How many times we tend to hold on to our past accomplishments, goals, applause and praise and just be satisfied in our present? Or we tend to get stuck with our past guilt, failures and disappointments? After Paul became a follower of Jesus Christ, he underwent a complete transformation in his life. He had a break from the past and developed a new focus in life.
For Paul conversion was not
simply “I gave up my smoking,” or “I gave up my drinking.”
While these are great, for Paul it was a radical change and a complete DNA transformation. The very people he had persecuted before coming to Christ, he was now ministering to them. The very Christ he had rejected he was now preaching about Him worldwide!
You can see that Paul uses some expressions for his desire to know Christ in Phil 3:7-14.
- gain Christ (verse 7)
- know Christ (verse 8)
- found in Christ (verse 9)
- experience the power of His resurrection (verse 10)
- share in His suffering (verse 10)
Knowing Christ, his Lord became the most important pursuit of Paul’s life!
Now let’s look at some of the transformation that took place in Paul’s life and what lessons we can learn from that.
- Paul’s former life was based on him and his achievements (vv. 5-6).
According to the Greco-Roman rhetoric, which is called an “encomium,” Paul lists 7 things. Four from his background and other four what he developed in life.
- circumcised on the eighth day,
- of the people of Israel,
- of the tribe of Benjamin,
- a Hebrew of Hebrews;
- in regard to the law, a Pharisee;
- as for zeal, persecuting the church;
- as for righteousness based on the law, faultless he inherited and the other 4 he accomplished.
- Paul’s present life is based on Christ and His achievements (vv. 7-11).
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (verse 7). When a sentence begins with “but,” it is called an adversative; it means he is saying something contrary to the immediate, preceding passage. In Gal 2:20, he says. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” In Gal 6:17, “for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”
- Paul de-emphasized his self-promoting heritage and personal achievements (vv. 5-6). Some of the things that gave Paul much pride like he is the Hebrew of Hebrews, circumcised on the eighth day, etc., he now calls them loss and refuse! After being confronted with the permanence of his life with Christ, the former achievements did not have much value to him.
- Paul did not place significance on things that would promote his “self” (vv.7-8a).
He did not put titles in front of his name like Rev., Dr., or even after his name like, B.A., B.Sc., M.A., M.D., and Ph.D.
- Paul traded his inherited and acquired gains for life in Jesus Christ (vv. 7-8).
We see Paul talking like an accountant here, using financial terms like profit and loss. Paul could have started a large school or used his past education and upbringing for his progress, but he did not. He did not find his identity in them.
- For Paul, “knowing Christ” was more valuable than the combined value of his former life (verse 8).
There was no way he could compare his new life in Christ with all the former education and upbringing. He found his former life to be way inferior, compared to his new life in Christ. Many times, as believers in Christ, we seem to be living in some form of pseudo identity. We tend to discriminate people, project ourselves, and even make a life out of both failures and successes. That was not the case with Paul.
What does “Knowing Christ” mean? Paul is using this term from verses 7-14 and uses it with five nuances. Knowing Christ means to:
- Respond personally in faith and obedience to God’s self-revelation (verses 7-8). When Paul met with Christ and was gripped with the truth of who Christ is, he was willing to consider a lot of things as worthless. We need to think about Christianity a lot more seriously. It is not simply coming together as a life group or for corporate singing or prayer. It is much more than that.
- Continue living with the righteousness that is imputed to you through the faithfulness of Christ (verse 9). Paul knew that he was a sinner (Rom 3:23). After he turned to Christ, he sought to serve Christ through the righteousness that has been credited to him. Paul was not going to be bound by his past guilt that he persecuted many Christians or was betting on Stephen’s death. No. He sought to enjoy his new life in Christ. For Paul, to know Christ was to enjoy the gift of imputed righteousness.
- Be glorified through resurrection from the dead (verse 11). For Paul to live is for Christ and to die, gain. Paul had already had a spiritual resurrection from his deadness. Now in his sanctification journey, he was living through the imputed righteousness of Christ. He is even ready to die for Christ, not an untimely one, but with the readiness to serve Him in life and in death.
- Pursue (intentional pursuit) what Christ has already done for you (verse 12). Paul is not saying that he is already perfect but he seeks to pursue what Christ has already done for him. We can ask ourselves am I living a mundane life of going to school, meeting the needs of the family and doing chores or do I have a bigger goal to chase after in this life? How can I know Him more? What are the things I can ditch behind so I can get know Christ better?
- Leave behind all that hinder your progress (vv. 13-14). Paul is not saying that the journey is merit based, but that he has a new focus in life. Some of the accolades, credentials and identities from the past and even some past relationships and habits can form as a hindrance to getting to know Christ. Many times, I notice that people tend to get stuck with issues and live in self-pity. Paul is a great model to ditch the past behind and press on to the new focus in life.
Having looked at Paul’s life, what can we learn from him? Make “knowing Jesus Christ, your Lord” the new focus of your life.
- During this lockdown, how have you grown in Christ? How has your desire to know Christ increased?
- How is the message of the cross bringing about true transformation in your life?
- Are you able to say with Paul that the goal of your life is knowing Christ?
- When was the last time that you weighed the options of what you have and what Christ has for you and make a trade?
- Are you able to say with Paul that you want to respond to God’s self-revelation in faith and obedience?