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“Prone to wander; Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” How often we sing these words from Robert Robinson’s “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and they resonate because they are all too true. We are called to faithfulness as Christians, but we struggle to maintain it. Even the Apostle Paul knew the painful intensity of this inconsistency. He acknowledged it candidly, out of pastoral concern for the believers in Rome who faced the same inner conflict. He told them, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom. 7:18). But he went on to declare, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (v. 24). This inner conflict in the life of faith is both real and common to us all.

In making this confession, Paul was being honest about his struggle but not defeatist. He immediately went on to answer his own question, declaring, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25)—his deliverance from sin in all its dimensions came through Jesus. But we have to look elsewhere to see what this looks like in practice. The Apostle gave us the long version of this in Romans 8 but provided a pithy summary elsewhere in Philippians.

Once again, he was testifying to the struggles of faith he faced and again made it clear he was not yet perfect. But then he said, “One thing I do . . .” (Phil. 3:13). Out of the many things that mattered, he gave one thing priority. He told us exactly what it was: “. . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 13–14). He made it clear that faith needs a clear focus, and that is Christ. That is, we are to look to Jesus not only as the provider of our salvation but also as the pattern of how it transforms what we are and how we live.

It is easy for us to forget this double aspect of what it means to believe in Christ. This was certainly true in the church in Philippi—hence Paul’s need to spell it out for them. What is interesting is that he unpacked this truth not just in terms of who Christ is but where He is: in heaven. Hence His ongoing call to us as His people is “upward” (v. 14). In Him, “our citizenship” belongs there, and it is from there that He will one day come to bring us home (v. 20).

Why is this important? Because it says a lot about the horizons by which we live. Paul had already spoken of professing Christians whose minds were “set on earthly things” (v. 19), and the only antidote to this is to focus on heaven instead.

If we are genuinely seeking to be faithful in our Christian living, then our faith needs a clear focus: Christ who is seated in glory.

The Extent of the Atonement, Part II

Drawing Near through Christ

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From the July 2020 Issue
Jul 2020 Issue