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That I May Know Him (Philippians 3:7-14)

March 20, 2016 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Misc. Messages

Topic: Philippians Passage: Philippians 3:7–3:14


That I May Know Him
Philippians 3:7-14
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
March 20th, 2016

 

I. In Your Every Day

What does it mean to be a Christian...I mean practically, in your every day? For example, think about your day tomorrow. What will you do? Where will you go? Who will you see? What responsibilities will you have? What will you buy? What will you read, watch, or listen to? What are you looking forward to? What are you not looking forward to? What temptations might be waiting for you?

Now with that picture in mind, ask yourself, “In regard to my day tomorrow, what will it mean that I am a Christian? How will that affect my day, my outlook, my priorities. Because I am a Christian, does it necessarily mean that this Monday should be different from all those Mondays when I was not a Christian? Does it mean it should be different from my non-Christian neighbor's or co-worker's, maybe my unbelieving family member's Monday?”

These are questions that are important for all of us to ask. For those of you have not been Christians for very long, it's so, so important to think very carefully about the implications of saving faith on your everyday life. And for those here this morning who have been Christians for quite a while, it's important to revisit this basic questions because it so, so easy to get stuck in a caricature of faith, content in a rut of our own making.

I want us to think about this question in light of our passage this morning from God's word. Let's turn back to Philippians 3.

 

II. The Passage: "One Thing I Do" (3:7-14)

Let's consider how Paul would answer that same question about his everyday life, about any given Monday in the life of this Apostle. Let's see what he tells us in verses 7-14...

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. [8] 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 [9] 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—[10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [11] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. [12] Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

You may remember how last week verse 14 of this chapter encouraged us in terms of the importance of going the right direction. Are you going the right direction? Am I? What does God tell us in this chapter? He tells us we are if we are heading toward Jesus. Last time we talked about why the prize of knowing Jesus was to be prized so highly. There is nothing and no one like Jesus Christ, is there. As Paul says in verse 8, knowing Christ is of “surpassing worth”, that is, worth that surpasses everything else in value.

But as I mentioned last week, what does it practically mean to “know” Jesus? What does that pursuit look like, what should it look like in your everyday life? Few questions are more important. In fact, this question is just another way of talking about what it means to be a Christian. What Paul gives us in these verses is a vision for our everyday. Did you hear his vision?

Based on this passage, let's look at three practical encouragements that Paul reveals about living each day as a Christian. Because of the accounting language Paul uses here, I think we could talk about these in terms of the economics of your everyday life.

Now to be clear, part of what Paul is talking about here is in reference to his initial conversion. But clearly, this passage also speaks to how Paul is living out the faith through which he was saved by grace. We see this transition in the words “counted” and “count” in verses 7 and 8. One is past tense, the other is present. One speaks to his initial faith, the other to walking by faith.

So what is God, through Paul, telling me here about my everyday life as a Christian. Well, if we look back at verses 7-9 we learn that, this Monday...

 

1. I Need to Throw Out Me-Centered Measures of Worth (3:7-9)

In verses 5 and 6, Paul just laid out a number of qualities, privileges, and accomplishments that once served as the foundation for Paul's own sense of worthiness. But everything changed when Paul met Jesus. Listen to how one commentator describes that change:

At once he realized that those “good” things he had cherished and striven for were not “gains” at all. They were losses that had bankrupted him. They were “evil” things bent on destroying him, because they made him self-reliant, self-satisfied, content to offer to God his own goodness. They acted as an opiate, dulling his awareness of his need for the real righteousness that God requires and that only God can supply. (Gerald F. Hawthorne)

Paul didn't label these things as second and third place items. He call them “losses”. More than that, he designated them as “rubbish”, as trash or excrement; that which belongs in the garbage dump. To be clear, Paul is not commenting on these things in and of themselves. He is talking about how, in our everyday spiritual accounting, in our everyday search for significance, everything other than Jesus must be thrown out as worthless.

What do I mean by “worthless”? I mean, such things have absolutely no value when it comes to true worth. Sure, Paul's pedigree and Paul's resume may have given him great worth in the eyes of some men, and consequently, in his own eyes. But such estimations of worth do not translate to worthiness before God. We see that in verse 9, where Paul talks about two different kinds of righteousness, one based on what we do, the other on what God does.

But Paul is not alone. All of us struggle with me-centered measures of worth. Tomorrow you and I will be tempted to look for, long for, and labor to be worthy in the eyes of those around us. To be smart, likable, productive. To be stylish. To be capable and independent. To be praised. For some that will mean conforming. For others, rebelling. For some it will mean seeming 'normal'. For others, it will mean standing out from the crowd. For some it will mean moral compromise. For others, moral superiority.

In fact, as Christians, we have a whole host of things that fall into this same category. You see, the Bible is full of right things we can do for all the wrongs reasons; things to say, ways to pray, commands to obey, all in order to measure up; all to boast before others. But while such things might be pleasing to others, they cannot make us worthy before God.

Why will you do what you do tomorrow?

Remember, in our search for significance, God tells us we must “count [these things] as rubbish”. If we do not, we cannot “gain Christ”. This is true when we first come to Christ, and this is true every day after that. Me-centered measures and the sufficiency of Jesus are mutually exclusive. If we admit we're penniless, Jesus has unimaginable riches for us. But if we believe we have something, even if it's just a penny, our hands will be way too full.

What do I need to do tomorrow? I need to, you need to, throw out me-centered measures of worth. But there's more. Look at verses 10 and 11. Paul also shows me that, tomorrow...

 

2. I Need to Treasure Jesus and His Gospel as My Daily and Only Hope (3:10, 11)

As we just talked about, Paul counted everything as “loss” or “rubbish” in order to “gain Christ”. But what does that mean? Well, clearly this “gain” is the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Talk about value. Talk about priceless. We should gladly throw out everything else in order to gain, in order to know Christ.

The first thing we might say about knowing Jesus is indicated by the titles Paul uses here. In this passage, Paul refers to Jesus six times as “Christ” and once as “my Lord”. You may remember that “Christ” is in fact a title related to lordship. It is the Greek way of talking about the Messiah, the “anointed one”, the coming king from David's family. But if you know the stoy of Paul's life, then you know the only reason Paul is calling Jesus the Messiah is because of revelation; because Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

In the same way, for us, knowing Jesus must always begin with revelation through God's word. That's how we learn about Jesus. That's how we learn why Jesus is Lord, and what it means to serve him as Lord.

But the knowing Paul is writing about here is connected to the deeper way the Bible often uses that word. One commentator says this about the idea of knowing someone...

Thus the bible does not say that Adam knew Eve (Genesis 4:1) because it is too shy to speak openly about sexual matters, but because this is what knowledge between persons is—deep, intimate union. Consequently, having been saved wholly and solely by Christ, Paul wants to enter into the deepest possible union with him. (J.A. Motyer)

And the way Paul expresses that kind of union here is through the language of the gospel. What do I mean? I mean that Paul goes on to explain his desire for an ever deepening knowledge of Jesus through the realities of Christ's sufferings, His death, and His resurrection. Do you see that? This is not at all unusual for Paul. How could it be. This is the prize he was pursuing! Just listen to other places where Paul writes about this experiential knowledge...

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:4-5)

For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (II Corinthians 1:5)

[We are] always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. [11] For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (II Cor. 4:10-11)

I think Paul is reminding the Philippians, and God is reminding us through Paul, that our greatest treasure is to experience, every single day, new life in Christ. That's not a life based on me-centered measures of worthiness, of self sufficiency, of worldly acceptance. No. It's based wholly on Jesus, and becoming like Jesus. You see, we move from knowing about Jesus to knowing Jesus by eagerly seeking and earnestly submitting to the life He wants to live in us.

Commander Ryan J. Bernacchi. It would be one thing to sit and have coffee with Commander Bernacchi; to spend time getting to know him over a latte. But it would be quite another thing doing with him what he does best. You see, Ryan Bernacchi is the flight leader of the Blue Angels, the Navy's elite flying team. I promise you that you would get to know Commander Bernacchi in a very different and very astounding way if you were sitting behind him in the cockpit of an F-18, at 10,000 feet, going 600 mph.

What the suffering, sacrificing and risen Christ does best is love and glorify God. And it is only through living IN his suffering and death, living in the power of His new life, that we can truly know him. Dying to sin and self, rejecting the world's ways, and resisting the devil involve suffering. But in that emptying for Christ, there is a power from Christ that is ours. Paul knew there was nothing better. Did you know that can be yours tomorrow?

But there's one more thing we have to see about Paul's economics of the heart. In thinking about my Monday, I go on to learn in verses 12-14 that...

 

3. I Need to Spend Myself in Light of that Hope (3:12-14)

Truly treasuring the prize of experiencing the suffering, sacrificing and risen Christ means we will be true 'treasure hunters'. For example, people who believe they have special information about a particular shipwreck have so often spent everything, every last cent they own, in order to find sunken treasure. They gladly give up what they believe pales in comparison to the treasure they hope to gain. Paul does the same with the treasure of knowing Christ. Pastor James Boice talked about Paul's passion like this:

Paul was not complacent, and we shouldn't be either. Instead of smugness Paul knew a sanctified ambition, and he threw himself eagerly into the race that God had set before him. (James Montgomery Boice)

Paul spent himself every day with this prize in mind, didn't he? He couldn't have expressed his total commitment any more strongly then the language of 12-14. Like the runners who this summer will be going for the gold, Paul was pressing on. He was straining forward. His focus on that treasure, that prize, was intense and singular. He expressed this same desire at the beginning of the book as well:

...as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. [21] For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (1:18-21)

Do you have a “sanctified ambition” when it comes to knowing Christ? Are you ambitious in that way? Every day you have a kind of mental, emotional, and spiritual money to spend. And every day we are tempted to spend that money according to a very comfortable, selfish, and worldly budget. But God is telling us this morning to go “all in”, every day, for Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, tomorrow, spend yourself for the One who spent himself for you!

 

III. As I Have Been Fully Known

Of course, all of this should sound familiar. I believe Paul, in this passage, is simply reflecting on the very thing His Lord taught. Remember the words of Jesus...

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. [35] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. [36] For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:34-36)

Because of what God has shown us today, I hope you will take up tomorrow and say to yourself, “Today...I need to throw out me-centered measures of worth. I need to treasure Jesus and His gospel as my daily and only hope. And I need to spend myself in light of that hope.”

I promise you, if you do that, if you struggle and strain to figure out what that means and apply these things in all of the places both your mind and feet take you, with all of the people you will see, in all of the situations you face, good or bad, in light of all your desires, you will not be disappointed.

Where does our comfort, courage, and confidence come from for such a radically different life? It comes from the very truth Paul probably tearfully confessed in verse 12: Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (v. 12) In another letter Paul wrote this about the race he was running to know Christ: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (I Corinthians 13:12)

This is what it means to be a Christian: to be known by God in this way. To be an object of His gracious choice. This Monday, may God help us live in light of that precious truth.