“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:16
Philippians 3 is a series of texts that every Christian should read on a regular basis. It outlines the gospel, encourages Christian living, trust, and love for God. For me, Philippians 3:16 is the focal point of the chapter since it reminds us to “live up” to what we already have. And what is it that we already have attained and need to live up to? The answer is partially found in verses 7-9:
7 “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ
9 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.”
Paul is “all in” when it comes to the Christian life. He has sacrificed status, success, fame, health, and security in the name of preaching the gospel. In fact, he makes it clear that everything society looks at as “gains” he considers garbage. We live in a culture where success, status, and wealth mean everything. Parents start working on the best “pre-pre- school” to enroll their baby in even before birth. Many parents and students are heart-broken if perfection isn’t reached in academics, after school activities, and sports. Everything is secondary to success and that success must come with a price tag.
If Paul was giving a graduation address he might just tell the class, live up to what we have already attained. And what we have attained is redemption through the grace of Christ. Be proud of who you are in Christ and remember everything else is secondary. The ultimate worth is to know Christ Jesus as your Lord. And to have this amazing grace is not determined upon our work or the righteousness that we think comes through keeping the law, but is a gift that comes through faith in Christ. This is the “righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
Yes, we all need to live up to what has been given us. Paul goes on, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Philippians 3:17-18
Paul’s example of course, was forged in putting the wonder of the gospel foremost in his life and living his life in accordance with the gospel regardless of the consequences. But, he also encourages the Philippians to “keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” Now, here is the rub. What if people are looking to us as examples of the Christian life—what would they see?
Before you all go snaky on me, I know we are not perfect and we all mess up and make loads of mistakes. But, that is not the point. For someone thinking about Christianity and knows you well, what kind of impression would you make? Most people who convert to Christianity in the West don’t come to Christ through theological arguments or apologetics. They are drawn to Christ through experiencing the working of Christ in the heart of someone they know.
My own conversion was made possible because of the happiness I saw in the face of a speaker I went to hear when I was in my mid-twenties. All my friends said it would never last, but here I am forty years later more committed to Christ than ever.
You see, Philippians 3:16 is an important text because God, working through Paul, is telling us that we need to live as men and women who are free in Christ Jesus. We need to live up to what we profess. It is not the occasional bump in the road that people will notice but the general direction of our walk—our destination, our journey that they will notice and remember.
Paul ends the chapter by reminding us all that, “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
In Galatians 5:25-26 Paul reminds us, “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
If the world is to see Christ, then they are to see Him through our actions and our words and living by the fruit of the Spirit would be a great place to start. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23a