The Worm in the Apple!
I remember one of my favorite times to be with my mom when I was young, was when she made chocolate chip cookies. She would let me help her and my favorite part was when I would stir in the extract of vanilla. The smell was heavenly, but I knew it was expensive and my mom had told me that it could not taste good. One day, I just could not resist anymore, so after I poured the vanilla in I quickly took a swig from the bottle. My mom turned just in time to see me swallow. She was not mad, and that she laughed for quite a while as she saw my face showing the learning experience of finding out that just because something smells good does not guarantee it tastes good.
I never forgot how bad that tasted, still, it was a great lesson, to really “know” something, you have to know ALL of it! Sometimes, when we only see a part of something, it may skew our understanding of what the whole is in reality. It may look like a great apple, but if you bite into it and see a worm inside, your view will change! Sadly, many people...
have chosen to do that as they approach Christ. The health, wealth and prosperity influence on the Church has given many people the wrong understanding of what it means to “know” Christ. That is why so many are quick to pray a prayer, but then fail to follow. In this tremendous passage Paul clarifies that for our understanding.
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
Paul brings forth the total package of what it means to know and follow Christ. Yes, it includes the “power of His resurrection” but along with that is the “fellowship of His sufferings…conforming to His death”. Does this mean that all believers will suffer and die? The answer is yes and no!
Before we go into that, let’s remind ourselves how important it is that we accept all that it means to know Christ. The problem with the health, wealth, prosperity movement that I pointed out is not something new. Due to our fallenesss and because we are very human, no one wants to suffer. As far back as when Jesus Christ was walking with His disciples, the idea of knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection already existed without understanding the path that must be taken. Consider this section of Scripture:
Mark 10:35-40 James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
Matthew 20:21 shows us that it was actually the mother of John and James that came and made the request, Mark was more diplomatic and left that out. It’s amazing when you consider that these 2 men were known as “the Sons of thunder” yet here they asked their mommy to go to Jesus for the request. We should not be too harsh on John and James, because throughout the Gospels all of the disciples are arguing over who is Jesus’ favorite and who’s the greatest.
It is very important that we consider our Lord’s answer. He states, “You do not know what you’re asking”. He wanted them to understand it is not a hop and skip to heaven. So he challenges them to understand that before His resurrection would be suffering and death. He turned to them and asked them, are you able to drink the cup that I will drink – the cup of suffering; are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I will undergo – the baptism of death? Before glory comes humility! This is a truth we really need to get if we are desirous of knowing Christ and all that He is. We will experience great power due to His resurrection, power to overcome anxiety, hatred and all kinds of sin. However, we will also experience suffering and death. Every believer will experience this in various degrees, some even physically, but all will be conformed to Christ through the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
What's important here is that we do not become the ones that determine what that suffering or death will be, that is our Lord’s responsibility.
For some, the suffering may be losing your ego and the death may be dying to self. For others the suffering could be material loss, betrayal of friends and even physical suffering. The death may be separation from family and friends, the home you know or even physical death. The foundation of the church, after Christ, is one of many who laid their lives down for the cause of Christ. To know Christ is not to try and suffer, but it is to understand that with the tremendous power and victory in this life and the next of His resurrection, the whole package includes suffering and death.
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
What does this mean? Obviously it does not mean to earn resurrection from the dead, which would be salvation by works. Paul's point is that as we are conformed to the image of Christ through the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings and death we will arrive at the resurrection from the dead. In other words, becoming made in His image before He returns. When Christ comes back all believers will be transformed into His image, but the Lord expects that process to begin from the moment of salvation. Paul states it well in Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Today, let's take some time to meditate on one question: Do I accept ALL of what it means to be a Christian?