THE ROAD TO MATURITY
"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering"
Phil. 3:12-16, 18-19
12 I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. 13 My friends, I don't feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. 14 I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. 15 All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. 16 But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.
18 I often warned you that many people (in the church) are living as enemies of the cross of Christ. And now with tears in my eyes, I warn you again 19 that they are headed for hell! They worship their stomachs and brag about the disgusting things they do. All they can think about are the things of this world.
God wants us to be spiritually mature, Christlike and wear his spiritual garments. He expects us to approximate our daily condition to our heavenly condition as people belonging to God. He wants us to put off the sins of our old sinful and selfish disposition and put on the disposition of the new man, our new nature in Christ. BUT, we cannot put on the robes of the new man until we have put off the rags of the old man.
It is not befitting a Christian to come to God wearing the rags of criticism and bitterness, of slander and malice. We cannot put on the robes of the righteousness and love of Christ over those rags. We should wear ‘tender mercies’, ‘kindness’, ‘humility’, ‘meekness’ (gentleness) and ‘longsuffering’ (compassion & solidarity). Clothed in these robes of Christ-like righteousness we should strive to live responsible, caring Christ-like lives of doing good to all people whenever we get the chance, particularly to those in the family of God (Gal. 6:10), but also to outsiders, even to our enemies (Col. 1:10; Eph. 2:10; 1 Peter 2:12; Heb. 10:24). It is for this purpose we are in the world as Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:8; Titus 2:12-14) as we make our light shine in the darkness of this world, and provide the world with a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God (Mt. 5:13-16, 43-48).
However, it requires that we let go of worldliness and impurity, of everything that hinders us from becoming mature and ready to be used for all kinds of good (2 Tim. 2:21). For us who compared to 75% of the world are rich it means letting go of our arrogance as if we are better than those who are poor. It also means no longer putting our trust in our wealth but in God but instead abound in doing good deeds, being very generous in helping those who have less than us as 1 Tim. 6:17-19 reminds us:
17 Warn the rich people of this world not to be proud or to trust in wealth that is easily lost. Tell them to have faith in God, who is rich and blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life. 18 Instruct them to do as many good deeds as they can and to help everyone. Remind the rich to be generous and share what they have. 19 This will lay a solid foundation for the future, so that they will know what true life is like.
But if we fail to live like this and instead live as enemies of the cross by mainly being focused on worldy things we will not reach the glorious destination God had in mind for us. With tears in our eyes and sorrowful hearts we warn you as Paul did that you are headed for hell (Phil. 3:18-19).