What is one goal that you had in the past (e.g. getting good grades, getting an internship, getting healthier, etc), and what did you do to meet that goal?
Focus: The Lord’s desire is to gain us so that we would take full possession of Him. Even though Paul was a mature Christian and a very experienced apostle, he did not regard himself as one who had obtained the full enjoyment of Christ or full maturity in Christ. Instead, he let go of his past experiences, both positive and negative, and continued pursuing Christ. In like manner, we must forget the things behind and stretch forward to the things which are before that we may gain Christ!
I. Read Philippians 3:7-16. Then, read vv. 12-14 one more time.
A. In verse 12 Paul says, “I pursue, if also I may lay hold of that for which I also have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” The Greek word translated “lay hold of” may also be rendered “gain, grasp, or get possession of.” It may even be rendered “seize.” Take some time to consider what this verse means and read the following except.
Have you ever heard anyone say that at the time he was converted Christ gained him so that he might gain Christ? We need to realize that Christ has gained us that we might gain Him. Then we need to use Paul’s expression to uplift our conversation about conversion. Christ gained us not merely for the sake of forgiveness, redemption, salvation, or heaven. I repeat, He gained us for the definite purpose that we might gain Him.
Do you realize that you have been gained by Christ? At the time of your conversion, Christ laid hold of you, seized you, grasped you. When you were converted to Christ, He took full possession of you. Now it is impossible for you to escape His grasp. The Lord holds the whole earth in His hands. How do you expect to be able to run away from Him?
The Lord is very patient; He is not easily offended or angered. Sometimes Christians misrepresent the Lord Jesus and give others the impression that He will immediately become angry if they do something wrong. However, the Lord may bear with you quite a long time without becoming angry with you. He is not troubled by your attempts to escape from Him. He knows that once He has gained you, you cannot get away.
When we first called on the name of the Lord Jesus for our salvation, we were “hooked” by the Lord. It is a very important matter to call on the Lord, for when we call on Him, we are gained by Him. Once the Lord has gained us, there is no escaping from Him. Some have testified that they tried to get away from the Lord for many years, but eventually had to return to Him.
The Lord has taken possession of us so that we might take possession of Him. This was His purpose in grasping us. Christ wants us to gain Him. The Lord’s aim in His salvation is to seize us that we might take full possession of Him. Not even when Paul was writing to the Philippians did he regard himself as having gained Christ in a full way. Rather, he was still pursuing Christ in order to gain Him.
II. According to Paul in Philippians 3:12-14, how can we gain Christ?
A. In order to gain Christ, we need a certain attitude. What was Paul’s attitude in these verses? Spend time to fellowship. As part of your discussion, feel free to read the following excerpt.
Even though Paul was a matured saint and a very experienced apostle, he tells us that he had not already obtained and had not yet been perfected. He did not regard himself as one who had obtained the full enjoyment of Christ or the full maturity in life. He, of course, had obtained the common salvation by the common faith (1 Tim. 1:14-16), but he was still pursuing Christ in order to gain Him.
Furthermore, Paul was also seeking Christ in order to have the extra portion of resurrection. In order to have this portion of resurrection, called the out-resurrection, we must pursue, run the race, and finish our course triumphantly.
Like Paul, we have been regenerated, but we are not yet perfected, or matured, in life. At the time of our conversion, we were gained by Christ so that we may gain Him. Now as those who have not yet obtained and who have not yet been perfected, we are pursuing Christ.
B. In Verse 13, Paul mentions two things: 1) forgetting the things behind and 2) stretching forward to the things which are before. Share with one another how dwelling on our past experiences (both good and bad) can frustrate our further pursuit of Christ. After your discussion, read the following excerpt.
In verse 13 Paul speaks of forgetting the things behind. In order to gain Christ to the fullest extent, Paul not only forsook his experience in Judaism but also refused to dwell on his past experiences of Christ and be limited by them. To dwell on our past experiences, no matter how real they may have been, frustrates our further pursuing after Christ.
In verse 13 Paul tells us that he was stretching forward to the things which are before. He knew that Christ is unsearchably rich, that there is a vast territory of His riches to be possessed. He was stretching forward to gain these riches and to advance further into this territory.
C. Verse 14 states the word “pursue.” This can also be translated as “persecute.” What does it mean for Paul to persecute Christ? Why did such a strong word have to be used? After your discussion, read the following excerpt.
The Greek word for pursue can also be translated “persecute.” Before Paul was saved, he was persecuting Christ in a negative way. After he was saved, he pursued Christ to such an extent we may even say he persecuted Christ, but in a very positive way.
To persecute a person is to trouble him and refuse to let him go. Before Paul was saved, he bothered Christ and would not let Him go, persecuting Him negatively. But after he was saved and had been gained by Christ, he still persecuted Him, but positively, for he refused to let Christ go.
We also should persecute Christ in this way. This is to pursue Christ in order to gain Him. Do not let Christ go. Bother Him, persecute Him, in order to gain Him. To persecute Christ in this way is exhausting. As we persecute Christ, we should spend ourselves completely. Our whole being with all of our strength should be consumed in pursuing Christ.
I hope that many among us will be impressed with the need to pursue Christ and be stirred up to seek Him even in a persecuting way. Do not allow Christ to get away from you, but seek Him, pursue Him, persecute Him in such a positive way. Then you will gain Him.
Consider and share with one another one thing that you can do this week to “pursue” or “persecute” Christ in order to gain Him. Pray for each other.