Assurance of Glory at the End gives Present Meaning to Christian Life
"This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."(Philippians 3:13, 14.)
Life is rather meaningless for most people in this world. Where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going are not only the big questions that bother young people in each generation: they are questions that for most people are never satisfactorily answered because people will not accept the answers plainly given in the word of God, Who is the only authority competent to know and tell us the truth about Himself and ourselves, His creatures.
Indubitably the present current of social unrest and lawlessness that is destroying our country is closely related to the sad decline in Biblical Christianity. In proportion to our population, there are perhaps more people professing religion and fewer living the life of Christ than ever before in our history. As a result, moral decay, the stinking corruption of the so-called "new morality," has spread through all levels of society, from the ghoulish precincts of the supreme court to the latest mobs in our city streets destroying, under judicial incitement and encouragement, the lives and property of peaceful citizens.
Religious leaders, bent on building a world church for Antichrist, prate of social reform; and the more they reform, the more antichristian they become. Surely the stage is set for the last scene of history of this present evil world, and the time rushes on to the end. There is no hope for the world, but individual souls may still prepare for a better world to come.
Necessary Goal Paul tells us, in our text and context, the true goal of a Christian life. It is, in short, to become like Jesus. This involves obtaining His righteousness, the righteousness of God, by faith. It involves getting to know Him, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. It involves, finally, attaining the resurrection out from among the dead.
Considering the sorry mess and approaching overthrow of the world in which we find ourselves, we need the goal of something better to which we can escape, and here is the only escape that God has provided. This is the necessary goal because in the end all others are useless and vain.
Even if we think that we are doing pretty well to this life apart from Christ, we need to learn, as Paul did, that the best of human life and religion is mere rubbish and filth in comparison to the perfect righteousness of Christ. Not our best but God's best is our necessary goal, and God's best for us is Christ. Becoming like Jesus is the necessary goal for us if we are children of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26) because this is God's purpose: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29.)
Voluntary Goal Yet the fact of divine predestination in no wise contradicts the fact that every true child of God is pursuing that purpose of his own free will. It was God's will from eternity, but it is also our will now, if we are His children.
Nobody forced us to take this road. We believe in and follow Christ because we want to. If it may be said that in some sense we are compelled to go this way, the compulsion nevertheless is not of outward coercion but of inward conviction. The power of truth, the light of God's word, has given us a glimmer of eternity, and of course as His Spirit enables we must heed the upward calling. The love of Christ constrains us (II Corinthians 5:14) because His Spirit has taught us how to think of Him and has poured out the love of God in our hearts (Romans 5:5).
Still, we were called to liberty (Galatians 5:13), and "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II Corinthians 3:17). If lost sinners remain in the bondage of sin, according to Jesus it is because they are not willing to come to Him that they may have life (John 5:40). Let us remember that it is by God's grace that we become willing to go His way; but let us remember also that Christ will have no unwilling disciples (Luke 14: 25-33).
Desirable Goal Many temporal objectives seem more or less necessary to us and are even objectives of our own choice without being very desirable. But the goal of the genuinely Christian life is desirable as well as necessary and voluntary. "O taste and see that the Lord is good!" cried David of old (Psalm 34:8); and everyone who ever tastes of the bread of life keeps coming back for more. "Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before," as the song says.
Returning to the figure of a race course and goal, the only persons who are net thrilled by the prospect of becoming Christlike are those who do not know Him. Be is altogether lovely in all His divine attributes, and to be as much like Him as a mere creature can be is the highest hope of every believer. "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." (I John 3:3.)
Worthy Goal Further, this is a worthy goal. Even Christians waste much time and effort on objectives that are not worth the trouble. But here is a goal that is worthy of all the time, all the energy, all the faith, all the love, all the zeal, all the prayer, all the devotion we can give to it. In fact, in view of eternity, it is the only goal worthy of our upward calling.
Ignorant savages trading the wealth of a continent for a few glittering beads and tawdry ribbons are paragons of wisdom compared with poor lost souls grasping at the baubles of earth and missing the glories of heaven.
Is anything harder to understand than that the God of glory humbled Himself to become a man, be numbered with the transgressors, and endure the death of the cross to redeem unworthy sinners? Yes — one thing harder to understand is that unworthy sinners redeemed by His grace fail to live the life of love and devotion that would be worthy of Him! "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing," (Revelation 5:12.)
Attainable Goal Finally, becoming like Jesus is an attainable goal. "One star differeth from another star in glory" (I Corinthians 15:41), but "whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (I John 5:4.) Just as surely as we have obtained the gift of eternal life through faith in Him, we shall attain some of the glory of His resurrection in our own.
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (I Corinthians 15:19.) On the other hand, if in this life it were possible to have no hope and no blessings in Christ and yet attain the glory of His resurrection in a life to come, we should then be greatly blessed, though not as greatly blessed as we are in fact.
But the infinite greatness of His salvation includes increasing blessings along the way, as well as glory at the end. "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high [upward] calling of God in Christ Jesus."
There are milestones of spiritual progress on the way, as well as goal and prize at the end of the journey. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Proverbs 4:18.) Let us keep, reaching out to the things that are before us as we drive on to our goal of life, that we may be like Him. ==============
[From AAB, May 14, 1971, pp. 1, 3. — jrd]
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