Paul, the Apostle, lived as a mighty example of a Christ-like life. He had once tried serving a religion, but when he met Jesus, he understood the uselessness of it (see Philippians 3:1-10).
Although Paul was not perfect, he understood that the goal of his life was to follow Jesus – wherever that may lead him (remember, he wrote this letter to the church at Philippi from prison!). “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12). Paul understood something very important that Christians today should understand, too. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). John wrote, understanding that without God loving us first, we could never love Him. Do you remember how God revealed His love to us? “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God sent His only Son, Jesus, to be the “propitiation for our sins.” This means that Jesus became the atoning sacrifice that God demanded for my sin, taking away my penalty of death – for Jesus died for me. Because of that, Paul declared, “I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” When Paul relinquished his will, trusting Christ, Paul had been saved. He then belonged to Jesus. However, living here on earth, he still lived in his physical body, in a world of sin. Nevertheless, Paul understood that by following after the things of Christ, he was becoming more like Christ. Because of that, Paul wanted to “apprehend” a Christ-like life. Moreover, one day Paul would be in heaven with Jesus, perfect in every way.
Paul used a race to help understand something one cannot physically see. The Christian life is a spiritual one, and you cannot see the spirit. However, one can see the results of living a Christ-like life, and that is what Paul wanted Christians to understand. Just as in a race, one must focus the eyes upon the goal, the finish line, without looking back. “13. 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, 14. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Each Christian is to strive to know God by understanding and living a Christ-like life.
How can a Christian who lives in this world possibly reach for and live a Christ-like life? Remember back to what Paul already told them in Philippians 2:5: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” No one can do it unless that Christian has the mind of Christ. Being like Jesus must be the goal in a Christian’s life. “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Philippians 3:15). Perfect means “full-grown in the knowledge of the truth in comparison to the babes in Christ.” Another way to understand it is that there are mature Christians who know and understand God’s Word. Be thus minded means “to think or sense mentally one and the same thing; as in ‘the same mind be in you as in Christ.’” Paul was setting himself up as an example of one who had learned to have the mind of Christ. The Christians were to follow his example, and any other who lived the same – and God would reveal the right Christian lifestyle example to follow. “16. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 17. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Philippians 3:16-17). Paul lived his Christian life becoming more like Christ. He was a great example to follow. Part of their Christian duty was to recognize fellow Christians who were striving to become more Christ-like, because they could be examples as well.
However, Paul parenthetically gave an important warning. “18. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19. Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)” (Philippians 3:18-19). There are many who do not strive to be Christ-like, and instead become enemies of the cross. They were to recognize true followers of Christ, following them, and remember the enemies Paul warned them to avoid – those who mind earthly things.
Paul reminded them of something important. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Although we live here on this earth now, Paul wanted them to remember that a Christian’s home (the word conversation means “citizenship”) is (and one day will forever be) in heaven with Jesus. We are to look for Jesus, the Saviour, who will return for us one day.
Do you have the mind of Christ, which enables you to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus?