s we have recently witnessed, the Olympic Games is an exciting event! Every four years youth from every corner of the Earth compete to win a medal—be it gold, silver, or bronze! For years the athletes prepare themselves, sparing no sacrifice to reach their desired goal! Paul, the great pioneer of the gospel had another ideal: "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousnes, which is of the law, but that which is through the Faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings ..." Philippians 3:8-10.
From these memorable words of Paul we find phrases that help us to understand his most cherished goal: "That I may win Christ and be found in Him!" These two expressions are practically identical and through a metaphor Paul helps us to understand what we should long for while on Earth.
Paul considered things of this world as dung or refuse in comparison to knowing Jesus! Paul wanted Jesus as part of his life. He recalled the Master's words: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life!" (John 3:36, NIV). When the apostle looked up every earthly thing lost its value and brightness. Rome itself in all its pomp and luxury seemed like a varnish, a husk, when Paul gazed at the heavenly values.
It is said that: "To gain Christ is to lay fast hold upon Him, to receive Him inwardly into our bosoms, and so to make Him ours and ourselves His, that we may be joined to Him as our Head, espoused to Him as our Husband, incorporated into Him as our Nourishment, engrafted in Him as our Stock, and laid upon as a sure Foundation" (The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. XX, The Epistle to the Philippians, p. 113, as quoted by Bishop Ellicott, from Bishop Hall, 'Christ Mystical', Ch. VI).
To be "found in Christ" means to have truly gained Christ! Our relationship with the Master is that of the Vine and the branches! When we are connected to the Lord, the sap of life will flow freely through us! There will be possession and indwelling! The experience is similar to the greenhouse for tomatoes in our agricultural school of Manaus, Brazil. When the tomato is grafted into a native plant known as Jurubeba, it survives! Thus the Christian will only be able to survive when he is grafted, or found in Christ. His life will be a fountain of blessings, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit will be revealed in his life.
RECEIVING THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST
The great apostle recognized another dependence on Jesus. His own righteousness, as Isaiah states, was "as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). He knew that on the very moment he was called to serve God he had been justified! He had gained Christ and was found in Christ. Now, he had received justification by faith in Jesus Christ! He understood that this righteousness came from God and was a gift of God. For Paul, to seek his own righteousness was to seek something that would never bring him inner peace—an Utopia that would soon collapse for lack of a true foundation! God offers His righteousness to those who wait on Him, to those who serve Him and trust His wonderful promises with all their hearts!
It is through faith that His righteousness is imputed to each one of us. When we have Christ, we have His righteousness! Through Jesus' death is His righteousness imputed to us! According to the servant of the Lord, this righteousness is imparted when we repent of our sins and embrace the Savior! (Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 241.)
Ellen White says even more: "Apart from Christ we have no merit, no righteousness. Our sinfulness, our weakness, our human imperfection make impossible that we should appear before God unless we are clothed in Christ's spotless righteousness" (Ibid., p. 333)
During the Pan-American Youth Congress held in Mexico in 1984,1 tried to make this message come alive to the youth in the audience. I asked a Mexican sister to make my shirt really dirty and soiled, being sure, however, that the collar and the cuffs were kept spotless. At a certain point of my sermon I took off my coat to reveal the real condition of human beings without Christ! There was general consternation! The shirt was indeed filthy! But, shortly after I had presented my illustration, my colleagues "covered and clothed me" and all that filthiness was concealed!
There was only one problem: I was still filthy inside. With Christ, however, I am not only justified, but I also receive His righteousness. He covers me with His spotless garments and makes me a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). Faith is the channel through which righteousness reaches us; faith is the foundation of the righteousness in Christ. When we trust Christ, His life sanctifies us. When we have Him, we are in Him, He dwells in us through His Spirit and begins the masterly work of sanctification.
Christ's transforming presence in our lives will work as an inebriantperfume that will help us to live the Christian life and to be a true witness of the power of the gospel to all those around us.
For Paul, his own righteousness had died on the road to Damascus and his ego had been crucified with Christ. "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, NIV).
After gaining Christ and having Him as an intimate part of his life, Paul presents a new goal, a longing for a closer relationship with the Savior! His ultimate desire was to know Christ. The King James version says, "That I may know Him." This was the theme for one of the General Conference sessions! This knowledge would come through the coexistence with Jesus Christ and would be built on an inward experience! Someone once said that one will only understand the wonders of love by experiencing marriage; one will only know the taste of grape juice by drinking it; one will only get to know the glory of music by listening to it! We will only know the beauty of a new day when we contemplate the dawning! We will only know Christ when we "win" Him, when we are "found" in Him and He is part of our lives.
After a couple has lived together for 40 or 50 years, they get to know each other very well. Love, companionship, understanding, and intimacy bring about a mutual knowledge of each other! The greatest danger in the Christian life is having only superficial knowledge! Jesus Christ our Savior, who died two thousand years ago to save humankind, must become a reality in our lives today! Not only must we believe He is our Savior, but also invite Him to dwell in our hearts!
The greatest challenge of every Christian is to deepen his knowledge of the Savior! The more we get to know Him, the more we distance ourselves from the futile and ephemeral pleasures of the Earth and place within ourselves a little bit of heaven. The more we know Him, the more we discover new dimensions of His love and become better able to communicate it to our neighbors! Knowing Jesus, we will have access to an inexhaustive fountain of knowledge, for "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14, NIV).
Knowing something about someone is completely different from knowing that someone personally! Many times we become disappointed when we get to know someone! That someone may talk too much about himself, be arrogant, or be a gossiper! There will be no disappointment in knowing Christ deeper and deeper!
Paul got to know Jesus on the road to Damascus! At first he asked, "Who are you, Lord?" After that he cultivated that knowledge through prayer, meditation, and work for the sake of the lost ones. John says, "Now, this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3).
Ellen White adds, "Our life is to be bound up with the life of Christ; we are to draw constantly from Him, partaking of Him, the living Bread that came down from heaven, drawing from a fountain ever fresh, ever giving forth its abundant treasures" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 129).
Why not begin today the development of a deeper knowledge of Christ? "My Lord, it's a pleasure to know you! Lord, it has been a great pleasure knowing you!"
The result will be wonderful! "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know ME" (John 10:14).
Leo Ranzolin writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where he works at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists as General Vice President.