I Am Not There Yet

Bible Book: Philippians  3 : 12-16
Subject: Progress; Growth; Christian Living
Series: Philippians - Williams

In our previous passage Paul has described the marvelous transformation that took place in his life when he met the risen Christ there on the Damascus road. In that powerful, moving passage, he recited his impressive religious credentials. He wrote about his personal achievements and then said that they didn’t matter at all after receiving Christ.

Yet, after hearing these great accomplishments read, some in Philippi may have felt that after all this, Paul had reached spiritual perfection. Even after all these wonderful things, Paul says, “I am not there yet”. I am still on the journey.

The passage we are studying this morning strikes a devastating blow to the idea held by some denominations and churches that Christians can reach a stage of perfection in this life. Some teach that this is a second work of grace. However, the Bible teaches that perfection in this life will always be a goal. John in writing to Christians says in 1 John 1:7-9 (NIV) 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Some would say, if spiritual perfection is impossible reach in this life, why try?

Boy, I am glad you asked that question because I am eager to tell you. First, as God’s spiritual children, we have a built in desire to grow 1 Peter 2:1-2 (NIV) 1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,

Apart from that, there are several compelling reasons Christians must grow spiritually.

1. It glorifies God.

2. It shows evidence that our salvation is real.

3. It makes visible the truth of God to others: Titus 2:10 (NIV) and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

4. It brings assurance of salvation.

5. It keeps believers from sorrow and suffering associated with spiritual maturity.

6. It protects the cause of Christ from reproach.

7. It produces joy in the lives of believers.

8. It equips them for ministry to others in the body of Christ.

9. It enhances our witness to the lost world.

Well, Paul, if this is so important, how can we pursue this prize, as you call it>


Philippians 3:12 (NIV) Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect.

All believers are now in Christ and will enjoy in heaven is eternally fixed by God’s great purpose. 1 Peter 1:4 (NIV) "and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you..."

One can’t improve upon that. But our lives in this present world MUST be improved upon. Knowing that we are not now what we should be and will be in glory should not plunge us into apathy. Instead, it should fill us with zeal to move forward.

The apostle Paul knew this and shared it openly with his dear friends in Philippi.Pursuing the goal of spiritual perfection, or Christ likeness begins with one’s dissatisfaction with his present life. Ironically, those most like Christ are the ones who are most aware of their sin and are the humblest before God because of it.


"But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."

Press on means to run or follow after. Paul used all of his might straining every muscle to become more and more like Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV) "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."

What was God’s goal in saving Paul? What was His goal is saving US? What is His goal in saving ANYONE? Romans 8:29 (NIV) "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

The Christian life is a life-long pursuit of Christ likeness. That is God’s goal in saving us and should be our goal as well.


Philippians 3:13 (NIV) "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead..."

A maximum effort without a focused concentration is useless. It is singularly focused people who succeed in life.

Paul suggests two ways he does this.

1. Forgetting what is behind.

Paul made a break with everything in the past, both good and bad. Some churches are crippled by the grudges, bitterness, sins and tragedies of the past. Others are still hanging on to the victories of the past.They must break from the past if they are going to pursue the spiritual prize. Jesus said: Luke 9:62 (NIV) "Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'" The clearest vision belongs to those who forget the past.

But there is another thing Paul writes about:

2. Straining toward what lies ahead.

Again that goal for which we are reaching is to become like Jesus. Paul writes about that time and time again. To the Colossians he wrote: Colossians 1:28 (NIV) "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ"

To the Ephesians he wrote: Ephesians 4:11-14 (NIV) "11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming."


Philippians 3:14 (NIV) "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus"

This is the heart of the passage. The prize was what motivated him to run. Christ likeness with all its eternal benefits.


Philippians 3:15 (NIV)  'All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. '

Paul wasn’t this spiritual race alone. All Christians are involved. Again Paul is not speaking about perfection here on earth. But he was experienced and realized that not everyone would press on as he taught. Thus he felt that God would do whatever is necessary to get the true believer to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ.


Philippians 3:16 (NIV) "Only let us live up to what we have already attained."

Lastly, four things help believers to consistently pursue the prize of Christ likeness:

1. The Word of God

1 Peter 2:2 (NIV) Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,

2. Prayer

Second is prayer 2 Corinthians 13:9 (NIV) We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection.

3. Following a godly example.

4. Suffering

God uses trials to mold believers I nto the image of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 5:10,  (NIV) "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."


At the foot of the Swiss Alps is a marker honoring a man who fell to his death attempting the ascent. The marker gives his name and this brief epitaph: He died climbing.” The epitaph of every Christian should be that they died climbing the upward path toward the prize of Christ likeness.