Walking with Paul 1: the High Calling

12 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. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 3:12–16.

It has been with much battle and warfare that has delayed this message, the first in a great series, where we must ask God to give us His appraisal into the theology and revelation into the life of Paul. I have had a severe respiratory virus that knocked me sideways and there have been attacks in the night, not worthy to describe, yet give glory to the manifest goodness of God to alert friends of mine who contacted me from far away places. They prayed with me and for me, and for the most part I am almost recovered.

The place of the writings of the Apostle Paul, cannot be stressed enough as being the most rich, deep and profound works of deep interactions with the Son and for that matter the whole Godhead. His writings take a prominent place in the Canon of the New Testament. Without which how poor we would have been! We do not despise Peter, John or James, but Paul comes with great expositions on the configuration of the Church as Jesus showed Him. His knowledge concerning Jesus’ design of the Church is yet visionary and personal assimilation of divine patterns and their meanings.

In January 2019 as I travelled to Mount St Bernard’s I had teaching from Al Houghton sounding through the Bluetooth connection as I travelled from Brixham to that place. I received on the way up the preparation of what would be a different year. I would walk in the knowledge of what the High Calling to which Paul refers to here in Philippians 3. I would undergo a year of “duplicity” that is in one dimension great humiliations, and in the other great breakthroughs and great insights in the Word of God. So this first message has a very personal thread in it. It would culminate in September of that same year, a trip to the USA. Such real challenges and such depths I experienced.

The High Calling is God’s personal invitation to your life

The high calling cannot be imparted by human agents, you cannot go to conferences to receive it. It must come from God. It is a personal invitation made to you direct from God without anyone knowing it. And knowing what I know about the High Calling not many knowing what God knows about it, would desire it. What I have ascertained about it, is that it is way far removed from the pulpit ministry, away from any ordination ceremony, away from the pastoral appointments to any given Church, the ways are personal between us and God. The High Calling denotes a higher kind of life, but not higher in popularity, not higher in being well known, being famous in different circles. In fact in many ways that to find the “high” in the Calling, the times when “low” in the earth was the reality. Any notion of attainment is that what follows us much of the time in this realm is “loss” yet this in itself is the hallmark of that calling, accepting loss as being the gain into that high calling. Philippians 2 that precedes this chapter we are in, shows the pattern of the high calling worked out in the life of Jesus. It is a picture of losses. He is lowered, humiliated, subjected to, given unto, death of a cross, and then in every dimension is Jesus exalted, to the highest place. In some lesser dimension I see this as a pattern for the high calling, that we must walk out behind the One who walked it out before us. To walk in this, only the invited are given access and only God Himself can invite.

Forgetting and Forsaking

Paul begins by saying that he has not attained, he has not arrived. There is much more to be said, and we shall deal with this much more in this series, but this process is walked out for 3 years in Arabia. We forget that Paul was a Pharisee taught from the greatest mind of the day, Gamaliel. The foundation that we enjoy to our theology is brought to us by the best route. It is surmised that in the desert of Arabia Paul had to experience a dismantling of all that he knew. God needed to dovetail the New Testament Theology with the Old Covenant, and not put the Law of Moses in too a prominent place. Never has adherence to the Law resolved the sin question. Where Paul has to start is Abraham, and then go to Jesus to see where the covenant of Abraham is connected in Jesus so that in turn we see where the Law has its place. This means that Paul must not glorify the learning inasmuch he must see them as building blocks for a great depth that he would receive in those desert years. He must consider his attainments in this life as dung so that he would not live for what he achieved by learning, by association with big minds, but rather a personal audience with the King of Kings. So there was a forgetting what he learned naturally so that he could embrace what he learned supernaturally. There was a forsaking of great associations with great minds of the day so that he could be associated with the great Mind of Christ. Greatest mind of all! Its not an easy process because it messes up our human psyche, the ego. It displaces it, and as we see evidence of this “messing up” we progress in the High Calling. It is in Jesus Christ, because He walked in it first. We must learn to walk in two distinct realities, the earthly where we are at loss, and the heavenly where we are constantly growing and walking in.

Straining Forward

1901. ἐπεκτείνομαι ĕpĕktĕinŏmai, ep-ek-ti´-nom-ahee; mid. voice from 1909 and 1614; to stretch (oneself) forward upon:— reach forth.

 James Strong, The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).

Look at the Greek definition of straining, it means we are being stretched, we are seeing before us Jesus Himself, and we are reaching for Him, because we desire Him. This is the central part of the High Calling, because we sometimes focus on ministry callings, from a Church point of view, however we must see it from a Jesus point of view. He is offering Himself to us, for us to be conformed to be more and more like Him, we must be stretched in our faith and our passion to stretch the spirit man to Jesus. It is not a mechanical process, it is a passion process, we fall more and more in love with Him, in reverence of Him, and more and more awe of Him. We are not seeking, stretching for the next revelation, nor the next experience, we are seeking and stretching for Him. It is this personal interaction with Christ, stretching, forsaking, forgetting that births the knowledge, revelation that forms the foundation for our theology.

To what lies ahead

What lies ahead is life with Jesus for eternity. What lies ahead is the same process of Jesus of Philippians 2:5-10, in that in every sphere of humiliation and loss in this life we attain in the next and sit in the same space of honour and esteem of Him who is worthy and is exalted into the Highest place, with the Highest Name. Where there will be 2 sets of peoples, those who bow for worship and those who bow for obligation. There will be those who will declare Him their Lord for their subjection and others who will declare for their own humiliation. What lies ahead has nothing to do with us, it is the completion of Christ’s work, completion of the pleasure of the Father to place all judgment to the Son and to bring in degrees of confirmations of His King in the Holy Hill, Psalm 2:7. Our place will be determined by our worship, and our subjection!

I press on to the Goal of the Prize

Paul is pressing forward because his sights is Christ. It is not being a successful apostle, nor being known. It is entering into the intimacy of Christ. For all eternity.

1377. διώκω diōkō, dee-o´-ko; a prol. (and caus.) form of a primary verb  δίω diō (to flee; comp. the base of 1169 and 1249); to pursue (lit. or fig.); by impl. to persecute:— ensue, follow (after), given to, (suffer) persecute (-ion), press toward.

 James Strong, The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).

His pursuit is laid bare here. His whole life is mapped out not by mechanical or mental assents, but his passion and pursuit is after a Person, and this makes it far more superior than a mere theological passion, but also it makes his theological debate more passionate and alive. Nothing worse than a knowledgeable professor who has no life. In following after as the definition above implies, means that as much he follows after others perceive that what he follows after makes him a leader of men, as they take his indications to the dangers of this pursuit and the price of this pursuit.

This is a fitting beginning to our following the life of St. Paul, the apostle. I hope that through this series you will understand the things which inspire us from his life, so that in making adjustments to our perception we may share in his joys and his passions, so that we too become leaders not of Churches only, but guiding others to the Jesus He met on the Damascus Road, and who He conversed with in Arabia. Amen? Maranatha!

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