Living in Power and Fellowship with Christ

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)

We have learned many things as we’ve looked at Philippians 3 together. Some interesting things about Paul and his view of the Lord Jesus Christ, what Christ meant to him as his Savior. One thing we can glean from all of Paul’s writings is that he loves the Lord, and his love is shown to be a commitment and is demonstrated by how he thinks and what he does. He doesn’t just say, “I love the Lord Jesus Christ,” he also demonstrates that in many ways. One way he demonstrates it is through his words, which is what we have to look at since we don’t have the Apostle Paul here with us. He seems almost crazy. Single minded, passionate, life consuming not only in his speech about Christ but also his walk with Christ. Since this is true, since he is so driven by his love for Christ in how he writes letters such as Philippians, we may have to ask the question from time to time, “Is Paul just being dramatic? Is he making too much of his love for and desire for Christ? Is this guy genuinely being real, or does he just have too much time on his hands in prison? Do you ever meet people and think that, people you meet and walk away from saying, “Is this guy for real?” In asking that question, we have to come back to: “Is the Bible inspired by God? If it is then these words are here for us to learn from and live by. But we wonder, don’t we? We wonder about Paul because he just seems so extreme.

In his extremism of chapter 3 he in verses 10 and 11 tops it all off by telling of his final reason for this rehearsal of his story. We can look at how Paul talks about himself – how he views his past, present, and future – he gives us a great pattern of how we can share our own stories, and how Christ has redeemed us. He talks about himself, but in it all he focuses on Christ. For Paul, knowing Christ was everything. Being in a right relationship with God was his highest and most treasured priority. All of his accomplishments and his heritage were nothing, were as trash, compared to knowing Christ Jesus. I struggle with this personally as I think about what I have or what I have done that may seem worthwhile to me. But what he has been saying is that the goal of his life was to truly, really, positively know Jesus Christ in the present and to know Him even more in the future.

This knowing of Christ begins now for us who have believed, and it grows and reaches the highest pinnacle not now but in the life to come. Remember, the Philippians were suffering and Paul has been urging them to stand strong with an eye on the future glory that was to come. So in the middle of suffering, right in the heart of it all, they could remember this is not all there is. “Very soon, very shortly, this suffering will end and you will be forever with your Savior.” This is the message.

So if Paul is so passionate about knowing Christ Jesus, what does it mean to know Christ Jesus? To say a prayer, to walk an aisle, to get emotional during a worship song, to do a good deed? What does it mean to really know Christ? Paul wants to know Him, so what does this mean? There are three things I want us to notice from our passage this morning.

1. To know Christ is to know the power of His resurrection

This is the power that comes to believers on the basis of Christ’s resurrection. In this phrase, “the power of his resurrection,” Paul is interested in both the future and in the present. For the future we know this because of verse 11 where Paul shows his great interest in his own resurrection from the dead in a time to come. The power of God was put on display in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and because of that we can say, “He brought Jesus out of the grave, He has the power to do that. He did that with Christ, and He can do that with me as well.” God says we will be rescued from death to life eternally and He demonstrated His ability to make that happen with His very Son.” Paul is interested in that kind of power!

At the end of Ephesians 1 when Paul pauses for a moment to pray for the Christians in Ephesus, he prays that they may know God’s power. He is praying that they would understand truths of the Gospel when he says, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” Here Paul wants to show or explain God’s power so he does it by reminding us of the resurrection. The power of God on display! God actually raised Jesus from the dead by His power. God will raise you and raise me, all who believe He will raise from the dead by His power. He doesn’t just say so, He has demonstrated that He can, giving us confidence that He will. It is not like we can say, “Well, I don’t know if He can do that, it’s never been done before.” Oh yes it has been done. He has done it, and He will do it!

We were talking in our Friday morning elder meeting about heaven, about our home being in heaven. And the more we talked about it, the bigger everyone’s smiles grew. It was hard to move on and get to other things because we were so excited about heaven. Our home is not here; we have another home, and we have a God who is able to get us there. By His power we will arrive, by the strength of His might we will make it. Paul gloried in the power that would get him finally into the presence of Jesus Christ. He has said, “You can have this world and all my accomplishments in it. This is not my home, but some day I will go home, and it will happen by the power of God.”

Knowing God’s power in Paul’s present life and in his future hope did not mean he would avoid suffering. In fact Paul said that to know Christ is to share in His suffering. Some may think, some do think that to have power through Christ means to not suffer. This would be of many teachers associated with a health and wealth gospel. Some would teach that God wants everyone, all of His children to be both healthy and wealthy, sort of a life lived apart from suffering in sickness or in want. But we know that’s not true, because even Jesus suffered tremendously. His suffering was real and extreme, more extreme than any of us will ever suffer in life. Jesus suffered with power, not because He had no power. The purpose of His power and that of His Father was not to merely provide Him physical comfort or relief from pressures of life. The power that He enjoyed was a power in life that helped Him to endure suffering, not escape it. Jesus was mocked by the chief priests, scribes, and elders in Matthew 27 who said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him…He trusts God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” These were words in which they called into question the power of God. The accusation was, “You have no power, or you would use it to stop your personal suffering.”

Sometimes we may have thoughts of accusation against God, if we are honest about it. We may in a time of weakness and confusion and hurt have similar thoughts. “God if you have the power to stop it, why don’t you?” We may go there instead of acknowledging the power of God and calling upon His power to carry us through, to sustain us in it. Isaiah 40 speaks to sufferers where we read beginning in verse 29, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Paul did not ask to be relieved of his suffering, but on the contrary to share in Christ’s sufferings.

2. To know Christ is to share His sufferings

That he “may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” “Share” there is “fellowship.” He was seeking to fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. He saw his life as an extension of Christ on earth. Christ suffered on this earth, Jesus is gone from the earth bodily, Christians are raised up by God to continue on walking in the path of Christ. Christ suffered in life and so Paul assumes, like Jesus, he would suffer too.

These would not be normal talking points we may use in street evangelism, or relationship evangelism. Frankly, we often don’t even talk about this in the church. We don’t usually say, “Come to Christ by faith, repent and believe in the Son of God, and join with me in suffering!” Observe the path that Jesus walked, notice how He was persecuted, maligned, look at how He was betrayed by a close friend, how His name was blasphemed, notice how they made fun of Him and rejected Him, look at how people turned on Him so quickly. They treated Him as royalty when He came into Jerusalem, and shortly afterward shouted, “Crucify Him.” Look how the people used Him simply to get what they wanted, to fulfill their lusts. See how He walked, see His path. We don’t hear, “Come to Christ and let’s continue on that path of sharing in His sufferings! Let’s take up the cause of Christ, let’s count all else as loss and follow Jesus so we may share His sufferings.”

This power Paul speaks of and sharing in suffering, maybe there is a disconnect between these two in our minds. Yet I think what we most often find is that the power of God is most often seen through suffering. Even in the resurrection power that we read of, we know that it came after much suffering. 

Thinking of the power of God, personally I have never witnessed a person rising from the dead. I have not seen God’s power displayed before my eyes in that way. Nor have I seen a withered, unusable arm made whole right before my eyes. I have never witnessed water turned to wine. Read about it, but never seen it. I have not seen a staff turned into a serpent and then back to a staff. I have not seen water come from a rock, nor turned to blood. I have never seen fire come down from heaven to consume a sacrificial offering. I have not seen a man come out of a fish’s mouth after being there three days. I have not seen a person turned into a pillar of salt. There are many miracles that God has done that I have not seen.

But I have seen great and mighty miracles done by God. And not just once, but on a regular basis. A wife who has been atrociously sinned against by her husband walk in peace, trusting God with her future and that of her children. That is the power of God on display. A man dominated by sin for many years, crippled by sinful behavior and the pain and agony associated with it who can now say, “God is greater, in Christ I am free, to Him be the glory.” That is the power of God on display in the middle of suffering. Parents hurt terribly by a child, suffering near the point of despair, who can with joy now say, “God has this, He is in control in my grief and pain, I will trust Him.” That is the power of God on display in suffering. I have my own life to look at. I can see where I’ve been, what God has done, and say, “Wow!” That is the power of God on display.

What I am talking about is how God can so comfort His children who are suffering to the point where joy can be realized, peace flows to the heart, minds can find relief in times of grief and pain. This is power from the Lord, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead applied to human hearts and minds for real change during times of severe and significant suffering, during times when we share in the fellowship of suffering that Christ endured. That suffering is not just endured with human strength, it is faced with the power of God. Jesus did not suffer apart from His Father’s power, nor should we suffer apart from the power of God.

This is what Paul has been conveying to us. He is suffering in prison in a variety of ways. Alienation from his friends, stripped of freedom, and the daily thought of torture or death. And yet in all of that suffering, what does he say? Here is some of what he says, just from the book of Philippians…

  • 1:4 – That with joy he is praying
    1:18 – That he is rejoicing at the declaration of the Gospel
    1:18 – He says, “I will rejoice”
    2:2 – “Complete my joy,” he says
    2:17 – That even if he is sacrificed for them he will rejoice
    2:18 – He wants them to rejoice with him
    2:19 – He hopes in the Lord
    2:28 – He is encouraging his readers to rejoice
    3:1 – He says, “Rejoice in the Lord”
    4:1 – Again, “Rejoice in the Lord”
    4:6 – “Don’t be anxious”
    4:7 – He speaks of the peace of God
    4:9 – Again, the peace of God
    4:10 – He says, “I rejoice”
    4:11 – He speaks of his own contentment in suffering
    4:13 – He speaks of the strength that God gives him

When Paul says in verse 10, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” he is speaking as one who has both suffered and who is currently suffering, and who is simultaneously experiencing the power of God in his life. Not removing the suffering, but helping him endure the suffering with joy, peace, and contentment in life.

I don’t know about you, but when I sit with someone and hear of how God is taking them through unimaginable trials of suffering and hear of a solid faith and trust and even peace with God, I sit there amazed. Sometimes I think, “Is this really possible? How can this be?” And then I go to God in worship and praise, thanking Him for His faithful work that only He can perform in His children, and for showing Himself so incredibley powerful, strong, and capable, not just to me but to anyone who may hear of this testimony of one of His saints who have endured by the power of God. Many of you have seen or experienced what I am talking about. God’s power on display through His children is awesome, incredibly awesome. Suffering drives believers to God, who then discover His power and mercy. 

Paul says, “becoming like Him in His death.” Romans 6:4 says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” We were buried, our old self passed away in this sense, and we share then in His death. 

3. To know Christ is to be confident in our future with Him.

In verse 11 Paul concludes with, “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” The final benefit for Paul was that he would realize a future resurrection when he would be like Jesus Christ. Here is what will happen:

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:51-58)

Notice what Paul is saying here. He is saying, “Here is what is coming for you in Christ: the defeat of death, immortality, victory in Christ, freedom from the power and influence of sin, resurrection from the dead.” So what do we do knowing that is coming? What do we do now as we wait? He says we stand firm, steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord, because our labor in Christ is not in vain. What comes our way now can be handled by the power of God, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, and not only that but that same power will quickly take us home some day. So the power of God at work now in life, the power of God at work in the future delivering us to heaven with Christ! No matter what happens to us today or tomorrow, all of this still holds true, so with Paul we can also rejoice! God has it all covered, in life and in death. We are His, and His faithfulness stands. How great is that? Praise be to God!

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)