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. (ESV)
Receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is just the beginning of the Christian life. We still have a lot of growing up to do (Eph. 4:11-14). We should not be content to remain spiritual infants (Heb. 5:12-14).
Here are the steps we need to take in order to make progress in the Christian life.
– We need to realize that we are not yet perfect.
– We must forget the past.
– We must press on.
1. WE ARE NOT YET PERFECT (verse 12) (1 John 1:8-10; Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 21:2)
Those who think of themselves as already perfect won’t be motivated to keep on improving. They become complacent and, as a result, they stagnate. They also have a tendency to look down on others.
The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable was like that. He looked down on the tax collector because he thought so highly of himself and what he achieved in his religion.
2. WE SHOULD FORGET THE PAST (verse 13)
Our past sins can hinder us from serving the Lord in the present. We’re so ashamed of what we’ve done in the past and we feel that we’re unworthy of serving the Lord even though we’ve already asked him to forgive us.
We have to remember that God has not only forgiven our sins (Ps. 103:12), he has also forgotten them completely (Heb. 8:12)!
David sinned greatly: he committed adultery and he conspired to have Bathseba’s husband killed. Later on, he sincerely asked God for forgiveness. He was confident that God would not only forgive but would still use him to convert others (Ps. 51:7-13).
If you’re willing to be cleansed, God can still use you (2 Tim. 2:20, 21). A vessel, such as a pitcher, even if it’s dirty, can still be used, once it has been cleansed. So forget the past. What is important is the present and the future.
3. WE MUST PRESS ON (verse 14).
The Christian life is like a race. The Christian is an athlete. We’ve got to run with all our might and make sure we reach the finish line (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:5, 6).
YOU’VE GOT TO GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT!
“Straining forward”. One of my favorite movie characters is Rocky Balboa. I enjoy especially the training scenes in his movies and the music that goes with these scenes, especially “Eye of the Tiger” and “Burning Heart” by Survivors. (Up to now I listen to this music when I exercise.) I also learned this from his movies: If you want to win, you’ve got to train – hard! No pain, no gain. There was this scene in Rocky 3 where Rocky and Apollo Creed were racing each other on the beach. You could see the veins bulging on their necks because of the intensity of their efforts. That’s what “straining forward” means.
In 2 Peter 1:5-8 Peter tells us to give all diligence to add to our faith if we want our lives to be effective and fruitful.
YOU’VE GOT TO TRAIN AND EXERCISE DAILY.
That’s what Rocky did in order to win. I really enjoy those training scenes in his movies especially the part where he’d wake up early in the morning, swallow a couple of egg yolks, and then run on the streets of his city while the inspiring movie theme music plays.
It’s the same in the Christian life. Paul told Timothy to train himself in godliness (1 Tim. 4:7) and “to practice these things” (1 Tim. 4:12-15).
One of my father’s favorite songs is “Read your Bible and pray everyday as you grow, grow, grow.” That’s what I do everyday. In the morning I would read a Psalm and then a chapter of Proverbs. In the evening I would read a portion of the Old Testament and the New Testament and then pray. And before going to sleep, my wife, daughter and I would pray together. I would recite a verse, my wife would explain it to my daughter, then one of us would pray. We do this almost every night.
Are we diligent or complacent in our Christian lives?