In this third installment of the Throughline series, Greg explores what it means to mature in the Christian faith and how that impacts our decision making.
A central theme in Woodland Hills’ history and teaching has been a passion for staying passionate. This call to always be growing and reject any feeling of arrival has been at the center of our mission as a church. In reality, as Paul shares in Philippians 3:10-15, if you think you’ve arrived and reached full maturity in your faith in Christ, that itself is actually a sign that you haven’t. We learn a follower of Christ is always pressing forward to what’s next, forgetting what lies behind and asking how I can experience God even deeper in my present and future.
We all experience situations as we get older where it becomes painfully apparent that our minds and bodies and on different aging scales. Our bodies aren’t able accomplish the same feats they did when we were kids. In reality all of life around us is constantly changing, not just our bodies. Our relationships, even with God, are in a constant state of change for better or for worse. We see all around us that without the application of energy and a sense of being intentional things naturally wear down and atrophy. What Paul is saying in Philippians is that there is no mindset of arrival, or sense of coasting in a mature follower of Jesus’ walk. There is always more depth to experience of God’s love, His power, and His grace in our life, we just have to be open and intentional about seeking it out.
Paul is simply telling us in this passage not to lose our first love – Stay hungry, stay passionate, keep moving forward asking God to reveal more of Himself to you, ask to be used in new and challenging ways for His kingdom. Life is not a pond. It’s a flowing river that is always changing so we need to stay engaged and moving with it.
One practical way to keep our passion as a follower of Jesus is to never stop giving thanks. There is a definite connection in scripture between cultivating a heart of gratitude, and the amount of joy and passion present in a person’s life. Paul was not motivated by fear. He was motivated by what Christ had done in His life, and he gave thanks for it constantly. We must keep it fresh and never get used to the good news. It couldn’t be better than it is, and we must remember that at all costs and give God thanks for it. We are to keep our mindset on the positives and not take anything for granted. The more you do something the better you get at it. This applies to both gratitude and bitterness.
The second practical tool to keep our passion it is always be seeking out and embracing new challenges. It would have been easy for Paul to sit back and rest on all he had accomplished in moving the kingdom of God forward, but instead he considered maturity being an attitude of always pressing forward and looking to experience God in new and deeper ways. If things get stagnant, then something needs to change and be made new. Routines are great, as long as they’re actually giving life. There is always something that can be made new – how we relate to God, how we pray, worship styles, new disciplines, retreats or conferences, books, blessing others as a discipline, paying attention to following the Spirit, etc. This applies to us as individuals but also to us as a church. We can continue to play a significant role in what God is doing in the world if we remain hungry.
The easy thing to do is to get used to life, get used to the good news, and let it lose the fire and passion that may have once ignited inside us. But as followers of Jesus, we are to follow Paul’s example in considering maturity a mindset, not a destination. We’re not looking to retire and coast in our spirituality, but rather joy comes in always pressing forward toward our goal and asking for more and deeper parts of Jesus.
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