It reads in Philippians 3:7-14: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 is through faith inChrist, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
How did Paul regard the merit he had gained from his Hebrew background and his religious works? As being loss in terms of his grasp of Christ, his living by the Life of Christ. How did Paul regard all he could gain in the world, including a standing in righteousness and approval by means of the works of the Law of Moses? As being loss, in that such standing and approval would detract from the perfection and completeness of his relationship to Christ. What was true of Paul’s accomplishments in the world? He had let go of everything so he could cleave perfectly to Christ. The concept of forsaking the world so we may cleave perfectly to the Lord Jesus Christ needs to be emphasized in our day. The religions of the world teach men and women how to gain something for themselves, whether by denial of the material realm in order to gain a paradise, or by acquiring power in the material realm through the worship of demons or through the application of soulish, supernatural principles. In some instances, the Christian Gospel has been infected by these various religious disciplines. Sometimes the problem is that of a self-seeking, self-centered approach to the Gospel so that ministry, gifts, and other works of service are conducted according to one’s own needs or the needs of others instead of to the Glory of God. People today are asking how Christ or how His churches can meet their needs. Enterprising pastors and teachers are polling people to find out their needs and desires (particularly their desires) and are designing “worship services” according to the expressed desires. The true Christian Gospel, while it ultimately brings us gain, is not oriented toward our getting what we want. It is oriented toward the Lord acquiring what He wants. When the Gospel is used as a means of obtaining what we want, deception and confusion follow. The Christian Gospel operates on a greater scale than is true of all other religions. The Gospel is the means of bringing into existence the vision and plan of the almighty God of Heaven. The Kingdom of God is the establishing of the worship of God and obedience to God on the part of all creatures in Heaven and on the earth. It has pleased the Father to make Christ the Center and Circumference of all creatures and all things in Heaven and on the earth. We Christians are to be the firstfruits of the new Christ-centered creation. We miss the mark when we proclaim that Christ came to give people this or that or to set them free so they can realize their own destiny. Christ did not come to set people “free.” He came to make them His own possession. There is a critical difference here. It is the difference between the False Prophet and the Holy Spirit. God has several objectives He is accomplishing through the Lord Jesus: the filling of the universe, spiritual and material, with Christ; the construction of a living, eternal temple for Himself; the perfecting of a bride for His Son; the creation of a Body for His Son; the bringing forth of many sons of God, many brothers of Christ, in the image of Christ; the training of priests and kings to rule the worlds to come; the destruction of Satan and all his works; the multiplying of His own Divine Being. God’s objectives cannot be achieved while we are preoccupied with our own needs and desires. They can be achieved only as we are willing to “die,” to lose ourselves in the will of Christ. It is impossible for us to press into the Kingdom of God until we forsake everyone and everything else. No man can serve two masters. We must cast aside our own life for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s. This does not mean we are to ignore our loved ones or our circumstances. It does mean, however, that in our heart we are to place every person, every thing, and every circumstance on the altar of God until the will of Christ has free course in our life. Paul had done this. He was clinging to nothing except Christ. The true Christian saint, the overcomer, is the one whom the Holy Spirit is setting free from all idols so he or she may come to know Christ more perfectly. I was remembering this what, was Paul’s opinion of all the things he had lost in order to gain Christ? They are dung, trash, rubbish, garbage, refuse. This concept of winning Christ, of gaining Christ, is an important idea for us to consider. Obviously, Paul was not referring to believing in Christ for salvation. No doubt Paul was not struggling to be saved from wrath at this point in his life. What, then, does he mean when he states that he has forsaken everything in order to win Christ, to gain Christ? It is clear from the passage we are studying that there is more to Christianity than our initial acceptance by faith in the Lord and Savior, Christ. True Christian discipleship is a lifelong effort to gain Christ. It is not that we earn a favored position with the Lord Jesus, although an element of that may be present. Rather it is true that there is so much of Christ to grasp that our diligent attention is required every day of our life in order to make any substantial progress in laying hold on the Glory that is in Christ and is Christ. It is with Christ; we can make a profession of Christ for fifty years and still remain unchanged in personality. With the help of our Teacher, the Holy Spirit, we can become a conquering saint, a prophet of God, if we give ourselves wholly to the things of Christ.
Paul turned away from all competing interests and affections, goals and ambitions, and devoted himself to coming to know the fullness of the Glory of Christ. As a result, Paul was changed into the image of Christ. Paul’s Epistles have borne an incalculable amount of fruit over the face of the whole world since the first century. Truly, there is a reward for seeking the Lord! We can agree with Paul that his temporal desires and ambition, prevented by his circumstances during his lifetime, indeed were rubbish in comparison with the spiritual fruit that has been borne as the direct result of his Epistles. We need to stop and realize that this also is true of each of us. Who will be able to measure the fruit of our own life if we give ourselves wholly to gaining Christ? In what state did Paul desire to be found? Paul wanted to be found in Christ and Christ in him. Paul wanted to have God’s approval on himself and his actions such that God viewed him as a righteous person. Paul did not want one drop of God’s approval to result from his keeping any aspect of the Law of Moses. He wanted God’s approval to result from the fact that he had become an eternally inseparable part of the Lord Jesus. Paul wanted Christ’s own righteousness to be his righteousness. Paul desired to have a faith and trust that Christ’s righteousness had become his own righteousness apart from the observance of any part of the Law. What was the Apostle Paul’s supreme goal in life? To know Christ; to know the power of His resurrection; to know the fellowship of His sufferings; to be changed into His death. Every Christian “knows” Christ in that he understands that Christ is God’s Son who gave His life for our sins. He recognizes the fact that Christ rose from the dead and one day will return to the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. Most of us know the names of a number of people. We have read of famous personages, past and present. Also, we may have many friends and relatives. But it probably is true that there are only a few people whom we know intimately. In order to know someone intimately we must devote time and attention to him or her, sharing joys and sorrows, communicating victories and setbacks, hopes and fears, plans and frustrations. Paul had suffered the loss of all things so he might gain an intimate knowledge of Christ. Why must the believer let go of all other interests in order to gain an intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus? First, let us consider the fact that Christ is a powerful king. Kings do not readily commit themselves to other people. A king may have one or two trusted counselors or mentors in whom he confides. The surprising and extraordinary fact is that the Lord Jesus Christ enters an intimate relationship with anyone other than God the Father. Also, Christ is God. He is the Word of God, the Eternal Life of God from the beginning. The more complex and profound a person is the more time and involvement it takes in order to come to know him or her intimately and thoroughly. Christ is infinitely complex, infinitely profound. In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. It is possible that we will be coming to know Christ as He truly is throughout an immeasurable future. In addition, Christ is the One who loves us. The intense, fiery love of our Creator will allow no competing affections. The Lord’s name is jealous. The most ardent human love is but a pale shadow of the love of God for us. Divine love is not a general affection, such as an earthly king may have for his subjects. It is an intense, personal love—that which is portrayed in the Song of Solomon. Much of our Christian discipleship is occupied with the removal of our idols from us so we may love Christ with an undivided heart. Paul’s supreme goal in life was to deepen and broaden his relationship with the Lord Christ. Paul was ready to turn away from every created thing and circumstance that the Holy Spirit pointed out to him as a hindrance to his love for Christ and Christ’s love for him. Paul wanted to know, to experience, the power of Christ’s resurrection. “It reads in Ephesians 1: 19-20 NIV The exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. If Satan had the power to prevent it, Satan would have prevented the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The triumphant resurrection of Christ means that the power of Satan has been eternally overcome. Therefore the believer who is abiding in Christ is eternally victorious and indestructible. The power by which Christ rules is the power of His resurrection Life.
It reads in Hebrews 7:16-20 NIVThere is no other power in the universe as great as the power of the Spirit of God, the power that raised the Lord Jesus from the spiritual prisons that are within the earth and lifted Him to the highest throne of all. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath,but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’”[Paul’s desire, that for which he dismissed all other interests, is to live and move and have his being, not by flesh and blood energy and wisdom but by the energy and wisdom that flow from the throne of almighty God.” Paul understood well that the person who is living by eternal resurrection life can never be overcome. He is as Moses’ bush that burns on and on and never is consumed. The individual who is living by Christ’s Life is eternally alive. The person who is living only in his flesh and blood life is perishing while he lives. The overcomer of the church in Smyrna is promised the “crown of life” if he is faithful to death. To receive the crown of life means to be given the authority and power of resurrection life, authority and power great enough to subdue all the enemies of Christ, to compel them to bow the knee in homage and confess that Jesus is Lord. We could change the course of the world today if we possessed that authority and power. We will possess it as soon as we are willing to die to our self-centered ambition and allow the Lord Jesus Christ to reign as God’s King within us. Paul sought to know the fellowship, the sharing, of Christ’s sufferings to the point of becoming changed into His death. If there is a “secret” to the life of victory in Christ, that secret is the personal cross of the saint. The cross of Christ, and our personal cross as well, is the “foolishness of God”, a foolishness far beyond the wisdom of men. The cross of Christ and of the victorious saint separates Christ from the False Prophet and the conquering saint from the self-seeking “believer.” As we said, we could and we would change the course of the world today if we possessed the authority and power of the crown of life, the reward promised to the conqueror in Smyrna. This crown is given to him who is faithful unto death. Rightly so! If we were given all the authority and power we desired we indeed would become the False Prophet, destroying ourselves and those around us. The cross stands between us and the power that Christ has assigned to the Church. The suffering and death of the cross casts out our self-will, our self-seeking, our personal ambition, our desire for self-aggrandizement, our self-centeredness, our willingness to manipulate all persons and circumstances—even God Himself—in order to achieve our own desires. Paul was seeking glory and honor, but he was seeking glory and honor in God’s way, that is, by the route of the cross of Christ. Paul was seeking the power of an endless and incorruptible life, but he understood that the abundant spiritual life Christ promised springs forth within us only as the dead fleshly appetites and soulish ambition are pruned back, are circumcised, by painful experiences.
“It reads in II Corinthians 4:8-10, We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” Paul was given visions of God. On the heels of the visions came the messenger of Satan to pierce his flesh. Christ explained to Paul that this suffering was necessary if Christ was to be exalted in Paul’s life and ministry. We may be seeking power. God is seeking to fill all things with His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are brought down to death by trouble, by perplexity, by persecution, by blow after blow falling on us. God keeps on raising us up, and the power that raises us spills over onto other people and raises them up. We always are being pressed into Christ’s sufferings, pressed into the mold of His death on the cross. It is the death of pain, of weakness, of helplessness, until we grow accustomed to trusting in God alone for all things, for all our needs and desires. Christ raises us up, thereby filling us, and all persons and circumstances related to us, with Himself. God will never give His glory to another person. If we would receive the Glory of God, we must die so that Christ can live in us. We must become an eternally inseparable part of God through Christ. “It reads in John 17:22, And the glory which thou gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” The Glory of God has been given to the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus has given that Glory to us. The fact that Jesus has given His Glory to us is so staggering in its consequences, so completely beyond anything we could imagine or desire, that we shall not understand the value of what has been given until we are well into the Kingdom Age.