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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Quest to Know Christ

“ …that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3.10).

Can you imagine the number of words it took to write a thirty-volume set of the Encyclopedia Britannica? It must be an awesome number, but an even more amazing thing is that only twenty-six different letters were used. The authors did not have to go outside of the alphabet to assemble that massive collection of knowledge. It provided for them everything they needed for this one task.

Jesus called himself the Alpha and the Omega, and we do not have to go outside of him for anything that we need. He is God's ‘everything’ - for all situations. He alone is sufficient. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 of his desire “to know [Christ].” The Apostle knew that Christ alone was sufficient. His desire was to experience this knowledge of Christ in a deeper, fuller way. It is imperative for the believer to know Christ fully! John wrote, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17.3).

I. Knowing Christ is Practical ("That I may know Him...").

Paul stresses that this knowledge is not merely about Christ. Paul was an apostle who had already seen the resurrected Christ. He had been justified on the Damascus Road. He was taken up to the third heaven to hear things that could not be communicated to men.

In the language of the New Testament, Paul is writing about a longing he has to know Christ in a deeper, fuller experience. His need is to know Him practically (paraphrased from A.T. Robertson). What greatness we see in this practical knowledge:

Everything Else is Loss!

Philippians 3:8 states, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”

The Depths are Broken by It!

Proverbs 3:20 states, “By His knowledge the depths were broken up, and clouds drop down the dew.”

Many Are Justified by It!

Isaiah 53:11 states, “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”

We see a knowledge that includes an appreciation of who Christ is. “Every new discovery awakens new wonder, and every new wonder intensifies the ardor [deep love] of Paul's quest” (J. H. Jowett). What is Paul searching for on this quest to know Him practically? Let us turn to Ephesians 1:15 to find out!

Ephesians 1:15-18 “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…”

A. It encompasses the hope of His calling (1:18).

The word hope means assurance for the future. Titus 2:13 tells us that Paul looked for that blessed hope, and appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. He tied hope to a promise in Scripture that will come to pass!

William M. Dyke was a young man who became blind at the age of ten. He grew up to be witty, intelligent, and handsome. He met the daughter of an English admiral. They became engaged. Though never having seen her, William loved her very much. Shortly before the wedding, at the insistence of the admiral, William submitted to special treatment for his loss of sight. William wanted the gauze from his eyes removed during the ceremony. He wanted the first thing that he saw to be his wife's face.

As the bride came down the aisle, William's father started unwinding the gauze from around his head and eyes - still not knowing if the operation would be a success. With the unwrapping of the last circumference, William looked into the face of his new bride for the first time. “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined,” he said.

Like the young groom, though we have never seen Jesus, it will be worth the years of darkness to “see him as he is” (1Jo.3:2).

B. It encompasses the riches of His inheritance (1:18).

Notice that God considers us to be His inheritance. “This is an amazing truth - that God should look on us as a part of His great wealth!” (Warren Wiersbe).

1. What is His inheritance (1:7)?

Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…”

a. It includes redemption through His blood.

b. It includes forgiveness of sins.

c. It is according to the riches of His grace.

2. How is it that we have it within us (1:11, 13)?

Ephesians 1:11-13 “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

a. The Father willed it there (1:11).

b. The Believer's trust in the Son's finished work has obtained it for himself (1:13).

c. The Holy Spirit's sealing ministry keeps it safe (1:13).

C. It encompasses power given to us who believe (1:19-20).

Ephesians 1:19-20 “…and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places…”

1. The greatness of this power is demonstrated in God's work in the believer (compare with Php. 2:13).

2. The source of this power is demonstrated in God's work in the Lord Jesus Christ.

II. Knowing Him is Powerful ("...and the power of His resurrection...").

A. Power is seen in your new life in Christ (Ro.6:4-11).

Paul's message is two-fold here. He speaks of our literal resurrection at the return of Christ, but more directly he speaks of our new life in Christ. This is powerful knowledge because it shows us the victory he gives us over sin.

B. Power will be seen in your glorification in Christ (1 Co.15:21-23).

Power comes also in knowing that one day I will literally rise to be with Christ!

III. Knowing Him is Painful ("...and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death").

In 2 Corinthians 1:4-6, Paul uses three different ideas for suffering. All of these can be seen in the life of Jesus Christ. Shall we escape drinking from the Master's cup? If we do we may be failing to minister to people.

A. Painful suffering is a crushing weight that gives us the opportunity to minister to others (2 Co.1:4).

B. Painful suffering abounds in the world, but consolation abounds more in Christ (2 Co.1:5).

C. Painful suffering pins us in from all sides for the consolation and salvation of others (2 Co.1:6).

Paul's quest to know Christ is ours. It is imperative that the believer knows Christ fully. Knowing Him is practical, powerful, and at times painful. If we know all that man could compile in the Encyclopedia Britannica and fail to know Him, we are worthless refuse. To know Him ought to be the surpassing goal of every Christian. It is imperative that we know Him fully!