By Sharon Merhalski
Philippians 3:10 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow (pursue; press toward) after, if that I may apprehend (take eagerly; seize; possess; obtain; perceive; overtake) that for which also I am apprehended (take eagerly; seize; possess; obtain; perceive; overtake) of Christ Jesus.
:13 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,
:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Word definitions in parenthesis from the Strong’s Concordance.)
About twelve years ago I came to the startling realization that I was a shallow Christian living mainly on my religion…basing my standing with God on do’s and don’ts and preferences/rules that are not mentioned in the Word of God. So I stopped and sat down in a dry desert place with my heart weeping for a deeper relationship with God.
Life for our family had grown complicated and one morning I realized all I knew about God–and my shallow connection/relationship with Him–was no longer sufficient to live victoriously above my situations. So I began a journey to know God intimately. Oh “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection” became the consuming cry of my heart….full well knowing that “the fellowship of His sufferings” would make me conformable unto His death.
The first step of my journey required a renewing of my mind concerning religion vs. relationship with God. I had to come to the place where I realized that Jesus didn’t die so His children could be religious…He didn’t die so His children could each have their own brand of religion, be in our own cloistered denominations saturated with pride of thinking we are the only ones who are “right”. No, Jesus died to provide His children with intimate fellowship with Him. The veil of the temple was rent/torn from top to bottom so we could have access to the Holy of Holies…His presence 24/7. Jesus died to provide a deep personal connection with Him. He did not die to provide religion as a substitute for relationship.
In Philippians 3:10 Paul is talking about knowing Christ so we can live a resurrection life of victory over our sin and also over the trouble we will experience because we live in a sin-cursed world: The resurrection life is living a life where no matter what is going on around us we find the strength in Christ to live above it…not yielding to despair because of it.
Verse 12: We are to press on, not for what we want, but for the will of God. And we aren’t to follow after God pressing onward for prosperity, health, job promotion, personal promotion or other things ‘we’ want…we “follow after”/press on for the will of God, regardless of what His will may be for us.
Pressing on as we walk with God brings us to a place of needed surrender to God. (Romans 12:1-2) I had to come to the place in my life where I could trust all of God with all of me and tell Him that whatever His path and workings were for my life I would be okay with it…instead of squirming and working to change it to what I wanted and/or what was comfortable. Each of God’s children must come to the place where we are okay with His will because we trust Him…then we will begin to know Him and develop a very necessary intimate relationship with Him.
Getting to know God intimately requires an investment of time…an investment which will never bring regret. 2Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” And as much as we need to study the Word of God for doctrine and truth we also need to study to be quiet (I Thessalonians 4:11) and listen for the still small voice of God as we seek a deep relationship with our Abba Father. Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God:” John 10:4 “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” God’s wants to fellowship with us…speak to our hearts as a parent does with their child and as friend does with friend. God created us to have fellowship with Him…to walk and talk with him in whatever garden His will creates for us.
May we all remember that Jesus didn’t die so we could be religious…He didn’t die so His children could each have our own brand of religion, be in our own little denominations touting our preferences as Biblical truth, with the pride of thinking we are the only ones who are “right”. No, Jesus died to provide His children with intimate fellowship with Him…the veil of the temple was rent/torn from top to bottom so we could have access to the Holy of Holies. Jesus died to provide a deep personal connection with Him. He did not die to provide religion as a substitute for relationship. I know from experience that religion will never enable us to live a victorious Christian life.