This chapter ends with a warning to all whose end is not Christ, who are not straining forward for the prize of Christ. Phil 3:18-21 [READ]
If Christ is not your end, then your life will end in destruction. Paul reiterates this point from the opposite vantage point. If Christ is the end goal of your life and your citizenship is secure in heaven, what will your life on earth look like? You will eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus. Wait a minute. I thought Christians already had Christ in their lives. We do, partially. We know him in part. We experience him in part. We get glimpses of glory here on earth. We experience a peace that transcends understanding in our better moments. The burdens are lifted from our shoulders when we have spent time with Jesus. We know Jesus. We have him in part. We are saved and so our citizenship in heaven is guaranteed. But one day, we won’t have to wait for a Savior because He will be standing right in front of us. At that moment, we will be fully saved, spirit, mind, body, we will have resurrected bodies and we get to enjoy Christ 24×7 for the rest of eternity. In other words, the prize of our calling unto salvation is when our full salvation is actualized. And we have an everlasting enjoyment of the fellowship of Christ in a new and glorified body on a new heaven and a new earth with no sin, no fear, and no regrets.
This makes perfect sense if you think about it. If your goal was to know Christ on earth, then the new heaven and new earth will be home for you because you get to enjoy the prize, Jesus Christ. For those whose goal and end wasn’t to know Christ, then the new heaven and new earth wouldn’t be home to you because Christ was never your treasure, or your goal here on earth.
Is Christ the prize that you are straining forward to attain? Forget about yesterday. Today, are you reaching for Christ? Is your goal to know Christ right at this moment? Do you long for the day when your knowing will turn to having? You know Christ but someday you and I will have Christ. Is that something you long for? This ought to be at the heart of every Christian.
King David is a man after God’s heart and I encourage you to pray through the Psalms and read David’s prayer journal? See what made him tick. See what he longed for. See why he is called a man after God’s heart.
Psalm 63:1-8 [READ]
King David was in love with God. He longed for God. This is lustful longing for the One and only Person who can satisfy the depths of his heart. We settle so easily for cheap substitutes, even good things like family, and church, and ministry. Learn from David, learn from Paul, if you strip everything else away, see what drove these men. It was a passion to have God and have Jesus and so on this side of eternity, you and I get to imitate men whose only goal was to know him.
Practically, find out what stirs your affections for Christ. What works for me may not work for you because we are all wired differently. If I elevated my way of loving God in Christ and discounted your way of loving God, then I have become a legalistic fundamentalist. Fundamentalism says, you have to experience God in exactly the same way as I do.
For the Jewish convert to Christianity, it is one thing to appreciate the Jewish traditions and things like circumcision as a way of having greater appreciation for the circumcision of the heart that only the Spirit can do. If you are a Jewish rabbi and you come to faith in Christ, then there would be so much depth of understanding about the riches of Christ because you grew up going to the synagogue and learning about the Torah and practicing various feasts in your home. Those traditions can enrich your appreciation for Christ. But to say to a non-Jew, you must follow these traditions and get circumcised, that’s ridiculous. That’s legalism. That’s imposing my way of appreciating God on someone who might conform and do what I tell them to do without being able to appreciate those same traditions the same way that I appreciate them.
There are things that are helpful to me in stirring my affection for Christ and I hold them up as examples, but I cannot impose these things on you because it might not help you and if I made you feel bad for not doing what is helpful to me, I’ve turned your faith into religion. So take what I am about to share and apply it in your life if it is helpful and if it’s not helpful, then find out what works for you.
For me, nature really stirs my affections for Christ. Sometimes, I need to pray on my knees. But on a nice day, I love going on prayer walks, many times with a Bible in hand. My absolute favorite spot is the Berkeley Marina where I can be out in nature and then I can sit on the rocks facing the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s why I enjoy going to the Ventura beach house for prayer. It’s not the same as the Bay Area but it’s the best I can do here.
I also like sipping a piping hot cup of coffee when it’s just me in the house alone and it’s a bit chilly outside and I have my Bible open. As the coffee is going down my throat and warming my body, I feel God’s love flooding my soul. I look fondly upon the days when I was a college student and it was drizzling outside and I sat there by myself at Cafe Strada in Berkeley and I contemplated the meaning of life.
I love listening to Christian songs, either loud, bass thumping worship tracks or quiet meditative instrumentals with acoustic guitar or piano and maybe one vocal. A good song can stir my heart more than a couple of good books and 5 sermons. That’s just how I am wired.
I am also stirred in my affections for Christ when I am around other pastors who share a love for Christ. I don’t have to teach, I don’t have to disciple anyone, we are there just to talk about Jesus and pray for one another and I leave some of those meetings with pastors and church planters energized to love Jesus more.
Do what you need to do to stir your affections for Christ. Parents, take turns leaving the house so that you can break the routine of work and family. Get a babysitter and go out together and talk about Jesus. Students, take an afternoon off. Go on a personal retreat. Attend a conference.
Take some time off from work or from your problem sets, not for a vacation but to spend some unhurried time with the Lord.
Let’s learn how to treasure Christ together, to know him, to wait for him, to seek him as our ultimate end and prize and to long for the day when knowing will change to having.