the effort to reach the goal, Paul will direct all the details of his life to help know Christ .
Paul wants to keep us from the danger of wanting to deserve his salvation.

Now, there are two dangers that Paul wants us to avoid here, two pitfalls in this race to Christ. The first is to take the running analogy too far, and make our running a way to earn our salvation. Running as if our salvation depended on us, on the quality of our run. Tenth place in the sprint, so no place in the final, relegation to eternal hell. No, that’s not what he means here at all.

Look at the wonderful qualification that Paul adds in the second part of verse 12: « I run, to try to seize it, since I too have been seized by Jesus Christ », »I run to try to seize it, because of me also, Jesus Christ has taken possession. » Paul runs to Christ because Christ has already got hold of him. Grammar is crucial here, and Paul uses both verb tenses and
connecting words to make it clear to us. He does not run so that Jesus will get hold of him, in order to be beautiful enough, religious enough, holy enough, perfect enough to merit the affection of Jesus. No! He is running because Jesus got hold of him first. And then note the tense: Paul is running (in the present indicative), because Jesus has got hold of him (past tense). Jesus’ action precedes Paul’s reaction. Paul is running today in response to what Jesus did in the past.

For in order to run to Christ you must both see that Christ is the supreme good, and you must have the courage to want to run to him. Now it is Christ who gives us both this vision and this audacity. By taking hold of us, he opens our eyes to his beauty and his supremacy. He shifts everything Paul had hitherto considered profit to the loss column. This is what he does to all of us when he calls us to him: he calls us to die to this world, but we do it with joy because we find in him a much more precious treasure. This Christ who previously seemed perhaps unimportant to us, who was tasteless, who perhaps even repelled us, now this Christ is our deepest desire. To have your eyes open in this way is a gift from God. It is the result of Christ taking hold of us. So if Christ is your desire this morning, be encouraged, even if you find yourself inadequate in this race: your desire to know Christ shows that Christ has taken hold of you. And if you find your desire a little dying this morning, turn to your God: he is the one who opened your eyes to Christ, he will do it

And by seizing Paul Christ also gives him the audacity to run up to him. If Christ is indeed so beautiful, rich, desirable, supreme, divine, powerful, perfect… How daring to want to know him for sinners like us! Perhaps you admire a fictional personality or character. When I was a young teenager my idol was MacGyver. I wanted to be like him. I bought myself the same Swiss army knife, I wanted the same haircut, the same checked shirt, I copied his inventions in order to reproduce them. I may have even sent him a photo to autograph. But the autographed photo was the greatest measure of privacy I could aspire to! On the other hand, with Christ, our treasure, he gives us the audacity to be able to know him intimately.

This daring is also a gift from God. If Christ had not taken hold of us, we would neither have the desire nor the courage to know Him. So Paul wants to make sure that we don’t reverse this grammar in order to turn God’s gift into a meritorious race.

Paul wants to keep us from the danger of complacency
If the first danger is to try to earn one’s salvation, the second is its opposite. Perhaps this is the evangelical danger. It is well understood that we are saved by grace, and that salvation is the gift of God. But instead of leading us, like Paul, to run to Christ in order to know him better, we become complacent. This is a very real danger for many of us.

This is the danger of the one we have already spoken of, the one who thinks he already knows everything. Or maybe who isn’t interested in knowing more … He understood the gospel (he thinks!), He said yes to Jesus, and now he’s quiet. Because from his point of view he will escape hell and that is what matters. The main thing is there, now he can live his life peacefully, minimizing his suffering, enjoying what life can give him, with the assurance that the future will be good, he knows where he is going.

Such an attitude, unfortunately, misses the point of salvation. Think about marriage again. This attitude would be the same as that of a man dating a girl. They fall in love, and they decide to get married. The man proposes to her and she accepts, but… once engaged, he’s just going out on his bike and watching TV, they don’t see each other anymore. “The main thing is done, she said yes, now I can turn to other things that are more important to me. We will have time to get to know each other once we are married”,he said to himself. Now that he still has time to do what he wants, he’s taking advantage of it. What would you think of such a man? How about his love for his fiancée? It would be clear that his true love is in what marriage can provide him (the good meals, the marital bed) but not in the wife herself. She is only an accessory.

The race as a metaphor for Christian life
No! Paul runs to Christ because Christ got hold of Paul, and so Paul in turn wants to get hold of Christ. In verse 15 he gives the Philippians the first imperatives since verse 3: « let us adopt this attitude, » and in the following verse « let us walk in the same direction ». Striving to run to Christ to get a little more of Christ is the second mark of spiritual maturity. For if this grace of God is opposed to merit, it is not opposed to effort.

Imagine that your garden has millions of diamonds underground. Some just below the surface, others are buried deeper. To excavate it all, you need an excavator and labor that will only be available in a few months, and it will take years to harvest it all. What are you doing in the meantime? Are you going to grab a lounge chair and spend the summer sunbathing in your backyard? Or are you going to buy a shovel from Leroy Merlin, get on all fours and start digging? Bye bye the tan, and hello the shovel! Of course, if you realize the value of what’s under your feet, you’re going to start digging like crazy, although you won’t be able to figure it out for a long time. Lying down on the lounge chair would be crazy!

Likewise, when we grasp the value of Christ, we will do everything to maximize our intimacy with him. And we’re going to do it right now, even though we know that one day we will know him much more perfectly. We are not going to let the assurance of full knowledge to come prevent us from knowing him, a little more, today! The mature Christian is going to direct all the details of his life, from now on, in order to know Christ better; he is not going to leave anything to chance that could distract him from that goal, or that could slow him down.

Christian life is a marathon
How to put this into practice? I think when you hear the word “race »,you tend to think of a sprint. But sprinting might not be the best image to have here, I think a marathon is the race Paul has in mind here. Because the first thing with a marathon is that it takes a long time. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to follow one on TV … let’s say there are more exciting events to watch. It is a long time, because this knowledge of Christ that Paul seeks is on a lifelong scale. So when you read verses 3: 7-11 think of a marathon, of a transformation that will take place gradually over the course of your Christian life. If you don’t think you have the same zeal as Paul, don’t be discouraged, the transformation often comes little by little.

The second thing is, you have to train for a marathon, you don’t show up on the morning of the race without preparing for it. We won’t go very far! How do you train for a marathon? You don’t prepare yourself by trying to run 42 km on the first day. No, we start with a few kilometers, then we gradually increase. Likewise, our journey with Christ is accomplished through the dozens of little choices and decisions that mark our day-to-day lives.

Don’t wait until race day to start running! Just as a marathon is won in daily training, it is in the small details of daily life that we train to take hold of Christ. And when the day comes for this big decision, this great temptation, this great pain or suffering, it is the intimacy gained daily in the past years that will allow us to face it. For example, it is by refusing to glance at the beautiful girl who passes in the street, day after day, that we prepare for the day when this colleague will invite us to her room during a business trip. It is by agreeing to help in Sunday school, you who have never been comfortable with children, that God is preparing you for the day when he will call you to leave all your comfort to go and serve him in a country you are not familiar with. Like in a marathon we grab Christ by running to him every day, handing him every little detail of our lives.

III. The Mature Christian Imitates Those Who Run to Christ
But Paul is not naive, he knows that not all will be driven by the same maturity, by the same desire to run. This was the case with me at certain stages of my Christian life. In verses 15 and 16 he pleads with these people, « If you are in any way of a different opinion, God will enlighten you on that too. Only, at the point where we have reached, let us walk with one step. » In other words, if you don’t want to run, then God in his grace may change your attitude in his time. But in the meantime, step aside, do not stand in the way of us who are running. We have a treasure to discover.

And that brings us to our last point, that of imitation. Because to run well, you need good models. Because unfortunately not all models are good to follow. So far we have seen that the mature Christian is marked by an insatiable thirst to know Christ. This thirst will lead him to direct all the details of his life in this direction, to run
towards this goal. If this still strikes you as a little theoretical, Paul will help us in a very practical way with the last imperative of this section. In verse 17 he exhorts the Philippians thus: « Be all my imitators, brothers and sisters. » This will be our last point this morning:

The mature Christian realizes what is at stake: he will therefore imitate those who run to Christ.
Paul urges us all to imitate him “Imitate me!” Is this something you say often? Don’t you find it shocking that Paul gives
this command to the Philippians? Him, a simple man? And he does it in the Bible, just that! Because it is indeed an order that he is giving here, not a simple suggestion. Why should we imitate a man? Why not say: « Imitate Christ »? It would seem more correct. And note that this command is not just for some, but for all. All Philippians should imitate Paul, not just those with the same zealous personality as him. And by extension, Paul commands all of us EBTM Christians this morning to imitate him.

In 2: 5 Paul tells us to take this attitude which is in Christ. It is therefore clear that the ultimate goal is imitation of Christ. God could have left it there and told us: I have done enough in Christ already, in him you have the perfect example, what else do you want? The fact that Christ has already taken hold of us, as Paul tells us in verse 13, is such an incredible truth, when grasped, that it should be enough to make us live with an unalterable thirst for Christ. But our God is a good father, and he knows our weaknesses. He knows well that our hearts can remain unanswered even when faced with incredible realities. And instead of abandoning us to our hard and blind hearts, he will accompany these theological realities with concrete visual aids, in the flesh (literally!).He will give us brothers and sisters to imitate, models that we see with our own eyes, lives that we can see unfold before us. If our spiritual eyes cannot always discern the beauty of spiritual realities in Christ, He will use our physical eyes to present the gospel to us in concrete terms, through the lives of those who live for Christ.

For Paul not only told the Philippians to imitate him alone. It wouldn’t be very helpful for us, because it’s been a long time since Paul died! He also says to imitate « those who walk the pattern you have in us. » (17) Those who are with you, those you hang out with every week. God provided the Philippians with Christians who imitate Paul, who in turn allow
them to imitate Paul, who also imitates Christ. Here we see the gracious chain that God gives to His children to grow in Christ. And that chain continues today.

Note also that Paul is not telling us not to imitate those who speak well of Christ, but those who behave, those who walk a certain way. It’s not just attitude or intellectual knowledge, it translates into something visible in their life. It shows. In chapter 4, picking up on this theme, Paul will tell the Philippians, « What you have learned, received and heard from me and what you have seen in me, put into practice. » (4: 9) What you saw in me (not just heard), put it into practice.

This is the role that every Christian has had in the life of the Church over the centuries. This is how the gospel is passed down from generation to generation. It is young Christians who see Christ in their elders in faith, who imitate them and put what they see into practice, and who in turn become role models. Is it not surprising that the sovereign, omnipotent God uses this means to grow his Church? Surprisingly, perhaps, but what a glorious privilege he gives his children. A privilege that can of course be abused, but when used wisely, what a beauty to see this chain of imitation of Christ spreading through the centuries and across the world! I hope this will encourage you this morning to grow in Christ, and to be an example to others. This is God’s will for all of us. Who can you say: “imitate me” to this morning?

To imitate is necessary because the pitfalls are numerous
Why does God use these models in our lives? Verse 18 tells us that. “For many act as enemies of the cross of Christ.” By beginning the verse with “indeed” Paul indicates to us the reason behind his command to imitate him. That reason is the abundance of enemies of the cross of Christ. Our Christian life is littered with bad examples, and these dangers
should motivate us to imitate those who run to Christ.

Imitating others can offend our modern sensibilities. After all, we have to be our own man. French people, we boast of our free spirit, our critical spirit! We place value on originality, on thinking and behaving in a different way, in an innovative way! We are admired if we’re the captain of our own ship, and don’t take orders from anyone! It is the Han Solo of this world who are admired, not the imitators.

We call ourselves free thinkers. And yet what is striking is that no matter what we say, we all end up imitating someone. This is all the more obvious when you change your culture. We can clearly see aspects common to those who are steeped in the same culture. We all breathe the same polluted air and we all tell ourselves that the air doesn’t smell anything. We see the world through the same tinted glasses as everyone else, and we all say we can see
ourselves clearly. Despite our aspirations, we always end up living in our own bubble. In France, we all breathe the air of free thought, and yet, when it comes to religion, for example, we all tend to think the same thing! It’s striking.

Because one of the characteristics of our human nature is our tendency to imitate others, whether we like it or not, and especially those who are near us, those with whom we spend a lot of time, those whom we respect the most. It is an inescapable fact: we all end up imitating. The question is therefore: who to imitate? Are all models the same? Who am I imitating, and is it good for me? This is at the heart of Paul’s concerns in this final section, and I think the reason God gives us models to grow in Christ.

And the problem for Christians is that bad role models abound. This is no surprise in the world, since men have turned from God. One would therefore expect to find bad examples there. But that’s not what Paul is talking about here, I think. He doesn’t talk about the world. The bad role models he talks about are those among Christians. Note that he speaks of enemies of the cross of Christ. He is not talking about the enemies of Christ, which would clearly be the world. Here he is more specific, he speaks of enemies of the cross.

Who does he have in mind? « I have told you about them many times, and I do so even now with tears. » (18) These are
therefore people about whom he seems to have already warned the Philippians on many occasions, surely so in this letter too. In verse 19 he gives us 3 characteristics: (1) they have their belly as their god, ( 2) they put their glory into what makes them ashamed, and (3) they only think about the realities of this world. The mention of « belly », »shame »,and « this world » reminds us of the first verses of this chapter, the reference to false circumcised who put their trust in their flesh. These people are indeed enemies of the cross of Christ, for they want to find their righteousness in the law, not in “the righteousness which is of God and which is founded on faith.” Not in Christ’s sacrifice for us, but in their own works.

These false brethren claim to follow Christ, they are part of our assemblies, but they are really chasing another prize than Christ. Paul tells us that their price is in this world and that they are only seeking to satisfy their own desires. The word translated “think” in verse 19 is the same as the word translated “adopt this attitude” in 3:15 and 2: 5. Instead of taking the attitude of Christ, and that of Paul in his race for Christ, they adopt a mind focused on this world and this life. The price is different. And Paul tells us, the reward for such a goal is perdition. And far from being a rare isolated case, Paul tells us that many think this way.

He therefore calls us to be vigilant, because not all examples are good to emulate, even within a church. If we are not careful, we can also imitate them, adopt their attitude. Desire the wrong price. An attitude centered on this world, a perspective limited to this earthly life, an attitude obsessed with material and materialistic concerns, which will have no room for suffering, and for whom what Paul says in 3:11 will not have no sense when he speaks of « fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, to become conformed to him in his death. »

Imitating others is necessary because the stake is invaluable

Paul ends the section by contrasting these enemies of the cross with “us”: “As for us, our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait as Savior on the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform our body of misery to make it conform to his glorious body by the power that he has to submit everything to his authority. « If the enemies of the cross think only of the realities of this world, we our citizenship is in heaven – not earth. If the enemies of the cross put their glory in that which makes them ashamed, we expect from heaven our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ – salvation, not ashamed. If the enemies of the cross have their womb as god, we know that our body is a body of misery but that one day in the future our body will be made conformable to the glorious body of Christ.

We put our hope in what God has promised us, a glorious future, not what this world can offer us today. The stakes are therefore high. The stake of imitation is eternal. For on the one hand we have perdition, on the other a Savior. On the one hand this world, and what it has to offer, on the other hand, heavenly citizenship. On the one hand, immediate
satisfaction in the flesh, on the other hand, the promise of future glorious transformation.

And those around us will influence us on one side or the other. Because, don’t get me wrong. There is no Switzerland in the life in Christ. There is no such thing as a neutral ground. Either we are heading towards perdition or towards the Savior, either towards the world or towards the celestial city. Brothers and sisters, be careful of who you surround yourself with, for these people will have an eternal influence on your soul.

Now, being vigilant does not mean restricting your friends to a small Christian club. To spend time only with those you consider mature, theologically correct. God keep us from such an attitude! A Church like that would be suffocating, it would be a very sad Church, a very mistaken Church. No, Paul is calling us here to realize that we are so easily influenced, it is the truth, and to take the necessary precautions.

To this end, focus on spending time regularly with a sister or brother characterized by the holy discontent of which Paul speaks, and who is running to get hold of Christ. And watch their life. The stakes are high: it is the fate of your soul. In 4: 1 Paul concludes this section by saying: « Therefore, my beloved and very dear brethren, you who are my joy and my
crown, thus stand firm in the Lord, my beloved! ». Paul summarizes his intention here in the passage we have just studied. “This is why,” because the stakes are so great, because the prize to be won is so precious, and because the Christian life is littered with so many pitfalls, that is why we must stand firm like this. This is how we can stand firm in Christ. We stand firm when we desire to get hold of Christ, and we get hold of Him by never being satisfied with
our knowledge of Christ, by running to Christ every minute of our lives, and by imitating those who have made Christ theirs.

I would like to conclude with a final application. Perhaps you are tired this morning, and the thought of running a spiritual marathon seems impossible at this point. You can barely stand up. I’ll admit it to you, I was in the last few weeks, so I thought about it a lot while preparing this sermon. What does this race look like when you’re already feeling exhausted? I have 4 application tracks if that’s you this morning.

Christ has got hold of you. « I run to try to take hold of the prize, since Jesus Christ has taken hold of me too. » Meditate on it. Jesus Christ has taken hold of you. This is not a metaphor, it is a reality. You belong to Jesus. It is an incredible reality, which God wishes to use to marvel you this morning, and to encourage you to persevere towards him.
Paul tells us that our citizenship is in heaven (not here), that from there we are waiting for a savior. On this earth, today, we are not at home. We are exiled here. It is therefore normal that life is not a long calm river. It is normal that you do not feel at home. We are waiting for our Savior Lord from heaven. And God gives us the patience to wait, to continue to hope in him, in this foreign land.

The Christian life is a marathon rather than a sprint, as we have seen. So your race will probably not look like Usain Bolt’s. There are going to be climbs, and you are going to be exhausted at times more than at others. Sometimes you walk in a marathon. But that doesn’t mean you quit the marathon. No, you are still racing. What matters, as in any race, is to keep your goal. It is to keep going, to persevere, not to give up. To keep your goal of taking hold of Christ as your goal, no matter what.

Finally, surround yourself with brothers and sisters who share this same goal. They’ll help you on tough climbs, they’ll share their Gatorade when your water bottle is empty, and just watching them run will keep you motivated to persevere. Seeing the sparkle in their eyes, the thirst that drives them, will be enough to motivate you and encourage you to persevere, today. Brothers and sisters, Christ is our supreme good. So let’s run together and take hold of him, today.