Phi 3:8-11 says, 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 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
When death comes for a visit we are invited, no—drawn to think about God and heavenly things. It is almost impossible not to think about God and the things of God at times like this. Some of us were raised in some kind of religious setting. Some rejected that training, and have never looked back. Others have rejected it at one point in their lives and later turned back for another look and are now rejoicing in the faith they started in. Still others never left and are thriving and growing in their knowledge of God. Still, death brings all the questions up again: What’s on the other side? Is this all there is? What is there to look forward to? And the like. Sometimes our minds go to ultimate questions such as: Who is God? Who am I? Has God forgotten about me? If there is no God, or if there is, why is my life such a train wreck?
I don’t have time this morning to answer all these questions, certainly not enough time to go into any great detail about them, but the Apostle Paul assumes and answers a number of them in our text. First, the goal of real, vibrant, joy-filled life is found in gaining Christ. Life is about Christ. If we don’t have Christ, we don’t have life. Oh sure, we are living…sort of, but until we know Christ and are becoming like Christ, nothing really clicks. Our relationships are shallow and fall all apart because of the simplest things, our lives never seem to fulfill us. We are always grasping after one more…whatever. This is not because we are grasping, but because we are grasping after all the wrong things. We need to grasp Christ, in order to “gain” him, if we are to really live.
Second, gaining Christ only comes when we realize that nothing in this life is of any real and lasting importance compared to knowing and “gaining” Christ. The only way we can turn to Christ is to realize that nothing compares to knowing him. Sometimes this knowledge comes to us as we get bored with the things the world dangles in front of us. Sometimes it comes because we realize that Christ really is that glorious and worth having. Or a combination of the two.
Third, Jesus rose from the dead to give us power to live lives now that will lead us into the resurrection later. Many Christians forget that Jesus rose from the dead. This means that he is a living God, not a dead god. And this makes all the difference. We relate to a living God. We don’t simply jump through hoops for an idea or a philosophy. We are not acting out a part, we are participating in a life.
And fourth, all of this is predicated on the fact that life is only really life if it is lived in relationship with Christ Jesus the Lord. Participating in a life, in his life is what living is all about. If you don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you don’t have real life and this explains why your life is so lacking in glamour, joy, excitement, and fulfillment.
There are generally two reasons why this kind of talk is foreign to most people. First, sometimes we are used to others doing our religion for us instead of us participating in it ourselves. We go to church and watch it happening up there, in front. Our priests or praise band is up there worshipping and we sit in our seats and watch the happenings up front.
Second, this kind of talk is foreign because we tend to have a mechanistic view of God and the things of God. We think of God as a sort of vending machine in the sky, waiting to reward us for doing good and slapping us if we do evil. We think that if we do enough good things in our lives, certainly more good than bad, God will honor our good and let us into heaven when we die. The last thing we think of God is that he is a caring, loving, personal, and intimate God, wanting to share our in lives and his life with us.
In both cases, we need to know that God is not interested in our doing religious or good things, he is interested in having a relationship with us. In fact, if others do our religion for us, then we are in serious trouble. And, if we have done any bad, that is enough to condemn us to Hell for eternity. The reason for this is that God is God and we are not.
The good news is that no matter what we’ve done or will do, God wants to have this relationship with us more than almost anything else in the universe. Our willfulness, called sin in the Bible, can be forgiven because Jesus took our punishment when he died on the cross. Jesus’ death turned away the anger of God, anger directed toward us for that first evil thought, action, or motive. His death took our shame and our guilt and nailed it to the cross. He died for us, so that we wouldn’t have to die eternally.
Finally, we know all this is true because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose from the dead after three days and lives now, seated at the right hand of God the Father, still interceding on our behalf. And so, we don’t have to wonder where we will go when we die. We know because Jesus went before us. If we believe in his gift to us, have faith that God is for us, and put our trust in him as Lord of the universe, his death will be held to our account.
Jesus’ death and resurrection gives us the life Paul was talking about in the passage I read in the beginning. All we need to do is to cry out to God, give our lives to him, beg him to forgive us, and then live our lives for him and we will have been saved.
After that its all gravy. After that initial meeting, its all about relationship. We bow our knee to God as God because of what Jesus did for us, and we meet with God constantly and eternally after that. We strive to become more like the one who died for us because that honors God; and we love those around us with the same love that was poured out on us in Jesus’ crucifixion, because this also brings honor and glory to God.