PHILIPPIANS-SERIES NR 12
Philippians 3: 12 – 4: 1
Theme : Live DOWNWARD and not UPWARD!
It is important to remember Paul’s personal testimony of the previous paragraph (3:1-12) where he describes how – before he became a Christian – religious he was. He faultlessly kept the Law. But still he was a lost sinner! Then he discovered that through Jesus’ merit, he was made righteous before God (justified by grace through faith). Jesus IS his (Paul’s) righteousness before God. By placing his faith-trust upon Christ, he was included in Jesus’ obedience, His suffering, His death, His resurrection.
Now verses 3:12 to 4:1 >> All of the above-mentioned did not mean that Paul reached perfection and completeness IN HIMSELF. His perfection and completeness was found and contained IN CHRIST’S perfection. Christ’s perfection counted for Paul before God. As far as his POSITION before God the Father was concerned, he was complete and perfect! But in his own comings and goings, definitely NOT. There is a difference between the Christian’s position (status) before God, and the Christian’s daily comings and goings.
How it works, is as follows: Our daily practical life is continually changed and influenced by what we (based on God’s Word) believe our eternal position in Christ is before God! As we come to see and believe that we are included in Christ, and that we have attained His 100% righteousness, in the same measure our comings and goings will change and be renewed.
One can express it like this: “I make it mine BECAUSE Christ has already made me His”! Or: “I forget what is behind and strain towards what is ahead”. In other words: I live a holy life, because (in Christ) I AM already holy.
A Christian does not strive to live UP to something higher. A Christian lives DOWN from the high position where he/she already is! In Christ you are perfectly holy if you have repented and transferred your faith-trust over onto Him. His holiness has been transferred over onto your account, therefore it affects the way you live and behave and speak and think here and now.
The assurance of Paul’s position and security in Jesus Christ did not cause Paul to become passive and complacent. But rather active! Day after day he seized that which he was already in possession of! He was striving to live up to what he already had attained! He did not look back to what was behind, but he was focussing on the goal to win the final prize (the final glory)! He did not allow his past to handicap his present and future. His past was in the Lord’s hand, he did not concern himself with it any longer. It was as if he cast everything, which could prevent him to know the Lord better, aside. Like an athlete getting rid of any unnecessary weight.
And we know that Paul’s past was rather wretched. It was nothing to be proud of, rather something to keep one awake at night. Indeed, by persecuting the Christians, he was persecuting the Lord himself. But his deliverance was that, since he was IN CHRIST, he could know that the Lord had dealt with His past. The blood of the cross dealt with it. It was gone and forgiven. Now he was only looking forward.
These truths are 100% in line with what the Bible elsewhere calls “the mind of Christ”, the mindset and the heartbeat of the Lord Jesus Christ. And every one in whom the Holy Spirit lives, will agree with this! All Christians who have the insight of the Holy Spirit, will agree with what he is saying, says the Apostle.
That is what it means to be spiritually mature. To be spiritually mature means to see the Christian walk of life exactly the way Paul explains it here. A focus which is 100% filled with CHRIST, is the true Spirit-filled life – that is the truth.
Some Christians may sound very pious and mature and theologically informed, but if their focus is not Christ-filled and they do not live out of the reality of their inclusion in Christ’s cross and resurrection, they are still missing the point.
This focus which is on Christ, also promotes unity among believers. It connects them – even though they are from different backgrounds, cultures, opinions, and ideas. UNITY in Christ – that is our most precious treasure! As believers study and follow the Apostles’ teaching (NT) they are living in unity. That is why Paul could command them: FOLLOW MY EXAMPLE. Only an Apostle could do and command such a thing! If we follow and love the Apostles’ teaching, we are automatically following the “mind of Christ”, the heartbeat of the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul is emphatic about this.
There are only two kinds of people: those for/against the heartbeat (mindset) of Christ! As simple as that. Yes, we always divide humanity in lots of groups. And even Christendom is divided into thousands of groups. But seen from God’s point of view, there are only two groups: Friends and enemies of the cross! People who are self-centred, whose hope is on temporary things, the present world, the honour which comes from people – such people are enemies of the cross.
In other words, it is all about where our hopes, dreams, ideals, heart, humanity are focused.
The enemy of the cross may live an exemplary life – but still be worldly, self-sufficient and dependent on praise from people. Such a path ends up in death and destruction.
The Apostle Paul is the example of someone who is Christ-focused. Cross-focused. His entire expectation is Christ. His salvation is Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection – not his own piousness and spiritual deeds. His inclusion in Christ is everything for him. It is life. Christ’s second coming is his future-expectation. That was his mindset!
Paul’s hope was not that the evil Roman Empire would come to a fall. Or that he would perhaps be released from prison. He saw himself as a citizen of heaven! That he was a Jew or a citizen of the Roman Empire meant nothing to Him. He eagerly awaited the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew that Christ has the power to transform his poor physical body to be like His glorious body. Indeed, he was absolutely sure it would be like that.
That is the way how a Christian stands firm in faith. Anchored in the cross. That is what spiritual maturity is all about. A life lived from UP ABOVE downward, and not the other way around.
May the Lord give all of us insight into this truth.
Translated by Marthie Wilson