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In Hot Pursuit

"12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained."

Good Morning my Beloved,

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The preacher Jonathan Edwards who was made famous in the Great Awakening, over a period of time, he wrote these resolutions: 

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humble entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake. [I will] remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.

Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

Resolved, Never to do anything out of revenge.

Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.

Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.

Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

Resolved, Always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.

In what may have become possibly among the most well known resolutions ever made, Jonathon Edwards expressed a simple desire to live a life in pursuit of God. 

Whether you choose to be so eloquent or not, anything short of that desire in your own life is going to cause you to miss God’s very best for you. A God entranced life, or a life consumed with the pursuit of God isn’t just the stuff of our favorite Bible heroes, nor is it a life that ought to be relegated to a handful of preachers. Every life, each of your lives and mine, ought to be marked by the passionate pursuit of God and His kingdom.

Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Heavenly Father, 

Father, we give our thanks to You for this straightforward Word today. For the clear instruction of the truth. I pray that You would touch every person who receives this Word, that You would call them to a fresh commitment, focused and motivated by Christ, consistent to Your Word. 

Lord, we pray that those who have reached a point of spiritual contentment, who feel they have heard enough, that they know enough, and they believe enough and have done enough, that You would call them to a deeper level of commitment and pursuit today.

And as for those who haven't received Christ, who's hearts have been hardened to the truth, we pray that You would soften their hearts, call out to them and they answer that call, that today would be that glorious day of salvation. A new beginning in Christ.

We ask and pray this in Jesus' name
Today's Message: In Hot Pursuit
As we begin a new year, I want to issue a simple challenge to you, today and throughout this year. And that is that we begin to see ourselves as people of the kingdom of God and that we begin to live our lives in hot pursuit of a relationship with God, which doesn't just proclaim that God is the most important in our lives, but actually reflects that God and His kingdom really are the most important things in our lives. 
The challenge is for us to live like people of the Kingdom, to love like people of the Kingdom, to have Kingdom values, to have Kingdom desires, and that we set our sights on that one thing and chase after it with a great intensity. My challenge to you today, God’s challenge to you today, is to life a God entranced life, a God consumed life, a God centered life. There are myriad of reasons to run the race, pursuing the prize. It brings glory to God, it verifies regeneration, it adorns the truth. Furthermore, it grants assurance.
Open with me your Bibles to Philippians chapter 3, verses 12 through 16. I believe that we have been tremendously blessed with this wonderful portion of the Word of God. We can ascertain that the Apostle Paul loved athletics. We know that he frequently used athletic metaphors and analogies, such as the runner, which to him was the picture of the Christian, and the race, the picture of the Christian life. Paul exhorts us to run the race, with maximum effort, to reach the finish line, pursuing the prize. Which is Christ.

I invite you to follow along with me as I read to get our text set in our minds. Philippians 3:12-16.

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained."

I believe that it is a almost a natural thing for you and me to grow complacent and content with our spirituality. It is quite natural for us to think that we are doing okay in our walk with the Lord and in our relationship with Him. We take sort of a spiritual inventory, how often we attend church, how many times we have read our Bibles, how many verses and chapters we're able to quickly quote, we take into account the number of good deeds that we have done in His name, and we feel we're in a good place. I'd like you to make note, that it matters not what you think or feel. What our life really says. Not just what we have done in the past, but we continue to do each day.

In verse 12, Paul tells us "Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus."

I believe this is obviously the heart of this passage, the spiritual point Paul is making here, is the matter of pursuing the spiritual prize, our Christian effort towards spiritual growth, that we might obtain victory in Christ. Paul wants us to know that he in all he has gained in Christ, he has not gained perfection, he has not reached moral perfection, and he has not reached spiritual perfection, even though he is a new creation, even though he has obtained a new standing before God, even though he has the indwelling Holy Spirit and even though he has the promised future glory. He wants us to know that even though he has all these things, he is still a sinner, the possessor of unredeemed flesh. He wants us to know that he is not perfect. 

From time to time we all must take a spiritual inventory. Not just of all the things we have received in Christ, not all of the things that we've already accomplished in His name. But rather are we still pressing forward? Are we still looking for the blessed Redeemer? Are we loving unlovable people as Christ does? Are we demonstrating grace and mercy like He would have us to? Has Christ really changed our hearts? You thought you had that temper under control, but what about that person who cut you off in traffic? What about harsh words someone spoke to you? Did you bless them, or curse them?

I know many people who never balance their checkbook. They have no idea what they have in their bank account, so they trust to the bank to send a statement each month, telling them what they have. 

What about with your spiritual life? Do you know where you really are? Do you know what you really have? Are you trusting other people to tell you what a good Christian you are? When you could stop, take inventory and allow the Holy Spirit to give you a much more accurate account?  

Beloved, if you never take inventory of where you are today, will never see the need to press on, to reach toward the goal and reach the finish line. If anyone had a messed up past it was the Apostle Paul, but he says this in verse 13: "Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead."

In other words, "I have taken inventory of my life, and I know I have not yet arrived at the point where I want to be: but this one thing I do, is forgetting those things which are behind."

The point here is that the thought of perfection must be set aside in favor of pursuing the perfection that every believer must come to the recognition that he doesn't have.

The Apostle Peter understood this when he wrote "but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen" II Peter 3:18

The Greek word Paul uses here is "epilanthanomenos," meaning to neglect or forget. In other words, he purposely and deliberately chose not to remember something, and maybe more accurately, not to let something in his past influence his future.

Maybe you’ve have some skeletons in your closet. We all have those moments in life that we’d like to put behind us. Those times we'd just assume forget. In fact, it’s not just certain moments we’d like to put behind us, there are habits, decisions, mistakes, problems, relationships, lost time and more that we’d like to forget about; that we’d like to put in the past and leave it there. 

I often wonder how many people have changed jobs, marriages, moved to different towns, and changed churches, all hoping that a fresh start will change everything. Most of the time however, little changes only change the scenery. Now, perhaps this may be a bit of an oversimplification, but forget it all, and make a deliberate choice to neglect the influence those things have over your life and press forward.

However, in contrast, maybe you have done great things for God. You lived for Him. You've taught, you've witnessed, you've gone here and there, have done this and that in the church and people far and wide sang your praises. If that’s the case, I praise God for you. But guess what? As glorious as your past is, it maybe be stopping you from pressing forward to even greater depths in a relationship with God.

In verse 14, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." No matter who you are, regardless of what you have or haven’t done, where you’ve been and how much longer you have on this earth, put your past behind you and make this a defining moment in your life so that one day, a year from now or ten, you can look back and see this second identifying marker, as you press toward the mark today, put your accomplishments of the past behind you. The Apostle Paul deals a devastating blow to this doctrine of perfectionism.

Some of you may not be familiar with that term, but if you've come from a Methodist background, a Wesleyan background or a Nazarene background, it was often referred to as complete sanctification or total sanctification. As a footnote, the only way that Wesley could make this fly was to say that there's a difference between willful sin and making a mistake. Think about it. If anyone dare claim sinless perfection, it would be difficult at best to validate this ridiculous claim to those closest to them, who knew better. Therefore, unwilling mistakes didn't count, as they were a willful sin due to a sin nature.

I have heard some say, "If I'm already entitled to enter heaven, if I already have the guarantee of all that is promised to me, why should I bother? And I will enter into the fullness of them the same as everyone else. What's the point?" 

In our passage, the Apostle Paul is trying to teach all of us something here. The message here is that perfection is a life goal, not an achievement! I believe that perfection is something that you strive for, you pursue but never reach, at least not on this earth. Perfection can only be realized in heaven, which is why he acknowledges in this passage, he has yet to obtain it! As I stand here today, after all my years in walking with the Lord, all my years in ministry, I can echo his testimony. I'm not perfect! I'm still not where I ought to be in God's perfect standard. I'm still in the process... I don't even know how to pray as I ought, so the Holy Spirit makes intercession for me with groaning that cannot be uttered because of my ignorance.

So, allow me to just say this, if you feel that you are content in your spiritual condition, I believe that you have reached a very, very dangerous point! 

In verse 15, he says "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;."

"As many as are perfect?" Why in the world would Paul throw that out there? It just confuses the clarity of the text! Wrong, I believe Paul is being sarcastic here. In other words, for those of you who think you're perfect, you need to have this attitude." I think this was a sarcastic bite at the Judaizers. Who were claiming their perfection to the Philippian believers. "See, we've reached perfection. Therefore, do as we do."

I believe, the challenge today is to purpose in our hearts to lay everything aside and live in hot pursuit of a God centered life. Many, maybe even most people, will not do so. Like the sower and the seed, the cares of this life will choke out the desire and will drown out the voice of God, calling us to come ever closer to the heart of God. Yes, some will hear. Some will lay it all down. Some will take inventory, put the past behind them and press onward. For those who are willing to do so, living with that one aim must be our mindset. It must be the hidden force that drives us.

Here is the good news beloved, God knows our desires. The fact is that while I have purposed in my heart to take this challenge, I will get distracted. I will not always have this mindset. I will not always be so minded. It is in those moments when I am not, if my heart is right with God and He knows my desire is to be so, Paul says that "God will reveal that also to you."

You may as well know that God’s not going to chase you all around trying to change your minds if your desire really isn’t to live such a life. If you want to live in the dark then that’s exactly where you’ll stay.

In verse 16 Paul says, "however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained." In other words, regardless of where you are in the race…regardless of where you are on the journey, no matter how far you have come in your pursuit of God, let’s walk or run or travel by the same rule, minding the same thing – having the same purpose of heart.

In Closing...

You and I may be in two completely different places in our spiritual journey, even at two different places of spiritual maturity, but we want the same things. If I want to love like Jesus loved and you want to love like Jesus loved, then we can encourage one another to live in pursuit of that. If you want to be a God-honoring husband and I want to be a God-honoring husband, then we can encourage one another to be those things.

As we live in pursuit of God we must yoke up with other believers who are also in pursuit of that one thing, and before I leave this third identifying mark on our milestones I must say that we do not do this in this sanctuary. We really only yoke up with one another on a relational basis outside these four walls. 

Think of the disciples, they didn’t just yoke up with Jesus as He preached sermons, but walked with Him, from town to town, as He attended weddings and funerals, as He healed lepers and blind people, as He walked through fields and ate meals together. If you want to yoke up with like-minded believers, start looking for ways to make that happen on Monday, not just on Sunday.

When we mark those who are proper role models for our spiritual journey, then those we ought not follow will grow more and more obvious. It is a fact that many people, even inside the Lord’s churches have no desire or interest in living in pursuit of God. Paul says they are enemies of the cross of Christ. Statistically speaking, many Christians we personally know are enemies of the cross of Christ, even within our own churches.

Their God is their belly. No, that doesn’t necessarily mean they eat too much, but their lives are marked by self-indulgence and self-gratification. They get what they want. Their marriages are about them. Their relationships are about them. The church is there for them, to serve their needs. We make our decisions because of them. God isn’t the Lord of their life. Their own fleshly appetites are.

Their glory is in their shame. In other words the things that draw attention to them are things they ought to be ashamed of. When you think of them you think of things unbecoming of a child of God. This isn’t about bellies hanging out of clothes that are too small, its about someone claiming to love God but having a foul mouth, telling foul jokes, making fun of those less fortunate. It’s about someone claiming to love their church but can barely make one service a week. It’s about someone claiming to live for the glory of God but when you look at their life away from church you wouldn’t even know that they knew God. Their glory is in their shame.

They mind earthly things. Put very simply, they have never set their hearts on God or the kingdom of God. They don’t have time or concern for prayer. They don’t have time or concern for the Word of God. They don’t have time or concern for ministry. They don’t have a dollar to spare for the work of God, but they drive a new car. They don’t have a dollar to spare for spreading the gospel, but they’ve seen the latest movies and own the latest gadgets. They don't have a dollar to spare for a brother who is in need, but can buy the latest 70" flat screen television. They mind earthly things.

Not only are these people enemies of the cross, whether they are church members or not Paul tells us we are to avoid them. The Scripture makes it clear, bad company corrupts good character. If you want to live in pursuit of a deeper, better, growing, more meaningful relationship with God, then you can’t follow people who are enemies of the cross of Christ, no matter how fun they are to be around or how friendly they are. Even if they are the most revered people in the church, if they aren’t living in pursuit of God, if they aren’t concerned with living for the glory of God, then you mark them, "Do not follow!"

The challenge is simple, but it's not easy. The challenge to live in pursuit of God and His Kingdom this year, not just with empty words, but with your life. It doesn't require a lot of resolutions – just one.

Will you make that resolution today to pursue God and the Kingdom with everything in you?
Will you make the decision to live your life In Hot Pursuit?

May it be so...

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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