Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. I don't think Paul is fighting for his salvation. That was already settled. But he is seeking Christ and his fullness. He is urgent and disciplines himself so that he will not miss out on the greatest prize of all -- knowing Christ.
One of the saddest days of my life was serving as an usher in church and helping to seat one of the great healing evangelists of the mid-twentieth century. He had healed thousands, won tens of thousands to Christ, and changed the spiritual history of one of the largest countries in South America. But when I saw him he was an alcoholic, helped to church by a friend, a shell of his former self. Will he be saved? Oh, I believe so. But what happened that he stopped in the midst of the race? Has some terrible event wounded you and opened you to attack by Satan?
But Christ is able to forgive you and heal you. He can help you forgive yourself. He can turn your eyes from the past to the present and future with Christ. Paul himself was a man who bore on his soul the memory of persecuting Christ himself and his church.
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- 2 Peter 3:18.
He had to move past it. Paul had experienced inexpressible spiritual visions and ecstasies. But he had to move past it. Paul was very well aware that we cannot keep chastising ourselves for past failings or keep patting ourselves on the back for past spiritual victories. They take our eyes off the goal, which is Christ himself. Now let's consider the final words of this powerful Christian confession, phrase by phrase:.
Here's that keyword again: I don't think the goal is heaven or perfection for its own sake, so much as Christ-likeness and Christ-oneness. That certainly is Paul's goal. In our passage and 2 Timothy 4: Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. Exactly what is this prize in our Philippians passage? Paul doesn't say specifically. The prize, however, is closely associated grammatically with the "call" of God.
For which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. The heavenly calling of God and the prize have been interpreted in three main ways: In this interpretation, the calling or summons is the one that occurs at the end of the race. But this doesn't jive with Paul's usual use of the idea of "calling. And this prize Paul wants his readers also to grasp.
Have you ever experienced this? What causes God's call to become dim in our hearing?
How can we renew our hearing of his call? What is the content or specifics of this message or summons or call? Now let's examine the final phrase in this remarkable verse: The goal, the prize, and the call are all wrapped up in Messiah Jesus! This quest for God is not an "all roads lead to Rome" journey that adherents of any religion can pursue equally. It is found in the Messiah himself. As a result of a comparative religions approach to Christianity, many seminaries and pastors no longer believe and declare the exclusivity of Jesus' claims.
It doesn't fit with the recent trend towards tolerance and unity among all religions. Many would rather see Jesus as one way, perhaps a preferable way to express one's human spirituality, but not, heaven forbid, the only way. But in John's Gospel we read Jesus' audacious claim, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" John Before the Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus to death, Peter unashamedly declares,. In a Mediterranean culture abuzz with many religions and spiritual paths, Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles declared unequivocally that Jesus was the way to God.
If we are Jesus' true disciples, can we do less? It seems that the occasion of Paul's explanation of his ongoing quest for God is that some in the Philippian church believed they had already arrived, that they were already perfect -- that they had "arrived" or "apprehended" the ultimate in spiritual possibilities.
Paul is clear that he makes no such claim. In verse 15, Paul uses the somewhat ambiguous noun telios , which can mean both 1 "perfect, fully developed" in a moral sense, or 2 "full-grown, mature, adult. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. He challenges his so-called mature or perfect opponents to agree with his call for a continued, unremitting quest to knowing God more fully. Those who disagree will be corrected by God.
Then Paul warns these "perfect" Christians, "Only let us live up to what we have already attained" 3: I recall a Sunday School song I sang as a boy:. It's a pretty bold thing to call people to mimic you, but Paul does so. Sometimes we're afraid to tell others to imitate us, but frankly, that is Jesus' own method of discipleship and that of the early apostles of the faith.
Bible Verses About Growth
No, you're not perfect and you make mistakes, but as you follow Christ invite others to learn from your example. When you make a mistake, admit it, ask for forgiveness and go on. Don't let false humility stand in the way of you being a discipler of others. Paul's goal in our verse is to alert the Philippian believers that those who don't live out the Christian life in practice can't be trusted as guides to the spiritual life, no matter how "perfect" they claim to be.
Why are we so hesitant to do this? How does God use imitation in building disciples? Who is likely to imitate you? Now Paul reminds them of the sad fact that the lifestyle of some professing Christians is not at all a "perfect" or even "mature" life. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. Paul says these opponents "live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Paul affirms elsewhere that this direction doesn't mean entering the Kingdom of God, but its opposite Romans 8: And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. The old Gospel song may be corny, but it expresses an important truth:.
Heaven should be our focus, not the illusory and transitory world in which we live. And from heaven, Christ shall return fulfilling Daniel 7: How does it keep us from the temptations outlined in verses 18 and 19? What are the dangers of a church combining and confusing the concepts of temporal patriotism with a Christian's true citizenship?
It means in a metaphorical sense here, to be firmly committed in conviction or belief, "stand firm, be steadfast.
Higher Ground: Steps toward Christian Maturity - eBook
But with great affection, Paul calls his readers to a higher calling: This entire passage examines Paul's holy intolerance with a status-quo faith. He wants to know Christ in his fullness. With every fiber in his being, he is straining all out for the prize of knowing Christ, of being "in Christ" in all his living, of "the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" RSV. How can we incorporate these characteristics into our own prayer life?
As he considers what God does for believers, he is prompted to pray. This should be true for us as well.
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Scripture and prayer always go together. When a need arose for the Grecian widows to be cared for, the apostles said they could not do it because they had to give themselves to the ministry of the Word of God and prayer Acts 6: These two always go together. Not only should the Word of God inspire and inform our prayer, believers should also consistently pray Scripture. When Christ was dying on the cross for our sins, he prayed two scriptural prayers: While Christ was being murdered on the cross, Scripture not only prompted his prayer— it was his prayer.
How do you use Scripture in your prayer life? While praying, Paul was kneeling. The normal way for Jews to pray was standing up cf. This is how our prayers should be. I fast twice a week. His prayer was prideful and selfish. Christ warns the disciples not to pray loud and long in order to be seen by others Matt 6: In contrast, Christ tells the disciples to go into their closet and pray privately—to be seen only by God. In fact, we probably get a picture of this with the issue of tongues at the church in Corinth.
Many commentators believe that when Paul says a person who prays in a tongue edifies himself and he who prophesies edifies others 1 Cor These people are glorifying themselves instead of thinking about the others who were present. However, Paul commands that everything in church worship be done for the edification of others 1 Cor Many Christians are like that—their prayers are meant to be seen and heard by others rather than God.
Be careful of prideful prayer. When we pray, we must remember that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble James 4: Only those who pray with humility receive grace. He not only recognizes God as his own Father, but also as the Father of all believers in heaven and on earth. The prayer is not individual but familial, as it considers other family members God cares for. When praying, we must remember that we are part of a family. We must constantly remember others in our prayers. It has been said that if a billionaire donates ten dollars, he gives out of his riches, but if he donates one million, he gives according to his riches.
Since the Lord is infinitely rich in glory, let the saints get ready for a deluge! Why should we ask so little of so great a King? Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, None can ever ask too much. When praying for ourselves or others, we should pray great petitions. We should pray for God to abundantly supply needs, to greatly use others for his kingdom, etc. What are some other practical principles concerning prayer? What disciplines have you found helpful in your prayer life? Most Christians live without this power, and therefore live ineffective lives.
How can we allow the Spirit to strengthen us? This is clear from the context of Paul praying for believers to be strengthened. Christ fasted and prayed for forty days, and left the wilderness empowered by the Holy Spirit Lk 4: After they prayed, the building was shaken and they all left filled with the Spirit of God. The Spirit empowers believers when they pray. If we are to be empowered by the Spirit, we must live in the Word of God.
22 Bible Verses About Growth - Scriptures on Spiritual Maturity
There is a story in the Old Testament about Jehoshaphat, the king of the Judah, fighting a battle against a nation through worship. After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: Similarly, when Elisha was approached by Jehoshaphat and Ahab about whether to go to war against another nation, he asked for a harpist.
The harpist played, and the Spirit of God came upon Elisha to prophecy 2 Kings 3: God inhabits the praises of his people Psalm And do not quench the Spirit. However, when we give thanks and praise to God, he empowers our inner being. This means the spiritual part of man where God dwells and works.
The inner man of the lost sinner is dead Eph. The inner man can see Ps. He also must be cleansed Ps. The outer man is perishing, but the inner man can be renewed spiritually in spite of outward physical decay 2 Cor. It is this inner power that makes him succeed. If our inner being is weak, we will not desire the things of God. In fact, we will find that we desire worldly things more than the things of God. Paul says that when a believer is strengthened in his inner being, Christ dwells in his heart through faith Ephesians 3: What does this mean?
However, our position is often different from our practice. They practiced sexual immorality chapters 5 and 6 , were suing one another chapter 6 , and abusing spiritual gifts like tongues chapter 14 , but they were still saints—set apart by God and indwelled by him 1 Cor 6: When we are not empowered by the Spirit of God, we live as slaves of sin, instead of as free men cf. We talk and walk like the world, even though we are not of the world. In a life like that, Christ can never feel at home.
Is Christ at home in your heart? Or is he like a visitor? Is he comfortable with your entertainment and how you spend your free time? Is he comfortable with your thoughts and friendships? Paul says this to the Corinthians:. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
A life empowered by the Spirit is one that is totally dependent upon God—a life of faith. He does not want to grieve the Holy Spirit. As a person matures in Christ—living more by faith than in the flesh—he is empowered by the Spirit of God in the inner being. This results in a life where Christ is at home.
1 Samuel 2:26
Is Christ at home in your life? Or is he like an unhappy visitor—uncomfortable and constantly grieved? How do you think Christ feels about your life? Consider your thoughts, words, friendships, hobbies, work, etc. How can you make him more at home? The root is where a tree or plant gets both its nourishment and its stability. Also, the foundation of a building is the most important part of a structure. If the foundation is off, one cannot continue to build. In my second building program, we had to spend several thousand dollars taking soil tests because we were building over an old lake bed.
For weeks, the men were laying out and pouring the footings. Without a root and foundation of love, a believer cannot grow spiritually, for it is the springboard for spiritual growth. With that said, although Paul does not share who the believer should love, he no doubt refers to love for both God and others cf. Our sinful nature is identified by self-love and love for the things of the world—immature believers are often still identified by these loves.
Instead of serving others, they are consumed with themselves. However, when believers start to mature, they start being identified by love for God and others. As they continue to grow, we see more and more acts of love. He probably means that his love for Christ compelled him to witness and serve others.
How can believers build a strong foundation for their spiritual lives by growing in love? Paul is referring to agape love, which is not primarily an emotional love; it is an act of the will. A believer might not feel pleasant emotions about his enemy, but he can act in love towards him because God commands it. Therefore, we grow in love by choosing to selflessly love those around us. Even our love for God is an act of the will. He essentially makes love and obedience synonymous. We grow in love by choosing, as an act of the will, to love God and others. Is there a specific person or group of people that God is calling you to show love towards?
How is God calling you to grow through practicing acts of love for him and others? And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge Ephesians 3: Understanding how much someone loves us is very powerful. This is why many of the young men and women in gangs, prison, and drug, alcohol, and sexual addiction come from homes missing one or both parents.
For this reason, Satan works very hard to make believers doubt the love of God. When Satan attacked Eve, he tempted her to believe that God was keeping the best from her. When Satan tempted Job, he tried to get Job to curse God to his face. Both temptations were essentially aimed at making one doubt the love of God. In fact, such doubting can lead to all types of sin and destruction, as it did with Eve.
However, as he prays for them to comprehend and experience it, he introduces a paradox. This love is impossible to know fully, but we must continually seek to know it nevertheless. It seems that in heaven, when we are made perfect, we will then be able to fully comprehend it. Paul says this in 1 Corinthians Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Before we consider the dimensions themselves, let us notice the expression, with all the saints. The subject is so great that no one believer can possibly grasp more than a small fraction of it. So there is need to study, discuss, and share with others. The Holy Spirit can use the combined meditations of a group of exercised believers to throw a flood of additional light on the Scriptures. The isolated Christian can indeed know something of the love of Jesus. But his grasp of it is bound to be limited by his limited experience.
It needs the whole people of God to understand the whole love of God, all the saints together, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, young and old, black and white, with all their varied backgrounds and experiences. The width is described in 2: The mystery embraces both these segments of humanity. The length extends from eternity to eternity. As to the past, believers were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world 1: As to the future, eternity will be a perpetual unfolding of the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus 2: