Philippians 3:8-9 “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”
The true Christian faith is not a moral philosophy about how we must live. It is knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord. It is not just studying Jesus like studying some historic figure in a book. It is actually meeting Jesus in his word, being introduced to him, and living life with him as our Savior, our friend, and our brother.
Paul describes our knowing Jesus this way as a “surpassing greatness.” Do you understand why? When we know Jesus, then we truly know God. Knowing Jesus is the only way we can know God the way he really is. When you sit down on the hillside, and listen to Jesus preach his sermon on the mount, then you see how high God has set his standards for our keeping of his law, and how far short of his perfection we have fallen. But when you follow him down from the hillside, and you see him actually reach out and touch the unclean leper to heal him, you know the depth of his concern for your suffering, and the extent of his power to fill your needs. When you stand with Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, and you see the tears burning down his cheeks, and you hear his voice commanding Lazarus back to life, you know the intensity with which he feels your pain, and the authority with which he controls your world. When you kneel at the foot of his cross, and the blood running from his hands and feet carries his life mingled with your sins away past your knees, and his dying breath cries out, “It is finished,” you know that in his unsurpassed love for you he has left nothing more for you to pay or do.
We lose our own life not only to find and know Jesus in this way, but to be found in him. “I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Do you want to be sure, really sure that God’s love and grace are yours, that your sins are forgiven, that you will live again after you die? Then we need to be found in Jesus, wrapped in the righteousness of his holy life, cleansed in the blood of his innocent death. A righteousness of our own that comes from our own keeping of the law is only a so-called righteousness. We never live our lives completely guilt free, and as long as we are still producing sin, we aren’t really righteous.
But then God comes and he gives us a righteousness of his own making. He gives us an innocence that comes to us from the outside. He takes and he hides our sinful selves in the perfect love of Christ. He so covers over the content of our lives with Jesus’ life and death that he can no longer see us at all. We are all little Christ’s to him. At Halloween we see little children walking around who have hidden their identity temporarily, hidden behind costumes and masks. By bringing us to faith, the Lord has dressed each one of us up as Jesus, only our new identity is more than a flimsy costume. We wear it every day for the rest of our believing lives. This is part of our great find, not only to find and know Jesus, but to be found in him, with this righteousness that comes from God. He has dressed us in a new identity: the precious, holy, dear, innocent children of God himself.