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To Know Christ...

by Rev. Dr. Tom Vollmer, Director of Education for SEU Ohio

As we begin this year, my devotional thought for you comes from Philippians 3:10:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in death (NIV). Reading the verses before this one, Paul challenges the church of Philippi to count what is truly important and where to be confident. He lists his background and professional resume, only to conclude that those do not matter in the end. Something deeper has captured Paul's heart, which he tells us is the pursuit to know Christ. This summarizes Paul's life and ministry, realizing that even if he accomplishes nothing at all, if he is in right relationship with Jesus Christ then his life is complete. My prayer for you this year is that you know Christ, and seek God like you have never done so before. To know Christ in his resurrection is to know him as the victorious King of kings and Lord of lords, but at the same time to know Christ in his sufferings is to know him in pain and suffering. Christ is Lord and Savior and at the same time the one who identifies with us because of the incarnation.

Let's consider vv. 13 and 14: Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus (NRSV). We could spend considerable time unpacking this verse, but just a few comments: Prior to these verses, Paul points to his background, and it was rich (circumcised on the proper day, of the people of Israel, from the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, and very zealous for his beliefs), and problematic (a persecutor of the church); yet, in Christ, he was a new creation and his identity became enmeshed in the person of Jesus Christ. In other letters, he talks about the pain of his past as a sinner, and this could have defined him. He did not let his past accomplishments or failures define him. What Paul did do was intentionally forget the past and strain toward what was ahead (present and future). He then took the initiative to press toward the goal in front of him, which was the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. As mentioned, the ultimate goal for Paul was to know Christ in two ways: the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings. God's dream for all of us is to know Christ in the same way. As you reflect and pray today, focus on these three points: 1) Introspection - God's dream for you and others is to know Christ in the manner Paul writes to the church of Philippi. As our lives become enmeshed in knowing Christ then they take on a much deeper meaning, and God's dream and the call given to us become clearer. What is God's dream for your life? How does that relate to the calling you feel God has given you? Take a few minutes and revisit that call from the Lord, and then think in terms of how that call becomes God's dream for your life. 2) Intentionality - Paul was intentional in how he dealt with the past, going so far as saying that he forgot what was behind him. What are some areas in our lives that we have to intentionally work to forget? How can we become more intentional in the way we live on a daily basis? 3) Initiative - The first two points are more reflective, but this one is more action oriented. Notice how Paul says he was straining toward what was ahead, and this has the image of stretching as far as you can. He follows that statement with the idea of pressing toward the goal, and this is a powerful statement for it really has the idea of pursuing that goal with all you have. What is the goal? What is the prize? In 2023, what do you really want to go after? What steps need to happen to reach the goal? How will you take the initiative to make it happen? What is the prize worth straining and pressing toward (read again what Paul considers worth such effort). May the Lord richly bless and keep you this day. You are loved!!

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