For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 53

“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. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Philippians 3:12-21

“Are we there yet?” Anyone who has ever traveled with children on a long road trip has heard this question repeatedly.  Honestly, we have probably all asked it ourselves many times too. While we can look to the GPS or the mile markers on the side of the highway to determine the time and distance it will take to travel to our desired destination, life does not necessarily provide us with as clear insight as to where we are in relation to our destination in our journey. Faith is a journey. The means by which we get there is the Gospel, the ends at which we will one day arrive is the eternal presence of Christ on His throne. Along the way, “through every danger, toil and snare,” as the great hymn reminds us, we are becoming more like Christ, both through our shared sufferings and the breakthroughs we experience by His resurrection power.  The Kingdom’s call is to know Christ and the Kingdom’s prize is to receive Christ in all His glory.  This journey is intimately personal, yet it is meant to be experienced in community with others. That community is the body of believers, which we call the local church.  

“Are we there yet?” Paul wasn’t and neither are we.

Paul, in reflection of his bold claim that knowing Christ is everything and everything else is rubbish, states of himself, “I’m not there yet.”  Openly confessing how far you still have to go in your faith journey can unlock a sense of freedom and fuel you for future growth.  Paul was not shrugging his shoulders and saying, “hey, nobody’s perfect.” This was an honest assessment- “Where I am is not where I want to be.”

We too should take stock and consider where we find ourselves on the journey.  We look in the mirror and say, “I’m not there yet.” – “I’m still selfish, I’m still prideful, I’m still easily distracted and entangled by the things of this world.  I am still more inclined to pick up the remote or my iphone than I am the Bible.  I am still more interested in my team winning games than my church winning souls.  Oh, Lord, I am so far from where I want to be!” This assessment should neither condemn, nor condone our failures… it should concentrate our focus on Christ.  John Newton, the one-time slave trader turned hymn writer understood this well,

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am” 

John Newton

Finally, let’s take note of the communal nature of this passage.  Your local church, the community of believers with whom you worship, must also acknowledge “We are not there yet.” Notice how Paul goes from “me” to “we” in verses 15-16.  He essentially says, “Let us think this way and hold true to the Gospel.”

The next time you attend a church service, look around and remember everyone around you is on a journey.  We are all a work in progress.  Even your Pastor has to look in the mirror of God’s Word daily and confess, “I am not there yet.” Remember that everyone you meet is fighting a battle, working through a struggle, untangling the knots of a complicated past and sorting through the pieces of a broken relationship.  Give others the same grace that God has given you through Christ.  Point each other to Christ, for He is our goal, our call and our prize.

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