On Philippians 3:1-11...
It is so easy to think that our Christianity is about church attendance or our prayer life or doing good deeds or avoiding major sins or performing certain rituals or behaviors. In the right perspective those things can be helpful, but they are not – they are not – what makes us right with God.
God makes us right with God!
He does it through Jesus Christ. And if we miss that, we’ve missed the whole thing. What gets in our way most often is us. We come to believe that we make us right with God – somehow, by doing something or thinking in a certain way. And that just gets our attention off God and onto ourselves.
God makes us right with God!
Our faith, our hope, our confidence, our focus needs to be on Jesus Christ – not ourselves. That’s what Paul writes in Philippians 3:9:
…not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…Paul points us entirely toward God through Jesus Christ, saying that the one thing we need to know is Jesus. Nothing else matters in comparison to that. (Or all other things find their right perspective in the light of knowing Christ.)
So, when Paul says “beware,” consider what gets in the way of you knowing Jesus and through him trusting God to make you right before Him.
Only by knowing Jesus Christ, Paul writes, can we “be found” in Him. And it is only then that we can know, in the sense of comprehending, what the Lord is doing in our life… and what future He intends for us.
What the Lord Is Doing
What is the Lord doing? He is reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus. He is seeking and saving the lost. We’ve talked about this a lot lately. God is on a mission in the world, to invite people into a relationship with Him. The purpose of the Church is to join God’s mission, not something else – certainly not to substitute a false religion of trying to make ourselves right for God’s salvation, His powerful hand, God making us right with God.
So listen to how Paul describes knowing God through Jesus Christ. He declares the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as his Lord, being “found in Him” so that:
I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (vv. 10-11)
This is one of the deepest theological truths I know. What “knowing Jesus” means is that Jesus knows us and, in effect, says to God, “He’s with me… she’s with me.” Remember ch. 2 again? Jesus did not cling to Heaven, but took on human flesh to live as one of us, in perfect obedience to the Father. He took on our sin, but was sinless. He died our death, for our sake. When we trust in Jesus in faith, God joins us to him, that his death becomes our death. His suffering becomes our suffering. And his destiny becomes our destiny – his resurrection becomes our resurrection.
That’s the “power” and the “fellowship” Paul talks about in v. 10. It is God’s power to make us right with Himself – a power we do not have in ourselves. And the fellowship is the joining, the binding, that God accomplishes when we know Jesus through faith. The Holy Spirit makes us one with Christ so that his death and resurrection become ours.
One of the best illustrations I’ve heard of this was from a speaker named Baxter Kruger. He described a scene that I’ve experienced myself – maybe some of you have as well. Baxter loves to play around and wrestle with his son. That’s an expression of their fellowship – their love – for one another. His son had a friend from the neighborhood who came over one time when the father and son were wrestling. When the son called the friend over and said, “Come on, let’s get my dad” the friend joined in the fellowship of the father and son. It was not something he could have initiated or participated in directly with a man he didn’t know. But because he knew Baxter’s son and was invited into the loving play time, he experienced what it was to be a son in that house.
That is what Jesus has done. We cannot generate our own “rightness” with God, but Jesus is already perfectly “right” with his Father. And through him, we have access to the Father, in fact to the perfect love and fellowship of the Trinity.