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– Philippians 3:12
We’ve got paper planners, project management software, and calendar apps on our phones. We’re the generation most equipped to know what’s next, even to dictate what’s next. And yet, much like Paul in his letter to the Philippians, we actually have no knowledge of, and no control over, what happens next. Paul wrote to the Philippians not knowing if his appeal to Nero would end in newfound freedom or in death. And that punctuated his point in a way little else could.
In Philippians 3:12, Paul reminds us to pursue our purpose, regardless. His words, “to make it my own,” are a reminder to reach out, grab, lay hold of what God has for us. We’re to be proactive in our salvation and our purpose. And when Paul speaks of perfection, he isn’t seeking sinlessness, but maturity in Christ. He tells us that because Christ made us His (Christ saved us), we need to live out that salvation and the purpose attached to it here on earth. Our lives are intended to have significance – Kingdom significance – before our eyes ever see the Kingdom of Heaven.
And if we back up to the beginning of chapter three, we’ll find Paul also tells us how to do this, how to live the life God intended.
“Look out!” In verse 2, Paul says this three times. It points to an urgency and a danger – a danger that might present itself so subtly it goes unnoticed if not for the warning tolook out!It’s because of the dangers society presents – the ones for which we must look out– that we should build our lives on Biblical truth, as it was presented to us by God.
Paul’s ministry was plagued by Judaizers – those of the Jewish faith who couldn’t stomach the grace Jesus offered and Paul preached to the gentiles. It had turned their beliefs upside down, and they worked to bring new converts more in line with what was familiar to them. Not a doctrine of grace alone as Christ offered, but grace plus the Jewish custom. It wasn’t biblical, but it was what they knew and it made them more comfortable.
In our church life we don’t face Judaizers. But our society is riddled with secularists and post modernists – those who would have us to alter our faith and doctrine to line up with their world view. The problem with this is God doesn’t change. And neither does His word. They’re the same yesterday, today and forever. Rather than let society shape scripture, if we’re going to live the life God intended we’ve got to let scripture shape us and our beliefs. When it might be tempting to decide on a belief that is comfortable in today’s culture and then seek scripture to back it up, that’s backwards. Instead, comfortable or not, Christians who seek the life God intended should seek scripture first, and let it’s teaching shape our belief and worldview.
As we search and study the scripture, it should be more than a quest for information. If we’re trying to live the life God intended for us, our goal should be intimacy with Christ, knowing not just about Him, but knowing Him. This comes from experience – and aligning our experience with scripture, not feeling. In verse 10, Paul speaks to this, sharing his desire to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection and to share in Christ’s sufferings. While we might think we want a life filled with power and free of suffering, we don’t. Not if we want to live the life God purposed for us. It’s in knowing God’s power that we’re changed, just as Jesus was moved from death to life through the power of the resurrection. It’s there that we begin to see what God can do, and how He wants to display His glory. But often it’s the suffering that becomes the vessel to share the gospel. And remember, without the suffering of the cross, the power of the resurrection would have never been seen.
Those moments of victory in Christ and suffering with or for His cause begin to shape who we are and become part of our history, our story, our past. It’s easy to hold on to our past – or feel bound to it. But in verse 12, Paul cautions us against that, telling us to leave the past behind and press forward. To live the life God intends for us, we can’t let ourselves be controlled by our past, and we can’t define ourselves by it. Everyone’s past has accomplishments, wounds, and failures. As exciting as the accomplishments might have been, we can’t rest on them – we’re called to press forward. And as hurtful as the wounds and failures were, they aren’t meant to be carried into tomorrow. We’ve got to invite God into our wounded places to heal us and then step out in faith, overcoming the fear of failure our past wants to use to create paralysis.
In verse 17 Paul points out the need to live our lives in community with other believers. If we’re going to living our God-intended life, we should surround ourselves with those who model Christ, those who are what we’re seeking to become. This provides accountability and encouragement, helping us to stay true to our purpose and providing fuel for the journey. Of course we’re called to interact with those who don’t (or don’t yet) believe, to be light to their darkness and share the gospel that provides hope! Our time alone with God and our time in community and fellowship with other believers are essential to making those efforts fruitful.
Finally, verse 20 reminds us of our identity. We’re not primarily Texans (though that’s a great thing to be, no doubt!) we’re citizens of Heaven, and we should represent ourselves accordingly. To live the life God intends we should be a visible expression of Heaven, living for eternity while we impact earth. We’re ambassadors of Christ, called to represent Him and His kingdom while we’re on this foreign assignment.
It’s through a life defined by Biblical truth as presented by God, a life that seeks intimacy with Christ, a life that presses forward to the purpose of Christ, and a life in community with believers who encourage us and hold us accountable in our walk, that we’re able to live out that ambassadorship. That’s what allows our ambassadorship to change the culture around us without being swayed by the winds of culture. That’s living the God Intended Life.