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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 10.30am service, 2001-01-04

Text: Philippians 3:7-17

As the New Year has just began 3 days ago, it would be good for us to make some new year resolutions. Making resolutions is a very good practice, because they help to keep ourselves focused on doing those things that are purposeful and meaningful, and that will enable us to fulfill our life goals. But how should we define our goals in life? One of the most useful passages that I have found is Philippians 3, and in particular, Phil 3:7-17 (Read).

This chapter was written by the apostle Paul. Before he was saved, Paul was really giving Christians a very hard time, persecuting them as a religious fanatic official, from house to house, and putting them in prison. You would not have liked him at all then, because he was all-out to exterminate Christianity. You would have been his enemy. 

But something wonderful and strange happened to Paul while he was travelling on a road to the city of Damascus: According to Acts chapter 9, a blinding light appeared in the sky and threw Paul to the ground. Jesus Christ appeared to him and spoke to him. From that moment onward, Paul was changed. He no longer persecuted Christians, but loved them. He no longer spoke against Jesus, but spoke boldly for Him instead. Paul's life goal had dramatically changed.

Let us take a quick look at Paul's changed life goal from our passage in Philippians: In verse 7 he says, 'But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.' In v.10 he says, 'That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death' and in v.14 he says, 'I press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.' What tremendous expressions these are! We can really see here, how zealous Paul had become for Jesus Christ. 

But is that all that we should see here? Should we not also see ourselves expressing the same things? Haven�t we also been saved by Jesus, like Paul was? Do we then have the same life goal as Paul? Some will reply, 'But Paul was quite special and different from us. Christ actually appeared to him in person and that is why he responded to Christ like that. We can't possibly be like him.'

Dearly beloved, these things were written in God's Word not just to describe Paul's goal in life, but also to teach us what our goal in life should be. This is clearly stated in v.15 'Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.' In the next verse he tells us to 'walk by the same rule,' to 'mind the same thing' and to hammer home his point, he tells us in v.17, to follow him, because his life goal is set by God to be an example or pattern for us to follow. 

Therefore, the things that Paul said here about his goal in life, are meant to be applied to ourselves. We need to put them into practice in order to live meaningfully and purposefully. And to make it easier for us to apply, I would like to present them in the form of three new year resolutions. These are good resolutions that you should make for yourself as you begin the new year with God: The very first resolution you should make is to:

I. Perceive All Worldly Gains as Losses for Christ.

As we look at what people live for today, we realize that most people have been misled into thinking that they have accumulated much valuable goods, when all they really have obtained are empty assets and worthless investments. None of these things can be kept for eternity.

It makes sense therefore, that a person should be willing to give up these things, for something that really has value both for the present and for eternity. This is why Paul said in v.7 'But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.' What were these things that Paul had gained? He tells us in vv.4-6 'if any man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the Law, a Pharisee: concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is the Law, blameless.' Here Paul reveals that he was raised in a very strict, law-abiding, orthodox, pure Jewish family. He was a true-blooded Jew from top to toe. 

And besides that, he also belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, the tribe that had the distinction of giving Israel her first king. In addition, he was a recognised member of an exclusive puritan sect of holy teachers called the 'Pharisees'. Then to top all these credentials, Paul was able to claim honestly that he had faithfully kept every single one of the 613 laws of the Old Testament and was actively leading the Jews of his day in the battle for his beliefs ' by persecuting Christianity!

Paul's 'gains' were obviously very impressive to anyone in his time. Many of his fellow Jews would have loved to have all that he had. He would be like a person today who has attained distinction in every area of life - education, business, sports, social position, etc. and who has a cabinet full of trophies, degrees, awards and prizes to display. But when Paul met Christ, he suddenly saw the real worth of all these gains. He found that they had the same worth as dung! This description is quite significant. It shows that they not only had no value to Paul now, but even had negative value. Like dung, they were foul, offensive, and vile and must be disposed of very quickly.

You see, when Paul found the Lord Jesus Christ, he found something of infinite worth and value. He wisely decided to abandon all of his gains for what he described as the 'excellency of the knowledge of Christ.' Nothing at all can compare with Christ in value. According to chapter 2, verses 9 and 10 of the same epistle, 'God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth.'

Dearly beloved, if you want your life to be filled with true value, meaning and purpose, then this is the first resolution you must make. Perceive whatever gains you have made in this world as losses, and stake everything you have now on Jesus Christ! Now this does not mean that you must now get rid of all the things you have. God blesses you with many good things to enjoy in life and to use for His glory, because He loves you. And you ought to be thankful to Him for them. But too often, these things become more important than God Himself. They become idols. You become so attached to them that you start regarding them as your 'gains.' This is where the danger begins. You have them in your hands and refuse to let go of them. If God wants you to let go of them, you think that He is being rather mean and unfair to you. 

But if you consider Jesus to be of infinite worth and value to you, then you would not mind allowing God to take them away or to leave them with you, as He pleases. Whatever things in your life God allows you to keep, must now be used for His glory. And whatever things in your life God does not want You to keep, must be removed and disposed of before they begin to hinder your walk with Him and commitment to Him.

This is what is means to Perceive all your worldly gains as losses for Christ. If you adopt this as one of your new year resolutions your time will be spent more wisely and effectively in things that really matter for eternity. Let us now go on to consider another resolution to make in order to live meaningfully and purposefully:

II. Purpose to Know Christ Fully.

Let us look at v.10 of our text. Here the apostle Paul says, 'that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death . . .' Is this your heart's fervent desire? - to know to the Lord Jesus Christ? It should be. Dearly beloved were not saved from sin just to fill up a vacancy in heaven or to secure a place for yourself in God's kingdom. You were saved and given eternal life so that you may have a know God and live with Him in a personal relationship through Jesus Christ! 

In John 17:3, Jesus Himself said, 'And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.' You can't say, 'I want to be saved, but I do not want to have this relationship with God' They are inseparably linked together. You were made by God to know Him. And you are now saved by God, also to know Him. The question is: How well do you know God? Do you know Jesus Christ whom He has sent? I'm not asking if you know a lot about God or about Christ. Books have been written about God and Christ by authors who never even knew Him at all. What do the Scriptures mean by talking about knowing God?

First of all, knowing the Lord means communicating with Him. God speaks to you through His Word. As you read the Bible He tells you all about Himself. He also tells you about yourself. He tells you what He has done for you and what He wants you to do. And then you respond by speaking to Him in prayer. You express thanks. You express trust. You ask Him to help you to do what He wants you to do. Then He speaks to you through His Word again and give you the assurance you need, and more instructions. And it goes on - a two way exchange process. This is what communication is all about. And you cannot have a relationship with God without communicating with Him.

Secondly, knowing the Lord means Communing with Him. That is to spend time alone with God because you love to be with Him. This involves not only your mind, but your heart as well. Your feelings are stirred up for Him and like the psalmist you will say, 'My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?' [When we partake of the Lord's Supper shortly, our souls should find great delight in personally communing with God. That is why this is also known as Holy Communion.]

Thirdly, knowing the Lord means Commitment to Him. Commitment is the main essential product of any deep and lasting relationship (cf. Marriage). Commitment means having full agreement with God's desires and God's will. It means rendering voluntary submission and loving obedience to God. No task becomes too great for you to do for Him. No cross becomes too great for you to bear for Him. 

These three things: communication, communion and commitment are what Knowing the Lord is all about. Without them, your relationship with Him will remain superficial and distant. And if you want to be like Paul in his desire to know Christ fully, then you must pursue this relationship like him, with the same determined conviction, saying, 'that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death . . .' By the way, this verse has been chosen as the theme verse of Life Church for the year 2004, and you will see it printed at the top of the weekly every Lord's Day from today onward: 'That I May Know Christ' (Philippians 3:10)

The purpose of having this theme is that Lifers will give much greater priority to knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. It is hoped that this theme that will be emphasized in various ways in the church ministry this year will cause each and every one of us to take more time and effort to develop our personal relationship with Christ, and to make this relationship the most important one in our life. And as you do this, you will find that it becomes so much easier for you to live for Him. 

It is your close, intimate walk with Christ that will cause you to think of Him, work for Him, speak of Him, serve for Him, love others for Him, suffer for Him, and wait more earnestly for His soon Return. None of these things will be a burden to you anymore. No one will have to keep on telling you or persuading you to do these things, because you yourself will want to do them. Christ will be the central theme of your life, your reason for living.

And so please let your goal in life be to know Christ fully. Seek to know Him closely, intimately, deeply, and thoroughly. Abide in Him. Make Him your closest friend, the one in whom you may safely confide all your innermost thoughts and feelings. Remember that at our watchnight service a few days ago we learnt that Jesus has promised, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.' (Hebrews 13:5) Let this promise of His presence in your life lead you into a deeper, closer relationship with Him. You know, we would think it strange for two people to live together for years and years in the same house or same toom and yet never get to know each other well. Don�t you think it would be even stranger for Christ to dwell right within you for years and yet you never get to know Him well enough?

And here's another reason why you should seek to know Christ: The deeper your relationship with Him grows, the more you will become like Him, conformed to His image. This brings us to the third resolution you should make in order to have a truly meaningful and purposeful life. 

III. Press Onward to Grow in the Image of Christ.

The one thing that distinguishes anyone who has known Christ from others is his changed life. The apostle Paul was a wonderful example of this. Before Christ changed him, he was a fanatical Pharisee breathing out fiery threats against Christians, and his blood boiled with rage to persecute them. He was Saul, the ambitious Jew, advancing way ahead of all his contemporaries. But when he got to know Christ, he became Paul, the Christian, and gradually he became so closely identified with Christ that he was able to say, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.'

Dearly beloved, do you know that is the best compliment that any Christian can ever receive from people? It is the compliment 'I can see Christ living in you.' Have you ever received such a compliment? Well, if you have, it's nothing to be proud of. You should thank God if people can see Christ in you, but you should not then think that have already attained the goal of becoming conformed to the image of Christ. The image is still far from perfect and you must keep pressing on toward it. Even the Apostle Paul said in v.13 of our text that he did not count himself to have apprehended his goal yet, but he said, 'this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.'

And we too should all say the same thing. Let us press on to know the Lord Jesus Christ, and grow in the Image of Christ, until Christ is formed in us and the people around us can see Christ in us. Commit yourself to pursue this worthy goal right now, and make it your personal objective this year. Begin this pursuit by making the three resolutions you learnt from Paul this morning: To perceive all worldly gains as losses for Christ, to purpose to know Christ fully, and to press onward to grow in the image of Christ. And may Jesus Christ be glorified in an through all of us both as individuals and as a church.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25