Summary: If you and I want to truly know Christ it’s going to cost us. Knowing Jesus requires that you and I take stock of our gains, our prestige, our very personages and like Paul, consider their worth in light of Christ. What does it mean to know Christ? What w
I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST
I want to know Christ. To say this is to commit ourselves to a monumental task that would involve the rest of our lives and would never find its completion.
When Jesus comes back, He will have a name that only He knows (Rev. 19:12). This reveals to us that all there is to know about Jesus has not been revealed. The more we get to know Him, the more we realize there is more to get to know. This title - an unknown title - reveals His lack of containment to our imagination and theology – He has a mystery to Him that indicates we will never be able to know Him completely.
There are some things that you can know just about everything about. In the movie "Forrest Gump," Bubba Blue, Forrest’s “best good friend” lists all the ways there are to prepare shrimp. He tells Forrest, "Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s, um, shrimp kebabs, shrimp Creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There’s pineapple shrimp and lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.... That’s, that’s about it."
Ironically, we have some people who think they know everything there is to know about Jesus Christ, "Bubba" Christians. And they will tell you, “I know everything there is to know about Jesus" – and they quote the Apostles’ Creed – “He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, when He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” This is a good place to start, but it does not begin to describe Jesus Christ. And knowing Christ is something that we will require an eternity to discover (Rob Willis).
If you and I want to truly know Christ it’s going to cost us. Knowing Jesus requires that you and I take stock of our gains, our prestige, our very personages and like Paul, consider their worth in light of Christ. What does it mean to know Christ? What will it cost us? What will we gain?
Let’s look at our passage (3:1-11) and find out.
1. Beware: Our Joy is threatened
a) “Rejoice in the Lord” – We begin our study with a warning. It doesn’t sound like a warning at first, because Paul says, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” But then he concludes this verse with “…it is a safeguard for you.” In short, rejoicing in the Lord is a good defense for the church. How does rejoicing in Jesus protect the church?
For Paul, rejoicing in the Lord is everything that the church is about. Earlier in ch. 1 he said that when Christ was preached, for whatever reason, he rejoiced. Of course, he meant “this is what brings joy to me.” To rejoice for Paul was to say, “It is in this that I find my joy,” and to exhort others to rejoice he meant “Let the Lord be the one who makes you happy.” Find your joy in him and him alone.
We could recount again the fact that Paul faced prison and possibly death resulting in despair for any normal person. But he sat in the midst of these trials with a smile because he had Jesus. Jesus was his one reason for living, or for dying.
So for the church this is a safeguard. How? Because if the church finds its reason for being in Jesus then nothing that external forces can do to it will bring it down. If the church finds its joy in Jesus nothing can stop it from growing. Jesus is the life of the church and we should rejoice in him.
b) Dogs, Pigs and other Monikers – The trouble, however, is not always outside forces. Sometimes there are internal troubles that threaten to steal our joy. If we take our eyes off of Jesus as a church, we are in serious trouble. And sad to say, there are those within the church, any church, who are doing just that.
Paul uses strong language here to describe those people. He says, “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh” (v. 2). We are not used to such language. Paul called another human being a dog. How Christlike is that? Very much in fact. Jesus himself did the same when he said, “Do not give to dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Mt 7:6). Jesus called some people dogs, he called them pigs. Our 21st century tolerance and political correctness would never allow such a thing, yet it seems that a spade needs to be called a spade. When you think “dog” you must not think cuddly pet, but rather think of the worst insult you can give. Think of the dog who smells the wrong things and barks about it.