Deeper- Part 3- Deeper Devotion
Deeper • Sermon • Submitted
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So far in this series we have introduced the general idea of deepening our walk with Christ and we began last week to consider the product of this deeper walk.
The first that we considered was that it will produce in us a deeper love. There is no question that as we deepen our relationship with Christ, we will gain a fuller understanding of the love that He has for us and this naturally leads to a deeper love for Him as well as a deeper love for others.
Today we are going to explore another product of this deeper relationship with Christ which is a deeper devotion to Him.
There is today and there have always been a multitude of things which are constantly vying for our attention and which are in competition for our devotion.
There are many things which we devote ourselves to whether it be the pursuit of wealth, the pursuit of status or prestige, the pursuit of pleasure, or a whole host of other things.
Yet when we go deeper in our walk with Christ there is one supreme pursuit which rises above all the rest, the pursuit of God!
Let us begin to explore this development in the life of the Apostle Paul as we consider first...
What Used to Be Important (Vs. 4-7a)
What Used to Be Important (Vs. 4-7a)
In the beginning of verse 7 Paul speaks of “what things were gain” to him. These are found in the preceding verses and are worth considering for application to our modern context.
The things that are important to men have not changed much in the last 2000 years!
Paul’s life before coming to Christ was consumed with the pursuit of status and prestige.
This is evident in the description that he provides of those things which he once counted gain.
He speaks of the fact that he was circumcised the eighth day, unlike Ishmaelites who were circumcised at the age of 13 or Jewish proselytes who were circumcised in adulthood.
He was also of the stock of Israel, not a convert to Judaism but one who was a direct descendant.
He was of the tribe of Benjamin which was the favored tribe, the tribe which was loyal to David at the division of the kingdom, the tribe from which Israel’s first king was drawn.
He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews meaning that he was born of Hebrew parents who had not assimilated into the culture around them but had maintained their distinct identity as Hebrews.
Paul was also a Pharisee which was the most prestigious and the most strict sect of the Jewish religion.
He was a zealous opponent of that which he formerly viewed to be a threat to the Jewish religion, the church.
He was a man who had carefully adhered to the tenants of the law and was considered blameless with regard to the law.
All of these things were once gain to Paul, he took pride in them and they earned him a position of great prestige in religious circles. He had literally given his life to the pursuit of this prominent status.
There are still many today who have devoted themselve to the pursuit of status and prestige be it religious or otherwise.
Others may not be interested in prestige but have devoted themselves to the pursuit of pleasure seeking after those things which they hope will satisfy and bring fulfilment.
Still others have devoted their lives to the pursuit of wealth doing all that they can to lay up in store great financial gain.
It would do us all well to take a moment here to examine ourselves with a view to determining where our devotion lies.
What is supremely important in our lives? What is it that we are willing to sacrifice other things in the pursuit of? What is it that we give the most focused attention to?
For Paul there is no question that his status among the religious leaders of his day was supremely important to him and it was his chief ambition to be recognized as one whose devotion to Judaism was unmatched.
Yet when Paul met Christ on the Damascus road all this would suddenly change and there would be a seismic shift in what was important to Paul.
Now that we have seen what used to be important to Paul we need to consider...
What Has Now Taken Priority
What Has Now Taken Priority
Before Paul met Christ there was nothing more important to him than demonstrating his devotion to Judaism and rising through the ranks of the religious leaders.
Yet as Paul writes to the believers in the church at Philippi something else has captivated his attention and has now become his chief ambition.
It is briefly stated in this passage as “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ” and restated in the idea “that I may win Christ.”
Now Paul’s primary ambition is the pursuit of a deeper knowledge of Christ and a more meaninful relationship with Him!
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
Paul’s relationship with Christ began in an instant when he met Him on the Damascus road, but Paul was not satisfied with merely having a relationship with Christ.
Paul had a consuming desire to truly know Christ, he would invest a great deal of time and energy into cultivating and deepening his relationship with Him.
It seems that in modern Christianity this is a rarity. It seems that many who come to Christ are perfectly content with only a casual relationship to Christ and few have a desire for this deeper more meaningful knowledge of Him.
The pursuit of the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ” produced some drastic shifts in the life of the Apostle Paul as it will in our lives also if we desire to deepen our relationship with Christ.
The life of the Apostle Paul serves as a wonderful example of a life of ever deepening devotion to Christ.
Notice in the life of the Apostle Paul...
What Happened as a Result
What Happened as a Result
This new priority in Paul’s life would obviously be in direct conflict with his former priorities and naturally one would have to prevail.
Those things which Paul had formerly considered gain he now counted loss for Christ. This simply means that he had forsaken the pursuit of religious prestige in favor of the pursuit of Christ.
Those things which once captivated his attention had now been relegated to refuse in his mind.
All of the energy that he had once poured into religion he now devoted to the cultivation of his relationship with Christ.
Paul did not count it a great sacrifice to give up those things which he once held dear for he recognized that he had traded them for something far greater!
Those things that once seemed so important to him, he now considered to be worthless things which he would happily lay aside for the pursuit of Christ.
This is the natural course for those who long for a deeper walk with Christ. When our relationship to Christ becomes the supreme priority of our lives we will naturally develop a deepening devotion to Him and a lesser devotion to other things.
Paul was intent on setting aside anything and everything that might hinder him from drawing closer to Christ.
Sadly today many professing Christians have almost the exact opposite attitude. Their relationship with Christ is something that they make very little investment in.
They read their Bible when there is nothing else to do rather than setting aside everything else to devote time to the study of God’s Word.
The pray only when it is convenient and never for any very significant amount of time for there are so many other things that they must do.
They assemble with the church on only a semiconsistent basis and often choose to go weeks, months, and even years without assembling and then to offer up a wide variety of excuses as to why they simply cannot attend faithfully.
These things do not alone demonstrate the depths of a person’s relationship to Christ but they are all strong indicators of our devotion to Him.
Paul’s philosophy was that it was better to give up everything else in the pursuit of Christ while it seems that the modern Christian’s philosophy is often to sacrifice their pursuit of Christ to pursue other things.
Our devotion to someone is determined by what we are willing to sacrifice for them and our devotion to Christ is measured just the same.
Christ should have the preeminence in our lives and our pursuit of Him should take priority over all other things. There should not be anything that we value more than our relationship with Him.
This is proven when we are willing to lay aside our pursuit of pleasure, of prestige, or of wealth in favor of the pursuit of Christ.
What is important to you today? What is it that consumes your thoughts, your time, your energy and strength?
Is your desire for a deeper relationship with the Lord greater than your desire for any other thing?
Are you supremely devoted to Christ?
The natural product of a deeper walk with Christ is a deeper devotion to Him!
There is a beautiful song which says...
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
As we deepen our relationship with Christ, the things of this world will lose their attraction and nothing will matter more to us than knowing Him more!