Friday, December 15, 2017
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Philippians 3:12-16(NLT)
Paul takes the humble position of allowing for his own human fragility. In one of his other letters (to the Corinthian church) Paul stated it clearly that when he let go of having to control everything – letting God do what God does – his weakness became the effective mighty power of God.
Rather than trying to be “strong” in his own abilities, Paul desired to put the past behind and focus on what God was doing. Henry Blackaby’s Bible study Experiencing God calls that mindset locating where God is working and cooperating with Him.
The important point is that Paul understood, even in a wonderfully vibrant fellowship like the church at Philippi, there were going to be disagreements; that is inevitable with human beings! What Paul wanted to stress was that even in the most controversial of differing opinions genuine spiritual maturity will not lose sight of the goal.
Tolerance has been an overly-accepted word in our vernacular the past several decades. It hangs like a Behavior Storm Trooper over the entire culture. We are expected to tolerate others’ viewpoints; in fact, we are expected to surpass tolerance to the degree that all people’s ideas and values are considered equally valid. That may be high-sounding, but it is dangerous. For instance, the person that holds an idea that thirty-five cents in his pocket is enough to buy a new car is going to have a huge problem when it comes to the Mercedes dealer allowing him to drive a $63,000 E-Class SUV off the lot for that price; not all ideas are equal! There will be conflict…if not arrests!
Tolerance can also tip the scale toward arrogance. Check into a discussion between a Christian conservative and a Christian progressive and you will not have to wait long before the accusations and tempers begin to fly. The same holds true for liberal and conservative political discussions.
What Paul suggests is spiritual maturity. Hear it again from the apostle:
If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.
Holding on to the progress already made is a matter of not losing your Christian cool! It means being willing to be weak personally so that God’s Spirit can be strong in the middle of strengthening relationships. It means in spite of a disagreement you’re willing to wait for God to make things clear. A dear friend of mine made that point with me after he’d witnessed my prolonging a heated discussion with another believer. He said: You know, Russell, you don’t have to have an answer for everything!
This is the essence of spiritual maturity – when you refuse to take personal offense over a disagreement. When someone wants to get in your face and turn up the volume, you can turn the other cheek and offer graciousness; if not, you disown the opportunity to build-up the person who disagrees with you.
And if you’re simply (and arrogantly) tolerating someone’s ideas (because in your humble opinion he or she is an idiot) your attitude towards them can only bring deeper separation and fuel the angry fires of misunderstanding.
So, as Paul also said:
…but we are to hold to the truth with love in our hearts. We are to grow up and be more like Christ. He is the leader of the church. Ephesians 4:15(NLV)
Growing-up into the likeness of Christ – keep that in focus!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!