I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:14 NIV)
Paul states that he has one destination that he is working for; heaven. God has called him heavenwards in Christ Jesus. How does Paul arrive at this goal in his life? Paul states that he did not find Christ, but Christ found him (Philippians 3:9). On the Damascus Road, just as he is about to persecute Christians in Damascus, Christ finds Paul and claims Paul for his own. From this experience of conversion, Christ now sets Paul on a journey towards heaven.
What is heaven? Is it merely a place where we go to when we die? Is it above us and we are here on earth down below? Heaven is heaven not because it is a place. Heaven is heaven because of a person who is there. Heaven is heaven because it is where God is. Heaven is heaven because it is the home of God. Therefore, when Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven, it is because we are waiting for a home where we truly belong. We do not belong here. We belong to another place.
This brings me back to Christmas. Where does Christ come from? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1-2 NIV) “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV) At Christmastime, we celebrate God coming down from heaven in the person of Jesus Christ to live with us. When Jesus comes, he brings heaven with him. When Jesus comes, he brings the very presence of God with him. In fact, Jesus is God coming to be with us.
If we believe at Christmastime that Jesus comes from God in heaven. Then we believe that Jesus brings heaven with him. When Paul says that he presses on towards the goal which God calls him heavenwards in Christ Jesus, the call began when Christ found Paul on the Damascus road and claimed Paul for his own. It is the same with us. Christ finds us and claims each of us for his own. When he does this, he sets us on a course towards heaven.
The Christian life is like a 100-metre race. When we start the race, the person who shoots the pistol is Jesus. He starts the race for us the minute we give our lives to Jesus. Some of us start the race fast. Some of us start the race slow. Whatever it is, it is Jesus who starts the race for us.
The funny thing is that when we reach the finishing line, Jesus is also there to give us our medals. He is waiting at the finishing line for us. He is there to make sure we finish the race.
This is a mystery. Christ is at the start of the race. Christ is at the end of the race. Christ is also with us as we run the race.