Friday, February 1, 2013

Pursuing a Jesus-Shaped Life

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Paul has one goal and he pursues it with single-minded passion. He does not claim to have reached it, or that he is full and complete in his knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He knows has not. But he continues to press toward it, pursuing it with everything that is in him.

In former days, he had zealously pursued Jesus believers in order to persecute them, thinking he was doing God a service. Now he focuses all his zeal on the true prize: knowing Jesus, his Messiah and Lord, in everything.

This is the reason for which the Jesus has laid hold of him — and of us: That we may know Him in all things and fellowship with Him in the power of His resurrection, a power so great that it transforms suffering and persecution into an opportunity not only to honor Him but also to know Him more.

Paul still has in mind the example of the Lord Jesus that he began with in chapter 2: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Jesus laid hold of us so that we could lay hold of Him. He became like us so we could become like Him. He humbled Himself so that we might be lifted up, to share in His name and participate in His glory.

As Paul notes elsewhere, God has “predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). That is what Paul desires more than anything else: to be conformed to the image of the Son — to know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His suffering, to be conformed to His likeness, even if that means death. Paul wants to be a part of what Jesus came to do. In other words, he is pursuing a Jesus-shaped life.

He has one purpose, one focus, one goal, and all his energies and efforts are committed toward that. He is like an Olympic runner going after the prize. He is not looking back to see what is behind, he is looking along the track and focused on the victory that lay ahead. There is still much ground to cover before his race is done, and he is pouring himself out that he may cross the finish line a winner. He is running the race set before him, as the author Hebrews has said so well:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
And at the end of his life, Paul was able to say without regret but with great joy:
I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
The prize, the “upward call” of God in Jesus the Messiah, lay ahead him — the day of resurrection, when he would know the Lord Jesus so perfectly that the life of Jesus would transform him completely. We will see more about that at the end of Philippians 3.

Focus Questions
  1. How would you describe where you are in your own “race”?
  2. Are there things in your past that trouble or distract you?
  3. Is the prize you seek worthy of pouring yourself out?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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