Pressing the mark.

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I read of a very interesting remark recently and this is what it said “The “power of grace” is a self-centered Gospel that produces little to know true and demonstrable Kingdom Fruit upon the earth: Kingdom Expansion and Multiplication (Discipleship) – it focuses Believers upon an inward looking, low expectations and self-gratifying Gospel. It’s main goal? For the hearer to feel more spiritually comfortable with ‘not pressing towards the mark’ and an emphasis on “getting more stuff”…”

I must say I am intrigued by this statement in particular “For the hearer to feel more spiritually comfortable with ‘not pressing towards the mark’” 

Really? 

Here is what I am surprised with. He say that the “power of grace” make the hearers  comfortable “not pressing towards the mark”. Pressing the mark is a term used by Paul in Philippians 3:14. For context sake let me quote the whole of Philippians 3:

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

13 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,

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

I beckon him to ask this question “what is pressing toward the mark?” If you look at the whole context of what Paul had just stated, he was saying that his whole life of achievement of accolades as having confidence in the flesh. That is to say what he achieved through being a pious practitioner of legalistic righteousness through the law of Moses: “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”  Yet Paul considers this “confidence in the flesh”. It is definitely not “pressing toward the mark”.

Pressing the mark according to Paul starts by a believer ditching “righteousness that comes from the Law” which is confidence in the flesh ie. Boasting about who he is and what he has achieved. It is about this: “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”.

That is how we press for the mark. By recognizing we have no righteousness of our own by observing the law but by believing in Jesus. That is how we know him and the power of his resurrection!

Secondly, Kingdom fruit is not produced by effort. It is produced by a righteousness that comes through faith and through grace. Galatians 5 speaks about this fruit. Hence if he had bother to look at the book of Galatians and its outline he would probably note the dichotomy that Paul spoke about. Law and Grace. Here is how it pens out:

Chapter 1

 

Message by the angel – Law                                      

Paul’s Gospel which was received personally from Jesus – Grace

 

Chapter 2

Peter’s refusal to eat with Gentiles – Law

The righteousness that comes by being already crucified Christ  – Grace

 

Chapter 3

Self effort – Law

Signs and wonders from the Spirit – Grace

 

Chapter 4

Hagar/ Mount Sinai – Law

Sarah/ Mount Zion – Grace

 

Chapter 6

Sowing in the flesh, Circumcision – Law

Sowing in the Spirit, Right believing – Grace

 

So guess what is chapter 5?

Works of the Flesh – Law

Fruit of the Spirit – Grace.

 

Jesus never said we are to bear fruits. Bearing fruit comes from abiding in Christ and not self effort. Quoting Major Ian Thomas :

“Fruit is not what we do, but who we are; not our activity, but our Christlikeness; not our relationship to people, but the condition of our character. Do you remember what James said in his epistle? “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). The “spirit” there means breath, and a body without breath is dead. Stop breathing–and folk will bury you! In other words a living breathing body breathes, and a living faith breathes with divine action. A living faith breathes with the activity of Jesus Christ. That is why the Lord Jesus, in John 6:29, said. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

That is the work of God. It is your living faith in the adequacy of the One who is in you, which releases His divine action through you. It is the kind of activity that the Bible calls “good works,” as opposed to “dead works.””

 

You press on because God is working in you. 

 

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2 thoughts on “Pressing the mark.

  1. Amen Simon! Grace challenges anything that stems from self-effort. Years ago, I felt God speak to me the verse in Hebrews that says we are to cease from OUR OWN works. It has taken me years to learn this (and am still). We have two things promoting law: the mindset that came through eating of the tree of knowledge and legalistic messages that have been ingrained in the church. The power of grace, which is Jesus Himself, is the only thing that can set us free.

    I can honestly say that I feel much more fruitful now that I understand grace a bit more. This is in part BECAUSE I feel more comfortable in God and BECAUSE I’m not worrying about getting more stuff because it all has been given to me in Christ already 🙂

    Paul says that understanding the grace of God in truth is what causes the gospel to bear fruit (Col.1:5-7)

  2. Thanks for this. Brilliantly explicated. I’ve struggled with this verse since my GRACE revelation and you’ve explained it perfectly here.

    One other verse I struggle with is where Paul says: ‘Not that I have attained all this, or have already been made perfect.’

    Whereas Hebrews says we have been made perfect by the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.’

    Why does Paul use this expression (teleos) ?

    Does he believe we are on a journey towards ‘perfection’ ?

    Someone has said to me ‘living up to what we have already attained’ means bringing our actual lives in line with the righteousness we have in Christ, which suggests our righteousness depends on our own self efforts in living up to Christ’s righteousness.

    What are your thoughts?

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