In Philippians 3, Paul tells us of the righteousness we have by faith in Christ Jesus. It doesn't matter who we once were. All that matters is who are are now in Christ. We gladly give up what we once treasured, and forsake what we once pursued contrary to God. "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:9). We can lean heavily on Christ because we have something in Christianity that nothing else can offer. Paul goes on to say, “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.” (Philippians 3:10-11)
Notice the order Paul places this. What comes first? The power of the resurrection. Then suffering. Then death. We are all on a path toward death. But for the Christian, while death looms, it doesn’t define. Life defines the Christian experience. But not life in a general sense. It is a particular kind of life – the power of the resurrection. This means that as we live as Christians we have a greater power than anything else in the world. Since the beginning of time, humans have sought immortality. Every god we create, every idol we fashion, is an attempt at gaining immortality.
Recently, I heard on NPR the results of a study. Here was the title, “Has the human life span hit the ceiling?” We have made so much progress in the diagnosis and treatment of disease that some scientists were wondering if we had seen the limit of human aging yet. Some thought the life span would just keep increasing. The results of their research hit a rock wall recently when the average life-span actually went down. One researcher confessed, “We cannot break through that ceiling. The take home message essentially is this whole ever-increasing life expectancy of humans cannot go on.” Is that really surprising?
We understand this desire, though, don’t we? Don’t most people want to live a long time? But isn’t the kind of life you live more important that just living? What Paul gives us here is insight into the kind of life we have available to us as Christians. We don’t have immortality as we typically understand it – with this present life going on forever. We have something far better. We have the power of the resurrection. The life Jesus lived – obedience to God, suffering, death on the cross, then resurrection – is reversed for us. We have the power of the resurrection – the great hope that all is not lost, that this life and the next really does matter. And in that power we can obey, suffer, and die with a peace that comes only from God. We have the righteousness of God in Christ. We don’t have to earn it. We just have to receive it. And in doing so, we have the power of the resurrection. Do you want immortality? You have it in Christ. But more than just that, you have real, powerful, meaningful life. We are invited into not just more of the same kind of experience that this life has to offer, but into the power of the resurrection life that only God can offer.