This sermon is number 17 in a series of 24
Philippians - Part 17
by David Legge | Copyright © 2003 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're turning to Philippians chapter 3, the epistle to the Philippians chapter 3, and we're beginning to read this morning at verse 7. You remember that last week Paul was telling us how we can rejoice, not in the things that we have achieved for the Lord, or probably for ourselves just for our own selfish fleshly appetite, but rather we ought to rejoice in the Lord and His grace toward us - so much so that he told us that those things which were gain to him in the matters of the law, even positive things, good things, righteous things, he counted them as nothing, as loss for Christ.
Verse 7: "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead".
Now, in your daily reading of Scripture, which I hope is taken for granted, you will find spiritual giants right from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New. Just a casual reading of church history will confront you with spiritual giants, men and women of God, certain people who as Christians, children of God, stand out from the rest as giants with God and with men. From time to time perhaps you're tempted to ask the question: 'Well, what makes a person a spiritual giant? What is the distinctive that makes that person different from the run-of-the-mill Christian? Are they born in that way or have they had certain privileges that have allowed them to develop or evolve into such spiritual high flyers?'. Now if we were to ask the apostle Paul, I think the answer that he would give us are these verses that we've read together this morning, indeed the first seven or so verses would tell us that Paul says that there is nothing in man by nature that gives him spirituality. There's nothing that sets a man 'in tick', if you like, with God, or gives him credit with God - that is, nothing in his own human nature that can commend him in any way to God. That is before grace as well as after grace, as has been shown to us.
Sometimes we relegate these things as prior to conversion, but what we're talking about today is not only the things before conversion, but even our achievements after conversion in no way bring us nearer to God, because we still walk by grace. Paul is saying that it's not the personality of the person that makes them a spiritual giant, and we could maybe fall into that mistake of thinking that some are more prone to being spiritual than others - that's what people in the world say, 'Some have a spiritual, an other-worldly disposition'. Then some, even I think in the church - I just gauge this from conversations that I hear - think that there are some people that are more prone to be spiritual than others, with that type of contemplative and deep personality. Paul says that is rubbish! There is no one predisposed through personality to being a spiritual giant.
Then others say: 'Well, it's got a lot, I think, to do with the circumstances of that particular person'. Maybe the circumstances of salvation are cited, in other words if you have some kind of sensational testimony of conversion, well that predisposes, almost thrusts you, toward spiritual maturity. There's this equation made that the heights that we attain are measured by the depths that we have been taken from. In other words, if you were down in the gutter as an awful sinner and you've been forgiven much, then you'll be much for God, and you have a greater chance of being a spiritual giant than an ordinary person, perhaps saved as a young child. Well, Paul just levels the ground with all this kind of debate and conjecture, he says right away: 'To be a spiritual man or woman has got nothing to do with your personality, it's got nothing to do with your experience, it's got nothing to do with your circumstances - whether of conversion or after conversion - but it's all brought down to one word', and I think if Paul could use this word, this is the word he would use to us today, summing up the whole of these verses that we've read, it's all down to one thing: appetite. It's down to your spiritual appetite.
Now I want to talk to you this morning in the time that's left, if we can get through it all, about big appetites. Now I'm not going to level anybody out in particular, so don't worry about that, but you will know that when a child is a baby that you feed it on the milk, and then eventually it goes to solids, and eventually it grows to an adult. But really, if you were to sum up that development of digestion that makes the child grow, you would say that it's all down to appetite.
It is exactly the same parallel in the spiritual realm, let me give you an example from the Old Testament. If you were to flick back to Exodus 33 for a moment, just do that, Exodus 33 - we come right into the middle of the life of Moses, and I don't need to spend time telling you the great heights that Moses reached to as a spiritual man. But what we have in Moses' own records, these are Moses' own words in Exodus, we have him telling us - I think - that these spiritual heights that he got to, or if you like the fact that he was a spiritual giant, were not achieved by any of the knowledge that he acquired in the universities of Egypt, or any of the experiences that he had in Egypt, or even in the wilderness - nothing to do with those things. Now certainly those things honed him and helped him, but those things don't make you a spiritual giant.
Here, I think, is the key to it all in verse 10 of chapter 33: 'And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight'. Now watch this verse: 'Now therefore, I pray thee', Moses says, 'if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people'. In verse 18 again we see this appetite: 'And he said, I beseech thee, O LORD, show me thy glory'.
Now Moses had great knowledge, Moses went through tremendous experiences with God and that God had led him into, but I think he's characterised above all things as having a desire to go deeper with God, a desire to know God. Verse 13: 'That I may know Thee' - this wasn't just a desire in his mind, but it was a desire for a heart knowledge of God: that his human heartbeat would be in harmony with the heartbeat of God Almighty. Now you can turn over the pages of the Old Testament and find this right throughout every book, every great man of God, every prophet and patriarch and priest. Let me give you an example: if you look at the sweet Psalmist of Israel, David and you turn to Psalm 42, I think you would agree with me that despite all of his sins and faults and failings, David was a man of God and even a spiritual giant. Psalm 42 - but his achievement as a spiritual giant was not through the knowledge that he had, and he had great knowledge; not through the circumstances that he had in the court as King, but here is the crux if you like, the common feature of why David knew God as he did, verses 1 and 2: 'As the hart', or as the deer, 'panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?'.
Do you see it? An appetite for God! Psalm 63, quickly, just to show you that that's not an isolated incident - verse 1: 'O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary'. Verse 8: 'My soul followeth hard after thee' - now that word 'followeth hard' is the sense of hunting: 'My soul is hunting after thee, hunting the Lord down!'. Of course this is a sentiment right throughout the Scriptures, for the Lord Jesus in His Beatitudes, what did He say? 'Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled'.
Now as we come to Philippians chapter 3, all these things could be said of Paul. Oh yes, he had a tremendous, spectacular conversion, a Damascus Road experience. He had tremendous circumstances in his previous life before conversion at the feet of Gamaliel, and we know from this chapter alone how great an expert he was in the law, and indeed obeying the law - but it wasn't his conversion, it wasn't his circumstances, it wasn't his knowledge of the word of God, but he's characterised here as having an insatiable appetite for Christ. I believe that's what made Paul, and indeed what made any man before Paul or after Paul a spiritual man or woman: an appetite for Jesus Christ.
You could paraphrase Paul's words in these verses: 'I give up everything in which I had found my standing in Israel; I give up all that I counted treasure and held dear because of the superior worth that there is in knowing Jesus Christ. My desire previously was to be found acceptable when tested by the Mosaic law, but now the consuming passion of my life is a person, to know Him intimately, experientially and continuously!'. What an appetite he had for the Lord Jesus! That's what we need, and I'm asking you today: do you have an appetite for the Saviour? Do you have an appetite for the things of God? I asked you last week: are you happy in God? Do you enjoy God? I'm asking you this week: do you desire God?
You know that the little bird, when it's a baby, begins to open its mouth - it's then fed by its parents, but it's not fed until it begins to open its mouth. You know, God isn't in the business of force-feeding His saints, of wrenching their mouths open and shoving spiritual truths down their throats, but God's way of working is to feed in response to appetite. I hear that years ago babies - I'm only getting into these things and learning myself! - babies used to be fed by 'schedule feeding'. I know there's a debate going on, but it tends to be the case that nowadays some adhere to what is called 'demand feeding' - in other words you don't feed the child every four hours, you feed the child when the child wants fed. That's the way God works: if you want fed, if you're hungering and thirsting after Him, He will feed you and He will clothe you. He will satisfy you!
Spiritual giants like Paul aren't born, and I know there's many things that we're elected and predestinated and all to do with Paul - but in a human sense Paul wasn't born that way, he was made that way because he had an insatiable appetite for the Lord. If you were to ask Paul: 'Paul, what made you a man of God?', he would say: 'When I found the superior worth there was in knowing Christ, He became the goal of my life, He became the passion of my days, to know Him became the impelling, compelling, propelling force in my life - so that life can be summed up in this: life is knowing Him'. I wonder can we get there?
Let's look quickly at his three goals, his three goals in life. One, verse 8: to win Christ, that I might win Christ. That is the Person of salvation. He knew that salvation wasn't in a church, or in a creed, or in a religion, or keeping a code of ethics, it was in a Person: the Person of salvation, the Saviour, and he wanted to win Him. The second desire, verse 9: to be found in Christ. This is the position of salvation. He wasn't standing now as a Jew in his own righteousness according to the law, but he's standing outside of that and in Christ - because you can't stand in your own righteousness at the one time, and be standing in Christ. If you're in Christ you're out of your own righteousness, and if you're out of Christ you're in your own righteousness and you will be condemned. He was found, and wanted to be found, in the position of Christ. Thirdly, verse 10: that I may know Him, to know Christ - and this is the power of salvation, and this is what I want to dwell on today.
A growing intimacy: to know Christ is to know the power of salvation. It was Daniel who said: 'The people who do know their God will do strong exploits'. Can you think of a New Testament saint that did greater exploits than the apostle? Why was it? Because of the appetite he had for God: to win Christ, to be found in Christ, to know Christ above all else! Listen to what F. B. Meyer says: 'We may know Him personally yet intimately face-to-face. Christ does not live back in the centuries, nor amid the clouds of heaven, He is near us, He is with us, compassing our path, in our lying down, and acquainted with all our ways. But we cannot know Him in this mortal life except through the illumination and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and we must surely know Christ not as a stranger who turns in to visit for the night or as the exalted King of men, there must be the inner knowledge as of those whom He counts His own familiar friends, whom He trusts with His secrets, who eat with Him His own bread'.
Ah, Paul is talking here about knowing Him in salvation, He's talking about something deeper - an intimate knowledge of Christ through a communion with Him. Paul tells us what that communion involves. If you want to know Christ like this, there are three things that you've got to be prepared for. Everybody loves the first, there's a real appetite for this one, verse 10: 'To know Him, and the power of His resurrection', another paraphrase: 'I want to know Him in a personal, intimate way; I want the resurrection power that is available to me from Him, to be operating daily in my life; I want the power that brought Him to resurrection to be working in me'. That's what he saying.
Now if you note the order of these three things: the power of His resurrection; the fellowship of His sufferings; being made conformable unto His death - you'll see that it's the opposite of the order that's given through Christ's death at salvation. You see this, look down at it, the order of salvation in Christ's redemption is: He suffered, He died, He was resurrected - but the order of Christian life and experience is the opposite: it is resurrection, being brought to life, given power to live; then it is suffering; and then it is death. The only conceivable explanation for that is simply this: that you can't come and offer yourself on the altar of God, first of all unless you're saved, but this is the point I think Paul is getting across: you need even the power of God's resurrection to sacrifice your life like this. You can't just do it of yourself. It can't be some kind of cold, calculated, dead, religious, ritualistic surrender. But if it's going to be true and it's going to be complete and absolute, it's got to be of the Spirit of God, and it's got to be made in the power of the resurrection.
Let me illustrate this by citing Abraham for a moment. Do you ever think what it was, what power was behind Abraham that let him sacrifice, or be willing to sacrifice his son? How he was able to set his son on the altar of Moriah? The one in whom was all the hopes of His patriarchship, and hopes of the nation, and all his emotional family affections were bound up in this lad; all the promises of God's covenant to His people were inseparably connected with this boy - so what was it that drove Abraham to set this young lad on the altar, to lift the knife above him, and be just about ready to plunge it? I'll tell you what it was: it was the power of Christ's resurrection. Do we not read in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 19 that accounting by faith Abraham did this, reckoning that God was able to raise Isaac up even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure? We see it, in fact, in the narrative of Genesis 22, how he told his servants that he and the lad would return!
Do you see what I'm saying here? Do you see the picture that's being built by the Holy Spirit, that if you're to make spiritual sacrifices for the Lord Jesus Christ they will only be achieved in the power of the resurrection, by faith, knowing that there are greater things on ahead! It was that blessed hope and that triumphant faith that took the sting from his sorrow, and gave life and victory to the sacrifice that he was willing to make. It is faith, the New Testament tells us, that works by love, that overcomes the world and even the very grave itself. Now Paul wanted that power to be working in his life - do you not want it? I want it!
Turn quickly to Ephesians chapter 1, and I can't spend too much time here, but it's important. Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians that they might experientially know that same power. He reminded them of what that same power did for Jesus Christ, verse 19: 'That ye may know what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead', that power burst Him from the grave, 'and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places', that power set Him at the right hand of the Father in glory. Thirdly: 'Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come', that power subjected everything under the seed of the Lord Jesus Christ, gave Him the universal authority over everything that exists, and constituted Jesus Christ as the head of the church. Verse 22: 'And He hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church' - and Paul says: 'I want to know that power!'.
I believe he knew it. Why did he know it? Because he was the apostle Paul? No. Because he had a favourable birth? No. Because he grew up in favourable circumstances and had a wonderful conversion? No. Because he had an appetite for God. But here's where the going gets tough, if we could choose the first thing without the second and the third that would be tremendous, but we can't. To know Him, not only in the power of His resurrection, but the fellowship of His sufferings. Now consider for a moment what this means: fellowshipping in Christ's sufferings. Cast your mind back to the gospel writings and consider some of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus - Matthew's gospel, the temptation, the temptation of Satan himself. On occasions the Lord Jesus Christ being deprived of His daily provisions, suffering inhumanities from His enemies, and denial by His friends, betrayal by His associates, misunderstanding by the majority of people in the nation, hatred by the privileged classes and the religious establishment - and at last the terrible and awful agonies of Gethsemane and Calvary.
Just before you pray very glibly: 'Oh Lord, that I might know You, and the power of Your resurrection, and the fellowship of Your sufferings' - remember it's dangerous to pray unless you're willing to accept in the fullest implications everything it is to fellowship in the poverty of the sufferings of Christ. A.B. Simpson was the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, he was the pastor before A. W. Tozer in his pulpit, and he had a friend who offered this singular prayer for a loved one, and Mr Simpson said that he knew nothing that ever impressed him more than this lady's prayer - this is what she said: 'I ask Thee that Thou wilt lay on me all the burdens, sufferings, trials, and needs of my friend. I do not ask to share the joys, but I ask if there be pain, pressure that I can bear, to lay it upon me in sympathy, fellowship, prayer, and the power to lift and help so that the life for which I suffer may be more free to serve and work for Thee'.
Surely what we see in our Lord Jesus Christ is that love always longs to bear another's pain. The heart of the apostle here in fellowship with Christ is brought to a point where it's willing, intensely longing, to share the very sufferings of Christ - and you see this is what happens, that the closer you get to Christ the more you suffer! It may be external, but one thing is for sure: it will be internal. The deepest element of the priesthood of Christ will be yours also: He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and when you come to fellowship with Christ, to know Christ, to experience the power of His resurrection, you will taste the pain of Christ.
It's not an option, the Christlike life will enter with Christ into His deep sense of need for others, into the ministry of prayer and agony for their sins and their sorrows, into the deepest thoughts and tenderest solicitude for a lost, dying, hell-deserving world. That's what Paul meant when he said in Colossians 1:24 that we would fill up the work of Christ! This is what He has left us to do: to fellowship in His sufferings. Do we know this? We all want the power of His resurrection, don't we? Yet at the same time shunning the fellowship of His sufferings, yet it's only through this suffering that character is provided and the highest purpose is realised, and we become like Him.
Thirdly and finally: to know Him in conformation of His death, to be conformed to the image of His death. This is spiritual identification with Christ in His death. Paul could say in Galatians: 'I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me'. There must be a likeness to Him in His death before there is a likeness to Him in His life, for the life in the Christian order always arises out of death! Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. If you go home to your dinner table today, to the roast or the ham, or whatever you're eating, you're getting life out of it - but it had to die first! It's the same scenario, and the difference between suffering for Christ and death is that there is no suffering after death - that's Paul's point.
I don't think that he's talking about actual physical death, although he had to tread that pathway - but he's saying that a dead man before Christ is one for whom hurt has ceased and pain has gone. My child, if you're one that concentrates upon your own personal hurts, injustices, pains, chips on your shoulder, you're not dead. A dead person doesn't feel those things. When Paul was taken up to the third heaven, do you remember what he said? 'I knew a man in Christ fourteen years' - it was as if he didn't even know the man personally when it was himself! He had died to himself, yet when we die what do we do? Instead of decapitating ourselves and cutting the head off of our sin, we give ourselves a haircut. We don't kill our sin, we disarm our sin. We're like Nero, when he was running away from those who pursued him, his enemies, history records that he stabbed himself in about twenty places - but he was careful every time he stabbed himself that he avoided any fatal part!
The place of victory and rest as the Christian is where we are really dead, and we're not even conscious of what we're doing for Christ, we're conscious only of Christ and His resurrection. In verse 11 Paul says: 'If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. The reason why my desire is to know Christ, to be found in Christ, to win Christ, to fellowship in His sufferings, to know the power of His resurrection, to be conformed unto His death, is because there's a resurrection day coming - the out-resurrection from among corpses, the rapture, and then we will stand in judgment, and I want to be fully clothed with Christ and Christ alone! Not what I have done or who I am, but to be found in Christ when the body is redeemed'.
Remember what that mother said to the Lord Jesus of her two disciple sons? 'Grant, Lord Jesus, that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right hand and the other at Your left in Your kingdom', and the Lord began to say how that was not His to give. Then He asked them a question: 'Can you drink the cup that I'm going to drink? Can you be baptised with the baptism that I will be baptised with?'. And the answer to that question is: 'Yes' - not to the full extent of what Calvary was, but 'Yes' in the fellowship of the sufferings of the Saviour of Calvary. What do we know of it? In Luke chapter 10 Martha thought it more important to be occupied for Christ, yet Mary was at Jesus' feet occupied with Christ.
I don't know whether this ever happens to you, but sometimes I'm asked the question: 'Do you know so-and-so?'. Often I answer that question by saying: 'I do and I don't', which means I probably have met them at sometime, or am maybe even acquainted with them, but I haven't really spent much time with them - I don't know them that well. What kind of an appetite do you have for Jesus Christ, for the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, His death and the glorious resurrection when you will not be ashamed?
Oh our Father, we pray that as Christians we would have this appetite for Thee, to pursue Thee in such a way that we might win Christ, be found in Christ, know Christ in the power of His glorious resurrection, and even - because it is necessary - in the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death, that by any means we might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Lord, help us to live for Christ, and to look for eternity, in His name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventeenth tape in his Philippians series, titled "Big Appetites" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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