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. 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. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Christians have a faith that rests in the confidence of an action that has been completed on their behalf. As such, there is no need to earn or merit salvation. However, consistently throughout the Philippian letter believers are exhorted to work to make their faith their own. After admonishing the people of God to focus their pursuits on the eternal reward and resurrection, Paul urges Christians to work hard to claim ownership over their faith. Of all faiths, Christianity ought to lead its adherents to a fierce and devout pursuit of its principles. Christians ought to seek to understand their own faith precisely because it is a gift that they have not earned. As such, Christians should seek to ensure their ownership over it.
Consider the motivation for such efforts in the Christian’s pursuit of God: “because Christ Jesus has made [the Christian] His own” (v.12). Paul’s motive for radical pursuit of Jesus is based on Jesus’ claim upon Paul’s soul. Think about that for a moment. The motivation for pursuit of Christ is not merely some reward that will be received as a result or some sort of position that could be achieved through obedience to Him. The motivation for a Christian to obey Christ stems from their own identity in Christ. Christians pursue holiness within the context of an eternal perspective because they are Christ followers. The identity of Christians, that is: belonging to Jesus, is what propels them toward obedience. It is a marvelous recognition of identity that strengthens the walk of a believer. When a person knows their condition and understands that they are no longer enslaved but have been set free to follow Christ, then there is abiding joy and discipleship.
Ponder for a moment what it means to be owned by Christ. He has come and rescued you in your pitiful state and has granted you a position as His brother/sister in the Kingdom of God. He has claimed you as His own and you belong to Him.
There are Christians who seems so deeply connected to Jesus that they seem to have the ability to see into the soul of anyone they speak with. They are the people who are awkward to have small talk with because they continually bring up deep truths that trouble the soul and challenge the mind. These old saints who exude wisdom and grace and manifest the Spirit of God do not become old saints overnight. This sort of maturity comes with time and practice. While every Christian has been changed in a moment, all believers must learn to live in that changed nature. So Paul testifies that he presses to make the resurrected life his own and that he has not achieved the completion of this goal. Recognizing his efforts to make himself righteous were a loss (c.f. 3:2-7), Paul admits that he is not perfect.
A particular key to growth is the dismissal of one’s past. If a believer insists on clinging to their own earthly righteousness, then they will stifle their own spiritual growth. Likewise, if a believer carries the burdens of their past failures, refusing to recognize that Jesus has forgiven and transformed them, then they will find discipleship and growth to be difficult and even rare. For many people, their past successes become the glory of their present reality. But for Paul, his past successes were a hindrance to future glory. It is necessary for believers to throw off what they used to be in order to become who God has made them. A Christian’s identity cannot be discovered without removing the former identity of the sinful man. The believer must accept the truth of their changed reality, only then will a believer find satisfaction.
Paul presses forward in pursuit of “the call of God in Jesus Christ” (v. 14). There is no greater call than that of the creator of all things calling for His creation to follow in the design He has laid out. A truly converted person cannot help but desire to press forward in obedience to Christ. God has granted the believer life, and the believer pursues that life abundant in knowing Christ.
Consistent with Paul’s character and wisdom, he encourages his reader to share his attitude and perspective. He pleads with them to understand these truths with remarkable confidence that God will certainly develop in them the same mindset that He has been faithful to develop in Paul. What tremendous confidence believers have! Because of the truth that God sanctifies His own, Christians can rest in the confidence that God will bring to completion the work He has begun. (1:6)
Believer, rest in this deep truth: The Lord, Creator of all things, is working in your heart now and will bring you to maturity. It is a long race we run. Be faithful, He will bring you to where you need to be. Hold tight to these truths!