By Ellen Ceely
Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this 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 heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 (NRSV)
Paul never tries to belittle the people he writes to. He doesn’t claim to be better than they are or to have attained perfection. His goal is always what he talks about in our passage from this week: Christ Jesus.
Before becoming a Christian, Paul was a passionate and dedicated Jew who believed Christians were heretics of the faith who deserved to be killed. He hunted Christians down, aiding in and encouraging the Roman persecution of those who followed Jesus and proclaimed his resurrection and forgiveness. Paul was feared, and his name was well-known among believers. He caused a lot of grief and damage.
But then God intervened. In Acts 9, God strikes Paul blind as he’s on his way to persecute more Christians and explains he’s persecuting the God he claims to be serving. While Acts only speaks briefly of the Christians understandable hesitation to accept Paul’s conversion, I would imagine it took him a while to fully earn their trust and for that trust to spread.
Paul could’ve easily spent his days mourning and ashamed of what he’d done to fellow Christians. I have no doubt his actions did, at times, weigh heavily on him. But he knew there was nothing he could do to fix the pain he’d caused. Paul understood that no amount of regret would make amends for the murders he’d committed. He knew the best and only thing he could do was serve God.
Paul’s understanding of God’s grace was immense. I believe he understood God’s grace and forgiveness in a way I can’t possibly fathom because his life experience was so different from mine. He didn’t pretend the past never happened; rather, he accepted it and learned to rely on God’s grace as he pressed on toward eternity with Christ.
How do you press on toward eternity with Christ? Is there anything from your past you feel holds you back or makes you ashamed to fully live out your faith? This could be a false belief instilled in you, a past action you’re ashamed of, or something else entirely. It can be difficult to let go of the past, especially if there’s something we did or something done to us. If you’re in this position, I encourage you to remember Christ alone defines who you are. Everyone else may have an opinion, but his is the only one that matters. And he loves you beyond any love you’ve ever known. Continue to make him and what lies ahead your goal, and allow him to help you leave behind your past. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week small group Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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