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. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. (Philippians 3:12-15a)
Paul is writing as one of the spiritual heavyweights of his day – one of Christ’s apostles, an authoritative teacher. If anyone were considered mature in the faith, it would be Paul. But what does he say characterises such Christian maturity?
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…
We don’t mature as Christians and then plateau. This side of the new creation, there’s no stage in the Christian life where we can say we’ve made it. Christian maturity is shown by an attitude that says “we’re not there yet”. We always keep growing; we are continually striving towards our goal. Christian maturity isn’t a passive state we reach, but is shown by striving for… what? What is the goal Paul is striving towards?
I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)
What he’s striving for is to know Christ. This is what Christian maturity looks like: a desire to know more of Christ. We shouldn’t be stagnant in our desire to know him better; in fact, if we think we’ve arrived in the Christian life, that only goes to show we’ve missed the heart of it. We are saved for a relationship with the God who made us, and if our relationship with him stops growing, we’ve missed the point of our salvation.
Paul wants to know Christ. It’s the one thing he does – pressing on to know him (3:8), gain him (3:8), and be found in him (3:9). How much does this describe me? Worryingly little. I can end up thinking that maturity means being a leader, being respected, or knowing my Bible better than those around me. But if I’m not wanting to know Christ more and more, and not just about him, then I’m showing my immaturity. Jesus died so that we could know him; knowing him is what we were made for.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Let us strive to know the Lord. His appearance is as sure as the dawn. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring showers that water the land. (Hosea 6:3, HCSB)
(Article revised and reposted; original from 27th March 2008)