I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. - Philippians 3: 12-16 (NLT)
As we see 2013 start to fade into history and begin to look towards the promises 2014 might deliver it is good to reflect on Scripture to find some comfort and guidance. I will not be as brash and irresponsible as modern day false teachers and declare that this coming year is going to be one of supernatural blessing and earthly prosperity for everyone lucky enough to read this writing. To do so would simply fly in the face of Scripture and make a mockery of God. Some of us will find prosperity; both earthly and heavenly. Some of us will be deep in the valley where God will test and strengthen our faith. Many of us will probably have both experiences or land somewhere in the middle. Regardless of where life leads, God's Word remains unchanged and is always there to help us in whatever state we may be found in.
So I turn to a man in a prison cell. A man with only a handful of years left in his life; a fact he is well aware of. Instead of wallowing in his predicament or bemoaning the hand of cards life has dealt him, he writes. He writes to the people he has poured his life into for the past several decades. He writes to the churches he has started. The Apostle Paul does not know that these writings will become the bulk of the New Testament and form Christian doctrine for centuries that follow him. In his letter to the Church at Philippi we find the key verses above and within in them are some thoughts we can take with us into the new year as we begin to look ahead in hope.
The first lesson we see in the key verses is humility. Let's think about this for a second. The Apostle Paul at this point in his life has done more for the cause of Christ than any of his contemporaries. He has undertook three harrowing missionary journeys where he has evangelized nearly the entire known world. He has started churches in almost every corner of the world he has visited. He has survived being stoned, flogged and shipwrecked. If there is anyone who could feel like he has arrived, it's Paul. It seems today in modern Christianity that far too many want you to know that they have given themselves the title of "Apostle." A title they have not earned and do not deserve. You just know deep down that Paul never introduced himself as "The Apostle Paul." He was always far more concerned about who he served.
For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I'm not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God's church. -1Corinthians 15: 9 (NLT)
I have written before about remembering where God found you as the key to maintaining a humble approach in life. Paul remembered the Damascus Road Jesus found him on. He remembered presiding over the stoning death of Stephen, the first martyr. That is why we see this humility still dripping off the pages he writes 25 years later. This is why it is so vitally important to be wary of the new teachings in the modern church that change the role of Christ. We sing Friend of God and demand the Blessings of Abraham but rarely speak to His Lordship over our lives. Beloved, Abram does not become Abraham without God being Lord first. So Paul readily admits that he is far from perfect. Realize here that he is speaking about perfection in Christ, not perfection as the world believes.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - 2Corinthians 3: 18 (NIV)