I was reading Philippians 3 today. There are truths here that are too deep, too wonderful, too terrible for me to want to understand. And yet I do want to understand. Paul writes:
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 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
– Philippians 3:8-9 (ESV)
I wonder what it’s like to lose all things and consider them rubbish after the losing. All things? I’m too invested in this world, I’m too secure in my multi-layered safety nets. I’m too secure in my own righteousness.
Paul, on the other hand, had skin in the game, literally. In fact, he’d already lost quite a bit of his skin for the sake of the gospel.
– 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.
– Philippians 3:10-11 (ESV)
. . . and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death . . .
This is where we begin to understand what loving God is like. I tell God that I love him all the time, yet I wonder. Will I be willing to share in his sufferings when my number is called?
Paul understood and lived a life aligned with Christ’s sufferings. He identified himself with the rogue Galilean who had been executed in the backwater land of Judea years earlier. Paul made the authorities nervous. He and those of like mind (the “Christians” they were derisively called) were beginning to topple some important structures. They spoke of another kingdom, which their Christ had inaugurated and had commanded them to take to the world. They appeared insane enough to carry their mission to its logical conclusion, no matter how many of them had to be nailed up.
They made people uneasy.
To be honest, they make me uneasy too.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 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.
– Philippians 3:12-16 (ESV)
Lord, you have made me your own. I know, with increasing lucidity, that I don’t deserve this. Grace is so beautiful.
To strain forward to the goal, to stretch toward the upward call, not the call of the status quo, must be my desire. Yet even the desire is something I can’t manufacture on my own. I am not mature, but I know you have promised to reveal the steps ahead, in your time, as you mature me.
In the meantime, I pray that I will hold true to what I have attained, because it was you who attained it.
May I begin to grasp these deep, wonderful, and terrible truths.