“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8, ESV)
If there is one question I am asked frequently by folks it is this: “How can I get closer to Christ? How can I get more intimacy with Him? How can I know and experience His love better?”
And the answer – at least for some is in our text today. But let me paraphrase it in a little different way: Stop dating Jesus! He will not give you the intimacy you desire, apart from your full out, exclusive commitment to Him.
Those of us who are married remember well those words we uttered in vows to our spouses. There was a question put to most of us: “Will you love her (or him), comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keeping yourself only for her so long as you both shall live?” To which both parties responded in order “I do.” Those of us who are not married have heard those vows – or some like them repeated over and over again. But it is in those few words “forsaking all others” that we find the root and permission for true intimacy. And apart from them, intimacy loses all meaning. Not only with our spouses, but with God as well.
Just as any prospective husband or wife would (and SHOULD) refuse to to yield up the physical (as well as other) intimacies that belong to a committed, monogamous marriage, so too is our relationship with our Savior. He does not allow us the familiarity of a spouse, apart from the commitment of one. And it is precisely here that we so often find the reason for our lack of sensing or enjoying a deeper, richer, fully satisfying relationship with Him. In truth, we’re still wanting to play the field some, to keep certain options open which are meant to end forever the moment we said “I do.”
Let me break it down. You cannot have intimacy with Christ while you still want to hold hands with bitterness and unforgiveness. He will not let you draw nearer, while you still want to keep up your late night phone conversations with greed and the pursuit of earthly wealth. You can’t get the security you want from Him, if you are still flirting with it in your bank account. Keep up texting your former satisfactions, and you’ll soon find out He is distant. He will not share you with your former sins. He will not be intimate with you while you are still wanting to date sexual immorality, or dishonesty or find your sweetest pleasure in pride.
This beloved is Paul’s point. He states is unambiguously – I have to forsake all others if I really want Him. I’ve got to make the break. He will not finally walk down the aisle with us (remember, we are but betrothed to Him now) unless it is clear we have left off our former loves, and do not seek them out for a little fun when we are down or feeling sorry for ourselves or lonely or whatever. We are either His, and His alone, or we are at arm’s length. And arm’s length is not a marriage.
In plain language, Paul was unwilling to cling to anything that might jeopardize the possibility of his having and experiencing and enjoying and loving Christ freely, intimately, fully and exclusively.
So, who or what are you dating on the side, claiming to be Christ’s, but not quite wanting to sever ties with? What sin, what pursuit, what attitude or personal goal or pleasure do you want to still have recourse to, just in case Jesus isn’t enough? Until you break with that – you will never know the sweetness of His nearness. He will not hold hands with you, while you are still holding hands with another. He was willing to forsake all of Heaven for you. He laid down every single legitimate pleasure to commit to you. What are you still clinging to that prevents you from “forsaking all others?” Because whatever or whoever it is – that is why He is not as near as you might like.