Summary: What are the marks of a mature Christian believer or the mark of a dynamic, mature Christian church?
Biblical Text: Philippians 1:3-11
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
What are the marks of a mature Christian believer or the mark of a dynamic, mature Christian church? In this letter written by Paul to the Philippians, he painstakingly expresses his gratitude for their spiritual maturity, and challenges them to continue in pursuit of excellence in ministry. Our text, concisely and clearly, spells out the undisputed marks of a mature or ‘grownup Christian’.
In summary, the grownup Christian has the mark of a thankful heart, the mark of prayer, the mark of joy, the mark of fellowship, the mark of confidence in God’s salvation, the mark of partnership, the mark of a growing and discerning love, and the mark of righteousness. But what does all this mean?
Paul was in prison in Rome and that he was a great distance from the Philippian believers. He did not have their presence; all he had was the memory of their time together. And sitting there in prison, remembering their love and care and
support, his heart swelled up with thanksgiving for them. So the first thing we learn is that a true believer has a thankful heart. What a lesson for us! If Paul thanked God for believers who were so far away from him, how much more should we thank God for the privilege of living among other believers. We have
the love and care and support of each other every day of the week, and we
can call upon each other for help any hour of any day. Yet how often do we remember to thank God for each other?…not just those in our own congregation, but Christians worldwide. God is building a body of people world-wide—a body of people who are just like us—committed to a life in Jesus Christ; a people willing to carry His gospel of salvation and love and concern to a world that reels under the weight of desperate need. The grownup Christian has the mark of a thankful heart.
Then the grownup Christian has the mark of prayer. Paul says that he always prayed for the church. The idea is that he prayed all throughout the day for them. They were constantly on his mind and in his prayers. As Matthew Henry commentary says, Paul prayed by name for all the churches he knew, and he had seasons of prayer for each church.
What would happen if we had seasons of prayer that concentrated on praying, not only for OUR church, but the churches in a particular neighborhood? Prayer may well be the weakest link in our Christian make-up. Many Christians won’t pray more than a minute for themselves, and less for someone else. And the shorter our prayer time, the greater the demonstration of our weak faith.
The grownup Christian has the mark of joy. Though Paul is in prison, his heart is filled with joy. Joy (chara) means ‘inner gladness’ or a deep seated pleasure. It’s a depth of assurance and confidence that ignites a cheerful and rejoicing heart. The joy of the world is a temporary pleasure in response to external influence, but the joy of the Lord is not the same. No outside influence can effect the joy of the Lord. The believer’s joy is divine. It is possessed and given only by God. Its roots are not in earthly or material things or cheap triumphs. It does not depend on circumstances or happiness. Happiness depends upon happenings, but real Joy depends on Jesus!
Then the grownup Christian has the mark of fellowship. Our source of fellowship is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great salvation of God. The gospel of Christ is the glorious news that He has died for our sins, risen again, and conquered death that we might live with God eternally, never having to die. Christian believers have fellowship, a spiritual bond, a spiritual union