Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:1-3 – Sermon March 10, 2019

Living in Unity

Philippians 4:1-3

 Have you ever had an argument with a fellow believer?

What was the fruit of that argument?

In Philippians 4 we read about two women who had a disagreement in the church in Philippi. These women were gifted leaders, who’s argument had the potential to create division in the church.

The Apostle Paul addressed the issue directly because he saw the bigger picture, the eternal implications. We need to have an eternal perspective on disagreements, if someone is turned away from the church because of a personal disagreement and that person rejects Christ as a result, they will spend eternity in Hell.

Paul had been building the letter to get to this point, teaching and leading the church to pursue maturity and victorious Christian living. He begins the chapter by using a number of phrases to show his affection for the people of the church in Philippi;

my brothers, whom I love”, the Greek word he uses is agape, which refers to the love of God that has been given to us through the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). This is the love that God gives us for each other in the Body of Christ. Without the agape, “love glue”, the church would simply not be able to stay together while on mission.

And long for”, Paul is approximately 800 miles away, he misses his family, longing to be with them.

my joy and my crown”, not only does he love them and miss them, he celebrates them. The members of the church in Philippi were his favorites, and his crown. Paul writes that the Philippian church was a reward for faithful service.

How often do we celebrate our brothers and sisters in Christ? Sadly, as a culture we only celebrate someone at their funeral.  Let us be Christians that celebrates on another, speaking life and encouragement over each other, this will bring joy and unity to the church.

Paul writes in verse 1 encouraging the Philippian believers to stand firm, standing on the truth’s that they have been taught. We need this encouragement today, we need to stand firm, unwavering on the truth’s that we have in God’s unchanging word.

Standing firm is a Roman military term of standing guard against any attack from the enemy. The implication is that the victory has already been won, Jesus won the victory on the cross and we are to hold the ground that he conquered as we declare the truth of the Gospel.

Watchman Nee writes “Remembering that we fight from victory not for victory. “

We stand firm by holding to the Word of God, not twisting it to be acceptable to culture.

We stand firm by loving God’s people.

We stand firm by loving the lost.

We stand by obeying what God tells us to do, even if it seems crazy to those around us.

In verse 2, Paul calls out two women, Euodia and Syntyche who were engaged in a fruitless argument. We don’t know anything about their dispute, but since Paul mentions them by name, it must have been a severe threat to the unity and the ministry of the church. Not taking sides, Paul pleads with them to end their disagreement. Paul knows that this argument is a threat to unity.

As believers, we can be right in an argument, but we have no right to create disunity in the church.

This does not mean that we forgo standing firm on foundational Biblical truths, but when an argument is a difference of opinion regarding secondary church issues, church unity and fellowship is more important.

Paul pleads with them to agree in the Lord. Essentially what he is saying is that their vision is too small. So often we disagree over secondary things, because we have forgotten the glorious purpose of the church, to proclaim the Gospel to every tribe and people group to the ends of the earth.

Satan loves to have the church fight over styles and colors and vehicles, all the while we are distracted from the primary purpose of our existence. What opinions do you need to let go of today that are hindering the ministry of the church?

Then in verse 3, he appeals to an unnamed person, someone he could trust to help these two women come to forgiveness and restore their relationship. This person, most likely a woman, may have been Lydia, who was the first Philippian convert. Early scholars suggested that this may have been Paul’s wife. Whoever this was, Paul was appealing to her to help bring restoration of the relationship between Euodia and Syntyche.

These two women were dedicated committed believers, who had served to advance the Gospel, but now they were wasting their energy on a fruitless argument. Not only that, they were also robbing themselves of joy. When you have a disagreement with someone and you refuse to forgive them, you are the one who suffers the most. You are robbing yourself of joy and even possibly your health.

Paul gently rebukes them, while at the same time he lovingly affirms them. Paul knows they are saved, but that they were not living out their calling and their fullest potential because they were living with unforgiveness. It’s not that they didn’t know Christ, but for a time, they had stepped away from the Lordship of Christ in their lives. This can happen to us at any-time as we fall into sin by giving in to temptation and step out of the Lordship of Christ over our lives. As soon as the Holy Spirit convicts us, we need to quickly repent and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins (See 1 John 1:9).

Realistically we will always have disagreements in the church over matters of opinion, but we need to quickly repent and seek restoration, always remembering the mission, the greater purpose of the church.

What do you need to let go of today?

Who do you need to forgive?

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?

Psalm 133

Hearing God’s voice March 3, 2019

Psalm 29 and Romans 12

When I have my devotional time with the Lord in the morning, I have developed the routine of reading a Psalm and then a chapter from the New Testament. As I meditate on the Word, I am frequently amazed to find that the two passages are linked around a certain theme.

The Lord speaks through His word to us and as I take time to be still and know… I hear from the Lord and am encouraged.

This morning I read Psalm 29 and Romans 12, at first glance there seems little that connects these two passages. Then I was reminded of a conversation that we had yesterday.

A group of us were taking a break from painting and the conversation led to the unfathomable majesty of God as it is displayed in creation. Psalm 29 mentions the power of God and that He is due all glory and majesty as He sits in the splendor of His holiness (Psalm 29:2).

As the conversation developed we began to discuss how God leads us as we have to make daily decisions that affect the course of our lives. To be followers of Jesus, we must submit ourselves to His perfect will for our lives, the difficulty comes in discerning what that will for our lives.

Sometimes we wrestle with the big decisions such as, marriage, career, international mission trips or buying a house, to mention a few. How can we know the will of God for a specific situation? What we are talking about is hearing the voice of God.

Psalm 29, as I read it this morning mentions, “the voice of the Lord”, seven times between verses 3 and nine. The voice of the Lord in Psalm 29 describes God’s general revelation of Himself through creation. The Psalmist pictures the voice of the Lord as crashing thunder, earthquakes, floodwaters and mighty winds.

Years ago, I used to love walking along a deserted beach during the fiercest storms and howling winds. My shouting prayers would be swallowed up by the power of God’s wind and rain. I felt the presence of the Lord and He spoke to me in those times, bringing clarity and direction when I needed it most.

In order to hear God’s voice, we need to position ourselves where we are ready to hear. It may be a walk in a storm or a silent prayer room, but our position needs to be one of submission and expectation. Sit with the Bible open, read with expectation, praying with intensity. As we walk with the Lord, as we mature in our faith, we begin to recognize the voice of God. He may speak to us through nature, through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit or through wise counsel of a mature believer.

This is where the New Testament reading connected in my morning meditation. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The key to knowing the voice of God, is a renewed mind. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that we have the mind of Christ. At first this sounds impossible to us; how can we have the mind of the creator God? But as we are transformed into the image of Christ, as we mature and submit our will daily to the perfect will of the Father, we will find that our decision making is led by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity is being transformed by the renewal of our minds. This is not an immediately completed work when we become a Christian, nor is it ever completed on this side of Heaven. But, as we mature, as our minds are renewed, we are able to discern the will of God as Romans 12:2 says.

The tragedy is that too many Christians do not mature, and as a result they are tossed about like a rudderless boat in a storm. Everyday we make decisions that have eternal consequences, let us ensure that we submit ourselves daily to the will of God and then position ourselves where we can hear His voice.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:15-21 – Sermon February 24, 2019

Click on the link above to see the video of the message.

Philippians 3:15-21

 The Apostle Paul often refers to the Christian life as a race and the Bible is full of stories of men and women of God, who began the race well, but failed in the end because they disregarded God’s rules for the race (see 2 Timothy 2:5). As a Christian if you don’t follow the rules, you don’t lose your salvation, but you miss out on the rewards (see 1 Corinthians 3:14-15).

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, we read that every believer must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we will be called to give an account for how we made use of our spiritual gifts and the calling of God on our lives.

Paul writes in verse 15, “Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

Spiritual maturity is not perfection, but it is daily making progress towards holiness and purity in our lives. The plan for our lives this side of heaven is progress not perfection.

Paul continues in verse 15, “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

The Christian life must be one of consistency, holding on to the ground that has already been taken as we grow in the Lord.

There are two primary reasons why people do not grow and mature in their walk with the Lord.

  1. They assume they are already mature A person who makes a decision for Christ is not mature, they are spiritual infants. In this life spiritual maturity is a journey and not a destination.
  2. They are not willing to pay the price for maturity. Maturity comes at a cost. We must give up things that hold us back. There is pain involved in growth and we naturally shy away from pain. James 1:1-4 explains the common process of spiritual growth.

To mature as a Christian, we need role models, mature Christians who have walked the road ahead of us, that we can look to for inspiration and encouragement.  Paul writes in verse 17 that the Philippian Christians should imitate him as an example. As Christians our life is what other people scrutinize. What kind of role-model are you for a younger Christian?

If that sounds intimidating, we need to be reminded that this is the design that God has for the church.

But then in verse 18 and 19 Paul describes a group of people that we should not follow as role-models. These people were in the church, members of the church in Philippi. This is why he says that he is writing with tears, it grieves him.

Paul says that these professing Christians are actually enemies of the cross, and he lists 4 rebukes against these people:

  1. Their end is destruction” – These people are playing at being Christians, but they are wasting their lives.
  2. their god is their belly” – They are driven by sensual appetites, this doesn’t mean that they are all gluttons, rather they run after every desire they have without self-control. Living for the moment and they have no concern for their eternal destination.
  3. They glory in their shame” – People give themselves over to their passions and their appetites and then try to find a way to justify their actions, even declaring that what they are doing is right and good. God’s standard never changes, but the world and sadly many churches today have so embraced sin, even celebrating sin, “They glory in their shame”.
  4. with minds set on earthly things “– Much like the modern Western church, we are programmed by materialism and the present world full of entertainment. One of my goals is to have an eternal perspective on everything and one of the goals of my ministry is to convey that passion to others.

Can you imagine the impact a church could have on the world if we saw everything we did and every dollar we spent through the lens of eternity?

Paul picks up that theme in verses 20 and 21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

As Christians, we are under the rule and the authority of the kingdom of heaven. The people of Philippi grasped this easily, because even though they lived in Greece, they were under Roman rule. They submitted themselves to the higher authority of Rome. While we are here on the earth, living in the United States of America, we are subject to the laws of the land where we live. But these laws are temporary, this land is temporary, but our citizenship in the kingdom of God is eternal. So, while we adhere to the laws of the land, where those laws conflict with the laws of the eternal kingdom we must submit to the higher authority.

Paul has an eager expectation of Jesus coming again, this is what it means to have an eternal perspective. Our residence here is temporary, the things we spend most of our time stressing about are temporary (see 2 Corinthians 4:18).

Everything we have is temporary, but what will endure is the lasting effects of a life lived for Jesus, how you spend your time, how you spend your money will determine the eternal rewards that Jesus has in store for you. Are you living with an eternal perspective?

Are you living as a true follower of Jesus?

Are you a citizen of heaven or are you an enemy of the cross?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:12-14 – Sermon February 17, 2019

Philippians 3:12-14

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 There is no evidence that the Apostle Paul was a runner, but he likens the Christians life to running a race, and for good reason, the Christian life requires endurance.

In Philippians 3:12, Paul begins by making the statement, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…”

Paul had accomplished so much for the Kingdom of God, but he was looking ahead, he was not satisfied with his personal spiritual walk. This is the attitude that every Christian should have, saved but not satisfied.

Paul continues, “but I press on to make it my own…” The Greek word paints picture of a runner straining with every fiber of his being, aggressively pursuing the goal of becoming more like Christ. (Hebrews 12:1).

It is one thing to have a life goal, but a totally different endeavor to pursue a goal with all of your being. Paul was committed to becoming like Christ and he was aggressive in his pursuit. It is rare to find a Christian who reads the Bible and then says, “I am going to do this, I am going to pursue Christ and His will for my life with every fiber of my being for the rest of my life.” The tragic truth is that there are so many people captivated by the entertainment of this world and do not pursue anything of eternal value.

Paul continues, “but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

The Greek word that Paul uses means to aggressively and rapidly capture. Paul remembers his own conversion on the road to Damascus, where Jesus captured him. This was the starting line of Paul’s Christian race. For every Christian, Jesus must be your starter, at some point in your life you must recognize the moment when Jesus apprehended you.

In Philippians 3:13 Paul takes an honest assessment of his life and says that he has a long way to go. His pursuit is simple – forgetting the past and straining towards the goal of holiness. This singular pursuit was the focus and priority of his daily life.

He makes two simple statements, “forgetting what is behind… and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

For some people their past is defined by guilt and shame because of the things they have done.  The shame is crippling, and they feel that they have disqualified themselves from the race. That is a lie from Satan, and we have the promise of Romans 8:1 that puts all shame to rest. If you are struggling with guilt and shame from your past, today you can move forward and experience the freedom that Jesus has for you.

Some people experience the is pain and crippling effects of things done or said to them by others. Words and actions that have torn down their identity. These past experiences hold us back and prevent us from running the race that God has for us. Do you really know who you are in Christ? You were saved for a purpose – “to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you…” 1 Peter 2:9.

Joseph the son of Jacob was ridiculed mocked and sold into slavery by his brothers and left for dead. He was mistreated and falsely accused in Egypt, but God redeemed his life and made him one of the most influential leaders in Egypt, saving the nation of Israel from starvation.

Joseph had every reason to be defined by his past, but he didn’t.

Joseph had 2 children, Manasseh and Ephraim (see Genesis 41:51-52), Manasseh means “making forgetful”, Ephraim means, “fruitfulness.” As Joseph moved on from his past, God made him fruitful. Don’t let your past hold you back, leave it at the foot of the cross and let God give you a life of fruitfulness. To forget our past means that you are no longer influenced by it, its not that we don’t remember the pain, but rather that we are not held back by it.

Then there is the other danger in looking back on past achievements and accomplishments. These past accomplishments, these former victories can become idols that we look to that prevent us from pressing in to the more that God has in store for us. We call this resting on our laurels, being satisfied that we have done enough. If the past looks great to you, then you have lost your vision for the future that God has for you.

The second part of verse 13 states, “straining forward to what lies ahead.”

There is a tendency today towards spiritual laziness. I have often heard people saying, “I am just in a season of rest… I am not committing to do anything at this time.” I don’t see any Biblical precedent for this way of thinking. Paul here describes an athlete who is running straight ahead, not looking left or right, straining every muscle and nerve, pursuing the race towards the finish line. This does not discount a sabbath rest, but the sabbath is also not a time to stop your personal spiritual disciplines. The sabbath is there to refresh and recharge for the days of work ahead.

In verse 14 Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He lists three pursuits of his life.

  1.  The goal, this is becoming like Jesus here and now by living a life of holiness and purity. Making the most of every opportunity to bring glory to JESUS.
  2. Then we have the prize – to hear Jesus say, “well done good and faithful servant”. Jesus taught a parable in Matthew 25 of the master who gave bags of gold to three servants before he left on a journey. The first two put the gift to work they made use of the time, and when the master returned, they were told, “well done, good and faithful servant”. But the 3rd servant took the treasure and buried it, he rested on his laurels and missed out on the prize.
  3. This prize comes because of our response to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. All who know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, have a calling from heaven to make the very best use of the life that God has given us.

Discipline, endurance and sacrifice are all essential character traits of a follower of Jesus.

The process of sanctification is slow and takes endurance, don’t quit.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:7-11 – Sermon February 10, 2019

Philippians 3:7-11

THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF A CHRISTIAN

What is the ultimate goal of Christianity? Getting to heaven? Getting saved?

The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Philippi taught that knowing Christ was the most excellent pursuit of his life. Having an intimate relationship with Jesus the creator God.

Paul wrote that for the sake of Christ, he had suffered the loss of all things. After becoming a Christian, he had lost his prestige, his paycheck as a Pharisee, his status in the community and power in the community. He viewed all these things as rubbish compared to knowing Christ.

To gain Christ was his life’s pursuit. When we become a Christian, we begin the journey of sanctification, the process of becoming more like Christ. We are not instantly holy and perfect, we are still in need of continual spiritual housecleaning. But as God deals with the sin in our lives, He reveals more areas of our lives that are not fully committed to Him. As we pursue Christ, the “little” sins, become more and more obnoxious as we see them for what they really are. Sin is sin, and my sin is what drove Jesus to the cross so that I can become pure and holy. Why would I hold on to anything when Jesus did so much for me?

In verse 9 Paul continues, “not having a righteousness that comes from the law…”

Righteousness is defined as the quality of being morally right or justifiable. However, being morally right will not save you, being morally justifiable does not mean that you are in right standing with God. Paul said in this verse that the righteousness he was pursuing was from the law, his own works and good deeds, but the righteousness that God looks for is faith in Jesus Christ. When you place your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life, you are in right standing with God and justified before him (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul continues in verses 10-11, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Many Christians, think that when they have placed their faith in Jesus, there is nothing more to pursue. The thinking is that I just have to live my life trying not to sin and get by until I die, or Jesus comes back. This is infant Christianity, when you are born again, you are a baby, and it is essential to grow and develop into full maturity. We were saved by God to grow and mature as followers of Jesus. By God’s grace, as we pray and read God’s word, He graciously gives us the desire for more of him and we begin to get that appetite and we grow.

Paul’s primary desire that shaped his life, was to know Christ. Philippians chapter 3 describes Paul’s satisfaction in knowing Christ, but also his dissatisfaction in that he was a longing to know him better. I pray that we will become dissatisfied Christians, longing to know Christ more.

To know something is to acquire knowledge, but there is a huge difference between intellectual knowledge and experiential knowledge. When you go to college or attend a class, you gain intellectual knowledge, that hopefully you can retain and use at some point. But experiential knowledge comes from experiencing something personally.

We can know Christ by experiencing his presence through the Holy Spirit, by reading His word, by spending time with Him in prayer. We come to know Christ when we step out in faith and see how He provides. Knowing Christ takes discipline, it takes hard work, but it should be our deepest longing as believers.

Paul writes in verse 10, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…”

The power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in every believer, this is something that we aren’t capable of fully grasping (see Galatians 2:20). Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus to gain this understanding (see Ephesians 1:18-20). We need a revelation from God to begin to grasp the power of God that is for us, in us, and operates through us as believers.

The resurrection power of God is the only power that can defeat the power and hold of sin in your life. If you are struggling with persistent and ongoing sin in your life, you need to grasp and hold on to the power of the resurrection.

We like this part of Philippians 3:10, but Paul continues and writes, “…, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,”

This does not mean that we have to go back to the cross and physically suffer the way Jesus did,  but rather, as we display the power of the resurrected Lord in our lives, as we so identify with Christ, that when we face abuse and persecution for being a follower of Jesus we react the way Jesus did and in so doing we are drawn closer to him (see 1 peter 4:12-13).

As believers in Jesus, we like to hear about the resurrection power, but there can be no resurrection without crucifixion. Dying to ourselves, our desires and our will, is the requirement of becoming like Christ and knowing his power at work in our lives. Dying to self is not a one-time event, it is the daily process of choosing death to sin’s hold on our lives, as we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

Paul ends verse 11 by writing, “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

At first glance it seems that Paul is trying to attain eternal life, it seems Paul was uncertain of his salvation! But, the word resurrection used here means to stand up, to come alive spiritually while still here on the earth. I might paraphrase the Apostle, “I want to know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering that I may give the spiritually dead a preview of eternal life in action as I am standing up among those who are spiritually dead”

Does your life display the resurrection power of Jesus to those around you? Do you know Jesus experientially?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:1-7 – Sermon February 03, 2019

Philippians 3:1-7

It’s tax season, time when we look back and gather receipts and documents, to give an accurate report of our finances to the IRS. Accounting can be complicated to understand, but the simplest form in accounting is the trial balance with your income on one side and your expenses on the other, when you total them up, and subtract the two, you can determine if you made money or lost money, whether you were doing well or you were heading for bankruptcy.

Sadly, this is the approach many people take to their eternal destination. The thinking goes that if I do enough good things in life, then they will outweigh the bad things I do and then at the end of the day, God will look at the trial balance of my life and determine if I get into heaven.

This is completely false and the very definition of religion. Religion is placing value in rituals and beliefs in order to obtain favor from God.

We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and what will determine our salvation is not our religion, but our righteousness, whether or not we have a right standing before God. Righteousness is only found by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

Living a moral life will not get you into heaven. This is the ultimate deception of Satan, letting people think that they can be good enough for God’s approval. Johnny Hunt writes, “Prior to his salvation, the Apostle Paul, had enough morality to keep him out of trouble, but not enough righteousness to get him into Heaven.” Paul had to lose his religion to find Jesus.

This is what Paul is writing about in the first verses of Philippians 3. The theme of the Letter to the Philippians is Joy. but it seems in these verses Paul makes a dramatic turn and rebukes a group of people who were known as the Judaizers. The Judaizers where Christians who taught that in order to become a TRUE Christian, you have to go back to the law of Moses and conform to the ancient Levitical law with all the rituals and sacrifices. These Judaizers were beginning to gain inroads and create confusion in the church, pulling people away from the truth and the freedom that is found in Christ.

In verse 2 he calls them dirty scavengers, dogs and evildoers. The Judaizers prided themselves in their holiness and their morality, but Paul says that they were actually evildoers, deceiving the young church.

Paul wrote that the outwards acts of duty were of no value, the only reality that counts is the condition of one’s heart, being set apart for Christ. Salvation only comes by believing on the name of Jesus and his completed work on the cross where his sacrifice made us right with God. We are only righteous in God’s sight because we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

In verse 3 we read that the true worshippers, worship God from the heart by the Spirit of God. Worship is never and can never be disconnected from the inner man. We cannot worship God simply by mouthing words, it has to connect with our inner man by the Holy Spirit.

We can have no confidence in the flesh. You may be a small group leader, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, attend every prayer meeting and church service, you may be faithful in giving ten percent to the work of the ministry, but if your heart is far from the Lord, it is all vanity.

Today we have so many people who are trying to work for their salvation. In Philippians 2:12, Paul told the church to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling”. This is the working out of that which God has already worked in by His spirit and the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus.

We cannot work for our salvation – but we must work out our salvation.

See Romans 3:20

In Philippians 3:4 to 6, Paul then explains why of all people, he should be the first to earn his salvation and be considered righteous. But then he smashes the myth in verse 7, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”

All his supposed credits, were of no value at all, he saw that in comparison to faith in Christ, in comparison to the work that Christ did for him already on the cross, all his work and accomplishments were meaningless.

Sometimes our religious activities can become idols. Our position, our ministry our titles can become more important to us than knowing and following the will of God for our lives.

I am not advocating laziness, stopping all service for the Lord and simply sitting back and just being in God’s presence, no rather I am advocating being led by the spirit. I am certain that after Paul’s conversion he worked harder and suffered more, but he was far more joyful and fulfilled in his life.

Being led by the spirit, you will spend your life maximizing your time, you will find that God stretches you and grows you, but you will not be working to earn favor from God, rather you will be working because the Spirit of God is leading you.

What religious activity do you need to drop today?

And what is God calling you to do by His Spirit?

What are you doing to try to make right the balance sheet of your life?

Are you trying to make amends for your past?

Are you trying desperately to make right some sins by helping the poor, feeding the homeless, caring for the elderly. These are all good things, but if done with the wrong motivation, then we are not being led by the Lord and missing out on the tremendous joy and blessing that comes by being led by God.

Stop looking at your life as a trial balance and trust in Jesus allowing his righteousness to cover you and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 2:25-30 – Sermon January 27, 2019

January 27 Philippians part 11

Philippians 2:25-30

 How are you influencing the world around you?

Everywhere we go we leave a mark, we make an impression on the lives of the people we encounter. The true test of a disciple of Jesus, is whether we are positively impacting the people that we encounter along the journey of life. As disciples of Jesus, we become like Jesus and wherever Jesus went, he brought life.

Healthy green vegetation beside a river is a sign that the river is influencing the region around it. This should be the sign of a Christian, is the path of my life strewn with people who are growing healthy because of my influence?

The way of the world is to coerce people to do things to get ahead, but the man or woman of God can ignite a fire in people’s hearts that fuels them to influence the world around them bringing life. However, Christian is only as effective in bringing life as they are connected to the source of life, Jesus Christ through the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit.

In Philippians 2, Paul first lifts up Jesus as the role model, then he commends Timothy and now he holds up another example, Epaphroditus. He was an example of humility and selflessness, he set aside his life, his ambitions and goals, to serve the Lord, by travelling the long and time-consuming journey from Philippi to Rome. This was no weekend getaway, it is estimated that the journey would take six weeks each way.

Paul spoke very highly of him and in verse 25 he lists four titles for Epaphroditus.

He calls him his brother: When we are born again, we are born into a new family and we gain brothers and sisters. Take some time and think of your spiritual family and thank God for those He has blessed you with.

He was a fellow worker: Someone that Paul trusted to help him in the work of proclaiming the Gospel. Paul didn’t see this man as his junior, rather he saw him as a fellow servant of Christ.

He calls him a fellow soldier. We must never forget that we are engaged in daily warfare. There is an enemy of the church, there is an enemy of our souls, who is fully engaged in the warfare of undermining and ending our testimony.

Finally, he calls him a messenger and minister, Epaphroditus was a messenger from the church in Philippi, but he was also a minister of the Gospel. A minister is primarily a worshipper of God, who serves the church to encourage others to worship God.

Paul continues in verse 26 that Epaphroditus was not burdened for his own needs or wants, he was burdened for the church in Philippi, they were worried about him because they had heard he was ill, and he was burdened for them.

We need to be a people who are burdened, burdened for missions, burdened for the persecuted church, burdened for the lost.

Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi with a request that they honor him (Philippians 2:29).

Honoring Christian workers brings glory to Christ as their sacrifice is recognized and Christ is proclaimed. There is nothing wrong with giving honor to those who sacrifice much to present the gospel. Epaphroditus had sacrificed much to bring a gift an encouragement to Paul and he encouraged them to honor him. Paul also does this in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.

Do we honor those who give their lives to take the gospel message to places outside of the churches influence? We are blessed to have so many missionaries and ministers in our church, and we must never miss the opportunity to bless and honor the missionaries and ministers who sit among us. Let us honor those in our midst who have said yes to the Lord and have given up careers, left families and homes to serve the Lord.

Epaphroditus was sick and almost died in his service to the Lord, he had little regard for his own wellbeing, rather he was willing to pay the ultimate price to be obedient to the Lord. Here was a man, so desperate to encourage and bring life to those around him, that his own life was of little regard.

The most rewarding life is a life spent being used by God, holding nothing back. Some of Christians are so afraid of overworking that they never really give themselves to anything. They simply float around looking for the easiest and the most convenient way to get to heaven. God has given us one life to live, let is spend it well, using it up for the sake of Christ.

I am not advocating that you become a workaholic, where work is your idol, but God calls us to make the most use of our time, God calls us to do hard things. He created us, and He knows what we are capable of doing. If we listen to his voice, we will find that he is constantly stretching and challenging us to get outside our comfort zones to do the hard things in life. This is for our good and for His glory.

how are you being used to bring life to those around you? How are you living? Are you leaving life in your wake? Or are you living for your own comfort and so afraid of spending your life that you are not really living for the Lord at all.

I pray that we would be a people who spend our lives bringing the light and life of the Gospel to all those that we meet.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 2:19-24 – Sermon January 20, 2019

Being a servant

Philippians 2:19-24

What is the most important role for a Christian?

How important are you? Where do you rank yourself?

Everywhere we look, people have an invisible ranking system of importance, and this couldn’t be further from the truth of the Bible.

We also make the mistake of thinking that if someone has status and importance in our worldly ranking, they are more useful and valuable in the kingdom of God.

This is completely the opposite of what God views as important. God does not look at man’s perceived influence. But rather, God is looking for people with the right attitude and heart posture, who would lay down their own self-importance and self-image and serve the Lord.

Timothy was a young believer that served selflessly with the Apostle Paul. Having the heart of a servant is not something that happens as you hear a sermon or read a book on servanthood.

Becoming a commendable servant like Timothy takes time, daily submitting to the will of God and dying to your selfish desires. This is not reserved for specially “called” Christians, developing a servant heart is for all believers, it is the very process of becoming more like Christ.

In Philippians 2 verse 20, Paul commends Timothy to the church and praises his genuine caring attitude, because Paul had seen the testimony of Timothy lived out. Your testimony is your story, it is your personal encounter. However, your testimony is only as good as what other people confirm it to be by their observation of your lifestyle (See Proverbs 27:2 and 21).

Timothy was dedicated, trustworthy and dependable, Paul knew that because he had witnessed these character traits in Timothy.

Paul was genuinely concerned for the spiritual growth and strength of the churches that he had helped plant. He hadn’t been in Philippi for ten years and so he sent his best and most trusted assistant – Timothy.

Paul holds Timothy up as the example of purity and then he holds up the rest of the people in verse 21, “For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

One of the most prevalent and enslaving sins among Christians today is selfishness. Jesus taught that the most basic principle of living a happy and fruitful life is to live a life of self-sacrifice. Human nature is to ask, “what’s in it for me?” We are all tempted to place our own self-interests and ambitions ahead of God. But the tragedy is that this sin, of putting self first saps the life and joy out of being used by God.

The table below compares these two contrasting verses. Philippians 1:21 and Philippians 2:21

 Philippians 1:21, “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

1.     Heavenly living

2.     In the Spirit

3.     Unselfish

4.     Consumed with Christ

5.     Has much gain

6.     Dead to self

7.     Known by God, but not known by the world.

 Philippians 2:21, “for all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.”

1.     Earthly living

2.     In the flesh

3.     Selfish

4.     Consumed with self

5.     Has much greed

6.     Dead to Christ

7.     Known by the world, but not by God.

Are you a “1:21” person or a “2:21” person?

Timothy had faithfully served behind the scenes and Paul recognized that it was time for him to be released into leadership. Paul knew that there was a discipleship process in raising up someone into a leadership position. This is true for any leadership position in the church and even in the secular workplace. Just because someone has the charisma to stand in front of a group of people, it does not mean that they are ready to be placed in leadership. Paul wrote this lesson to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:6-7 when talking about the qualifications of elders.

An eager young believer can go too far, too fast and end up hurting their testimony. Discipleship is like a tree growing roots, the deeper the roots, the wider the branches can spread. If you don’t give sufficient time for the roots to grow, and your branches begin to stretch out, your tree will topple over and the potential usefulness will be ended. Passion and zeal do not equate to readiness, humility is the key ingredient to growing deep roots in our spiritual lives.

There is a common saying often quoted which goes something like this,

“Your talent or your abilities will take you places your character can’t sustain you”

Jesus taught his disciples, allowing them to learn by his example, and only when they were ready, did the Father send the Holy Spirit to equip them to go out and change the world (see 2 Timothy 3:10-17).

This is a conversation we have been having a lot recently as leaders in the church. How are we raising up people? How are we raising leaders and people who represent Christ well?

Who are you discipling? Or who is discipling you?

As a Christian, how are you growing? Are you serving? Or are you chomping at the bit to be a leader? The world tells us that we are nobody unless we have a title or an office with our name on the door. But Jesus told us in Matthew 20:26-28 that the Kingdom of Heaven has the opposite viewpoint of importance.

Jesus gave up his position of glory to humble himself and die a cruel death on a cross, to provide a way for us to be reconciled to God the Father. Because of what Jesus did, God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name! (see Philippians 2:5-11).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are all called to be servants, serving the Lord not expecting recognition in the kingdom of God. We also should be Paul’s and Timothy’s to each other, discipling and being discipled. Who are you leading and encouraging to become more like Christ, and who are you walking alongside, learning from and growing as a Christian?

This is God’s design for a healthy church, we all serve as we all grow, always asking the Lord for His direction.

What area is God asking you to serve in today?

 

January 17, 2019 Sanctity of Human Life Day

Life and Adoption

On January 13, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. (January 22, 1973, was the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand in all 50 states.) Churches around the United States use the day to celebrate God’s gift of life, commemorate the many lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life at every stage. This year, Americans will celebrate life on January 20, this coming Sunday.

The National Sanctity of Human Life Day, is more than a fight to end the horror of abortion, the church must also see the need to protect and take in those that are born despite the efforts of the abortion industry. As we pray for the ending of abortion, we must be equipping ourselves to care for the orphans, James 1:27. As you know, Debbie and I have adopted our two children. They have brought us such joy and blessing, but also as they have come to terms with their adoption, they have gained a unique insight into God’s heart for adoption.

Recently Christie gave a speech for her school assembly and I asked her permission to share an excerpt from that speech in this article. This is what she shared with her schoolmates and teachers.

———

A lot of the time when you think of adoption you think of parents taking an orphan in and making them apart of their family, but that isn’t the only type of adoption.

I was adopted at the age of 6. I wasn’t an actual orphan, but I was in a position far worse: I was a stranger to the family of God. Now as a 6-year-old you may not understand everything about being Christian, but as you get older you will understand what it truly means. When you become a Christian and understand the sacrifice Jesus made, you too have been adopted. Maybe not physically, I know some have, but spiritually.

Galatians 4:4-7 says,” But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the spirit of adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’. So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also heir.”

God the righteous judge is our merciful Father. Romans 8:14 says,” For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

No matter what we have done in the past or what is to come, God is our merciful Father.

———

Christie ended her speech with an altar call and a number of children responded.

Christie was legally adopted before she turned one, but she was adopted into the family of God at the age of 6. I praise God that He is the perfect Father. Have you been adopted?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 2:14-18 – Sermon January 6, 2019

Philippians 2:14-18

This is a sad season, a time of turning off the Christmas celebration lights and the beginning of the cold dreary days of winter. However, as Christians we are commanded to keep our lights shinning.

Obviously, this is not the decorative lights on our houses, rather, we are called to shine as a light in the place where God has placed us. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you will shine, it won’t even be an option for you.

In Philippians 2:14 Paul writes, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” This one verse is a single lifetime goal for every believer. Everything we do, we must do without grumbling or disputing.

Grumbling, also translated as murmuring is the muttering under your breath or gossiping. Murmuring is like an undercurrent at the beach, it is deadly to the church.

Disputing, is open arguments within the body. Normally where there is grumbling, and murmuring, arguments and disputes will follow. Sadly, many churches have reputations for having business meetings characterized by arguments and disputes. This is unacceptable because the church is the representation of Christ in the World, when we argue, we are showing the world that our personal opinions are more valuable than the name of our savior.

 Both murmuring and disputing damage our witness, and they have no place in the church. We can have differences of opinion absolutely, but we handle it in a way that operates out of the love of Christ.

Verse 15, Paul writes to the church to stop grumbling and disputing so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish…”. Paul sets the bar high, we are not there yet, but we must keep moving forward allowing God to reveal areas of our lives that need to be brought in line with His holiness.

When we become followers of Jesus we begin the process of becoming more like Christ. (see 1 John 3:2), this is the process of sanctification.

To be blameless is to live a life above reproach, a life of Character and integrity. Too many people call themselves Christians, but how they live during the week is very different from how they appear on Sundays. If your private life and your public life don’t match up, you are probably not saved.

To live innocently is not to live blissfully unaware of evil, but rather to live without mixed motives. To live openly and relate to people without an agenda or ulterior motive.

When we hear the word unblemished, it reminds one of the Old testament requirements of an unblemished lamb that was to be brought before God as a sacrifice for sins. To be unblemished is to walk in holiness and purity, to have no spot or stain, to live above reproach.

The standard is high and unattainable in our own strength. The goal of being blameless, innocent and without blemish is only possible as we lay down our own desires and passions and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. We are to live blameless, innocent and unblemished because we are representing Christ.

According to Philippians 2:15, the Christians in Philippi were living in a crooked and twisted generation, much like we find in the world today. People who live for their own self worship, twisting the truth and denying the existence of God. The world has always had people who deny God, who are cruel and crooked, we should never be surprised by the behavior of people who deny the existence of God, they have no moral compass. But God is looking for those who would choose Him, who would submit to His lordship over their lives. Noah was such a man (see Genesis 6:9). God is looking for the man or woman today who would shine as a light in the world (Philippians 2:15).

As Christians we do not create the light, we reflect the light of Christ (see 1 Peter 2:9).

Every Christian filled with the Holy Spirit, carries the light of Christ which is visible to the world, the only difference is how much of that light are you allowing to emanate from you. When we sin, we dim the light of Jesus that we reflect. Sin is like a cloud obscuring the moon’s reflection of the sun.

The tragedy of the 21st century professing Christian is that sin is so accepted that we barely reflect the glory of our Lord to a dark world. The reason why the world mocks Christians is because they don’t see Jesus. They see people living in sin but playing religious games. Let us be a people that hate sin, striving for personal holiness and purity, reflecting the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ our Lord (see 1 John 1:5-6).

When we entertain sin, when we live outside of the will of God for our lives, we are missing the purpose for which we were saved. We were created and saved by God to bring Glory to His name and when we step outside of His will, we are wasting our lives and making a mockery of the cross.

Philippians 2:16, “holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

The Word of Life is the Gospel message, 1 John 1 says that Jesus is the Word of Life.

The Greek word for “holding fast”, could either mean to cling to or to hold forth or present.

To hold fast, is a picture of how we desperately cling to the Word of Life for our salvation and daily life. Holding forth is a picture of presenting the light of the Gospel for the world to see.

I believe both meanings are intended, we as Christians must grab hold of the Gospel and cling to it for our very lives as we are faced with temptation and then as those who reflect the light of Jesus, we hold out the Gospel as a witness to the dark world.

This life is so very short, let us be a people who are so totally committed to reflecting the light of the Gospel, the light of Jesus that we become less and less visible (Philippians 2:17).

Are you reflecting the Word of Life? Are you Holding out the Word of Life as a light in this dark world? When people see you, do they see Jesus?