The Surpassing Greatness Of Knowing Jesus

When Colleen and I were married over 21 years ago, we chose Psalm 37:3,4 as our life verses together. Let me quote them for you:

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart (NASB).

These verses have given us direction and encouragement in our lives as we have sought to serve the LORD in our married life. These words have shaped us and strengthened us in the ups and downs of life. The words of Psalm 37:3,4 have been living words to us and have been the heartbeat of our calling in the LORD.

The Heartbeat of the Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul wrote more of the Books in the Bible than anyone else. It would therefore be difficult to zero in on 1 or 2 verses that we could say definitely were Paul’s life verses. But as we study Paul’s life from Luke’s Book of Acts, and as we study Paul’s own writings, no verses capture the heartbeat of Paul more than what he wrote in Philippians 3:7-11. These verses come right after Paul’s summary of his religious credentials and accomplishments before he encountered the crucified and risen Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:4-6). Paul was on the fast track to becoming the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

A seismic shift, however, occurred in Paul’s life while he was on the road to Damascus. He was on assignment to that great Syrian city: he was to arrest any Jew who believed that the crucified Jesus was the long-expected Messiah/Christ. But Paul’s plans and life were turned upside down as he encountered the risen Jesus in a vision (Acts 9:1-9). The great persecutor of the Christian faith became the great preacher of the Christian faith. His name was changed from Saul to Paul and the world was never the same again because of Paul’s great gospel ministry.

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After summarizing all of his religious credentials and accomplishments before Christ in Phil 3:4-6, Paul declares in Philippians 3:7-11 these words:

 But whatever was to my gain, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing greatness 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 in Christ—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.

It would be very difficult to come up with another passage from the Scriptures which would do a better job of capturing the heartbeat of the Apostle Paul.

His consuming passion was to personally know Christ more and more. Paul’s life was so taken up into Christ, that he was even willing to share in the sufferings of Christ, if that meant a closer relationship with the risen Christ. In many ways, Philippians 3:10,11 provides us with the most succinct and accurate testimony of the great Apostle Paul’s life. He came to know Jesus intimately, and as a direct result, was able to make Jesus known to so many others.

The Dynamic Tension Of The Christian Life

Furthermore, in Paul’s life, the dynamic tension of experiencing both the sufferings of Christ and the resurrected power of Christ, was consistently on display. In 2Corinthians 11:22-29, Paul chronicles some of his sufferings for the sake of making Christ and the Gospel known. He literally looked death in the face over and over again. Beaten with whips and rods, spending a whole day and night floating in the open seas, in danger from the rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger everywhere. But Paul’s passionate love and trust in the crucified and risen Christ opened the door for him to experience the resurrected power of Christ.

In the North American Church, especially in some circles, there is a lot of talk of experiencing the power of the resurrected Christ. But many times this talk of spiritual power is divorced from the need of coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ in a more and more intimate way. Can we genuinely and consistently experience the life-giving power of Christ apart from a growing understanding of who Christ is, as revealed in the Scriptures?  And can we genuinely and consistently experience the life-giving power of Christ apart from a willingness to share in the sufferings of Christ? I think the Apostle Paul would say no.

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I think there has to be a growing covenant-like intimacy with the Lord Jesus and that this comes through a sharing of both the sufferings and the resurrected power of Christ in one’s life. As Paul says in 2Corinthians 4:10: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” I believe that it is this dynamic tension of experiencing both the sufferings and power of Christ that makes our lives powerful redemptive channels of God’s grace and truth.

May the God of peace work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

QOTD: Is it the cry of your heart to know Christ more and more intimately, sharing both in His sufferings and His resurrection power?