CHRIST AS OUR GOAL
In Philippians 3 we have Christ as the goal, the mark, the aim, and even the prize. We should not be frustrated by all the other things. As we said before, God gave us many material items in order for us to exist and live. Without food, drink, and other things, we could not exist. How then could we live for Christ? In order to keep us alive, God created the material things and gave them all to us. However, there is too much of a possibility that we will be distracted by these material things, and attracted to the material things, away from Christ as the mark of God’s economy. God created these things for Christ, and God provides for us so that we can live for Christ. God’s purpose in giving us so many material things that we may exist is that we may live with Christ and for Christ. The worldly people, the unbelievers, however, have been and still are distracted from Christ by these material things.
Not only so, but the religious things are also distracting, as mentioned in Philippians 3. In Galatians 1 the apostle Paul tells us that when he was religious, he was distracted from Christ. He was not distracted by the worldly things but by fundamental religion, not the heathen religion but Judaism. Judaism was something given and ordained by God. Even something ordained by God can be a factor utilized by the enemy to distract people from Christ. God ordained the Jewish religion for the purpose of keeping people for Christ and bringing people to Christ, but the enemy of God utilized this God-ordained religion to distract the religious people from Christ. Paul indicates this in Galatians 1 and again in Philippians 3. In Philippians 3:5 and 6 he says that he was “circumcised the eighth day; of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness which is in the law, become blameless.” How much he was distracted from Christ by the religious things and to the religious things!
Today even Christianity distracts people from Christ. Christianity should be something for Christ, but today’s Christianity distracts people from Christ to itself. Not only can the worldly things distract us; even the religious things can distract us from the goal, the mark, the prize of God, which is Christ Himself.
TO KNOW CHRIST AND
THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION
We should not think that we know Christ. Yes, on the one hand, we all have known Christ, but on the other hand, we still do not know Him in an adequate way. That Paul aspired to know Christ (vv. 8, 10) seems to pose a problem. However, this does not mean that Paul did not know Christ. He knew Christ very well, but he still needed to know Him more. He aspired to know not only Christ but also the power of His resurrection. This relates to the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45b). If Christ were not the life-giving Spirit within us, we could not know and experience the power of His resurrection. The power of His resurrection is not in our body; it is in our spirit.
At the time Paul wrote this Epistle, he was in prison. Throughout all the years, Christians have extolled the experience of Peter when he was in prison. The prison doors were opened, and Peter was released (Acts 5:18-19). The power that opened the prison and physically released Peter from the material prison was the power of God, but it was not the power of Christ’s resurrection. When Paul was put in prison at the time he wrote Philippians, the prison was not opened, and his chains did not fall off. He was kept there month after month and year after year. Within him, however, was the power to suffer gloriously. This is the power of Christ’s resurrection. I have heard many people praising Peter’s experience of being released from the outward prison, but I have not heard many people praising the experience of Paul, who was imprisoned outwardly but released inwardly. Even today we still enjoy the issue of his release. Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians were all written in prison. Outwardly he was imprisoned, but inwardly he was resurrected.
When we are childish, even babyish, and we become ill, we may pray about the illness. The Lord may say, “All right, let the illness be gone,” and it is gone. When we gain more growth and maturity, we may still pray about our illness. However, many people can testify that the more they pray, the more serious the illness becomes. The Lord will not take away the illness. Rather, He will say, “My grace is sufficient. You have to experience My resurrection power.” The illness will remain, but praise Him, it simply paves the way and lays the ground for us to experience the resurrection power. If we do not have the illness, we can never experience the resurrection power of Christ. In the past and even until today, I know some brothers and sisters with problems. They prayed much, but their problems remained. Recently, a sister whom I have known for more than thirty years came to me. She spoke of her husband, whom I also had known even as a schoolmate, saying that there had been no change with him before the Lord for year after year. Day by day he still complains to her that she should not be a Christian. Every day this sister has suffered, and she is still suffering. She asked me why it is so. I did not say a word, but I looked to the Lord that He would speak to her. I realized that she has truly learned something within, not of the power of God’s creation but of the power of resurrection.
For almost forty years the people of Israel saw the miracle of manna every morning. If we were to open the door tomorrow and see that manna had come down, we would all be excited, and it would be in the major newspapers. The people of Israel experienced this more than ten thousand times. Day by day they saw a miracle as something that came down from heaven in the morning, regardless of where they went or where they stayed. However, that was too outward to be the power of resurrection. Regardless of how many years God performed that miracle, nothing was wrought into the people of Israel. Today in the New Testament time God will generally not do that kind of work. In the New Testament dispensation God’s intention is to work Christ into us. The manna sent down was of the power of creation, not of the power of resurrection. God’s intention, however, is not an outward miracle but an inward miracle. The inward marvel is that Christ as the Spirit is wrought into us. This is the power, not of creation, but of resurrection.
Even the prison being opened to release the apostle Peter was not of the power of resurrection. In Philippians, however, there is another apostle who was kept in prison. God did nothing for him outwardly, but he suffered by the power of resurrection within him. When Peter was released from prison, I do not believe that he experienced the resurrection power very much. When he was old, though, he was martyred by crucifixion. At that time God would not release him; God would not deliver him from the persecutors. When Peter suffered persecution and was martyred, he experienced the resurrection power.
What kind of power do we expect to have? We all may childishly expect to have the power of creation. We may think that it would be wonderful for the Lord to send manna throughout the city we live in; then all the millions of people would be saved. I do not believe this. How many of the people of Israel were truly gained by Lord through the daily miracles for almost forty years? Not many were. The Lord Jesus fed five thousand people, not including the women and children, with five small loaves. That was a marvelous miracle, but how many people were saved through that miracle? Only a handful of people continued to follow the Lord and seek the inner life. According to John 6 the crowds left Him, saying, “This word is hard; who can hear it?” (vv. 60, 66). The power we expect to experience must be the resurrection power. We must have the goal of the resurrected Christ as the very resurrection power within us. We must seek Him, pursue Him, and follow Him, taking Him as our goal, aim, mark, and prize.
(The Experience of Christ in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)