If you have your Bible with you, you might like to turn to Philippians chapter 3.
In my youth (and this will date me!)
I used to listen to music by a guy called Paul Simon – I still remember the words of some of his songs, well over 30 years on.
One of his not so well known songs had a chorus that went: “/Slip sliding away, Slip sliding away; the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away/” – rather depressing words.
It was about how we pursue things; seek after goals, only to find you’ve missed it completely.
It seems people are very keen on goals these days: my banker asks me what my goals are, at work for my performance review I have to set goals.
Some people have a big goal, one thing that they are pursuing – they direct their whole life and energy to it: being prime-minister, being an all-black, getting a certain job, or house, winning an Olympic medal.
What a terrible tragedy to pursue something with all your energy, talent, time, enthusiasm, dedication, skill, and intellect; only to find that it was the wrong goal!
*[P]* The final verse of that song went something like this: “/We go to our jobs; we collect our pay; think we’re gliding down the highway, when if fact we’re/ /slip sliding away/.”
– and don’t we do that?
We get on with our life, go to work, have these dreams we want to accomplish, think we getting closer and closer to our goal.
But what if it is the wrong one?! Get half way through your life and find you have been going the wrong direction?!
I don’t know if you remember when Robin spoke the last time we were here – he spoke about a man called Saul, more often known as Paul.
This is exactly what happened to him.
Robin outlined a bit of his life: he was well connected, well educated, a bright and promising bloke.
He was born a Roman citizen which gave him great privileges in society in those days.
He was a Jew who was educated under one of the most renowned rabbis of the time.
He sought after God.
Surely he was on the right track.
He was extremely dedicated and zealous in his faith; he belonged to one of the strictest sects who were meticulous in their observance of the Law given in God’s word.
He looked set to become a great religious leader, a man of God – in the Jewish nation he looked like the man most likely to succeed.
He was pursuing that high road to God with all he had.
Until one day he met up with Jesus!
There he was going to the capital city of the neighbouring country on an official mission authorized by the chief priests.
He was setting out to put the followers of Jesus there into prison.
Then, on the road, a light shone from heaven leaving him blind, and Jesus spoke to him!
Suddenly he came to realize the whole way he had been going was wrong!
Here he was an exemplary Jew, fulfilling all the required ceremonies and rituals – then he met Jesus!
That is my prayer for each of you – that you will meet Jesus – have a personal encounter with the person of Jesus the Messiah – you will never be the same.
Paul thought that he was getting closer to God, doing His will, but in fact he was set directly against Him and was persecuting Him!
You see Paul was doing all the ceremonies and the rituals that were required – and some of you may have a religious background, been christened or baptized, been a member of a church, taken communion, but those ceremonies in themselves are meaningless …. unless you know Jesus.
Paul had been so proud of his religious heritage; put all his faith in it.
Now he encountered Jesus he realized that it was all useless.
Listen to what he said: and as I read notice how often he uses the word “I” – he starts talking about all his self effort: [*Philippians 3:3-6** */We do not put any trust in external ceremonies.
*I* could, of course, put my trust in such things.
If anyone thinks they can trust in external ceremonies,* I* have even more reason to feel that way.*
I* was circumcised when *I* was a week old.
*I* am an Israelite by birth, of the tribe of Benjamin, a pure-blooded Hebrew.
As far as keeping the Jewish Law is concerned, *I* was a Pharisee, and *I* was so zealous that *I* persecuted the church.
As far as a person can be righteous by obeying the commands of the Law, *I* was without fault./]
Faultless – if anyone could make it by doing it – it was Paul.
But now he realized that that was totally the wrong way!
You may think that to know God, to be accepted by Him that there are all sorts of things that you have to do.
If you do, then may I respectfully say that you are going the totally wrong way!
You can’t get to God by doing!
To know God, to reach Him, you must be righteous.
And the Bible is quite clear that you can’t be righteous by your own efforts.
You can’t get there by doing!
None of us can make the grade – we all fall short of His standard.
Paul couldn’t, and he did it better than most.
Paul was getting nearer the destination, but was in fact slip sliding away – he was going the wrong way.
Chasing the wrong goal!
You see, if it is by what you do, you get the credit, the glory – it leads to pride.
And Christianity excludes pride – you get there by humility, not by accomplishment.
Every other religion is based upon what you do, what you accomplish – Christianity is unique.
It doesn’t depend upon what you do but upon what Jesus has already done!
*[P]* He is righteous, He the just died for the unjust, He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
There is no place for pride, for our own efforts in the Gospel.
An old saint said that he used to picture God’s gifts as displayed on shelves with the best on the highest so that you had to reach for them.
Then he found that the best were on the lowest, that you had to stoop down low in order to find them.
Paul went on to say about those things he pursued and accomplishments he was so proud of:/ /[*Phil 3:7-9* /But all those things that *I *might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ’s sake.
Not only those things; *I* reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.
For His sake *I* have thrown everything away; *I* consider it all as mere refuse, so that *I* may gain Christ and be completely united with Him./]
There are many goals you can pursue, many things you can chase after – but there is only one thing worth seeking – KNOWING JESUS! *[P]* You can waste yourself on a host of things, you may have already squandered away a lot of your life – here is the only thing worth having: Jesus!
Paul found Him on the road to Damascus, and you can find Him here tonight!
You might have thought that now that he had met Jesus Paul might keep those things that he had attained to add to what he found in Jesus – surely those accomplishments would make him a fine Christian.
No, it doesn’t work – what Jesus has to offer can only be obtained when we let go of what we have ourselves.
There can be nothing of what we do – it has to be all what Jesus has done, and that alone.
Do you remember before the days of rubbish transfer stations, there were dumps – what great treasures you could find down at the dump!
Picture yourself with your arms loaded with stuff from the junk yard, so full of the “treasures” you got there that you can’t hold anything more.
Now, I come with a chest full of real treasure, gold, jewels and offer it to you.
You cannot take hold of it all the while you are holding on to that junk.
You have to put down what you are holding before you can grasp the true treasure.
The trouble is we are holding junk but think it is treasure.
Often we know we have done wrong, not gone God’s way, we may not want to hold on to that bad, but we hold on to what we consider to be good.
The Bible talks of repenting – turning from our own way, but it is not just from our own evil but our own goodness.
Because our goodness is junk!
There is none good but God alone!
The Bible calls the very best we do, our righteousness: “filthy rags”!
All the time we cling to our own righteousness, we will never receive true righteousness – because that righteousness is not earned but given.
Paul discarded his finest efforts and goodness away as rubbish, he no longer held onto his own righteousness: [*Phil 3:9* */I/*/ no longer have a righteousness of my own, the kind that is gained by obeying the Law.
*I *now have the righteousness that is given through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is based on faith./]
He had put all his effort into making himself righteous, then when he met Jesus he found that it was the totally wrong way – he discarded the righteousness that is gained (earned by doing by effort), his own righteousness (filthy rags); for God’s righteousness (perfect, faultless) that is given – it is free, you don’t do anything you just receive it.
Receive it by faith *[P]*.
It comes from God and is given to the one who believes, has faith in, His Son – in the death of the One sinless one and His resurrection from the dead.
Not earned but given, not through what we do but through faith.
Let me tell you plainly, despite what anybody else may tell you, there is nothing good in your life.
The only solution is for it to end and to have new life – not your life but Jesus’ life.
We have to die – that is the only solution.
We die with Christ – His death is our death.
He was raised to life and we are raised to life with – that is putting your faith in Jesus and His resurrection – you need the power of His resurrection life in you *[P]* [*Phil 3:10-11* /All *I* want is to know Christ and to experience the power of His resurrection,/ (being raised a completely new creature!
There were things in my life that I tried with all my effort and discipline to overcome, and could not.
But when I was baptised, buried with Christ, new life came in – resurrection life.
Instantly those bonds were broken!
That is the power of His resurrection!)/ to share in His sufferings and become like Him in His death, in the hope that *I myself* will be raised from death to life./]
Our hope is the resurrection, being raised from death to life with Christ.
Now Paul’s goal had changed – he was just as zealous, probably more so – but it was a different goal.
He pressed on toward another goal – not seeking his own life, his own goals, but the prize ahead to which Jesus had called him.
No longer Paul living, but Christ living in him.