By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Eagle Point, OR. May 26, 1985)
Before Jesus died he was leaving last instructions to his disciples and also comforting them and preparing them for what was about to happen.
Jno.14:1-9 (interesting discussion)
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many dwellings; if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. “If you had known me, you would have known my father also; and from now on you know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you such a long time, and yet you have not known me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father’?
So the place to where Jesus was going was to the Father, and in order to know the Father you have to know Jesus, and in order to get to the Father, you have to go through Jesus, the Way - he is the way because he is the truth and the life. The way to the Father is by truth and life - Jesus is both.
Paul also talks about reaching and gaining something and the way to go about it.
...if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
So unlike Philip, Paul knows whither he is going, he knows what it is that the life of a Christian is aiming at and striving for. And he also knows the way to reach that goal.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Again, Christ is the way. The ultimate all consuming desire and purpose in Paul's life was to gain Christ. He gave up everything that was of value to him, in order to gain Christ.
1. To be found in him 2. To know him 3. To know the power of his resurrection 4. To know the fellowship of his sufferings
Then Paul lists several things that gaining Christ meant to him.
I ) To be found in him
To gain Christ was to not have to trust in his own doing of the precepts of the Law to be right before God - but to trust in what Christ had done for him through the cross. To gain Christ is to have your righteousness to be a product, not of your own doing, but a product of your faith in Jesus Christ - the justification that he bought for you by laying down his life in sacrifice for you sins. Your justification was by God's grace not by anything that you had or did.
My right standing before God is because of what Jesus did for me, not because of what I have done or can do. To be found in Christ is to not have to stand on your own merits or stand alone in a judgement. But to be found in him - all my hope and defense is to be standing in him.
II ) To know him
Secondly to win or gain Christ is to know him.
1. There are at least two main ideas in the word "know" in Greek.
oida (oida) means to understand, perceive with the mind.
gnwskw (gnosko) means to recognize and become acquainted with something.
For example, if someone asks you, "Do you know President Bush?"
You would say, "Yes." meaning that you know who he is as the President.
But when someone asks you, "But do you know President Bush?" They are asking if are you personally acquainted with him.
Then the answer is probably, "No."
Gnosko is a "put your finger on it" kind of knowledge, and then in a stronger form of the same word, epignosko, is a full knowledge and experiential realization of something's essence or someone's real character.
2. To know Christ then, suggests the knowing of a personal experience in getting to know, getting acquainted with Christ in a first hand relationship with him.
How do we come to know Christ? The same way we come to know anyone - by being with him, by talking to him, by listening to him, by walking in his shoes. That's what the term "Christian" suggests, that we are like Jesus - a follower of Christ. A person who follows Jesus is not trying to be his own man, but is actively trying to emulate the life of the risen Christ, to be like Christ in everything.
Those of us who have been immersed into Christ have put on Christ. The Christian has died to his former self and is pursuing a course of living the life of Jesus in its place. Paul said in Gal.4:19 that Christ is being formed in us, and in Gal.2:20 that it was no longer Paul who lived but, Christ lived in him.
We come to know Christ because we come to act like him. We act like him to such an extent that what Jesus would have done in your place in a given situation, is exactly what you find yourself doing. That is when you realize that he lives in you - Jesus is doing the work in and through you. That is being one with him.
3. To know Christ we need to be absolutely and completely given to Christ. We need to internalize Jesus, make him what we want to be, make him our primary goal in life.
We become like the person with whomever we spend time. That's just human nature. People rub off on you, both positive influence and negative. In addition, if we happen to like the individual and have a keen interest in him, then we will actually copy that person and try to make their life and character into our own - we idolize him. That is how Christ is to the Christian. What we are really doing is pursuing a realization of ourselves. Who are we? What should we be? What is it possible for me to be? We look for a model.
Our model is the new Adam of the new creation from whom we derive all our characteristics by the new birth.
4. Some people' identity is in their jobs. "I'm a doctor". I'm a biologist" or "I'm a soldier". It is their "calling", it is what they profess. That is who they are, that is to what their whole life is dedicated.
The Christian's life is Christ. Our jobs are just our means of livelihood to carry on our real profession of God's work in the earth. Our life - is Christ. There needs to be such an identification with Christ as to feel like we are extensions of his being. We are related to him - members of his family.
The church is the body of Christ. (Eph.2:22) Do you feel like one of his members? Do you have that meaningful, coordinating purpose about your life? To be one with Christ is like being plugged into him - that you are a channel by which he works and has influence in the world.
5. Most kids at or about 20 years old begin looking for meaning. I realize now that what we were all looking for was Christ, because he is the answer to every need. He is the meaning. He is the reason. We all were created for meaning. We cannot live without it. And if we are honest with ourselves, there will not be an activity, a cause, or a career big enough, meaningful enough, important enough to fill that need we have, that void, that hunger for meaning, until we find Christ and are one with him and get with the program of what God is doing in the universe.
Man will never be satisfied until he knows Christ. God has made us with needs and hungers. Man by himself can fulfill every need but one. God has made us for a personal union and oneness with himself. Man will never find true peace and fulfillment and satisfaction out of life, until he finds Christ.
Paul said that he gave it all up for this one thing - Jesus Christ. To know Jesus Christ. Everything else is secondary to the surpassing excellency of a first hand, experiential knowledge, a personal acquaintance with Christ. There is not anything more precious that we can attain.
III ) To know the power of his resurrection
Another thing Paul wanted to know experientially in Phil.3:8-11 was the power of his resurrection. This power is something that has been working in us since we obeyed the gospel but something with which we may be unfamiliar, given the teaching that has been done in the church generally.
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.
This same power that is in us who believe is the same power whereby God raised Jesus from the dead, which is why it is called the power of his resurrection. Paul was speaking to Christians and he was praying that they might understand what this power is.
Eph.2:1; 4-6 (notice that "together" means along with him)
And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins...
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
The power of his resurrection begins in us by the new life that is quickened in us when we are raised from baptism in the likeness of his resurrection, to walk in newness of life. (Rom.6) It is the power of the new birth. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that raises our spirits from the dead and quickens in us that new creation, the new man that is renewed in knowledge after the image of Jesus Christ. (Col.3:10)
This principle and rule of Life in Christ, is to what I think Paul refers in Rom.5:10-18:
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
I am reconciled by his death because his blood on the cross takes away my sin and I can lift up my head now and draw near to God because I am free from guilt.
I am saved by his life because his resurrected life is the life that I can live now through his Spirit and be free from the dominion of sin in my life, and free from the death that was waiting to seal my fate. That is the Power of his resurrection.
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.
He is not talking about reigning in this life. He is saying that Life is the principle by which we reign in Jesus Christ. That is why it is called "justification of Life.
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
Speaking of his resurrection, Jesus said in Jno.14:19, "Because I live, you shall live also."
That is the power of his resurrection.
We know the true life, the abundant life that Jesus gives us, when we know the power of his resurrection. It is the power of his resurrected life that makes our spiritual life possible.
The sanctification of the Spirit is by Christ's life also. Because it is the Spirit's job to communicate Christ's holy life to us and form us into his image by faith. (Rom.8:2) The life of Jesus is not just raw power, but has an intrinsic nature of holiness. His life has a holy character which is the means by which we overcome sin toward sanctification. Our spiritual life is his life given to us. Christ's resurrection to life - the power of it - touches every aspect of the Christian's life.
IV ) To know the fellowship of his sufferings
The last thing that Paul wanted to come to know experientially, was the fellowship of his sufferings. That is the joint participation in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. That we pick up our cross and bear the same shame and humiliation for Christ's sake.
When your life is hid with Christ in God and your total interests and identification is in the life of Jesus Christ, when he lives in you, then what happens is that your earthly life suffers a continual death and mortification.
Your worldly friends will say, "Well, what's the matter with you? Don't you want to have fun anymore? You're just not the same, man! What's got into you?"
From the world's perspective that is death. And according to our human fleshly nature, we let go and we allow that death to occur. We resign our "old man" to the long term, continual rejection and crucifixion of the cross.
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us manifesting the fragrance of his knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
To the world we smell like death. We look forward to leaving the earth. We talk about dieing all the time. We even worship a dead guy. From the world's standpoint, we conform to his death, but from heaven's standpoint, we conform to his resurrected life.
Now, when that happens, the world does not know you anymore. 1Jno.3:1, "Therefore the world knows us not because it knew him not." Therefore the world will strike out against what is foreign to it. Look at what Jesus said,
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Remember the word that I said to you, “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also.
But all these things they will do to you for my name’s sake, because they do not know him who sent me."
But what this is - is more of the life of Jesus being formed in us. If we want to be like Christ, then we have to arm ourselves with the mind that we will be treated like Christ was treated.
We are being made conformable to his death. Paul said in 2Tim.3:12, "Yes, and all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." He did not say might suffer, but will suffer. Spiritually speaking, it is the natural consequence of being godly.
But Paul in our text in Philippians seems to want that experience. He wants to be as much like Christ as is possible, even to suffering with him. He does not just want a little bit of Jesus to make him comfortable and secure - he is striving for all the blessing e can get in knowing him, experiencing the power of his resurrected life and the complete conformity to his person in the fellowship of his suffering.
But the reason he is doing this is because Christ is the way. He is the way to true life, he is the way to the resurrection, he is the way to God the Father. Paul's total identity was in Christ to the point he could say, "It is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me."
That should be our goal. If our religion is not bringing us to know Jesus Christ, then we are headed in the wrong direction. It is in our conformity to Christ and our personal intimate relationship to him that holds our way to life and glory with him.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together. For I account that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to come which shall be revealed unto us.
This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with him,
We shall also live with him.
If we endure, [i.e. suffering]
We shall also reign with him.
If we deny him,
He also will deny us.
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny himself.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified.
Jesus is the way - and the way to have Jesus is to be:
found in him.
To know him
and the power of his resurrection
and the fellowship of his suffering.
~ Invitation ~