My oldest went to college this year and, like all slightly crazed mothers, I tried to cram every last lesson into his precious mind in the final weeks before he moved out, as if this was the last legal time to preach to the poor kid.
Here was the last speech, the final words, my “sermon on the mount” (in the car)…
“Son, you are light. I know this because I have seen God in you. I have seen you go from a selfish punk kid to a young man who responds to conviction. A young man who hears from God. You love people and you even put others ahead of your own interests. All of this is evidence that God is in you.
“So you are light. It’s a fact. It’s your God-given identity as one of His kids. And you are headed into the pitch-black darkness.
“There will be times you act like the darkness, but you will never be the darkness, and you will never be at home in the darkness again.”
And team, same goes for us, if you know Jesus Christ as Savior. We have been given new life, new identities, and a new motivation. The light of Jesus resides in us and through us. No matter what spirals we face on a day-to-day basis. Yet, our flesh, the world, and the adversary are doing everything in their power to stymie us with our past.
We moved from being slaves to sin to being children of God.
We will probably be trying to wrap our minds around this astonishing truth until we get to Heaven.
But we must try because it shifts everything about us. As God’s children, filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:16; the issue is whether we’re using it to think the thoughts that Jesus might think.
Are we taking every thought captive and training our minds daily in the right paths? Are we moving forward instead of looking backward?
We’re going to talk about how to go the distance. How to persevere and keep growing in strength and maturity. In chapter 3 of Philippians, Paul is telling us how to mature in our thoughts. Paul is exhorting this young church to follow his lead; to follow his example of maturity as he fixes his mind on Christ.
Why do we need to mature? Because we want Christ. Maturity as a Christian is the process of becoming more like Christ.
And none of us are there yet.
And perhaps surprisingly, one of Paul’s indicators of maturity is the discipline of forgetting what’s behind so we can move on to what’s ahead. So we can grab on to what’s ours in Christ. Later in this lesson, we will process the why and how of forgetting.
But for now, let’s go — Philippians 3.
READ PHILIPPIANS 3
- Paul begins chapter 3 with a warning. What exactly is he asking the church to watch out for? (Philippians 3:2-4)
- List the things Paul says he could put his confidence in. (Philippians 3:4-6)
- What does Paul do with all of his most precious earthly gains? (Philippians 3:7-9)
- Why would he do this? (Philippians 3:10-11)
- Paul is going to challenge the mature followers of Christ (Philippians 3:15) to think a certain way in this passage. Read Philippians 3:12-16 and list the train of thought and action that Paul models here.
- Philippians 3:17 says why we should think and act like Paul. What is the reason for Paul’s hope?
- Read Philippians 3:18-19 and describe the enemies of the cross of Christ.
- In Philippians 3:20-21 Paul builds out our ultimate motivation for godliness. Describe it here in your own words.
- Summarize Philippians chapter 3 in your own words. Those of us who are mature think this way” (Philippians 3:15 ESV).
In my research on biblical maturity it became clear, very quickly, that maturity was a subject Paul cared a lot about. No one in the Bible talks more about maturity than Paul. I know why. Because he was writing letters to a fragile young church, and his deepest desire was that this small flame of faith would catch ablaze and spread to the ends of earth. These first-generation believers had grown up in a culture and belief system different from the identity they now possessed, and Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is discipleship from a distance.
Let’s look at some of his key phrases connected to mature thinking. He draws from the imagery of a running race — having a vision of focused endurance to the finish line. No longer is Paul’s finish line achievement or status.
The phrase I want to come back to is forgetting what lies behind.
Straining toward what lies ahead.
Toward the goal, the prize, which is the call of God in Christ Jesus.
The phrase I want to come back to is “forgetting what lies behind.” As we look to reign in our thoughts and mind, this is no small command. We are terrible forgetters when it comes to our past, aren’t we? No matter if it was an achievement or a shameful decision, we too often allow our past to dictate our thoughts and lives. But Paul was addressing something deeper than his past actions and accolades; he was talking about his motivations. Forgetting what lies behind sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Our brains never stop working, even when we sleep. So yes, it is impossible to only forget and be left with nothing in our minds.
How do we become great at forgetting?
WE BECOME EXPERTS IN REMEMBERING
Paul’s single-minded goal was what motivated him to forget, to leave behind his past. Paul’s new motivation was so consuming that he gave no value to his past — thus leaving no room for his past to define him. As long as we leave room in our minds for the past, we will allow it to define us.
When I sit down with a woman who genuinely loves Jesus and says she is not in bondage, yet I hear bitterness and unforgiveness… we have a problem. Because even though this is invisible bondage, it is bondage and a hindrance to focused endurance to the finish line. And roots of bitterness and unforgiveness will not just fade away. Every thought bears fruit.
So whatever does not produce the fruit of righteousness must be held up to the light of the gospel, to allow God to deal and heal.
And guess what happens when you get free from the past? You get free to run your race. Now for many of you, before you can move forward you need to process & forgive & work through difficult circumstances. Do the work, but then it is time to no longer be defined by it.
Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow springs of life. — Proverbs 4:23
The heart here can be defined as “the seat of our thoughts, will, and emotions.” Who we are, our very intangible essence that makes us uniquely us, lives somewhere in the recesses of our mind.
So we, as maturing Christ followers, guard our minds because flowing out of it… comes every aspect of life.
What we think will directly become who we are.
So why do you have to become great at forgetting? Because you are a new creation, with a new identity, and a new motivation. And Jesus is just that good.
Some of you need to forget because your past is filled with how awesome you are, and you have built your identity on your ability and the applause of man, and you wonder why you don’t feel like you need God or why you don’t want to grow in maturity.
Some of you need to forget because you built your identity on your lack of awesomeness, and all you can do is think of yourself as well, but not in a good light. You can never imagine being confident enough to pour your life into another person.
Some of you have a past full of shame. Whether you were a victim or actively ran from God, your past still defines you and holds you in bondage, and your greatest fear is still being found out.
Forget what is behind… race toward what is ahead.
I know for some of you this sounds too simplistic. Seasons of difficulty in my life have required a lot of counseling till the gaping wounds have begun to heal. But the point is, we have to fight down the distractions and bondage that keep us from wholly advancing the gospel with every part of our lives. Let’s become free people — because free people free people.
Excerpted with permission from Get Out of Your Head Study Guide by Jennie Allen.
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Have you forgotten what is behind? Or is your old life alive and well in all the glory or the shame? Forget it! We’ve got a new way to live! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily