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GOING HARD AFTER THE HOLY GOD

(Philippians 3:2-16)

Our theme for the week of prayer has been, "Going Hard after the Holy God." Last week we focused on the Holy God. Today we focus on "going hard." The phrase is adapted from A.W. Tozer, whose little book, The Pursuit of God, has a chapter entitled, "Following hard after God." Tozer wrote this book in 1948 but if anything it is more relevant today. After showing how Moses and David and Paul and all the great hymn writers were even thirsting after more of God he writes

How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of 'accepting' Christ Ð'... and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found him we need no more seek him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing Church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experimental heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture which would certainly have sounded strange to an Augustine, a Rutherford or a Brainerd (pp. 16-17).

So Tozer rejected the false logic which says: if you have found God in Christ you need no more seek him. I reject that, too. And I join Tozer in replacing it with these words, "To have found God and still to pursue him is the soul's paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart" (p. 15). Or as St. Bernard sang it:

We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,

And long to feast upon Thee still:

We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead

And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.

Matthew Henry is right: "Wherever there is true grace there is a desire for more grace. When Paul said, "Don't be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit" (Eph. 5:18), his aim was to make God-aholics out of all believers. The Spirit is not deadening, He is addicting. The evidence that you have him is that you want more of him. Continued indifference to growth in grace is a sign of no grace.

This morning I would like to show from Philippians 3 why we must go hard after God and how we can go hard after God. I want to persuade you that the pursuit of God is not optional even after conversion and I want to give practical help in the performance of this duty.

First: why do I insist that you must go hard after God, or, which is the same thing, why must we go hard after Christ? There are at least six reasons given by the apostle Paul in Phil. 3:7-14. I'll only mention four. The first two answer the question why by referring to the future rewards of the pursuit. The last two answer the question why by referring to the past causes of the pursuit. First, we must go hard after Christ in order to know him. Verses 7 and 8: "Whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Paul went hard after Christ, forsaking all the things people normally boast about; and he did it in order to know him. Notice verse 7 is past tense -- probably referring to conversion ("I counted all loss"). But verse 8 is present tense: he continues to renounce everything that hinders his getting to know Christ.

Why? Because knowing Christ is a value that surpasses everything else. The evidence of conversion is whether you become a Christian Hedonist. Christian Hedonists always go hard after the highest value. They sell everything joyfully for the buried treasure and pearl of great price (Mt. 13:44-45). We must go hard after Christ, because not to means that we don't want to know him. And not to want to know Christ is an insult to his value and a sign of spiritual stupor or deadness in us. But when you go hard after Christ, to know him, the reward is your joy and his honor.

Paul prays for us in Ephesians 3:18-19 that we "may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." There is so much of Christ yet to be known! His wonders are inexhaustible to all eternity. You who claim that he is your pearl of great price and your treasure chest of holy joy and yet who do not go hard after him to know him, are caught in a contradiction that cannot go on. You must go hard after Christ, or eventually surrender your claim to own him as the Lord of joy. When a man falls in love he is driven by an inner compulsion to know his beloved. And therefore he goes hard after her and spends time with her. When a student admires his professor and treasures his wisdom and that professor invites the class to his home the student goes! I had a great teacher in seminary. And when he offered a course in his home called "Hermeneutics for Eggheads" I signed up immediately. It didn't matter what the title meant. It was my teacher's course. It was my teacher's home. That's all I needed because I wanted to know him. The first reason to go hard after Christ is to know him.

Second, we must go hard after Christ to confirm our justification. Justification refers to the wonderful act of God in which he forgives all our sins and imputes to us his own righteousness through our faith in Christ. Start with the second half of verse 8: "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as refuse that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith." Notice: present tense, "I am counting all things as refuse"; I am forsaking them; I am pursuing Christ. Why? In order that I might gain Christ and share in God's righteousness. What does it mean to gain Christ and share God's righteousness? Paul is a Christian and is straining forward to this. So surely it means at least gaining Christ's acceptance when he comes to judge or when we die. To lose Christ would be to lose everything. To gain him would be to enjoy his fellowship

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