Summary: Spiritual maturity is a growth process, so we need to be willing to press on. Are you willing to press on? Are you willing to be single minded in becoming like Christ? You must press on in Christ.
Illustration: Christian Pilgrimage
One of the greatest Christian classics, maybe the greatest of all is John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress. It is an allegory written by a Baptist Pastor who wrote while he was imprisoned for his faith. It gives us an analogy of the Christian life.
Pilgrims Progress is the story of a man named Christian, led yonder through the wicket gate, who begins a pilgrimage where he encounters all kinds of opposition. He encounters different personalities like Moneylove, Envy and Ignorance and Talk. It is such a great classic because we can identify with these problems.
In our Christian life we are on a pilgrimage. We will come across all these difficulties. There is a problem for how some people take this analogy. They come into difficulty, struggling with the idea of Christianity and whether they want to make their commitment to Christ and all these temptations come to them and finally they make their commitment to Christ. Somehow they have gotten confused. They think now their pilgrimage is over and they have finally reached the Celestial city. That is not the way the Bible portrays our Christian pilgrimage.
The Bible talks about the Christian life as a pilgrimage. When you become a Christian you have only begun the pilgrimage. Once you become a Christian, then you are called to press on in Christ toward the great goal of becoming like Jesus.
There may be a struggle in coming to Christ, but no one should consider that when they become a Christian they have arrived. No, the journey has just begun. There is a saying; Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. That saying may be true, but it is not an excuse for moral laxity.
We recognize that nobody has arrived and Christians are not perfect. We are on a journey to become more like Jesus Christ. Christian maturity does not come instantly. That is why there are many, like those in the current discipleship class, who discipline themselves and work hours weekly in Bible study, prayer, improving relationships and in scripture memorization. Because Christian maturity is a process and requires discipline, to become more like Jesus Christ.
Some people believe that you can have some experience in your life and all of a sudden you have arrived, you’re perfect. That is not the way our Christian life is pictured in the Bible. In this passage we have a call to press on. There is a warning that no one has arrived. We never reach a level of moral perfection in this life. That will happen when we are with the Lord in heaven.
It could be summed up by the old Negro Spiritual song. “Please be patient with me. God is not through with me yet.” It is a journey. It is a goal. The first goal that we see is that we must press on. Look at verse 12.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
This is the Apostle Paul speaking. He is saying, “I have not yet arrived. I have not yet obtained all these things.” So we know that nobody in the Christian life has arrived. Not the Pastor, not the deacon, not Billy Graham. No one has arrived. We are all called in this journey to press on.
Here is Paul talking about his own life. He had a dramatic experience. He had encountered Jesus Christ on the Damascus road. His testimony was probably more dramatic than any of us, yet he had not arrived. He was just called to a pilgrimage of becoming more like Jesus Christ. Paul was not satisfied only with having this encounter with Jesus Christ. For Paul that was only the beginning. That was only the start of becoming more like Jesus.
Spiritual growth requires an ongoing lifetime commitment. Paul wrote this instruction because there were members of the church at Philippi who thought they had arrived. They thought that everything was where it needed to be in their life and they did not realize they need to continually press on in Christ.
For Paul, the main purpose of his life was to press on in Jesus Christ. For him everything related to the goal of being more like Christ. We need to remember this when we get discouraged and when we wonder if it is worth it to press on. We have troubles and our world seems to cave in. Is it all worth it? The answer is yes.
Those are the times we are called to press on. We are to be more like Christ and continue to look ahead to the finish line. Paul wants to make this point so clear. He does this through an illustration. He talks about the imagery of the games. He talks about one who is running a race. The race could only be won when the runner gives the race his full attention.