Just By Faith Alone - Part 6

Philippians 3:1-11

Tom Pennington  •  October 10, 2004
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Well, like me, you've probably watched a good bit of the news over the last couple of weeks. A lot has been going on, including in our country. In addition to the news about the political campaign and the coming election, we've watched with somewhat baited breath as we've heard about the imminent eruption of a volcano in the United States. But for many of us, we remember that this is not a first.

It was 8:32 am on the morning of May 18th 1980 that a five point one magnitude earthquake hit Mount Saint Helens. And that earthquake triggered eruptions that within fifteen minutes had caused a plume of ash to rise eighty thousand feet into the air. As the mountain began to blow there was a young geologist by the name of David Johnston observing the mountain from five miles away on that May morning back in 1980. And as he watched, and as he saw it begin to explode, he picked up his radio, and he radioed his colleagues in Vancouver Washington, and he said to them, "this is it, Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it" he screamed. And then he said, "Vancouver, Vancouver is the transmitter still working?" And those were his last words.

You see rocks and ash and gas and steam plummeted upward and outward from Mount Saint Helens at the speed of 300 miles an hour and at 660 degrees Fahrenheit. Although Johnston was five miles away, within seconds he lie buried under a 200 foot deep avalanche. The blast killed 57 people, and it caused blackness in Spokane Washington more than 250 miles away. All that remained of the snow-capped peak that had been Mount Saint Helens was a large crater, large enough to house the entire downtown city of Seattle.

From Mount Saint Helens to Hurricane Ivan, when God acts, He acts decisively and powerfully, and there are life altering life changing results. That same reality is not only true in the physical world, but it's true in the Spiritual world as well. That's what Paul wants us to understand as we come to verses 10 and 11 of Philippians 3 this morning.

It's been a great joy to walk through this passage together with you, and as I mentioned last week I almost hate to see it come to an end. But we come really to the climax of these verses this morning. Let me read the passage for you, remind you of the flow that we've gone through. Philippians 3:1,

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision: for we are the true circumcision who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The theme of this passage, as we've discovered over the last number of weeks, is justification by faith alone. That act of God by which He declares the believing sinner to be righteous in His sight. And Paul's purpose in recounting this again for the Philippians is to remind them that justification is not something they are ever to get over, that they are ever to go beyond. Instead, this reality of justification is to be the constant center and focus of their life. Justification is to be the plum line by which they measure their spiritual growth. It is to be everything to them. And as he reminds the Philippians of this great biblical doctrine and that it's to be the cornerstone of their lives. He lays out for us in this passage all of the key truths about this great doctrine. Specifically, he identifies seven truths. We've examined six of them, and today we look at the final one. Let me just remind you of what we've discovered.

In verse one we saw that justification is absolutely essential. In verse two we saw that it's constantly under attack by its enemies. In verse three we saw that justification is the mark of all true Christians. In verses four through six we discovered that it is the opposite or antithesis of all human merit. It has absolutely nothing to do with who we are or what we can accomplish. In verses seven and eight we learned that justification follows a radical change in thinking; a change in thinking about ourselves, a change in thinking about the value of Christ, and a change in thinking about how someone comes to be in right standing before God. And last week in verse nine we saw that justification means to be found in Jesus Christ. And as Paul goes on to develop that in verse nine, having a righteousness from God that's a gift from God, given to those who believe and not having my own righteousness derived from my own keeping of God's Law.

Today we come to his final truth. The final truth that he lays out about this great doctrine and it's this: justification is always accompanied by dramatic change. Justification is always accompanied by dramatic change. Or to put it another way, true justification always produces results; and verses 10 and 11 detail the results of justification. Notice verse 10 again,

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Now Paul has argued in this passage that faith alone is the instrument through which we receive justification. But the faith, listen carefully to this, the faith that justifies us is never alone. We are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies us is never alone. That's really a paraphrase of the words of the reformer John Calvin who put it this way. "I wish the reader to understand that as often as we mention faith alone in this question; we are not thinking of a dead faith which works not by love, but instead holding faith to be the only cause or instrument of justification. It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet faith which justifies is not alone."

You see, true saving faith is life transforming. And that's because justification never happens in isolation from the rest of what God does in salvation. You see when you were saved, at the moment you were saved there were a number of spiritual events that occurred: regeneration, faith, repentance, justification, positional sanctification (that is where God sets you apart unto Himself), adoption. Although we talk about each of those separately, in reality, all of those occur at the exact same moment in time. Justification cannot be divorced from the rest of those. It'd be like going into a shoe store and walking up to the counter and saying, "excuse me ma'am, I'd just like to buy this one shoe." Have you ever tried that? Can I just get this one shoe? Or it'd be like going into Barnes and Noble and going up to the counter and showing her a ripped-out chapter of a book and saying, "you know I don't really want the rest of the book, all I want is this chapter." Going to a restaurant and ordering my favorite kind of cake, carrot cake and saying, "listen I'd like carrot cake, but could I get it without the carrots?" Ridiculous, it's impossible.

The same is true of justification. It comes as a package with everything else that God does at the moment of salvation; as Paul continues to set forth in this passage, his own spiritual autobiography. As I told you before, Acts 9 records the event of his salvation. Philippians 3 records what was going on in his heart. And as he continues to set that forth for us, he wants us to know not simply what happened in the past on the road to Damascus, but he wants us to know what continues in his soul. It's the results of justification, and the results are dramatic.

Recently, I saw a documentary on a powerful tornado that a few years ago ripped its way across the Midwest. The images as I'm sure you've seen similar programs, the images of the aftermath was absolutely unbelievable, it was incredible. Nothing was left untouched in the wake of this storm. The Spirit similarly enters our lives like a violent wind, leaving no corner of our hearts untouched. Remember Christ said in John 3 when he was talking to Nicodemus, that the Spirit comes as it were like the wind, and you can't see the wind, but boy, you see the results. Even so, the Spirit comes into our lives, and He upturns everything. Philippians 3:10 and 11 describe the aftermath of the work of the Spirit of God; the aftermath, if you will, of justification.

You see justification isn't something, listen carefully to this distinction, isn't something that happens inside of you. Justification happens instead in the court of God in Heaven. It's a legal decision about you, but justification, while it doesn't happen inside of you, it is always accompanied by those other components of salvation that happen the moment you believe, and those do actually change you. And the most direct and noticeable change is the transformation of your life goals and ambitions. When you come to Christ, things start to change, and it begins with what matters to you, it begins with what you live for.

Paul says listen, this is what happened to me the moment I hit the pavement outside Damascus, my life from that point on was about Jesus Christ. And if you've been justified, if you've been declared righteous by God, then your goals, your ambitions have radically changed. Like Paul, you now have three driving ambitions in life, and he details them in these two verses. He says as a result of my justification, I now want to know Christ. I want to be like Christ, and I want to be with Christ. Let's look at those three driving ambitions in the heart of the Apostle Paul and that should be in our hearts, if we've really come to know Christ if we've been declared righteous. These have come along if you will with the reality of our justification.

He says, first of all, my ambition in life now, now that I've been declared righteous my ambition in life is to know Christ. Verse 10, those famous words, "that I may know Him." Notice back in verse 8 before Paul was justified. He had this radical change in his thinking. We looked at it in detail. He came to grasp the value of knowing Jesus Christ. And once he became justified, that small stream of desire becomes a raging river in his heart. He wants to know Christ. Know here is not head knowledge of the facts. It's to know personally, to know relationally, it has to do with personal experience, with intimate relationship.

It's like in a good marriage. For example, Sheila and I thoroughly enjoy each other. Yet after twenty years of marriage we know each other pretty well. Still, we look forward to those times when we can be together, when we can get together on a date which we love to do regularly; or, to go away to celebrate our anniversary, or just to be together as we will be, Lord willing this week, taking a little family trip to spend time together because as we do that, we get to know each other better, and that's what we want. That's the way it is in relationship, and that's what Paul's saying. There was a time when I came to understand the value of knowing Christ. But, you know what, I want to know Him more.

Christ had appeared personally to Paul on several occasions. Remember on the Damascus road of course. The Lord had also appeared to Paul at the temple we're told, in Corinth the Lord appeared to him at night, Acts 18 says. Second Corinthians 12 says, he was caught up into the third heaven somehow and spent time with Christ. For thirty years, Paul has been a Christian. He's had those inter encounters, and for thirty years he has communed with Christ in study and in prayer. And yet if you could've asked Paul. Paul, what is it that you want more than anything else? You know what he would've said. I want to know Christ better. I want to know Christ more. You know Paul was really reflecting the heart of God. This is what matters to God. Have you ever thought about this? You know some people live their Christian lives as if all that mattered to God is you have this little check list: read my Bible, yeah; prayer, yeah; stayed out of trouble today, yeah; didn't do this, didn't smoke, didn't cuss, didn't, you know, chew, didn't run with girls that do, whatever. Whatever your little check list is. That's not what the Christian life is about. Listen to what is important to God. Go back to Jeremiah 9:23 and 24, where the Lord says,

… Let not a wise man boast in his wisdom, and let not a mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness in the earth; for I delight in these things, says the Lord.

This is what Christ said in John 17:3. He said, listen, knowing God and knowing Christ is the essence of what it means to have eternal life. John 17:3, for "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Knowing God, knowing Christ is also the measure of your spiritual maturity. Do you want to know mature you are as a believer? How well do you know God?

Turn to 1 John; I want you to see this, 1 John 2. The Apostle John gives us snapshots, if you will, on the way to spiritual maturity. He starts with spiritual infants, and then he moves to spiritual young men, and then he moves to spiritual fathers. And look at what he says characterizes each of those stages of development. First John 2:12, "I am writing to you little children," here's the children's stage, the infant stage of our spiritual walk and of our Christian lives, you know that "your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake." Here there is a simple acknowledgment of the reality that we're forgiven. Down in verse 14, no I'm sorry the end of verse 13, "… I have written to you, children, because you know the Father." You have the simple awareness that you have a heavenly Father. So, there's this simple understanding of things. A spiritual infant, he understands, or she understands that they're forgiven of their sins, they understand that they now have God as their Father. But it's a very basic, a very simple understanding. Then notice young men is the second stage he describes here, verse 13,

… I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one … [Verse 14] … I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Here's the second stage of spiritual maturity, you've gotten beyond understanding the simple reality that you've been forgiven and that God is your Father, and now you've begun to grasp the Word of God. You begin to understand the truth and because of that you're no longer as Paul says in Ephesians; you're no longer like a child tossed here and to and fro by every wind of doctrine. You have a stability. You've begun to grow in your walk and your understanding of who God is, but that's only the second stage. And that's where a lot of people stop. Can I say there is a temptation even in a bible church to stop there; with a knowledge of the truth that enables us to overcome sinful patterns in our lives? But notice spiritual fathers, verse 13,

I am writing to you, fathers, [here's the ultimate stage in spiritual maturity] because you know Him who has been from the beginning. [Verse 14,] I have written to you fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.

The ultimate stage of spiritual maturity is to know God. Is your greatest ambition in life to know God, to know Christ better, as Paul said? Perhaps you've been a Christian for years, and as the years past, you have to admit you've lost your first love. There isn't the same intensity of affection and devotion; and even commitment to serve and obey. You've allowed your faith to become stagnant. Listen, determine to do something about it this week. Read the Gospels, set aside other things. Set aside the distractions of television and unnecessary errands and focus instead on the person of Jesus Christ. Read the Gospels again. See who He is.

I'll never forget how life changing this can be. It was for me personally. When I was a junior in college; the Lord put me in the hospital for two weeks in isolation. Even the nurses didn't want to come in to see me, they were they was they were afraid I had some horrible transmittable disease, as it turns out it wasn't true. But the Lord put me in the hospital in isolation, and I remember there wasn't much else to do, so one of those days I decided to take out my Bible and to read the Gospels through in one day. That was absolutely life changing for me. It was at the end of that day that I got down on my knees, and I said, "Lord, I've been pursuing my own plan. I've been pursuing my own will. I've wanted to be an attorney, and that's what I've started calling Your will for me. But if You want me to do what I think You're wanting me to do, which is preach Your Word, then that's what I'll do." And I committed my life to the ministry to the Word of God. It was the reading of the Gospels. Seeing Christ in all of His glory and His beauty ignited me again to serve Him.

Read the gospels, read books about Christ, read John Piper's Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. Read The Incomparable Christ by J. Oswald Sanders. And as you do these things ask God to breathe on the dying embers of your heart, to reignite the sparks of your love for Christ into a full flame. Paul says after thirty years of being a Christian, "that I may know Him."

Justification, he says, always is accompanied by dramatic change. It creates consuming ambitions in your heart. The first is to know Christ. And secondly, he says not only do I want to know Christ, but I want to be like Him. I want to be like Him. Notice the second half of verse 10, "that I may know … the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;" You see this new righteousness Paul now relies on, this righteousness that's a gift granted to him by God. It results in a longing to be like Jesus Christ. You know there are some people that are afraid that if you teach justification like I have the last few weeks. That God has forever declared you righteous that you'll never answer for your sins again that it's going to somehow turn Christians loose to live any way they want. Paul says nothing could be further from the truth. He said because of the righteousness I've received because of the amazing gift I've received in Christ; there's nothing I want more than to be like Jesus Christ.

Paul describes this desire for spiritual perfection, this desire to be like Christ in several ways. Notice he says; I want to know the power of His resurrection. Paul wanted to know or experience the power of Christ's resurrection. To Paul it was this power that made living a holy life possible. Look back in Ephesians 1, in Ephesians 1. He describes it this way, he's praying for the Ephesians, verse 18, I'm praying that you may have illumination, that is;

… that the eyes of your heart [may be opened] may be enlightened, so that you will know … [verse 19,] … the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

He's said listen, I'm praying that God will open your spiritual eyes to see the power that's at work in you. And he says it's the same power that's

… in accordance with the working with the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all … spiritual authority and … put all things" [

verse 22,] … in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as the head over all things to the church,

You know what Paul is saying? He's saying, listen, it's hard enough for anyone to live a moral life in the culture in which we live. That's a difficult thing. That's a challenge. But what do you do if it's your ambition in life to live life like Jesus Christ lived it? How in the world can you get there? Paul says you rely on God's power, the same power He used when He raised Jesus body from the dead. If He can raise a dead body to life, then He can in infuse spiritual power and strength and life into a dead heart. He is able to bring about permanent lasting change in our hearts through that kind of power. It's extraordinary power. It's the power of His resurrection.

Undoubtedly, Paul is thinking back to Romans 6:5, where he wrote that we died in Christ, and we also rise in the resurrection of Christ as it were, to walk in a new life, a life characterized by holiness. Paul wanted God's power, the same power shown in the resurrection so that he could be holy. Listen, this was God's goal in saving you. You think this was something peripheral? This is God's goal in saving you, Ephesians 1:4, "… He chose us … that we would be holy and blameless before Him." That was His intention. Romans 8:29, "He … predestined us to … [be]- conformed to the image of His Son." This is what God was about, and Paul says that's what I want, I want to know Him, and I want to be like Him. I want to be like Him in holiness, I want that power that allows me to be holy, and I want to be like Him, notice also, in "the fellowship of His sufferings."

We've seen this word "fellowship" before. We met it in 1:5, and in 2:1. It's the familiar Greek word "koinonia." Paul loves this word; in fact, he uses it here in Philippians six times. It's a word which means "partners;" it includes the ideas of "associating with someone as well as participating with them." As I've shared with you before, it's the same way Paul uses this word the same way that J. R. Tolkien uses it in his trilogy The Lord of the Rings, when he describes the "fellowship" of the ring. Paul says he wants to know or intimately experience what it means to be in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. When Tolkien wrote his book about the fellowship of the ring, that small group that bound themselves together with Frodo Baggins to destroy the ring of power, they were partners. They were in the fellowship of the ring, and Paul says I want to be in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings.

This isn't some form of asceticism, he's not talking about beating himself, he's not talking about masochism. What is he describing? Paul says, I want to know Christ by experiencing, by getting a taste of the same sufferings that He went through, obviously not His death for sin, Paul could never do that. Instead, he meant the persecution that Christ received because He was holy and separate, set apart to God. Lloyd-Jones says that this kind of suffering is inevitable for the Christian. Listen to what he says, "the more I become like Christ, the more I share His holiness, the more His experiences will be reenacted in my life."

This is a constant theme of Paul. It was true of Paul, Paul says in Galatians 6, "I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus Christ." Paul's body showed the persecution that he'd endured. Colossians 1:24 he says, "… in my flesh I do share … in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." But it's also true, not only of Paul, but of us. Notice back in Philippians 1, Paul warned the Philippians that "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake," It's been granted to believe and to suffer. Some of us would like to sort of draw a line there and get the believe part, but not the suffer part. Romans 8:17 says "… if [we're] children, [we're] heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified…."

Second Timothy 3:12 says, "… all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will [what] … [suffer persecution.]" They will be persecuted. When we suffer because of our relationship with Jesus Christ our suffering is intimately related to His, that's because we are hated in His place.

You know, it's been a horrific thing, I'm sure you've experienced it as I have to hear of this endless string of kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq. But the reason those terrorists are doing that is because they can't get to the leaders of those countries, so instead, they capture their citizens and carry out their mayhem against them. In the same way, sinners can't get at Christ, so they attack us.

You know, suffering seems pretty foreign to us, doesn't it? There are many places in our world today, however, where it goes on, and it goes on intensely. Maybe you read some, as I do, of those who are suffering for Christ today. I read a story this week about a man by the name of Sergei Baserab, excuse me Besarab, Sergei Besarab. Five years ago, Sergei was the leader of organized crime in Tajikistan, one of the splinters of the former Soviet Union. He'd been in prison five times for eighteen years of his life. This was a man who was horribly into sin and chained in prison by it. But a fellow prisoner, who had come to faith in Christ, who had shared the gospel with him began to pray for Sergei, and he prayed for him every day for three years.

In August of 2000, Sergei bent his knee and acknowledged Christ as his Lord and Savior. He was soon released, and he began to travel the country sharing of his faith in Christ, going to prisons and sharing of the truth of the transforming power of Christ. In January of last year, he started a church in one of the towns in Tajikistan. The church has grown dramatically and in spite of tremendous persecution from the Muslim community. In January of this year one of the cities' newspapers printed an angry article against the church. One line stood out in the article, it was this, "what's going to be done about Sergei Besarab?" Sergei was terribly committed to Christ. He spent two hours every morning in worship with Christ, two hours every evening enjoying time with alone with God. He read his Bible during those four hours a day. He prayed, he sang songs as he strummed his guitar, privately worshiping the Lord. These meetings were a permanent part of his day.

But a week after the article came out this last January, Sergei was sitting in one of those evening sessions, strumming his guitar and singing when a shot rang out. The window was immediately crashed, and a shot hit his hand splattering the guitar that he was playing with blood. A moment later another shot rang out and struck his leg, and finally a third shot hit him in the chest. His wife came to find her husband dying, nothing she could do to save him.

You know, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ will end up sharing in that kind of fellowship with Christ's sufferings. They will suffer as martyrs. But you and I don't have to endure that kind of intensity to be a partner in the sufferings of Christ. In Scripture persecution takes a variety of forms, from temptations, to compromise, to ridicule, to intimidation and threats to slander, to accusations and physical force. Most of the forms of persecution in our world are verbal not physical, and you and I endure those fairly constantly if not directly focused on us, against us as Christians because we are Christians. We're thought of as less intelligent, as needing some crutch on which to lean. Unbelievably, when we're persecuted in whatever form, whether it's verbally or whether it's physically, like Sergei, we are called upon to rejoice.

Look at Luke 6, these words of Christ fascinate me. In Luke 6:22, one of the beatitudes, He says, "Blessed are you [happy are you] when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son on Man." Have you ever been ostracized at work because people know you're a Christian? You ever been sort of left out of events because well you know, he's not like us? Christ says be happy, verse 23, "Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets." First Peter 4:13 and 14 says,

… to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rest on you. [Take it as an indication, an assurance of the reality that you're in Christ.]

Paul adds a further description of his desire to be like Christ, he says I want to be like Christ in holiness, I want to be like Christ in His sufferings, and then he says, at the end of verse 10. I want to be "conformed to His death." What does he mean? Well, Paul tells us in Romans 6 that he died with Christ as a result of his salvation in the past. In other words, there was a time when he came to faith in Christ, and at that moment in time it's as if he died with Jesus Christ on the cross and been raised to walk in a new life, and Paul is now saying that he is willing to conform his life to the implications of Christ's death now in the present, not just in the past when he was saved, but right now. He says, I'm willing to consider myself dead to sin and alive to God. I'm willing to renounce all of my selfish desires. I'm willing to take up my cross daily and follow Jesus Christ. I want to be like Him even in that. This is sort of further explained and developed in 2 Corinthians 4. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul writes, we are always, verse 10; we are

always carrying about in … [our] body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

He says, listen, we not only face the reality, the possibility of physical death, but our lives are lived in a sort of dying to ourselves and what we want, just as Christ gave up everything for us, we give up everything for Him. He says I want to be conformed to His death.

Gordon Fee writes, "to be conformed to Christ's death means that all of our life is stamped with the divine imprint of the cross." We live as it were under the shadow of the cross, taking up our own cross and following Christ regardless of what it costs. Paul says, listen, I want to know Christ. And I want to be like Him in His holiness. I want to be like Him in His sufferings, and I want to be like in Him in living my life as it were as a sacrifice unto God.

Justification is always accompanied by a dramatic change, a change that begins in our desires and ambitions. If you've been justified, then you long to know Christ, to be like Him, and finally Paul says you want to be with Him. You want to be with Him, verse 11, "in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." Literally, he begins this verse, by saying in order that, literally say, "if somehow." In fact, some of your translations may have something like that. If somehow, now that doesn't mean Paul has doubts, back in chapter 1:21 of Philippians, he says for me to die is what? Gain, he knew where he was going. He didn't have any doubts about where he was headed. Instead, he's simple saying I don't know how I'm going to receive my resurrection body. I don't know whether I'll be among those who are dead in Christ when He returns and whom who are raised, or whether I'll still be alive. Either way, somehow, I will attain to the resurrection of the dead.

The word "attain" is an interesting word, it's a word that's used often in the book of Acts to refer to actually arriving at a destination. He says I'm going to arrive at the destination, and that destination is resurrection. Very interesting expression in the Greek text, literally it's this, he says I'm going to arrive at the resurrection out from among the corpses, the resurrection out from among the corpses. There is a similar expression in Luke 20:35 and 36, and in both of these cases, in both Luke 20 and here in Philippians 3, there seems to be a clear implication that Paul is speaking about the initial resurrection of believers from out among the rest of the dead. He's talking about what we refer to as the rapture, when those who are in Christ are taken out from among the corpses. Paul says, I'm going to be a part of that resurrection.

But why, why does Paul want to arrive at the destination of the resurrection? You know I think sometimes we give the worst of motives to Paul. Well, you know, he just wanted to be free of all the troubles that he was experiencing in this life. It's why a lot of us want to leave this life, isn't it? That wasn't Paul.

Paul longed for the resurrection so that he could know Christ in the highest and fullest expression of what it means with his entire person, a glorified soul and a glorified body. Paul longed for the resurrection not only so he could know Christ perfectly, but so that he could be perfectly like Christ in soul and body, and for Paul neither of those were possible, neither knowing Christ perfectly nor perfectly being like Christ until he had a glorified body. Remember in Romans 8:23 he says, we groan waiting eagerly for the redemption of our what, of our bodies. He said, listen, it's not going to be like I want it. It's not going to be the kind of perfect relationship I want with Jesus Christ until all of me, body and soul, are perfect just like Jesus Christ, and I can know Him as he says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "then I'll know Him even as I am known."

If you have received the gift of righteousness from God, you've received it by faith alone as a gift from God, but that faith is never alone. Justification is always accompanied by dramatic changes, and like Paul your ambitions in life have begun to change, and they are focused on Christ. If you're a believer, if you've truly been justified, then you have new longings, and those longings are to know Christ, to know Him better. Oh yes, you know Him. If you're in Christ, you know Him. But you know Him like a little child knows his father. Paul says I want you to grow up in your knowledge to be like a father who knows him who has been from the beginning. You want to know Him, and you want to be like Him. You want to be like Him in holiness. You want to be like Him in sharing in His sufferings, in being accused of being a Christian. And you want to be like Him even in being conformed to His death. That is in committing yourself as Christ did to live the life of the cross, to give up who you are and what you want to live for God and for others.

So, you want to know God. You want to know Christ you want to be like Christ, and you want to be with Christ. He says I want to attain to the resurrection from the dead because I want to be with the one I love, and I want to know Him perfectly. Those may not be the perfection of your life, but if you're in Christ, then those are certainly the direction of your life. Paul says, now that I've been justified, my greatest ambition in life is "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

Let's pray together.

Father, thank you for Paul, thank you for this wonderful passage that opens up his heart and allows us to see what went on that day outside the city walls of Damascus when you confronted him with Yourself. Lord, it's been our joy to travel through the path that You took him down. And Lord I pray that You would help each of us who know You through Christ to end where Paul ends, having been justified. He still longs to know Christ. He wants to be like Christ, and he wants to be with Him.

Lord, I pray that you would fan again the flame of our hearts. We confess to You that some of us have been Christians a long time, and we've allowed the fire of our devotion to grow dim. Father, help us to see Christ again in all His glory. Help us to understand who He is. Help us to see His beauty. Help us to see the surpassing value of knowing Him afresh and anew. And Lord help us to, like Paul, to be able to say thirty years into our Christian experience that the one thing we want more than anything else is to know Christ, to be like Him, and to be with Him.

We pray in Jesus name, Amen.