I’ve been preaching through Paul’s letter to the Philippians in my fellowship group on Sunday mornings, and recently I had the privilege of arriving at Philippians 1:19–21. It was a wonderful, soul-stirring study for me as I meditated on the passion of Paul’s life to magnify Christ (1:20), and on the fact that he was sure he would magnify Christ because for him to live was Christ and to die was gain (1:21). The interaction between this text and Philippians 3:7–8 was also stirring. For Paul, “to live is Christ,” meant to count all things in life as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ and gaining Him. With help from faithful men who have studied this text before me—not the least of which was John Piper—it was a wonderful discovery that the Christian glorifies Christ by being more satisfied by Him than by all that life can offer and all that death can take.
Later that afternoon I got an email from one of my friends in the group. After some very kind encouragement, he told me that a man he has been spending time with in the Scriptures had asked him some follow-up questions, and rather than just answer them himself he wanted to know how I would answer. One question was, “How does one get to the point where he values Christ like Paul did in Philippians 3:7–8?” Below is a brief portion of my response that I pray is a benefit to you. —
Thanks for your encouragement.
Regarding the question of how one comes to value Christ like Paul did, I suppose that’s where we all live, isn’t it? That’s the question that should occupy our whole life’s pursuits. When I read Philippians 3:7–8, I see Paul magnifying the supreme worth of Christ by experiencing, or esteeming, or counting Christ as such a treasure, that everything else in his life is as nothing by comparison. So this brother’s question is, “How do I get to the point of experiencing Christ that way? How can I esteem Him as a treasure? How can I count Him so valuable that to lose everything and gain Him is still gain?”
I think the key to understanding this is that Christ is objectively those things. He is—whether we believe it or not, whether we feel it or not—more valuable, more precious, more worthy of our affections, than anything else that life can offer or that death can take. So if we don’t experience Him that way, my first thought is: We need to get to know Him better! I know that sounds simplistic, but what else would you say? If I don’t subjectively experience something as it objectively is, I need to work harder at seeing that something as it actually is.
So, practically, I think it means going to the Word every single day, not just reading to check off the boxes on the reading plan. Not just reading for exposure. Not just reading to learn new theology or find new arguments in support of doctrines. It means going to the Word every day to see Jesus. To get to know Him. To see how He relates and interacts with proud sinners and with broken sinners. To admire Him. And to be asking the Lord the whole way: “Father, I know that this presentation of Your Son is in Your Word so that I would treasure Him—so that He would come to have a greater place in my affections—so that I would see Him as great and glorious and precious and beautiful and lovely, and then live my life in worship of Him as a result.
“But, Father, I am a sinner. My eyes have been clouded with the allurements of this world, and such things have blurred my vision of and dulled my affections for my Beloved Savior. My sin is such that I refuse beauty and pursue ugliness. I spend money for what is not bread, and wages for what does not satisfy, when I can come and drink from the waters freely, when I can buy wine and milk without cost, which would satisfy me (Isa 55:1-2). Oh Father, please forgive my backwardness! And not only forgive it, but heal me of it! Open my eyes that I may behold, not just wondrous things from Your Word, but a Wonderful Savior from Your Word. By the very power of Your sanctifying Word (John 17:17), give me the eyes to see Him as He is, and give me a heart to worship Him for what I then see.”
This is the process of prayerfully and dependently cultivating your affections for the One Person for whom your affections were created.