4 Jesus: Keep the Christ in Christianity

Everything Else is Rubbish!

What is your response to what you’ve read so far? Are you hungry for more of Jesus? If we are to live in an ongoing, increasing inner revelation of Him, there is an essential attitude we must adopt. Paul portrays this mindset right before the passage we’ve just quoted: “But whatever is to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:7-8)

It is a law of the Kingdom. We will find Christ to the degree we are willing to consider everything else rubbish.

As Jesus put it, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel will find it.” (Mt 10:39) It sounds paradoxical, but it is true. The only way to receive true life from Jesus is to give our lives fully to Him. Other passions, other goals, other values will block our receiving a revelation of Christ. We cannot hope to have Jesus fill our cup unless we hand Him an empty one and ask.

Let’s consider a group of very normal Christians—as God defines normal, that is! The church in Thessalonica had few of our advantages. They were birthed in persecution and suffering. Paul had only been able to stay with them a matter of weeks—a few months at most—and had been unable to return. The Thessalonians had no New Testament, and illiteracy and the lack of modern printing severely restricted their access to the Old. As a result, they were confused about some basic doctrines, especially about the Second Coming. In all likelihood Paul had been unable to appoint elders there, so there was only an “unofficial” leadership, composed of young Christians willing to take responsibility, to guide the church through the difficult challenges facing them.

Yet who could deny that the Thessalonian church was living with spiritual authority and effectiveness in a true revelation of Jesus? Consider Paul’s testimony about this church, taken from his first letter to them.

The gospel had come to them “not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction” (1 Thess 1:5). Jesus had opened their eyes to see beyond the words of the gospel to discern in it the Word of an active, living, working God (2:15). The faith, love, and hope in Jesus this Word produced in them were already bearing fruit (1:3). They were taking on the suffering, redemptive lifestyle of Jesus; His life was replacing their own (1:6), and His message was ringing out through them (1:8). Despite their lack of equipping (which Paul still hoped to supply—3:10), God Himself had been able to teach them by revelation (4:9). Paul had complete confidence in their ability to discern spiritual wisdom from the world’s counterfeit (5:19-20). He could pray that even in his own absence that Jesus would make them strong, holy, and ready for His appearing—and Paul expected that Jesus would do it! (3:12-13; 5:23-24) His confidence was justified; by the time he wrote his second letter, the Thessalonian’s faith and love were still growing (2 Thess 1:3).

In short, the Thessalonians had become a model church (1 Thess 1:7).

How had this group of “underprivileged” believers reached such a point of maturity and spiritual stature, and in such a short time? The answer is wrapped up in their initial reception of the gospel: “...You turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1:9-10)

The Thessalonians had turned to God from idols. Idolatry is any expenditure of our passions on some created thing in hopes that we will receive worth or significance or meaning in return. This church had received Christ by emptying their cup of all such idolatry.

They had adopted a single life agenda, to serve the living and true God. When they heard Paul’s gospel, they became convinced, as was Paul, that “One died for all, and therefore all died; and He died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” To the Thessalonians, Christianity wasn’t “fire insurance” to keep them out of hell; it wasn’t a self-centered focus on the blessings they would receive. They saw in the gospel a God of Life and Reality, and from then on their own personal pursuit of life and reality became knowing and serving Him.

And they were waiting for His Son from Heaven—Jesus. They became the good and faithful servants, whose Master would find them prepared when He returned. They rejected the allure of the temporary and fixed their eyes on the eternal.

Friend, if you and I are to receive an effectual revelation of Christ in our lives and to have this revelation in increasing measure, there is no other way. We must turn to Jesus poor in spirit, hungering and thirsting for His righteousness. We must deal ruthlessly with any area of life that is not submitted to His Lordship, for He cannot fill something we are reserving for ourselves. As we turn to Him, we must turn from any idolatry, whether of career or family or possessions or hobbies. He wants to be our All in All!

He receives all who will receive Him in this way.

“If you seek Me you will find Me, if you seek Me with all of your heart.”

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