SCC   1/16/11


            The older I become the more I appreciate people who want to continue to grow and experience new things. This is especially true since I am getting older myself. People like this never or very rarely have nothing to do. There are always new plans; new decisions; new opportunities—and things like the past never hinder the future. Hulda Crooks was 63 when she started hiking. She climbed 14485ft Mt Whitney the highest MT in the lower 48. An 11mile backpack up to the summit and then back down. Her 1st climb she relished and she climbed it 23 more times—the last when she was 93 (Backpackers & Hikers handbook pg. 192). This attitude must be true for every believer. There must never be a stalemate in your spiritual growth or a spiritual plateau where you have no further to go. So how should we pursue Christlikeness?           


Here is our philosophy of spiritual maturity. The goal of this maturity has been stated in vs 10. But here is how we can plan to get there.

1. Paul says he has not already obtained or already been perfected in his knowledge and experience of vs10-11 

            On one level we can say that Paul understands he has not arrived or become perfect or complete yet in his knowledge of vs 10. On another level we understand him to also say that he still has more spiritual heights to climb! Think about all he has already become and learned and experienced. He has been saved now for nearly thirty years. He has won many spiritual battles—has experienced incredible displays of God’s power. His confession is candid. The implication is there is still more. A huge obstacle to ones spiritual growth is when we stop learning. When we would rather critique what others know and compare it to what we know rather than learn something from them. Where we ended our learning long ago. It is one thing to just check out what is being said but quite another to always try and learn something. You may not learn anything especially if there is disagreement but at least you attempted.

            Today we think it is good to question everything. Emergents especially do so. The Bible is understood thru the mind of the reader rather than the author. So readers, the congregation, is encouraged to debate the Bible, question it, rethink it, and then come back with their understanding of the author. The Bible and the authors are no longer the authority but it is the reader. I know there are honest debates about some things taught in scripture between people who take the Bible seriously but Emergents and other's like them question and debate the Bible to determine new meaning. A serious Bible student will never tell you anything he/she does not believe and will not play the devils advocate.   

2. But He pursues with confidence to lay hold of it vs12

            Paul pursues Christlikeness with enthusiasm and vigorous energy. The idea is to press on and pursue until it is overtaken. It’s like that one lone defensive football player who eventually catches the receiver before he scores. So this strategy is not to just live and let live. It is not just to live life and then expect the HS to pour that knowledge into us. But it is to aggressively pursue what it is the Spirit of God wants to teach us through the Word of God and apprehend that knowledge which as of yet has not been attained. There is no claim here to arriving at perfect knowledge but pursuing more of it. If you are going to teach you are going to have to learn. You will have to become a perpetual learner. As Dr. Howard Hendricks often says, “You cannot impart what you do not possess”.

3. Paul wants to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of him vs12

            What he wants to apprehend is that which Christ has for him. Namely, that he apprehends his own spiritual maturity. That he becomes the kind of guy that keeps Christ’s interests as his own 2:21. That is what it is wants to gain.

4. Paul says he does not regard himself as to have laid hold of it yet vs13

            Right now he had not yet attained to the perfection or ultimate conformity to Jesus Christ but he knows where he is going. Things are in place so he can pursue this. He has the ball rolling. He is on the right track. He is following the correct path. Distractions have been minimized. He is dialed in. He is not there yet but he will not be deterred. This is unlike his opponent’s, the Judaizers and false apostles, who acted as if they had arrived and in the wake of Paul’s ministry strutted into these churches demanding to be followed because of who they are and what they know. But what does Paul’s kind of perceptive entail?

5. But on the one hand for one thing he is forgetting the things behind—his past vs13

            He says that he is continually forgetting. So a prerequisite for learning seems to be forgetting. That is forgetting all that pertains to pride and self-glorification as well as defeats and failures. What about the guy who always has to provide a litany of what he has done, whom he knows and where he has been. I feel very sorry for people who have to spout off their heritage or accomplishments. This controls them. None of it matters! Here Paul is referring to his Jewish accomplishments fleshed out in 3:4-6.

6. But on the other hand he is stretching forward and concentrates on the things before him vs13

            The only significant question today is not yesterday’s news but tomorrow’s destination. Will who I am today and what I know today get me to where I am going in the future? For Paul he is determined to quit looking back and not do that. As long as you keep dwelling on what is behind you will not get where you need to go and Paul had a lot invested in the past. So what? This is what can keep us in the wrong place or wrong relationship or wrong job. The time and money we invested in that person or project keeps us in the wrong place. So we stay with it instead of making changes to go forward. If you keep using what you already know then you will become boring and only get what you have already got--just more of it.

7. Paul pursues according to the mark for the prize of the high calling he has from God in Christ Jesus vs14

            Here is our goal orientation in life. It is our North Star focus. He has a goal and it is not an earthly one. Our goal is not something attained on this side of the grave. It is heavenward—it is eternal. His goal is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Possibly rewards at judgment seat of Christ. (Yea but he does not live in the 21st century. There is so much more to live for now than when he was alive). Let me suggest that all of that is Satan’s smokescreen to keep you and me from pursuing that only thing which is important. If you set earthly goals for yourself you will justify sinful strategies to achieve them. Believers will do things that are wrong if it will help achieve our goals. What is moral will not matter. But if you delay your reward until the other side of the grave your decisions will be much more virtuous and God honoring. Notice that this must be done vigorously—by pressing on. There will be sinful potholes all along the way but with concentration on this goal you can maneuver your way thru.  So leave the results up to God. Let Him keep record of what you do, where you go, and whom you know. Move on toward your spiritual maturity.


1. Therefore Paul says as many of us as are perfect let us have this thinking vs15

            Those here who are ‘perfect’ are believers who in God’s eyes have been brought into a brand new position before Him. They have positional sanctification because of Christ. If we are perfect in this sense already, then it is paramount that we live up to that right now. If so, then your attitude about this philosophy of spiritual maturity should be the same as the apostle Paul. So the idea is that people we are investing in would have the same attitude for themselves that we have for them—namely, that they would want to grow up spiritually!

2. And if anyone thinks anything differently God will also reveal that to you vs15

            In case some do not, well then we trust God to make things clear to them. Their own spiritual vitality and reward is at stake. You only get one life to live for Christ not another. You cannot afford to be cavalier about this. It is one and done. Commit yourself to live by this standard. The one Jesus Christ set and established. Some believers live oblivious to the eternal consequences of their unfaithfulness to Christ. Believers will suffer loss too. It is a terrifying thing, Hebrews says to believers, to fall into the hands of the living God. So we trust that God will enlighten them. It may or may not happen but without it. It will not happen. It is amazing what happens when you leave the results up to God.

3. So let us keep walking by the same thing we have obtained vs16

            We must not abandon the basic knowledge and the standard of righteousness we have obtained form the Bible. Paul is not advocating another standard. That standard includes our righteous position in Christ. That is our goal. That is the focus. We may build on the past but new teaching and new understanding of that teaching will build on the standards that have always existed in God’s Word. Those do not change. There may be new truth in the sense that your understanding has become more accurate. So keep in step with the Word of God. From it we discern the mind and heart of God as it is accurately studied, interpreted and applied. From it alone we attain to the standard of Christ likeness we pursue today!


1. There is nothing more important than your own spiritual maturity. Understanding and applying the Word of God to your life situations should be your goal. The problem is that we have too many competing goals in life—we want people to like us for instance. Or we have conflicting mandates for the church—like fix the world instead of making disciples—tolerating people’s sin rather than confronting it.

2. We must be vigilant, vigorous, determined, focused, driven, and concentrate on becoming a Christ like person. I cannot conform myself to Christ—only the HS can do that in His power by means of my new nature. But my responsibility is to want this and pursue it!