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. (Philippians 3:7-11)
The very things that we think give us status, cause us to rise above the rest, or just give us some sense of satisfaction internally, count as nothing more than dog dung in the sight of a holy God. The only sure way of entering into fellowship with God is to lay down all the pretenses of religious privilege and take up the reality of a life sacrificed to the will and direction of the Spirit of God. It is not what we gain or do, it is what is gained or done because of Christ in us.
Religion can be nothing more than the pursuit of a set of rules designed to give us some religious standing in the community or a sense of self worth because we see ourselves as a little bit better in the keeping of those rules. These pursuits are fruitless because they do not produce lasting life change that is able to be reproduced in others. Spirit led individuals impact others simply by living a right life that the Spirit uses as a tool in the work of drawing another to Christ. We often think we have so much status or “things going for us”, but the reality is that all these “things” are nothing compared to the life God has prepared for each of us in Christ. Paul equates them to dog dung - for those who don't know what that it is, it is doggy poop.
It is a high privilege to know Christ firsthand. It is a dangerous and unsatisfactory thing to never really develop our own deep intimacy with our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Firsthand knowledge is that which comes directly from the source – the only way to experience Christ this way is to pursue him passionately ourselves. Paul knew this type of direct knowledge of Christ – seeing all his pursuit of religious rules and regulations as nothing compared to the awesome privilege of entering into deep, intimate, daily communion with his Lord.
The picture he lays out for us is one of a two-way embrace. An embrace is not fully enjoyed unless both parties are giving of themselves in that embrace. An embrace is something that takes us in, including us as an element of the whole. Paul knew the value of being embraced in this manner and of embracing Jesus back in the same way – allowing his life to become melded together with the life of Christ. Anything less was just not satisfying. Once you get touched by Jesus, it is impossible to be satisfied with anything less than the fullness of his deep-searching probes, the joy of his tenderly creative touch, or the gentle guidance of his leading strokes.
Who or what we are IN CHRIST is what establishes our worth - it will never be established by what we do, what we are able to take credit for in our own lives. The focus is not on us - it is on Jesus. He is what contributes value - actually establishes value - giving us a sure foundation within our lives. Paul describes the desire to "go all the way with Jesus". He is not picking and choosing the times he will walk with Jesus and the times he will choose to walk his own way. Instead, he is making a decision to walk according to the plans and purposes of Jesus all the time. This is possible only when we are willing to embrace Jesus in the way described above. This type of "melding" of our lives with Jesus will make it possible to serve him in both the good and bad times. It takes us to the mountain top and it keeps us in the arid, dryness of the desert. Don't be afraid to embrace Jesus - his arms are open wide. Draw strength from his embrace - be drawn into his comfort, be satisfied with his nearness, and don't be afraid to give it all to Jesus.