“…that my any means possible, I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” – Philippians 3:11-15
I recently began listening to a series of sermons by Alistair Begg walking through the book of Philippians. Today, I listened to a sermon discussing the issue of Christian maturity that really impacted me and made me think deeply on the subject of Christian maturity. What does it mean to spiritually mature? Do you need to know a certain number of verses? Theological doctrines? Convert so many to Christ? Defeat x number of sins? The idea of Christian maturity can be confusing and my hope and prayer is as that through my wrestling and studying, God would speak to you in a real way.
First and foremost, if we had to model a mature believer’s life, the Apostle Paul would be near the top of the list for us. In fact, in the following verses he charges the Philippians to model his life in order to pursue Christ more faithfully. So, we see a few key ideas here extracted from this text about Christian maturity. So, taking the model of the Apostle Paul, let’s see how he defines Christian maturity:
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way”
We see that Christian maturity is defined by making Jesus our ultimate aim and goal in life. To echo Paul earlier in Philippians, “O that I might know Him..” – the main characteristic of Paul is simply zeal for knowing Jesus. Not knowing Jesus in a intellectual way but in a heart-driven, emotion filled, and life-changing way. Paul says, “I press onto to know Jesus. I press onto the ultimate prize of my life – Jesus Christ.”
Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians to warn them from the religious cult prominent in that era called the Judaizers. The Judaizers were a sect of Jewish Christians who were zealous for the Law. I can imagine a young convert in the Philippians church being burdened, discouraged and disheartened after sitting down with the Judaizers. The young convert would see the piety of the Judaizers, the zeal of the Judaizers, the knowledge and intellect. The young convert would be discouraged and think that maturity is defined by something I can never achieve.
What comforting words come from the Apostle Paul, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…” Ah, if anyone should be defined as mature, it’s Paul, and yet his words bring comfort to my soul. Maturity is not something unattainable and something distant. Maturity isn’t reserved simply for the elite, but for the lowly and contrite in heart. What a comfort the young convert must have felt when hearing Paul say these words rather than the legalistic, law-conforming words of the Judaizers.
So, in short – what does Christian maturity look like? Being focused upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Not dwelling on the sin and failures of your life but straining towards the call of God. Realizing that 2,000 years ago – Jesus paid your debt in full. You press onto Him because He so pressed into you deeply. It is a radical consumption of wanting Jesus. It is a holy discontentment of wanting Jesus more and more. Put simply, Christian maturity is knowing Christ. May our lives be marked by a zeal for the heart of Jesus, rather than theological ideas and speculations. May our walks testify to the fact that Jesus truly is the most important thing to us. Young convert, be encouraged by Paul:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect….I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way”