I’ve spent a lot of time in Philippians lately. The one church who most consistently supported Paul in his traveling ministry, the book seemed appropriate and timely. And while there are many things that I could write about, and many verses that people have on the tip of their tongues (I can do all things, amiright?), I wanted to write about the one thing that has repeatedly resonated in my heart.
My Old Life Is Rubbish
OK, so the “one thing” I’m going to share is not that my old life is rubbish. But I want to start here because it’s such a well-known passage. Paul boasts of all the bullets on his “I’m a great Jew” resumé, only to conclude:
“Indeed, I count everything [that is, all the honor due me by my awesome standing as a Jew], as loss because of the greatness 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 might gain Christ, 9 and be found in him.” Phil. 3:8-9
Paul lays down all that he had attained in his earlier life (he was a wunderkind, for crying out loud!) and says he is happy to sacrifice it all, for the simple pleasure of knowing Christ Jesus. And he is willing to treat them like last week’s garbage, if that is what it takes to gain Christ, and be found in him. Don’t worry, this isn’t the one thing, I am just laying a familiar foundation. Challenge #1: How many of us would be okay with Christianity if it meant utterly turning our back on all we’ve worked to build? Do we really consider the pleasure of knowing Jesus and being found in him greater than our worldly, relational, and financial accumulations?
I Get to Suffer
I’ll get to the one thing, I promise. But first, Paul goes on to say that his dangling carrot is:
“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phil. 3:10-11
So now, Paul is willing to give up everything, not just to know Jesus, but to know [read: experience] the power of his resurrection. He WANTS to “share in Jesus’ sufferings,” and “become like Jesus in his death.” What Paul is saying is that, until we give up our heart’s connections to the things that we’ve worked so hard for and are proud of, we won’t have a heart that is fully surrendered to Jesus. You can’t rise to a new life until you die to your first one. When we lay it all on the line for Jesus, we tell him that the world’s things are less important, and knowing Him is of far more value. But that’s not the thing. Challenge #2. How many of us are looking for a life of “faith” that removes pain and suffering, and not seeking to join Jesus in his death? Do you seek after a resurrection life without a death to your current self?
Okay, Here’s the ONE THING.
These are all well-worn roads. But here is the ONE THING that I cannot get out of my head from this passage. Paul is 1) willing to give up everything by which society would have honored him and deemed him a valuable member 2) to know what it means to suffer with Christ. And after just a couple more verses (where Paul reiterates this whole argument), Paul drops the bomb:
“Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Phil. 3:15-16
Here’s the ONE THING! According to Paul, this mindset is the mark of mature belief! The mature Christian views his faith as nothing less than a call to give nothing less than his all. Everything is on the table. Everything is rubbish. Everything pales in comparison to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ and suffering by his side, for his cause. What a strong statement! Let all of us who are mature think this way AND if anyone thinks differently, let God convict him of his error! WOAH! THAT IS THE ONE THING. When we become Christians, the call is to be all in.
Challenge #3 No, wait. This is the ONE THING. So here is THE ONE CHALLENGE: By this standard in God’s word, is your faith actually mature?