This week we consider Christian maturity as we look at Paul’s one-track devotion to living for Christ.
Paul says, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
As I was looking into this text I started thinking of anything that I need to put behind so to look forward. It amounts to pretty much everything. When we hear that, it is all to easy to jump to a wrong conclusion. Does it mean I need to abolish every activity in my life other than the Christian disciplines of studying the bible and prayer and serving in my church community, etc? No…. But please do those things.
When we have what Paul calls “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” we have a platform by which to approach every part of our life here on earth. Of course, we can enjoy many different things in this world. There are many wonderful and good things that can be enjoyed right here and now. The mature Christian is one who can enjoy those things without being distracted and diverted by them to take our eyes off Christ. In fact, the mature Christian is able to consider how we might do and enjoy all things to the glory of God. Of course, this means saying no to temptation and sin and I am definitely not promoting the engagement of sinful use of pleasures. Even so, many of those pleasure (eg. sex, food, arts) are enjoyed by those who love Christ to the glory of God within the confines of what he has ordained for their use.
Perhaps you have heard of the word “asceticism.” It is defined as “severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.” (Paul seems to address the issues of asceticism in his letter to the Colossians.) When Paul tells us to forget what is behind, he does not mean for us to abandon living in the world and enjoying the resources and gifts that God has provided for us. It is the way that we enjoy God’s good things that is important. In 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 Paul says that “we make it our aim to please him, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for the things done in the body according to what we have done whether good or bad.” The mature Christian enjoys all good things to the glory of God to please Christ in all that we do. That in itself is a lifelong ambition. None of us do this perfectly, but then, none of us have yet arrived in the New Creation.
What did you do today to make each of your duties glorifying and pleasing to Christ? In each of your activities and enjoyments, what did you do to make it a point of worship? How did they help you to become more like Jesus? How did they help you love God more? This is the one-track mind of the mature Christian. Perhaps you could just take one thing at a time over the next day or so and consciously ask yourselves these questions before doing or enjoying.