Philippians 3:12-14, “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.”
It is often said that imitation is the highest form of flattery; however, it matters who we are imitating. We live in a culture that is awash with larger than life celebrities whom people mimic and fawn over. Yet, the apostle Paul is calling us to something different, or better said, to someone different. His call here is for the Christian to rest in imitating Christ, and Christ alone. Just as important as the who is the why. Our motive matters. Therefore, our motivation for imitating Christ should not be because we care about our own glory. Most certainly not! Rather, it should be because we have seen the perfect glory of Christ. When we commit to emulating Christ, we no longer have a need for the lesser idols of the world. In Christ, we already have been made witness to the finest of all things, the One in whom we find our righteousness. With our eyes on Christ, shaping our lives, we are equipped to run the race, toward the goal, toward the victorious finish. The cure to the idolatry of our hearts is to follow after the goodness of our Lord.
When our eyes are fixed upon Christ as our prize, we can declare alongside Paul; I have not arrived. Looking to Christ in wisdom provides us a way to be graciously humbled. Far too often, we want to compare ourselves to friends, family, and even brothers and sisters in the faith and measure ourselves against them – finding either a false sense of assurance or crippling condemnation of self. Two key dangers can potentially befall us when we submit to such foolishness. The first is vanity, a most dreadful sin where we exalt ourselves over others, judging ourselves as superior. The other danger is despair, where we convince ourselves that we are not measuring up to others, not worthy of being in their company.
In contrast, when Christ is our model, our standard, we avoid vanity because there is no ability to honestly compare ourselves to His incredible magnificence. We can say confidently, like Paul, that we have not arrived. Likewise, we also can avoid despair in looking to Christ because we can remember the reason He came in the first place. He came for our sake, to give us a righteousness we never could have in ourselves, and to lay down His life in love for us. He came not to condemn us but to give us hope. This hope spurs us on, like the Olympic marathoner, toward the goal, to victory.
He is our prize. He is our guiding star. He should be our focus, like a light in the darkness, to navigate us toward the everlasting life to come. One day our journey to Him will be complete, and our reward will come. What is the reward? One glorious day we will see Him, and we will be made like Him, forever and ever. Amen!
A quote for further reflection:
All of us who are running the race perfectly
should be aware that we are not yet perfect.
The hope is that we may receive perfection in the place
to which we are now running perfectly.
Kevin Park is the head Pastor at Old Goshenhoppen Reformed Church in Harleysville, Pennsylvania (www.ogrc.org), a congregation whose history dates back to 1727. Both he and his wife, Stephanie, attended Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. Together, they enjoy raising their four beautiful daughters.