v1 - Does reading the Bible and going to church often seem like you're hearing/reading the same thing over and over and over?
That's because you are!
But you need this repetition.
Paul indicates that he's written these same things before,
but reading them again is a 'safeguard' for us.
Reading the Bible and going to church is sort of like eating:
You don't just eat something once and then consider yourself nourished for a year, rather you eat a steady diet regularly.
You need to hear God's Word over and over and over, just like you need to eat over and over and over.
v2-9 - It seems like every other chapter in the New Testament says something about circumcision, which just seems really bizarre to our ears. In v2 Paul calls those who circumcise people 'mutilators,' but then he says we - Christians - are the circumcised. This whole thing seems really confusing and kind of gross. Here's the thing to remember: From the time of Moses, God's people were those who kept the Old Testament law, and circumcision was primary indicator which sealed a man's (and subsequently his family's) inclusion in God's plan of salvation. But since Christ fulfilled all of the law's requirements, God's people no longer need to jump through all of its hoops.
The problem is that this system was so ingrained in Jewish minds that they couldn't let go of it - even the Jews who believed in Christ. They wanted the new Gentile converts to have to jump through the same hoops they had to.
It's not just the Jews though...
we all have a desire to want to point to things we've done (hoop jumping) to earn salvation rather than fully trusting in Christ (v4).
Paul demonstrates how he was the king of all hoop-jumpers,
until he discovered the "surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (v8)."
After discovering Jesus, Paul realized his own efforts, as impressive as they were to other people, were garbage.
v10-14 - I'll bet you want to know Jesus better, right? Awesome! But that's not going to just happen on its own. It took hard work for Paul, and you need to put in the same effort. Look at how Paul describes the effort it takes:
"I press on to take hold..."
"straining toward what's ahead"
"I press on toward the goal/prize" How would you characterize your efforts to know Jesus better? Are you exerting the sort of effort Paul did, or just hoping the knowledge of Christ is somehow magically infused into you? What sort of disciplines could help you press on?
v15-21 - The contrast between enemies of the Kingdom and citizens of the kingdom is clear:
Enemies are destined for destruction, only interested in their own appetite, and have their minds set on worldly things.
Kingdom Citizens, however, eagerly await the Kings return while they press on and strain towards victory.
OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCE:
One of the reasons the nation of Israel fell away from God is because the watchmen that God had placed over them (prophets, priests and kings) had dropped the ball and were no longer pressing on or straining to know God. Read Isaiah 56:9-12 to see how similar things were there to our own society.
Use the comment box below to discuss one or more of these questions:
EYE FOR DETAIL—From what you recall seeing in this chapter, try answering the following question without looking at your Bible: Paul speaks of a specific way in which we serve (worship). What is it? (See verse 3.)
What things in life are holding you back from "pressing on" and "straining forward" to know Christ better?
Question 1 taken from The Complete Bible Discussion Guide: New Testament
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Knowing God is of surpassing worth, which makes all else seem like garbage (v8)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that God will make it clear to you those things in which you think differently than what He desires.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: