12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.– Philippians 3:12 NLT
God created a perfect earth. When Adam and Eve were tempted by satan and chose to disobey God, the earth was no longer perfect. Then the earth, along with humankind, started to age and decay. God became the perfect man to redeem earth and all mankind from that fallen state. When Jesus ascended, there was no longer anything left on this earth that was perfect. Then God came as the Holy Spirit to abide within us. Since that time, those of us who accept Christ as our Savior and Lord have been given both the command and the desire to strive for perfection. Though we understand that as long as we live in this fleshly tent, it is impossible for us to achieve perfection, nevertheless, as Paul says we “press on to possess that perfection”. Why would we or Paul strive to achieve a seemingly impossible goal? If this temporal dwelling and life were the end, then we would be foolish. But we, who believe in Jesus, have knowledge and a hope of eternity. That knowledge and hope will not be perfected while we participate in the activities of the Kingdom of God here on earth. We press on because we know that when the Perfect One comes to reign again, we will be like Him. It is then that our hope will be fulfilled and we will reach the goal of perfection. We press on for a few years to win the prize of eternal perfection, following the One who has always been, now is and will always be Perfection. Impossible in this lifetime? Yes. Impossible in eternity? No!
20 Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. — Eccel. 7:20 NIV
Verses like the one above are meant to encourage us not to give us an excuse to “do it my way”. Mr. Sinatra was a great singer, but the writer of that particular song had some bad theology. We all fall, but we don’t stay fallen. I am encouraged by Paul whose claim to be the “chief of sinners” could be contested by some of us in today’s society. He clearly knew who he was, Whose he was and where he was on his journey. He lets us know that he is not there yet, but he is on his way and he is determined to arrive there.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. — Phil. 3:12-14 NIV
”Forgetting what is behind” is the example Paul sets for us. That is a hard thing for humans to do. But, if we don’t practice that, then satan will use those memories of our failures to condemn us and make us feel unworthy to approach God and ask for His forgiveness. If we allow this to continue, we will soon become beaten down with guilt. Condemnation is from the devil, conviction is from the Holy Spirit. Rebuke satan and his condemnation. Accept the conviction of the Holy Spirit and ask for His forgiveness. Accept that forgiveness and “press on toward the goal to win the prize”.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
— 1 John 1:8-10 NIV
No, we are not perfect, but we are being perfected day by day.
1 This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad.
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.–James 1:1-4 (NLT)
Although James addresses this letter to the “twelve tribes”, the Holy Spirit included it in the Bible for our benefit as well. We are brothers and sisters of the Christian Jews, James and Jesus Christ. It emphasizes the statement that Jesus made when He said “in this world, you will be offended”. Troubles will come our way, of that we can be sure. There is a reason God allows trials and temptations to come into our lives. God knows our maturity level and what decisions we will make in those trying times. He allows those times so we will know where we are spiritually. Most of the time, if not all the time, we find that we have a long way to go to get to where God wants us to be. When the trials come, do we whine and complain or do we accept the situation realizing that God has put us here so we learn to depend on Him? There is nothing more sobering than when we realize that we have done what Peter did when he said he didn’t know Jesus. Oh, I am sure that we would never verbalize that, but what do our actions tell those around us? Like Paul, we should always realize that we are not there yet, but we should be focused on getting there. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.–Philippians 3:13,14 (NLT)
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.–Phil. 3:12-16 (NLT)
None of us will achieve perfection while we are clothed in this tent of flesh. However, we can never use that as an excuse for not trying to do better every day. We must keep our eyes and mind focused on Jesus. We must keep pressing onward and upward. Jesus tells us that once we have started the journey with Him, we should never look back (Luke 9:62). Forget the past or satan will use it to beat you up mentally and spiritually every day. God has already forgotten our sinful past (Psalm 103:12). When we grow weary, we should pray and wait upon the Lord, He will give us renewed strength to press on (Isaiah 40:31).