“Not that I have already attained, 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)
Recently, I have been listening to sermons from great men and women of God who have gone from this life to their eternal homes. It is not fully clear to me why I have been so intrigued by their insights, their stories, and their words. Could it be that I long to return to the fundamentals of our Christian faith, where what I once thought was a “Simple truth” suddenly morphs into profundity that leaves me speechless? Is it possible that I want to learn from their walks with Christ knowing what to pursue and what not to chase after? Yes, it is all of these things. Moreover, I have often thought about what these men and women of faith, now part of that “Great Cloud of Witnesses,” would teach us with their lives. How could their wisdom help us avoid the pitfalls they encountered and better rudder our lives toward Christ?
Regarding the scripture reference from Philippians 3:12 above, I once thought of that verse only in terms of the ministry-related goal for which I was sought by Jesus. It has only been recently through reading, studying, and pursuing a hunch that I have come to have a clearer understanding of why Jesus took hold of me. We live in a society where, let’s face it, people are used for their skills and gifts to accomplish a goal for someone else or for a corporation. This is not always a negative situation. It saddens me to notice how quickly my thoughts turn toward what God wants out of me, rather than what He longs for with me. In the Spirit-filled Life Bible, the notes surrounding this passage state the following, “Paul’s desire to know Christ sprang from no other motive but to enjoy Him. He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake, not his own. He was a lover of God not a user of God.” Just as Paul was not a “User” of God, neither is God a “User” of people. His number one objective, the reason He chose to endure shame, scorn, physical torture, being hugely misunderstood, and ultimately crucifixion, was for one reason, to provide a way for us to really know Him. Through the payment for our sins by being the perfect sacrifice, one that was acceptable to God, He paved the road that we might walk in deep, intimate relationship with Him, free from the chasm our sins had carved. Aren’t you thankful that He does not use people? Rather He pursues a completely satisfying friendship with us. And then, He gives us the opportunity to spread the treasure of that relationship with others through these jars of clay we call our lives.
So, what would these men and women of God who stand in that heavenly audience say to us if they were able? I believe they would warn us about the deception and delusion that accompany the investing of our lives in the pursuit of “Good” deeds over the pursuit of Christ. To bear good fruit, we must be vitally attached to the Vine on a regular basis (John 15). We might be reminded of their regrets in choosing the things of life, stuff, worry, and ministry over knowing Him, the subtle idolatry that creeps in without our quick recognition. It seems that they would urge us to shut ourselves in with our Heavenly Father on a regular basis, seeking to know Him, not just know about Him. Might they remind us of the truth that He took hold of us not so much that we might know about Him, rather that we might truly know Him?
I can almost hear their imploring words, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). When you think of your spouse, your children, or a dear friend, would you be content to merely read about them? Could words on a page bring the joy and satisfaction that caused you to feel “In relationship” with them? Obviously, literature would not satisfy our need for companionship. How much more does Jesus long for us to delve into His Word and then let that be the spring board to an ever-growing personal knowledge of Him? Would you join me in asking the Holy Spirit to lead us and teach us how to walk in a deeper pursuit of our precious Savior? May we stand in awe of how our prayers are answered and then we can rejoice together, giving Him all the glory!
“The Father will not insult His beloved Son by giving Him a bride that is bored, passive, and compromising. Passionless Christianity is no threat to the devil. It is focused on activities to the neglect of heartfelt affection and obedience to God. True Christianity sparks a flame in the human spirit. It ignites the heart with fervency” (Mike Bickle, “Loving God Devotionals”).
This song, by Kari Jobe, summarizes what I have attempted to convey in this blog. You can listen by clicking on this link: “What Love is This?”