Philippians 3:10-11   “To Know Christ And Become Like Him”   April 16, 2006

 

INTRO:   We’ve never been a big pet family—but few years ago got two kittens.

   Watching those kittens gave us new appreciation for two sayings.

 

First saying is “As playful as a kitten.”

   Kittens play.  One of the funniest things is to watch one of them ambush other.

   One will see the other coming—crouch down just like lion—when pass, spring.

Growl and kick—then they do it all over again. 

   Or just throw them a wadded up piece of paper—

   play with it, bat it around over and over.

 

Second saying we grew to appreciate is “chasing his tail.”

   Kittens really do chase their own tails.

   Laying there, tail twitching—get this look in eye—go around and around.

Then they catch it—chew on it for a minute—but that doesn’t hold attention.

   Let go, tail starts twitching again—And they’re off, chasing it again—

   Around and around they go.

 

It’s funny to see a kitten do that—but when say a person is “chasing his tail”

   that’s not funny.  Means life is full of futility.

Pursuing something with all might—not getting anywhere.

   When they get it, not all cracked up to be—

   so off they are on another chase—around in circles.

 

Earlier in this letter Paul describes what he was chasing in the first part of his life.

   He wanted the status and security that came from having

   all the right connections, the right education,

   and complete commitment to a religious and political cause.

 

That was Paul’s pursuit—chased it without question—complete sincerity and zeal.

   And he achieved it.  All his personal goals were met.

He used his Jewish pedigree to greatest advantage,

   he got the best and most prestigious academic credentials—Gamaliel.

   he was recognized as an up and coming leader in his religious/political party.

If anyone had reason to boast, I had more.

 

But there came a point in his life where realized that this was all chasing his tail.

   That’s not the way Paul put it.

He said that he encountered something so great that it made him realize

   that all these things he had devoted his life to getting were rubbish.

Those were his words:  “I consider them rubbish.”

   Old King James Version more colorful.

   “I do count them but dung.”

What became the new pursuit of Paul’s life?

   “I want to know Christ.”

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a sermon on this passage—

   his sermon title was “Paul’s Great Ambition” 

That’s exactly what these verses are. 

   Paul’s great ambition.  New pursuit of Paul’s life.  Knowing Christ.

 

Over and over the Bible says that the most important thing is to know God—

   not just know about Him, but to know Him personally.  Jeremiah 9

This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me,

 

Knowing Lord more important than wisdom, strength or riches—

   Those are the three big things people make their ambition.

   Be smart.  Be physically gifted strength, talent, beauty.  Be wealthy.

But Lord says that none of those are as important as knowing Him.

   That’s exactly what Paul came to realize.  Achieved goals, but rubbish.

 

Great passage for Easter.  Especially as we ponder Psalm 22.

   Did you notice how Paul connects knowing Christ with the events of Easter

I want to know Christ—power of resurrection, fellowship of sufferings.

 

Easter Sunday is a perfect day, probably best day to ask yourself

   what is my great ambition?  What am I chasing? 

Do I want to know Jesus Christ above everything else—or is he way down list?

 

Look at this passage—three great blessings that come from knowing Christ.

   Nothing else you chase in life can give you these things—only Christ.

Want this to be an encouragement to you who do want to know Christ—

   to keep on wanting to know him more, growing closer to Him.

For those of you whose great ambition is something else

   hope this shows you what you are missing.  Christ alone can satisfy longings.

MP#1  The first great blessing of knowing Christ is power to change.

Paul says that he wants to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.

   Significant that Paul doest say he wants power—

   wants to know power he has by knowing Christ, refers to as resurrection power.

 

What is the power of Christ’s resurrection?

   You know the story.  Jesus’ body was broken on the cross.

   Life crushed out of it by Roman nails and spear.

Then is his lifeless body was taken down, wrapped in shroud, put in tomb.

   But early in the morning, on first day of week—

   by the power of the Spirit of God he was made alive again.  Rose from dead.

 

The unique and powerful thing about Jesus’ resurrection—

   was that his body was not made alive as it had been—it was change, transformed.

   Jesus was made alive in a way that put Him beyond power of death forever.

   He was different, he was glorious.

 

Knowing Christ means that the power of his resurrection comes into your life.

   Same Spirit who made Jesus alive, transformed Him is in you.

That resurrection power gives you the power for real change.

   The Holy Spirit takes the dead things in your life, makes new.

   You begin to experience moral and spiritual transformation.

 

2 Peter put it this way: 

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness

through our knowledge of Him who called us. 

 

There is nothing else that you can chase in life that will give you real power

   to change from inside out.  What about the big three in Jeremiah’s list:

   Wisdom, strength and riches.  External change, no spiritual transformation. 

Numerous other things people run after in life—none give power to change—

   like knowing Christ does—because knowing him means

   experience of his resurrection power.

 

Many dramatic examples of lives changed by resurrection power

   that comes from knowing Christ.

Let me tell you a story that’s not so dramatic.

   This will seem small—but true example of this power to change.

 

There was a student in seminary with me—he very touchy, feelings hurt easily.

   We walked on eggshells around him. 

   Any criticism, perceived criticism made him withdraw.

I lost track of him after graduation but ran into him several years later.

   Telling me about his church, man in church—

   powerful in church, community—who had become his critic.

Said and did things against him.  I was thinking—OK, Jim, how did you handle?

 

As he was telling me this story, smiling, even laughing—lightness uncharacteristic.

   Told me how he was praying for this man.  Expressed genuine concern for him.

I wondered—where’s the old touchiness?  Where are the easily hurt feelings?

 

Lord had taken that dead area in his life—old touchiness, old self-centeredness—

   that made him withdraw from people to protect himself—

   transformed it into something different never had—concern for critical person. 

This is the reason—in the years since I had known him, obvious that the great

   ambition of his life had been to know Christ—experienced resurrection power.

 

What if that hadn’t been his ambition?

   What if he had chased other things in response to his touchiness?

   What if he had chased the perfect church, people who only approved

   even if he found such a place—no transforming power.

 

What are the dead things in your life?

   Bitterness?  Bitter at a person who robbed you of dreams for happy life?

   Lots of things you could pursue to deal with that bitterness.

   Try to distract self from it by shopping.  Ignore the person, cut out of emotions.

Those strategies might work.  But wouldn’t be real change.

 

Or, could make knowing Christ your goal—resurrection power.

   Where there was once bitterness—start to discover forgiveness.

   Where there was self-pity—start to discover gratitude.

   Where there was discontent—start to discover contentment. 

 

Easter Sunday:  As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ—

   what a perfect time to make this your ambition—to know Christ—

   and the power of his resurrection.

I’m going to quit relying on all the other strategies I have for dealing

   with dead areas of life—bitterness, self-pity, discontent—seek to know Christ.

MP#2  The second great blessing of knowing Christ is comfort in suffering.

If you know Christ’s resurrection power,

   he starts to transform you morally and spiritually—

   That must mean that life becomes less and less painful—suffer less.  Right?

 

Some people do teach that. 

   Teach or imply that becoming a Christian is stepping into a magic circle—

   if you just have enough faith, won’t suffer—but not true.

 

Paul says that knowing Christ is the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.

   Paul starts with the power of Christ’s resurrection—then goes back to the cross.

You can’t celebrate Easter rightly without remembering what happened

   on Good Friday.

Before Communion choir and congregation going to sing end of Psalm 22.

   Ends on a victorious note.  God hears cry of servant and saves him, honors him.

   But how did Psalm 22 start?  With suffering.  My God, my God.

 

Crucifixion was the culmination of a ministry marked by opposition and betrayal.

   Christ’s whole life on earth before His resurrection called his humiliation.

So to know Christ is to know a man who suffered.

   He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, as Isaiah put it.

 

So when you make it your ambition to know Christ—

   it is not that you will suffer less, but as Paul says—

   you will know the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.

 

What does this mean:  Fellowship of sharing in his sufferings?

   Has a specific meaning and a general meaning.

Specific meaning is that in this life there will be times

   you will suffer because you know Christ.

 

Very obvious example would be persecution—Afghan Abdul Rahman.

    Much milder forms—you make a decision or take a stand or say something—

   because of your loyalty to Christ—negative repercussions in family, school.

Paul is saying there is a special fellowship with Christ in this kind of suffering.

 

But there is also a general meaning.

   For the person who makes it his ambition to know Christ—

   there will be comfort in any suffering, no matter what the cause. 

Essence of that comfort will be that you know Jesus is with you.

   There will be a fellowship with Him, an intimacy, awareness of His presence.

 

Never forget story an elderly widow in church in Florida told me. 

   She was a very quiet, humble woman. 

While she was grieving her husband’s death, someone gave her

   someone gave her Catherine Marshall’s book, “Meeting God At Every Turn.”

Catherine Marshall was the wife of Peter Marshall—Chaplain of US Senate.

   Catherine herself was widowed when Peter died at age 46, wrote book afterwards.

 

So she started to read the book.  All alone in her condo.

   Catherine Marshall so poignantly expressed her loss of husband,

   parts so painful for me to read, I would throw book on floor and weep. 

But the Lord was there, and every time I would be overwhelmed,

   throw book on the floor, He would urge me to pick it up and keep reading.

And he used that book to comfort me. 

 

Here’s the thing that is most important about her story—

Before her husband’s death, her ambition was to know Christ.

   So that when suffering came,

   she was able to experience fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. 

 

If knowing Christ is not your great ambition—

   if your life is fine and basically trouble-free, things going well,

   and so many other things keep you busy—

   and you are chasing this plan and that plan.

 

And you say, yes, I want to know Christ better but you can barely find

   any time to get to know him through the ways he has set up for

   that to happen.  Through times of quiet prayer. 

Through times of pondering his life and words—

   then what will happen when suffering comes?

What will probably happen is that instead of sensing his presence,

   He will seem more like a doctrinal concept to you.   being a palpable presence,

 

It’s Easter Sunday:  As we look back at Christ’s crucifixion, life of suffering—

   What a perfect time to make it your great ambition to know Him.

   and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.

I want to know the man who suffered on the cross. 

MP#3  The third great blessing of knowing Christ is hope for the future.

What is the Christians’ hope for the future?

   Paul says that it is the resurrection from the dead.

When believers die their souls go to heaven, bodies are buried.

   But that is not the end.  Not destined to live as spirits in heaven forever.

   The great hope, the great promise is the resurrection.

 

On the day of resurrection all who have died in sins will be raised by the bare

   command of God.  They will be raised as they died, same condition.

   The will be raise for judgment.

 

But all who have died in Christ will be raised by the resurrection power of Christ.

   Holy Spirit who raised Jesus, who is living in you, will raise you by power.

   So the body that is raised will be transformed as Jesus’ body was.

Your new body will be impervious to death.  Glorified.

   You will be raised for your inheritance which is the new heavens and new earth.

   This world transformed by Christ as the home for his people.

 

Look at the way Paul describes it in verses 20 and 21 of this chapter:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

 

Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from CS Lewis that I manage

   to slip in almost every Easter: 

He says that the bodies we have now are like Shetland ponies—

   Christ’s risen body like a winged horse, like Pegasus.

Plans for us are not that we no longer have horses—

   but that we get horses like Christ. 

Glorified bodies to suit our new home.

 

But what does Paul mean when he says:  Becoming like him in death—

   and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead?

That “somehow” sounds like he is doubtful.  Will it happen?

   Will I be resurrected?

 

Can’t be doubt—because Paul is so certain everywhere else in his writings—

   just like he is at the end of this chapter.  So what is he saying here?

What does this “and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead” mean?

Actually an expression of certainty and hope. 

   Paul is saying that he knows Christ, knows certainty of resurrection—

   the only thing he doesn’t know is what is going to happen in between.

He has no idea what tomorrow will hold—but so what—he knows future.

 

Ran across a sermon by an old Baptist preacher.

   Imagines Paul elaborating on this point: 

“I know I shall rise from the dead and see Jesus.  I have no doubts about that, but I’ve no idea what’s going to happen between now and then, and thank God I don’t.  I don’t want to know.  Perhaps at my trial before Caesar I will be exonerated and given my freedom so that for many years, until my old age, I shall preach Christ.  That may be my route to death and resurrection.  Or tomorrow I may be summoned to appear before Caesar and found guilty and put to death.  That may be my route to the resurrection.  Somehow or other, I shall attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

 

That kind of hope enables you to face every day with confidence.

   What will happen today?  What will happen this year?

   You have no idea.

All your plans and ambitions could be dashed. 

   Businesses fail, marriages fail, health fails—

   this world is one of change and decay.

 

That is one reason why Paul could look at all he chased in first part of life—

   and say it’s rubbish—I consider it dung—

   because how can our plans and ambitions stand against uncertainties of life?

 

But Christ never changes.  Promises never change.

   Hope of the resurrection is that one day we will be like Christ.

   Somehow we’re going to get there.  We can leave that in his wise hands.

 

So on this Easter Sunday—ponder not just Christ’s death and resurrection—

   but what that means for the future—

   what a perfect time to make it your ambition to know Him—

and no longer put your hopes in things that change and fail.