Unity Comes from Striving Together

July 26, 2008 Philippians 3:12-21


-although people travel throughout the year, this time of the year tends to be the time more people travel

-some go on day trips to meet friends or family for a picnic

-some travel to an amusement park

-others go on a weeks vacation, which may require flying….

-some go to concerts or sports events

-and whether you are young or old, single or married, well traveled or seldom travel

            -one question is common among those making such a journey

            -this question can test the patience of any parent or driver

            -it can be the source of great tension or humor

-this question is asked as a child, and thought as an adult

-as many of you know….the question is…

            -“ARE WE THERE YET?”

-As a parent it goes something like this…at least for the Woodall family

            -mom starts out driving

            -kids play for a while, then one child wants what another has

            -then we work through that…..

            -one falls asleep

            -one gets bored and asks “Are we there yet?”

            -then it’s like a rapidly spreading disease….. the “are we there yet’s” begin

            -that perks another child’s interest who then wisely asks…How much longer

-then the sleeping child wakes up a bit later and thinks that naps have the ability to transport a person to their destination during sleep ..

-so the sleeper now asks

            -ARE WE THERE YET?

            -this starts the whole cycle over again

            -at this point, I, the dad, am saying to my dear wife….Honey, are we there yet

            -at this point it becomes time to draw lines in the van outlining territory and

claiming ownership rights to certain items in the van…

-of course not to fulfill godly desires, but selfish

Now, lest you think this only happens with little kids and parents in the Woodall family….

-I have had the privilege of traveling with many of your teens, those of you here with teens or past graduates….summer camp, winter retreats, serving trips, amusement parks, missions trips, wilderness trips, etc.

-we can be going a half hour away, what do we hear…are we there yet?

- and as those teens get older they wise up to their methods at asking the same question?

            -“so, how much longer do we have?”

            -The philosophers ask it this way, after a long nap – “how long was I asleep?”

            -The geography people ask it this way “where are we?”

            -Then there is the person with a need…they don’t care how long they have been

on the road, they are focused on one of two things:

                        -the nearest restaurant or ….

                        -the nearest bathroom

                        -or you could say…coffee in and coffee out (for you coffee drinkers)

-Have you ever stopped to think about why people ask that question – Are we there yet?

-let me give you some reasons to consider:

            1. Dissatisfaction with their present condition.

            2. Dissatisfaction with their present company.

            3. Anticipation of seeing and renewing relationships

            4. Anticipation of destination 

-now comes the work, ready…

-Where are you in your faith journey right now….

 -And, if you say, I am ready to be in heaven because of number one or two…

            -how do you shift into motivations 3 or 4?

-let’s say, we the believers in attendance of Faith Baptist Church, are all in a bus together on this faith journey

--and you are asking the question….”Are we there yet?

-and, let’s be honest, some have attempted to speed up their arrival due to dissatisfaction by attempting to take your own life

-some have abandoned marriage vows, given up on raising kids, given up on school, some are tired, some are discouraged, some are confused…..

            -some have shut out the world by checking into the phsyc. Ward or medication

Some, like Paul, are anticipating seeing Jesus and reaching Heaven

-the apostle Paul seems to ask this question, ARE WE THERE YET of himself

and those in Philippi,

-and writes his answer for them and for us           

-I want to talk to you this morning about Paul’s message here in Philippians… Unity Comes from Striving Together

            -we are in this journey together

-Turn in your Bible to Philippians 3:12.  This is found on page 155 in the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you. 

-I want everyone to have a Bible this morning

            -the aren’t my words

            -I realize that since I am not yet 40 years old, like Pastor Aucoin now is, you will

want to check the validity of what I have to say that much more…

            -these are God’s words to us through Paul.

-this year we have, as a church family, been seeking God’s plan…

-for our lives and for the next five year ministry plan as a local body of believers

-there are some weighty decisions on the table…

            -new ministries and or a new auditorium

            -if new ministries, which ones, etc.

-as a part of that process we are studying this summer through the book of Philippians,  a prison epistle, written by the apostle Paul about 30 years after his conversion.

-One of the main themes in the book of Philippians is Unity.

-Therefore, the focus of our study this summer has been looking at the instruction God has given us through the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians concerning how to maintain and further develop unity…among believers in Jesus Christ.

-Let’s do a quick review of what we have learned so far…Unity comes from:                            

  • Praying for one another
  • Viewing challenges through the lens of outreach
  • Developing an eternal perspective
  • A humble mind
  • Focus on the Savior
  • From working at it
  • Genuine care for the body
  • Knowing Christ
  • From striving together
  • From dealing with problems (next week)
  • From a disciplined mind (two weeks)

-assuming everyone has done the assigned homework by Pastor Viars of

            -reading the book of Philippians in one setting….

            -memorizing certain key verses from Philippians

-then you could probably come up here and tell everyone what they are…

-let me list a few one word themes in the book of Philippians

  1. Gospel
  2. Unity
  3. Joy

-They are inseparable! 

-Phil.1:3-4  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

-Phil.2:2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose (we are told the purpose- the gospel).

-Phil.3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice…

-Paul, all throughout his letter is writing about a unified body of believers that are joyfully living out and furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

            -life is about Christ, not about me

            -His plan is best, not mine

-here are a few verses in the different sections we have studied to help us think further, just listen as I read them.

-Phil.1:6  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.

            -Phil.1:12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned

out for the greater good of the gospel.

-1:18 …Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

-1:20  Christ will even now (in prison), as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

-1:12 for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

-1:27 Only conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…

-2:13  for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

-2:22 But you know of his (Timothy’s) proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel…

-3:7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that….

-Gospel, unity, and joy… and

-I hope you would agree…a church family should be made up of believers of all ages.

-I am very thankful our church is that way.

-if we were to do a survey,

-some are here today as brand new believers

            -some of you are here as toddlers in your faith

            -some as teenagers

            -some as young adults

            -some as middle aged adults

            -some as older, wiser, mature adults in your faith

            -and, let’s face it, some are here to search for answers…

-So, no matter where you find yourself today, God’s word has answers for you in your spiritual condition and life situation…

Paul is constantly challenging believers in Jesus Christ to press together toward heaven while still on earth.

-now, let’s think about some of those kinds of situations while here on earth


  • Teens, you are adults physically but not yet ready for all the responsibilities of adulthood
  • Students, you are enrolled for the fall, but you have not yet started classes
  • ladies, if you are pregnant…you already have a life in you, but you have not yet met this child
  • New job…you have the job, but you have not yet started it. Or you have started it, but not yet arrived at the top of your work performance
  • Looking to retire…You have been paying into Social Security…and it’s coming…but you are not yet receiving it... (of course those my age may be saying something like…I have paid in and it’s gone….we will see.
  • Engagement…a couple is committed to marrying one another, but has not yet experienced the full bond of the marriage union, companionship.
  • If you own a home…you are making payments on the home…you live in it, but you don’t yet own it (the bank owns it until you pay it off). 
  • Like taking a trip…you are on your way, but not there yet

-I think you get the idea of already…being a part of something…or having something,

-but not yet experiencing or having this relationship or item in full

-Let’s read now Philippians 3:12-21 to see that Unity Comes from Striving Together:

I want to use the rest of our time to look at Phil.3:12-21 and see three principles that will help us develop unity through striving together.

I. Pursue the Goal of Christ-likeness (vv.12-16)

            -Paul is talking about himself…and the goal every believer should have

            A. Lay hold of this pursuit as Christ has laid hold of you.

                        -Just like God has gripped you with his love, you are to grip the reality of His truth

                        -just like he pursued you…you must pursue what He has called you to be and do

-Eph.1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love

-Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit

         -Rom.10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

            - I must tell you…if you have not been gripped by the reality of the gospel

                        -that is, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s only son

                                    -God in the flesh

                        -to pay the penalty for your

                        -you coming to the point of repentance and calling out to God for salvation

            -I invite you to do that today….

      - you must know that you will not be able to do what this passage is talking about

      apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

-that can happen by you praying and confessing your sin to God and committing your life to Him and dying to self. 

            B. Press on

                        1. Definition of “press on” and “press toward”

            1377. διώκωdió̄kō; fut. dió̄xō, from díō (n.f.),.

a. To follow after (Luke 17:23). To follow or press hard after, to pursue with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain, to go after with the desire of obtaining.

Rom.14:19 So then we pursuethe things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

1 Thess. 5:15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek afterthat which is good for one another and for all people.

2 Tim. 2:22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Heb.6:1 (begins by saying) Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity,

b. Running a race  

            1. Don’t give up

            2. Do the work

            3. Keep your focus

-Illustration of friend in college who wanted to be the fastest runner, his dad tied a rope to his waist and rode a bicycle to make the kid faster

b. Paul’s example: Paul had been a believer for 30 years at this point(Damascus road)

two weekends ago I had the privilege of visiting 10th Presb. Church in downtown Philadelphia…hoping to be able to connect with Paul Tripp, who has spoken at our Feb. conf. etc.

  • we looked up the sr. high ss class and found it met in a home two blocks from church
  • we had a great time…the class was led by an elderly woman that clearly loved on 11th-12th grade students and did an excellent job of teaching on Dan.5
  • she had taught the class for 30 years…
  • her husband died 8 years ago….she was pressing on
  • they guys all agreed she was an awesome teacher
  • I informed them they had no idea who just taught them
  • Later they read a plaque on the wall and realized they had been taught by Mrs. James Montgomery Boice, the wife of the former 30 year pastor of 10th Pres.

-striving does not stop when a believer hits a certain physical or spiritual birthday…

                        2. Forgetting the past

                                    -notice the tense – continual action

                                    -this takes on going work…

                                    -Paul starts with himself….He understand Matt.7:5

                                    a. Forgetting “Your” past - Matt.7:3-5

          “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  “Or how 1can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

-Paul begins with his past

-“but one thing I do”

                                    b. Forgetting past successes

                                                -result of pride

-Paul was looked up to by the Philippians.  Being familiar with his background as a Pharisee, his training, etc. there was a temptation for them to look at him as having arrived.

                                    c. Forgetting past failures

                                                -you may be saying to yourself, easy for you to say Andy,

                                                            - you have no idea about my past

                                                - I don’t have to….

                                                -The power of the shed blood of Christ can pay for any and all of

                                                your and my filthy sins

                                Rom.1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of

God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

I Cor.1:18  For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are

perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

                                    - result of fear, worry, anger, discouragement

                                    Point:  Forget things that will distract you from pursuing the goal.

                                    -so the key question becomes

            Question:  Am I focusing on my past failure or past success so

            much that it is distracting me from the goal of being like Christ?

                                    - then you have to work at forgetting it

                        -Another question to ask if you are married or have kids, or have a family rift…

                                    Is, Am I focusing on my spouses, child’s, or family member’s past failure

                                    or success so much that it is distracting me from being like Christ.             

                        -remove the distractions, put them off, forget them, and …..

                        3. Focus on the goal (v.13b-21)

                                    -it’s not enough to just remove distractions and forget the past

                                    -part of God’s solution to your sinful past is developing such an intense

                                    pursuit of His goal for your life that you won’t look back

                                    -when you are in a sprint, you don’t look back

                                                -you don’t look to your side

                                                -you focus….

          Question:  What is your goal in life? What has been your goal this


                                    -better tan….watch that skin cancer

                                    -the perfect lawn

                                    -be the softball all-star

                                    -get more “me” time camping or boating or

                                    -finding that “perfect mate”….keep dreaming

                                        a. Paul’s goal was to press on toward the goal to win the prize

                                    -what do coaches and parents tell kids

                                                -do your best…..give it all you got

                                    -Paul was fixed on the prize…

                                    -Paul is saying….like the author of Hebrews:

Heb.12:1-3 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

                        Question:  What are your eyes fixed on this morning?

  • success, money, power, pleasure, revenge,
  • Dear unbeliever, maybe it’s time to fix your eyes on Jesus and repent
  • Dear believer, maybe it’s time to refocus

It’s kind of like Paul is pointing the Philippians, and you and me to Jesus, who is standing at the finish line, saying, “just watch Him”

-You look at Jesus and he stands there with his two fingers pointed at your two eyes, -then his fingers point to His two eyes, then back at your two eyes

                        Note:  Jesus sat down….No priest ever sat down at the temple 

                                    -why?  His work was never finished

                                    - Jesus blood finished the job…your sin is paid for…provided you confess

                                                your sin…

                                    b. Paul’s goal was to fulfill his calling…to live like Jesus

2 Cor.5:9-10 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before  the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

I Tim.1:5  But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

            -now, some of you my be thinking right now, you know what…

                        - you have your goals…I have my goals…who cares…

                        -just don’t tell me what my goal should be…and I won’t tell you…

                        - notice the unity spoken of here

                        4. Individual and unified pursuit

                        -Paul made it very clear what his focus was

                        -he also made it clear that all believers should be sharing in that focus

                                    -v.15 Let us therefore…

                                    -v.16 Let us keep living…we have attained

                                    -v.17 Brethren, join in following….

                                    -v.20 Our citizenship…we eagerly wait…

                        -Paul had a “we are in this together” mentality

--Your focus in life impacts your walk.

-what you think is what you will do…

II. Walk as Citizens of Heaven (Vv.17-21)

            A. Your destination and relationship impacts your walk.

Phil.2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,

James 2:20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

                        Maybe no one has ever invited you to follow Christ, I invite you this morning…

            B. You are invited to walk together

                        -you have examples, both in Scripture and in real life

                        -You don’t have to walk alone

                        -believers are connected to the local body

            Heb.10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and 

good deeds,

            C. Some are enemies of the cross of Christ

                        1. Their end is destruction

                        2. Their god is their belly – they worship, serve, obey their own selfish


                        3. They glory in their shame

  • instead of giving glory to God these teachers heaped praise on themselves
  • Ironically, they prided themselves in the things they should have been ashamed of.
  • Modern day illustrations

                                                - listened and or told jokes they should have been ashamed of

                                                - a husband boasts in what he can do without his wife knowing

                                                - a wife boasts in the control she has over her husband

                  - the teen or college student boasts in his/her physical

                  advancements on a  Date or his intoxication escapades over the


                  -the retiree or senior citizen that may boast in what he or she can

                  get out of doing 

            D. But you are citizens of heaven.

- The people of Philippi where citizens of Rome, yet most had never been to Rome.

-in other words, they had all the privileges and responsibilities of being a citizen, but had never visited and partaken of the awesome view of Rome…

                        1. Await a Savior (fulfilled relationship, seeing Jesus)

                        2. Look forward to a new body (one additional reward, part of the prize)

-Our Savior will transform our body of “humble state” into conformity with the body of His glory.

-Use of “transform” and “conform”            takes us back to Romans 12:2 be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

-Paul, I believe, is letting us know the prize is two fold…

1. You are going to see the one you have been laid hold of by, the one you are to focus on…Jesus is the prize.

2. You will be given a glorious, transformed body as a result of having a transformed mind. 

-now, a few key questions

1. Are we there yet?  

             No. [click in]

            -and don’t be looking at your neighbor, friend, spouse or kids and be saying…

            -I know he ain’t there yet…I am talking about you first

2. Do you need to change your goal, your focus this morning?

            -maybe you are not pressing toward the goal….It’s time to “press”

3. Are you walking with other believers as citizens of heaven?

-Have we arrived yet….no, but we are on our way…

-I trust that as we ride the FBC bus on the journey toward heaven we will continue to grow in unity as we strive together toward the goal of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.