12 I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. 13 Of course, my friends, I really do not think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. 14 So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.
15 All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you. 16 However that may be, let us go forward according to the same rules we have followed until now.
17 Keep on imitating me, my friends. Pay attention to those who follow the right example that we have set for you. 18 I have told you this many times before, and now I repeat it with tears: there are many whose lives make them enemies of Christ’s death on the cross. 19 They are going to end up in hell, because their god is their bodily desires. They are proud of what they should be ashamed of, and they think only of things that belong to this world. 20 We, however, are citizens of heaven, and we eagerly wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven. 21 He will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like his own glorious body, using that power by which he is able to bring all things under his rule. (GNT)
This short passage has two distinct messages. First, it says to keep striving to be more like Christ; don’t spend your time reflecting on where you came from, just keep moving in the direction God has laid out for you. Second, it says that those who are slaves to their earthly desires will go to Hell, and you must not be like them. Rather, live according to God’s will, so you can be excited for the second coming of Christ, where you will be raised up and made like Him.
This is another passage that has been worded many ways in the Bible, but this is the one that resonated with me the most. The ‘goal’ image is practical, as it reminds us to always strive for more; as a runner of a marathon doesn’t look back to see how far they’ve run, but is focused on how much farther they have yet to go, we too should have our sights set ahead, on the life we have yet to live in this world and the next.
The piece that really stood out to me, however, was verses 18 and 19. The way it is written is so straightforward, and there is no chance for the reader to misinterpret the message being conveyed: if you live according to your bodily desires, you will end up in Hell. There’s no politeness or sugar-coating, which I find refreshing; typically when snippets are taken from the Bible, namely for use on posters or bumper stickers, its the kinder, lighter, and more forgiving verses being referenced.
This forthright message, coupled with the fact that the author says he is in tears over this reality, communicates just how serious this matter is. You can end up in Hell. People actually go there, and you, too, could be one of them. Therefore do what is right, and live according to what you have learned from the Bible. Nevertheless, there is hope; those who live according to what is pleasing to God, always striving to do their best, can excitedly wait for the second coming of Christ, when they will be made new again in Him.