THE JOY OF KNOWING JESUS & THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION, PART 3: THE SURPASSING WORTH OF KNOWING JESUS
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4 although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; 6 regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.
7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ —the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
I want to ask you, again, what I asked you in beginning this series: Do you have the joy of knowing Jesus and the power of His resurrection? Is that a personal testimony for you? Can you stand and say, "I do know Jesus. I do know the power of His resurrection. I have that joy - I have that privilege." Has a relationship with Jesus and the reality of His resurrection power set the course of your entire life? You see, the answer to that question determines whether you are saved or not. When we talk about being saved or lost, we are talking about a "yes" or "no" answer to that question. Because the only way you and I are saved is if we can affirm that question with a sincere and resounding "Yes and amen!" "A relationship with Jesus and the reality of His resurrection power in my life and over my life have, in fact, set the course of my entire life." If you can say that with me, and I can say that with all sincerity, then you and I are children of the Living God. If we can't, then we're not.
Far too many people in America today make this claim of being "Christian", but we know, judging by the fruits of their lives (see Matthew 7:15-27), that a relationship with Jesus - that the power of His resurrection - that the joy of knowing Him has not set the course of their lives. We can tell by not a very long glimpse at our society - at our culture - that the majority of people in this nation are no longer actually Christian. And this is the reason: because they cannot testify to what we are going to see Paul testifying to in this passage of Scripture, namely, the all-surpassing worth of Christ. Today, Lord willing, we are going to get down to what that really looks like as, from his own testimony, Paul wonderfully reminds us of the contrast between gain in this ruined world and gain of the risen Christ.
Paul’s Impressive Credentials
In the last message, we looked as Paul’s reminder of what marks us as the true people of God, distinguishing us from false worshipers and false teachers in false religions (Phil. 4:3).
Think about all the many different religions in the world. They all differ in their views on God - on eternal destiny - on the fine points of their traditions and practices - but the single characteristic that all false religions have in common is the emphasis on human effort to achieve salvation for ourselves, by works of the flesh. Every one of them preach a gospel of works. "These are the things you must do to save yourself." However they define "salvation" - saving yourself versus losing yourself - they all have in common that you must do certain things (whatever list they give you) to achieve your own salvation.
We, however, as Christians, reject such confidence in the flesh. Paul's assertion, though, in setting up his strong case for rejoicing - glorying - in Christ Jesus, is that no one has more reason than he had to be confident in the flesh. Let’s consider why as we look at his impressive credentials:
Pedigree (v. 5 - circumcised the eighth day...a Hebrew born of Hebrews)
Paul was born into the Jewish lineage and, as an infant, initiated into the Jewish religion as a direct physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the tribe of Benjamin, Jacob's youngest son. The tribe of Benjamin was considered one of the most prominent and noble of the twelve tribes of Israel because of their history in the providence of God, as well as because of strictly maintaining their Jewish heritage and tribal identity, even in the dispersion. Out of that mentality, Paul grew up to be a truly committed Jew, committed to the Hebrew language, the orthodox traditions, and the customs of the ancestors, so that someone could look at him and say, "Now, there is a Hebrew of Hebrews."
Position (v. 5 - regarding the law, a Pharisee)
As John MacArthur points out,
"To become a Pharisee was to reach the highest level in devout, legalistic Judaism. The Pharisees were supremely devoted to the Law, including the Old Testament and all the traditions that had been added to it. ... The term Law is not limited to the Pentateuch or the Old Testament, but includes the whole rabbinic system of prescriptions. ...
...they had the greatest religious influence on the common people. To be a Pharisee was to be a member of an elite, influential, and highly respected group of men who fastidiously lived to know, interpret, guard, and obey the Law." (MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (231). Chicago: Moody Press)
Passion (v. 6 - regarding zeal, persecuting the church)
Paul was not playing the religion game that so many are. His Judaism was not some tacked on piece of his life, just there for window dressing. His religion was not something to accessorize and dress himself up with. It was the sum and substance of who he was, to the point that he was ready to and did put in prison and in the grave, those who opposed it and were a threat to it. He was passionate about it to his core. There was no one more zealously sincere than Paul.
Propriety (v. 6 - regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless)
In making a case for righteousness under the Jewish law, with its mixture of God's truth and Jewish traditions, no one could make a case against Paul. In essence he was saying, "No one can take me to court and make a case against me for not keeping the law." He was a true adherent to the Jewish law's standards for righteousness, and no one could accuse him otherwise. He was born under the law, he grew up under the law, and he personally lived under the law. His Jewish righteousness was established under the Jewish law in the Jewish culture. No Jew could stand and point a finger down at Paul for not being a law keeper.
If, in the flesh, one could attain right standing with God, Paul had every reason to be confident that he had done that. Paul's assertion was, "If anyone has reason to think that, I certainly do." But God revolutionized his reasoning.
Christ Jesus’ Imminent Worth
Everyone has a value system - a standard by which they determine the value - the worth - of things they go after or leave alone - things they keep or let go of. Regardless of belief system, everyone has a standard for determining what is worth living for or not. Paul certainly had his value system, but after his encounter with the risen Lord, his value system, and, thereby, the course of his life was radically changed by Christ Jesus' imminent worth.
Paul's Loss of All for the Gain of Christ (vv. 7-9a)
7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him...
In the flesh and in the world, Paul had much gain. But when Jesus brilliantly burst into his life on the road to Damascus, suddenly everything he had gained was stacked up against Jesus and none of it held up compared to Jesus. (Read his testimony on that moment in Acts 26:9-18.) Suddenly Paul didn't see the world and Jesus in the same way anymore. Suddenly he saw the passing worth of everything he had ever known in stark contrast to the surpassing worth of Christ Jesus his Lord, Whom he came to know. In an instant, he wrote all things off as complete loss, considering them to be nothing more than garbage to be thrown out, so that he could gain Christ and have His righteousness - so that He could know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Paul's Gain of Christ & His Righteousness (v. 9b)
not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ —the righteousness from God based on faith.
When Paul met Christ, he was a very self-righteous man. We are surrounded by self-righteous people today. They don't have to be Jews, living under Jewish law to be self-righteous. Somebody's self-righteousness can be summed up in their testimony this way: If asked why God is going to let them into Heaven, they will answer, "Because I'm basically a good person." And Americans all over this nation today are giving that testimony. If you go out and ask your average neighbor, "Where do you think you will go when you die?" they will answer, "I think I'm going to go to Heaven." "And why do you deserve to go to Heaven?" "Because I'm basically a good person." "Have you ever done anything wrong?" "Sure I have." "Well, then, how do you reconcile the wrong you have done to the idea that you're basically a good person?" "Because I believe that my good outweighs my bad. And I believe that God is loving, and He will take that into account and let me go to Heaven."
Now, Paul was not under some delusion that he had never sinned before he came to Christ. However, like all other legalistic Jews, he believed that his self-righteousness trumped his unrighteousness. When he met the Lord Jesus, he was living under the assumption that his self-righteousness was making him right with God. But when he did finally meet the Lord Jesus in that brilliant, blazing encounter on the road to Damascus, suddenly all of his self-righteousness faded away in its futility, as he realized that the righteousness of Christ Himself could be his from God, by faith. Paul realized that he could not be right with God by himself, but, being found by God in Christ, he could be right with God in Christ. (That's the message of the Gospel to our neighbors: "You and I cannot be right with God by ourselves, in ourselves, but we can be right with God by Christ, in Christ.") In his loss of all things to gain Christ and His righteousness, Paul was no longer lost without Christ in his own self-righteousness.
Paul's Gain of Christ in Relationship & Resurrection (vv. 10-11)
10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
Paul was enamored with Christ, and he willingly suffered the loss of all things, not merely for what Christ offered in His hands, but for what He offered in Himself. That is why Paul stresses his willful loss of all things that I may know Him, and the word "know" means experientially and intimately. Paul realized the surpassing worth of a one-to-one relationship with Christ. That is the greatest offer of the Gospel - that we can have a one-to-one, personal relationship with Christ and, thereby, God, not having to go through anyone else.
And in having with Christ a personal relationship, Paul saw that he could have in Christ the power of His resurrection from the constant death and decay of this world and this cosmos. Everyday people are dying, the earth is dying, the sun is dying - everything is dying - we are dying. Where is our hope in this? The power of Christ's resurrection He has in Himself, which He offers to us in offering us Himself.
And in his personal relationship with Christ, Paul could have deep intimacy with Christ by sharing His sufferings, in being in this world but no longer of this world, just like Christ is not of this world and suffered in this world because of not being of this world. Think about how well you want to know Christ - how deeply you want to know Christ. How deeply do you want to fellowship with Christ? There is an intimacy and a fellowship with Christ I can only have with Him by going down with Him into His separation from this world, suffering with Him in this world.
So, Paul could, and, so, we all can become like Christ by entering into His death to this world, so that however it could be possible, he could, and we can, attain the resurrection from the dead of this world. We all know and love the truth of Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (NASB). But we should also remember and love the truth of Romans 8:29: For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. The only way that we are going to be more and more conformed to the likeness of God's Son is if we are more and more dying to the fatal likeness of this world. And in that way, we enter into the death of Christ. Jesus' death on the cross was our death to sin and the world. When Paul met Jesus, he realized, "Your death must become my death, so that your life can become my life. I will become like You, so that in You, I can rise to the resurrection from the dead, not just physically, but also spiritually."
We can sum all of this up by realizing that Paul responded to this call from the Lord Jesus:
23 ... "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. 25 What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and that of the Father and the holy angels." (Luke 9:23–26)
Paul testified of himself, "There was a time when I was opposed to Jesus Christ - I was opposed to Him and all who took His name. I was ashamed of them and Him to the point that I put them in prison and put them to death." But in that encounter on the road to Damascus his whole perspective changed, and his whole life changed when, in that moment, he heard this call: For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself? Paul said, "I'm not going to be that man. I take you, Lord Jesus. You are all my gain, and everything in this world is all my loss. I take You, and I throw it all away to have you today."
Have you responded to His call that way? Have you met the Lord Jesus on your Damascus road? Now, you may not get the light from Heaven that blinds your eyes, but Paul testifies to the fact that if you have heard and responded to His Gospel, God has made His light to shine in your heart, so that you are no longer blinded by the enemy, but that you see the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Can you testify to that? Have you realized and are you living in the surpassing worth of knowing the living Lord Jesus? Do you know the power of His resurrection, not just from physical death, but also from the spiritual death that separates all who don't know Him from God, no matter how good they are. You can come to know Him today. Repent from all the rubbish and refuse of the world to gain Him, His righteousness, and His resurrection by faith. Come to know the joy of knowing Jesus and the power of His resurrection.
23 This is what the Lord says: The wise man must not boast in his wisdom; the strong man must not boast in his strength; the wealthy man must not boast in his wealth. 24 But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me — that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. This is the LORD’s declaration. (Jeremiah 9:23–24)