In Philippians 3, Paul tells the Philippians that everything he once thought was a gain is now considered a loss to him compared to knowing Christ (7-8). Before his conversion, Paul boasted in all his deeds (4-6) thinking that would please God. But after his conversion, Paul considered those same deeds a loss compared to knowing Christ. Many Christians, myself included, have at times fallen victim to this attack from Satan. We forget about our first love (Jesus Christ) and our work for Christ’s kingdom because a chore. We focus on what we need to do for Christ (and Christ actually doesn’t need us to do anything) rather than knowing and loving Him. Although we understand that our salvation is not works based, we act as though it is.
The church of Ephesus had this same problem (Rev 2:1-7). They were doing great work for Christ, but they had lost that original love that they had. Many marriages parallel this same problem. The original love that was present during the courtship has faded away. Spouses do things out of obligation rather than a deep love for one another. There is no longer a desire to know the other person and the marriage grows dead.
Our relationship with Christ is no different than a marriage (in fact, the Bible compares our relationship to Christ as a marriage many times). Christ’s love for us will never change. But if we don’t cultivate our relationship, our love for Him will fade. A marriage were one person loves and the other is indifferent is not likely to be a successful marriage.
The Ephesians (Rev 2:1-7) and Philippians (Phil 3) had experienced a growth issue. They had stopped maturing in Christ. What originally was exciting and wonderful (which salvation always is) became mundane and normal. Their love for Him began to grow cold. They ceased to know Christ and simply knew of Him.
But Paul reminded them that our relationship with Christ is like a race (12-14). We need to forget what is behind us and strain toward our goal, the completion of the race. Always moving forward, we need to struggle on to claim our prize. We must not stop or stand still (remember what happened to the hare when he stopped while racing the tortoise – he fell asleep and lost the race). Although we can’t lose our salvation, we can lose the closeness with Christ and the peace and comfort the Holy Spirit brings.
Paul tells the Philippians to use him as an example (17). He has not yet attained all this (knowing Christ), but he is pressing on toward that goal (12). We need to look to strong Christians to be an example to us. But we also need to look at ourselves and determine if we are the examples to other Christians that we should be. Paul reminds us that our citizenship ultimately resides in Heaven (20) so our activities here should reflect that.
When we look at our lives, we often think more about what we can do for Christ rather than desiring to know Christ. Not that service to Christ (tithing, teaching, serving others, witnessing, etc) is a bad thing, but we often focus on what we’ve done and not what Christ has done. If we change our focus to knowing Christ, service will come naturally. But if we focus on service and not knowing Christ, we can manufacture an unnatural service since our heart is not necessarily in it. Our relationship with Christ is like a race. We need to continually press on in our relationship or it could become like a loveless marriage.