“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 has taken hold of me”. Philippians 3:12 (NIV)
I love this verse. This is a “life verse” for me. I know that can seem a bit cliché and trite, after all the totality of Christ’s teachings should be our “life verse”. But I think it’s a good practice when reading through the scriptures to highlight verses that have an exceptional impact. For me this verse in Philippians is in the top tier.
The statement is challenging for me because in many ways I am a perfectionist. I like for some things (choir!) to be done with flawless precision and mastery. Yet somewhere in the hazy in-between mist of my motive, effort, and performance I find a balance of desire and the beauty of what is. This beauty doesn’t diminish the passion to be excellent and perfect, it actually assures me that right in the midst of my flaws and imperfections there is One who comes along at my side to blow on my sails.
What Paul is saying in chapter 3 is not so much about performance, but rather about being. His desire, and mine too, is to know Christ; the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. Paul wants to be so completely taken, filled, and abandoned to Christ that everything else in his life pales in comparison. All Paul’s achievements, all his merit, all his birthright, citizenship, education, upbringing… It all means squat compared to the surpassing greatness of KNOWING Christ Jesus as Lord. Before I get accused of Gnosticism I need to point out that this isn’t some kind of secret knowledge. This “knowing” is relational, the way that I know my wife or my friends. But here Paul sets the bar for us, even as he admits to his own lack in obtaining this relational “knowing” fully. He says he hasn’t obtained it. He has not been perfected by it. In fact, the very thing he is after, the one thing he desires most to reach in his striving and effort, has already taken hold of him. This pursuit of righteousness and holiness has wings. It is both a call to come forward, as well as an imputation of strength. We press on to obtain this, because we are His possession. The more we understand the depth of His love and that we are His, the more we want to pursue. The more we pursue, the more we realize the great lengths to which He has gone for us to be redeemed as His own.
Christian, Christ Jesus has taken hold of you for His purposes. Press on to take hold of that purpose- to know Him as Lord.