Apprehended By God

by Mike Ratliff

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12 KJV)

The Apostle Paul often used the analogy of a runner to describe our spiritual growth. Unlike a race that has an ending with one runner reaching the goal and attaining the prize of victory, our spiritual race will continue as long as we live. We will never reach the goal of Christlikeness, but like the runner in a race we must continue to pursue that goal.

Even though the current crop of evangelicals disdain discipleship, Bible study, and spiritual growth calling them unnecessary since their sole goal is numerical growth through their evangelical ministries, we must not give in to this lie. Paul tells us that God’s will for each of His children is their sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) That means His desire for each of us is that we be holy.How do we become holy? Is it something we just decide one day to do or is it something deeper? Here is the same verse I used above from the ESV.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12 ESV)

Paul tells us that our sanctification is something we must press on to make it our own. The KJV says that we “follow after” it. I like the term “press on” better. This Greek word was used of sprinter and refers to aggressive, energetic action. Paul is telling us that we must pursue our sanctification like a sprinter straining forward at the tape to be first to break it. Think of the 100-meter Dash in the Olympics. The runners are lined up each in their own lane. They get into their blocks and await the pop of the starter’s pistol. As the starter tells them to take their marks he starts counting down. Have you noticed how all the runners raise their stance so they can have more downward force off the blocks? Then the gun goes off. All of them lunge forward as one body. They start with short, but powerful strides until they get their speed up, but as they get just a few yards out of the blocks their strides lengthen. They are moving so fast that it may look like they are taking only a couple of strides every ten yards. Then they approach the tape. All of them are within just a few inches of the leader. Then they all throw their chests forward trying to be the first to break the tape. These races are so close that they must use high-speed cameras to see who actually broke it.

My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, this is how we must pursue the prize God has set before us. We must be pressing forward pursuing Christlikeness as if it is the most valuable treasure, which it is because it is beyond priceless.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV) Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

This is what irks me so much when I hear these new evangelicals such as Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC say things such as, “If You Know Jesus This Church is NOT for you!” His attitude is this, “We don’t teach from Books of the Bible because it gets in the way of evangelism. We don’t offer different kinds of Bible studies because it gets in the way of evangelism. We don’t teach doctrine because it gets in the way of evangelism. If you want to be fed God’s word or have the Bible explained to you then you are a fat lazy Christian and you need to shut up and get to work or you need to leave this church because we ONLY do evangelism.” Here is a link to expose’ on this “pastor”

Compare that with what we read from the Bible that is God’s will for His children. Jesus gave us the great commission, but people such as “pastor” Furtick grossly misinterpret it. Here it is:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

The word “Go” in v19 is not a verb. It is an aorist participle passive in the Greek. The word means ‘to traverse.” It actually should be translated as Jesus telling his disciples, “As you go…” He is telling us that we should be making disciples from all ethnic groups. Making disciples is not the same thing as building a large church. It is not about numbers. It is about being a disciple who disciples others so they can make disciples, etc. You get the idea.

Therefore, as we go in our pursuit of Christlikeness, part of that journey or race is to disciple those God gives us to disciple wherever He places us. Discipleship is not simply getting converts. It is taking people who believe, baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded us. That means we spend time with them. We teach them. We counsel them. We are there for them as they mature. Then when they are ready they do the same thing for those they disciple.Those who are obedient to Christ’s command to go and make disciples are those who are apprehended by God. Oswald Chambers was one of these. God apprehended him and he pursued holiness his whole life and made disciples wherever he went. His teachings are still discipling us today.

Apprehended by God

by Oswald Chambers

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12 KJV)

Never choose to be a worker for God, but once God has placed His call on you, woe be to you if you “turn aside to the right hand or to the left” ( Deuteronomy 5:32 ). We are not here to work for God because we have chosen to do so, but because God has “laid hold of” us. And once He has done so, we never have this thought, “Well, I’m really not suited for this.” What you are to preach is also determined by God, not by your own natural leanings or desires. Keep your soul steadfastly related to God, and remember that you are called not simply to convey your testimony but also to preach the gospel. Every Christian must testify to the truth of God, but when it comes to the call to preach, there must be the agonizing grip of God’s hand on you— your life is in the grip of God for that very purpose.

How many of us are held like that? Never water down the Word of God, but preach it in its undiluted sternness. There must be unflinching faithfulness to the Word of God, but when you come to personal dealings with others, remember who you are— you are not some special being created in heaven, but a sinner saved by grace.

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do. . . I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” ( Philippians 3:13-14 ).

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we must forsake man-made religion, leaving it in the sewer where it belongs. Let us commit ourselves to pursuing personal holiness with our entire being as if our lives depended on it and as we go lets preach the whole gospel not what men want to hear. When a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ does this then God will use them for His glory. Anything else is simply chasing after the wind in flesh-bound futility. Oh, we could make huge churches by using relevancy techniques, but how many genuine disciples will we make? No, we must do it the Lord’s way because He has apprehended us and we are His servants. It is not about us. It is all about Him. Soli Deo Gloria.

17 thoughts on “Apprehended By God

  1. It breaks my heart when I see churches thinking that the process of discipleship is an “extra” in the church. Jesus didn’t tell us to just make converts … He told us to make disciples. A pastor at a church we recently attended told me that he wasn’t sure the church was going to offer Bible studies anymore because it didn’t fit in with their “vision” for reaching the community.

    But I want to know, reaching the community with WHAT? Self-esteem building feel good messages? Cool music? Basketball nights? Bar-B-Q, Beer and Baptism Pool Parties?!

    :::sigh:::

    Do I really need to tell you that we shook the dust off our feet and continued on from that particular church in our journey to find a new church home? ;-)

  2. How often have I been guilty of meandering when I should have been pressing? Oswald chambers was a gift to the church because he was an incredible balance of doctrinal truth wrapped in the passion of the heart of God.

    Thanks, Mike, and as you say all glory goes to God.

  3. Go and make disciples…not converts.Pastors that soley focus on evangelism do not obey the Great Commission.They get runners to the starting line but do not train them for the race.Furtick says he teaches people how to live and does it in simple terms that people can understand.He doesn’t want to delve deeply into doctrines or scriptures on those doctrines because he feels that its not relevent.The other day I read of the importance to God of the marriage covenant.It was deep.It was beyond simple instructions as to how a christian is to treat their spouse.It was beautiful and at the same time made me wonder if I ever should have married my husband!A fine thing to know now after 15 years of marriage!Teaching doctrine is extremely important to the life and practice of the saints.Getting deep into the scriptures is most important.Without it we can neither be trained for the race rightly nor can we train others!We can learn many lessons from marathon racing but the difference with our race is that as we run such a way as to obtain the prize,we are also coming alongside others to help them win the prize.Churches that kick out those older folks because they want to do church in a seeker friendly,purpose-driven manner have done a disservice to the younger runners.Its like kicking out the coaches who have been running the race a long time and know the ups and downs and obstacles of the track and race.Untrained runners never win.

  4. dssimple,

    :::sigh::: is right. I am glad God gave you the wisdom to move on from there. It is getting harder and harder to find a church that is pursuing God instead of a god of their own making.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Mike, We just found a church that does this! Make diciples. They are 40 miles one way from us and its hilly here in Northern Mo. but well worth the drive. We are so blessed to have been led to this church. So we just take the dramamine and hit the rollercoaster road……lol Thanks again for your article. God has given you a wonderful gift to share with the body. Did the shot work?? :)

  6. In the independent fundamentalist Baptist church I grew up in, they equate “disciples” with “converts” so their heavy emphasis on “soul-winning” was indeed adhering to the Great Commission in their minds. They had a narrow definition of “disciples” that justified their heavy evangelistic slant.

  7. Timothy,

    I used to be a Southern Baptist and I know what you are talking about. However, Jesus’ own definition of a Disciple is of one who dies to self, takes up his or her cross and follows Him. Then He instructed us to abide in Him and the Word and teach our disciples all that He taught. It sure goes a lot deeper than just soul winning. :-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. Timothy,thanks for the heads up in this!I had no idea that there are some who beleive there’s no difference between the two.Thanks Mike for the clarification on the differences,too,though it is what I believed.

  9. I have a brother who runs marathons.I have been thinking about the experience that marathoners have no matter how well trained.There is a point in the race where the runner’s body screams at them to stop and their mind lies to them saying that they won’t make it.My brother said that the reason for good training is to have this experience happen as close to the finishing line as possible for that helps motivate the runner to keep going when they are able to see the line.Proper training not only helps the runner physically but mentally to perservere and endure this experience.He also said that it helps to have family and friends shout at him to keep going and encourage him that he can make it.Proper christian training along with fellowship helps us to run with endurance.The Runners Club my brother is a member of always puts seasoned runners with the less trained runners to help them with their pace and to know how to endure this screaming experience.How can a church do this for the brethren if they only want to minister to the younger people?Sounds disastrous all the way around! These pastors should think twice about this because they are putting a huge burden on themselves when they kindly show the door to the seasoned runners.

  10. Sherry C,

    Your brother is right. I was a long distance runner for many years before I became too injured to do it anymore. I know about the voice. You are exactly right about disastorous results of no discipleship. I beleive this is going to bring much judgment on those leaders who only want to evangelize for they are not feeding the sheep they just keep bring goats into the flock. Again, great comment my sister!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  11. And we know that goats love to butt other animals they are in the pen with!At least the Nanny goat my cousin had did(and she would even butt against the fence and the shed-anything and anyone)!Goats are humorous animals but “goats” in the church are detrimental to the health of the church and the witness to Christ of the church to the outside world.These pastors are really setting themselves up for a fall!Having one or two goats in the pen is manageable but I wouldn’t want a penful of them!

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