January 2018 Theme: “First Steps in Your Disciple-Making Journey”
Among the ruins of ancient Rome sits a small dungeon still intact. In its prime, it was nothing more than a dark, circular, underground hole with plastered walls and a single opening on top where they lowered prisoners into confinement. It was a lonely place — a desperate place. Today you can tour it, going down into the belly of the cell. Against the wall is a stone pillar with an inscription indicating that the Apostles Paul and Peter were held there. It was probably there that Paul wrote these words:
“ [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [[a]which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope].” (Philippians 3.10 AMPC)
Read those words again. Think about each line. Paul’s “determined purpose” was simply to know Jesus. His singular passion, his heart cry, his driving force was to know Jesus deeply and personally. He wanted to grasp the “wonders of His Person” — this is worship. He wanted to know experientially the resurrection power of Jesus Christ working through his life. Even in his suffering, Paul wanted to be shaped into the likeness of Jesus. Jesus was at the center of Paul’s life.
Just a few verses earlier Paul said that everything else he had pursued in life was a waste. At one point, Paul was on the fast track to fame and power. He was a rising star in his field, surpassing all the rest. He had all that this world says is important — wealth, prestige, success, respect. But when he met Jesus, nothing else mattered. Nothing could compare to knowing and following Jesus.
The same is true today. Pursuing anything other than Jesus with your one single life is simply a waste of time. One hundred years from now nothing else will have lasted and nothing else will matter. The famous evangelist Billy Graham once said, “The ultimate experience in life is knowing Jesus.”
This is the great promise of Jesus: if you make it your determined purpose to know and follow Him, He will show Himself to you. In (John 15.4-5 ESV) Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” To abide means to make yourself at home. So to abide in Jesus means to draw close to Him, to seek to know Him more deeply. Only when we abide in Jesus can we really be used by Him to do great things.
What’s your determined purpose? What drives you and defines you? That one thing is what you worship, and what you worship sits at the center of your heart. How can you know? Follow the trail of your time, your money and your desires, and they will lead you to what has your heart.
Written by Craig Etheredge
This blog is an excerpt that comes from our book Walk with God, which you can purchase here.