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May 24, 2023

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained.  Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Philippians 3:15-17)


Do these verses sound a bit arrogant to you?  It’s almost as if Paul is saying some more Christian-y version of: “my way or the highway,” or maybe “grow up or get out.”

It might sound that way: but there’s more going on here than meets the eye.  In the original language behind these verses, it’s clear that Paul is making a reference back the beginning of chapter 2 where he says: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”  The same Greek word behind “mindset” is behind the phrase “such a view of things” and the word “think.” 

In other words, Paul is saying: “All of us who are mature should take on the same mindset as that of Christ Jesus, even as you have witnessed me doing while I was with you and in the story I just told about how I consider everything a loss for the gain of knowing Christ and living out his mindset.”  In other words: the mindset of Christ IS what it means to be mature in Christ. 

To that end, Paul has attempted to give his own life and experience as a visible witness and pattern of this mindset of Christ that humbly submits to God and gives up everything as loss.  As Christ does so for the sake of the Father, so Paul does it for the sake of Christ.  And now he tells the Philippians: imitate me as I imitate Christ.  Or, imitate someone else whose life imitates mine or that of Christ. 

The point in any case is that knowing the truth of Christ must necessarily mature into living the life of Christ—that life of humble submission.  If believing the right truths about Christ is as far as you ever get, then you have not yet grown up.  This is an immature Christian life.  Regardless, Paul does remain “confident… that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).  Indeed, as he says: wherever your mindset differs from that of Christ Jesus, Paul trusts that God will make it clear to you. 

Paul also encourages the church not to go backwards.  “Let us live up to what we have already attained,” he says.  The goal is always to be straining forwards, looking ahead, keeping one’s eyes fixed on Christ—or at least on those ahead of you who are following Christ—so that all of us might more and more run the race of growing up into Christ until we become mature. 

So, a question that came up before comes up again here: who are you following into this mindset and way of Christ—this way of the cross: of humility, submission, and loss?  Who is following you?  And, what is God clarifying to you in terms of the way you walk in light of these words of Philippians about the mindset of Christ?  May these questions help you attend to the ways you are running the race of growing up to maturity in Christ.