Based on Philippians 3:12-16
I used to look at myself in the mirror and wonder, “What will I look like when I’m all grown up?” Will I look the same as I do now? Will I grow any taller? Will my face get longer? Will I have bigger muscles?
Today, you could say that I’m “all grown up.” I probably won’t get any taller, and my shoe size will probably stay the same. Still, I’m curious what I’ll look like in the future. At what age will I start to go grey? I already have a few grey hairs now! Will I take after my mother’s father and go bald earlier, or my father’s father and have a full head of mostly brown hair into my seventies? Will I gain more weight—and will it be muscle or fat? I have reached a level of “perfection” and am striving for further “perfection.”
Paul is talking about the same thing here in Philippians 3:12-16. In the previous verses, Paul stated that his ultimate goal is to be found in Christ, having Christ’s righteousness, sufferings, and eventually, his resurrection. This is what Paul is striving for, but he has not reached it yet. But that is his goal, and he’s putting all other goals to the sidelines.
How do we relate to the concept that you must become perfect–sinless–before Jesus comes?
Jesus did say, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. But what is perfection, and how do we reach it? The apostle John gives this warning: “If we say we have no sin,” he says, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8) Not even Paul, toward the end of his life, claimed to have reached ultimate perfection.
On my own, I can’t be perfect. It’s not in me. And yet, in Romans 8:4, we find that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to intercede for us “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
How can this miracle take place, where God looks within my heart and sees perfect harmony with His holy law? Paul had it right, as he said, “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” (Philippians 3:13,14).
As I look to Jesus the Holy Spirit works in me and, through a process that I cannot explain, my heart is transformed, renewed, and changed. This perfect walk into which Jesus is leading me goes beyond my ability to define or measure. But it is God’s purpose that, through faith in His power, I will experience His perfect love. Day by day, transforming my life, He gives me strength to have amazing victories over sin, giving me concrete evidence that I am safe, complete, perfect as I stay in Him.
What does that mean for you and me today? We cannot reach perfection on our own, but we can do this one thing as we move forward toward our ultimate goal:
“Let us hold true to what we have attained.” – Philippians 3:16
In other words, don’t regress! Jesus is our perfection, so don’t get out of bed without inviting Him to take control of your life! Then keep asking Him to remain in you, not because He will leave, but because it’s good to keep affirming that He is there!
Keep moving forward and growing in Christ alone,
Senior Theology Major
Pacific Union College
Pastor Ted Baze
Ceres and Patterson Seventh-day Adventist Churches