The Pursuit Of Christ
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scriptures: John 10:1-5, Philippians 3:4-14
Sunday 19th March 2017
This message is a follow up on the last series: ‘Living In the Overflowing Abundance’. Since Christ is our shepherd and pasture, it is through Him that we can enjoy our overflowing abundance. Let’s take a close look at today’s message titled: ‘The Pursuit of Christ’.
Our foundation scripture for this year is from John 10:10, which reads: ‘The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)’ (AMPC). The main text for this message is in Philippians 3: 4-14, which reads: ‘even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back’.
From the passage above, we can deduce that Apostle Paul’s singular purpose and passion in life was following Christ. He relinquished his treasures and accomplishments in order to remain focused on Christ. From the point that Christ interrupted his previous assignment of persecuting Christians, he channelled all his energy into serving Christ, wholeheartedly. The reason was simple: He recognised that Christ is everything he needed. Colossians 1:15-22 sums Paul’s thoughts on this: ‘Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault’ (NLT). In Colossians 2:6-7, he admonished the Colossian Christians and by inference, Christians today to continue pursuing Christ. ‘And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness’.
Apostle Paul’s revelation of Christ was a turning point in His life. He had an insight into the person of Christ, and counted everything else as rubbish, in comparison to Christ. As 21st century believers, we have a lot to learn from St. Paul’s posture. We have been called to pursue God with the whole of our hearts and not the material pleasures of this world. Our earthly treasures must be dedicated to God in worship, unreservedly.
God is not averse to our enjoying what He has provided for us, but our priorities must be set right. Knowing Christ intimately should be the most important desire of every believer because our entire life depends on Him. Our significance as believers lies in knowing Christ, intimately. He gives our lives meaning and the author and finisher of our existence on earth. He is the reference point; He regulates, defines and set the course of our lives.
So the question today is: ‘How do we pursue Christ?’ Here is John 6:44: ‘For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me ...’ (NLT). We cannot approach God or pursue Him by our efforts. We can only be drawn to God by Him (See also Ephesians 2:18). However, the outworking of this pursuit after we’ve been drawn by God must be done by us – this is what is referred to as our walk of faith.
The account of creation reveals to us that God created everything man needed for sustenance before creating Adam. These were called “things”. Things were created to be subservient to man. Genesis 1:29-30 makes this very clear: ‘Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.’ Sadly, man eventually esteemed things above God; forcing God out of His sacred place in human heart, replacing God with things in order to please self.
This trend was again replicated in the story of the Israelites as they journeyed to the Promised Land. While Moses was away with God on Mount Sinai, the Israelites grew restless as they awaited his return. Eventually, they spoke to Aaron about carving out a substitute to replace God. Aaron’s response is recorded in Exodus 32:1-4: ‘When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.” So Aaron said, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.” All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and moulded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” God, the giver was substituted with the gift!
One more story in scriptures drives home this tendency in all of us to which we must pay attention. The story of Abraham is a classic example of how our attention could gradually shift from God to the gifts He has provided for us. Isaac, the long awaited son of promise and of his old age arrived at last – and it naturally became Abraham centre of attention. As Isaac grew from childhood to manhood, Abraham’s love for him grew at the expense of his love for God. In order to get Abraham’s attention and trigger a reprioritisation with him, God gave him an instruction in Genesis 22. Here are some excerpts from this story: ‘Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” God tested Abraham to know the condition of his heart toward Him. On passing this test, God returned Isaac to him and blessed him in addition to this.
So, here is a lesson for us today: When we make God our priority, He will place those things which He has rightly provided for us in our care. Besides this, He will also bless us exceedingly. Is there anything standing between you and God today? I encourage you to set your priorities right and pursue Christ, wholeheartedly.
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