In his letter to the Philippians, Paul soars to the very heart of God.
He says: “Whatever things were a profit for me, these things I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. But even more than that, I consider everything to be a loss because of what is worth far more: knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake, I have lost all things and consider them rubbish, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, which comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God by faith. I do this so that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, in the hope that in some way I may arrive at the resurrection from the dead.”
Like you and me, Paul sometimes catches sight of the glistening city up ahead. But he knows he is not there yet.
Here on the road toward home, the apostle might say with the poet, Robert Frost, “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
So he must – we must – as Paul puts it, “Press on!” The apostle says: “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus also took hold of me.”
I’m not in heaven yet, says the apostle. I have not yet been made perfect. Paul makes no ridiculous claim to perfection. Luther was fond of describing the Christian with the Latin phrase: simul justus et peccator – at the same time a saint and a sinner.
As believers in Christ our pardon is perfect, our right standing with God complete, His not-guilty verdict on our lives a done deal. But on this side of heaven we still do battle with our sinful nature, that house-guest from hell.
Maybe you’ve seen those commercials for Allstate with the guy who calls himself “Mayhem.” He’s a walking disaster wherever he goes. That’s our old Adam, our sinful nature. He makes life messy. We are forever sweeping up after him. He’s the reason we find ourselves saying so often: “I could just kick myself.”
So while our justification, our pardon, is a done deal, our sanctification, our grateful growth in becoming more like Christ is a work in progress. We “press on.”
This is what Solomon pictures in the reading from Proverbs this morning: “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining every brighter till the full light of day.” Press on! There are blessings up ahead!