The Apostle Paul said, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). He counted everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (v. 8). Paul was very intentional in pressing on toward the heavenly goal of knowing Christ as his Lord, and called us to follow his example (v. 17). To know Christ is to know Him relationally; it is to know God in Christ, His word, attributes, promises and calling.
Eternal life is to know God in Christ
Knowing God the Father and the Son, and the Father’s will is not an option. Jesus Himself warns that those who do not know the Father’s will, will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 7:21-23). He describes eternal life as knowing God the Father and the Son (John 17:3), and we know the Father through the Son (14:7).
As Bruce Milne said, eternal life is “not so much everlasting life as knowledge of the Everlasting One.” Thus “salvation is not merely about knowing where we are going when we die; … It is about being fundamentally changed … so that the will of God can be done in our lives” (Ruth Haley Barton).
The promise of eternal life to believers, with their sins forgiven, is not just the life after death. It is the abundant kingdom life we can have from here on earth, as we are changed day by day in Christ, and it continues when we return home to Him forevermore.
Renewal of the mind
We change as we know Christ through His Word and the Holy Spirit, and submit to His will and do our part. In submitting to God’s ways, Paul called us not to be conformed to the ways of the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, then we will be able to discern what is the will of God – His good and acceptable and perfect will (Rom 12:2).
Our thought life matters because sinful behavioural streaks like anger, impatience, envy, self-centredness, etc. originate from our thought patterns. The way we perceive and understand things, and “the patterns of feeling, judging and determining, shape our actions and responses,” as Barton explained. Our thought patterns need to be sanctified in discipleship towards knowing God’s will and growing in Christ-likeness. This is the heavenly goal we want to press on to attain.
To live intentionally towards this heavenly goal
For me, I had wasted years in the desert after my baptism. Without discipleship, I eventually fell away. By God’s grace, I came to join a discipleship group. It was at a very busy time in my career, but God enabled me to carve out time to have personal devotional time with His Word, and to journey weekly with others in the small group. I came to know “the worth of knowing Christ”, as Paul said. This changed my outlook on life and determined how I spent my time. I came to learn more and more what it meant to have the promised abundant life and contentment, no matter what the circumstances, knowing whose I am, why I am here, and where I am going when I leave this earth.
May we all continue to press on toward the goal of our heavenly calling in discipleship to know Christ and the will of God, and to enjoy the abundant life we can have in Christ Jesus until the day we see Him face to face.
By Sister Lee Yoke Kwang (YCKC Bulletin 2 August 2020)