Summary: As another year comes to a close we need to press to become more like Jesus
January 1, 2012
A prudent question is one half of wisdom – Francis Bacon
Are you closer to Christ today than you were on January 1, 2011?
It seems like such a simple question but the answer is anything but simple. The question calls into account our progress in faith and in our personal spiritual growth.
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. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Paul opens this passage with both a disclaimer and a declaration. The disclaimer is simply put that he had not yet been made perfect. The point that Paul was making is that there was still room for him to grow in his relationship with God. He had not yet arrived. The declaration is that he was pressing on to get everything that Christ desired to give him. It is so sad that so many realize they have not yet gained all that Christ has for them but give up the pursuit.
Forgetting what is behind
The image that Paul pulls from society is one of a runner. Not just any runner but the lead runner. The lead runner needs to forget those who are behind and focus on the remainder of the race that lies ahead. The same is true of our walk with God.
There are things that are left behind, why do we insist on continually reliving those things? There are things that are in the past that are washed away by the redeeming blood of Jesus, we bear them no more. Why do we insist on looking back on those things? We are called to run our Christian race in the leader status. We are called to live the Christian life focused not on what we have left behind but on what we have yet to embrace.
Paul had a past that would be haunting to say the least. Before Paul had his life changing encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road, he was Saul the persecutor of the church. The only goal that Paul had was to wipe out Christianity and he was doing a good job. Paul became what he was trying to stop and destroy. He was changed by Christ and would never be the same. The memory of his past, made Paul view his previous life as rubbish. Paul moved beyond his past and we need to do the same. There is no way for us to do great things for God while we are wrapped up in the past.
Straining toward what is ahead
Paul continues the metaphor and imagery of the race. The goal of the runner is to reach the finish line. The goal that Paul is looking toward is the completion of Christ’s work in his life. The completion of that perfect relationship he was meant to have with God. Paul was looking forward to the day when the victory over sin would be complete. Paul was straining toward the moment when everything that Christ had died to provide would be his. The finish line is found only in heaven. It is in heaven that the work of Christ is made complete.
Paul was making a commitment to no longer live chained to his past. Paul was living with a glorious future in mind. Paul was focused on the finishing of Christ’s work. We need to set our sights on the work that is to be finished. We need to get focused on the day that Jesus completes His work in us.
Judgmental behavior flows out of the unfinished work of God. The problem is that we often look at what Jesus is doing in other people and judge the unfinished work. We do not have the right to judge anyone. We should be asking the question, how do we want God to treat us? Are we treating other people in the same manner? If the answer on our treatment is no, we have a major problem that needs correcting. Stop looking at others and strain toward what is ahead.
Why do we need to press on?
1. The work of perfection is not yet finished