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A GODLY PERSON PRIZES CHRIST
by Philip Owen

 

            In this characteristic of godliness, we have come to a line of demarcation, a true benchmark. If to be godly is to be godlike, we may be left to wonder just what godlikeness looks like. God has graciously shown us the answer to that question in the Person of the incarnate Christ. Far too many people warming pews in Protestant churches today are neither Christian nor godly. For it is impossible to be godly without being Christian, and it is impossible to be Christian without truly knowing Christ. Godliness does not originate from a head knowledge of God but from a heart knowledge of—a saving faith in—Jesus Christ. I have heard many professing Christians speak of God, who never mention the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation begins with a knowledge of Christ, and godliness is manifested in the prizing of the Savior.
 
            Rather than attempting to define the word prize as it relates to Christ, I will let Paul in his own words describe what it means to prize Christ. Writing from prison to the church at Philippi, Paul testified: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness . . . That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death . . . . I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus . . . . I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (3:7-10, 12, 14).
 
Among other things in these verses, Paul has left a five-part description of what it means to “prize Christ:”
 
To prize Christ is to disregard all natural things. Paul does not bother to give us a list of such things, being pleased simply to summarize them as “what things were gain to me.” Paul is not calling for us to seclude ourselves in a monastery, to eat only bread and water, and to maintain a strict vow of silence. But to prize Christ is to disregard all natural things as irrelevant by comparison with fellowship with Christ and doing His will. When it pleased the Lord, Paul rejoiced in creature comforts. But those things were nothing apart from the approbation of the Lord. 
 
To prize Christ is to disdain self-righteousness and meritorious good works. We would be hard-pressed to find a more righteous or faithful saint. But Paul’s good works were the fruit of His attitude toward Christ, not an attempt to merit favor with God or to impress fellow believers with his holiness. Any good works that Paul performed declared to those who watched: “Look upon Christ and His righteousness and perfections,” not “Look at me and my worth.” 
 
To prize Christ is to desire knowledge of Christ. The remainder of that statement indicates that Paul was not speaking of an intellectual knowledge. For he explains that the knowledge of Christ he wants includes the manifestation of Christ’s resurrection power in him, a desire to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (not those of His substitutionary death, but the sufferings for the sake of righteousness), and his being conformed to Christ’s death (that is, fully realizing in his experience the sanctification from personal sin for which Christ died). 
 
To prize Christ is to pursue the purpose for which we have been saved. The Lord had not “apprehended” (“laid hold on”) Paul in order for Paul to be rich, comfortable, famous, and praised by men, but in order that he might be delivered from sin and set apart to declare the gospel of the grace of God to the Gentiles. Paul wished to fulfill that purpose.
 
To prize Christ is to press on toward the goal of our final reward: fellowship with the Lord in heaven. Paul’s eye was on the prize: heavenly blessing, heavenly rest, a heavenly crown, and heavenly fellowship. Anything else he regarded as an impediment.
 
            May we follow Paul’s example and prize Christ.

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