Saturday, March 30, 2013

Opening Your Hand

As I ready myself to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter, 2013, I found myself doing some thinking on Philippians 3:7-11.  I hope you find these insights of benefit to you in some small way.

For much of my life, I have lived with a hand that is closed - picture a hand with palm up but closed or clenched in a fist...go ahead and make that jester to get a feel for what I mean.  For those who know me personally, you may think that this does not represent my life well, but then you are not in my skin.  I am often self-absorbed in my own thinking, my own agenda and my own desires.  When I live like this, I see it illustrated with my palm up but my hand closed.  When this is true, I believe it is impossible for God to find me of much use, for I am then self-absorbed.  

As I pondered Philippians 3:7-11, I found Jesus encouraging me to life louder and fuller by choosing to open my hand in surrender to Him so He can use me more fully.  When my hand is open to the Lord, He is able to rearrange my life to fit His agenda, to take away things that are detracting from His agenda and also to put more into my hand to serve Him more powerfully.  Here are a few thoughts from my musing on this passage.

In Philippians 3:1-6 Paul states his pedigree (3:4-6) which is rich, full and outstanding among the Jews.  Here is the passage of Philippians 3:7-11 in the NASB.

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

3:7  Paul had much to boast about as a Jew.  He begins by stating that whatever was important to him in his past life as a Jewish leader, he counts those things as loss for the sake of Christ.

Loss - he counts who he was and what he gained as a liability and disgusting as it relates to knowing Jesus.  He sees no merit in clinging (keeping a closed fist) to who he was before being a follower of Jesus Christ. 

When all things are loss (death to self but alive to Christ), life really begins.  Instead of living a life represented by a tightly held fist of protection of self and possessions, we open the ‘hand’ of our life and become both giving to others and receiving from Christ.

3:8 Paul goes deeper by stating, “More than that..”, he counts all things to be loss.  Paul sees that in order to know Christ Jesus, he needs to be “All In” which means who he is apart from Christ needs to be “All Out” (an open hand, palm up).  Paul does this because knowing Christ is of “Surpassing value” to who he was.  To have Christ is so much more than anything he ever had or could have.

He goes even further to state that he “suffered the loss of all things and counts them but rubbish”.  Rubbish is a vulgar term that may be equated to human excrement.  The things he used to cherish and live for are now ‘rubbish’,  literally ‘crap’ (or another four letter word).  This he says is a suffering - it is costly to follow Christ.  He lost His current or old life in order to gain real life in Jesus.  This loss could even be described as debilitating.  He lost the importance of what he had in order to “Gain Christ”. 

To gain Christ is become like He is and what He has for us.

3:9 Paul wants to be found in Christ.  Paul would have it that when anyone would encounter Him that he would become like Christ to them - full of love, encouragement and a challenging example to live in the same way (to benefit others).   Paul wanted Jesus’ identity and not his own.

When we are found in Christ, we then gain His righteousness - His perfect righteousness which is not a result of how we live or by the things we do for God but is gained simply be being in Christ.  I strongly encourage you to stop and meditate on Philippians 3:9.

3:10 Paul then brings all of this to a crescendo and states He wants to KNOW Him and POWER of His resurrection and to have a close knit intimacy - FELLOWSHIP - catch this...of His suffering.  When we stop living a self-absorbed life, it is in many ways a suffering and it is worth it!  This knowing Christ and His power and fellowship of His suffering comes from living with an OPEN HAND, a fully surrendered (lost) life.

3:11 This relationship with Christ ends with an expectation of attaining to our own resurrection from death to life, forever with Jesus.

Is Jesus worth your surrender, sacrifice (loss) and trust?  To live like this is risky and dangerous.  You are putting your security in His hands, not longer holding on to your own life.

What does that look like?
Decision - a change of mind from and focus from yourself (me) to Him!  From living for what you want to be living for to what He requires of you every day.  For Paul, he chose to go from being on top of His world (a Jewish leader) to an outcast from from Jews...and He gained Christ.

Following Jesus costs You and blesses everyone else.  When you choose Christ and live sold out for Him, your life becomes a magnet to those you rub shoulders with, you bless them.  Your agenda becomes His agenda which is ever focused outward looking for ways to bring love, life and encouragement to all and to seek and save those who are not yet connected to Jesus.

Action - Everyday as my feet hit the floor I determine to surrender afresh and ask Jesus to give me His eyes and agenda.  I determine to go about my day with an ‘OPEN HAND’.  I’m not always successful, but that is what I desire everyday.  

Allow me to encourage to decide and act by opening your hand to the Lord, to loss your life and gain His better life!

If you have some thoughts in response my thoughts, I'd love to hear from you.