“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the
Upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, ESV)
What keeps us moving ahead? What keeps us looking forward instead of looking back all the time? For the believers in Christ, it is our upward calling in Christ Jesus. Unfortunately, many are stuck in the past, focused on their past failures, or reminiscing on what they perceive as good times in the past. For the Christian, it should be different. Yes, hopefully, we have learned from our previous mistakes by only glancing back, but our focus should always be on the future and our upward calling in Christ Jesus. This does not keep us from being thankful in all things, including what God has done for us in the past (II Thessalonians 5:18). This is one area that fallen humanity has not grasped. From the news services to psychological counseling, and those who are unwilling to forgive others, they are always stuck in the past. They are always rehashing the past over and over again never allowing humanity to forget their failures and move on to a new day. They have not really learned from their mistakes because every time they are rehashed somehow the facts keep changing. They have not learned how to forgive the past, holding much of humanity in bondage to their past errors. For the Christian, it should be different. We learn from the past. We forgive ourselves and those who have wronged us, which allows us to forget the past and move on. Every day should be a new day in the Lord (II Corinthians 4:16).
So, exactly how do we press on to our upward calling in Christ Jesus? This is an amazing topic that deserves our utmost attention. I have recently taken a stroll to the past with the thought of producing an autobiography. Although it was very painful at times remembering some of my past mistakes, it was also extremely rewarding to realize that God was with me every step of the way always pulling me back on course, never letting me forget my original calling. Yes, we can, although it can be difficult, to glance back to see how God has carried us forward, it is absolutely essential to refocus our attention on the path going forward. I know this will be difficult for some, but not impossible. It will be helpful to remember who we are in Christ Jesus. We are a brand-new creation. The Bible says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). We notice two things in this marvelous scripture. “Old things have passed away” You have been forgiven, God no longer remembers the trespasses, the failures, and the bad decisions. The slate has been wiped clean by a righteous and loving God. The second thing this marvelous scripture teaches is, “Behold, all things are become new.” That is, all things are becoming new! Every day is a new day with no mistakes.
We have been set on a new path, a path that leads to our upward calling in Christ Jesus. So, exactly what is God calling us to? The simple answer is perfection. This is our aim. There is no need to get into a debate, as churches have if we can obtain that goal. The more important thing is that we strive for that goal every day of our lives, constantly becoming all that Christ wants us to be in Him. There is no room for stagnation. As Christians, we cannot simply tread water. We cannot run in place. Yes, we will have failures and great heartaches, but we cannot stop. We cannot turn back. We cannot get on a different path. When we do, then we will become the lukewarm church. No matter what happens in our life we must not drift back into lukewarmness, simply running in place, and making no great no progress or sacrifices for the Lord. Let me be very clear, to just sit idly in your church absorbing the messages, singing a few songs, and making a few short prayers is little more than running in place. We have never been called to run in place. We have been called to make all things new and to strive for perfection daily. Are you growing up spiritually every day? Are you becoming more like Christ?
Once we get back on the path of making all things new, then we are ready for the next step. We are ready for our upward calling in Christ Jesus. Jesus, from the moment of your initial calling, wants to make you something special, to make you something unique. God does not want a bunch of cookie-cutter Christians. God has a specific role for you in His Church, not only in this dispensation but also in Heaven. He has recreated you to be special, to be a special fit in the church, and also as a voice piece to the fallen world. This is your upward calling in Christ Jesus that will never be determined if you are running in place. So, the first thing we need to do is to start the process by putting off the old life. If you are still knowingly holding onto that favorite sin, then you are still running in place. If you have not read all the beautiful commands written in the New Testament on what you should avoid and have not applied them to your life, then you are still running in place. If you are not asking God nearly every day for help and forgiveness of another discovered trespass, then you are still running in place. Let’s take the first step on the path of righteousness and our upward calling in Christ Jesus. Remembering, we are aiming for perfection (Matthew 5:48).
The second step to our upward calling is to actively put on the new life in Christ by following all the commands and mandates for believers in Christ. Go through the New Testament and write them on your heart by reading them prayerfully over and over again, then allow the Holy Spirit to bring them to your mind when you come into contact with others. Again, you are not cookie-cutter Christians but will display your own unique personalities, as God uniquely changes it in time, to adapt to every situation. The Apostle Paul said he had become all things to all people (I Corinthians 9:19-22). Yet, he, like us, walked continuously in the law of Christ. To put on the new life in Christ may appear a bit awkward in the beginning but if you are following God’s lead, then you will have peace that defies understanding. Let me caution you to not follow the so-called religious ways of the world, always yelling at the devil, boastfully binding, and losing things, and claiming things that you pridefully want. This sort of thing will close every door to a meaningful witness to the fallen world. To pursue our upward calling in Christ Jesus we must take our first steps by putting on our new life in Christ with abounding joy and a peace that defies understanding.
Finally, we must not only take our first steps into the light and onto the path of righteousness, but we must run the race set before us. This is accomplished when we allow God to make us into unique creatures in Christ. You will be different than the rest. This is defined by the people we minister to and the Spiritual gifts given to us for each encounter or ministry we are called to. Until this happens dear children, then we are still running in place, destined for the lukewarm church. My ministry has been totally different from the beginning, not stuck in the ivory towers of the church, but going out among the heathen to witness the absolute worst of humanity and also see the best of humanity from sea-to-sea preaching in many churches in multiple towns and cities. My Spiritual gifts have changed with nearly every encounter from the Spiritual gift of healing (both physical and mental) to the Spiritual gifts of preaching, teaching, writing, and prophecy. We must all find our own unique Spiritual gifts and use them for the building up the Church of God. It is only through spiritual growth the discovery and the use of our Spiritual gifts that we will find our unique place in the eternal Church of God. Furthermore, it is essential to listen every day to our new call being ready to minister to whoever and to wherever He sends. Don’t ever give up, dear children, being content to run in place, but draw close to God, open your ears, and hear your upward calling in Christ Jesus. Amen
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