7But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—10that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3.7-11 ESV)
If anyone had reason to be confident in their goodness or spirituality, it was the apostle Paul. He followed all of the rules, he studied under all the best teachers, he had the approval of all the important religious leaders, and he was one of the most prestigious religious thinkers of his time. And yet all of that was of no value when he stood face to face with the risen Christ. In fact, he called it all “rubbish” when he learned that the only thing that mattered was becoming righteous by grace through faith. As a new creation in Christ, Paul’s priorities were reborn, and the most important things to him were to know Christ, to know the power of Christ’s resurrection, to share the sufferings of Christ, and to become like Christ in His death.
All of four of those newborn goals are worth meditating on today. Knowing Christ is so much more than just knowing about Christ. Knowing the power of Christ at work in our inner beings goes beyond our wildest imagination (see Ephesians 3.20). Longing and hoping to complete the sufferings of Christ seems like such a strange desire (see Colossians 1.24). But what does it mean to become like Jesus “in His death”?
Certainly, there are parts of His death in which we can never share, like atoning for the sins of others. But there must be something about His death in which we can aspire to become like. Perhaps Paul was thinking about the love Christ had for sinners that led Him to the cross (see Romans 5.8). Perhaps Paul was thinking about the way Christ laid down his life for others (see John 15.13). Perhaps Paul was thinking about how Jesus treated his own earthly life as “rubbish” and sacrificed it for something of eternal value. Perhaps Paul was thinking of how Jesus had eternal eyes instead of eyes captured by the things of this world (see Luke 23.43). Or perhaps Paul was thinking of how Jesus refused to revile those who were beating and mocking Him (see 1 Peter 2.23).
As we seek to know Christ, and His power, and to share in His sufferings, may we also seek to become like Him in His death. May the Lord be gracious to you and speak into your soul about how you can become like Christ in His death as you run the race He has set before you today.