Thursday, February 24, 2011

Philippians 3:12-16 (part 2)

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16Only let us hold true to what we have attained." Philippians 3:12-16

Besides forgetting what lies behind, the Apostle Paul also says he presses on by straining forward to what lies ahead.

What is it that lies ahead? The Apostle tells us in verse 14, writing, 'I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.' and also in verses 10 and 11, 'that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.....that I am attain the resurrection from the dead'. Paul's goal is to be in perfect fellowship with Jesus. He presses on to attain this resurrection, in which he will be perfect fellowship with His God. Now that Paul has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness, and is now a citizen of heaven (Colossians 1:13), he presses on towards the marvelous inheritance that awaits him.

Furthermore, why is Paul so willing to fervently strain forward to this. What is it about the end prize that motivates Paul to speak so strongly about it. In verse 8, Paul writes, 'Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.' (Phil. 3:8). I talked last post about how this is the reason why Paul was able to forget his past. Well, it is also the reason why he so passionately presses forward. Because knowing Jesus is infinitely more valuable to Paul than anything else in his past, present of future, he makes it his one desire. Paul can echo the words of King David in Psalm 63, "Your steadfast love is better than life" (Psalm 63:3). For Paul, being found in Christ is more precious that anything.

Think about it. We chase what is most precious to us. We will pursue what we ultimatley value. If it is money, we will work long and hard for it. If it is security, we will arrange our life to achieve it. If it is respect, we will demand it at all costs. For Paul, it was Jesus. That is why he counts everything as loss, forsaking his past, straining forward towards the prize, knowing nothing but Jesus. Do we value Jesus like Paul did? Do we treasure Christ above all else? Is he precious to us?

Jesus told a metaphor that illustrates what Paul is saying. In Matthew's account of the Gospel, Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Matthew 13:44).

When we are captivated by the treasure that Christ is, our response will be nothing less than Paul's. We will strain forward to what lies ahead. When we catch a glimpse of even a fraction of how beautiful Christ is, we won't be able to take our eyes off of Him. They will be fixed on Him, as we press on.

It is also important to realize the reason why Paul was so captivated and gripped by Christ. It's not some intellectual conclusion Paul reached, or something he attained by His own strength. Rather, Paul writes, "I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own" (Phil. 3:12). We are able to press on to Christ, because Jesus pressed on to make us His own. This is the Gospel; that God has relentlessly pursued rebels and made them His own. The whole Bible tells 1 big story of God pursuing sinners. From Adam, til now. Israel was called to be God's people, yet time and time again they turn their backs on God. Despite all the mighty works God did on their behalf, they went their own way. Yet, God remained faithful. In fact, He saw from the beginning that this would happen, and out of love, had a better plan. He sent Jesus. Jesus would be the fulfillment of everything Israel should have been. Jesus would come and reverse the effects of Adam's fall. Jesus would make a way for God's people to be brought back to Him, once and for all.

The reason Paul strains forward with such an intense focus, is because he knows what he was, and he knows what he is. He knows he is nothing but a poor, rebellious, hopeless, self-loving, God hating sinner by nature. He would have never sought God. Yet God, being rich in mercy, out of sheer grace, pursued Paul. This is love. Paul has tasted of this love. He has tasted the excellence of this grace. There is nothing better. There is no greater joy. When a sinner is called by God and made His own, there is no other response than to worshipfully follow him. Paul's been made God's own and he presses on in absolute delight. Everything else pales in comparison. How could he chase after anything else? If we've been made God's own, how can we chase anything else?

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