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Philippians 3:12 – 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.

The Apostle Paul loved to use analogies common to his time. Sometimes we have a hard time relating to word pictures in the Bible because we spend so little time learning about the historical and cultural context. But sports are something we can certainly identify with today.

Philippians 3:12-14 (emphasis mine) 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.  13 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,  14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

In verses 12-14 Paul uses the imagery of a runner to describe the Christian life. Think of it:

  • A runner starts, runs a path, then reaches the finish line. They have not “finished” (become perfect) until the race is complete.
  • A runner always runs forward and is unconcerned about any previous steps. Always forwards, always ahead, leaving the past behind.
  • A runner does not burden themselves with things that will slow them down (Heb 12:1).
  • A runner has a distinct and focused path and goal.
  • A runner overcomes discomfort, obstacles, and challenges with only one thing in mind: cross the finish line.
  • A runner gets better at running by… running.  You improve over time.
  • A runner does not quit over little nagging aches and pain and nuisances. They power through them.
  • A dedicated racer will crawl on their belly to the goal line rather than quitting or giving up.

“Press on” is the picture of an aggressive sprinter. Not a lazy casual walk. Not a slow easy jog. A sprint. A hard sprint. We are to aggressively leave the past behind and sprint towards increased spiritual growth and Christ-likeness.

Contrast that to the therapeutic mindset of today that has people constantly and perpetually re-living and analyzing their past, always recovering but never truly moving PAST their flaws, shortcomings, and failures. And why would they? We have a vast and growing army of “mental health professionals” – invading the church too – who would lose their market if we all “pressed on” and put the past behind us. Yes, there is a very real need and place for counseling, but Biblical counsel has us deal with issues and move on as opposed to lifelong “recovery.”  Once again we see a black-and-white comparison between God’s command versus human wisdom. God says press on; the world says be a victim of your past.  I’ll take God’s way; I don’t want to live as a recovering victim the rest of my life.

“Made me his own”… other translations say “lay hold” which is the idea of making something a personal possession. Jesus chose each of us as His own personal property and our goal is to be just that – “Property of Jesus Christ” – in our actions, words, and thoughts.

Keep It Simple

We often whine about things being too hard, we have too many things to consider, too much to change, too much to keep track of. Okay, this is for you then. Paul reduces the Christian life down to “one thing I do.” Is that simple enough? One thing?  What is it?

Forget the past, press on to the prize.

The whole point of sanctification (becoming like Christ) and living the Christian life is summed up in the following: forget the past (whether one second or one year or one decade ago) and push forward towards Christ, keeping your eye on the prize: perfection in Heaven (the “upward call,” that time when God brings you home to be with Him).

That’s it.  Live up to that and you will run the race of life the way God would have you. Forget the past. Keep your eye on the goal line of someday being in the presence of Jesus, free of sin, living eternally.

  • Forget the past. Confess your sin, repent, and move on. Guilt cannot hamstring you if you press on.
  • Forget the past. Failures and defeats cannot discourage you if you forget them.
  • Forget the past. Do not waste time on self-pity and narcissistic self-analyzation (not to be confused with genuine self-examination, a lesson for another time).
  • Forget the past. Do not live as a perpetual victim, ever handicapped by your circumstances.

As a Christ-follower, you are a runner in the race of eternal life. Keep your eyes on the goal line. Aggressively pursue the prize. Sprint ahead spiritually with all your might. Forget the last step, it does not matter and cannot be changed. Sprint in one direction only: towards Jesus.

Run Forrest, run.