“Therefore, let us, as many as are mature, have this mind…” Phil 3:15a ”
So…what is that maturity that Paul was talking about? Being a words kind of guy, I looked up the words ‘mature’ and ‘maturity’ in Webster’s 1828 dictionary. The definition of ‘mature’ (adj) that caught my eye was this: completed; prepared; ready. The only question would be prepared and ready for what?
Romans 8:29 says that we are ‘predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son’. The end result of maturity is a perfect reflection of Jesus Christ, but the process by which that occurs is called, in biblical terms, santification, which means to cleanse or purify. Ephesians 5:26-27 says, “…that He might sanctify her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Then, if maturation and sanctification are the same thing, than what does the end product look like? To examine this, I looked at Jesus’s life on earth as an example. Nowhere is His life and purpose better described than in Phil 2:5-8. It reads, “Let this mind (sometimes translated attitude) be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being in the appearance of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
There are four things that I see in that brief look at Christ-Humility, Selflessness, Bond-Servanthood, and Obedience. These things were characteristics of His attitude, just as they should be evident in our attitudes.
First, Selflessness-though He was God, He laid down His rights as God to take the form of man; He made Himself of no reputation. Too often we forget that as a Christian, we have no rights. Jesus said if a man asks you for your cloak to give him your tunic as well, or walk the extra mile. Philippians 2:3-4 says “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.”
Second, he took the form of a bondservant. Bondservants are servants that choose to serve a master, not because of duty but because of love for the master and a desire to serve him. Paul called himself a bondservant of Christ in his letter to the Church at Phillipi. Jesus served his disciples at the Lord’s Supper when he washed their feet. He came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Third, he was obedient, even to death on a cross. This obedience was not done out of a sense of duty but rather love. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.”(John 14:15) Jesus was obedient in service to the Father and gave His life as a ransom for you and I. Again, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)
Lastly, Jesus had humility. This can’t be much more obvious than it already is. Each of the other points also deal with humility, which is why I believe it is the driving thing behind the maturing process, “For God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34) Humility is foundational to the life of a believer, just as it was to the life of Christ.
So then, in a practical sense, what does all this look like? Paul talks about these things in his epistles, first as abstract concepts that stem from our understanding of God and His work in us, then as practical outward shows of His work in us. (Romans 12; Gal 5:22-25; Eph 4-6; Phil 3-4; Col 3-4; etc)
The sweet thing about all this is that, although we have a part to play in this process of sanctification, God is the one that causes the growth. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13) “And He who began a good work in you will carry it out to complete until the day of Christ.” (Phil 1:6) “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly await for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil 3:20-21)