Last week I was teaching on Philippians 3:12 where the Apostle Paul talks about his striving for and not yet having reached his goal. Paul’s talk about goal setting in the Christian life struck us as odd at first. After a little discussion we quickly realized how natural that was for Paul and how it ought to become more natural for us.
The reason it was so natural for Paul to talk about his goal in the Christian life is that his goal in his Christian life is the same as his goal in life. There is no distinction between his life in Christ and his life. There were one and the same. Paul understood himself only in terms of who he was in Christ which resulted in his serving Christ and laboring for the gospel. He didn’t have a work life (although he was a tent maker), home life, church life, financial life, family life, recreational life, and physical life. He had one life in Christ. Therefore, his goal in life was his goal for the spiritual life. Paul was a fully integrated man who sought first the kingdom of God. The result is that he organized his life around his singular goal which he hadn’t fully attained but pressed on towards and urged the Philippians to imitate him in doing.
We too are called to imitate Paul in becoming fully integrated people for whom our life in Christ is the life we live. Our being followers of Jesus should impact and shape who we are in our hearts and therefore how we act. I would say spiritual integration of our life in Christ is one of the most pressing issues facing Christians today. Too often we just don’t see the connections between who are in Christ and how we live. As a result we miss out on our calling as disciples which impacts our ability to live out our vocation and mission in the world. Missing the depth and fullness of our calling means we aren’t the fullest versions of ourselves. Sadly we don’t realize how desperately the world needs us to live into God’s call on our lives.
One of the outcomes of being Jesus’ disciple is that we are people who are learning to routinely and regularly love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Disciples are people who are growing in their ability to will and to choose the good of their neighbor. I can’t think of anything the world needs more deeply now than people who can will and choose the good of another.
Paul says that he wants to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if I may somehow attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). This is Paul’s goal in life: to know Christ. The path of discipleship is the path to knowing Christ. This is what Paul has called us to imitate him in doing, spending our lives knowing Christ, sharing in his suffering (living a cruciform life) and being filled with resurrection power.
Our lives then become about Christ, his kingdom and his mission. This brings everything else we do intto sharp relief and becomes the compass that guides who we are and what we do. In light of all the paths we can take this path of giving our lives to Christ is that path that leads to life.