The Ultimate Intimacy With Christ

Posted on May 23, 2020

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By David Ettinger

Paul’s Burning Desire
Philippians is known as the “Book of Joy.” Though there are quite a few references to joy in this great epistle, Philippians is far more than this. Philippians is a book filled with life-changing exhortation (1:27-30); profound theology (2:6-11); and burning desire.

This latter category is found in 3:10-11: “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

We can summarize this impassioned plea as the apostle Paul’s (the writer of the epistle) avid yearning to know Christ as intimately as humanly possible, even to the point of death. Paul wanted his life to be entirely indwelt by the reality of Christ, to be inhabited by Him every second of his existence.

We can rightly assume that Paul is telling us this should be our deepest desire as well. The question is, how do we achieve this ultimate intimacy of being indwelt by Christ every moment of every day of our lives?

No Easy Endeavor
Because we are trapped inside a human body of corrupted flesh and blood, seeking the ultimate intimacy with Jesus is no easy endeavor. In fact, Paul admits: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (v. 12). Paul confessed that he still had a long way to go, but that wasn’t going to stop him.

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In encouraging both himself and us to continue on in our quest to seek the ultimate intimacy in Christ, Paul tells us how to go about it in verses 13-14: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Three Phrases
In briefly analyzing this great passage, let’s explore three words: “forgetting”; “straining”; and “press on”.

The word “forgetting,” or “forget,” comes from the Greek word epilanthanomai, which means: “hide,” “to be ignorant of,” “to be unaware of,” or, my favorite translation, “to give over to oblivion.” What is it we are “forgetting,” or “giving over to oblivion”? The answer is, “what is behind.” What’s in your past? Drugs? Alcohol? Sexual immorality? Divorce? Be assured that all these have been forgiven at the cross (if you belong to Jesus) and God is telling you to move on from these things, as if saying: “I want you to take the sins of your past – which have been forgiven – and give them over to oblivion. They are no longer to hinder you!”

The word “straining” comes from the Greek dioko, which means: “to take flight (after something)”; “to earnestly desire to overtake”; or, my favorite, “to aggressively chase, like a hunter pursuing a catch.” The message here is that no matter what is going on in your life, no matter how gut-wrenching or painful, you are to aggressively chase after this all-encompassing intimacy with Christ as if you were a hunter seeking after prey as your only source of sustenance.

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The phrase “press on” is from the Greek epekteino, meaning: “to strain after” or “to stretch intensely towards.” Think of a marathon runner who collapses just before the finish line, and then must crawl with the last ounce of energy to reach it. Imagine her inching and stretching ever forward, knowing that all she has to do is just get her finger tips past that cherished white line. This is how we should “stretch intensely” toward the ultimate intimacy with Christ.

Putting It All Together
So, let’s revisit Philippians 3:13-14 in first its natural form, and then its “translated” form.

Natural: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Translated: “Giving over to oblivion what is behind and aggressively chasing like a hunter pursuing a catch what is ahead, I stretch intently toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Now that’s intensity; and that is how Jesus wants us to chase after the ultimate intimacy with Him!