Philippians 3:13 - …forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I was reading this lesson and thinking as the author was talking about never attending her high school reunions, that I too, have never attended one of my reunions. I chuckled as I read her account of how people report on who looks the same, who has gone bald, or gotten larger, who has succeeded in life and who have failed.
My 20 year class reunion is coming up and it has been all the talk among my “friends” on Facebook who I graduated with; so much so that I started deleting a lot of my friends. I was appalled at how some would ridicule our classmates on their appearance or life struggles such as divorce or alcoholism or drug use. The final straw with me was when they started making fun of a young man in particular that didn’t graduate with us but was and still is kind of a icon in our town. He is know as the mentally challenged young man who walks Main Street daily listening to his Walkman and playing air guitar.
My class set up a Facebook page dedicated to our class reunion. I noticed that all everyone could talk about was how great the music was during that time or how much fun they had with particular groups of people or reminiscing about certain places that are no longer there.
I admit some of the reminiscing is fun; however, there are a lot of memories that I would rather leave in the past.
The past makes us who we are. It also teaches us lessons about God, about life, and about ourselves.
We must then take those lessons and move forward.
Paul teaches us this in Philippians 3:13-14.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul tells us how to pursue Christlikeness by using three actions to help us continue to progress toward spiritual maturity: Forget, reach forward, and press on.
Forgetting those things which are behind and
Reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I
Press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let’s look at the broader story here. Read Philippians 3:1-12. Even though Paul could have gloried in his past (verse 5-6), how did he choose to view it…
…in verse 7? Why did he desire to reject the past (verse 7)?
The gains were little when compared to his interest in Christ and his expectations from him
…in verse 8? He was ambitious of and reached after knowledge of Christ Jesus
What did Paul desire to gain instead in…
…verse 9 - to win Christ his Lord and his Savior.
…verse 10 - know him or believe in him; to know the power of Christ’s death and resurrection killing sin in him, and raising him up to newness of life and conforming unto Christ.
…verse 11 - he hoped to attain this resurrection and be with Christ upon his departure of this life.
Read Philippians 3:12-14. Paul is saying, in effect, “I have not yet arrived at spiritual maturity and Christlikeness, bu while I am on the way, I am conducting the journey by…” (verses 13-14)
Forgetting the Past
This isn’t always easy to do. Whether we are referring to some previous success that has never been repeated or some failure we haven’t let go of, the past can take hold of our minds and our hearts.
Things like remembering a rejection from a boyfriend, recalling a cruel remark, being passed over after a job interview, or reliving the days and events reflecting on leading up to a significant event is counterproductive and you will find yourself sinking into darkness and despair. This will not produce hope or answers or solutions.
Paul’s goal was to press on. Look again at Philippians 3:13-14. What first step must you take in order to press on?
n Forgetting completely - dwelling on the past can cause a slackening of pace in our Christian walk. “Looking back is sure to end in going back.”
*Christian growth - the process of moving forward - requires looking to the future rather than to the past.
* Take Paul’s advice - When those thoughts creep into your mind…banish them from your thoughts. This will be a constant, deliberate discarding of any thoughts of the past.
* Move forward in faith - not always easy; we must keep on forgetting. Don’t let this step hold you back. Forget whatever it is that could keep you from moving forward in faith and in your spiritual growth.
Share one success you have enjoyed in the past. What is Paul’s advice to you, and why do you think remembering past achievements can be a detriment to pressing on for the prize?
By contrast, can you point to any past failure or flop that may be hampering your forward progress?
As you consider your answers to these questions, what changes do you need to make?
Forgetting the Bad
Read Acts 7:54-60. What part did Saul (Paul) play in the death of Stephen?
Before Paul came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, he was known as Saul, the persecutor of Christians. The death of the first martyr of the Christian church, Stephen, may have been at the involvement of Paul through the sentencing and approval of his murder.
Read Acts 8:1-3 and Acts 22:4-5. What additional information do you learn about Paul’s past? Saul was pleased with Stephen’s death and hoped that it would put a stop to the growth of Christianity. Saul did all he could to lay the church to waste and ruin. He wanted to cut off the gospel. Saul broke into homes where he new Christians were or were meeting. He dragged them out of these homes and down the streets to commit them to prison in order to be tried and put to death regardless of their sex or physical condition unless they would renounce Christ. He was ruthless, heartless, and cruel.
In spite of a “bad” past, Paul moved forward in faith. How does his example encourage you as you look back at your past?
What comfort concerning your past do you find in the following scriptures?
* Psalm 103:12 - The sins of believers shall be remembered no more, shall not be mentioned unto them; they shall be sought for, and not found. If we thoroughly forsake them, God will thoroughly forgive them.
* Isaiah 1:18 - Those, and those only, that break off their association with sin, will be welcome into promise and spiritual union with God.
* Romans 8:2 - It is the unspeakable privilege and comfort of all those that are in Christ Jesus that there is now no condemnation to them. They may be chastened of the Lord, but not condemned with the world.
* 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Regenerating grace creates a new world in the soul; all things are new. The renewed being acts from new principles, by new rules, with new ends, and in new company.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. - Isaiah 55:8
Loving God…Even More
Read this section in your book again. As you consider the contents of this chapter and God’s amazing love for you, what can you do this week, in obedience to Christ…
…to press for the prize?
…to remember to forget?
…to love God with all your mind?
With the goal in view, I press on.