When watching the Olympics I am struck by the effort that is put forth to win a gold medal and be considered the best in the world in a particular event. Years of self-denial and training come to bear upon a brief, 16 day flurry of events. The Apostle Paul often used athletic events to illustrate the Christian life.
As Christians our salvation rests secure in Christ’s righteousness. The apostle Paul stated that he would “be found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9). We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But that is not the end of our story. God has saved us “for good works” (Eph. 2:8-10). We are to no longer live for ourselves but for Him who for our sake died and was resurrected (2Cor. 5:15). While we await the resurrection we are, with the Spirit’s help, to strive to be like Christ. It is the process we call “sanctification”, and Paul likens it to a race in Philippians 3:13-14.
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it [complete conformity to Christ] 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.”
“Forgetting what lies behind” – Sanctification is a long and difficult process. The more we get to know Christ and His holiness the better we realize the depth of our sinfulness. Don’t dwell on your past sins and failures. Learn from them and move on. But we are not only to forget the bad things of our past. God may use you to do some wonderful things. But there is always more ministry to be done. There are more ways to be like Christ. Some speak of having “victory” over a particular sin, but the reality is we need a continuous moment by moment obedience to the leading of the Spirit.
“Striving forward to what lies ahead” – As Olympians strive for years for a chance to compete in an event, so we strive for Christlikeness with the time God gives us here on Earth until that day He resurrects us.
You need not dwell on the past or rest on your laurels. Keep striving against sin and use your life to serve others. All while focusing on that day when you receive your sinless body with which you can worship the Lord for eternity!
Further reading: 1Cor. 9.19-27; 2Tim. 2:1-7;
David Harris is the Senior Pastor at Faith Baptist Church. A former programmer, in his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife Kim and trying his hand at the illusive craft of smoking meat.