Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. 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. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. ~Philippians 3:12-16
It’s so easy in life to look over our shoulders. Hindsight is 20/20, they say. People tend to look at the past in one of two ways. Either they romanticize it, thinking no days future or present could be as good as those good ol’ days; or they demonize it, letting the weight of their sin and burdens drag them down in relentless guilt until they feel that they have nothing to offer a world in need.
Paul preferred to have a different attitude toward the past. “Forgetting what lies behind,” he told the church, “and straining toward what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal.” This does not mean that Paul never thought about the past. In Acts, when you read about Paul standing before governors and kings, he often shared his story as he looked back to that point where Jesus saved him.
But, Paul kept the past in perspective. What is past is past, that can’t be changed. What matters is what is ahead and what we do in response to this forward view.
Paul knew he wasn’t perfect. He longed for the resurrection, becoming fully new and perfected through Jesus (3:10-11), but he knew he wasn’t there yet. But he also held on to this great truth: Christ Jesus has made me his own. He knew to whom he belonged through faith, and that changed everything.
Belonging to Jesus, he looked ahead and pressed ahead. Belonging to Jesus, he set his eyes on the prize: To be resurrected and fully alive with Jesus. So, he would have repented of the sin in his past and the hurt he caused. He would have been thankful for the grace and the love of God in bringing him salvation. Then, eyes set forward, he pressed on with the glory of Christ and hope of resurrection in full view.
May we have that same forward-looking vision of the resurrection, keeping our past in proper perspective as we neither idolize it or fall under the weight of its burden, but longing for the day when all things are new.
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