Maybe it’s because I’ve been studying and meditating on the text for this Sunday’s sermon (the beattitude about hungering and thirsting after righteousness, Matt 5:6), but I was struck throughout today’s reading with the sense that Paul had an insatiable appetite to know God more fully and to live a life that pleased God more completely.
I couldn’t go so far as to say that was a “theme” of the reading. Now that we are deep into the shorter epistles (letters) of Paul, we are speeding through these books too quickly to really dissect each of them with any level of detail. Nonetheless, since Paul was the author of each of them, by taking in a larger cross-section that includes several letters (eg this morning, Philippians, Colossians, and part of 1 Thessalonians), we get a fuller understanding of the heart of the author himself.
Paul, more than any other New Testament writer, knew that those who are in Christ have nothing else to do in order to remain in Christ. He is perfectly clear about this. Once we are in a right relationship with God by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone, then all has been accomplished; now no sin remains uncovered or unforgiven. Yet, if there is one thing we can further say about Paul it is that he never presents the mindset that once we are “saved”, then we should sit back and wait for death and wait for heaven. Instead, he challenges the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians (and each of us), to continue to pursue after God.
Look at some of these examples from today’s readings, and as you read them, consider the inherent paradox:
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:12b-13)
the paradox – Paul is writing to the “saints in Philippi (Phil 1:2), those who have already been given “salvation”, yet he exhorts them to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling”. There is something beyond the experience of conversion that he challenges believers to strive after; something without which we should not be satisfied.
“Do everything without grumbling or complaining, so that you may become blameless and pure” (Phil 2:14-15)
the paradox – In Christ, we are already considered pure and blameless. Now we’re exhorted to work at this so that we become what we already are? In some sense before God, we are truly already pure and blameless because we have the righteousness of Christ; however, Paul wants all of us to live in such a way that this becomes a true reality so that our lives honor the One who saved us.
“I want to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:10-11)
the paradox – Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit now indwells the apostle Paul; however, he is not satisfied with this level of knowing Christ. He wants to know Christ more and more, deeper and deeper. Paul has an insatiable appetite, a driving ambition in his life to know Christ more and more.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil 3:12)
the paradox – In Christ, Paul has been made perfect because of the righteousness of Christ, imputed to Him by grace through faith….yet, Paul is not satisfied. He sees that his life still exhibits imperfections and immaturity, and he wants these things to “be made perfect”…and so he presses on in his walk with Jesus.
There are more examples from today’s readying that I could give, yet for space I’ll stop there. The point is this:
Do you have an appetite to know God more? Is there in you a yearning for a deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ that is not satisfied yet? Not a knowledge that can come from a theology book so that way may understand a point of doctrine more, but a knowledge of “knowing” our mighty God more fully, more completely. Do not be satisfied with where you are in your walk with Christ. It is not enough. If you have tasted of the fruit of heaven, the glorious King….there is no being satisfied with just a taste on this side of heaven.
Oh Lord, give us more of You!