It never ceases to amaze me just how much Perfection (that’s God) loves imperfection (that’s us). And no one knew this truth better than the apostle Paul.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, 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.
The religious leaders who lived at the time of Paul believed themselves to be perfect in every way. They would thank God that their behavior was perfect, and that they were not like other men—sinners in need of a Savior. Paul thought this way too . . . when he was Saul. But after his Damascus Road encounter with the risen Lord, Paul understood this truth: Perfect people need not apply!
When Paul wrote, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it” he was talking about the state of perfection. He freely and frankly acknowledged that he was far from that mark. But notice the key Paul used to unlock the door leading in the direction of the calling God had placed in his life. He knew forward progress would only be achieved by forgetting his past—a past littered with horrible sins directed at God’s people. Learning from the past and not living in the past, Paul was able to press on in the direction God was calling him to go, even in his own imperfection.
Paul pressed on imperfectly in the direction Perfection was calling. Paul preached imperfectly; Paul pastored imperfectly; Paul ministered imperfectly. Yet Paul did all of it passionately and he did it all for the glory of God. Paul understood the truth that God uses imperfect people, simply because that’s all God has to use. We all have imperfect pasts, and we all live in imperfect presents. And during our time on this earth we will live in imperfect futures! And that’s OK, because we were created to live life not in our imperfect strength, but rather in God’s perfect strength. We are being made perfect for our existence in the new heavens and the new earth, not this one!
So let me ask you a question: Is there anything in your past that is keeping you from advancing in the direction of your promised future? If so, you should simply follow the example of the apostle Paul: forget the past and focus on the present.
Just a cursory glance through the Scriptures reveals just how imperfect all the great saints of God truly were. Abraham lied about his wife being his sister to save his own skin. David slept with another man’s wife and then arranged for that man to be killed. Peter denied even knowing Jesus—not once, but three times on the night Jesus was betrayed. All of these imperfect people were called by Perfection to advance the cause of the Kingdom of God.
You, too, have been called to do the very same thing: press on toward the goal!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!