Rights: we all like to stand our ground or fight our corner for our deepest convictions or for those we love the most. Without that kind of dogged determination, we’d have few of the freedoms we associate with our modern world.
Rights do not stand alone. If we are to be true citizens, our identity will be determined by the privileges and responsibilities we share, alongside the rights we have fought so fiercely for and (occasionally) so vehemently demand.
Citizenship seems an antiquated concept today when we all live very individual lives. Yet the very heart of citizenship touches on our very identity – who we really are and what makes us tick. It’s a helpful picture when we consider our spiritual development: no longer citizens of this world, our responsibility and privileges reflect our identity in Christ and our call to become the church as we grow and learn together.
Today’s study is again taken from Philippians 3 and our motto text (3:12). It helps us to understand why it’s important to keep growing and, how we can do it.
Jesus came to announce to us that an identity based on success, popularity and power is a false identity- an illusion! Loudly and clearly he says: 'You are not what the world makes you; but you are children of God.’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit)
Pause for thought
- What does a map of your spiritual journey look like? Where have you come from and where are you on the way?
- What are the main obstacles to your spiritual growth and development?
- Where will you find the resources to overcome these hindrances and barriers?
Please read Philippians 3 verse 7 to Philippians 4 verse 1.
As a Roman citizen, Paul enjoyed specific freedoms but was also required to follow the will of the state. Now, his loyalty lies elsewhere and he already enjoys the status that comes from committing to another ruler – the Lordship of Christ. Although there is still growing room for Paul (and for us,) the full benefits from the Kingdom of God are available now.
Pressing on with God (verses 7 to 16)
- In verses 12 to 14 Paul compares himself to an athlete who is running a race. Is this a helpful description of the Christian life and if it isn’t, what alternative picture or illustration can we use today?
- How might verses 1 to 3 of Hebrews 12 help us to understand the importance of growth in the life of a disciple?
- What character does a “mature” Christian show? How do we expect to attain this?
- What does Paul say about dealing with the past (vv. 13, Hebrews 12: 1 – 3)? How easy do you find it to do this?
- In what ways does the promise of the prize (vv. 14) help us when things are tough?
Text note: Maturity, perfection Paul refers to mature Christians in verse 15 using the same Greek word which is translated perfect in verse 12. The intention is not, I think, to imply that Christians can be perfect on earth but to relate to another aspect of the word’s meaning of completeness, accomplishment or attainment. It is all part of our growing up in our faith which begins with “taking hold” and continues with “pressing on” (see verse 12)
Joining in with God and with others (Philippians 3:17 – 4:1)
- We are encouraged to “take hold” and “press on” (verse 12). What does it mean for us as we “take note” (vv. 17)?
- What pattern should we be living by? What examples does Paul give us and what others can you think of?
- In verses 17 to 21 Paul contrasts Christians with “enemies of the cross.” What are the two groups of people really focussed on and what are the consequences of their respective behaviours?
- How would you describe your status as a believer using everyday language or an easily understood illustration/picture?
- How can we encourage one another to stand firm in our faith and in our witness to God?
Pause for thought
The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. (A. W. Tozer)