Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Sept. 16, 2012
*One of God’s greatest goals for our lives is to know Him.
-The greatest believers in history are those who had great passion to know God.
*In Exodus 33:18 Moses pleaded with the Lord, “Please, show me Your glory.” The psalmist in Psalm 42:1 cries out to God: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” And here in vs. 10, although Paul has known the Lord for 25 or 30 years, he longs “to know Him” more!
*And God wants us to know Him better, understanding that this word “know” does not mean just knowing facts about God. It does not mean knowing God in a casual way. This word “know” is talking experiencing God in a close, personal relationship.
*When Paul said, “I want to know Him,” he used the same word the Bible uses for the close relationship between husband and wife. That’s how much Paul wanted to know God. And that’s how much God wants us to know Him.
1. Jesus wants us to know Him first of all, because He can give us an excellent life.
*As Paul said in vs. 7-8:
7. What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
8. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
*Paul talks about the excellence of knowing Jesus.
-The NIV calls this the “surpassing greatness” of knowing Jesus.
-Paul is telling us here that nothing could be better than knowing Jesus.
*Here’s the background: Paul opened this chapter with a world class religious resume. Listen to vs. 4-6 from the New Living Translation.
4. I could have confidence in myself if anyone could. If others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!
5. For I was circumcised when I was 8 days old, having been born into a pure-blooded Jewish family that is a branch of the tribe of Benjamin. So I am a real Jew if there ever was one! What's more, I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.
6. And zealous? Yes, in fact, I harshly persecuted the church. And I obeyed the Jewish law so carefully that I was never accused of any fault.
*Paul had a first class religious resume.
-It was his security, his source of confidence and well-being.
*But then Paul met Jesus Christ, and his life was changed forever.
-Paul saw that his self-confidence was nothing compared to the Savior, so in vs. 7&8, Paul said:
7. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss (or worthless) for Christ.
8. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish (or garbage), that I may gain Christ.
*Paul saw that everything he had was trash compared to the treasure of knowing Jesus Christ. And what Paul found out in vs. 7&8 is true for any kind of human achievement. God wants us to know that no earthly achievement can compare to the excellence of knowing Christ.
*James Dobson was reminded of this in a remarkable way. The story started when he was in high school. Jim’s great ambition back then was to win the school’s tennis championship. He worked and practiced until he finally won. It was a great success, and Jim was very proud to see his tennis trophy in the school’s trophy case.
*But years later, much to his surprise, the trophy arrived in the mail. The school was being remodeled, and someone had found Jim’s trophy in the trash. Dr. Dobson said, “Given enough time, all your trophies will be trashed by someone else!” (1)
*Now is the time to understand that no earthly achievement can compare to the excellence of knowing Christ. And Jesus wants us to know Him, because He can give us an excellent life.
2. But also because He can give us eternal life.
*In vs. 9, Paul was thinking about God’s gift of eternal life.
-Here he talked about being found in Christ “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;”
*Paul gave up on having his own righteousness, because our righteousness can never measure up to God’s perfection. Yes, Paul kept the Old Testament ceremonial law better than most, but at the same time, his heart was filled with bitterness and hatred.
*Paul was so aware of his own shortcoming that he once called himself the chief of sinners. So in vs. 9 of the New Living Translation Paul says: “I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith.”
*The truth is that you need God’s merciful love as much as the worst sinner who has ever walked the earth. Alan Perkins explained: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a little better than someone else, or even a lot better than someone else. You’re still guilty of sin. You’re still condemned.
*The person who jumps halfway across the Grand Canyon winds up just as dead as the person who only jumps 8 feet out from the cliff. They both fall a mile to the bottom. (2)
*That’s why we have to depend on Christ’s perfect righteousness to make us right with God. Our goodness will never be enough. And the only way to have God’s righteousness in life is through faith in Jesus Christ:
-Faith that the Bible is true in what it says about our sin.
-Faith that God loves us in spite of our sins.
-Faith that God became a man to live a perfect life and die on the cross for our sins.
-Faith that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
-Faith that Jesus will forgive all of our sins and give us eternal life, -- If we will open our heart to receive Him as our Lord, Savior and God.
*Now when we put our faith in Jesus, all sorts of wonderful things begin to happen in our life:
-Our sins are forgiven.
-He puts His righteousness into our spiritual account.
-And we are born again with eternal life, which only exists through knowing Jesus in a personal way.
*This is why in vs. 9-11, Paul said he wanted to:
9. . . be found in (Jesus) not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
10. that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
11. if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
*Jesus wants you to know Him, because He can give you eternal life.
-There is no eternal life outside of knowing Jesus in a personal way, because there is no other way to know the Father in Heaven.
*We see this truth in the prayer the Lord prayed just a few hours before the cross. In John 17:1-3, Jesus spoke to His Heavenly Father and said:
1. “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,
2. as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
3. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
*There is no eternal life in trying to keep God’s rules, because you can’t keep them all. There is no eternal life in religious things, like coming to church, being baptized, reading the Bible, even praying. All of these religious activities are dead unless you know Jesus in a personal way.
*Michael Dean tells about sitting next to a very religious man on a flight from Phoenix. They struck up a conversation when the man noticed Michael reading a book on the history of Christianity. And they talked for hours. This other man had an amazing knowledge of the Bible, freely quoting verse after verse, sometimes from little-read parts of the Bible.
*At first Michael thought the man might have been a Bible professor at some seminary. He most certainly had to be a believer. But Michael began to wonder, and had to know for sure, so he asked him if he was a Christian. The man looked downcast and said, “I cannot say that I am.”
*He then went on to explain that he was 56 years old and had been reading the Bible since he was 6. But for some reason he just could not get to the point of belief.
*That man knew a lot about the Bible, but he didn’t know Jesus. So Michael pointed Him to the cross, and urged him to call on Jesus.
*Michael later wrote: “Well, the man told me he would give it thought, and he did, right then and there. He then asked me why he should put it off any longer. I returned the question. ‘Why should you put it off any longer?’
*He was again silent for a moment (in prayer). Then he lifted his head and said, ‘My wife will not recognize me when I get home. I can’t wait to call her.’
*And then with amazement on his face, and on his voice, he held out his hand in front of us, as if holding the Bible. And he said, ‘I understand now! For the first time in my life, I understand. -- Now I think I can explain to my brother the questions he has long been asking me about.’
*Up until that moment the Bible had always been that story, but now it is his story. The people in the Bible had been those people, but now they were his people too.’”
*Michael said, “He then leaned over a little closer to me, and in almost a whisper, he said, ‘I do not want to let my emotions get the best of me. But right now I feel as if I could run down that aisle and jump for joy!’” (3)
*And why not! He got on that plane spiritually dead.
-But now he had eternal life, because he knows Jesus.
*Jesus wants us to know Him, because He can give us eternal life.
3. But also because He can give us an energized life.
*We see Paul’s unstoppable energy in vs. 12-14:
12. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
13. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
*God doesn’t give us this new life, so we can sit around taking it easy until we go to Heaven! No -- God wants to give us a life full of energy, purpose, service and meaning. God wants to give us a life worth living.
*Paul pressed on. And it helps to remember the tough situation he was in:
-In chapter 1 Paul tells us that he is a prisoner for the Lord.
-He was in chains and he had been for a while.
-In fact, Paul didn’t know if he would live or die.
*Then, in chapter 2, Paul tells us that he almost had grief piled up on top of grief, when a close friend almost died. Paul was going through extreme trouble. But in vs. 12, he said, “I’m pressing on!” And God wants us to press on!
*That’s the energized life. We see it again in vs. 13, where Paul said he was “reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” It’s like a runner putting out maximum effort, stretching his whole body out to try to cross the finish line first.
*English Pastor Geoff Thomas explained Paul’s drive to press on: “Paul wanted the world to be changed, and the church to be revived. He wanted much more of the knowledge of Jesus Christ transforming his life. Often he felt his own walk with God was threadbare.”
*Then Geoff gave a testimony about Rex Pocock. He was a deacon in Providence Chapel, and died in October of 2002, at the age of 90. Rex kept a little diary, and after walking with the Lord for almost 70 years wrote these words in 1995: “More like a devil than a saint.”
*And Pastor Geoff asked, “How often did Paul feel that? We know that he wrote, ‘O wretched man that I am.’ If he had been talking about his pre-conversion experience he would surely have written, ‘O wretched man that I was.’ But he said, ‘O wretched man that I am.’” (4)
*Paul felt that he had a long way to go. So do we!
*Christian, can you see a gap between where you are and where you ought to be? -- That’s the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And we need to press on with great energy!
*This is the God-given energy we see in Christians whose lives have counted for God.
-The great evangelist George Whitefield said, “I am never better than when I am on full stretch for God.”
-In his early years as a missionary in Africa David Livingstone expressed his willingness to serve by saying, “I'm willing to go in any direction, provided it is forward.”
-One of Jonathan Edwards' 70 Resolutions was this: “To live with all my might while I live.”
-Amy Carmichael served as a missionary in India for 55 years without a trip home. And she wrote: “Give me the love that leads the way, the faith that nothing can dismay, the hope no disappointments tire, the passion that will burn like fire. Let me not sink to be a clod; Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.” (4)
*God wants us to have this same kind of energized life.
-And He will surely give you the energy to press on!
*Are you weak? -- Press on.
-Are you weary? -- Press on.
-Are you worried? -- Press on.
-Are you weeping? -- Press on.
-“Press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
*The first step is to know Him. -- Do you know Jesus Christ?
*Jesus Christ wants us to know Him...
-Because He can give us an excellent life.
-Because He can give us eternal life.
-And because He can give us an energized life.
*Do you know Him? -- Open your heart to receive Jesus...
-And then press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
*Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
1. Original source unknown - Found online at www.zondervan.com/Cultures/en-US/Product/Book/Articles/WhatOnEarthAmIHereFor.htm?QueryStringSite=Zondervan
2. Adapted from SermonCentral sermon “The Tax Collector and the Pharisee” by Alan Perkins - Luke 18:9-14
3. Adapted from sermons.logos.com - KNOWING GOD - Michael R. Dean - John 17:3; John 4:7-8 - January 7th, 2007
4. Adapted from STEPPING HEAVENWARD by Rev Geoff Thomas - Phil 3:12 - Alfred Place Baptist Church Aberystwyth - Feb. 2, 2003