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Philippians 3:10-11: Fellowship with Christ

January 19, 2012

Sometimes we treat Jesus like an expensive shirt. We buy it because of the way it looks on us, but when we get home and read the tag that says “Dry Clean Only,” it ends up living in the back of the closet, or else crumpled at the bottom of the hamper for months on end. We bought it because of what we thought we would get out of it, but when we realized the actual cost, we weren’t interested anymore. So relating with Jesus becomes a self-serving transactional obligation: I do my part (be good); he does his part (make me happy), and nobody gets hurt.

Other times we treat Jesus like our collection of Seinfeld DVDs (or in my case, Psych). We spend regular time with them, we quote them often, we know some episodes frontward and back, but they don’t do a blessed thing to change the way we think or live. Similarly, our knowledge of Jesus becomes a sterile intellectualism. We might impress others, but it bears no transforming fruit in our lives.

I’m pretty sure Paul has something entirely different in mind when he exclaims in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ!”

Philippians 3:10-11 brings to close a larger chunk of Paul’s argument (3:1-11), even as it paves the way for his next set of exhortations (3:12-4:1). If 1:27-2:11 was the instructional heart of Paul’s letter, then 3:10-11 is the theological heart. Everything in the book points to and flows out of this chief ambition: to know Christ.

Paul is talking about fellowship with Jesus—knowing, relating, sharing life together with Jesus, our crucified, risen Lord. And he tells us what this involves: participation in his death and resurrection.

To fellowship with Jesus is more than book knowledge and different than self-centered manipulation. It means walking in the power of his resurrection, and following the pattern of his sufferings. It means knowing him in such a way that we see the Spirit of God at work in our lives to do what we ourselves cannot do in our sin and weakness—serving God joyfully, hating sin increasingly, loving others sacrificially, following Jesus freely.

But as Jesus told his disciples in Mark 8:34, to know and follow Christ is to take up our cross and share in his sufferings—not to atone for anyone’s sin, (only Jesus does that), but to embody his love and be changed by his grace. Put another way, the way of life in Jesus is through death—death to self, death to this fallen world, death to sin. And in place of all that is a life lived in the power of his resurrection to the glory of God, even as we anticipate Christ’s return when we will share in his resurrection fully (cf. Phil. 3:20-21).

If you’re presently in Boston’s MetroWest, I invite you to join us this Sunday (Jan. 22) at Westgate Church to take a closer look at what it means to know and fellowship with Jesus.

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