Let Us Live Up to What We Have Already Attained
“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” - Philippians 3:14
We’re nearing the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, with just 4-5 more sections to read, today includes one of my very favorite verses in all of the bible… but before we get there…
Paul puts a bit of a summary to the his long statement about how he doesn’t put any confidence or pride into his accomplishments, in verse 15, when he says “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.” It’s not that Paul is special for not reveling in his achievements or his honors, he doesn’t think anyone should. We should be united in our humility and in leaning on Jesus, not ourselves.
He continues with “if [you] think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Which is one way of leaving the door open for people who disagree with us. I would imagine that Paul also accepted the idea that he might have some things wrong (he had spent a long time persecuting followers of Jesus, for example), and was convinced that God changed hearts and minds, and could change others as well as his, if they weren’t right.
Then we get one of the most powerful statements in all of Paul’s writings, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Here, we are reminded that our right-standing with God has already been accomplished. Our work does not earn God’s love, God’s favor, or any merit. But our work does have an impact on our hearts, minds and community - the people around us. And so we have been called to live in such a way that resonates with who we are - a loved and forgiven people. Our actions are the response to God’s action, not the motivation for God to act.
Next, Paul puts himself out there, inviting others to follow his example, “keep your eyes on those who live as we do,” because who we’re looking at and listening to will have an impact on how we live. If we pay attention to those who are trying to follow Christ, we’ll be more likely to do the same. Paul’s not a perfect example of how to do that (the only perfect example is Jesus himself), but Paul’s a humble example, and that means more than just about anything else.
He explains that there are those who live “as enemies of the cross of Christ” - and while Paul does not name them, or judge them, he does explain that the direction they are pointing their lives in, when in opposition to God’s surprising love, is destruction. He doesn’t want the Philippians to follow that path. So he warns them to follow his lead, and those like him instead, who are trying to follow Jesus.
“our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21)
This conclusion to chapter 3, refocuses our attention once again, not on Paul and not on those who oppose the cross of Christ, not on ourselves and not on our work, but on God. Because everything - ourselves, our work, our mentors, leaders, colleagues, community and even enemies, are all, ultimately, underneath the authority and control of Jesus.
What a comfort!
May you know the God of all comfort, the crucified, risen and reigning Jesus and the empowering and ever-present Holy Spirit today and throughout this season!
Welcoming You to Grow in Jesus,