Verse of the Day Devotion: Philippians 3:13
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,” – Philippians 3:13
Paul in this verse is being very real with the Philippians in his encouragement to them. He tells them that as far as he is concerned, he does not consider himself to have attained anything that he so strongly longs for. And we see a picture of that in the previous verse. “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12. He has not attained the perfection that will come after the return of Christ. He has not as of yet been crowned with the crown of victory. He is showing a deep humility to those in Philippi.
However, because he has not laid hold of this, there is one thing he does do and that is encouraging them to do the same. He wants them to continue in the faith. He does not want them to be bogged down with their past, for there is nothing that can be done regarding it. Do not look back but look forward. And there are two ways to look at this and we will examine both.
First, those who look back are seeing the sin and wrong they have committed before becoming a Christian. Often, people will focus on these things and wonder how can they be worthy to do the work of God. One thing we must remember is that it was God who accounts us worthy to do His work, not us. He died on the cross to remove these past sins from us. We are not accountable to them anymore for the price was paid by Christ, the perfect sacrifice. And we are not that old person anymore. “Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.” 2 Corinthians 5:16. We must not recognize anyone who is in Christ, in the flesh, and this must include ourselves. We must not look back on who we were then, but look at who we are now. And how can we legitimately do this? “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. We are not that person anymore. In fact, that person does not exist anymore. It has passed away. And if it no longer exists, then why should we look back? We are a new creature, we must look at what lies ahead for us, a beautiful and glorious future.
And the second way, looking back at what we were and had and longing for it again. This is not a good thing. God does not want us doing this. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife. God told them not to look back, however she did. “But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:26. Now I am not saying we can turn into salt but looking back at a former life that is not there anymore is not beneficial. However, Jesus says if we do, then we are not worthy. “But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 If we look back in any way from following Him, then we can end up being unworthy.
Now that we are Christians, our past life is gone. We are not that person anymore. Therefore, we are called not to look back, but to look ahead to where we are going and that life which is eternal and glorious. We are to accept the result of accepting the forgiveness for that past life, and then looking forward to the life to come. I know I cannot wait to attain that wonderful existence, which surpasses infinitely that which I was before.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.