Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Philippians 3:8 ~ Do you KNOW?

Seems like Casiday is always asking me questions that begin with, "Mommy, do you know ...?" Do I know where her dance bag is, why we park on the driveway and drive on the parkway, which color is her favorite today, and on the list goes. We live in what has been termed the information age and the pursuit of knowledge is considered a noble one. Those who know me, know that I am a student at heart ... I love to study, to dig, to learn. A voracious reader, I find myself reading books about almost anything ... a lifelong quest to know more.

All that to say (write!), that when I am studying Scripture, any verse with KNOW or KNOWLEDGE in it, will immediately cause me to stop and ponder. Philippians 3:8 says "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them all rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (NIV).

Clearly, I had to stop here and spend some time!! But before we get to the knowing, there was another phrase that I had to spend some serious time contemplating and researching.

The HCSB translates the first part of this verse as follows: "More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord ..." (emphasis added).

More than what? What is "that"? So, back to verse 7 I went ... That is "whatever was to my profit." Everything Paul had considered valuable in himself (see yesterday's blog for more discussion on this idea). So, MORE than counting all that he had gained as loss because of Christ, Paul recognized that KNOWING God, knowing Christ, living in intimate relationship with Him, is all that has lasting value.

Much like Solomon in Ecclessiastes, Paul determined that the only thing of eternal value, the only thing worthy of our life-long pursuit, is relationship with God.

Ecclessiastes 12:13 says, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (NIV).

Being the word hound that I am, I had to look up a few of those words in my handy-dandy Hebrew Lexicon. Here is what I discovered. All means ALL ... in Solomon's mind, he had examined and considered every available pursuit and thing of value. There was nothing left to evaluate or contemplate. He had reviewed it ALL. Even a quick perusal of Ecclessiastes will reveal that his assertion is accurate. So, Solomon looked at everything ... all had "been heard." The transliteration for that phrase is "sama" which means "to hear; give undivided attention; to understand what has been heard." Solomon had given his undivided attention to all the worldly opportunities available and understood each of them and what they offered.

After all that research, Solomon reached "the conclusion of the matter." And what a profound, yet simple, determination. "Fear God." That word "fear" transliterates as "yare" meaning "to be afraid; to fear, revere." In this usage, the words connotes a very positive feeling of awe or reverence for God, expressed in piety or formal worship. "Fearing" God is often the motivation which produces godly living.

Solomon was not referring to merely following a set of rules, however. He was endorsing a life lived in relationship with God, using the understanding and guidelines that had been given at that time.

So, back to Paul ...Paul had lots of creditentials. He had lineage, education, connections, and authority. And yet, all of that was not what motivated him, what moved him, what drove him. He was passionate about one thing ... "the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

Of course, I had to look up "knowing" in the Greek Lexicon. In this verse, the word used is "gnosis" meaning, simply, "to know." The same word is used in Luke 1:77a "to give his people the knowledge of salvation" and in 1 Corinthians 13:2 which speaks of all knowledge being useless without love.

The root for "gnosis" is "ginosko" which carries the connotation of intimate knowledge, as between lovers. Paul was speaking of a deeply personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. That was the all-consuming pursuit of Paul's life - to KNOW Christ.

Is that type of intimacy my pursuit? Do I yearn to KNOW Christ? Or, am I content with knowing about Him? Those were difficult questions. As I read again 1 Corinthians 13:2, my heart was heavy with the weight of conviction ... I realized that too often, I am satisfied with knowledge alone, outside the love that comes through relationship.

It's a fine line ... we are commanded to study, to meditate, to spend time in the Word of God. We know that the best way to get to know Christ is through time spent in Scripture. But we must be ever mindful and cautious not to substitute knowledge alone for relationship (knowledge + love). God desires intimacy with us ... that comes through time shared together.

Paul goes on in this verse to say, "I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." What is the rubbish in your life? What is it that you need to to lay aside in order to gain Christ? Everyone will have a different answer to this question and our answers will change throughout our lives most likely. But the reality is, that each of us must daily examine our hearts and minds - looking for the trash that has taken up space that rightfully belongs to God.

As I was thinking about why we leave the trash when we know what God has for us is so much better, I realized this ... I HATE taking out the trash in my house. It is just one of those things I do not like to do. And, I have never heard anyone say, "Oh man, I love taking out the trash." It's a gross task ... gathering up the stuff that is leftover, that we don't need, that is broken, torn, or useless. It's sometimes a messy task and usually requires walking through the whole house gathering up the trash from every room.

Same thing with tossing out the rubbish in our spiritual house! Gathering up the leftover anger, the jealousy we don't need, the hurts of broken hearts, the torn fabric of damaged relationships, and the useless frustrations that have lingered in our minds. It's messy looking at all the "junk" we've been carrying and so much easier to just leave it be. And the process of walking through the corridors of our hearts to determine what we have that needs to go is just not a pleasant task.

And yet, the rubbish is there! And it is the rubbish that keeps us from gaining Christ! We must be like Paul, counting all those things as trash, some translations say "dung," that keep us from the fullness of intimacy Christ desires with us.

Wow, this verse is packed with valuable lessons! I have been greatly challenged by Paul's testimony in Philippians 3:8. Here are the questions I am asking myself based on this verse:

1. What is the pursuit of my life?
2. Do I yearn to know Christ or am I satisfied with knowing about Him?
3. What rubbish do I need to take out of my life that I may gain Christ?

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