By Francis Frangipane
It is one thing to be able to discern that which is false, but it is of much greater value to know the pattern of the true. Thus the apostle Paul uses chapter 3 of Philippians to reveal his attitude of heart. In so doing, he gives us the pattern of what we should seek as Christians.
After presenting his remarkable pedigree -- an Israelite by birth; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness defined in the Law, found blameless -- Paul then renounces the very things he attained, saying: "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ" (v. 7).
For the mature man or woman, no position among men can replace the "surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord." Even the most amazing of achievements are reduced to "rubbish so that [we] may gain Christ" (v. 8).
Paul was a man obsessed with knowing Christ as the source of his righteousness (v.9). Paul clearly defines his destiny in one word: Christlikeness!
At the same time as Paul is revealing the inner workings of a man after God's heart, he admonishes us to "observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us" (v. 17). Note: Paul was not alone in his pursuit. He says, "Observe those [plural] who walk according to the pattern you see in us" (v. 17). There were others, perhaps many, who walked with God with the same passions as Paul. Yet the Lord used Paul to be a template of a new creation man.
Again, Paul says, "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (vv. 10-11).
There is a difference between possessing a religion about Christ and actually knowing Christ. He Himself is the way, the truth, and the life. To know Him is eternal life, and to live in fellowship with Him is to partake of the nectar of Heaven.
Yet knowing Christ also means knowing the “fellowship of His sufferings” as we lay down our lives for the redemption of others. Remember, if we suffer with Him we reign also with Him. Participating in the fellowship of His sufferings is also part of knowing Him.
Paul continued, "Not that I have already . . . become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12). Again we are looking at the pattern God seeks for each of us. A mature Christian is one who knows there is more to possess in his pursuit of God!
Finally, Paul concludes, saying, "One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (vv.13-14).
What specifically did Paul choose to "forget"? He let go of the wounds, forgave the offenses, and released to God the disappointments of yesterday. Wounds in people's lives are real. Yet if our eyes are on the prize, our wounds will not keep us from reaching for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!
Many teachers will come and go throughout your life. They will have different styles and unique gifts and graces. But you are looking for the attitudes Paul described in this chapter. Look for those who are pressing toward the prize of possessing Christ's likeness. Remember: In these times of deception, accusation and false discernment, let us observe those who walk after the pattern of Paul. Let us discern the influence of Jesus in those who lead us. As we clearly see the Lord, let us follow those who follow Christ.
Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book, The Days of His Presence, available at www.arrowbookstore.com.