A Devotional Thought
by Don Anderson
What is the top priority in life for a Christian? The Barna Group surveyed Americans asking what their top priorities in life were. Half of those surveyed cited family first (51%). The runner-up category: their faith (16%). It is interesting to note that in this survey, only one in five of those who strongly affirm their religious faith consider that faith the highest priority in life. Something seems to be amiss!
In writing to the Philippian Church, the Apostle Paul reveals what was to him the most important priority of his life: knowing Christ. Paul affirms this when he says in Philippians 3:10 “that I may know Him.”
What does it mean to “know” Jesus? The word “know” here means to know by experience. The word is widely used in the Bible to describe knowledge grounded by personal experience. The same word is used to describe an intimate relationship with another person, such as between a husband and wife. Genesis 4:1 in the New King James version says that “Adam
Eve, his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…”
Paul’s experience with Jesus began on the road to Damascus where he was going to arrest Christians. On the way, Jesus appeared to Saul (Saul was Paul’s Hebrew name, Paul his Greek name) saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 9:3).” Paul has no idea that it was the Lord Jesus when he said, “Who are you, Lord? (Acts 9:4).” Thus began a relationship that would grow deep as Paul grew to know the Lord.
How did Paul grow to know and love the Lord Jesus? By spending time with Him. Relationships are built by spending time with one another. God initiated the relationship with Paul when he was born again. Following his conversion, Paul began the process of becoming more and more like Christ for the rest of his life. It is a process we call sanctification, which is a $20 word for growing to be like Jesus. In like manner, God begins a relationship with us when we are born again, and following our conversion we begin the process of becoming like Jesus.
What was this new relationship worth to Paul? He describes the value of it in Philippians 3:7–9:
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
Compared to all that Paul had learned, experienced, or gained in life, it all paled when compared to knowing Christ! And Paul had gained much in his life up to the point of meeting Jesus. In Philippians 3:5-6, Paul gives a brief resume of his accomplishments up to that time:
“circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
As a Pharisee, Paul had a lot going for him. He was a rising star in Israel. There was apparently no one more zealous. Paul was like a one-man terrorist group bent on destroying Christianity. Yet after coming to know Christ, he came to see all that he had ever achieved was worthless compared to the
“excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ”
For Paul, the priority of his life changed when He met the Lord Jesus. Knowing Christ became the driving force that motivated his life from that point on.
For Christians, our priorities should be like that of Paul: knowing the Lord Jesus by experience above all else. Like Paul, all that we have achieved or gained before meeting Christ is “loss [compared to] the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” our Lord. Think about it, what is of more value than knowing Christ as your Savior?
How then can we come to know the Lord Jesus by experience? The same way that we come to know anyone else: by spending time with them. Relationships are built by being together. But, some object, how can we come to know the Lord Jesus if we can't see Him? By spending time in His word. God reveals Himself through His Word. Peter tells us that,
“His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the
of Him who called us by glory and virtue”
(2 Peter 1:3).
The word “knowledge” here is the same word as “know” in Philippians 3:10 but an intensified form. This is a fuller, clearer, and more thorough knowledge. Notice Peter says that
all we need
for life and godliness comes through the knowledge of Him. If we are to live a life of godliness, we need a very clear and thorough knowledge of our Savior. That knowledge of Him can only be gained by spending time with Him in His Word.
As we spend time with Jesus through His Word, we will come to know Him by experience; we will come to understand His manner and thinking, and over time become more and more like Him. We will come to develop the mind of Christ by replacing our thinking with His. Paul commands us in Philippians 2:5 to, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” The only way to obtain the mind of Christ is to spend time with Him through His Word. This is the only way to realize our ultimate goal as Christians: that of being like Jesus. Or as Paul says, “that I may know Him!”