This is the time of year, where most people take inventory of there lives and make resolutions to change. Here are the top 10 most popular: 1. Lose weight 2. Stop smoking 3. Stick to a budget 4. Save or earn more money 5. Find a better job 6. Become more organized 7. Exercise more 8. Be more patient at work and with others 9. Eat better 10. Become a better person.
Now the question I want to ask is how good are you at keeping them? Research shows that nearly half of us make a resolution each year. The bad news is only about 15-20% keep their resolutions. In other words, over 80% of resolution-makers become resolution-breakers!
Why is that? I think Paul has something to say in Philippians 3. In verses, 12-14, Paul writes that he is pressing on. In the Greek, this is a picture of someone straining to move forward, like trying to move in a windstorm. It implies there is work involved and a commitment to what we are doing.
Paul’s one thing that He is focusing on is to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ had in mind for him. This was not some idea that Paul thought about. He was not passive in how it would come to fruition in his life. This goal took all of Paul’s energies.
What’s our goal today? Is it to know Christ? To be like Christ? Or to have the mind of Christ? When we strive for these things as Paul did, we will accomplish everything else we set out to do.
I think the number one reason we do not reach our goals or accomplish our New Years resolutions is because we have too many of them. Paul focused on one thing, we focus on many things and it can become overwhelming.
There are a lot of good things for us to do for God and His kingdom. But as one writer suggested sometimes “the enemy of the best is the good.” Sometimes the good things in our lives get in the way of the best thing that God has for us. For us as Christians if we are to put all our energies into one or two things, our New Years resolution should be to know Christ, and be like Him. Nothing else should matter.
Jesus great commandment is to “love the your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” And we do that by getting to know His Son Jesus.
One thing Paul understood in following Christ was it meant he had to forget the past. All of us have skeletons in our closets – things we are ashamed of, regrets we have, people we have hurt… the list goes on and on.
When you think about a life of regrets, Paul had every reason to forget the past. We read in Acts 7 that he had watched the ones who had stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He saw the importance of letting go of the past in order to move forward.
So let me ask each of us here that question: “What keeps us from looking forward, to what lies ahead? What keeps us always looking into the past?” I would suggest there are three things that get in the way of us progressing in our pursuit of Christ. Each one, in its own unique way, can become an anchor preventing us from moving forward.
Maybe you made a bad decision in life which led to consequences – maybe a broken relationship or a loss of job or money. When it happens, you feel guilty for what you have done and it keeps you stuck. We often do not see that our hope is in Christ and He has forgiven and forgotten our past. Jesus tells us to “cast our cares on Him” which I think we do but then we say “Amen,” we pick them up again and go on our way.
If we are honest, we have all done things we are ashamed of, but we must learn from Paul and strain forward or press forward and forgetting what was in the past. As Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
I think we all like being comfortable. The dictionary defines it as “the state of being relaxed and feeling no pain.” All of us enjoy comfort over pain. But there is danger in comfort because being comfortable it has the potential to turn into complacency which means satisfaction which then leads to apathy which means unconcern.
A lack of concern means we do not care. That is usually shows up in our time with God’s Word, prayer and fellowship. Hebrews 10:24-25 warns us by saying, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
When we get into a state of being too comfortable, we no longer strive to know Christ. We pamper the body over disciplining our lives to be more like God. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, there are times for that, but we need to have the attitude that Paul is talking about and that is not live in comfortableness but strive to know Christ in every area of our lives.
This is probably one of the universal things in human beings. People say everyone has a fear. For many death, public speaking and change are walls to moving forward.
There is an old saying that goes, “To get what I never had, I have to do what I have never done.” Another saying is, “If you want to overcome fear, do not sit at home and think about it.” Overcoming fear takes action. But it starts with having a faith and trust in God, the One who holds our lives in His hands. And this comes back to our perception of Him.
The fear we struggle with is evident in how we see God. Rather than trying to see Him as our loving heavenly Father, we have held on to the picture of the disciplining God who sits on His throne waiting for us to make a mistake and then discipline us. Paul did not have this picture of God in his mind.
For Paul, his view of God gave him confidence, not fear. So how do we look to the future with confidence like Paul? His text gives a different perspective.
Firstly, we need to change how we think. The Bible tells us we should think of others before ourselves. We are to think of those less fortunate. The widows, poor the ones who are hurting. We should be servants and wanting to serve one another, pray for others and love one another. When the world gets out of our thinking and Christ gets into our thinking is when we will see Him more clearly. We will see the future as Paul saw the future with great hope and clarity.
How? Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
It begins by seeking God and we do that by reading His Word. Transformation begins from within. It is God’s Spirit at work in you. As our hearts are changed, our attitudes change as well. We cannot be the same when we encounter Jesus. God saves us the way we are but His grace and love does not keep us there.
Secondly, change how you see ourselves. Many people either have too high a view of themselves or too low a view. We used to call the low view, “worm” theology from the lyric of “Amazing Grace.” “For such a worm as I.” Here is a truth all of us need to understand. Don’t see yourself as a nobody, but rather as a work in progress.
Philippians 1:6, my favourite verse, says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” In other words, God will finish what He started in your life, and it’s not over until He says it’s over.
Lastly, change the way you think God sees you. Yes, we are a work in progress, but when God sees us, He sees the finished product. He sees the end from the beginning. We live as if God still sees us as we were prior to coming to faith. God does not see us that way. Like a new coat, God sees Jesus’ righteousness on us. Romans 10:22 says, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Our once “filthy rags” have been replaced by Jesus’ new clothing.
I want us to think about all the promises God has for us in His Word. When you stop and think about them, it is staggering! In John, Jesus said He is going to build a mansion for you. In Revelation we are told that in Christ the “old is gone and the new has come.” In regards to sin, God has forgotten the past, so we should too. He has a purpose and destiny for you. How do we know that? Job lost everything and God still blessed him in the end. This means we need to continue in our trust in God, His Word and His destiny for you.
So as we go into 2019, let this years New Year’s resolution be that I my know Christ in a deeper and more personal way. When we do this, we can say the same thing Paul is saying: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”