“… I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Php 3:14)
The Apostle Paul’s eyes were on the finishing line. He could see the mark! What an incredible grace that was! What a glorious revelation! And I can tell you now what it was that Paul saw. He saw suffering and death. He knew he had to die; and the ‘pressing towards the mark’ he is talking about is his determination to put away the old self with its worldly aspirations, desires, and lusts, that he might gain the life of Christ.
The Apostle Paul came to understand in an incredible way that he had to pass through death to enter into life. He tells the Corinthians: “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.” 1Co 15:36
There was a time in my Christian life when I could not claim Paul’s victorious words for myself; and even now I still cannot do so with any amount of confidence. The difference between then and now, however, is that now I understand what the mark that Paul was pressing towards was. Back then I did not understand it. I did not have that revelation. I floated along in my Christian life and ministry, blissfully unaware of that aspect of suffering and dying with Christ. I would hold wrong attitudes and desires in my heart and not think a thing about it. As long as on the outside I appeared and acted and felt all right that was okay with me. And let me tell you that I have the capacity to appear more than perfect on the outside; in fact, so much so that even I myself am often deceived. (In the 1990s I was in a church where if you spoke anything against me the entire congregation would have stoned you because I was considered the perfect Christian. But, unknown to them, there were dragons safely locked away in my heart, real dragons breathing real fire; and ultimately it was the wife I married who would come to set them loose).
What I am saying is that there was a time in my Christian life when I ran the race blindly. But one day God, in His great mercy and grace, granted me to hear and understand the gospel of the Cross that was preached to me by Brother Miki Hardy – the same gospel that the Apostle Paul preached – and from that time I understood that the man I was had to die. No halfway marks. The finishing line for my race was revealed: it was the total death to who I was.
The scales fell from my eyes, as it were – and death stared me in the face. Death to my human pride. Death to the world and its lusts. Death to the sinful nature. Death to Zakaria Mwita. I needed a new name! And when I realized that I fell to my knees and cried to God for His grace. Grace to die to self.
For me today the challenge is more about walking daily in that revelation, and dying daily to myself. That means guarding my heart as perfectly as I can. Of course, I cannot do that. I need the Holy Spirit to help me to do that.
If there is one thing I can say with all the strength that I have in me it is that the Church today needs revelation. A revelation of the Cross of Christ. The Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear in Ephesians 3:1-12 and in Galatians 1:11-17 that the gospel he received and preached and lived – the gospel of Christ and Him crucified – he says he received this gospel by revelation. Only through that gospel was he able to die to self. Only the revealed gospel of the Cross of Christ has the power to crucify the flesh in a man or woman.
The relevant question we need to ask ourselves today is: is Paul’s gospel the same gospel the Church today should be carrying, or should we expect a different one? If the gospel that the Church should be carrying is the same that the Apostle Paul carried, then we should fall on our knees and pray for the same revelation that Paul had.
Mind you, we can reject the Pauline doctrine of revelation and continue preaching (there is so much stuff to preach about!) but we will never arrive at the mark, the finishing line. As long as we do not put that body of the flesh to death, we shall remain spiritual babes, subject to worldly elements and wanting in spiritual maturity – and the life of Christ.
Today’s Church preaches the ‘abundant life’. The Apostle Paul preached Christ, and Him crucified. The latter requires a revelation to understand it; the other does not.