Would you stand together please and take your Bible this morning and turn to the book of Philippians. And thank you for that beautiful song. How many of you are thankful that there is a place called heaven, amen, and a place that we can look forward to as well someday? As you turn to Philippians chapter 3 this morning we're going to pick up on the theme where we left off last week with the subject of "Foundations." And we discussed briefly last week that we sometimes feel as though our society and things around us are crumbling and changing. Sometimes we feel like we can't do a lot about this; and yet in reality, the most important foundational things in life are still ours to claim in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Last week we asked the question, "If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the people do?" And we learned that there are some foundations that no external force can destroy. One of those is your family; and we preached about the family last Sunday. And today we're going to preach about our personal relationship with God, the foundational relationship that we have in Christ. It is something that no government, no county, no state, no nation can ever take from you, it is your relationship personally with Jesus Christ. That's why I said a moment ago be sure to take time with the Lord in your home and in your personal walk this week, because it is a treasure indeed.
Well, Philippians 3:10 we read about this relationship. Paul the apostle writing to the church at Philippi, he says, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Father, we thank you for the foundational relationship that we have with you. We know that all other ground is sinking sand, but we're thankful that on Christ the solid rock we stand this morning. I pray that you would bless our time in your Word. We've enjoyed the music and the fellowship, and even the beauty of the outdoors; but we want now to enjoy you through your Word. So help me to preach, I pray in Jesus' name. Amen. You may be seated.
When one accepts Jesus Christ as his or her Savior Jesus becomes the foundation of our life. Prior to that, the Bible describes our life as a life on the sands that are shifting and changing. And yet the Bible describes Christ as the foundation of the believer. First Corinthians 3:11, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid in Christ Jesus." You can try to build your life on a financial foundation, an educational foundation, a relationship foundation; but all of these are as sinking sand compared to the foundation we have in Jesus Christ.
Acts 4:11 says, "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given under heaven given among men, whereby you must be saved." Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian life. He is the foundation, Paul says, that stands sure. And so, while other things may shift and change in our nation, we can stand certain in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
All around us and behind me this morning there are millions of dollars of buildings that have been raised up for the purpose of preaching and propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I can tell you that with every one of these buildings, the very first part of the building program was to build the footers for the foundation, the laying of the rebar and the pouring of four to six feet of concrete; and then, from that point, the raising up of the super structure. But always the beginning point is a strong foundation; and without the strong foundation there will never be a super structure; and without a right relationship with Christ and without an abiding relationship with Christ in our lives, we cannot build strong lives, strong families, or a strong church even today.
Many have read or seen pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They began building that tower around 1100 AD, and they built it over several centuries of time, and finally, they built it up to about 186 feet tall. And not long after that it began to tilt, and it began to tilt a little bit more and a little more. The name Pisa, the name of the town, means marshy land. And I'm going to tell you that when you build your life on marshy land, when you build your life on the sands of this world, your life will tilt and utterly be destroyed, unless you build on the solid rock: Christ Jesus. I have seen many Christians who knew how to play the part and it looked like things were fine, and yet their life began to shift and ultimately crumble because they ceased to build on the rock: Christ Jesus.
Well, I want to share with you this morning some truths about this foundational relationship that we have, this foundational relationship in Christ. I want you to know, first of all, that this relationship is a personal relationship. And I'm thankful today that we do not have a relationship with a building or a denomination or a church, but that fundamentally we have a relationship with a person: the Lord Jesus Christ. And I want you to see that in verse 10.
The Bible tells us this morning, Philippians 3:10, "That I may know him." Would you say that phrase with me, please? "That I may know him." To know his person. The surpassing knowledge of Christ is what Paul desires. And I want to challenge you, and I've been praying this in my own life during COVID-19 and during certain trials and challenges that through it all I would know him in a deeper and a more personal way.
Paul in this verse is not speaking about whether he knew that he was saved; he knew he was saved. In fact, in verse 10 he says, "I am found in him; and my righteousness is of God, it is by faith." He knew that he was saved. But being saved and knowing God are two different things. A saved man can cease to grow. A saved man can even enter into a carnal time in his life where the flesh is more dominant than the spirit. And this must be the pursuit of our lives. There must be an intentionality behind this, that I may know him. I want to know God so closely and so comfortably that I can speak to him at any moment and hear from him at any moment. And Paul is describing a relationship here when he says, "That I may know him."
We may know him personally and intimately and face-to-face. Christ does not have to be someone that's from previous centuries as a mere historical figure, but that in this very moment we may know him. You see, religion many times is satisfied with ritualism. It is satisfied with systems, and even regulations. But a Christian wants more than that. A Christian wants Christ, and we want to know him and to learn of him and to love him in a deeper way. You can know rules and preferences and history and not be close to Christ. You can even know verses and not be living those verses out in your life.
I remember years ago we visited the city of Rome, and my mother said to me before going there, she said, "Now, Paul, let me tell you something about that city." She said, "Be sure to stop and look down the alleyways and look up at the window seals on the second and third floor and try to take note of the details." And she said, "There's so much history there." Because of that we hired a guide, and that guide was amazing. He had a degree in church history and architecture, and he was just so proficient in his field, and he was so excited when he would show us maybe the works of Raphael and Michelangelo, or the Sistine Chapel or such things. And he knew all about the church. He knew all of the names of the popes and was glad to tell us about them: 260 popes. He would tell us about how they impacted the Roman church. And he wanted us to know all about the history, the architecture, and the art.
But as the day progressed and as we shared the gospel with him, though he knew the art and the history and the popes by name, he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He did not know where he would spend his eternity. And Paul is telling us here, "I don't want to know about architecture or history, I want to know him, I want to know the Lord Jesus Christ." And may that be our prayer this morning. With everything around us that we sometimes don't know or understand, "That I may know him."
It's a wonderful word the word "know." It is the Greek word ginóskó. It speaks of understanding or grasping or ascertaining. It speaks of really knowing him. And I think most of us who've been married a while – Terrie and I celebrate this next month 40 years of marriage. And how many of you that have been married a while say, "Right when I think I know my spouse, there's something else I need to learn again." Right? And for some of you, even basic things like her birthday. But anyways, that's another sermon.
But I'm telling you it's a lifelong learning opportunity; but with the riches and the wonderful truths of Christ, that we would pursue him and that we would know him. First John 4:7, "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. And he that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. You see, it should be our desire, our greatest desire, that we would know him. Moms and dads, more than our children would have a specific look and know a specific regimen, and those disciplines are important. But more than that, we want them to know Jesus from the heart.
I was reading this past week some of the letters my mother wrote me as a teenager, and she wrote in one letter, she said, "We pray for you all the time. We love an awful lot. We want God's best for you, and we rejoice with you in the discovery of the peace that there is surrender in the will of God."
There is joy in knowing God. We also know there's a real devil who would love to destroy you, even more since you want to serve the Lord. You see, the greatest desire of a godly mother or father should be that their children would know the Lord. And I called my dad this morning, and he's there at the bedside with my mom; and 59 years of marriage now coming to a close. And I said, "Dad, I know this is hard, a hard time for you, but I want you to rejoice in the fact that you have three sons preaching the gospel today, you have a daughter living for Jesus today, and that is due to a wife and mother that helped us to know the Lord and challenge us to love the Lord with all of our heart."
And contrary to what sometimes critics say, I grew up in a very conservative Bible-believing Baptist home. But I've got to tell you that I had a mother that had the wisdom to understand. It was more than school rules and church regimen; it's also about having a real personal relationship with Jesus Christ, knowing him, listening to him. Paul said, "That I may know him," to know his person. And then Paul wanted to know his power. He wanted to see the demonstration of that power in his life.
Notice what it says in this verse. It says in verse 10, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, the power of his resurrection." If we know Christ, then we're going to know something of this power. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 13:4, "For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God." Paul gladly then would exchange his impotence, his powerlessness for the power of the resurrected Christ. And the word "power" here is that word dunamis. It speaks of dynamite power. He said, "I don't want to have a ho-hum Christian life. I don't want to just go through the motions. I want to see God!"
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And I know that during COVID we have different schedules, and we're not able to do outreach the way we'd like to do outreach, and it's just a different season. But I'm convinced with all of my heart that if we'll take care of the depth of our walk with God, he'll take care of the breadth of our ministry outreach. And right now, God is drawing some of his people back to a deeper rooted relationship with him. And maybe before God wants to add another thousand members to this church, he wants some of us to get to know him better. Maybe that's what God's doing right now.
God has always seemingly blessed our church and blessed the church in general with bountiful fruit after seasons of suffering. It's as though he wants to test us before he wants to bless us. And Paul said, "I want to know him, and I want to know the power of his fellowship."
Oh, listen, 1 Corinthians 2:1, "Brethren, when I came to you, I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in trembling, and was not in the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit of power." In other words, Paul said, "Look, it's not me the great apostle preacher, it's Christ through me." He said, "It was the power of Christ that I so longed for." And he said, "I want to know his person, and I want to know his power."
I walked into a hotel the other day, and as I walked in, suddenly all of the power in the entire hotel went off. People began to call the – I was standing there trying to check in. They were calling the front desk, "I'm stuck in the elevator. We can't get the lights on in our room." This went on for minutes. This went on for 10 or 15 minutes. You might be surprised to hear, I did not feel led of the Lord to check into that hotel. I didn't want to get stuck in the elevator. I didn't want to be somewhere that was powerless.
By the way, this world does not want to come to a powerless church. They do not want to be with people who do not experientially know God. This world needs to see real Christians who know him, and who walk in his power, and churches that love him and are living in the reality of his presence. And so, Paul said, "I want to know his person, I want to know his power." And then he said, "I want to know his presence in my life."
Notice again in verse 10, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection," – notice this – "and the fellowship of his sufferings." Would you say that with me, please? "And the fellowship of his sufferings, fellowship of his sufferings." He said, "I want to have fellowship with him."
My friend, there's no reason for any of us to ever be lonely when Christ is in our lives. Paul said, "I want to fellowship with him. I want to talk with him and walk with him." He speaks here of the word "communion," this koinónia type of fellowship the church enjoys. But it can be enjoyed one with another as well. Paul walked with Christ and prayed, and he wanted to know Christ in the difficult times, and in the long days he wanted to have fellowship. And you can do that in so many ways. You can listen to the Scripture in your car. You can pray as you drive. You can find ways to fellowship with the Lord. And so oftentimes he's speaking into your life, but we're not hearing as we should. He said, "I want the fellowship of his service. I don't want to just go through the motions, I want to fellowship with him during this time in my life."
And then, notice, secondly, not only the fellowship of service, but he says specifically the fellowship of his sufferings: those moments of deep trauma, those moments of difficult hurt, sickness; weeks where there are scheduled and unscheduled difficulty; times when we have the unexpected come upon us. And Paul said, "It's in those times that I want to know the fellowship of God."
Sometimes I wonder, "How does someone without Jesus sit at the hospital bed of a loved one? How do they go through a homegoing service?" You see, Jesus is there with us, and he is fellowshipping with us. And Paul said, "Throughout my life, throughout every situation of my life, I want to know him, I want to know his power, I want to know his fellowship." What I'm saying to you this morning is that this foundational relationship, it's personal. I want to challenge you this Thanksgiving season: make it personal. Walk with him and talk with him and know him. The relationship is personal.
Quickly, the relationship is powerful. It's a powerful relationship. Let's further study this subject of "powerful." Notice it says in verse 11, "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." Now here we see a phrase that speaks of the culmination of the Christian life, the attaining of the resurrection of the dead.
Now when you see a building that has a foundation laid, maybe the footers have been placed in, and now perhaps the slab has been poured, normally when you see that in a building, you begin to anticipate something. I remember when this north building out here was being built, and I brought the children by; every single day we'd come by. We had a little prayer pew and a clipboard and a marking pen, and I remember bringing the children to pray, and we would pray that this building would be finished and paid for, and that God would give safety.
I remember so many times kneeling down at that pew; and I would kneel there maybe at 7:30 or so in the morning. And normally at 4:00 Eldon Lofgren had knelt there, and he prayed. About 4:14, Bill Wyble, and he'd pray. And I want to challenge some of the young married men in this congregation today: it's your turn. It's your time to stop being up and down, "Maybe I'm at church, maybe I'm not. Maybe I'll be faithful, maybe I won't." It's your time to learn how to know God and walk with God, to know him, to be the man of God that he is calling you to be.
And here we see that Paul is telling us that he wanted to attain unto the resurrection of the dead. And I would kneel there with our children; and when we would kneel down when that slab was there, we were anticipating that, because this is here, this slab, then soon there will be a super structure. And I want you to understand what Paul is saying. He is saying, "Now that I know him, now that I have this foundation in my life, I'm expecting something greater. I'm expecting even one day to be resurrected and to be with him in heaven for all of eternity."
And that was what he would ultimately attain is a home in heaven, because if you have a foundation in Christ, you have the hope of a coming event, and that event is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the promise of the resurrection. And the Bible speaks of it in 1 Peter 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
We called the service this Wednesday for Bill Wyble a homegoing service because we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, that that relationship has taken on a new dimension. Enoch walked with God and he was no more. And this is a man, Bill Wyble, who walked with God, and now he's walking in the presence of God. And, oh, that foundation that was laid when he was saved as an 18-year-old boy at a revival meeting in Arkansas, he laid a foundation, God built the super structure, and now he's entering into the presence of God. You see, this is what it means to know him personally and to know him powerfully, that he will transform us, and he will bring us into this place called heaven.
We have the hope of heaven in the future. But not only that, we have the help of heaven in the present. God wants to help us and lead us along the way with his power and with his strength even today. This is what Paul meant when he said in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God." Friends, if Christ lives in you, then he will empower you, and he will strengthen you along the way of this life; and ultimately, he has the power to take us home to be with him. What a blessing to know the promise of the resurrection.
And also I see here, there is this process of transformation. Between the time that the foundation is laid and the time that you go to see Jesus, there is a process of transforming and sanctifying and growing. That's why we're here now, to grow in the likeness of Jesus. And look at this. Notice what it says in verse 12: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after."
The word "attain" means to have arrived. It does not express doubt. This word expresses humility. Paul is not doubting that God will bring him along, but he is also not saying, "Look at me, I have arrived." And by the way, be careful about people who think that they have arrived, because none of us have arrived, none of us have attained unto the goal of Christlikeness. Paul even said, "I am the least of the apostles." He recognized that he was on a journey of growth.
Now the transformation into the likeness of Christ, it will happen in a moment at the time that we see Christ, at the time of the rapture or death. But in the process of our lifetime, it is a transformational process. In the eyes of the world, it is not our relationship with Christ that counts, it's our resemblance to Christ that counts. In other words, they are only going to see the outpouring of the inner working of God within us.
Turn, if you would, in your Bible for a moment to Romans 8:29, because I want you to see here that while we are instantly made righteous by Christ, we also are walking in Christ so that we might become more like Christ. Romans 8:29, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." In other words, God's predetermined will for you and for me is that we would be conformed, that we would be like his Son Jesus Christ.
Notice it says, "that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." Verse 30, "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." One day we will be glorified with the Lord Jesus. We will have our glorified bodies. There will be no pain, there will be no suffering. But until then, God will use even pain and suffering to conform us to the image of his Son Jesus Christ, so that we will become more like him.
How many of you want someone to see Jesus in you this week? Your children need to see Jesus in you. You say, "Well, they're all raised, they're not in the house anymore." They're still watching you. They know where you are this morning. They want to see Jesus in you, even when they act like they wish you weren't in church or in such a conservative church or so faithful to God. They want to see Jesus in you, being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
This relationship is personal, but it's a powerful transformational relationship. And none of us should want to be the same at the end of 2020 than when we entered 2020, we should desire to be closer to Jesus Christ. And, yes, sometimes he uses sickness and inconvenience and even the loss of a loved one to bring us closer to him, because this journey, this life is but a vapor, and soon we will be with the Lord Jesus. And how many of you want to be more like him when you see him than you are today? That's the power of transformation.
But notice, finally, not only this personal relationship, this powerful relationship, but this is a perpetual relationship. In other words, it's not like we get Jesus and then that's it, we just are instantly fine. No, there's a perpetual building of this life.
Notice, if you would, in verse 13, the Bible tells us, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before." Now sadly, many Christians in America have quit. Many people that you knew when you started your faith journey, they're nowhere to be found. Oh, they'll complain about politics, they'll get on the Internet or on Facebook, you know – Funny Boy 33, you know him, don't you? – and they're always throwing out their opinion. But that's all their life is is just opinions floating in the air. They're not being faithful to God as they once were.
And many of us have seen those situations. How sad to see someone quit. But may I tell you that long before someone quits being faithful outwardly, something in their heart is not engaged purposefully; and that perpetual walk with God has been stymie. Now how do we avoid that? Let me give you a few thoughts and we'll be done.
First, Paul recognized his position. Paul had humility to say, "I have not yet apprehended." Let's say that together: "I have not yet apprehended." Most people that backslide come to a place where they know more than the teacher, than the pastor, than the Bible. They feel that they have apprehended. They found this little nugget of truth that trumps all other truth, and so they now know more than anyone else.
But Paul said, as an apostle, he said, "No." He said, "I have the power of Christ in me, but I have not apprehended yet. I have not yet arrived." He recognized his position. May all of us have a spirit of humility this morning to say, "Yes, I have been made and declared righteous by God through Christ, and positionally I am perfect in him, but relationally I am perpetually pursuing him; I've not apprehended what I want to be in him. I want to know him in a greater way."
He recognized his position. And then, he had to release his past. Don't you love this phrase, "Forgetting those things which are behind"? You know, every one of us, if we're not careful, we can dwell on the failures of the past. And Paul said, "I have to let those go." He said, "If I dwell, if I spend my time on the past I'm going to ruin my future. I've got to forget those things which are behind."
How many of you are thankful that a new year is coming? How many of you just cannot wait for 2021? Anybody else, or am I the only one? And I just pause to practically say – and I started this this week – this is a time for all of us to start journaling out and writing out how are some specific areas we want to know him more in the new year. You say, "Well, I didn't get to witness like I would have wanted to this year. I wasn't able to do such and so for my family." What is it that you would say, "In 2021, by the grace of God, putting these things that are behind me"? 2020 is coming to a close. What is it that you would jot down and you would pursue in the ways of God in 2021?
He recognized his position, he released his past. But then, notice, he reached for the prize. The Bible tells us here in this verse 14, "I press toward the mark," – verse 13 – "reaching forth unto those things which are before." You know, we may be in the midst of COVID-19, but we as a church are still pressing toward the mark and reaching out in every way possible with the gospel, whether it's radio, whether it's livestream, whether it's phone calls, whether it's dropping a gift at someone's door, or visiting a nurse, or whatever it is: we're doing what we can. We're pressing toward the mark.
Listen, I refuse to do nothing as I await the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. And all of us must have this spirit of reaching forth the mark here. This is that goal that Paul had in view, which was the day that he would see Jesus Christ. We need to live every day with that in our mind. I could see Jesus before this day is over today, and I want to live my life with that goal in mind.
John Stephen Akhwari was from Tanzania, he was a marathon runner; he ran in the 1980 Olympics. And Akhwari was a favorite for the marathon; and unfortunately he took a very horrible fall early in the race, and as he fell, he was severely injured. Finally after the medics tended to him and wrapped him all up, after everyone of the other racers had passed him by hundreds of yards, Akhwari got up, and he got up and he ran that marathon. And finally as he came into the coliseum, they'd already awarded the winners. Many of the fans were gone, but those remaining stood to their feet; and as he hobbled around that last 440 yards, they clapped for him the entire way. And the reporters came to him and they said, "Stephen, how is it that even though you would never place, you'd never receive a ribbon, why did you even bother really with maybe furthering your injuries and going around this coliseum like you did? Why would you have done that?" And Akhwari said, "My country did not send me over 1,100 kilometers to start a race, they sent me 1,100 kilometers to finish the race."
And my friend, Jesus did not save you simply to give you a start in life, but he is calling us to finish and to finish well. And Hebrews 12:2 says that we're to be looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, and despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God the Father." And we must continue in 2020 looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, and our passion in this race should be, "I want to know him more personally. I want to know his power in my life, even when I'm suffering. I want his power and his strength, and I want to know him perpetually, not just in the good times, not just when I get the promotion at work, not just when my kids are doing great, not just when my health is great; I want to know him all the time. I want to get to know him better and better. I want to know him.
This is the foundational relationship that we sometimes neglect when politically things are going our way, when financially things are going our way, when health-wise things are going our way. We tend to not seek God the way that we should. And so, maybe God puts us in a moment like this to say, "Do you want to know friends at church, or the connection group, or the buildings; do you want to know how to get five success principles for your business, or do you want to know me? Do you want to know me?"
Paul said, "That I may know him, the maker of these trees, these hills, this valley, this planet." The one who flung the stars into space, the one who died for your sin, do you want to know him? "That I may know him." May he be the foundation of our lives in this needy hour.
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