The book of Philippians was written by Paul from prison as an encouragement to the church of Philippi. Chapter three gives us some very deep thoughts about what it means to be a Christian.
In verse four, Paul begins to list off all the things he could have placed his confidence in: circumcised, an Israelite, one of the strictest adherers to the law, so zealous that he persecuted the church, considered blameless in regards to righteousness through works. Paul was among the religious elite. He was probably a pretty honored and respected guy.
And here comes the shocker: Paul counted all this as loss for the sake of Christ. Knowing Christ was of the infinite worth to him, so much so that else was worthless in comparison. Paul literally counted everything apart from Christ as junk- so much that he literally threw it away; his reputation, his honor, and his security. He gave it all up, choosing instead to endure extreme suffering because of his public and unashamed faith in Christ.
Paul didn’t mind throwing all he had away. In fact, he believed it would be a privilege to suffer for his faith. Even death itself was hardly a price to pay for the sake of the One who loved him enough to die for him.
Paul realized that he could only be truly righteous through Christ. He didn’t rely on the law anymore because Jesus could truly make him right before God. The law didn’t make righteousness possible; Jesus did.
Paul was willing to even die as Christ had died because he knew he would also eventually receive resurrection from the dead, just as Christ also had been raised from the dead. Earlier he claims that “to die is gain”. Okay, well, death isn’t too bad, because it doesn’t last forever. But how can it be gain? Death brings us closer to being with Jesus and thus to knowing him fully and having a perfect relationship with him.
If we know Jesus, we have a relationship with him. The two things are tied so close together they are practically the same. Knowing Christ means having a personal relationship with him through faith. This was Paul’s goal, the one he talks about in the next section: to know Christ more and more.
What does it mean to know God and to grow in a relationship with him?
When Adam and Eve sinned, they were separated from God, and by extension, so is all humanity. Through faith, Jesus gives us the opportunity to be reconciled to him. That means we can know him as our Savior and Father, we can grow in our understanding of him, and we can continually be growing closer to him. Most people know about Jesus, but only through faith can we personally know him and have an intimate relationship with him.
Knowing Jesus is so important that Paul basically says, “I don’t care about all that stuff anymore (the reputation, the honor, the safe easy life), because the one thing that matters to me is Christ and knowing Him.” Doesn’t it make sense that if someone was really awesome and amazing, you’d want to know them and have a relationship with them? Well, then, it’s really incredible and unbelievable that we get the opportunity to know Jesus; to know God. Because Paul understood the value of knowing Christ, he gave his all to pursuing that goal.
We too must see the value of knowing God and the importance of a relationship with him.
If you don’t have a personal relationship with God through Jesus, you are unrighteous, condemned, and without hope. If you have accepted Jesus as your savior, you already have a relationship with God through Jesus, but like Paul, you must seek to grow it.
How can we know God and grow our relationship with him?
Through the Bible
The Bible is God’s Word, his revealing of himself to us. In order to know God, we must read his Word. The Bible teaches us who God is and it is God’s direction and commands for our lives. God speaks to us through his Word, and we must listen.
As the Bible is God speaking to us, so prayer is us speaking to God. A relationship with God involves the blessing of coming before him in prayer. As with any relationship, it isn’t just a one way deal. Though God already knows all our needs and sins and joys and sorrows, he encourages us to pray to him because it strengthens our faith and shows our trust in him. We should want to talk to God.
Through following him
Cultivating a relationship with God takes action. As God is actively working in our lives and hearts to sanctify us, we must be actively seeking to please him with our lives and obey his commands. Our faith will grow as we trust God and serve him. Like Paul, we must be willing to follow God at whatever cost, even when it requires sacrifice. If we personally know and love God, we must live for him.
The greatest gift we have been given is the opportunity for fellowship with God through Jesus. Too often we take this for granted. Paul’s words stand as a reminder to us that knowing God and pursuing a relationship with him is the well worthwhile.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8)