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Knowing and Experiencing Jesus Christ 

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ... - Philippians 3:7-8

According to one scholar, Philippians 3:7-8 is one of the "surpassing moments in the Pauline corpus."1 Paul just finished listing his sociological, biographical, achievement and performance-oriented credentials, a "resume of all resumes" in verses 4-6. By referencing his inherited ranks and privileges along with his compelling achievements and credentials, he shows that he possessed everything, pre-eminently so, about which early religious Jews could boast. Clearly his heritage and accomplishments with regard to Jewish identity were impeccable and second to none -- Paul need fear no competition. Prestige, power, rank, wealth, influence, comfort, authority, recognition, fame, pleasure, security, luxury, popularity, national identity, and retirement goals and dreams (!) were all his to be had.

Why is this important? Because it sets the stage for an unbelievable, almost incomprehensible value exchange that he is about to disclose. Paul is going to describe the total re-orientation of his life – a re-orientation of values, priorities, and perspective. And all because of Jesus Christ. With striking clarity and boldness, Paul asserts that he counts all of his past privileges, benefits and religious standing before God as a loss. He revises the balance sheet of his life, using marketplace language and couching the terms to envisage columns marked assets and liabilities in which he reverses his gains and losses. But he doesn't stop there. With one incredible stroke, he takes us by surprise by extending the comparison to not only saying that ALL things are counted as loss, but they should be viewed as rubbish.

This truly expresses the depth of feeling Paul has concerning this matter as the word used here is a vulgarity and refers to excrement/dung or refuse of the kind that was thrown out for the dogs to forage through. It is hard to imagine Paul using a stronger word than this one to describe what most others would describe as advantages. "Paul sees them strictly as disadvantages, as total loss, indeed as 'foul-smelling street garbage' fit only for 'dogs.'"2 In the original language there is an utter revulsion, a "resolute turning aside from something worthless and abhorrent with which one will have nothing more to do."3 What was it that transformed this central view of life for Paul? What was it that prompted this life-shattering change?

It was the "surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord." The underlying motive for all that he has been saying has been revealed. It isn't just Jesus Christ that is the answer; it is knowing him the way Paul did that is the key. "Knowing" Christ for Paul did not mean simple head knowledge or information about him, but was very personal and relational. So personal, in fact, that the word Paul uses is the same word that is used to describe the knowing of a husband and wife via their marital or sexual union. It is a knowledge that has to do with personal experience and intimate relationship. It includes but is significantly more than head knowledge. "There is something unfortunate about cerebral Christianity that 'knows' but does not 'know' in this way."4 It is a knowledge that primarily involves one's heart. It is an experiential encounter with the Savior that inaugurates a special intimacy with Him that is life-changing and on-going.

And that is why we are praying and fasting during this time. Quite simply, we want to seek and know the same Jesus that Paul knew so deeply. There is nothing more valuable or desirable in life than drawing near to Him and experiencing Him in life-changing ways. And, if done in the right way with the right motive, praying and fasting are incredibly powerful ways to seek and know Jesus in this way.

Knowing Christ "describes the fundamental reality of Paul's life, the relationship which suffuses, empowers and motivates all that he is and does."5 "Christ was the decisive difference, ...the person of supreme worth, [who] had become the center of Paul's life, and for His sake he now regards all his privileges as nothing."6 The impact of Christ upon Paul was forever life-changing. He emphasizes that it is "the only knowledge worth having, a knowledge so transcendent in value that it compensates for the loss of everything else."7 May this be true of us as well...both during these 40 days as well as for years and years to come!

Dan Knapke
Chief Operating Officer

1 Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Paul's Letter to the Philippians (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1995), pg 315.
2 Ibid, 319.
3 Gerald F. Hawthorne, Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), pg 139.
4 Fee, Philippians, pg 319.
5 Markus Bockmuehl, Black's New Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Philippians (London: Black, 1998), pg 206.
6 Peter T. O'Brien, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Epistle to the Philippians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pg 383, 385.
7 Ibid, pg 388 (quoting F.F. Bruce).