Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Off the Hook.

"Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things.  If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you." (Philippians 3:15)

I love this statement Paul makes when he's writing to his friends in Philippi.  But a strange things has happened over the years, spiritual maturity has come to be mean something very different from what Paul was talking about.  It seems like spiritual maturity now means something like, lot's of knowledge, good theology, having your life together, working in the ministry, position in the church, position in the world, etc, etc.  It's funny because just before this statement Paul says when it comes to those things no one could possibly compete with him.  He was the real deal.  However, he considers all those things, the things that we often hold in such high esteem, 'rubbish', (which is the sanitized version of dog shit that bible translators have used because Christians shouldn't use words like that.)  He put no confidence in anything the world holds dear.  So what does he mean then by 'spiritually mature' if its not something we can measure with the typical metrics we use to measure maturity.  The word Paul used there is the same word used in other places, sometimes translated perfect.  Ouch, now you're really worried, because you know you're never going to get there.  And that's the point.  
Over and over Paul tells us not to look at ourselves because he knows where his perfection comes from.  Now if Paul's metric for maturity or perfection is not those outward things, what is he talking about?  Well Jesus put it like this when he was on the cross, "it is finished".  And I guess when Jesus says "it is finished" what he means is, "it is finished." That is the perfection Paul is pointing us to believe in.  It is finished.  Absolute and total belief that Jesus has done everything and given you everything required to be 'mature', 'complete', 'perfect' in your Fathers eyes.  Everything else, the gifts, the fruit, the life, is part of the big gift.  
Paul worked very hard to get where he was on the Pharisaical totem pole.  He worked very hard to be blameless under the law.  He worked very hard to stomp out this Jesus nonsense.  Paul took great pride in his family heritage, his nationality.  Until God revealed to him, it was finished, then he just walked away, free and clear, from the never ending pursuit of perfection by his own performance.   Here's the beautiful part to me, Paul doesn't just change his beliefs, he doesn't just go on with his old determination as a Pharisee, but in a new direction under a new banner.  Paul, who once wouldn't have be able stop unless you either agreed with his point of view or he put you jail, now says, "I'm sure God is going to reveal this to you".  He doesn't even have confidence in his words, only in the Holy Spirit.  It's brilliant.  Do you see how you're off the hook.  If 'super-Paul-the-apostle' puts zero confidence in his ability to make this true to you, I feel much better about knowing my words aren't going to sway you to believe it's finished, only the Holy Spirit will do that.  Hey maybe he'll use these words, but whatever, that's his business.
Right now, I feel very mature, perfect even, in my faith.  Not because my life is perfect, not because I know all the answers to all the hard questions, not because I could beat you in a debate, not because I have complete victory and confidence that I'll never sin again, but I know the one who is all those things that I am not and he's given all of himself to me.  And to you if you'll just believe him.
Jesus is the author and perfecter of your faith. You too can be as spiritually mature as Paul and I, just stop chasing those things the world measures and set your eyes on the prize. Whether you believe him or not, it is finished, so whenever he reveals that to you, be like Paul and don't ever look back.  Just set you're eyes on Him and throw the rest of that stuff in the trash.  That news is off the hook and so are you.   

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