Have you ever seen the Christian slogan: “Not perfect, just forgiven”? We might be tempted to dismiss this as an excuse for bad behavior if it were not for Philippians 3 where the apostle Paul makes a similar point.
Paul says his main goal, after obtaining righteousness through faith, was to experience Christ fully. He describes this desire in verse 10, saying that he longed to “know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” This did not mean that Paul believed he had achieved a state of perfection. In verse 12, the apostle admits that he had not “already obtained all this” or “already arrived at my goal.”
Paul compares his Christian experience to being a runner in a race. He does not see himself as someone who is trying to reach out and win Christ because he understands that Christ is already holding on to him. We might even say Christ is carrying him as he runs. The apostle says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Despite the translation of the NIV, the word “win” is not in the text. Verse 14 literally says that Paul’s objective is to “press on for the prize” or “unto the prize.” His aim was to finish the race and grasp a prize that Christ has already won on our behalf. That prize is “the upward call.”
What implication does this have for us as we pursue the Christian life? It means that our growth as a Christian is a progress; it is not instantaneous. It also means that living for Jesus requires Christ-empowered effort. In verses 13–14 Paul speaks of “straining” and “pressing on.”
>> One way we can learn how to live the Christian life is by reading God’s Word and learning from others who are mature (v. 17). Who is your role model in the Christian faith? Beware of the sort Paul describes as “enemies of the cross of Christ” (v. 18).
We were told as children to choose our friends wisely. Father, grant us discernment as we follow the example of mature believers, that we will be guided by Your Spirit and Word as we learn how to live the Christian life.