Friday, July 20, 2007

Lay Hold

A particular thought has been going through my mind the past few days, based upon this passage of scripture:

Phil 3:12-14 NKJV
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)

(The wording of this passage in The Message: "I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.")

I had a friend who tried to use the phrase "press on" in an encouraging way, but the truth is that his use of the phrase was, unbeknownst to him, very legalistic. He was always "pressing on" - as in working harder and harder to become a better Christian. Actually, as I look back, it was really a constant focus on sin. The focus was always on trying to overcome sin so that he could lay hold of Jesus! This may sound good, and I'm sure it would preach well in a lot of churches, but isn't that backwards? It's most certainly disguised as a focus on Jesus, but it lacks the power thereof, and it misses the point of what Jesus took hold of for us. Anyway, my friend was always exhorting others to keep pressing on in this same manner. Due to this, my own working out of Paul's words to press on to "lay a hold of that for which Christ has also laid a hold of me," became a very hard and tedious process. In the end, it was all in vain.

If you read what Paul had just finished saying, from verses 3 to 11, what exactly was he letting go of - putting behind him - so that he could lay hold of Christ? Was he putting "sin" behind him to that he could gain Christ?

"Confidence in the flesh" is what he could brag about in his former legalistic life (vs 4-6). "But what things were gain to me, these I count for loss for Christ" (vs 7). This is what he was putting behind him, so he could "reach forward to those things which are ahead."

All the confidence he had in his former fleshly ways (good, positive flesh - which can certainly appear good to people) - he counted as rubbish, as dung, and he suffered it all as loss.

Most of us are at least "pretty sure" (though I would really hope "confident") in verse 9. That I may "be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith." We all agree that we're saved by grace and not works, right?

But what about vs 10-11, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

This leads up to the passage I started with, in which Paul says he "hasn't already attained it," but he presses on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of him. Something we have already attained, by grace alone, as a gift, is the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ. But experientially, we have not walked in the fullness of all that Christ purchased for us. We have our old mindsets to battle with. We do have indwelling sin (Rom 7:17,20), the flesh and the devil as real enemies, that would keep us from knowing the fullness of all that we have in Christ. How is it that we overcome all this? Is it through a fleshly "pressing on" to overcome sin so that we can then have Jesus?

First of all, we already have Jesus! We did nothing to "attain" Him and we do nothing to "retain" Him. It's all a gift. He became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. We're not lacking in having the life of Christ and His righteousness. We are fully complete in all of this! So, to experience it more and more, by faith we press on to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of us. Our enemies, again, are "the world, the flesh and the devil." But our friends - our precious, precious friends - are so much more powerful! Our friends are God's righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," which includes the Holy Bible but is much, much more than that. (Read about "The Whole Armor of God" in Eph 6:10-18). We have the living Word of God Himself - Jesus - living and breathing in us, all the time!

Press on! That really is an encouraging thing for me nowadays!

1 comment:

  1. I love this!!

    One thing "jumped out at me" (I'm starting to dislike that phrase) while reading this.

    "Confidence in the flesh" is what he could brag about in his former legalistic life

    Paul didn't re-dedicate himself. He clearly tells us that he gave up all hope in himself and counted it all as loss and entrusted himself to Jesus Christ.

    Very encouraging!