Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Philippians 3:12
The New Testament rings with two glorious themes. One is the grace of Christ. He has made us his own. Think of the sweep of thought from election to predestination to creation to fall to promise to Old Covenant to New Covenant to atonement to resurrection to outpouring to conversion to growth to glorification. When Christ Jesus makes us his own, he draws us into a massive reality.
The other theme is how we respond to the magnitude of all that Christ brings to us. We have not yet obtained the fullness of his grace. We are not already perfect. But we are pressing on. We are not wallowing in defeatism and self-pity. We are highly motivated for whatever next step the Lord is calling us to venture. Why? Because Christ Jesus has made us his own, and we know and feel that there is nothing greater in all this world than to be drawn into Christ.
These two themes converge in this one verse, Philippians 3:12, but they are pervasive throughout the New Testament. They are God’s both/and. It is unbiblical, unwise and unhelpful to sinners to turn God’s both/and into our own either/or.
New Testament Christianity does not call us to choose between either divine grace or human engagement. New Testament Christianity calls us to embrace both, and in this order: first overflowing divine grace, then our own vigorous engagement motivated by that grace. If we reverse the order, we turn the gospel into legalism: “I am pressing on, so that Christ Jesus will make me his own.” But another way to get it wrong is to leave out the second part – “I am pressing on.” If all we talk about is overflowing divine grace, we risk distorting the biblical message and influencing people toward a diminished Christianity that will inevitably fail them.
Wherever the message of divine grace comes down in divine power, sinners are lifted out of lethargy and eagerly reach for the fullness of divine blessing.