by Mike Ratliff
12 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 NASB.
12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 (NASB)
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.
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NASB)
12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 (NASB)
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)
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.” Compare these quotes from Furtick 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:
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB)
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 let us 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.