How many of you have heard the term, today is the first day of the rest of my life?
Today we are continuing our reading and study of the book of Philippians, and concentrating on chapter three. Paul is alluding to this very phrase in his writing. No matter what he thought was good in the days that have passed, all the work and tasks completed so that he would receive the blessings of a place in heaven, have been of any value. Before his conversion, Paul was a devout Jew. Not just a devout Jew, but a member of the largest tribe, that of Benjamin. And he was a Pharisee, that same group of people who took such great offense at Jesus ministry that they had him killed on the cross. Paul was known for persecuting the followers of Christ, causing untold amounts of pain and misery, and in many cases death amongst those early Christians.
Paul is telling us all of these things, not because he is proud of his past actions, but to show all the effort he went through in looking for purpose and true joy in his life. The part of society he inhabited told him that you must do all these things if you strive for a relationship with God. Obey all the laws without question, make the proper sacrifices and atonements, and eternal life will be yours.
But Paul didn’t find the joy he was hunting for. Not until his conversion. Such great value in life does Jesus' teaching and ministry give Paul, that now everything else is rather worthless. Even more, the many things that he once saw in his “plus column” are actually in his “negative column”. They didn’t make him a better person, in many cases, it was exactly the opposite. Paul once thought he was a very righteous man.
Like Paul, we often find ourselves living in a way that society tells us is correct, but still goes against the Gospel which Jesus taught. We place more emphasis on earning money, having a good job, and spending the cash we earn and the free time we have trying to please ourselves. Fancy cars, nice clothes, designer handbags, a cottage to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. But do these things truly bring us joy in our lives? Are we missing out on a greater joy by trusting in our own righteousness, and not the righteousness that comes from knowing Christ?
Paul tells us that the ultimate purpose of righteousness is so that we can know Jesus more deeply. In living our lives modeled after the teachings of Christ, we come to know him more intimately as we see in concrete fashion what happens when in our lives we apply the gospel earnestly. Paul lists show off his checklist of past achievements as a way to show that even he did not start out as God intended, but in accepting what has come before, Paul also shows us how any of us can be changed if we listen and act upon the word of God. Society might have judged the old Paul as a very good man, Paul himself gives a very different pronouncement of his past deeds.
As we look back on what we have done with our lives up until today, and what we plan to do in the days yet to come, where do we look for that needed reference to judge how well we have lived? Paul draws on his personal experience to urge the Philippians to trust in the righteousness that is theirs by faith in Christ that they might enjoy their relationship with God, experience His power in his life, and have the motivation to press on because of the assurance of God’s favor?
In each of our lives, we will find things that once seemed so important and needful but ended up being not quite so important. This is an inevitable part of being human, we live according to time, and our growth progresses only as the days and years roll by. Instead of judging what we do according to the standards of those around us, we should instead ask ourselves How does the righteousness that is from God achieve what you are trying to achieve by your own efforts?
Today truly is the first day of the rest of our lives, and like Paul, it is never too late to have a change of heart and reassess what we are truly yearning for and how we can achieve those goals.