“that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
We see in these verses the beautiful tension between faith and efforts, between Christ work and our call to obedience. These verses show us that knowing Christ has two parts: what he has done for us, and our call to press onward. We see in the first few verses that Christ work is what makes us righteous by his righteousness (v10), we are empowered by his resurrection power (v10), we die to sin and self by his sufferings (v10), and we receive eternal resurrected life by his resurrection (v11). Jesus is the one who suffered, died, and rose again to rescue me and give me salvation. He imparts that righteousness to me when I put my faith in him.
Paul moves on to say that because Jesus has purchased this new life for us that we should press on to make it our own. We are not perfect yet, but we are already His! We have already obtained that salvation. So now we are called to hold true. Paul uses the words hold true, press on, and strain forward. Not a walk in the park, more like a marathon. The fact is that Jesus died for us, no easy task. So we are now called to give up everything for him!
This high calling, what Paul refers to as the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” may seem overwhelming and unattainable. But these verses are actually very hopeful. We are already secure in Christ. We are already his own. It’s already ours! Victory, joy, life, obedience, perfection, fellowship, he has purchased it all for us. We don’t have to look back at how we screwed up in the past. We should not sit here thinking that we’ve already arrived. But we can move forward to be who we already are. To hold true to what we have already attained.
Take some time today to reflect on Christ suffering for our sake, and what he has purchased for us. Let’s remind ourselves of who we already are in Christ. His children, regimes, righteous. This is our new identity. Now what is he calling us to do today, here and now, to move into that new identity. To allow this new identity to change the way we think and act?