08 February 2012

everything a loss

"I'm still trying to figure out what I lost when I gained Christ."*

This line of thinking strikes at the heart of most of us who have grown up in a comfortable American evangelicalism.  My own retrospect affirms this reality in my own heart, where I still think of my own self-perceived rights and desires over the sacrifice which the cross of Christ demands of us.  We have perhaps fallen for the lie that complete surrender is defined so narrowly as Christianized worldly dreams and pleasures, not capturing the full weight of what it means to lose everything when grasping hold of Christ.

Paul wrote, "What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ . . ." (Philippians 3:8).

By contrast I still hold on to so many of my own dreams and desires, thinking that I can come with my own merit to carry on the work of the gospel.  So often I think of championing this gospel message, a message of victory through sacrifice and suffering, as something which must be won by my own strength.  I have often fallen for the lie that my status is my testimony, not allowing the Spirit to display God's glory through my failures.  My ministry has been caught up in trying to maximize my own strengths instead of allowing his strength to be made perfect in my weakness.

On the road to Damascus, constructing a life of honor, power and prestige (marching as a caesar across the Jewish landscape), Paul was completely transformed by an encounter with the risen Jesus.  Paul said that the gospel was "apocalypsed" in him (Galatians 1:16).**  He was never the same, by radical measures.  His imperial march - whether to self, tradition, or theology - was halted and he surrendered everything to gain the one thing that mattered in this world, Christ.

Even within our churches, where Paul is so often read and studied and celebrated, we so often get this wrong.  We as as though Paul is giving us a spirituality that is simply a tinted version of the world when in fact he is demanding complete loss of everything that is not Christ.  So radical is this that even 'committed Christians' will fall away at having to cut off their own hands for the sake of inheriting the kingdom of God.  Churches will not achieve this until the individual believer grasps the inherent power of the gospel which destroys everything and restores everything in one moment.

We cheat ourselves out of the life, and life more abundant, when we strain to carry our own baggage through with us.  Perhaps we cheat the world around us too, who wait for us to be the example of what disciples ought to look like.

*Rodney Reeves, Spirituality According to Paul (Downers Grove: IVP, 2011), 25.
** Ibid., 24.

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