Pressing towards the Mark
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 unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling
of God in Christ Jesus" Phil 3:13-14.
In his personal testimony, Paul tells us that he is determinedly
moving toward an attainable goal. Our knowing what this goal
is will make our spiritual journey through life much more
productive. This begins with our understanding the purpose
of our predestination.
"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" Romans8:29. This speaks
of an on-going process.
"And Jesus KEPT INCREASING in wisdom and stature"
Luke 2:52a NAS. Upon the cross, He said, "It is finished."
He fully accomplished our redemption, making a way for us
to become a mature member of His Body. However, we begin this
process of spiritual growth as a spiritual baby. "As
newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye
may grow thereby" I Peter 2:2.
Thus, Jesus became the fully developed head of an immature
body. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and
of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto
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 something
that is far more important to us than our going to heaven.
The goal of our Christian experience is to "keep increasing"
until we come to full 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" Rom 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.
Actually, things do not work; rather, the Lord arranges them
in ways that will help us to mature.
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 likened 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,"
Eph 4:13-14a Williams Trans.
If I were to say to a 4 year old, "You are a baby"
this child would become very indignant. I would be informed
by him that he is not a baby, but rather "big."
The young ever wish to be instantly grown, but this requires
a fixed, pre-arranged period of time. However, our rate of
spiritual growth is governed by a different law. This time
can be shortened through our cooperation with the Lord as
He "works" together all things in ways that will
enhance our spiritual growth. The first working of this law
requires of us a drastic reduction. We must set aside all
ideas of our own spirituality and become as a child, ready
"Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom
of heaven" Matt 18:3. Some "deeper life" or
"sonship" teachers so emphasize the "realm"
of spiritual maturity 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" joy is frowned
upon by these as a sign of immaturity.
Some of these feel that evangelism is no longer necessary,
or that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer needed.
Some even believe that they have gone beyond the "five-fold"
ministry into a new "realm" of ministry as "mature
sons." These seek to be "pronounced" an adult
and instantly arrive "unto a perfect man, unto the measure
of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph4:13).
Like the 4 year old, they proclaim themselves to be what
they are not. "Therefore leaving the principles of the
doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection;" Heb
6:1a. 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. Most certainly, spiritual
maturity is important, but we must begin as a babe in Christ
and then fully experience each stage of spiritual growth.
The experiences of one level of growth will lead us into the
next. We need not fear being left behind.
If a 4 year old could be pronounced an adult and instantly
become one, this "instant-adult" would be very frustrated
and unstable. As spiritual children, our times of seeming
"immature" spiritual experiences (areas of emotional
expression which some, who consider themselves mature, are
very intolerant of)have a very important part in our developing
into a mature, balanced adult.
Jesus said, "When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding,
sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man
than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him
come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin
with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden,
go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade
thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then
shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at
meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased;
and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" Luke 14:8-11.
To assume a position of "spiritual superiority"
and proclaim that we are "beyond" basic spiritual
experiences and principles 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 mature person does this by choice and then
goes on to greater things. As an adult, we can enjoy milk
or steak, but the child is limited to milk.
It is not that we grow out of the "milk" stage
and then press into the "dealings" (meat) 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 a "babe" and coddled
accordingly. At the same time, in another view, we may be
seen as an adult wherein much more is expected of us.
As we progress though each of these different stages of
spiritual growth, we are to fully experience all of the inner
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, in reality, spiritually mature we can afford
to take a "lesser" seat in the coming "banquet"
when the Lord will move in manifest visitation. That which
we have "experientially" grown into will be evident
to others and what we have become will make room for us.
Then, He will be able to invite us to come up higher and
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.