Christian maturity. Philippians 3:12-16 WBC 5 Mar 06pm
V15 "all of us who are mature should take such a view"
- but - what is maturity? "Christian maturity?" Am I mature? Are you?
Well- elsewhere there are all kinds of definitions of maturity
- Educationally: "gratification deferment". Being able to work longer without reward for a reward. Your gratification (sense of pleasure) is deferred
o Certainly a good one. When you are young as a Christian you expect God to move the world around you each day!
o Later you realise God wants you to move the world, and it can be hard work!...and you have to wait and work
- Dictionary definition: "complete in natural development with fully developed powers of body and mind" (and I’d add- Spirit)
o Are you a ’rounded’ Christian? Mature in all these areas
- 1 Cor 2:6 speaks of maturity being recognising God’s ways in the world- and them being different to the ways of the world
- Eph 4:13 speaks of maturity being seen in service, and not being tossed too and fro by all the latest fads
- In Eph 5:11 it’s knowing the whole of the word, not just the easy bits… and being able to distinguish good from evil
… all of these are true. (and a challenge!)
But THIS shows a different aspect of what "maturity" is- and I’ve had my understanding of this passage turned on its head as I’ve prepared
- the word of God! Sharper than any two edged sword
I always thought it was emphasising - maturity is knowing folks think differently… and that’s okay. God will confirm that’s okay (v15-16)
- and of course, there is some truth in that
- But that’s not what he’s saying, here!
- Here he’s saying "all of us who are mature should take such a view"- what view?!!
MATURITY IS KNOWING YOU HAVEN’T ARRIVED
… aren’t mature… ’perfect’ yet. "Not that I have already been made perfect (v12)
You see- there were obviously some in the church that had been teaching "Christian perfectionism"
- that once you have ’made your commitment, you have arrived’
- Or that, as a Christian, you can be perfect this side of eternity
o In fact- Paul plays on the word ’perfect’, here.
" V12 not that I have been made ’teleos’ (lit ’end’). v15 all of us who are ’teleioi’ - perfect/mature should take such a view (that we’re not teleos!)
Since Paul has just nailed his colours to the mast about how he wants to be a go-for it, hot-shot, Christian (v7-11)
- he needs to clarify that this doesn’t mean he thinks he’s arrived…got it all sussed… is teleos… lest they think he is preaching a perfectionism that is unobtainable
- and he actually goes as far as saying ’all of us who are ’mature’ (perfect!) should take this view. And if you think differently- that maturity is being perfect, not sinning… always understanding- God will make my view clear to you! He’ll correct you!
So- why does this matter to us? We know we’re not perfect, eh?
- in OUR Christian culture the emphasis is far more on grace than holiness… so few are in danger of thinking ’I’ve reached it! No sin today… this week…. Sussed it!’
It matters hugely. In the early days of Christian life the joy, experience, power, even, of it all can enable you to walk on water
- but after a while…. a ’nannying’ period, God says ’it’s time to grow up’
o it’s time to face some character flaws
" (Billy G: becoming a Christian is not the end to your problems- it’s the start of facing up to them!_
o it’s time to face the pain and sin of the world
o it’s time to grow in sanctification, holiness… working out your salvation as God works in you
o it’s time to change yourself…and this world
…and you can loose heart. Become discouraged. Think "where is that honeymoon?", "if only I were like I was then" and "have I lost it?"
- some will even tell you that you have! See it as negative
- But Paul tells us- maturity is accompanied…shown even!... by a growing awareness that there is more to do! Of how short we fall
o It’s a positive thing! It’s a sign of growth
o Take heart! Only the immature live in rose gardens
" The mature live in the desert… fire… real world where faith is forged and character grown
" Paul knows this
Isn’t that a relief? It should be!
- it means you are growing.
- Illustr: PPT A circle of knowledge/holiness. But as that circle grows, its circumference… the surface that impacts/touches on those ’unsorted’/’unknown’ areas grows!
o And because you are mature(-ing) and self-aware you FEEL that
- It means that the growth may be imperceptible to you… in the same way that a child’s or seed’s is… but you are growing
- and that you can often measure it by this- and take heart!
MATURITY IS KNOWING YOU MUST PRESS ON
And maturity is knowing that you must press on and grow in all kinds of environments that await the seed of your heart, soul and spirit
- not that I am teleos- but I press on (v12)
This concept (and wording!) is there big-time in the parable of the sower. You see- I don’t think the different kinds of soil and circumstances only reflect different kinds of people
- I think they reflect different phases that await YOU. Us! And we must make it through them all!
o And maturity is knowing… persevering through that
LK 8:11 "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
So- what phase are you in that you must make it through and mature through? Ask yourself
Paul says "I press on to take hold of that… for which Christ Jesus took hold of me"
- -what’s he trying to obtain… press into… take hold of?
How must YOU find, obtain, gain Jesus in YOUR circumstances?
And Paul won’t let anything stop him
- "forgetting what is behind"
o literally it’s ’not remembering’. So, he doesn’t spend his time thinking about the past
" bad (the Judaism that distracted him)
" good (all that he did achieve), "golden days", even
o … because ’today is another day’ and I must make it with Jesus today!
" Illustr: talking with Tweeddales about man who raised someone from the dead. kept so quiet about it. "today is another day. How am I pressing on, today?"
The future mustn’t hinder you. You must have Jesus. The past mustn’t hinder you either. You must have Jesus. Now. Today.
- is the past or the future hindering you? Can’t let it go? Can’t stop it influencing/distracting you? Holding back your soul?
Maturity is knowing- you must ’move on’ press on
And here’s this fantastic picture of Paul ’straining forwards’ and his words ’let us live up to what we have already attained’
- There’s this sense of ’forward’… never going backward
Illustr: there are many examples in the Bible of ’markers’/ ’milestones’ to help move forward
- countless altars set up to mark an encounter with God. Jacob Bethel Gen 28
- stones taken from the Jordan and placed as a reminder. Josh 4:3, Jordan
- stones as markers of treaties ("they are still there")
- baptism of John- mark your repentance
- Baptism of Jesus- mark your salvation, discipleship
And sadly- such symbolism isn’t always encouraged, today. "It doesn’t matter. It’s up to you"
I say- mark your journey, devotion to Jesus… and then there is no going back. No ’not living up to what you’ve attained’. Plant your milestone. Make your testimony/statement. Drive your peg into the ice of your climb. Get baptised. Keep a journal.
- Illustr: me plus penknife in ground on retreat for all of heaven to see
I have not arrived! I must press on to take hold of it! There is more to come!
- with genuine blessings and encounters of the Spirit as well
Think differently? That you can coast or ’have made it’ and it will be plain sailing from here? May God show you differently, tonight
MATURITY IS BEING FOCUSSED
Maturity is knowing what matters and what doesn’t… and Paul says this:
"one thing I do"
Illustr: - show clip from City Slickers of ’one thing’
In the movie, CITY SLICKERS, Mitch (the Billy Crystal city slicker who had just turned 39) asked Curly, the rugged, leather faced cowboy played by Academy award winner, Jack Palance, "what is the secret of life?" Curly held up one gloved finger and re plied, "Just one thing. Figure out what one thing is most important to you and nothing else matters."
want the secret to becoming mature? The secret to the Christian life?
- It’s one thing. Focus- on the one thing that really matters.
- What is the one thing that matters for maturity? Who is it?
Jesus. That I may gain Christ and be found in him. I press on to gain Him… imperfect though I am
Wake up my soul
One thing I ask
Lord, I come to you
Be thou my vision