Day 6: May 9, 2017: Intimacy with Christ
Philippians 3:10-11: … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
The intensity of Paul’s passion for Jesus burns at its brightest in this passage. Here Paul’s desire for intimacy with Christ was so great that he was yearning to “share his sufferings” and become “like him in his death.” This downward movement from the heights Jewish identity, knowledge, and zeal (3:2-6) to the depths of Christian suffering is rooted in Jesus’ own journey from “equality to with God” to “death on a cross” (2:6-8).
Scholar Michael Gorman has coined the term “cruciformity” as a description of Christian spirituality as Paul expresses it here in Philippians 3 and in many other places in his writings. “Cruciformity” is “conformity to the crucified Christ.” It is “a dynamic correspondence in daily life to the strange story of Christ crucified as the primary way of experiencing the love and grace of God.”
How do we grow closer to God? How do we become more like Jesus? Spiritual growth does not happen only through prayer, Bible study, and worship, although these practices are of foundational importance. These disciplines will bear their full fruit in our lives only when we are actively serving others for the sake of the gospel.
Cross-shaped service requires self-denial, risk, and sacrifice. Self-denial: When we put others first, we place ourselves second. When we use our time, abilities, and resources to bless another with Christ’s love, we are not using those things in the service of our own wants and needs. How can you consistently serve the church? How can you consistently serve the community? How can you consistently serve the poor and oppressed? Consistently investing ourselves in serving others develops the attitude and discipline of self-denial within us.
Risk: Jim Martin writes, “Most of us, in order to grow in our faith, will need to learn to trust God more deeply – even in the midst of the possibility of fear and failure. The first step toward deeper trust might be to remove our training wheels. When we put ourselves in positions where we could fall, we have no choice but to trust God.” In order to become like Christ we must move out of our comfort zones and take the risk of trusting God to do what we cannot do.
Sacrifice: As disciples of Jesus we are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1). Being a living sacrifice means constantly offering up our whole selves on the altar of devotion and surrender to God. In order to live this out, each of us must prayerfully ask, “Lord, what are you calling me to give up for the sake of your kingdom?”
Self-denial, risk, and sacrifice are costly. They are the contours of “cruciform” discipleship. These steps of faith could lead to sharing in Christ’s sufferings and becoming like Christ in his death, as they did for Paul. Regardless, the more we “pour ourselves out” for the sake of others [Philippians 2:17] the closer to, and the more like, Jesus we will become.
Take time now to pursue deeper intimacy with Christ Jesus. This prayer can help you get started: “Lord Jesus, my desire is to know you and to be conformed to your image. I want to love others as you did. Teach me to deny myself in order to serve others. Lead me to step out of my comfort zone and trust you in situations where I could fall. Show me what you want me to give up for the sake of your kingdom. In your name I pray, O Lord, Amen.”