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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:Knowing Christ
Text:Philippians 3:7-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs - Ps. 95:1,2,3; Ps. 93:4; Hy. 19:1,2,3,4; Hy. 19:5,6; Ps. 49

Reading - Phil 3

Text - Phil 3:7-11
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Do you know Christ? Have you come to know Him? Are you letting yourself be taught by Him?


1. Implications for the past; 2. Benefits for the present; 3. Hope for the future.

1. Paul writes here about his having come to know Christ. Christ Jesus who had become his Lord. It was on the Damascus road that he had first come to know Christ. We can read about that in Acts 9. Paul, then called Saul, the great persecutor of the Church, was on the road to Damascus to round up Christians. As he neared Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and the Lord Jesus Christ asked him: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

There, on the Damascus road, Christ turned the persecutor into a preacher. The Lord drafted him into service. Paul came to know Christ. He became the greatest preacher and missionary the church has ever known.

In Phil. 3, Paul speaks about the greatness of knowing Christ. Nothing is greater than knowing Christ Jesus the Lord.

To know Christ is to be intimately acquainted with him. How do you come to know Christ? Through his Word and Spirit. We come to know Christ through the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. The gospel is proclaimed and the Holy Spirit works faith and obedience in our lives. That's how we come to know Christ Jesus our Lord.

When we come to know Christ, the Anointed One, as Saviour and Lord, then we consider our past as rubbish.

Three times, in vv. 7 & 8, does Paul compare his past before he knew Christ to his present situation of knowing Christ. Three times he deems his past worth nothing but losing in comparison with knowing Christ. Compared to knowing Christ, his past life, experiences, values, possessions-everything to do with his past life-he considers rubbish. Worthless, unwanted material. The stuff you throw in the garbage can and put out curbside for the garbage truck to haul to the landfill.

What are these things of the past that Paul once valued but now considers rubbish? He mentioned them in vv. 5 & 6. Things that once gave him confidence: Circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite; a Benjaminite; a true blue Hebrew; a Pharisee; zealous; legalistic.

He had pedigree. He had a genealogy worth bragging about. He was a Jewish boy born into a Jewish home.

By birth he was of Israel's race. The people of God of the OT.

An Israelite who could trace his family origins. And a noble origin it was: of the tribe of Benjamin. No small thing to be of the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin, a favorite son of Jacob. A son of Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife. A favored tribe from whom came his namesake Saul, Israel's first king. The tribe blessed by Moses in Deut. 33:12 the tribe the LORD loved and that rested between His shoulders. The tribe in whose territory sat the Holy City Jerusalem. And do not forget that Benjamin was the only tribe that joined the tribe of Judah in remaining faithful to the house of King David. Paul was of this tribe-of Benjamin. Certainly reason for genealogical pride!

Not only was he a Jewish boy born in a Jewish home, an Israelite and a Benjaminite. But he was a Hebrew of Hebrews. The term "Hebrew" first occurs in Gen. 14, to describe Abram. Abram the Hebrew.

Paul could trace a pure, undiluted genealogy back to Abraham, the father of the Israel, of the Jewish people. A Hebrew of Hebrews. Not a drop of Gentile blood in his family tree.

Not only could he boast a pure genealogical pedigree; but, in other ways he once thought he was special too. He was a Pharisee; he had unmatched zeal for God; and he kept the law faultlessly.

Now that he had come to know Christ, he considered all of that rubbish. He would put no confidence in any of that. All his confidence would rest in Christ.

That's rather striking considering how important genealogies were to people at that time. How important ancestry, family tree, racial and tribal pedigree. Until the time of Christ, it was very important.

The sermons of the past weeks have underlined that. We spent five sermons looking at a few parts of the genealogy of Jesus Christ as Matthew related it in ch. 1 of his gospel. Matthew began with Abraham, to Judah, to David, to Christ. Luke also records the genealogy of Jesus Christ, but went all the way beyond Abraham to Adam.

As you read through the OT, you come across many genealogies. In Genesis, in Exodus, in the Chronicles, in Ezra and Nehemiah. Genesis and Nehemiah span the history recorded in the OT. And from Genesis to Nehemiah you find many genealogical records relating family lineage. Such records were used to establish inheritance rights, to trace priestly descent, royal descent, and to ensure racial purity. They were very important.

When you turn to page 1 of the NT, you find again a genealogy-that of Jesus Christ. You find one again in Luke, and then that's it. No more genealogies.

When you come to Paul's first letter to Timothy and his letter to Titus, you hear him say: Tell the people not to devote themselves to endless genealogies. Avoid quarreling about genealogies.

Why is that? Because Christ has come. Genealogies were important until the Lord Jesus Christ was born of the house of David, of the tribe of Judah, of the family of Abraham. Born to be Saviour of all who believe, no matter what family, clan, tribe, or nation they are from. All who know Christ are one in Him; that's the beginning and end of the whole matter. Christ is the final king and priest. He is the great inheritance. He is the great son of Abraham. Through faith in him, we are children of Abraham. All the promises of Abraham are ours in him. He is our priest, our king. We have a great inheritance in him.

Does that mean it is wrong to trace one's family tree? There are computer programs that make it quite easy to fill out one's family tree. Many Internet web sites are devoted to genealogical studies. Is all of that wrong? No, not at all. It's a great hobby, one that a Christian can be engaged in. Of course.

But we do well to understand that whereas genealogical tables were very important in the OT, when all of world, national, tribal, royal, priestly and family history finally came to focus on one child lying in a manger in Bethlehem, they had no importance anymore.

Paul considers his personal racial and tribal ancestry-something of which he once was proud and upon which he placed confidence-as rubbish. Of no account whatsoever. Because he had come to know Christ. Christ, the end and the new beginning of all things.

Is Christ the end of all things for you too? Is he your new beginning? Do not place any confidence in who you are, in what you have, in what you have done, in what you know. Leave all those issues of the past behind. Make sure you know Christ Jesus your Lord.

2. Knowing Christ not only impacts our past; it has benefits for the present.

Being found in Christ, the believer experiences two great benefits in the present. He is righteous in Christ (v. 9). He becomes like Christ (v. 10). We speak about justification and sanctification.

a. Knowing Christ means being righteous in Him. Before he knew Christ, Paul was trying to be right with God through his own legalistic righteousness. He spoke about that in vv 5 & 6. In regard to the law, he was a Pharisee. As for legalistic righteousness, he was faultless.

He had been trained in the law in the lecture theatre of the great Jerusalem Pharisee and scholar Gamaliel. Paul had been a very good student. He knew his stuff. He was completely self-confident in his knowledge of the law and in applying it faultlessly.

When he had come to know Christ, all his self-confidence evaporated like an early morning mist. All his confidence that he had a righteousness of his own that came from the law-it blew away like a little cloud.

When he came to know Christ, he came to know a different righteousness. He came to see that the confidence that he was right with God through his own obedience and efforts was rubbish. He came, rather, to know the righteousness that comes from God. Righteousness which is the free gift of God. The righteousness of Christ that comes from God and is received by faith.

The righteousness of Christ is made up of his own perfect personal obedience, and his death on the cross for our sins. When you come to know Christ, you are found in him. God sees you in Christ. The righteousness of Christ is yours. It covers your sin and pays for your sin.

Have faith in Christ. Learn to know Christ. Then you will be found in him. Once lost, but now found. Amazing grace.

b. There is a second present benefit. You will become like Christ. In v. 10, Paul said: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..."

Paul wants to learn to know Christ more and more. And as he enters into deeper and sweeter communion with the risen Christ, he be comes more and more like Christ. Largely through suffering.

Paul suffered. Not only did he gladly lose the things about himself he once was proud of, but he lost all things (v. 8) for the sake of Christ. Some of the things he lost for the sake of Christ were forcibly taken from him. He lost physical strength through lack of sleep, hunger, thirst and cold. He lost his belongings through bandits and robbers. He lost the skin off is back through many floggings and beatings. He lost his liberty by being imprisoned.

Once he had come to know Christ, the suffering began. As he said in Acts 14:22, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

If we want to know Christ and experience closer and more intimate communion with him, we will not complain about the suffering of this life. Life is a school that teaches us to know Christ. And one of the lessons we need to learn is suffering.

Christ's life was one of suffering. We are singing Hymn 19 (Phil. 2) which sketches out the life of Christ in broad brush strokes. The life of Christ was one of descent into death, and only then to resurrection and glory. Knowing Christ involves, as Paul says here in v. 10, sharing in his sufferings and becoming like him in death.

Do we want to be made like Christ, or not? Christlikeness necessarily leads to the cross. It did for Paul: to the dungeon and then the executioner's block. As Peter wrote: (1 Pet 4:12f) Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ...

Suffering is not pleasant, but neither is it bad. We should not despise it. Nor should we despair because of it. Remember, in the midst of our suffering-we have the power of the resurrected Christ to sustain us. And we suffer in fellowship with the risen Christ. As we suffer and become like Christ in his death, we are not following a dead Model but walking in communion with a living Saviour.

In his providence, God uses suffering to transform us into the image of His Son. Let us learn the lessons. Let us die more and more to sin. In vv. 17 ff. Paul mentioned those whom he called enemies of the cross. They refused to live according to the pattern Paul had given them. They made a god out of their human lusts and cravings. They had set their minds on earthly things. Enemies of the cross.

Let us learn more and more to know Christ. To enter into deeper and richer communion with him. To submit to his lessons, even when they include suffering. And so die to sin and live in Christ.

In this way we will attain to the resurrection of the dead.

3. Knowing Christ we have hope for the future.

A firm hope; an assured hope. A hope that will not deceive us.

The end result of a life of fellowship with Christ is glory. One who knows Christ, who is found in Christ, who is righteous in Christ and has fellowship with Christ through the suffering of this life-that person has an amazing hope for the future.

I say "amazing" because we can hear Paul's amazement in the word "somehow" (v. 11). "... and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." We ought not to hear doubt in the word "somehow" but amazement. How can it be, thinks Paul, that such a sinner as he can look forward to glory? During his life, Paul did not reach perfection (he wrote about that in the following verses, vv 12ff). Neither will we. We will remain sinners until the day we die.

But if we remain in Christ, if we stay united to him, if we keep in fellowship with him throughout this life (during times of joy and happiness as well as during periods of suffering), we will attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The promised glory gives meaning to the suffering. As Paul said elsewhere (Rom 8:17), "...we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." The resurrection on the day of Christ's return represents perfection at every level of our existence. The resurrection will be the culmination of our spiritual pilgrimage.

Today is the last Sunday of the year. During this past year you experienced happy things and troubles. You have spent another year in the school of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has been teaching you also through your suffering. And, unless he returns, this teaching will continue.

It is for you to know Christ. To learn to know Christ. To learn to know him better. To remain in fellowship with him. To be made like him. To die to sin.

Will you do that? Then the glorious hope for the future for all God's children is yours. If we remain in fellowship with Christ, then we can take the last words of this chapter and make them ours: ... our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2002, Rev. George van Popta

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