Raise your hand if you want to know Jesus!
Keep that arm up if you want to be more like Jesus!
Reach for the sky if you want to suffer, badly… and probably a lot!
WHOOSH. Did you feel that gust of wind as we all slammed our arms back down by our torsos?
I’m almost always surprised by just how surprised I am at how hard the Christian life is. It is HARD. Anyone trying to sell you Jesus as the “easy way” to live is a shyster for sure.
Do you guys know much about Paul?
His name gets thrown around a LOT in church, but if you would’ve known him early in his career, you would’ve hated his guts. Or been very afraid of him … likely both.
His actual job was to persecute Christians. In fact, he was standing there watching when Stephen was stoned to death for being a believer. It was written that he “breathed out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples”.
So, here’s this awful guy on his way to a place called Damascus to seek out more of Jesus’ followers and arrest them, when WHAM. God spoke and spoke loudly. He also blinded Paul with a blistering light. Right there in the middle of the road. For three days he couldn’t see, but also couldn’t eat or drink. I imagine he was rattled beyond words.
Then a vision of Jesus to a disciple named Ananias told him to go find Saul in Damascus. “Ummmm, you mean the guy I’ve heard that hates us, hunts us, arrests us and wants us dead? That Saul?” is my paraphrased imagination of Ananias’ response. But Jesus repeated Himself and Ananias obeyed, and went out into the city and found Saul. When Ananias found him, Saul was praying. Betchya he didn’t expect that.
So, in response to God, Ananias told Saul that he was sent to his side by Jesus – to fill him with the Holy Spirit and restore his vision. Ananias laid his hands on this horrible wretch and whadddyaknow? HE COULD SEE. Literally and spiritually. Soon – he was baptized! He changed his name to Paul and from then on was used by the Lord to deliver the gospel all over. Where his feet had once tread in hate, now his life’s mission was to spread the truth and LOVE.
Many of the books of our Bible in the New Testament are letters he wrote to other churches encouraging and exhorting them in the specific ways that they needed. And this week your Hopers are going to walk, bit by bit, through a chunk of Philippians 3.
Philippi was the first city in Europe to be evangelized after Paul had a vision and responded. Religion looked very diverse there – worship of the emperor was common as was worshipping egyptian gods. Slowly but steadily God grew the church in Philippi and the book of “Philippians” is a letter Paul wrote to them from one of his prison sentences. (Oh yes, the former persecutor was thrice imprisoned after giving his life to Jesus. Again – this Christianity thing AIN’T EASY.)
So we jump in to chapter three and I’m going to kick off our week with verses 10 and 11:
“I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Homie say what?
Yes, we all want to know Christ, that’s the whole point. But what is it exactly, or I guess we should say how is it that you want to know Him? You WANT to suffer!?
It’s mighty popular these days to call Jesus our best friend. We spend many songs and sermons reflecting and reminding ourselves that Jesus gets it – He was human too. Hebrews 4:15 says “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” and let’s be honest, it helps our hearts to know that Jesus has been where we are – and somehow did this thing of human life in full holiness.
But how often do I yearn to not know how Jesus was like me, BUT HOW I CAN EXPERIENCE HUMANITY THE WAY HE DID?
He was lied to, betrayed, lonely, tempted, and tortured – until death.
And at age of almost 11, on the Sunday afternoon in my father’s den that I knelt on the beige carpet and asked Jesus into my heart, I certainly didn’t ask for any of those things.
But if you would’ve asked me then and if you were to ask me now – if I intimately wanted to KNOW this third-person of the trinity, this God-man, this Savior… I would say yes.
But if you would ask me how much I enjoy my current sufferings and desire more, you would get a very different response.
What’s interesting is that Paul wrote that from prison. What’s more – he himself had watched the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He knew how bad the sufferings could be – he’d catalyzed many of those sufferings for other Christians himself. And still he wants to know his Jesus so intimately that he knew there was only one way to truly grasp the POWER of Christ’s resurrection…
the death that comes before.
How much have you and I begged to know the power of restoration? But begrudged the breaking-apart part. Screamed for God to show Himself? But ignored His presence in the painful part.
As we spend this week walking in the words of Paul to the Philippians, let’s start this Monday off with taking stock of what needs resurrecting, and thanking God that BECAUSE of the suffering we’ll understand His power. Let’s PRAY for that power to be shown to us on this side of heaven.
And if God has plans to make us wait until eternity to see His workings, let’s pray for His help to get through this life and help to praise His name, even if our current season feels like prison.
If Saul can become Paul – God surely has good plans for what we can become too.