When we strip the Gospel from the Bible we are left with the law. As we push Christ further and further away by embracing carnality, all we are left with is the law. Most seeker friendly, purpose driven teachings are nothing more than law lessons. There is no exegetical work being done. There is no seeking what God wants to say. Instead every story becomes about you instead of Jesus. Suddenly it is you at Jericho or Ziklag. Suddenly you have the smooth stone in your hand as you march out to face your giant. While these are meant to inspire they are absolutely heretical. The Bible is His story, not ours. Next time however pay close attention to the sermon points because they are usually things we must do in order to achieve something. That is by itself the definition the law. The other phenomena that occurs is these type of churches produce self-righteousness. It has to be default because there is no humility being conveyed and Christ is not being gained. I am sure we have either been to churches like this or seen the sermons. We are the hero of every story! How could we not develop a sense of self-righteousness? Even if we try to mask it in Jesus-speak. Have you ever dealt with a "super-spiritual?" Someone who is arrogant in how spiritual they are? Has to pray the loudest. Has to have their own section in church. The further they get from Christ the more arrogant they get in their spirituality. If they were getting closer then they would naturally become more humble. Paul continues to outline the correct equations. Our righteousness cannot from anything but God through faith in Christ. If it does then we are relying on the law and we know the law cannot save us. Remember this is all about being found in Christ, not in church. The key verse concludes:
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
And so we come to it. The end of the equation. The reason for our faith. What our Christianity ought to be about. The goal is eternal life beloved. I know this is overlooked today and rarely preached about but from Genesis through Revelation it is all about eternal life. From Christmas through Resurrection Sunday it is all about eternal life. We were created to be in perpetual fellowship with our creator but sin separated us and threatened to do so permanently. We were destined all right but not for greatness. We were destined for eternal suffering and punishment. Yet somehow, in His infinite mercy and grace, God altered that destiny through the sacrifice of His only Son. That through Him we might attain the resurrection from the dead. To defeat the grave. To defeat Satan. To be reunited with the Lord in heaven. Through a separation from this world and unto Him. Through seeking His righteousness; not ours. By any means possible. Paul lists four specific means to this end.
First of all, he says we should know Him. There's a novel idea. While this may seem trite, how many self-professing Christians spend any time knowing their Lord and Savior? An hour and a half on Sundays does not make a relationship, especially when that hour and a half you actually spend no time with Him anyway. False doctrine presents a false Christ. Emotionalism is not a move of the Spirit. Signs and wonders do not automatically mean they are from God. The Bible explains that God is His Word. The primary way we get to know Jesus is by reading His Word. This also highlights why false teaching is so vile. It is essentially lying about what God has and has not said. If your friend was trying to set you up with someone and told you they do not care if you date other people but that was not actually true, would you be offended? Angry? Would you trust that friend again? Yet that is what we see each week in churches. The man behind the pulpit lies about the God he is talking about and people like the lie so much they keep coming back. Playing church. In the end though, they do not know Him. They know of Him. They have heard of Him. They may have even sung songs vaguely about Him. But they do not know Him. And while this may seem like it is not a big deal now, let's fast forward to judgment day:
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' -- Matthew 7: 22-23 (ESV)
I never knew you. Secondly, Paul is teaching us that we need to know the power of His resurrection! We talk about the resurrection. We sing songs about it too. But we rarely teach or preach about it anymore because it is not seeker friendly. You cannot get to the resurrection without going through the cross and you cannot get to the cross without discussing sin. These are topics that are not on the agendas of purpose driven pastors, especially not on Resurrection Sunday because they are trying to trick the unsaved people to come back the next week. We need real resurrection power beloved! Not this cheap knock off we see in church today. Resurrection power to overcome sin in our lives. To live more holy. To reject the carnality of the world. To value the eternal over the temporal.
Thirdly, we ought to strive to fellowship in His sufferings. Talk about an unseeker friendly message! We want a nice, clean and bloodless Christianity. We want the Vidal Sassoon Jesus from the Bible Miniseries debacle. Deep blue eyes and flowing white robes. We do not want our delicate sensibilities shaken by seeing His beard ripped out. We do not want to see the mocking and spitting. We do not want to see the scourge strokes tear His flesh away. We do not want to see the spikes being hammered into His wrists. We do not want to see any of this because we do not want to face the reality that it should have been us. This is why we seek a bloodless Christianity. Because it requires nothing from us. Nothing has to change. We can continue to sleep with the world while pledging fidelity to Christ. Heck, we do not even need to do it in secret anymore! Now the church brings the carnality of the world right inside for us! Club lighting and smoke machines, secular songs as worship, and 20 minutes of preaching assuring me that I am the beez-knees. Oh and a shout out to my favorite wing man -- Jesus! Everyone close by singing Friend of God and go back to your previously scheduled sin.
Look at what Paul is saying here though to combat this. We do not need to merely know His sufferings. We do not need to have an understanding of them. We do not need to gain a better perspective about His sufferings. No beloved. We need to fellowship in them. We need to get to know them on a personal level. We need to get them deep down on the inside of us. We need to try on that crown of thorns and see how it fits and feels. We need to own the anguish in His voice when He cries out why has the Father forsaken Him? Why? Because without His sufferings there is no resurrection power! His sufferings keep our flesh in check. They remind us of our true state without His shed blood. They keep us humble. They prepare us to discern false teaching because now we see it for what it is. Anathema. An insult to the sufferings. Jesus did not walk to Via Dolorosa so that some mega church pastor can have a 70 million dollar Learjet! He did not have spikes driven through His feet so that preachers could live in palatial mansions while His Gospel goes un-preached. He did not have the crown of thorns buried in His brow so that Joseph Prince could teach you that God doesn't care about His own law anymore. It is beyond insulting beloved. It is anathema. That is what fellowshipping in His sufferings brings us. That is why it is so important.
Lastly, that we might become like Him in His death. How was Jesus in His own death? Two words come to my mind. Humble and triumphant. These two words do not often go together. Most triumphant people find it difficult to remain humble. Yet here was Jesus Christ, who had the command of heaven's hosts at His disposal yet was led like a sheep to slaughter. Humble to the point of forgiving the very people crucifying Him as they were driving the spikes through His torn body. Yet completely and utterly triumphant. When we truly grasp the fellowship of His sufferings and the value of being found in Christ versus the complete worthlessness of the things we hold dear on this world, then we can understand humble triumphalism. The world views that word as a negative. As a proud and arrogant statement. Yet we do not embody a triumphal nature because of anything we have done but because of everything He has done. The world hates Christianity because of the exclusivity of Christ but here is the dilemma they face. Everyone cannot be right. Jesus Christ said He was the way the truth and the life and none come to the Father except through Him. This is the week He proved it. Good Friday is the day He suffered for us all. Fellowship in those sufferings beloved and you will find the proper reverence for the empty tomb that lies ahead.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- March 23, 2016