The Upward Call of God

Philippians 3:7-9 ESV

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Worldly or fleshly accomplishments mean nothing with regard to our salvation from sin and eternal life with God. We can do nothing of ourselves, in our own flesh, to impress God with our goodness, nor to be acceptable to God, nor to gain salvation from sin. For all flesh is flesh and the flesh can do nothing to put flesh to death nor to walk in holiness and in righteousness. We can only be saved from slavery to sin and walk in the holiness of God by God’s grace, through God-given faith in Christ, and in his power.

So, if you are trying to earn God’s approval and your salvation from sin and eternal life with God by the works of the flesh, even if they are good works, it will get you nowhere. You may be impressed with yourself and with your own accomplishments, and you may be receiving the praises of other humans for the good deeds that you do, but you aren’t gaining points with God. And especially if you are deliberately and habitually sinning against God while you profess faith in him, he is not impressed with your “good works.”

So, we can only be righteous in the sight of God via God-given faith in Jesus Christ, which is not of ourselves, of our own works, but which is a gift from God. But faith in Jesus is more than just God’s gift to us, but it is divine persuasion. For we can’t even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless God the Father first convinces us of his holiness and righteousness, and of our sinfulness, and of our need to repent of (to forsake) our sins and to follow Jesus Christ in surrender to him and in obedience to his commands.

But since this faith comes from God, and it is authored and perfected by Jesus Christ, and it is gifted to us by God, and we can’t even believe in Jesus unless God persuades us to believe in him, then this faith is going to be aligned with God’s holiness and righteousness, and it is going to submit to the Lord’s will and purpose for our lives, because it is of God and not of our flesh. So, if we are believing in Jesus with this God-given faith, it means dying to sin and living to God and to his righteousness, in practice.

For look at what it says next… “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11 ESV).

To know Jesus is to obey him. If we do not obey him, we do not know him. It is what the Scriptures teach. And to know the power of his resurrection means we have to first of all die with him to sin and to self that we might live to him and to his righteousness. But we don’t do this in our own strength and power. This is the working of God’s Spirit in our lives as we surrender our will to the will of God for our lives. So part of the sufferings we must share in are in dying with Christ to sin and living to his righteousness.

And to become like Jesus in his death means we die with him to sin that we might be resurrected with him to walk in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. But this is not something we do just once. Daily, by the Spirit, we are to be putting to death the deeds of the flesh and to be walking in obedience to our Lord in holiness and in righteousness. For the Christian life is a life of daily dying to sin and to self and of walking in obedience to our Lord, according to his will and purpose.

And then this last phrase quoted here is letting us know that it is our walks of faith in Jesus Christ which determine whether or not we have salvation from sin and eternal life with God. And no, this is not us trying to earn our own salvation by fleshly works. This is us walking in the salvation God provided, by his grace, in submission to his will, in his power and strength. For if we continue in deliberate and habitual sin, and not in walks of obedience to our Lord, we will not inherit eternal life with God.

[Matt 7:21-23; Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:44; Jn 14:23-24; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

Philippians 3:12-16 ESV

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

Now, when Paul stated here that he had not already obtained this and that he was not already perfect, he was not saying that he was still walking in sin, like some people like to say about him. I mean, read all of Paul’s words in the New Testament. He was either the biggest hypocrite alive or he was a man of integrity who was walking the walk he was telling all of us we need to walk in order to have salvation from sin and eternal life with God. But when we view our salvation as not completed until Jesus Christ returns and he takes his bride to be with him, then we get a clearer picture of this.

For we don’t “get saved” (once) and now heaven is guaranteed us when we die, regardless of how we live our lives on this earth, even though this is the predominant teaching in the church here in America. We who are believing in Jesus Christ were saved (past), we are being saved (present active), and we will be saved (future) when Jesus Christ returns, BUT providing that we are walking (in practice) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh, in obedience to our Lord, and not in sin. And provided that we continue in those walks of faith until the very end, by God’s grace.

So, when he said that he pressed on to make his own what he had not yet obtained, and when he said that he, thus, made it his practice to forget what lies behind and to strain forward to what lies ahead, he was speaking of progressive salvation which is progressive sanctification. For our salvation won’t be complete until Jesus returns and we go to be with him, and only IF we continue in him and in his word in walks of obedience and not in sin. And that is why he said that he pressed on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

[Matt 7:21-23; Lu 9:23-26; Jn 8:31-32; Jn 15:1-12; Rom 8:24; Rom 11:17-24; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; Gal 5:16-21; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-11; 2 Tim 1:8-9; 2 Tim 2:10-13; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; 2 Pet 1:5-11; 2 Pet 2:20-22; 1 Jn 1:5-10; 1 Jn 2:3-6;24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10]

So, let these words here sink into your hearts and minds. Not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow, so don’t mess around with your life thinking that you have heaven guaranteed you when you die while you continue living in deliberate and habitual sin and not in holiness and in righteousness. Pay close attention to what Paul wrote here. For he taught progressive salvation which will not be complete until Jesus returns, and he taught that there are conditions to our salvation that, if not met, can prohibit us from entering into eternal life with God (Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 6:7-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

I’d Rather Have Jesus

Oscar C. A. Bernadotte
Rhea F. Miller / Joel A. Erickson

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name.

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