Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Gain, Find, Know, Attain - Part 2

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:08-11, NKJV).

The Bible maintains from the very first verse that God is a Person and He is knowable. This is vitally important, because it distinguishes Biblical Christianity (and its predecessor, Judaism) from every other religion that teaches that God cannot be fathomed. In fact, the remaining monotheistic faith, Islam, claims that Allah is distinctly unknowable. For their part, Pantheistic religions deny the unique Personhood of God, and Agnosticism (which is the Greek form of the word, ignoramus), denies the knowability of God.

Paul declares the diametric opposite in unequivocal terms. He stipulates that, in comparison to the excellence of the knowledge about Christ Jesus (the Person), everything else is worthless. Likewise, after expressing his desire to have Christ's singular and perfect righteousness imputed to himself (to be found in Him not having his own righteousness), he goes on to write of his desire to know Him (relationally, not just intellectually). Of course, there is a valid argument to be made that a finite being could never comprehend an Infinite Being, in the same way that an invertebrate worm could never fathom Einstein, only more profoundly. That must be true, but if and only if, the Infinite One did NOT have the power and volition to reveal Himself. Most assuredly, God has made Himself known; through Creation, through His Word, and ultimately, through His Son. The rather elitist belief that the God of the Universe can't be known is based on error, and lack of Biblical literacy.

The word translated, know, is ginosko (ghin-oce'-ko), which is the verb form of knowledge. It is information put into action. It is knowledge applied to existence and experience, well-beyond the realm of "mere" mind. It is the difference between reading an instruction manual, and actually putting something together. It embodies the contrast between hearing about space and spending time in orbit around the earth. That is the goal Paul has in front of him. First acquire the knowledge of Christ, and then through faith and surrender, obtain the relationship with Jesus.

Intimately associated with that kind of knowing, is understanding - and this is striking indeed - the power of His resurrection. The primary gospel message of the early church focused on the resurrection of Christ. Yes, He died on the Cross for the sin of the world, but the proof that His death was effective for all who believe is that death itself could not hold Him. His perfect innocence rendered His physical death temporary, because death is the wage of sin. Without the sting of sin, death has no lasting power.

Beyond that, Christ laid down His life voluntarily. Had He chosen to do so, He could have escaped the fatal ravages of crucifixion in any number of ways. But that would have left us dead in trespasses and sins. Instead, He surrendered to the will of the Father and tasted death for everyone, taking away the sin of the world. Then, and this is the ultimate astonishing truth, he took His life back up again, rising from the dead after three days and nights in the tomb.

There is a quality and power to Christ's life force that is undeniably connected to His very essence. He radiates life and light across all Creation. That life is somehow discernible, and more to the point, transforming, to us mere mortals who believe. That is why Paul desires that relationship with Christ that comes through faith, and only through faith. You can't read it into your heart. You can't wish its astounding depths to transform your life. You must invest yourself in relationship with Jesus through fellowship, obedience, prayer, and being immersed in His word. In short, you must spend time with your Lord and Savior in the same way you spend time with other persons in your life.

How deep would you expect a relationship to be if, for instance, your time together with the other person were limited to once a week, or once a month, or on Holidays, or only when you are fearful, traumatized, or near death? That is not relationship, that is magical thinking. That is using God as an incantation or ritual. Better to carry an amputated rabbit's foot with you, than rely on that type of knowing.

Paul's wish for himself, and for the church throughout history is to draw near to Christ. The way to His thrown has been opened by His sacrificial death. We have been cleansed. We have been made presentable by faith. We can now come boldly to Him, with perfect access. These are the marvelous truths woven throughout the New Testament. He who was approachable only once a year by the Jewish High Priest, and then only after the repeated ritual sacrifices of innocent animals, is now available to us in His full power - always.

Contemplating these things is what caused the apostle often to burst forth in his writings with spontaneous and soaring words of devotion and blessing to His God. He knew what immeasurable grace Jesus had poured out upon His children by faith. No more ceremonial cleansing, no more temporary covering of sin by the shedding of blood. The infinite gulf between a holy and righteous God and His sin-defiled creatures had been bridged once, for all, by Jesus Christ. The promise of Genesis 15, that God Himself would be His children's exceedingly great reward was fulfilled in the Lord. And with that access and relationship comes everlasting resurrection life.

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3, NKJV).