When I was I was in my late teens, myself and a few of my friends were given Philippians 3:7-14, to memorize by one of our mentors. As soon as I read that passage, even in my youthful ignorance, I knew that I had been given piercing and life-altering truths that would change the way I approached both Jesus Christ and this world, forever. he sharp double-edged sword of truth had been thrust deeply into my selfishness, pride, greed, and lust…and it hurt. For the past 25 years there has rarely been a day when I haven’t quoted at least a part of that passage to myself. I still don’t live these verses as much as I’d like to…but I am praying that the spirit will continue to work them into my heart as I meditate on them day and night:
7 “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
The thought that every single thing on this earth that profits the flesh…everything – whether wealth, temporal power and success, athletic ability, good looks, perfect families, etc. – or something that even for a second allows me to put my hope and confidence in anything other than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to pay for my sins…is a loss, resonated deep within me. Yet at the same time I knew that I did not -and cannot- think as Paul thinks, absent a massive work by the Holy Spirit. I don’t have Paul’s heart towards this life or towards God – but I long too because what Paul says so eloquently and powerfully is true. I can feel the strength, peace, and truth that rest in those words of surrender and yearning for a life completely hidden in God, every single time I read or recite them. Yet I know that my flesh doesn’t really want to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, becoming like him in his death. But I want to want to…desperately, and the more broken I become as a result of my failures in striving to grasp at the lies of this world instead of Jesus, the more I am able to understand how Paul can really mean what he says. Yet Paul knows that not even he “has already been made perfect” or has fully taken hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him. In that…I can take comfort.
This passage ends beautifully and hopefully, reminding me that I am forgiven each day as I walk in the Spirit, and that I can continually put my failures behind me as I live…earnestly seeking the face of Jesus…. “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”