Summary: Philippians 3:12-4:1. Christ-likeness is the essence of Christian maturity.
AGAIN I SAY REJOICE
PURSUING THE PRIZE OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY
- I want to open today with some very familiar words. I am almost certain you will recognize them. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words, of course, are from the beginning of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. The Declaration goes on to state that governments are set up, by the ones to be governed by them, in order to make sure those rights are protected.
- There is one line in that well known clause that has always jumped out at me, as I’m sure it has to many of you. It is “the pursuit of happiness”. This phrase has come to define, in many ways, what it means to be an American. The “American Dream”, as it’s called, is all about one’s ability to make a name or living for yourself. This is supposed to be the land where you can pursue you goals, pursue your hopes, pursue your dreams.
- For various people this means various things. Some choose to pursue money and make as much of it as they can at just about any cost. Others choose to pursue fame. Still others simply want a big family with lots of loved ones. That’s the beauty of our land. You are free to pursue what you wish. But that freedom can also be detrimental. Not all pursuits are worthy pursuits. Not all desires are worth giving into. Not all dreams are as great in reality as they are in our imaginations.
- As far as worthy pursuits go, today we will be addressing the greatest of them. The Apostle Paul is going to tell us with great fervor what his greatest pursuit was. And as we look at what he writes we will find a blueprint for following suit. Even as we live in a land where you are free to pursue almost anything you want to pursue, I am going to admonish us to pursue the prize in this text above all else.
- And what is that prize? It is the prize of Christian maturity. I found it interesting that when I looked up the word “maturity” most definitions indicated a state of completion. One definition read “complete in natural growth or development,” and another said “fully developed in body or mind”. Still another read “having little or no potential for further growth or expansion.”
- Those definitions seemed odd to me. If that is how we are to define maturity in the Christian life then we are all hopeless. None of us will ever reach the point where we have no potential for further growth – not on this side of the grave. So I would like to define maturity in a different way. And I want to draw my definition out of Philippians 3:12. So let’s read our entire passage, then we will start there.
[READ PHILIPPIANS 3:12-4:1]
- In these verses Paul is building upon what we looked at last time. The first eleven verses of this chapter consist of Paul laying out his earthly credentials for righteousness, then completely disregarding them as a basis for a right standing before God. We could say that Paul was outlining his past. In vv.12-21 and into v.1 of chapter 4 he will outline his present and his future.
- We’ll start with the present as we define Christian maturity. In v.12 of chapter 3 we are given the nature of maturity as it concerns the Christian life:
THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY: CHRISTLIKENESS
- The key word in v.12 is “this”. Paul writes: Not that I have already obtained this...Well, what is he talking about? We find out what “this” refers to when we look back at vv.10-11.
- There Paul has just boldly declared that he counts every supposed religious gain he had as loss and trusts only in Christ for his righteousness through faith. Then he writes in vv.10-11: that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
- So what is the “this” that Paul had not yet obtained? It was knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and eventually resurrecting from the dead. It was being so close to Jesus that he acted like Jesus in every way at all times.
- And he sort of reiterates this when he says at the end of v.12: I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Your Bible might say: I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. What he’s saying there is that there is a reason why Christ makes us his own; why he takes hold of us through faith. The reason is so that we become like him.