Imagine the indescribably brilliant splendor of the proverbial pearly gates. Human words fail to capture heaven’s glory but John shares this God-given vision:
It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass.
Revelation 21:11,18-19,21 NRSV
I imagine bursting with joy filled awe.
In parallel (perhaps a remnant from my judgment heavy upbringing), I also envision a long line of recently deceased souls awaiting their opportunity to plead their case before heaven’s gatekeeper.
So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
Romans 14:12 NIV
I used to tremble with self-doubt in this scene. But Paul, as a zealous Jewish Pharisee, would have confidently recited his credentials for entry. That is, until he met Jesus.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if before we opened our mouth to utter a word, whether pleading or confident, God spoke first? “I know you, [Cathy]. You are mine.”
Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Knowing Christ has ultimate value.
Ask the internet what it means to know Christ and you’ll probably learn to accept Jesus as Lord of your life and to have a personal relationship with Him. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul unites the two by proclaiming Jesus as his personal Lord.
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 mere 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.
Philippians 3:8-10 NASB
In 3 verses Paul values 6 ways to know Christ:
• Know Christ Jesus my Lord
• Gain Christ
• Be found in Christ
• Know the power of His resurrection
• Know the fellowship of His sufferings
• Be conformed to His death
Let’s recall Paul’s context that we learned in the first 2 posts of this series: In exchange for knowing Jesus, Paul denounces both his privilege as a physically circumcised Jew and pride in his obedience to God. He criticizes Jewish believers who want Gentile believers to be circumcised to preserve their apparent special status before God. But Paul insists that good standing comes by believing that Jesus is who He says He is and accomplished our rescue. (click to read posts #1 and #2)
Paul strips the circumcised Jews of their insider advantage.
He defines spiritual circumcision:
We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and take pride in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.
Philippians 3:3 NASB
Instead of a physical mark of belonging, the circumcised are those who cut away their self-confident pride, those who mark themselves as dependent on Christ, those who expose their hearts and all their flaws to Him.
Paul didn’t make this up. When the Jews were still in the wilderness, God called them to mark their hearts in devotion to Him:
Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not stiffen your neck any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the awesome God, who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe.
Deuteronomy 10:16-17 NASB
Know Christ by making Jesus your personal Lord.
Christ Jesus is Paul’s personal Lord, the one to whom he bows and submits. Jesus is the one he serves and by doing so Paul gains Christ’s perfect standing before God. When God looks at Paul he sees Christ’s perfection. What an enormous gain, right?
Paul finds his identity in Jesus; he unites himself with Jesus as a beloved son of the Father. He no longer finds his identity as his world defines it, in his family heritage or his personal accomplishments. His is found in Christ.
Identified with Christ and filled with His Spirit, Paul begins to resemble Jesus. As he willingly submits, the Holy Spirit shapes him into the image of Jesus. So increasingly Paul knows the death Jesus suffered – the loss of friends and family, the false accusations, the persecution. He also knows victory over evil.
A personal relationship with Jesus differs from with a peer.
We are fellow heirs of Christ, brothers and sisters. Jesus calls us friend. But we always remain under his rule and authority.
The word Christ means king;
Christ Jesus is King Jesus.
Furthermore, the word lord means master;
Jesus is my Lord means Jesus is my Master.
Surrender, service, submission and suffering are concepts that rankle Western sensitivities. But honoring Jesus’ authority leads to knowing Christ.
Time to reflect:
Do you relate to Jesus as brother, friend, lord or king?
How might including all titles impact your relationship with Jesus?
What one area of your life needs to come under Jesus’ authority?
This is the 3rd of 4 in the series on Philippians 3. Read more:
How to Receive Right Standing
When Strong Language is Holy
How do We Know Jesus by Suffering?