Lesson 3 - The Pursuit of a Lifetime

Lesson Three: The Pursuit of a Lifetime

(Chapter Three)

Everyone is on a journey.  Most people believe that the journey begins at birth and ends at death.  In reality we are presently living in the world of the dying.  For those of us who have received God's gift of eternal life we move on to the world of the living.

In Genesis the Lord made many promises to Abraham, including the promise of land.  Genesis 12:1, 7; 13:14, 15.  The land is a major theme of the Old Testament.  The word "land" is found more than 800 times in the Old Testament, and only about 40 times in the New Testament.  The entire book of Joshua deals with the possession of the land.  Yet we read of Abraham, "By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God."  Hebrews 11:9, 10.  He desired something better, a heavenly city prepared by God.  Hebrews 11:13-16.

Jesus said, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses."  Luke 12:15.  Most people live like they plan to live forever here on planet earth.  Life consists of an accumulation of things.  People are actively involved in a worldly pursuit of fame or fortune or worldly pleasures.  A multi-millionaire on the Hollywood scene said, "Anyone who thinks that money is fulfilling and can make people happy doesn't have money."  He has traveled the money trail with great success, but little satisfaction.

Of what should one's life consist, if not in the abundance of things?  In the third chapter of Philippians Paul writes about his pursuit of a lifetime.

 

GAINING CHRIST

The apostle Paul lived a good life before he was saved.  He took pride in being a Jew.  "If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless."  Philippians 3:4-6.  He was among the elite in Israel, enjoying prestige, power, and prosperity.  He had it made.

However, he learned that a plus for him was a minus for the Lord Jesus.  "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ."  This is not the common experience of all believers.  In fact, while Paul was encouraging the believers at Philippi to be like-minded, he writes regarding Timothy, "I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.  For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus."  Philippians 2:20, 21.  Do you live for yourself, or do you live for the Lord?

Paul kept a spiritual balance sheet with that which was loss on one side and gain on the other side.  All that Paul counted loss were considered as "rubbish," or more accurately "dung" as translated in the King James Version.  None of the pluses in his strict Jewish life were worth anything in his relationship with God.  His own legalistic righteousness, which was of the law, contributed nothing toward his eternal salvation and new life in Christ.  Realizing this, he discovered the most important thing was to "gain Christ and be found in Him," having "the righteousness which is from God by faith."  Philippians 3:8, 9.  We gain Christ and are found in Him, when we turn to Him in faith and are justified.  This marks the beginning of our pursuit.

 

KNOWING CHRIST

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 42 had a longing to know God.  "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."  Paul expressed this sincere desire of his heart when he wrote, "That I may know Him."  Philippians 3:10.

Jesus prayed, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent."  John 17:3.  There is a sense in which all believers have a knowledge of the Son of God.  The apostle Paul came to this knowledge when he was first converted.  This knowledge may be likened to that of a young boy, standing on the boardwalk at Atlantic City, looking out at the water and saying, "I see the Atlantic Ocean."  The youngster would be telling the truth, but we know that what he actually saw would be but a drop in the bucket.  Such is the knowledge of God of the new babe in Christ.

In Paul's pursuit of the knowledge of Jesus he desired to know: (1) the power of His resurrection, and (2) the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.  Philippians 3:10.  Paul had prayed that the Christians at Ephesus would know "what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead...."  Ephesians 1:19, 20.  No doubt the apostle prayed this prayer for himself.

What is the power of Christ's resurrection?  One demonstration of this power is power over sin.  This is clear from Romans 6:1-14.  Basically, when Jesus died, "our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with (or rendered inoperative), that we should no longer be slaves of sin."

Obviously, when we think of a resurrection, it is a resurrection from the dead.  There is a day of resurrection coming for everyone.  See John 5:28, 29.  We should notice here that Paul doesn't say that he wants to know the resurrection, but rather the resurrection power of God.

Paul also wanted to know "the fellowship of His sufferings."  These sufferings were not Christ's substitutionary sufferings on the cross.  Paul knew that they could not be shared.  He also knew that this involved conformity to His death.  In a practical sense Paul died daily.  1 Corinthians 15:31.  He was fully aware that his sufferings could add nothing to the finished work of Christ at Calvary.  The daily death that he died was not for sin, but to sin.  Romans 6:2; 8:13; Galatians 2:19; Colossians 3:5.

 

PRESSING ON

Many Christians believe that the apostle Paul was the greatest Christian who ever lived.  Today some believers are advocates of a doctrine of Christian perfection, where it is believed that sanctified believers arrive at a state of sinlessness.  Well, the great apostle Paul hadn't arrived there.  "Not that I have already attained (or arrived), or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me."  Philippians 3:12.

The Lord lays hold of believers for a purpose.  He placed His hand upon Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  Acts 13:3.

Paul pressed on with a singleness of mind and purpose.  "This one thing I do."  In his pursuit he set his mind to "forget those things which are behind."  Paul did not live in the past.  No doubt there were many things that he wanted to forget.  Many people struggle forgetting past traumatic experiences and sins.  Paul pressed on, forgetting the bad and the good.

He also had a mindset "reaching forward to those things which are ahead."  He had no idea what the future held, but he knew who held the future.

"I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:14.  Paul ran the race to win the prize.  See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.  The upward call was a call from heaven and a call to heaven, a call to be like Christ and a call to some day be with Christ.  1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.

Dear Christian, press on and look up "for our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself."  Philippians 3:20, 21.

Pressing on to know Christ in His fullness is the pursuit of a lifetime.  In our journey of faith we don't step on others, but rather walk together regardless of "the degree that we have already attained."  Philippians 3:15, 16.  Don't despair.  Lay aside the rubbish, redeem the time, and press on in your pursuit of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Lesson 4 - The Joy of the Lord

 
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New King James Version.
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