“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Paul bursts out in these few verses to the Philippians with talk about attaining, obtaining, pressing on, taking hold, and straining toward the goal. The mature Christian realizes and freely admits s/he falls an entire cargo trainload short of perfection. It’s the immature that are afflicted with a condition I call “the delusion of arrival.” They conned themselves into thinking they’ve arrived and have no place to go from there. How boring is that! Friends, you and I have a LOOOONG way to go to know and love our God in the way he deserves.
Though arrival at the goal is not achievable in this life, it is the most prominent target for the mature. I say, “Shoot for the moon, and if you hit the trees, at least you got off the ground!” Brian Zahnd says, “Truth is not a laminated card your carry in your pocket. Truth is a long hard road and you have to walk it.” That’s where the attaining, obtaining, pressing on, taking hold, and straining toward come in.
I’m not talking about a version of spirituality that’s more sweaty than spiritual. That version that is more about us forcing our flesh to try to emulate Jesus. Such an approach is neither mature nor Christ-honoring, to say nothing of it being conceited and futile.
Paul’s prescribes that we proceed in the pursuit of all that Jesus purchased for us empowered by grace. Maturity involves a tricky balance between grace and discipline. We can’t do God’s job and he won’t do ours. Our part is primarily co-operative.
In another place, Paul describes his own practice of cooperating with grace: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
The Lord brings to the table the power we need and we bring the “want.” That’s how this passage begins, “I want to know Christ.” And this is no casual desire of simply “staying saved” as any Christians seem to display. No, it’s an insatiable craving to know him. This is no side-dish wish, but the main course of the mature. There’s nothing more important than to have a longing to know and honor God in the deepest and profoundest way possible.
“The average Christian,” says A.W. Tozer, “is so cold and so contented with his wretched condition that there is no vacuum of desire into which the blessed Spirit can rush in with satisfying fullness.” Jeanne Guyon called it a “fervor of holy desire.”
In his poem, “The Way of Perfection,” William Faber put it this way:
‘Tis not enough to save our souls,
To shun the eternal fires;
The thought of God will rouse the heart
To more sublime desires.
Those “sublime desires” to know the eternal God in an ever-increasing deeper way are at the core of what it means to be a mature Christian.
This is the 6th of 10ish posts on How Mature Christians Act. Scroll down to earlier ones if you missed them.
Someone reviewed Reaching Rahab: Joining God In His Quest For Friends thusly:
“Absolutely love this book! I sat down with a highlighter to mark pages I wanted to reread and this book touched my heart and will be so resourceful in reaching the many lost people I care about and the ones I haven’t even met yet on “His quest to find friends on the margins, the outermost circle of society, the poor, downtrodden, and vulnerable…”