I have been meditating lately on exactly what Paul meant in Philippians 3:1-11. He obviously has experienced the loss of many things for his Christian faith, and I get that. He was a man of stature and favor with men. He was a man of worldly dignity and great potential from a Jewish/Pharisaical perspective. At his conversion, he had to give up all of that promise – all of that potential – all of that history – to follow Jesus. It had to be something spectacular to cause this kind of a “shift,” wouldn’t you agree?
I heard a preacher not too long ago who gave an example to this effect:
Let’s say I told you that 10 minutes before I sat down to write this post, I was walking across my street and got hit by an 18-wheeler going about 45 miles an hour. Then, I came in here, sat down, and started writing. You would either call me a liar or delusional, wouldn’t you. After all, it’s impossible to have a real encounter with something that big, and not be permanently changed.
How much bigger is God? In Acts chapter 9, you can read about Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion to Christianity. It was big. Real big. He encountered the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, and it permanently changed him. After you’re done with Acts 9, look over at 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Paul is battling the Sadducidic rejection of the body’s physical resurrection from the dead. He gives three things that are “most important” in the gospel message…
1. The scriptural death of Christ
2. The burial of Christ
3. The resurrection of Christ.
Paul, in essence, says, “Look, you can deny the resurrection of Christ if you want, but it would be illogical. He (Jesus) appeared to over 500 people at one time. Then he appeared to a few other select people… and lastly, he appeared to me. As one who was unwanted among all men, one who was like an aborted child, Christ appeared to me. And you can’t tell me what I did or didn’t see. I had an encounter with the living Christ and it changed me forever.”
Now back to Philippians Chapter 3… Not only did Paul change… he chose to consider all of those things he had going for him as “refuse.” The Greek word literally means “dung,” and it is the only time Paul ever uses the word in the New Testament. All of that stuff he had accumulated for himself – all of the plans he had – all of the potential he showed – even his own identity!!! – he considered DUNG! And WHY??? For what???! Verse 8 – – – in light of the “surpassing value” of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord.” Wow. I have to admit that I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. The Greek New Testament’s word that we translate “surpassing value” is uperechon. A better translation would be the “EXCELLENCY” of knowing Jesus… How excellent is it to know Jesus as Lord? How surpassingly valuable? How preeminently glorious? How wonderfully superior?!! Paul is saying that his surpassing goal… his most excellent endeavor… his greatest joy and desire is to know Christ as Lord. And in that perspective, EVERYTHING ELSE IS DUNG!
Is that your highest priority? Christian, do you consider everything else dispensable in view of the excellency of knowing Christ as Lord? What does that look like? I know what it looked like for Paul – it was evidenced in his radical change to follow Christ because of his effectual encounter with Him.
And even with all of this… knowing Paul’s deliberately selfless lifestyle for Christ… what is his (Paul’s) life goal? Look at verse 10…
I’m just in awe of this. Paul – the guy who wrote half of the New Testament – his goal is to know Christ even more. Man, I have a long way to go. What’s even more shocking is what exactly it is about Christ that Paul wants to get to know…
1. The power of his resurrection.
Now, I believe it is the hope of all Christians to know the power of Christ’s resurrection. Even though it is utterly incomprehensible, it is the ultimate hope of the Christian’s faith.
2. The fellowship of His sufferings.
The Greek word that Paul uses for “fellowship” is koinonian – the same word he uses in Galatians 2:9 when describing how James, Peter, and John accepted him (gave him the hand of koinonian) and Barnabas. No doubt, in the Galatians passage, the trio was recognizing Paul and Barnabas as equals in the object of the agreement (which was the grace given to them by God to share the Gospel with the Gentile world). Back to Philippians – is Paul saying that he wishes to be equal with Christ in His sufferings? I think so, friends. I think Paul realized, like we all should, that to know Christ means to suffer with Him – the things that bring Him pain should bring us pain. The things that set Him off should set us off. The sinful desires of the flesh that He painfully resisted in the Spirit we should also resist. The human will that He graciously relinquished for our benefit, we should also give up (Ma. 46:22).
3. Being conformed to His death.
I wrote about this in a previous blog, so I don’t want to re-hash it. Being alive in Christ means being dead to yourself. Read my previous Blog post “Death for Life” if you want more info on this.
I don’t think we know what it means to “lose” anything. We leave our comfortable homes, get in our comfortable cars, and drive to our comfortable church where we enjoy some comfortable fellowship with comfortable friends, sing some comfortable music, hear a comfortable sermon, and then head to a comfortable restaurant where we are waited on hand and foot.
I realized a few years ago that I’ve never felt “hunger” in my entire life. Every time my little tummy growls, I grab some chips, or heat up a hot-pocket. I have no clue what it’s like to be hungry. Now, I’m not saying we all need to go live in the hills and experience need like we never have before – we are to be thankful for all of God’s great blessings. But we also need to understand that living in Christ has a more excellently predominant value than anything else we could ever even hope to experience. Some of us have touched the bumper of God Almighty – but how many of us have had a life-changing encounter with the King of kings and the Lord of Lords?
It’s all about perspective, friends. Everything I have could be gone tomorrow – except for my Lord. Ever read the book of Job? I will always be thankful for my family, my job, my friends, my comfortable life… but I will also always press on toward the goal of knowing Christ more fully. And even if all the other commodities of life pass away, how excellent it will be to know that the Creator of the Universe is my personal Savior and Friend.
Grace and Peace,