"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Monday, May 6, 2013

Knowing Joy

I have become acquainted with a great many leaders and teachers over the decades. Seeing them from a distance, most seem admirable, projecting just the right balance of humility, giftedness and strength. Coming to know them on a more intimate level, their human frailties and flaws become more evident (as with all of us). A few exceptional men have proven over extended periods of  time that they are who they seem to be. When this happens, it is a priceless, inspiring experience. Take that experience and multiply it by an infinite power, and you will begin to understand how Paul felt about knowing Jesus Christ:

"But whatever was my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:7-11

Paul had just admonished the Philippians not to rely on the works of the flesh (in this case, trying to fulfill the law of Moses) to achieve righteousness before God, and reminded them of his own accomplishments, education and birthright to take pride in such things. Now he elaborates that all of that is less than worthless (counting it all as rubbish) in comparison to knowing Christ. His righteous standing before God is not by keeping the law, or personal perfection of some sort, but is by trusting in the perfection of Christ, who fulfilled the law on our behalf--deep faith in him resulting in a willingness to join in his sufferings--dying as he did, to be raised as he was. I believe that Paul's use of "somehow" here cannot imply that he must be good enough at all this to attain resurrection (thus contradicting the thrust of his argument), but  simply means it is beyond his ability to explain the miracle of it.

Mature faith is so enthralled with Jesus, so obsessed with him, that nothing else matters, or if it does, it only matters as a temporary means of glorifying (and bringing others into relationship with) him. This is true serenity and joy, when all that matters is knowing him in all his excellence, integrity, faithfulness and gifts. It does not happen by straining or human effort, but by giving him our all. We give everything to him, not because he needs it from us, rather so that he can redeem it all in time. Paul could joyfully say that he had lost everything for Jesus. If we see Paul's faith as special and beyond our abilities to achieve, we forget that he was once full of hatred and murderous venom. Jesus took the greatest of sinners and transformed him into a light for the ages so that we would have the same hope, the same possibilities, and the same joy.

Know Jesus, know joy.

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