In Philippians chapter three, Paul shares with us the higher values, standards and goals on which we need to focus in order to live better lives during our time here on Earth. First, he challenges us to rejoice, specifically to choose joy, as a higher character value. Joy is not an emotion. Rather, it is a character value given to us as we obey the words of Jesus Christ (John 15:6-11). Joy is an inner character strength (Nehemiah 8:10). It is the strength to endure anything, including an undeserved death on a cross (Hebrews 12:2).
Second, Paul calls us to do some higher math. In order for us to live at a higher level, the way that God intends for us to live, we must count some things as valuable and some things as loss. Paul has learned that his resume of career achievement, religious accomplishments, impressive titles and cultural heritage are worthless. The only thing that is truly valuable is a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul encourages us all to "gain Christ," "be found in Christ," and "know Christ." All other pursuits, according to Paul, are as worthless as human waste. The higher standard that we must choose to build into our life is a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Christ came to Earth to make that possible. He died on a cross to pay for our sins and to invite us to have a deep, genuine and meaningful relationship with Him. For the Apostle Paul, Jesus met him o the Damascus road and the relationship began (Acts 9). Philippians chapter three is where Paul explains that nothing is more important than knowing Christ. The higher goal setting that Paul does is outlined well when he explains we have to be honest about where we are (none of us have arrived spiritually), simplify your plans, put the past behind us (learn from it, but leave it), think forward and future (reaching to what lies ahead), press on with committed diligence, and listen to God to help keep you on the right course. Paul concluded chapter three by telling us that we have to remember we have a higher status because our citizenship is in Heaven. We are not citizens of Earth with appetites for things of the Earth, or desiring things that God would rank as shameful. In fact, we are citizens of Heaven and, as such, we will soon be transformed from a lowly state of humility to a glorified state, where we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
As I've dug deeper and deeper into this chapter, I've seen my own weaknesses and my propensities to settle for lower values, lower standards and lower goals. A disheartening trend in our culture these days is to settle for easy. I've heard the quote many times over the last several years that "the easiest way to do something is always the best way to do it." The truth is, for things that matter, discipline, diligence and determination all have to be a part of the work needed to accomplish the meaningful goals. Superior musicians do not practice only the easy scales and easy music. Superior athletes do not find the easiest ways to work out. In fact, they often invent harder and more difficult ways to work out, carrying weights while they run or running up stadium stairs in order to improve their skills. Paul calls for the discipline of hard work in Philippians 2:11, where we are to work out (literally mine out) the treasure of salvation within us. He calls for mental diligence when he commands us to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel and to have the selfless attitude that Christ maintained. (Philippians 1:27, 2:5) He calls for us to be determined to press on forward no matter what our past or struggles. (Philippians 3:12)
As Christ-followers, are we living out our lives in a "settled state" or are we reaching forward, pressing on and racing for the highest goals and values? Are we running to win, or just running to finish? Philippians chapter three is a challenge to seek excellence and higher goals in your spiritual journey. Seek the highest goal of knowing Christ. The greatest thing you can do for your legacy, the greatest thing you can do for your future and your family and children is to put Christ in the highest place in your life. Seek Him above all other things. If a career move is needed, make sure Christ is the highest goal in that move. If a big decision is looming, seek Christ for an answer and be sure that He can be in the center of your life in whatever you decide as a course of action. For us to gain a higher standard of living, we must choose the One who is exalted to the highest place (Philippians 2:10) to be our highest priority of relationship.
Did you fellowship with Jesus today? Did you take time to meet with Him in prayer and to spend time in His Word? Did you find ways to learn more about Him today? Did you seek to guide other toward Him today? Did you ask Jesus what was on His agenda for today rather than merely asking Him to help you with your agenda?
I pray that you will find a way to gain this higher level of life offered by Jesus. It is beautiful and sweet. Follow His instructions.
For a more in-depth study of these truths in Philippians, check out my series "Have Joy, Be Fearless" on the Northside podcast at northsidemobile.org and on iTunes.