Holy Dissatisfaction and Relentless Pursuit: Overcoming the Threat of Spiritual Stagnation (2)1
In the previous post we looked at the tendency of some Christians to coast, as over against Paul’s determination to “press on” to “what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:12-14). Continue reading . . .
In the previous post we looked at the tendency of some Christians to coast, as over against Paul’s determination to “press on” to “what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:12-14). Here is the passage once more.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But 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” (Phil. 3:12-14).
He begins this portion of his letter to the Philippians with an immediate disclaimer. He does not want us to think that his suffering the loss of all things to gain Christ means that he has fully arrived, that he has already achieved or obtain everything that God has in store for Christians.
So, to what does the word “this” in v. 12 refer? Or again, in v. 13, to what does the word “it” refer? Paul denies having obtained “this” and having made “it” his own. What’s he talking about?
There are several possibilities, all of which may be true! He may have in mind the “resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:11). There were some in the early church (see 2 Tim. 2:16-18) who argued that our spiritual resurrection or coming to life through faith in Christ is the only resurrection that will ever occur. Or he may also have in mind the claim of some to have achieved sinless perfection in this life. In other words, Paul said in Phil. 3:9 that he is trusting in the righteousness that God gives to us through faith. Some may have argued that this righteousness is now here in its fullness. Whereas it is true that we stand perfectly righteous in the sight of God because he has imputed or reckoned the righteousness of Christ to us through faith, that doesn’t mean our experiential righteousness is complete. We still sin. Or maybe he is talking about the “knowledge” and “experience” of Christ he mentioned in Phil. 3:8-10. All there is to know about Christ, all there is to experience in fellowship with him, so some said, has already come and is ours now in complete perfection.
No! Of course, it is true we do possess the righteousness of Christ and we have gained Christ and we do know him and can even now experience the power of his risen life. But this does not mean there is nothing yet to come. This does not mean we can coast.
Paul’s words run directly counter to the idea which says that if Christ has found us, we don’t need to seek him. If he has made us his own (v. 12b), we need not press on to lay hold of him. “Paul reasons exactly opposite to this: I press on in order to gain Christ, because Christ has already gained me. Paul's conversion was not a cage to hold him back but a catapult into the pursuit of holiness. The irresistible grace of Christ overcoming Paul's rebellion and saving him from sin did not make Paul passive; it made him powerful” (John Piper)!
A lot of people have very little self awareness. They don’t understand much of who they are or the impact they have on others. Not Paul. “I haven’t already obtained it. I’m far from perfect.” Paul takes a long look in the mirror of truth and says: “I’m nowhere near where I ought to be or where I want to be.”
That is why I used the words “holy dissatisfaction” in the previous article. Paul's “relentless pursuit” of Christ is the fruit of a profound dissatisfaction with where he is. The first step in relentlessly pursuing the holy God, then, is to develop a holy dissatisfaction with your spiritual life. Take a long look in the mirror of the Word and recognize that you have not yet arrived. The humble recognition of our spiritual shortcomings is the starting point for the pursuit of God.
But there’s another dimension to holy dissatisfaction. It’s the dissatisfaction that arises from having tasted the goodness of God and then wanting more! This isn’t a nail-biting nervous apprehension that leads to an angry dissatisfaction. This is what comes from having eaten the first course of a gourmet meal and longing to get to course two and then course three and finally to the dessert!
We’ll look at this in the next article.