by Wade E Taylor
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13‑14
Paul is testifying that he is determinedly moving towards “the mark,” which is an attainable goal – our being “conformed to the image of His Son.” This is the “prize” of the high calling of God.
We also are to “forget those things that are behind” and recognize that we have a purpose and calling. Our spiritual journey through life will become much more productive as we, like Paul, press toward “apprehending” this “prize.”
Our understanding the purpose of “predestination” will help us to better respond to our “purpose and calling.”
“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29
The Lord knew us before we knew Him (whom He did foreknow). There are no accidents, nor did we just happen; we were chosen (predestinated) by Him before the foundation of the world for a predetermined purpose.
This requires a total submission to, and our cooperation with the workings of the Holy Spirit to accomplish our being brought into spiritual maturity (our being conformed to the image of our Lord).
“And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature….” Luke 2:52 NAS
When Jesus hung on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” He had come to full maturity, as He had fully accomplished our redemption and made a way for us to become a mature member of His corporate Body.
We begin this process of spiritual growth as a spiritual baby.
“As newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” I Peter 2:2
Judicially, our redemption was fully accomplished upon the Cross and we are complete in Him. But experientially, Jesus became the fully developed head of an immature body, a newborn babe, expecting us to grow into the “measure of His stature,” so the body will become proportionate with the head.
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13
To manifest an adult head upon the body of a child would be unthinkable. Therefore, there is a present objective that is far more important than our going to heaven. The goal of our Christian experience is to “keep increasing” until we grow into full spiritual maturity.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
The “good” that is referred to in this verse speaks of our being made conformable to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “good” comes from the same root as the word “God.” It implies that we have become, in some measure, like God. Because we are “predestined” to be conformed to His image, the Lord causes these “all things” to work together in order to bring about this higher purpose of producing the “image of Jesus” within us.
Salvation is a gift, but spiritual maturity is attained through a process of spiritual growth. This process begins at the time of our spiritual birth. It can be compared to the stages of our natural growth.
“Until we all attain to unity in faith and to a perfect knowledge of the Son of God, namely, to a mature manhood and to a perfect measure of Christ’s moral stature; so that we may not be babies any longer….” Ephesians 4:13‑14 Williams
If I were to say to a 4 year old, “you are a baby,” this child would become quite indignant and inform me that he is not a baby, but rather “big.” Children ever long to be instantly grown, but our physical rate of growth into maturity requires a predetermined period of time. Our rate of spiritual growth is quite different, as it is governed by a law.
This time can be shortened through our cooperation with the Lord as He “works” all things together in ways that will enhance our spiritual growth.
The first phase of this law requires a drastic reduction of us. We must set aside all ideas of our own spirituality and become as children, ready to learn.
“Verily, I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
There are those who so emphasize the “realm” of spiritual maturity or “sonship,” that being a child, spiritually speaking, is frowned upon. They reject, or set aside many areas of experience that (they believe) indicate spiritual immaturity. Any expression or demonstration of “child-like” activity or joy, is frowned upon as a sign of immaturity.
Some of these mistakenly believe that they can pronounce themselves as being an adult, instantly arriving “to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13
Like the 4 year old, they claim to be what they are not.
“Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection….” Hebrews 6:1
We cannot leave behind that which we do not possess. It is folly to regard ourselves as possessing more than what has been fully formed within us. If a child could be pronounced an adult, and instantly become one, this “instant adult” would be very frustrated and unstable.
Most certainly, our being spiritually mature is important, but we must begin as being a “babe in Christ” and then progressively experience each stage of spiritual growth. The experiences of one level of growth will qualify and lead us into the next. We need not fear being left behind.
As spiritual children, we should embrace and fully, unashamedly experience all of the blessings and manifestations that are placed in our path. These seemingly immature areas of spiritual experience, such as emotional expression or demonstration, have a significant part in our becoming a mature, balanced adult.
“When you are bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than you be bidden of him; And he that bade you and him come and say to you, Give this man place; and you begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when you are bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade you comes, he may say to you, Friend, go up higher: then shall you have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with you. For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.” Luke 14:8‑11
To assume a position of “spiritual superiority” and proclaim that we are “beyond” basic spiritual principles and experiences is a very revealing sign of spiritual immaturity.
A mature person is able to play with children and with their toys, enjoying both. The difference between them is that the truly mature person does this by choice, and then goes on to greater things. An adult can enjoy either milk or steak, but the child is limited to milk.
It is important that we understand that we do not progressively grow out of the “milk” stage (blessings) and then press into the “meat” (dealings and testings) of God. There is a marvelous balance wherein the Lord works concurrently in each of these levels within us. Thus, in one area of experience, we are seen by the Lord as being a spiritual “babe” and are coddled accordingly, while at the same time in another area, we may be seen as an adult with much more expected of us.
As we progress through each of these different stages of spiritual growth, we are to fully experience all of the feelings, emotions, and relationships that apply to each particular area of our spiritual growth. This will enable us to become stable, balanced, mature adults.
If we are truly spiritually mature, we can afford to take a “lesser” seat in the coming “banquet,” when the Lord will begin to move in manifest visitation. That which we are progressively, experientially growing into, will become evident to others.
Then, the Lord will be able to invite us to come up higher, to be seated with Him in the coming day of His power; for He alone is to be seen as pre‑eminent in all, and we in Him.