by David Sanford

Day 17

Read Philippians 3:12-14

To ward off any future temptation towards pretentious-spirituality, Paul declares that obtaining ″the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus″ (Philippians 3:8) is a daily process. We'll never fully know Christ this side of eternity; it's a lifelong pursuit. If this is true for Paul, it's certainly true for you and me.

We'll never fully know Christ this side of eternity; it's a lifelong pursuit

First, Paul says: ″Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal″ (v. 12). When Jesus calls us to ″be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect″ (Matthew 5:48), He isn't talking about an accomplishment to achieve, but an ultimate goal to pursue.

Elsewhere, Paul calls us to ″be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will″ (Romans 12:2). Again, this is aspirational-a daily pursuit and not a once-and-for-all plateau.

The same is true when Paul writes: ″Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God″ (2 Corinthians 7:1). He doesn't say, ″Permanently protect yourselves once-for-all from everything that contaminates″; it's a process.

Second, Paul says: ″I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me″ (Philippians 3:12). In the New Testament, only Jesus and Paul use the expression, ″I press on″ (Luke 13:33; Philippians 3:12, 14). In the Old Testament, the expression ″press on″ appears in Hosea 6:3. This suggests that they know exactly what they are after, and plan to pursue it with utmost determination, steadfastness, and endurance.

How do we press on? The author of Hebrews says we need to ″throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles″. Then we need to fix ″our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith″ (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Third, Paul says: ″I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus″ (Philippians 3:14). The apostle has no intention of slowing down, slipping away, or giving up. Instead, he imagines himself leaning into the finish line and receiving the prize.

For Paul, the finish line is either martyrdom or Jesus Christ's return. Regardless, he plans to enter glory with joy.

Think through:

What is causing you to slow down, slip away, or give up on pressing on and ultimately receiving the eternal prize? Surrender it to God and follow Paul's example.

Does the impossibility of achieving perfection this side of heaven encourage or discourage you? Why?




About Author

David Sanford loves God's Word and has served as the author, co-author, editor, managing editor, or executive editor for more than a dozen Bible and Bible-related projects. He and his wife, Renée Sanford, a noted author and editor in her own right, live in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States of America.

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