The Three States of a Christian

“My brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived” spiritually, nor consider myself already perfect. But I keep driving on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, even now I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it. But I concentrate (my efforts) on this: I leave the past behind, and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I press straight for that goal – my reward, the honor of being called by God in Christ.

All of who are spiritually adult should set themselves (upon) this sort of ambition, and, if at (the) present, you cannot see this, yet you will find that this is the attitude which God is leading you to adopt.” (Phil. 3:12-15 / J.B. Phillips)

"Only let us live up to what we have already attained." (Phil. 3:16 / NIV)

 

"Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have   us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." (Phil. 3:17 / NIV)

 

More fully than in any other text of scripture, Paul the apostle explained his way of life as a Christian in the verses above. I highlighted the main concepts.

  • "I keep driving on."

  • "Grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me."

  • "I concentrate my efforts on this."

  • "With outstretched arms to whatever lies ahead."

  • "I press straight for that goal."

In four different ways in those verses, Paul went on to indicate that all Christians should pproach the Christian life that same way. I pointed them out in blue type.

  • "All who are spiritually adult should set themselves upon this ambition."

  • "This is the attitude God is leading you to adopt."

  • "Join together in following my example."

  • "Just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." (i.e., who approach the Christian life in that same manner)

Couched in the middle of this, almost as if inserted parenthetically, Paul says

in essence in vs. 16 (my paraphrase), "Only" (i.e., minimally; at the very least)...

  • Don't lose ground.

  • Don't fall back in the pack.

  • Maintain your position in the race.

From these words, I believe we can see clearly that there are (3) ways in which, as Christians, we can run our race for Jesus Christ down here.

  1. "STRIVING FORWARD" - Persistently pressing your race to gain ground toward more Christ-likeness and greater fruitfulness for the glory of

    

  • Clearly, from the words of Scripture above and in several other places, this is the desirable approach to the Christian life - the one God means for us all to adopt.

  • Paul calls this a "mature" view of the Christian life.

  • Symbolic of one running to win.

2. "STANDING FIRM" - Steadily holding the ground that you have attained in Christ and keeping a moderate pace in your devotion and service.

  • The Scripture above shows that this as an acceptable approach to the Christian life, but, that God eventually it will be realized that God's leading directs every Christian to adopt the first attitude.

  • Symbolic of one running to finish. 


3."STRAYING BACK" - Losing ground that you once reached / attained it terms of devotion and service to Christ.

  • Clearly, from the words of Scripture in other places, this is an approach that is undesirable to God, and about which He gives repeated warnings.

  • Symbolic of one tiring or (in some cases), dropping out of the race.

At Calvary Chapel, a given percentage are approaching the Christian life in each of these (3) ways. On Sunday, I indicated that I believed something like 20% are in a state of strong response to the high calling of God in Christ right now. These are those among us who are hearing the Word and responding to it with the kind of focused concentration and vigor of someone wanting to win a race.

Others, who represent approximately 80% of us, find themselves in either state 2. or 3. About 80% of the 80%, while not demonstrating that they are currently captivated by the high calling of God in Christ, are, though, maintaining their pace. They are steady. They are not dropping back.

At the same, about 20% of the 80% are definitely struggling in our precious church family right now. The Good Shepherd is beckoning all of us to love one another and seek to be our "brother's keeper" - keeping a thoughtful and watchful eye out for those among us who are hurting, struggling, perhaps in some cases getting snared by sin, and who thus are dropping back or have even seemingly dropped out. As the old promise keepers song says, "No man is an island. No man stands alone. We all need our brothers, to point each other home." The Scripture says, "Those who are strong out to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please themselves."

So let us love one another... deeply... from the heart. Let us take heed not only to ourselves, but also to others in the flock to which God has drawn us to pasture.  And let us each one understand WHY it is SO important that the sound at the trumpet of preaching at Calvary Chapel (and everywhere) is a call to higher ground. It is not because we are somehow less saved if we are simply staying steady, or, even, if we are a genuine Christian and struggling and losing some ground we once gained. The reason this call is so important was clearly conveyed below by Peter... 

"(God's) divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. SO I WILL ALWAYS REMIND YOU OF THESE THINGS..." (I Pet. 1:3-12)

This, my precious brother and sisters, is why, as your pastor, I am laboring so hard to encourage your motto to be...

'Til we finish the race,

Pastor Mike