What is your goal in life? Well, people’s goals will vary. Some have goals that go out for a few years; you want to finish school and get a job. If you are a parent, that is the goal you want to have for your children! Some may have goals that go from month to month of staying sober. Some may have life-long goals of being a support to your spouse or rearing and supporting children who will grow up in the fear of the Lord. Some people layout 5 or 10 year plans. Some are happy if they know what is happening the current day. What should our goal in life be?
In this section in his letter to the Philippians, Paul is setting goals and priorities in that he considers everything rubbish for the sake of Christ. More specifically, his goal in his life is to “know Christ.” We want to consider what it means to know Christ, especially in light of the joyous resurrection which we celebrate today. Read Philippians 3:1-11.
I. Verse 9 says that the basis of Paul’s knowledge is righteousness through faith.
Righteousness, as we saw recently, is that standing in which we are accepted by God. Verse 9 makes it very clear that Paul’s righteousness is not from obeying the law. This is how many in Paul’s day viewed righteousness: “Obey the law, do what God wants you to do and God will view you as being right with Him.” The problem is that we can never reach the perfection which God demands. Paul says his righteousness comes only as a gift from God since there is nothing we can do to earn it or deserve it.
Moreover this righteousness is by faith in Christ. We believe that Jesus took our place and became our substitute. Romans 3 says that by this faith God credits us with righteousness. God looks at Christ’s perfect obedience and credits that obedience to us. This righteousness from God forms the basis of our lives as Christians.
Now there are many today who would disagree with Paul and say that their righteousness comes from their own goodness. They think they live a pretty good life; they keep most of the Ten Commandments. They aren’t awful people and in fact, they try very hard to be good people.
The point is that we can’t even come close to what God demands. Eugene Peterson writes, “We can’t save ourselves by pulling on our bootstraps, even when the bootstraps are made of the finest religious leather.” God is the only one who can pull us up and make us righteous. Now with that in mind, Paul goes on in the next verse to describe three things he is striving to know.
II. It’s important for Paul to know three present realities.
First, Paul says in verse 10 that it is his goal to know Christ. This is not merely knowing that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again. Now it is important to know the facts about Jesus. There can be no real faith without understanding who Jesus really is. However, to know Christ in Paul’s thinking is to be united with Christ and so to share all the blessings that Christ brings through His death and resurrection. Paul says that to know Christ far outweighs anything else he can think of. It is to have a relationship that results in a changed person and changed actions. So Paul’s first goal is to have that relationship with Christ.
But what Paul is talking about is the result that comes from Jesus’ victory over death. Because Jesus rose from the dead, Christ has all the power over sin and death. It is that unbelievable power that he is sharing with us so that we can live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Paul is saying that he wants to have the power that can transform him from bad to good. He wants the power that will propel him forward toward a life of service to others. He wants the power that will resurrect him from death in sin to life in God. That can only happen through the power of the resurrection.
But even more, Paul’s goal is to know the participation in His sufferings. This does not mean that it is Paul’s goal to suffer as Jesus suffered. Paul is not saying here that he wants to be crucified for his faith. Nor is he saying that suffering will somehow make him become a better Christian. What Paul has in mind is more what Christ’s sufferings brought about. Christ’s sufferings brought about the end of sin and death. By Jesus’ sufferings, the victory over sin and death was achieved. Paul is saying that he wants to enter into the fellowship that was created by Jesus’ suffering and death.
And by participating in the sufferings of Christ, Paul adds the goal of becoming like Him in his death. Paul is willing and ready to be dead to the old sinful self. We are to die to our old selves and rise UP to the new life that Christ gives us through the power of the resurrection. It is the road of discipleship in which we follow Jesus in every single area of our lives. Paul is talking about something that will transform a person completely. This is a present benefit of being with the risen Christ. God is in us transforming us so that we will through his power become more and more the people God intended us to be from the beginning.
Do we realize that are we living in that spiritual power that is now available to us because of Christ’s resurrection? It is indeed transforming power for us today! But the benefits of the resurrection don’t stop there either.
Ill. Paul is also anticipating the future hope in verse 11.
Paul says that by knowing the things just described, he hopes to attain to the resurrection of the dead. Paul knows that while his old sinful self is dying and the new self is coming to life, he will not be completely transformed until the time when there is the final resurrection. Only then will all believers be completely transformed and perfected. Up to that time, our lives will continue to be a battle, struggling to put to death the old. But some day, we will be made perfect.
That will happen when the final physical resurrection occurs. This is the resurrection of the body where our physical bodies will be reunited with our souls. D.L. Moody once said this: “As I go into a cemetery I like to think of the time when the dead shall rise from their graves. Thank God, our friends are not buried; they are only sown!” There is a time coming when all conflicts will be resolved, all ills healed, all human frailties, both moral and physical, be eliminated.
Some have tried to inject some uncertainty into what Paul is saying here based on the word “somehow;” however, “somehow” is certain, and not at all ambiguous. Paul likely is phrasing this in a way that reflects his humility. He dares not presume on God’s mercy. He is rather counting on it, depending on it and looking forward to it. Yet it still remains somewhat of a mystery to him. It is not completely clear as to how God will work this powerful resurrection but Paul is certain that it will somehow indeed occur.
So what can we conclude from this? First, today as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, let’s remember that we are living now in the power of Jesus’ resurrection. We are not in some sort of time warp where at one point Jesus died for our sins and now we await the full benefit of eternal life when Jesus comes again. And in the meantime we pine away, lost and struggling. No, our lives now can be filled with resurrection power! We will struggle; make no mistake about that. However, with the power of the resurrected Lord, our struggle is not a losing battle. We should see progress as the old self gradually dies away and the new life from Christ becomes more and more apparent.
And let’s celebrate the fact that a time is coming when all the effects of sin will be ended. A time is coming when death will no longer claim victims. I like the cartoon which shows two Roman soldiers standing outside the empty tomb on that first resurrection Sunday. One soldier says to the other: “Well, this leaves only taxes as being certain.” Death is ended! It has been swallowed up in the resurrection of Jesus Christ! A time is coming when the things of this earth that cause us sorrow and pain, whether it is emotional or physical, will be done away with forever!
“Plenty of great teachers, mystics, martyrs and saints have spoken words full of grace and truth. In the case of Jesus alone, however, the belief has persisted that when he came into the world, God deigned to take on the likeness of a man in order that men might reach out. For myself, as I approach my end, I find Jesus’ outrageous claim ever more captivating and meaningful. Quite often, waking up in the night as the old do, I feel myself to be half out of my body, hovering between life and death, with eternity rising in the distance. I see my ancient carcass, prone between the sheets, worn like a scrap of paper dropped in the gutter and, hovering over it, myself, like a butterfly released from its chrysalis stage and ready to fly away. Are caterpillars told of their impending resurrection? How in dying they will be transformed from poor earth- crawlers into creatures of the air, with exquisitely painted wings? If told, do they believe it? I imagine the wise old caterpillars shaking their heads -- no, it can’t be; it’s a fantasy. Yet in the limbo between living and dying, as the night clocks tick remorselessly on, and the black sky implacably shows not one single streak or scratch of gray, I hear those words: I am the resurrection, and the life, and feel myself to be carried along on a great tide of joy and peace."
All this is possible because of Jesus’ resurrection. Thank God for his resurrection power! May we live in that power in the days and weeks to come until He comes again. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!