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Following Jesus is more about embracing the journey than about arriving at a destination

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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. – Philippians 3:12

Paul’s statement here is quite unexpected following the lofty theological exposition found in Philippians 3:7-11. Paul just made the claim that ‘knowing Jesus’ was better than all of the other things he gained in his life previous. Now, Paul claims he hasn’t arrived at His goal of knowing and loving Jesus with his whole being. He describes the tension theologians call the ‘already, but not yet’ reality of the kingdom. Paul knows the tension of tasting the presence and promises of God, yet living in a world where they’re not fully realized. He knows what it‘s like to struggle and shares in the longing to change and grow. Here, Paul simply wants more of Jesus.

The magnitude of what Paul wrote should send shockwaves through us. This is a man God used to pen over 30% of the New Testament, plant 14 churches (that we know of), and help spread the gospel to multiple new continents. Still, he claims he hasn’t arrived. Paul views his life as a work in progress – as a life still under construction. Paul’s life testifies that following Jesus is more about embracing the journey than about arriving at a destination. It’s about being a work in progress and pressing on toward growth.

If Paul didn’t arrive at his goal this side of heaven, maybe we won’t either. Maybe perfection and completion are the wrong goals altogether. The new goal Paul proposes in Philippians 3:12 is to live a life continually ‘pressing on.’ Thankfully, he doesn’t leave us to ambiguously define this new life purpose. In Philippians 3:13, he teaches us how we might press on – by ‘forgetting what is behind and staining toward to what lies ahead.’ The practicality of this should not be lost on us! It’s so easy to get caught up in either the pain or successes of the past – ironically, both equally remove us from God’s work in the present. That’s why Paul challenges us to actively forget the past and urges us to live with a passionate pursuit of the Messiah in the present. He compares this pursuit to a person competing in the Olympic Games where athletes push their bodies to the limits in order to win the prize. That’s the image Paul wants us to imagine as we follow Jesus! Reflect on this image as you read the quote below by D.A. Carson. Ask the Lord if you are presently ‘pressing on.’ If you aren’t, confess, repent, and start today.

 

People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort,
people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.
We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance;
we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom;
we drift toward superstition and call it faith.
We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation;
we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism;
we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
– D.A. Carson

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By Ryan Paulson

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