The Not Yet Christian

Bible Book: Philippians  3 : 8-14
Subject: Dedication; Commitment; Faithfulness; Growth

Do you have all the money you wish to have? You will probably answer, "Not yet!" Have you done all the things you want to do, been to all the places you would like to visit? Most of you will answer, "Not yet!" In fact, I could ask these questions using many different examples, and almost every one here would answer, "Not yet!"

When Paul thought about life, his great questions surrounding his walk with and service for Christ. Paul travelled the world in a day when that meant walking in sandals over rough stone roads. He rode in wagons, sailed on ships and moved across one country after another without the creature comforts we have today. He was often harrassed, sometimes beaten, at other times stoned and spent a lot of time in prison - and he did it all for Christ. If you asked Paul, "Paul, haven't you travelled enough for Jesus? Haven't you suffered enough for Jesus?" Paul's answer would have been, "Not yet!"

It would be wonderful if God's people today had a "not yet" attitude in their Christian experience. Paul revealed the greatest blessing of being a Christian in the words, "Not yet." Someone has said that the verses before us today are like reading Paul’s personal diary. Actually, I think they are more than that, for these verses reveal the very heart and soul of the great apostle. In these verses we discover what made Paul tick, and we see why he was used so mightily by the Lord.

Follow as I read Philippians 3:8-14:

8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

There is much more here than we can examine in one message, but let’s get some wonderful truths from it that can help us in our walk with Christ. In this passage, Paul admits that there is something he has yet to accomplish in his Christian life. It is this thing “not yet” in his grasp which is most important aspect of the Christian life to Paul. Just what is it that Paul is striving for?

I. The Not Yet of Paul’s Priority

A group of friends who went deer hunting separated into pairs for the day. That night, one hunter returned alone, staggering under an eight-point buck. The other hunters asked, "Where's Harry?" The man told him, "Harry fainted a couple miles up the trail." The others couldn't believe it. "You mean you left him lying there alone and carried the deer back?" The man answered, "It was a tough call, but I figured no one is going to steal Harry."

One must know where to put the priority in the decisions made in life. Paul knew exactly where he wanted the priority of his life to rest and that was in knowing Christ. Now, don’t misunderstand, Paul knew Christ as his Lord and Savior, but Paul longed to know Him on a personal, daily, experiential level. In order to know Christ fully, Paul had four desires which made up this single priority.

A. The Person of Christ

“That I may Know HIM.”

Paul pointed out in his letter to the Philippians that it is God’s desire for us to experience a personal, daily familiarity with Christ. Paul wrote, “I have not yet laid hold of that for which Christ laid hold of me.” Paul is revealing that God laid hold of us in order that we might have a daily walk with Him. He does not just save us to get us to heaven, nor does he save us merely to keep us out of hell. Just think about it, Jesus does not save us to simply forgive us of our sins. It is true that salvation involves gaining heaven, escaping hell and rejoicing in forgiveness, but salvation is more - much more!

Salvation is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Salvation is as Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, the life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)”

Paul was absorbed with the idea of walking in true fellowship with the living Christ. He was not merely interested in living for Christ, he was involving in living WITH Christ and he desired for that personal relationship to improve, grow and be dynamic!

The personal walk with Christ was not all that Paul desired. Note next that he wanted to experience …

B. The Power of Christ

“The power of His RESURRECTION…”

Paul wanted the power of the risen Christ to be evident in his life. Paul knew full well that mere human strength would not suffice. Look at Philippians 4:13. With the strength of the risen Christ surging through his mortal body, Paul had power to do all that was necessary. “With God all things are possible!”

You see, when Paul met Christ, he did so on the Damascus Road – the risen, living Christ confronted Saul and changed his name to Paul. Paul had experienced the risen Lord and He wanted that power – the power that brought him to grace – to be fully operative in his life. We will sometimes hear the preacher say, “Go back to when you were saved, are you living in that power and joy at this moment?” Well, are we? Paul never wanted that moment of resurrection power to leave him. How wonderful it would be if God’s people, all the redeemed souls, would so live as to remain in the risen power of Jesus that first brought them from death unto life.

Note one additional thing that Paul desired, and this one is a bit surprising…

C. The Persecution of Christ

“and the fellowship of HIS SUFFERINGS…”

Here is a strange part of this priority, or at least it seems odd to most of us. Paul wants to know the fellowship of suffering with Christ. Pray tell, what did Paul mean by this? I have read many meandering commentary statements on this passage through the years, as writers try to explain exactly what Paul meant by this stated desire. Did Paul want to suffer for Jesus? There is no way that this text speaks of Paul’s desire to suffer physically for Christ. There is something much deeper and more profound here, something related to being in true fellowship with Christ.

Recall with me what made Christ suffer. He wept over the city of Jerusalem when he saw the judgment that was to come. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus as he saw the hurt of the bereaving people. Jesus even told Paul on the Damascus Road that He was persecuted through Paul (then named Saul) because of his persecution of the church. Now don’t miss this truth! Paul wanted to live so close to Christ in this life that he could feel the burden of Jesus for the lost, the mourners, and the Church that was so maligned in this world. Paul wanted the heart of Christ for the sin-sick world around him. O, what fellowship Paul desired to have with Christ! It would be a different world today if every believer desired this same experiential walk with Christ. If only we looked on the world through the eyes of Jesus.

Notice now a fourth thing Paul desired…

D. The Perfection of Christ

“…Not … already … perfected … but I press on…”

Paul desired perfection! I don’t mean “perfect” as in a “perfect” life. The word perfect in our text means mature. It means to come to the full stature of all that God intended. Paul was simply saying that he wanted to grow up into Christ until he came to be everything Christ wanted, planned and meant for him to be. He wanted to progress until he walked in the most mature fellowship with Christ that was possible for him.

To put it briefly, Paul wanted to be absorbed into Jesus. He wanted Christ to be as real as his own breath – as real as his own body. He wanted Christ and Christ alone!

We all must ask if Jesus is that real to us! Do we have such a desire? When you see what Paul accomplished, you can see why. He was committed to the most important aspects of the Christian life. Are you? Am I? Perhaps our churches today are not accomplishing what God intends because we are not intent on being what God desires.

Now, notice a second thing about Paul in our scripture for today…

II. The Not Yet of Paul’s Pursuit

To make a personal daily walk with Christ real, Paul knew something was required of him. Let me give you a principle to keep in mind:

What you desire, is what you will acquire;

And, what you acquire, God will require you to maintain.

This principle is true in a positive and in a negative way. If you desire something evil, you will acquire something evil, and you will be required to pay the maintenance on that evil in order to maintain it - and believe me, the rent on evil is higher than you think. All sin takes the sinner farther than he mean to stray, keeps him longer than he means to stay and costs more than he intended to pay. On the positive side, if you desire more of God, you will have more of God. The Lord said, “Those that seek me early will find me.” He said, “Those that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled.” If you desire a close walk with God, you can have a close walk with God.

The natural question is: Since so many people claim to desire a close walk with God, why don’t more have such an experience? The answer is simple - God requires that you maintain that desire. Remember the principle: What you desire, is what you will acquire; and, what you acquire, God will require you to maintain. Most people don’t walk with the Lord in power and personal experience because they lack the Passion of Pursuit necessary to maintain such a walk! Paul revealed the Passion of Pursuit in his own life with three beautiful, helpful illustrations.

A. The Value Illustration

Paul counted all things “loss” that were not in line with his spiritual desires. The word “loss” actually is much stronger than it appears. It means to be a “detriment.” Paul counted that which some would have called a blessing a “detriment,” something to be set aside lest it hold him back. In other words, there are some things which others will long to have, which you must give up if you would know Christ better and more fully!

Paul “counted” some things as a detriment. That is, he considered them to be so. He determined it in his heart! He counted all such things to be “dung.” What, pray tell is dung? The word in Greek is a neuter of a presumed derivative of three combined Greek words. The word is skubalon, which means, “the refuse which is thrown to dogs.” In other words, Paul counted anything that got in the way of his walk with Christ – his personal, experiential, powerful walk with Christ – he counted all such things a refuse thrown to dogs. He wasn’t talking about bad things – he was referring to ANYTHING that kept him from fulfilling God’s will in his life!

You must value your walk with Christ above all other pleasures, all other positions, all other passions, all other people, and all other practices of life! That is what made Paul a different kind of man. That is why the Lord came often to Paul and spoke to him and ministered to him. Paul knew Christ as a Friend that is closer than a brother.

B. The Vision Illustration

Paul had a vision of what God wanted of him. He said that he was merely seeking to lay hold of that for which Christ had laid hold of him. He was living up to God’s vision of his life.

Much is said today about churches, companies and corporations having a vision statement which expresses their reason for existence. Let me tell you something far more important, you should have a vision statement for your personal life with Christ. What is God’s vision for your life in Christ? Are you hungry to fulfill that vision? Are you living and breathing every day to make that vision a reality? Are you moving on toward a more complete fulfillment of that vision for your life?

God must truly weep when he sees what He has planned for us and then when He looks at the little baby steps so many of us keep taking. Paul meant to go on to maturity, to perfection in his walk with Christ.

C. The Victory Illustration

Paul’s final illustration was that of a runner who is victorious. I must admit that I have been a little confused by this illustration at times. After all, we are not in competition with each other, trying to win a prize from the Lord before someone else can get it. Actually, Paul is not talking about competing with another Christian. The Lord made this real to me as I prayed over this text. Paul is talking about competing against who he was, and who Christ wanted him to be. Paul was intent on going on to victory, running faithfully toward the prize God had for him. The prize was simply God’s goal for Paul. Paul was competing with his “old man.” He meant to leave that all man and the world behind him and to reach out like a runner, straining with every breath to reach the finish line and grasp the prize. The prize is that of being in daily, mature fellowship with Jesus.

I was a runner for many years and competed in races up to about age 60, when a heart issue made it impossible for me to keep running. Let me tell something about running 30 to 40 miles a week, as I did for years. You must overcome yourself in order to run. My body, mind and spirit often rebelled against my morning run, but I had to compete against those forces to make myself get up and go! Once I was out there running, even in the freezing cold or rain, a physical joy encompassed me. I felt an elation that only runners understand. That is exactly what Paul was doing spiritually! He was overcoming his old man, who wanted to please the flesh, in order to fulfill God's vision for his life. Paul made his flesh get up and run for the Lord every day.

I will tell you why so few Christians have a sense of the presence of Christ, it is because so few Christians are willing to make the commitment to put up parameters in life to block out all encumbrances to a full, absolute fellowship with Jesus. When I was running all those years, I used to lay my running clothes out every night before I went to bed. When I woke up each morning, there were my running shoes and running clothes in front of me. We must place the discipline of doing God’s will in front of our eyes each day, if we expect to run the race faithfully for Jesus!

Later in Philippians, Paul addresses this issue from the negative perspective. He speaks of those who live for the world. Look at it in Philippians 3:18-19, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Paul points out that many are living for the world and are enemies of the cross of Christ.

He reveals the process of THINKING (earth)
He reveals the process of DELIGHTING (shame)
He reveals the process of SERVING (stomach)
He reveals the process of DESTRUCTION (end results)

Our life must be different. We desire the Person of Christ, the Power of Christ, the Persecution of Christ, and the Perfection of Christ, so that we might attain that for which we were apprehended by the Lord!


How about you, dear Christian? Are you a Not Yet Christian? Are you striving for a closer walk with Jesus daily? Is it your desire to walk in personal, experiential union with Christ daily? If so, you will say with Paul, “I am striving, but I have not yet attained all the personal depth of experience with Christ that I believe He has planned for me or that I desire.”

Here is the paradox, those who have settled down to accept the spiritual lowlands as a way of life will never climb one step higher with God. Those who are dissatisfied with their attainments will keep on striving. Those who say 'Not Yet' will discover that Jesus will open more of Himself to them; but those who are satisfied will flounder around in the shallow waters, never reaching the spiritual depths God intended nor experiencing what God has planned for them.

The only thing sadder than a redeemed life lived on a plane lower than God intended, is a life lived without God at all. If you do not know that Jesus is real to you, today is your day of salvation. I can tell you that God planned for you to be saved. He said that it was not His will that any should perish but that all might come to repentance and be saved. When Jesus was on the cross, you were on His mind. He died for you as if you alone needed Him. Come to Him now. He will forgive, He will save, He will prepare a place in heaven for you; just as important, and He will come into your life and be personal to you the rest of your life!

Those who would accept Him as Savior, come. Those who know Him as Savior, but desire to set aside every earthly thing in order to attain a more experiential walk with Him, come and tell Him that today. Stretch out in the race. Reach for the prize of your high calling. Reach out to walk with Him in the true personal relationship He intended from the day He saved you.