Summary: The greatest desire of a true Christian is to know God. Every other desire pales in significance to this one.
That I May Know Him
TEXT: Philippians 3:10
August 11, 2002
Rev. Elias Rivera-Reyes - El Buen Pastor U.M.C.
What is the greatest desire of a Christian? Throughout Scripture, the great men and women of God say that their passion is to truly know Him. Moses says to God: "I pray You show me Your glory" (Exodus 33:18). David prays: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God" (Psalm 42:1). And Paul says that his heart longs to "know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" (Philippians 3:10). The greatest desire of a true Christian is to know God. Every other desire pales in significance to this one.
Did you know that it’s possible to be a Christian and not really know God? John 14:8-9 tells us that Phillip, after following Jesus for a number of years, says to Him, "Lord, show us the Father." And Jesus replied, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me?"
Maybe the problem is the word KNOW. When the Bible talks about knowing God, it’s not referring to a merely intellectual exercise. Knowing God does not mean knowing facts about God. To know God is not just reciting His biblical resume or hearing testimony of what He has done in someone else’s life. Knowing God involves encountering Him and finding out that He is who He says He is.
It might seem surprising that Paul says he wants to know God in Philippians 3:10; after all, he knew all about God from his intense training in the Law and his lofty stature in the Jewish community. In Philippians 3:4-7, Paul explains that he met all the religious qualifications of the day, and he was at the apex of Jewish leadership. Paul knew all about God, but Paul did not know God until he met Jesus face to face on the road to Damascus. Paul’s life changed because God revealed Himself to Paul, not because Paul had all the right answers. That’s why Paul says we should have no "confidence in the flesh" (v. 3).
In order to truly know God, Paul says: "Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ" (v. 7). Paul had to be willing to turn his back on his human accomplishments in order to gain knowledge of Christ. He continues: "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (v. 8). Paul uses the present tense verb "count" here, indicating that this is occurring in his life at the time of his writing. This shows us that even after the moment of his salvation, Paul continues to put the things of the world far below his priority of knowing Jesus Christ. This is an example of sanctification-what started at the cross with salvation continues to influence the way we live. Christ becomes a Christian’s greatest passion; knowing Him is the Christian’s number one priority.
The Power of Knowing Christ
Paul says that he longs to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. This power is the same force that brought Christ out of the grave. Every believer in Jesus Christ has been resurrected; for we died with Him, we are buried with Him, and we have risen with Him. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we understand the power of the Resurrection. Paul is saying that he wants to know what it’s like to live a resurrected life, to no longer be in bondage to the flesh, to have victory over sin. Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection means that you live a resurrected life yourself.
If you stick a fireplace poker into the fire and leave it there long enough, it will become red hot, signifying that the heat of the fire has heated the poker. If you take that poker and hold it close to a piece of paper, the paper will catch on fire because the heat will transfer to the paper. Whatever that poker touches will be lit with the same flame. If you have been hanging around with Christ long enough and you know His resurrection, His resurrection rubs off on you so that what you touch catches His fire.
Paul says he wants to have this resurrected kind of life. His focus is on knowing Christ because Christ’s power will enable him to overcome the power of sin in the flesh.
The Pain of Sharing His Suffering
Most people walk their dogs on leashes. Or rather, the dogs "walk" the people by dragging them along behind! But when a dog and his master have a close, tight relationship, that master doesn’t even need a leash to keep the dog close. The relationship keeps the dog close by his side. He doesn’t have to pull or tug the dog because the dog doesn’t want to escape and doesn’t want distance to come between him and his master. He wants to be close.