Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Within the context of the broader passage, three dangers lay in wait for pilgrims traveling toward the Celestial City. The first danger awaits the man or woman who pursues heaven on the basis on their merited righteousness. No man ever attained that righteousness or can; for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even Paul as touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless fell at the feet of Him whom He persecuted. Merited righteousness merits fiery, everlasting punishment.
The second threat lays in cunning deception for the genuinely converted; that is, an unholy satisfaction. This man believes he is already perfect or rests satisfied in his present state of outworked sanctification (Philippians 3:12). He dwells as a prince, believing the Millennium Kingdom has arrived for his soul. He fails to pursue greater apprehension of Christ. Of all men, this man fails to make his calling and election sure.
The third danger ensnaring a believer is abiding in the failures and/or successes of those things which are behind. “Used to be” laborers are a fabled-brained lot, adorning their mediocre deeds for Christ in clothes of knightly royalty. The deeds are true but the ages have exaggerated their importance. Boasting, not reaching forth, characterizes their couch-potato pilgrimage.
The avoidance of these entrapments arrives in, through, and by Christ Jesus, our Lord. Rebirth through the faith of Christ radiates the excellency of His gifted righteousness versus the filthy rags of law righteousness. Every Christ must avoid unnecessary introspections of their failures and successes. All believers must avoid the snare of a slothful walk. No condemnation in Christ provides the foundation of a loving, aggressive pursuit of Christ.
Reaching forth must be our rallying cry. Forward into the work of Christ. Forward in the pursuit of Christ. Forward in His transformative Word. Warring to advance His gospel in our present evil age. Striving to reflect Christ in our life and in our churches. Brethren, there is no other joy. Onward in the name of Jesus!
The only course open to us is to plough right on to the end of the furrow, and never think of leaving the field till the Master shall call us home. But this morning you committed yourselves again to the Lord’s work; you did not deliberate, or consult with flesh and blood; but plunged right in, renouncing all for Jesus; and except ye be reprobates, ye have enlisted for life in His service. You are the branded servants of Christ, bearing in your bodies His mark. You have now no liberty to serve another, you are the sworn soldiers of the Crucified. Forward is your only way; you are shut up to it. You have no armour for your backs; and whatever dangers lie in front, there are ten thousand times as many behind. It is onward or nothing; nay, onward or dishonour; onward or death. (Charles Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry, 33)
[Reprint: February 6, 2005]