Knowing Christ and the Power of His Resurrection
Truth Taught – Only in Christ will we gain the righteousness God requires
We were created for God’s glory in treasuring Jesus above all things. Sin has entered the world, and it is treasuring something lesser than Jesus who is the greatest treasure. God has given us the greatest treasure, namely Jesus, and as sinners we treasure lesser things more. Think about it for a moment and see if this is not so. Whatever sin you struggle with, at the moment of committing it, you have loved the sin more than you love Jesus.
So, if the greatest treasure is Jesus, and we sin by treasuring lesser things and God knows that our very souls depend on treasuring Christ over and above all things, then He is most loving and gracious to us to take away lesser things that capture our affections to free us to treasure Jesus above all other things. For a time, this brings us suffering.
Do you treasure your health more than Jesus? If you do, the most loving thing for God to do is to take your health away. Do you treasure your job more than Jesus? Your money? Your whatever?
I don’t know why the giant cathedral burned this past week. I’m not one to claim to know why certain things happen.
Also inside the Notre Dame Cathedral, among so many historical artifacts, is the notable 17th century organ with all of its parts still functional. There are also drawings, plans, and engravings which showed the old and hidden mysteries of several of the church developments and how the city of Paris came into being.
The Notre-Dame Blog is a great place to find out more about the World-Famous Cathedral that captures the hearts of all Paris visitors, not just Catholics.
Did you catch that? The cathedral has captured the hearts of Paris. People go there or went there to see the building and architecture and relics, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not heard there. Perhaps the cathedral was worshipped as a greater treasure than Jesus?
The Apostle Paul had amassed for himself some significant treasures. He had status and education and reputation that he treasured more than Jesus. God took it all away. Once removed Paul could see Jesus more clearly. He wasn’t trying to find Jesus among his other treasures; they were gone and now he could see Jesus more clearly. Once he saw Jesus as supreme and most valuable, he couldn’t get enough. He welcomed suffering because he knew that through suffering God was clearing away lesser things so he could see and value Jesus even more. The more Paul saw Jesus the more he wanted to be like Him in every way…even to live, suffer, and die like Jesus.
Philippians 3:4–11 (ESV)
4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 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.
4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless
Can you see what Paul had placed his trust in before he met Jesus? He had confidence in the flesh or literally, confident in his own achievements. He thought God was pleased with all his religion. He thought by working really hard God would be proud of Paul, and he thought that this would give him a right standing with God.
He followed the Law of God. He was circumcised just like a good Hebrew baby was. He had a noble heritage being from the tribe of Benjamin. He was at the top of the Hebrew ladder of success. He paid careful attention to the Law of God. He was a Pharisee, the leading religious class in Israel. He was zealous to keep the traditions even to the point of seeking to stamp out all other variants that were, in his view, wrong. He was upright and blameless. He was the model religious person of his day. No one had more works, credentials, or zeal than Paul. If works could get us to God, then Paul would have been first in line and awarded the biggest prize.
There’s just one problem. This is not how one gets in right standing with God.
Think with me for a moment . . . Paul had been taught from a child the ways of works religion. He had been trained to be a hard worker in Judaism. He had amazing achievements. Scholars have said that Paul had the equivalent of three PHDs. He spent his entire life working and achieving . . . and he was confident in these things. Then, his entire belief system comes crashing down. Everything he had spent his life believing and trusting was proven trivial at best and worthless at worst. His suffering had begun.
Have you ever had your previous beliefs proven wrong? Have you ever wrestled with theology? Have you ever had to admit that the things you previously believed or did to gain God’s favor were worthless and wrong?
Something happened to Paul—he met Jesus.
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—
Notice what Paul is doing. All the things he had in the valuable column of his ledger he no longer counted as valuable because he met the most valuable, namely, Jesus Christ. These were the things he placed his trust in to gain God’s favor. These were his confidence in the flesh things.
The Greek has a progression for us to see. First, he placed these things in the loss column then he actually suffered the loss of them. That was such a gracious thing for God to do for Paul. You see God had opened Paul’s eyes to put these things in the loss column so that when he lost them, he was not devastated. He suffered the loss of all things that he had placed his trust in for God’s favor. He suffered loss. God got those things out of the way so Paul could see Christ more clearly.
Paul saw Christ and saw in Him the righteousness that he had been trying to achieve in vain. He saw in Christ the righteousness God requires in order to be in right standing with God. This righteousness was not gained by hard work and keeping the Law of God but was gained by faith.
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—
Once the apostle experienced true righteousness, he never looked back. God showed him Jesus, and all the things of this world became trinkets, especially the things that promise significance, security, and God’s favor.
Suffering then is nothing more than the taking away of bad things or good things that the world offers for our enjoyment—reputation, esteem among peers, job, money, spouse, sexual life, children, friends, health, strength, sight, hearing, success, etc. When these things are taken away (by force or by circumstance or by choice), we suffer. But if we have followed Paul and the teaching of Jesus and have already counted them as loss for the surpassing value of gaining Christ, then we are prepared to suffer.
If when you become a Christian, you write a big red “LOSS” across all the things in the world except Christ, then when Christ calls you to forfeit some of those things, it is not strange or unexpected. The pain and the sorrow may be great. The tears may be many, as they were for Jesus in Gethsemane. But we will be prepared. We will know that the value of Christ surpasses all the things the world can offer and that in losing them we gain more of Christ.
Beloved this is just plain Christianity. This is nothing out of the ordinary. Paul’s experience must be the experience of all Christians. This is Christianity 101.
Once Paul caught a glimpse of Jesus without all his works in the way, look at what he tells us . . .
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.
Now, for Paul, the greatest thing, literally the only thing that matters in the entire universe is that he knows Christ. This doesn’t mean that he just knows who Jesus is but that he has a vital and vibrant relationship with Jesus. He met the greatest treasure in the world and now all his other things are worthless. The greatest thing is to know Christ. Many would affirm that. However, we must realize to have a deep relationship with Jesus means that we must be conforming our lives to Him. As we follow Him, we become like Him, and we love Him more and more all the time.
I want to know Him intimately. I want to love Jesus completely without all the human works in my way.
Knowing Christ is great gain.
I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection . . .
Paul experienced true power in Christ to overcome sin, true power to be made right with God. He tells us that this power comes to us through Jesus’ resurrection. The Law had no power to overcome sin. The works that Paul now sees as rubbish could not get him in a right standing with God. There is no power in works of the flesh.
2 Timothy 3:5 (ESV)
5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
There’s no power in the law. There’s no power to overcome sin in my flesh. There’s no real power for spiritual service in my flesh. There’s no power for victory in my flesh. There’s no power for witnessing in my flesh. He says I’ve been operating without power and now I see all the power in Christ. You say, “How do you see it?” In His resurrection. Why does he say the power of His resurrection? Because it was in His resurrection that He most graphically demonstrated the extent of His power. What other work of Christ is as powerful as that? None. Raising Himself out of the dead showed that He had power over the physical world and also over the spiritual world. He had power over the human realm and death, and He had power over the demonic realm and all the demons who wanted to hold Him captive. You see the greatest display of power Jesus ever accomplished was His resurrection from the dead, and Paul says that’s the kind of power I want to experience. That’s what he’s saying. Why did I trash this stuff and take Christ? Because of His power . . . Paul understood true power now. He understood that all the good deeds done by every human who ever lived if applied to one man’s soul could not save him. He discovered in Christ true power. Jesus’ power is most strongly displayed in His resurrection.
Ephesians 3:20 (ESV)
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
Do you want to know what else Paul put in the gain column?
and may share his sufferings
If we are going to really know Christ, we will only truly know Him if we are taken through suffering. Now think with me about what God is doing in Paul and if we are following Christ, in us as well. If we have, after meeting Christ, taken all our works of the flesh and gains and treasures of this world and wrote LOSS over them, then when God takes them away from us, the suffering now becomes gain because in the suffering we are knowing Jesus more intimately and the stuff we’ve lost is rubbish anyway then God has just been very good to us.
becoming like him in his death
Now if knowing Jesus better through suffering wasn’t enough, Paul writes that he even counts death as gain because through death he will see Christ even more clearly.
It seems he has two things in mind here. First is that he will know Christ more intimately some day after he dies so Paul even counts death as gain.
Philippians 1:21–23 (ESV)
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Dying is gain because he is with Christ.
Secondly, it seems he wants to be able to die like Jesus died. He wants to know Christ and follow Him so closely that when death does come to Paul, he wants to die like Jesus. I read this over and over again, praying and seeking truth from God and asking how did Jesus die?
Luke 23:44–46 (ESV)
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
Paul writes, I want to die like Jesus died. Into Your hands I commit My Spirit…
11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
The greatest event in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the guarantee that all His people will also be raised from the dead.
Do you see just how intimate our walk with Christ must be? If we follow Him in this life through suffering and someday death, then we will also follow Him in resurrection. We can’t say well I’ll take the resurrection part but the suffering?? We can suffer in faith if we count all the stuff that may be taken as loss when compared to gaining Christ.
This is Paul’s meaning here. He says that he’s ready to give up anything to gain Christ in a more intimate way even his own life.
Literally, that I may attain resurrection from among the corpses.
Ask yourself a question, what will you give in exchange for your soul? You see, Christ offers you union with Him, righteousness, power, fellowship, and glory. What are you going to hold on to that’s equal to that? And what good is it going to do if you gain the whole world and lose your soul? That’s the question. What do we gain in Christ? We gain everything. We gain infinite treasure in Christ.
My prayer is that we begin letting go of the things in this world that promise us security, significance and safety. As we do, Jesus will become more and more clear. The better we see Him the more of Him we’ll want. The things of this world will automatically begin to lose their luster and Christ will shine all the brighter.