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?

 

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?

Sermon December 30, 2018 Redeeming the Time

Ephesians 5:11-21

The end of a year is a time of reflection and looking back, reminding ourselves of the good and bad times of the past year. But also, it is a time of looking forward and making resolutions. Sadly, the truth is, if you are waiting till the first of the year to start something new or to quit a bad habit, you probably won’t stick with your resolution. If something was important to you, you would not wait until the first of the year to do it.

Life is short, and life consists of millions of decisions as to how we spend our time. When faced with the end of our lives here on the earth, many people will regret the time wasted watching T.V. or the time spent on social media or being entertained. The vast majority of people will regret not spending time with loved ones or not taking a step of faith when God called you to serve Him. Many people will regret not taking the time to share the Gospel with a loved one or a neighbor. When we are faced with the reality of the brevity of life, what is really important stands out.

In Ephesians 5:11-21, Paul is pleading with the church to leave behind their lifestyle of sin, to let the light of God shine on their lives so that their sin is exposed, and they can begin walking in freedom. In verse 14 Paul paraphrases what could be a portion from Isaiah 60, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” I believe this is a call to the 21st century church. Wake up, because as the days are rushing by, it appears that the world is spinning out of control and it is likely that Jesus is coming soon. We as Christians need to wake up and begin to live out our God given calling, to take the Gospel message to a lost and dying world.

In verse 16, Paul writes, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”

Some translations say, “redeeming the time”. Redeeming, means to rescue something from loss or to pay a price to recover (reclaim) something from bondage. This is like having a lien on a property which will only be released when the loan is repaid. Slaves were redeemed by being set free because the purchase price for their freedom was paid, they were redeemed.

When it comes to time, so many of us are slaves to time, we are controlled and are in bondage by our wasteful use of time. Charles Hummel called this the “tyranny of the urgent”. We are under the tyrannical control of the urgent things in our life, when the truly important things get pushed to the side. Every-day is a treasure chest of opportunities, we get 24 hours to either redeem the true value or waste and squander the opportunities presented to us.

How do you value the time God has given you today?

The Bible calls Jesus our redeemer. Salvation is not only a certainty of eternal life in the presence of God. Jesus is the savior of our today and our tomorrow while here on the earth.

Jesus is called the redeemer because his perfect sacrifice pays the debt we humans owe because of our sin nature. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, that those who have repented and have made Jesus Lord over their lives are “bought with a price”.

Paul continues in verse 16, “redeem the time because the days are evil”, We don’t need a reminder to know that the days we are living in are evil, we simply turn on the evening news.

Paul encourages us to not sit idly by and let the darkness of this world dictate events, but rather we are to make a conscious choice to do good works and let the light of God shine through them. Jesus himself said in Matthew 5 that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Even if we are personally affected by the evil in this world, we are commanded to not respond in kind but instead overcome it by doing what is right and good.

How do we redeem the time? Paul lists a few practical examples in verses 17 to 21:

  • Verse 17: We must do the will of the Father as we hear from God and know what He wants us to do.
  • Verse 18: The Bible says, “do not get drunk with wine…”. Getting drunk is an escape from reality, and I suggest that anything we do to escape reality, whether it is playing video games, watching too many movies, abusing drugs – anything that removes us from the reality of life, is a problem. Rather we are to be filled with the Spirit of God so that we can see clearly the way things really are so that God can work in us and through us.
  • Verse 19: By addressing on another in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, doesn’t mean that we walk around singing all the time, but rather, we meet together as believers, sharing what God is doing, praising God by sharing testimonies. We redeem the time by spending time in God’s word and in fellowship with other believers.
  • Verse 20: We redeem the time by being thankful for what God has done for us.
  • Verse 21: We redeem the time by serving one another. This doesn’t mean we become doormats, rather, we submit to one another by preferring one another, seeking the good of each other.

There are many ways we can redeem the time in our lives, but the bottom line is that we were bought with a price, we were redeemed by Jesus to live our lives for Him. If you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus, and you have breath in your lungs, God has a purpose for you in 2019. It will take some sacrifice, it will take some rearranging of priorities, but you will not regret a single moment that is redeemed for the Lord.

By putting God first, 2019 be a year of significance.  Psalm 1:1-2

 

Sermon December 23, 2018 – The surprise of Christmas

The Christmas Surprise

Have you ever been surprised by a gift on Christmas day? Most of us like surprises.

When Jesus was born he was not recognized as the Messiah. Nobody knows the exact day of the year that Jesus was born, but it should have been no surprise to the religious leaders and scribes of the day.

As we study the Old Testament we see that it all points to the coming Messiah, it is as if the Old Testament is a road that leads to the little town of Bethlehem, to a seemingly insignificant event on a global scale, a child being born who will be the savior of the world.

The Old Testament has over three-hundred prophecies by multiple authors and prophets pointing towards Jesus, most of these were completely fulfilled by the life of Jesus while he was here on the earth, some of them refer to the second coming of Jesus that we are waiting for.

Micah was a prophet of God in the eighth century B.C. and it is customary to read Micah 5 verse 2 during the Christmas season, but the verses that surround this verse seem to be disconnected and hardly seem to fit the Christmas narrative. As we look at the first four verses of Micah chapter 5, we see that the prophet is taking a wide, sweeping view of history.

Chapter 5 begins with a call to arms. The first verse mentions the city of troops; this is probably Jerusalem as the seat of power where most of the military were staying at the time. Micah writes that the city is under siege. Micah prophesy’s that this attack will succeed and that the enemy will strike the king of Israel on the cheek with a rod, a sign of humiliation.  Most scholars believe that this was foretelling the attack on Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the capture and torture of King Zedekiah. So, the first verse is a prophecy of the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the tribe of Judah which took place around 586B.C., an event that would take place around one-hundred years after the prophet Micah.

Then we have the very familiar second verse of Micah chapter 5, which refers to Jesus, the promised Messiah who will be born in Bethlehem. The name Bethlehem means “house of bread”, again we see a prophetic glimpse. Jesus called himself the Bread of Life and it is no mistake that he was born in a town with that name.

Micah also prophesies that this ruler’s origins will be from of old, from ancient times. The literal translation means, “days of antiquity”. The origins of this ruler will be before the beginning of time, one who transcends time, only God can do that.

So, verse 1 points to a time about 100 years after Micah’s life, verse 2 points to the birth of Jesus, almost 700 years after Micah’s writings.

At first glance, verse three refers to Mary and the birth of Jesus, however if we carefully study the phrase, “Israel will be abandoned until….”.  We have to draw another conclusion. Israel ceased to be a nation until 1948, when the Jewish nation was restored. The last part of verse 3 says; “and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites”, is something that we have seen taking place within the last 70 years.

Many scholars feel that the birth that is predicted by Micah, is actually the birth of the nation of Israel that we witnessed in the 20th century.

To recap: verse 1 points 100 years down the road, verse 2 points 700 years down the road, and verse three points almost 2700 years down the road of history.

But then we come to verse 4. This promised ruler who is to come will stand, meaning that he will be established and unmovable as the King, there will be no challenge to his authority. He will shepherd his flock, and not only that, but his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

Micah is not writing about the first time Jesus came to the earth, he is prophesying about the second coming of Jesus. The time when Jesus will establish his throne and reign over all the earth. There will be no doubting his majesty and authority. Thus, in verse 4 we see a glimpse not only into the future of the prophet Micah, but also into our own future as we await the second coming of our Lord.

This prophet who lived around 2800 years ago, was led under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to write these words that we have translated for us today. These are the words of God to us, as they were to the people of the tribe of Judah, who were about to be invaded by the Babylonians, and to the remnant looking for and awaiting the Messiah who came in the form of a little baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. These were the words of God that confirmed the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948, and these are the words of God to us as believers all over the world. Words to encourage us to keep looking ahead, keep looking down the road because Jesus is coming back again. And when he does come back again all the world will recognize him, as Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians chapter 2:10; “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,”

As we see with the prophetic writing of the past, people missed it. When Jesus came to the earth even the most respected scholars of the day completely missed it and were surprised by the birth of the messiah.

But I can assure you that when Jesus comes back again, there will be no doubt as to who he is, there will be no doubt about his power and authority.

The Lion of the tribe of Judah is coming back to rule and reign in glory. The only question will be, are you ready, or will you be surprised by the second coming of Jesus. The only way that you can prepare for Jesus to come again is to submit to his lordship over your life, believing in the name of Jesus for your salvation and then to look everyday expecting his triumphant arrival.            (John 3:16)

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 2:12-13 – Sermon December 16, 2018

Philippians 2:12-13

Who has had the greatest influence for good in your life? We all have people who set an example for us. Mark Twain once said, “few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

However, a great person can inspire us, but they cannot enable us. Role-models can inspire us, but without us actually beginning to work, we will never achieve anything.

In Philippians 2:6-11, Paul presents Jesus as our ultimate role-model, but how well do we put into practice the life that Jesus modeled for us?

Paul continues verse 12 and says, “as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”

Paul was a role-model for the church in Philippi, and he instructed them to be obedient and put into practice the daily spiritual disciplines of prayer, evangelism, integrity, honesty, humility and preferring others. As a role model, Paul wanted them to continue even while he was not with them in person. What Paul really wanted them to understand was that he was not the ultimate role-model, Jesus was.

What Paul was referring to here is Character. Character is moral strength or integrity. Sadly, true character is hard to find these days as so many people do not have the personal endurance to stick with something until they have seen it through. Christian character is developed over years of practicing personal spiritual disciplines. Character is the backbone of a Christian. As many have said, Character is how you behave when no-one is watching.

“Character is like a tree, and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing” —Abraham Lincoln

Paul then writes, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” which can be a bit confusing at first glance. But notice he doesn’t write, “work for your salvation”. These people were already Christians and Paul told them to put into practice what God has already worked in by His Holy Spirit. We need to be reminded that we cannot earn our salvation by works (See Ephesians 2:8-9).

We work out our salvation because we have already been saved, not to be saved. The works are the authentication of the faith that we already have.

When we become a Christian, we have so much potential opened to us immediately, the tragedy is that too many people view Christianity as simply a way to avoid going to hell. When you become a Christian, you have unlimited and instant access to the throne of the all holy, creator of the universe, and He invites you and I to call Him Father. There is the very real potential in every Christian to be used by God to transform families, neighborhoods, cities, and even nations.

Becoming a Christian is like being given a plot of land that sits on a diamond mine. The mine has billions of dollars’ worth of precious stones just below the surface, all you have to do is dig a little bit and unearth the treasures that are already in the land that you possess. You have the choice to sit on the land, knowing it’s worth, but never realizing its potential, or you can work a bit and get the value out of what it already in your possession.

Our lives filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit have tremendous potential. So many believers are satisfied with just enough when God offers us so much more than we can ever imagine. I challenge you to work out, what God has already placed in your life.

Paul continues, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

The Greek word for “fear”, that Paul uses in this context means, profound respect and awe for God.

As we begin to try to work out our Christian life, we realize that we don’t have the natural ability to do anything for God, and we learn to rely on God to work through us. We work out our salvation with respect and awe for God, trembling, because we realize that we are only operating in the power and the strength that He gives us in the first place (see Philippians 2:13).

For example, we cannot love others, if we weren’t empowered by the Love of God, we do not have compassion without God placing that compassion in our hearts and we are only able to place others first because of the Spirit of Jesus in us.

Before salvation, God works on us, by the Holy Spirit, we are convicted of sin and our need for salvation. After we are saved, the Holy Spirit works through us. The presence of the living God in us energizes us to do the work of the ministry that God invites us to do.

Philippians 2:13 ends, “…both to will and to work for His good pleasure

True Christianity is spending time in prayer each morning, asking the Lord for what He would have us do, and then allowing Him to empower us to do that which He calls us to do. That is the daily effectual Christian walk, of working out our salvation as God works through us.

If we don’t have a desire to be used by God, it is one of two things; 1) we aren’t followers of Jesus, or 2) we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to have the leadership in our lives and we are not led by the spirit (see Romans 8:14).

This is all for His pleasure, and this is where our 21st century narcissism wrestles against the truth of God’s word. We were created for God, God is not our creation, we are His creation, and we were created for His pleasure. But at the same time, as we do what pleases God the Father we are blessed beyond compare.

As Bible believing Christians, this should be nothing new, we have heard it before, but is it simply head knowledge? We know that God is able and that He is faithful, that is theological knowledge. But do we know that God is faithful because of experiential knowledge? The only way to move from theological knowledge to experiential knowledge is obedience. Taking that step of faith.

What step of faith is God calling you to do today?  Proverbs 3:5

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 2:5-11 – Sermon December 9, 2018

Philippians 2:5-11

As we come to this Christmas season, I want to ask two questions. Firstly, who is Jesus? And secondly, who is Jesus to you?

Both may seem easy to answer, but that is simply because we don’t grasp the depth of the questions.

In the first four verses of Philippians chapter 2, Paul writes that the key to unity in the church is putting others first. In the next few verses, Paul turns our attention away from ourselves and gives us the perfect example of sacrificial humility, the example set by Jesus. Jesus gave up his royal throne in heaven and came to a humble stable preferring us over his glory.

Verse 5 begins, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” Paul writes essentially that we should have the mindset of Christ, which is humility and submission to the will of the Father. Jesus did not think of himself, he thought of you and me, this is the mind of Christ. We exhibit the mind of Christ when we think of others and prefer others.

Question 1: Who is Jesus?

Philippians 2:6, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,”

Jesus is God, Jesus always was God and will always be God. Christmas, the birth of Jesus, was not the beginning of the second person of the trinity. Rather it was the revelation of God to man, but it was not the beginning, and even though Jesus became a human being, he did not cease to be the eternal God. Jesus identified himself as God (John 10:30 and John 14:9).

The attitude of Jesus was that even though he had every right to the honor and privileges of being God, he gave up these privilege for a season. Jesus counted the cost for our salvation, he was willing to lay aside privilege for the benefit of all who would trust in him.

Not only did Jesus give up his privilege, but in Philippians 2:7-8 we read the extraordinary level that Jesus went to. Jesus humbled himself willingly, becoming a servant in order to save us.

Now when the Bible says that Jesus emptied himself, it does not mean that he ceased to be God. He did not empty himself of his divine nature or attributes, rather he emptied himself of the outward and visible manifestation of the Godhead. Jesus took on the nature of a servant, being made in human form, he added servanthood to his deity.

We can talk about this all day and still come no closer to fully understanding the depths of this statement. The King of Kings became a servant, lowering himself more than any being has ever done. Not only did he become a servant, he became obedient even to the point of submitting himself to dying on a cross. Jesus took on the curse of the cross so that we didn’t have to die and be eternally separated from God.

But Jesus didn’t just come as a baby to die a cruel death on the cross. We are not saved because of the nativity, we aren’t saved simply because God, the creator came and lived with his creation. We are saved because after he was crucified, he was buried but on the third day he rose again. God the Father reached down and restored Jesus back to life. And we believe that this same Jesus is coming again in glory and power the likes of which this world has never seen. Jesus came as a baby, humble and poor in a manger, but when he comes again, it will be so glorious and majestic that every person on the face of the earth will instantly know about it.

Verse 9 of Philippians 2 continues, Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” Because of the obedience and humility that Jesus displayed, God the Father exalted him and gave him the name that is above every other name.

Jesus, the name given by the angel to Joseph, the name that was ridiculed, mocked, shamed, belittled and rejected by man, has become the most powerful and exalted name above all. The Apostle Peter taught this to the Sadducees when explaining the healing of the cripple beggar outside the temple in Acts 4:10-12.

The name of Jesus is the only name with the power to give eternal life, to heal the sick, to overcome demonic forces, to set people free from addictions, to restore broken marriages and relationships. Without the name of Jesus, we have no hope in this world. There is power in the name of Jesus, he has been exalted above every other name.

Philippians 2:10-11 continues to teach that whether people worship or reject the name of Jesus, there will come a day when every person who has ever walked this earth will get on their knees and confess that Jesus is Lord.

Question 2: Who is Jesus to you?

For most people in the world, Christmas is simply another celebration of music, gifts and parties. The world recognizes Christmas, but does not recognize Christ, the Lord over all.

If you know Jesus, Christmas takes on a far deeper meaning. Jesus is a real person who walked the earth, the world acknowledges that much, but what Jesus offers is a personal relationship, which is much more than simply knowing about another person in history.

One can know the facts of history and the Bible cover to cover, but if you don’t know him personally, you are not saved and will spend eternity separated from God.

Salvation is about a personal relationship with the creator God who humbled himself and died on the cross for you. There is power in the name of Jesus because of the personal relationship that we have with our maker and our savior. Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?