What We Have Attained

So, I know I haven’t written anything profound in awhile. But, I think that’s okay. Sometimes we have something worth hearing, other times we don’t. Sometimes we’re on top of things, other times we’re not. As Ecclesiastes says, “For everything there is a season.”

Still, I noticed something interesting the other day and thought maybe it was worth sharing.

Philippians 3:12-16
Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward. So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also. Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.

There’s a lot in here. First, the idea that Paul admits he is still dealing with stuff. If he weren’t dealing with stuff, there’d be no need to put the past in the past. He says that we can’t dwell on the past; we need to keep our eyes forward and work toward the future. We’ve all kind of become familiar with that part. But the next two statements are overlooked sometimes.

Paul says that mature believers should have that mindset: the past is past, and the future is wide open. And, as one of my former housemates pointed out in a paper I edited for her, Paul would know about pasts. He was a murderer one day, and immediatly after meeting Christ, he was a pastor. How often do we see churches and individual believers dragging their feet to trust someone who has a shady past? Granted, some people have ongoing struggles even after coming to Christ. But it’s our responsibility to walk along side of those people and help them, not turn our noses up at them and say that they’ll never be anything more. If our response to struggling believers–and people in general–is to walk away, honestly believing that God cannot do more in those lives, we have marked ourselves as immature believers who do not know the transforming grace of God. And this does not only apply to other people; if we dwell on our own pasts as believers and do not step forward into God’s greater calling, we prove that we are immature.

The last statement is the one that really grabbed my attention the most, though. I’ve heard the word “attained” a lot over the course of my life but I’ve never looked it up. So I pulled out my thesaurus and looked up “attain.” Similar words are achieve, accomplish, and reach. I started wondering what Paul was really saying when he said that we should order our lives by what we’ve already achieved. This is what I came up with: We’ve all experienced things. There is a definite difference in what we’ve experienced and what we know in our heads. Experience has a way of teaching that academic learning can’t compare to. Paul is saying that we need to hold true to what completed experience has taught us and not forget those lessons. It’s our responsibility to live having learned. Sometimes, we look back and see that things that we thought we learned intellectually, we actually didn’t learn at all. So, does this mean that we chuck intellectual learning out the window and learn everything by experience? No. But I think we shouldn’t become so comfortable with intellectual knowledge that we make light of experience. Basically, Paul is saying this: whatever you know/have learned, live by. If you’ve learned something, there’s a reason for it: practice in everyday life. If you aren’t sure of something, don’t pretend that you are certain; wait and get to the place where you are certain and where you can responsibly live out what God’s taught you.


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