The Surpassing Worth and Transforming Power of Knowing Jesus (2)2
In the previous article I pointed out that the key to Paul’s personal transformation is found in what he identifies as the ground or motive for his decision: it was because of Christ. Continue reading . . .
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:1-11).
In the previous article I pointed out that the key to Paul’s personal transformation is found in what he identifies as the ground or motive for his decision: it was because of Christ. It was the prospect of gaining Christ, the promise of all that God is for him in Jesus that provoked and stirred and stimulated him and accounts for his re-evaluation of everything in his life. Paul actually makes this point no fewer than eight times!
First, it was "for the sake of Christ" (v. 7a), with a view to a personal relationship of love and prayer and praise and guidance with the Son of God, that I now count all things as loss.
Second, Paul made this momentous decision "because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (v. 8a). Or, to put it in other words, Paul wanted to experience "the overwhelming gain" and "the unparalleled excellency" of Jesus. He yearned for "the supreme advantage" and "the ultimate value" of walking and talking with the second person of the Trinity. His vision was fixed on "the surpassing greatness" and "the incomparable excellence" of knowing Jesus! Paul said No to earthly achievements and fleshly pleasures because his heart and will were energized and empowered by the prospect of a superior delight: knowing Jesus.
Third, he refers to Jesus as the one for whose “sake I have suffered the loss of all things" (v. 8b). Again we see that he didn't suffer loss in a vacuum. He willingly suffered loss for a living, loving person, to gain intimacy and peace with a person, to embrace and be embraced by a person: Jesus. Lest you think that Paul's decision carries no relevance for you, observe that he refers to “whatever” things in v. 7 and “all things” in v. 8. It doesn't matter who is confronted with this decision, when it occurs, or what it is that one forsakes for the sake of knowing Jesus. The reward is the same.
Fourth, his decision was made "in order that I may gain Christ" (v. 8c). To lose or to give up or to forfeit or to turn away from something without a reason, namely, to get something infinitely better, is crazy. Paul makes it clear that it is Christ himself, not his blessings or favor or gifts but the person of the Son of God himself that accounts for this transformation in the allegiance of his soul. His decision was not grounded in fear, shame, boredom, or any other negative incentive. It was "because of Christ", i.e., the hope of getting more and better and greater and more beautiful and more satisfying experience of the knowledge and fellowship found only in Christ that explains his revolutionary decision.
Fifth, it was in order that I may “be found in him" (v. 9) that he regarded the formerly fragrant achievements of life to be a repugnant stench of refuse. Whether in Rome or Philippi or Antioch or Oklahoma City; whether healthy or sick or worried or care free or wealthy or poor; it only matters that he (we) be “in him.” Thus, Paul says, "Not only do I want to get Christ; I want to get in Christ! I want to find him and then be found in him.”
There is no way around it: Paul is talking about a fundamental change in his personal identity. No longer did he see himself merely as Paul, or even as an apostle, or even merely as a Christian. Rather, in sweeping and comprehensive language he says I do everything for his sake; I evaluate everything else in comparison with him and invariably find it all to be worthless and Christ alone to be of incomparable excellence; I happily suffer the loss of everything that I once held dear; I only want to get him and gain him and hold onto him and to be found in him. Christ is his magnificent obsession!
Sixth, echoing his earlier statement in v. 8a, it was “that I may know him" (v. 10a). When I hear words such as this I am reminded of Paul's reference in 2 Corinthians 2:14 to "the sweet aroma of the knowledge of him." Knowing Jesus stimulates olfactory delights! There is a spiritual and emotional pleasure in knowing Jesus that can best be compared to the physical delight we experience when our nostrils are filled with the fragrance of the choicest of perfumes or the soothing aroma of our favorite food. Simply put, knowing Jesus smells good!
The seventh and eighth of his assertions pertain to his desire to know “the power of his resurrection” (v. 10b) and to “share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (v. 10c). These we will examine more closely in future articles.
In conclusion, I read this passage and I want to be able, with Paul, to honestly and sincerely and with joy say: "Those things in my life that used to have a stranglehold on me, I now regard as dung, as refuse, as rubbish; in comparison with the surpassing beauty and glory of Christ, they no longer have any appeal; their glitter and glamour have gone. My eye is no longer drawn to look upon them, my heart is no longer in love with them, my will is no longer enslaved to them, my mind no longer thinks about them, my taste buds no longer find them delicious."
Jesus is incomparably better. Jesus is enough! This is the enjoyment and satisfaction and delight that alone have the power to kill sin in our souls.
And what can be said to those who until now have held on tightly to their worldly status and their educational achievements and their fleshly rewards and all the things that our society holds dear and wars to own? What can be said to those who perhaps for the first time are recognizing the bankruptcy of all such things and facing the emptiness of life that they produce?
Do you want to know Jesus? Do you desire to be found in him alone? Do you treasure him as of surpassing worth, exceeding all else in life? Do repudiate whatever so-called “righteousness” you think you’ve accumulated in life until now and cast yourself instead on the righteousness of Christ alone, received by faith alone?
If the answer is Yes, then entrust yourself to him today. Make Paul’s words your own. Make his confession your own. And Christ will be yours, and you will be his!