Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pursuing Christ At All Costs: Matt Chandler on Philippians 3

Our church small group is currently working through Matt Chandler's DVD study of the book of Philippians (which I highly recommend), and last night's session was especially convicting. The text was Philippians 3:1-11. In Chandler's typical style, he took a roundabout way of approaching the text, using several illustrations and ideas to get us there. He labored over the point that the Christian life is not a matter of doing right and avoiding wrong, and he drove the point home by showing from Scripture that this is true. The apostle Paul, prior to conversion, had (outwardly) done all the right things. He was an exemplary Jew. In fact, he claimed to have more to boast about than anyone - he was "circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless". This man was blameless in his zeal for keeping the law, but he did not have Christ. After God in his mercy saved him, Paul said, "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord". Notice that the things he once had were "gain"; they were not sinful in themselves. The sobering reality is that the things that most often draw us away from pursuing Christ are not sinful in themselves; in fact, they may be good things. But doing good things without knowing Christ is equivalent to unbelief. Don't believe me? Check out Matthew 7:21-23. Those who pursue good behavior without Christ will hear the most terrifying words in all of Scripture: "I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness." At this point, Chandler's emotional plea reached a crescendo with this quote: "Paul is saying that if you get all of these things, if you clean up your life on the outside, and make it look like the Christian community says it's supposed to look, but you don't get Jesus, you've lost! Who cares?!".

Chandler's point was this: the Christian life is a passionate pursuit of Christ, not good works. Pursue Christ, and the good works will follow. What about you? Are you more concerned with how well you "look the part" than how passionately you are pursuing Christ? Do you feel like you are doing pretty good in your spiritual walk? Do you view the Christian life as a checklist of right and wrong? Jesus' words in Matthew 7 shows what will be the fate of those who view Christianity only as a right/wrong checklist.

All throughout Scripture, and most notably in the Psalms, we see people longing, pleading for more of God. Check out Psalms 42 and 143 for examples. Even Romans 8 describes how all of creation is groaning for God's redemptive purposes to be fulfilled. So the question becomes, How much do you long for God? Are you constantly pursuing him in every arena of life? Is he first and foremost in your affections? If not, repent, and "lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely" (Heb. 12:1). Get rid of ANYTHING, good or bad, that disengages your mind from the holy. Get rid of all secondary pursuits and set your eyes fully on Christ. Pursue him at all costs - because even if you are left with nothing but Christ, you still have everything.

I close with a mind-blowing thought from Chandler: "Because Christ is infinite, there is always going to be more of him to be had." Think about that. For all of eternity (in the coming ages, Ephesians 2 says) Christ will reveal to us his immeasurable riches. The riches will never be exhausted. The well of living water will never run dry. The bread of life will never cease. So run to him - throw off your moralism and pursue Christ at all costs; only his righteousness can save you.

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