“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Phil. 3:12)
The apostle Paul was an amazing guy. He accomplished a lot in his life, both before he was “converted” and after his experience on the road to Damascus. He experienced more in his short life than most people ever will. In 2 Corinthians 11:22-28 he writes,
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I speak as a fool, I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times i received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, inperils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness, besiders the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
There was so much that was going on in Paul’s life, and yet it says in Acts 19:11-12,
Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkershiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.
Stop right now. Read that verse again…
Really? An apron or handkerchief? Seriously? And when these items touched people who were sick they were healed? Yes. But look what else it says. Yeah, okay, people were healed. But evil spirits were fleeing from their bodies as well. And then it says,
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had the evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” (Acts 19:13-15, emphasis mine)
And that’s the question isn’t it? Who are you?
So who are you? Are you like the Jewish exorcists, who thought they were operating in the will of God, but the spirits had no clue who they were? Do evil spirits know who you are?
Are you like Paul, who writes about all his misfortune for humanity after him to read about like we see above. The same Paul who writes in Philippians 3:4-12,
Though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks they may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Some have been hurt by people, even by our own people. Those close to us and those in our community. Some have been hurt by other people. And because of that hurt, some have stood still. Some have ignored Paul’s example. You know the word “rubbish” used in this passage is a bit misleading. The Greek translation is actually a bit stronger. Dr. David Johnson over at Providence College/University, in my Greek class last fall, shared that if there is a swear in the bible, this is the word. He said it could be translated as “a pile of crap”. He didn’t actually say “crap”. He kind of just stalled out his sentence and let the word come to our minds. Paul is saying all the stuff he’s endured, all the confidence he could have, all of that is a pile of crap, because he just wants to be found in Christ.
He also says he’s not perfect. Think about this for a moment. The apostle Paul, who “wrote” most of the New Testament, the same Paul that is elevated as a great person, says he hasn’t been perfected. Paul was a great man, don’t get me wrong, but he wasn’t perfect.
In our society today, there is a misplaced notion that Christians are supposed to be perfect. 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” It doesn’t say, “Be perfect, for I am perfect.” It says be holy.
If this is a challenge then let it be so: I say don’t be perfect. This doesn’t mean that as Christians we can go on sinning. Striving for holiness means not doing that. But as Christians in a fallen world, in mortal bodies, we will sin. Repent, press delete, and “press toward the goal”.
Who are you? Are you like Paul? Who counted everything as loss? Who evil spirits knew? Who when a piece of cloth that you wore touches someone, they are healed of their diseases, and it casts out evil spirits?