Christ Is Everything to Us

Samuel Rindlisbacher

Paul professes in Philippians 3:8 that to him Jesus Christ is everything: “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” We should remember that these are the words of a man in Roman captivity who did not know what the next day would bring.

In the preceding verse we read: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Phil 3:7). Here Paul is referring to the time before his conversion. He had been an influential rabbi and an extreme zealot for Jewish law. Looking back, he says about his past: “All of that was garbage compared to what I now have in Jesus Christ.”

Before his conversion, Paul had been the greatest hater of Christ and persecutor of Christians; he surpassed all others in his fervor for the Jewish law. How could such a change have come about in the life of Paul?

The answer is plain and simple: he had encountered Christ. He who has not encountered Christ cannot possibly understand what Paul is writing here in Acts 9:1-5. His experience is described thus: “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto to the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said: Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest!”

Paul’s question, “Who art thou, Lord?” is interesting, as the address “Lord” seems to indicate that Paul realized: This is God. Paul’s eyes were opened; He whom Paul encountered here on the road to Damascus was none other than the God of the Old Testament, the “I Am That I Am” (Exodus 3:14). This was Yahweh in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who had revealed Himself in the Gospel of John with these seven divine titles: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51); “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12); “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7, 9); “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14); “I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6); “I am the true vine” (John 15:1, 5).

This answer must have been earth-shattering for Paul: “I am the Lord Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:5). In that instant, the life of Paul of Tarsus, his world vision, his opinions and goals experienced a fundamental change. God had stretched out His hand and taken hold of Paul!

Whenever God takes hold of a person, He also wants that person’s “yes.” We are not puppets; God never forces anyone. Rather, He waits for our voluntary “yes.” Paul said “yes”; he let himself be conquered, and thus became one of the Lord’s disciples who now had a new purpose in living. Jesus Christ had become the center and anchor of his life. The Lord had freed Paul from the effort of achieving righteousness by his own works. Instead, He offered him forgiveness, salvation, hope and eternity. From now on Paul only wanted one thing: “…that I may win Christ, and be found in him” (Phil 3:8b-9a). The more Christ takes hold of me, the greater also my desire to embrace the Lord Jesus.

A few verses earlier the apostle describes how this takes place: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:5-8).  

Paul understood that “taking hold of Jesus” means being conformed to the likeness of the Lord in mindset and disposition. However, this is never simple. It is a struggle: a path of training, sacrifice, hardship and temptation—it is the way of the cross. But the prize can only be won if one actually does fight the good fight. It means contending on the race course of faith, as described by Paul himself: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown: but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

Paul wished to cling to Jesus after he had been conquered by Christ. If I want to take hold of Jesus, I have to learn to subject all my thoughts, my feelings and my desires to the cross of Jesus. We often encounter the opinion that the Christian life should be without strife. But that is not the case. I can only win the trophy if I join the fight. That fight means effort, trials, hardships, and sometimes failure. But then I am also granted the grace to get up again and continue my walk with the Lord Jesus.

Like Paul, we should strive to cling to Jesus and hold Him. Dear reader, fight the good fight of faith and don’t be defeated. Continue on to live a sanctified life, a life of dedication, a life in the service of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus will supply the needed grace.

Midnight Call - 05/2018

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