Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“Brothers, I do not reckon myself to have won, but one thing I do: forgetting the things that are behind and reaching toward the things that are ahead, I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul, in Philippians 3:13-14
Faith in Jesus is not only refusing to see beyond him, or trying to see beyond him; it is also not looking back. “No man”, said Jesus, “having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62).
Jesus carves a “new and living way” for us every day. Ahead of Jesus, as far as we can see, is nothing but tangled wilderness and darkness, and behind us there is only the same. Just as God brought the waters of the Red Sea back together after the Israelites crossed the sea on dry ground, forbidding any retreat, so the tangled darkness of this world closes together behind us, leaving us no way to go but to follow the Lord Jesus.
This is why Paul said that he forgot what was behind him. He was determined to put all his hope in Christ, to go where he led and to do only as he did. And that is very great wisdom.
Forget what is behind. If you needed whatever it is that is behind you, Jesus would have let you stay there, or bring it with you. And by “behind”, I mean whatever is behind, I do not mean only what is years behind you, I mean everything, even if it was fifteen minutes ago. Jesus is alive!
What difference does it make if we are living by a tradition that is two thousand years old or two minutes old? Jesus is alive. He is now! God told Moses to strike a rock at Mount Horeb, and he did it and was blessed. Later, God told Moses to speak to a rock at Kadesh-barnea, but Moses chose to do what God had told him to do at Mount Horeb instead. He looked back. He did not “forget what was behind”, and he was severely punished for it.
I know that Jesus was baptized in water. Forget it. It is behind him. I know that God once ordained for His priests to burn incense. Forget it. It is behind His priests now. I know that God commanded His people to observe sacred feast days. Forget them. They are behind His people now. Millions are eating the worm-infested manna of the era of ceremonial works. Of holy days and fleshly feasts. That is not what Jesus is saying today.
God would not allow His saints to eat even day-old manna in the first covenant. Does He now expect us to live by what Jesus said yesterday? “Today is the day of salvation.” Christ said, “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread that comes from heaven, which a man may eat of and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any man eat this bread, he shall live forever” (Jn. 6:48-51a). How old is the manna you are eating?
In Matthew 10:5-6, Jesus strictly commanded his disciples not to go to the Gentiles with the gospel. A few years later, he commanded a very reluctant Peter to go to a Gentile’s house. Peter liked the old manna, but God had something better for him – and for us! Under the Law of Moses, God sternly warned the Israelites, on penalty of eternal death, not to eat certain kinds of animals (Lev. 11), and when He offered to Peter the new manna of permission to eat “unclean animals”, Peter argued against it. “Not so, Lord!” Peter cried out. “For I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14). But nothing is unclean except what God says is unclean today! Therefore, He replied to Peter, “What I have cleansed, do not call common.”
Believing what God says now rather than what God said to Moses and Israel way back then, Paul taught that “Every creature is good, and is to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth”, and he condemned religious teachers who still forbade the eating of certain meats, as if what God said long ago was still being said by the Spirit today (1Tim. 4:3).
Do not look back. The road that Jesus made for you yesterday is no longer there. Listen to his voice now, as the prophet said, “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your heart, as in the day of provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness. . . . But exhort one another while it is called Today” (Heb. 3:7-9, 13).