Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity

John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D

Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll

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Chapter 18 - THE Normal Christian Life - Philippians

God's Word, the Bible, has three foundational essentials, that He desires everyone to know and understand: 1) The entrance and problem of SIN, 2) The need for and the way of SALVATION, and 3) The understanding of SANCTIFICATION of life (See Chap. 2 for discussion of these three essentials). The third of these refers to holy living, which once a person becomes a Christian, is the primary and foremost element of the Christian life.

The world is concerned with physical/mental/social maturity, whereas God is primarily interested in our spiritual maturity along with the others (Luke 2:52). Philippians is the objective, authoritative book on spiritual and emotional maturity for the Christian. It was written by our creator; who better understands us, and how we develop in life? There are four basic elements, one in each chapter of the book.

I. Chapter 1 - The Principle of the Normal Christian Life: The key to the basic principle of the Christian life is in Phil. 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain". This displays the TRUST that the child of God has in Him. This does not mean that we live for Christ, but that we are better off dead, because we are then with Him. No, God did not create us to die, but to live, and in our living to be totally dedicated to His will for us (Gal. 2:20). Our commitment for living for Him should be so all consuming, that if God took us home to Heaven, we would be with Him, which is even better.

For the Christian this answers the problem of PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION in life. Every person desires to be identified with someone or something. Many are constantly searching for meaning in life, and often shifting their focus, which does not produce stability, whereas God wants us to be totally identified with Him, which provides security and fullness of life.

Psychologically, this commitment and concentration of life provides avoidance of FEAR of the future. One's life is totally given over to God's control, and He is sovereign over the world, so that He is guiding and caring for His children (Ps.37:3-7,23,34; Heb.13:5,6; I Peter 5:7). It also gives HOPE to the Christian, which is both satisfying and fulfilling. From God's point of view, this principle is quite normal and balanced for every child of His. The displays our AFFECTION for Him.

II. Chapter 2 - The Pattern of the Normal Christian Life: A pattern is a guide, and God desires that we pattern our lives after the Lord Jesus Christ. The key verse in this chapter is 2:5, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus". If He is our pattern, and we allow the Holy Spirit to re-characterize our lives after Him, this shows the ONENESS we have with Jesus Christ. He stated that He came not to do His will, but the will of the Father who sent Him (John 5:30).

Therefore, as Christ patterned His life after that of His Father, we are to pattern our lives after Him.

This helps answer one's problem of PERSONAL DISPOSITION of life. Since we all have time and energy in life, how do we dispose of it, so that we gain the fullness that we desire. Here is the pattern. God is the guarantor to us, that if we use our personal resources of talents/time/energy/etc. to serve Him, then when we arrive at the end of life we will be able to say, I have had a full and productive life.

Psychologically, this gives one ABSOLUTE GUIDANCE for life (Rom. 12:1,2). Furthermore, it gives us a PERFECT MODEL after whom we can pattern our lives. When we look to others as models, we usually find some detrimental aspect about them that eventually brings some disappointment to us. But, when we look to Jesus Christ, there is no disappointment in Him. On Him we can depend totally, for ACCEPTANCE and AFFIRMATION of life.

III. Chapter 3 - The Passion of the Normal Christian Life: In life we all experience emotions, which are quite normal. In this chapter we understand how to exercise our emotions in the manner that God desires, so that we are able to experience the full range of them, in a balanced way. For a Christian to enjoy emotions is to respond with APPRECIATION to God for His fulfilling in us His will, which gives EXPECTATION (hope) to the child of God.

The key in this chapter are verses 3:13,14,20. The Apostle Paul, recounting his own experiences in the past as an employee of Rome placing Christians into prison, and now preaching to them as an Apostle of the Lord, was able to say that though he had not arrived in life said, "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus". One can easily understand that he could have had negative emotions of past behaviors, instead was able to say by the Grace of God that he looked ahead, rather than allowing the past to overwhelm him.

The lesson by illustration, to us today is clear: We need to forget those wrong behaviors of the past, which we have confessed to God, who has forgiven and forgotten (I John 1:9), and keep our eyes on Him and ahead, and press on in life. I believe that one of the greatest designs of Satan against the Christian, knowing that he can't take our Salvation away from us (Eph.2:8,9), is to overburden us with false guilt because of past failures. There are times when every Christian needs to tell Satan to, "bug off, I don't owe you anything; I owe God everything", and to realize that all we are, all we have, and every breath we take is by the Grace of God. Even the Apostle Paul noted that, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

Proper emotions, guided by the Holy Spirit, through the principles of God's Word, will answer the problem of PERSONAL PRIORITY in life. Since we all priortize our lives, to some degree, arranging one's life in this manner will provide fullness of life, balanced emotions, hope for the future, and provide a goal toward which one can work with assurance of completion. In I John 3:2 it says, "We know that when He shall appear (i.e. the coming of Jesus Christ for the Christians) we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is". What a HOPE and what ASSURANCE

IV. Chapter 4 - The Power of the Normal Christian Life: In Phil. 4:13 it says, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me". This shows the HELP we have in Him. This provides for the Christian ACHIEVEMENT in life, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And, it answers the problem of PERSONAL SECURITY in life.

One of the greatest resources a person can have is personal security in life. Much of this comes through learned behaviors from proper parental modeling and affirmation. In addition to these factors, security can be enhanced through spiritual maturity of life. This chapter provides that understanding. It even helps an insecure person to come to security of life, if one will accept the principles in this chapter at face value, and live them out on a daily basis. In Heb. 13:5,6 it says, "For He (the Lord) has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you, so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper and I will not fear, what can man do unto me?"

Psychologically, this gives one a sense of ASSURANCE in life, as well as a sense of POWER. Phil. 4:19 tells us, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus". All of God's resources for our personal spiritual development and fullness of life are ours for the taking. What more can be said; what more can we ask; what more do we need?

To conclude the principles of the normal Christian life, the Apostle Paul leaves us with the formula for the secret of PEACE in life: Phil. 4:6,7, "Do not be disturbed about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication (i.e. lay it on the Lord) with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God. And, the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, shall surround your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus".

Evan Hopkins once said a Christian is one who is: "Intellectually convinced, that is mental maturity; who is morally convicted, that is emotional maturity; and who is spiritually converted, that is scriptural maturity". This is God's design for each of His children.

Fight the good fight with all thy might,
Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be,
Thy joy and crown, eternally.

Run the straight race, through God's good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

Cast care aside, lean on thy guide,
His boundless mercy, will provide;
Trust, and thy trusting soul shall prove,
Christ is its life, and Christ its love.

Faint not nor fear, His arms are near,
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe, and thou shalt see,
That Christ is all in all, to thee.

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