Playing for Keeps
“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 13–14)- Philippians 3:12–16
The Greek verb stoicheō is the verb that is translated “walk” in Paul’s exhortation for us to “walk by the Spirit” in Galatians 5:25. Generally speaking, the term was used in ancient literature to mean something like “be in order,” or “belong to a series,” and carried with it the sense of being in agreement with something. Stoicheō also had a military usage, referring to the marching of troops and the discipline that it naturally involves. Paul then is plainly informing us that walking by the Holy Spirit involves agreeing with the Spirit’s dictates and disciplining oneself to follow Him step by step. In order that we might better understand what it means to walk by the Spirit and thereby grow to maturity, our devotionals for the next several days will be based on Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Keeping in Step with the Spirit.
Real change occurs when we trust Christ, for God realigns our desires so that we want to obey Jesus. However, because our redemption will not be brought to its fullness until Christ returns to usher in the new heavens and the new earth, we still deal with our fallenness. Still, as we put to death our old fleshly nature, our new desire to obey Jesus manifests itself in actual obedience (Rom. 7).
The Christian life is a heated battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and it is not for the faint of heart. In this war we will suffer seeming defeat and enjoy God-given success. At times we will be exhilarated, and at other times loss will discourage us. Yet we must never give up. Jesus’ victory over Satan at the cross (Col. 2:13–15) has decided the war. Victory is guaranteed for God’s people, and it is now slowly working itself out in our lives and in the created order.
Philippians 3:12–16 calls us to forget what is behind us and press on toward the goal. Paul knew his reward was sure in Christ. But he also knew that he would receive it only by pressing forward, working out his salvation with fear and trembling just as Christ was working in him (Phil. 2:12–13). Sanctification (our growth in holiness) is a cooperative effort between us and God. He makes our victory certain in Christ, but we only know that it is ours if we press on away from sin and toward Jesus (2 Peter 1:10–11).
Part of the discipline needed for spiritual growth is regular participation in the local church. Worship on Sunday wherein we hear the Word preached and see it made visible in the sacraments is vital to our long-term spiritual health. But consistent participation in the fellowship events of church life where we are sharpened by mature Christians is another way in which our character is conformed to Christ. Let us all make an effort to be active in our churches.
Passages for Further Study