“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. 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12–14, NIV84)
Entire books could be written on these three verses from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I’d like you to read them one more time before we dig in. First, note the matter-of-fact way Paul states that he has not obtained perfection. The man who said “the good I want to do I do not do, and the evil I don’t want to do I keep on doing” knows full well that it is not within our ability to obtain perfection. This is why we must rely on the redemptive work of Jesus that makes us righteous in God’s eyes. But what are Paul’s very next words? “But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” An awareness of our sinful nature does not give us a right to become complacent. We must press on! We must continually fight the fight and run the race. We must always strive upward! This is key to understanding the Christian life. The bar is always higher than we can obtain (in this life), but nonetheless we strive.
Paul mentions one more thing that is crucial to this process. He states, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining for what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” It is essential that we forget the past. Satan uses our past to beat us silly and to rob us of the blessings of being a redeemed child of God. We must leave the sins of the past behind us and strain forward. What are we straining toward? The prize for which God has called us heavenward in Jesus Christ. We need to live as heavenbound saints. As our relationship with God matures and grows, our lives move forward and upward. We leave the paths of our sinful past and forge new roads on our way to the kingdom of God.
Let’s all together forget what is behind and strain forward!