That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…(Philippians 3:10)
What a beautiful and rich desire Paul had and what a powerful indicator this verse is, of where our lives as believers ought to be headed.
There’s two aspects of this verse that I would like to write about and I’ll do it as a two- part series. Firstly, ‘The Power of His Resurrection’ and secondly, ‘The Fellowship of His Suffering’.
The Power of His Resurrection
More and more in reality and experience, not just in theory and head-knowledge, I am seeing that this Christ we love and serve, truly is a risen Christ. I’ll say it again…He’s a risen Christ! That’s everything! That means, He died and He rose from the dead. (How can we even comprehend such an event unless the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to this reality?! It is too mighty for us).
Incredibly though, there is something even greater about Christ than this. His being risen from the dead is one thing. An astounding thing. An incompressible thing unless the Spirit enables us to believe. But we have read accounts throughout scripture and even in modern day times, where people have been raised from the dead. So we accept that God can and does raise people from the dead, to His own glory. However, even those who have been raised from the dead, whether in scripture times or present times, still eventually die. But not so with Christ!
Christ is beyond risen, He is living right now and forevermore!
I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:18).
Jesus said to Martha;
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;(John 11:25)
So there is much more than the miracle of people being raised from the dead on the earth only to one day again die and await the final resurrection with all God’s children. There is much more to Christ having been raised from the dead. Christ remains and lives forever as a resurrected one, as no other before or after Him (until all who belong to Him are resurrected in that final day). There is now, in Him, a resurrection life to live by, for all who are in Christ, right now!
But what did Paul mean when he said he wanted to know the power of His resurrection life? How can we know this power?
I suppose the obvious answer is the precursor to this phrase in what Paul said in Philippians 3:18 and that is to ‘know Him’, to ‘know Christ’. It seems that to truly ‘know’ Christ enables us to know the power of His resurrection life. To know this power of Christ’s resurrection life, is to know and partake of all the abundance of Christ which through His death and resurrection has been made available to us right here and now. But without knowing Him, how can we partake?
Christ’s resurrection life is a type of life. It’s a quality and type of life that is not of this world. It is a life that has overcome death. It is a life by His Spirit. It is not just ‘a’ life, it is HIS life. It is in fact, Christ Himself! Paul, like us, wanted to know the ‘power’ of Christ’s resurrection life. That means that His resurrection life is one of power, doesn’t it?
Do you feel like a Christian who lives with power? What power are we talking about, then? We’re not talking about power to live out our own will, lives, passions, desires, wants. We’re not talking about a power to serve ourselves. No, we’re talking about Christ’s life! We’re talking about the power to live out HIS life here on earth! It’s His Life, by His power.
So how do we do this? How do we partake and appropriate His resurrection life in all its power that has been made available to us?
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us
in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. … (Ephesians 1:3)
As fellow-blogger Cheryl McGrath (Bread for the Bride) so beautifully describes, this ‘heavenly realm’ mentioned here in Ephesians 1 is not a physical locality, but a realm in which we as believers now live, in Christ. We are not waiting to die and go to heaven to then have every spiritual blessing! We have every spiritual blessing in Christ and Christ is now! He is the Living One, and we are in Him.
Milt Rodriguez (The Rebuilders) once described this partaking of Christ’s resurrection life as like taking food from a fridge. When we need something to eat or drink, we who live in first world countries, go to our fridge and open the door and take from the shelf. We don’t look at the fridge and wish and hope and pray that the food that is inside the fridge will suddenly become ours. We open the fridge door and we reach in our hand and we ‘take’ what is available.
This is like Jesus. Christ’s resurrection life is readily available to us. And just like opening the fridge door and taking what is there for ourselves, we, by faith, take what is already available to us in Christ. This is called partaking of His life and this is called appropriating what we know to be true.
It is an act of faith to live by HIS resurrection life.
How does this play out practically, you might ask? Well, I’d like to share an experience I had recently that has really encouraged me in this practise of appropriating (putting action to) my faith in this way.
I’m not a person who loves confrontation, in fact I tend to shy away from it unless I feel very passionate about the situation and then I’m bold to go right in, though often with shaking hands and quivering voice. I recognise however, that over the years, I have mostly confronted situations…people really…out of my own strength. I’ve done it out of my own set of values or preferences or sense of right and wrong. I know when I’ve acted on my own volition, or out of my own soul-life and not led by the Spirit of Christ within me, because I’m left with guilt or pride, no peace and generally the situation has only worsened.
Recently, I was presented with a situation where one very dear to me was being verbally attacked by another. Both are Christians. And the one who is very dear to me, well, I’ve witnessed her life and I believe I know her heart as well as anyone could know another’s heart. Things had been pretty dreadful between both parties for a long time but on this latest attack I felt something rise up within me, to speak up and defend her. I had the peace of God to do so and even after the event, that peace remained.
The party who was verbally attacking of-course responded to me and I felt somewhat attacked but it didn’t matter. Now, normally, this sort of thing would leave me feeling sick with anxiety and upset. As I was being tempted to focus my thoughts on the dialogue that had gone on between us, and being tempted into imagination and thinking the worst, I remembered the fridge.
I turned to the Lord and held out my arms as a display of embracing all that He is, all that is His abundant supply available to me right now. I declared that in faith, I take Your calmness Lord, I take Your patience, I take Your peace and Your ability to let it go into Your hands. In and of myself, I cannot let it go so I take Your capacity to let it go.
Miracle of miracles. I let go.
Miracle of miracles. I am sitting in the peace that surpasses all understanding, spoken of in Philippians 4:6-8 which reads;
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.…
I appropriated by faith what I know to be true and I partook of Christ’s resurrection life, and it has become power to me. I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I know what I can do and at the best, I can self analyse and apply some positive self-talk and pray. No, Christ’s resurrection life overcame the temptation to indulge in fear, anxiety, upset, judgement and sin. The angst and upset of the situation lost it’s power like a bucket with holes in it drains of water.
I believe this has been a lesson 101 for me, in learning to know the power of Christ’s resurrection life. This resurrection life of Christ is the power to live by His life. Can I encourage you to turn to the Lord and take for yourself, all that He is for you in every situation, by faith. Draw from His life. This is power for us to live by His life in every situation because He is the Living One. He was dead but now He is alive and lives for ever and ever.