by Mike Ratliff
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)
With both parents seemingly nearing the end of their journeys to the Celestial City, I have reflected much on my own priorities lately. Have I been wasting much of the valuable time and energy given to me by our Lord in building on His foundation with wood, hay, and straw? Have I been focusing on the things of this world, seeking the pleasures of this world to the exclusion of walking close with my Lord, living in His Word and prayer? Have I been putting self ahead of the needs of others? You see, what marks a true Christian over a false Christian is whether Christ’s character is being developed in theirs or not. This character development results in the believer’s perseverance.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11 ESV)
From where does the righteousness that saves come from? It comes through faith in Christ. It is through this faith that we may know Christ and the power of His resurrection. It is also through this faith that we are able to share in His sufferings becoming like Him in His death. This means that all who suffer for the sake of Christ in this fallen world will attain the resurrection from the dead even as He did.
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. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: 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. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16 ESV)
Do you believe you are a mature Christian? The mature in Christ know for certain that they are far from perfect. They know that they have by no means attained perfection in that they perfectly obey the Lord. What marks a mature or maturing Christian is that the focus of their lives becomes less and less on the temporal and more and more on the prize. This prize becomes the focus of their lives on a greater and greater scale as they mature. What is the prize? It is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. The world sees no value in this. In fact, most professing Christians are much more concerned about the temporal than they are about this. This upward call of God is the calling of each believer to Heaven and into His presence. This is the time when they will receive the prize. This prize is not attainable in this life. Its fulfillment will be in eternity in the presence of God.
We must ask ourselves if this is the focus of our lives. Are we more concerned with self or do we look forward with anticipation to the day when we will stand before our Lord? Paul says that the mature in Christ are of the latter persuasion. Those who live this way submerge their fleshly desires in obedience to Christ. They deny self, take up their crosses daily and follow Him. They submit themselves to His will. How does God reveal to us when we are thinking and doing otherwise? This is when we find ourselves in circumstances that test us, try us, and reveal the true nature of our hearts to us. We find out what we are really made of while in the fire of God’s judgment.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 3:17-4:1 ESV)
This journey to the Celestial City is one of perseverance and requires us to emulate those examples given to us by God. We must do this. We must follow the example of godly men and women whom God points to as worthy examples while avoiding the example of the enemies of the cross. There are many of those my brethren and sadly, they profess to be servants of the Most High in many cases. They deny the essentials of the Gospel and, therefore, become leaven that must be avoided at all costs. Paul says that their end is destruction. The genuine believer’s citizenship is heaven, not this lost and dying world. Each of us have a hope planted in us by God which looks forward with great anticipation to the return of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. At His return, all in Him will receive transformed, glorious bodies by His power.
Examine yourself my brethren!
Soli Deo Gloria!