Paul had an impressive resume. He was circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, faultless in keeping the law, zealous, a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” If there was anyone who had any legitimate bragging rights, it was Paul. He could have rested quite comfortably on his laurels and his accolades and his knowledge of the minutiae of the law, but he didn’t. Paul had bigger ambitions.
Paul wanted nothing for himself except for Christ. He wanted to know Christ, to be more like Christ, to everyday be more and more molded into the image of Christ. He strived to take hold of that for which Christ had taken hold of him. This passion coupled with his impressive pedigree meant that Paul had it all together, right? Wrong.
In Philippians 3:13a, Paul writes, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” So what does that mean for us? If Paul didn’t have it together, what hope is there for us?
First, none of us have it “together.” We are all works in progress. We might be better than we were, but we still have a long way to go. Being a teacher and the apostle to the Gentiles didn’t exempt Paul from the frailties of humankind.
Second, the closer we get to Christ, the more we realize how incredibly imperfect we are. It’s like looking at your face in a magnifying mirror. In a regular mirror, you might look just fine, but when you magnify the image, you see all the tiny imperfections of your face and they’re not so tiny anymore. They’re huge and staring right back at you. As we mature as Christians and grow closer to Christ, we start to examine our lives in the reflection of Christ, and our imperfections become stark and glaring in the light of His righteousness.
I think Paul summed it best in verses 15 and 16 by saying, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
What exactly does it mean to have it all together anyway? Who exactly decides that? It’s not about appearances and the quality of our coping skills. We must keep the main thing the main thing. Christ is the main thing. He is our goal and our measuring stick, and the only one who can hold us all together.
Amen! That is so true. It's not that I am further from perfection... it's just that the imperfections I have stick out like a sore thumb to me. Whereas, before, they were mostly hidden from me. It would be overwhelming if not for the peace that comes only from knowing Christ.