There is an old saying; “It’s not what you know, but who you know that matters.” And nowhere in the affairs of the human race is this more true than for those who seek to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Our God has made this clear repeatedly in the scriptures. In the previous two posts we have explored this “knowing” from Jeremiah 9:23-24 and John 17:3.
When it comes to the most important issues in life, it is not what you know, but who you know that makes or breaks your living. Until we enter that path of knowing our God intimately, we will never find the richness of life that our God has in mind for us.
The things that humans tend to boast about are nothing when compared to knowing our God personally and deeply. To “know” in the Hebrew means to be experienced in and intimate with another. In the Greek it is a comparable meaning, a deeply experiential knowing of the person Himself, not simply knowing about Him.
Hosea the prophet tells us more of this in Hosea 6:6. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” He is contrasting the priority of loving and knowing our God intimately to religiosity and religious observances. Even the sacrifices and offerings prescribed in the Hebrew law were not as important as loving our God fully and knowing Him intimately.
Paul, in Philippians 3:4-11, stated this about knowing our God intimately, “If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more:circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul is telling us that to know Christ Jesus in the way have been describing is valuable beyond all other things in life. When he states that whatever things were gain to him, he now considers to be loss, he means that all these accomplishments and attainments are now meaningless to Him in comparison to knowing Christ. This includes his heritage and his religious attainments. The term Paul uses for loss means they a bad deal, like that which might incurs a penalty or forfeiture.
When Paul states that he has “suffered the loss” of all things, it is not that the loss of these lesser things caused him suffering. Rather, this word “suffered” means he willingly allowed the removal of them. He sought to lose them.
In this passage we find the seeming irony of how loss brings gain. As people come to know Christ intimately, they willingly “lose” the other obsessions in their lives, they give up their “right” to be self-governing. In its place they gain eternal significance in every sense and scene of life. One gives up living a small story to join into the enormous story of the life of God lived in and through the person. This idea of loss bringing gain is repeated often in the teachings of the Bible on full surrender and true discipleship.
Paul counted all the lesser things in His life as rubbish. The term in the Greek here is not household rubbish like you would put into a yard sale. In the Greek this refers to refuse like human or animal waste that is discarded away from the house. Paul is making his point in the strongest of terms here. Paul is clear that the value of knowing our Christ is far above all other things.
This knowing God was Paul’s magnificent obsession. This is the pearl of great price of which Jesus spoke, the one that moved the buyer to sell and forfeit all he had to gain this one thing. This is the treasure hidden in the field of which Jesus also spoke, the one that when the man found it, he sold everything he had to make this one life-altering purchase. As Jim Elliot, who died as a martyr in Ecuador in 1956, wrote in his journal: “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” This is the truth for everyone of us.