Steven, a willing bond servant of Jesus Christ, to the Church that dwells at Athens. Grace and peace unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dearly beloved and oft prayed for saints, I regret not being able to write to you last week, therefore I have given all diligence to write this week in hopes that I may impart the truth of God so that you may be more complete in your faith, lacking nothing.

When I consider all the glory found in the word of God, the holy scriptures, nothing moves me more than that which our beloved brother and Apostle wrote to the Philippians in his epistle.

In the third chapter he articulated: “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul had much to boast about in carnal or earthly things. Before he became a believer in Christ he was very accomplished and distinguished among his peers. However, brother Paul writes in that how all the earthly attainments and riches are worthless when compared with the excellent and infinite value that comes with “knowing” Christ. The Apostle does not mean “to know OF” Christ, but rather to be in a deep and intimate communion with Jesus, a close fellowship. Nothing else mattered or could compare in Paul’s mind than the glory and honor and worthiness of being “in Christ.”

In that, Paul “knew” Christ, this also meant three things. Firstly, Paul would be a partaker in Christ’s sufferings and potentially physical death (martyrdom), for if we are a part of Christ, in union with Him altogether, then altogether we must take that which comes along with. Christ indeed suffered for sin, but we suffer for His righteousness’ sake (imputed to us by grace, the second implication of being “in Christ”) in and evil world. Thirdly, we also shall attain the resurrection unto life at Jesus’ second coming.

Above all, “knowing Christ” was the ultimate treasure for Paul, for its riches far outlasted this world. He would be deterred by nothing.

The Apostle says again, “If by any means …”

That is to say he has already forsaken all, and if there be anything more required then he would freely give that up as well. The grace and riches of Christ Jesus are immutable and the glory thereby, nearly inexpressible. So, whatever valley that needed to be crossed, whether one of suffering or death, Paul was willing to cross to follow his dear Lord and savior. In Jesus, we are declared righteous, we suffer for His name’s sake, but our hope is eternal life with Jesus through physical resurrection at his appearing.

Beloved and fellow saints, Paul wrote sayings that we ought to imitate him even as he imitated Christ. Let us be so minded. I pray that nothing would be between you and the “God blessed forever” Christ Jesus. The dim glimmer of this world’s treasures could never compare the value of the love of Jesus Christ for you, who, while we were yet sinners died for us that we may be washed, reconciled, and be found in Him on the terrible day of the Lord.

I exhort you therefore, lay aside every weight, every idol and with lowliness and humility, press on forward towards that which our Lord has prepared for those of us who be of the faith. By whatever means necessary, drop the chains of the love of this world and fly away freely into the graceful arms of our savior, who died on the cross, rose again the third day and ascended into the heavens, according to Paul’s gospel.

May the grace of God our savior and the peace of Jesus Christ be upon you always. Amen.

Steven Croft is the senior pastor of Boyd Memorial First Church of God in Athens.

Steven Croft is the senior pastor of Boyd Memorial First Church of God in Athens.

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