Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Philippians 3:15 – 17 (NIV) 15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
So far this week we have learned two things about being spiritually mature from what Paul writes in Philippians 3:15-16.
- Bring the pattern of your thinking into agreement with God’s Word, and then put it into practice by living up to what you already know; and
- Be patient to let God accomplish His work both in your own life and in the lives of others.
Let’s look at another mark of spiritual maturity in the next verse, which says, 17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. This is a very rich verse. Here’s how it reads in a literal translation of the original Greek: Brothers and sisters, become imitators of me, and specifically take aim at those around you who have patterned their lives after my example. There are two very important lessons we can learn from this passage:
First, we are to humble ourselves and admit that God has surrounded us with brothers and sisters in Christ’s family that are more mature than we are, and that we can learn from them. When Paul says take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you, he uses terminology that clearly defines what should be our mindset in regard to maturity – take aim at it. Make maturity your mandate, and carefully observe and imitate those around you who are making obvious progress.
The body of Christ is so rich with people who have been through the wringer and survived, and they have so much to teach us. There are people who are filled with hope even when life seems hopeless. We have brothers and sisters who overflow with joy even in the toughest of times. We have been blessed with living examples of Christ’s love that continue to serve others even when they are persecuted. There are countless role models of people who sacrifice anything and everything for the sake of reaching people with the Gospel. It’s time for us to take note of them, and take aim at them.
Unfortunately, we have some within the church who have very good aim, but for the wrong reason – they intend to shoot them down. They are convicted of their own shortcomings, and rather than invest the energy into their own maturity, they seek to destroy the maturity of others so they themselves no longer feel inferior. But Paul says that God has specifically placed the mature around us so that we can take aim at them to be like them.
Second, we are to become an example to others. While we have our focus on those ahead of us so that we might grow in maturity, we are to be mindful of those who are behind us and be setting a good example for them to follow. Paul does not make exclusive claim to being the only example to follow. He challenges us to become examples as well. When he tells the Philippian people to take note of those who were following his example, he is stating that there are others who are worthy of imitating. There were those in the church who had patterned their lives after Paul’s example of Christ’s lifestyle. Paul says, I gave you a pattern to live by, and some of you are living the pattern. Let the rest of you take note of them and follow the pattern also. The Greek word translated as pattern is the word used to describe a die that has been cast. Think about the plates that are used to print money. Every bill that passes beneath the plate becomes an exact replica of the plate. Paul says that he is the die that has been cast. He is the printing plate. Let your life become an exact duplicate of mine, because mine is becoming an exact replica of Christ’s.
We should all be able to say that. Our deepest heart’s desire should be to become an exact replica of Jesus Christ, and to let Him use our lives as a printing plate to stamp others with His image.
Two things to remember: first, there are those ahead of you in becoming like Christ – follow them. And second, there are those behind you who are following you – may they find in you a pattern to imitate. Steve Green said it this way in a song:
We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives
After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
Follow a good example and be a good example – then you are becoming spiritually mature.