Day 7: May 10, 2017: Pressing on Toward the Goal
Philippians 3:12-14: 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. Brothers, 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Christ Jesus has made us his own. He has laid hold of us. The call of Jesus – “Come, follow me” – has set us on the race of discipleship. Our goal is God himself – to reach our eternal home in Him.
In order to faithfully finish the race we must keep our eyes fixed on the goal. Paul said that he “pressed on” to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus had taken hold of him. Paul ran the race of discipleship in order to reach the prize which Christ himself had set. Another way to say this is that God’s goal for us must be our goal for ourselves. Sometimes we can become confused about the goal.
Health and wealth preachers distort the gospel by saying that treasures and comfort are the goal. If we think that “having it all” is the goal of following Jesus, we have become confused. Or, we may be fixated on seeing our children and grandchildren achieve happiness and success. This too is a confusion. While God wants to bless our families, He is not a means to the end of children who live the American dream. Neither did Christ Jesus make us his own to give us good social standing, promote our business, or make us peddlers of religious goods and services. Instead, we have received “the upward call of God” and so the goal is that we might be “pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10) and thus prepared to dwell with God for eternity.
An essential part of pressing on toward the goal is “forgetting what lies behind.” Behind us are our sins, disappointments, and failures. Each day we can leave our sins in the past through confession, repentance, and trust in God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10). Each day we can leave our disappointments and failures behind by living in the faith that God who began a good work in us will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Getting stuck in what lies behind will only keep us from moving forward to what lies ahead. As John Broadus said, “Don’t go hunting in the rubbish of the past but open your eyes on the future, and thank God for the life of the present.”
Behind us also are our accomplishments. Sometimes what holds us back in the Christian life is not confusion about the goal or the burden of past sins, but rather too much pride in what we have already done. We can allow the successes and blessings of the past to lull us into believing that we have already arrived and need not strive toward perfection any longer. Paul – the apostle who spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire and who wrote much of the New Testament – refused to embrace this satisfaction with the past, and so we must refuse it as well. Instead, we must let however God has used us in the past serve as motivation for continuing to be used by him in the present and the future. We must remember “the limitless thought of Christian progress,” as Broadus put it, and know that until we reach eternity we will always need to press forward to grow in Christ-likeness and to serve Christ’s Kingdom.
Take time now to renew your commitment to pressing on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. This prayer can help you get started: “Heavenly Father, thank you for calling me to yourself and setting me on the race of following Jesus. I confess that sometimes I lose sight of you as my true goal. Sometimes I get stuck in what lies behind me. Sometimes I become satisfied and stagnant. Lord, remind me each day that the goal of becoming like Christ is still ahead of me. Help me to run this race each day by forgetting what is behind, keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, and moving forward with you, O God. In the name of Jesus, Amen.”