“Whatever to me was gain,
because of Christ I count as loss.”
We may often think that the source of our spiritual depression is past failure. This is not always the case. Success may also keep us enslaved to the past, without us realizing the problem. In fact, the principle of “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” may actually refer both to past success and past failure. When Paul penned that principle, he had just rehearsed his former success under the Law as well as testified to his present shortfall as a Christian (see Philippians 3:3-14).
It is often a bad sign when earthly defeats cause intense grief and earthly victories cause intense joy. Such instability points to a preoccupation with the present world, and a lack of perspective regarding our standing in Christ. At conversion, we were crucified with Christ to the world and to its code of righteousness–a code that is ruthlessly performance-based (see Galatians 2:19-21; 6:14). By nature, we strive to establish our own rightness by keeping a set of rules. If we fail, we feel dejected and worthless. If we succeed, we feel elated and worthy. When we finally succeed in conquering a sinful habit, we really feel elated and are tempted to regard ourselves as truly righteous now. All this is a delusion. The cross put an end to such performance-based emotions and self-worth. Not only are we not to let our emotions be tied to winning or losing this righteousness game, at the cross we forfeited the right to play the game at all. He alone is our righteousness–His death alone makes up for our sins, and His life alone makes us different within. We have nothing more to prove–win or sin. Christ is everything.
For that reason, Paul writes not only about his former life, but even about his present life, that he regarded anything that was to his credit as manure in order to gain Christ and to be found in Him, having a gift of righteousness from God (Philippians 3:8). Our righteousness is Christ alone. He alone is our sense of worth–our glory. Therefore, even when we succeed at breaking a huge sin habit, we forget about it and move on. Our success is one more feather in His cap; our failure, one more reason for the cross.