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?

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?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 2:1-4 – Sermon December 2, 2018

Philippians 2:1-4

Whenever there is disunity in the church, danger is on the horizon. Disunity is very seldom because of external forces or persecution, rather disunity comes because of a personal agenda by one or more persons in the body of the Christ. Disunity happens because we take our eyes off the primary mission of the church.

Paul was concerned about a lack of unity creeping into the Philippian church and he starts by writing, “if there is any encouragement – In Christ…” remember being in Christ is our position as Christians, this is our standing before God and being In Christ is one of the primary ways Paul describes what it means to be a Christian. This is our vertical resource, we experience encouragement because of communion with God through the Holy Spirit. This is the first and primary position for unity – are you In Christ?

Paul continues and says, “if there is any comfort from love…” When you come to know Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, your attitude changes towards other people. The fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22, the first one mentioned is Love, which is a natural outflow of a life controlled by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for love used here is a love that is governed by a willful decision to seek the highest good of the other individual.

Verse 1 continues, “any participation in the Spirit…” This is true fellowship that is more than simply sharing a meal together, this is unity because we are united by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we become followers of Jesus we are baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:13,

Verse 1 ends with, “any affection and sympathy”. The bottom line is that because of the tenderness, mercy and compassion that we have received from Christ, we should be displaying this to one another. To not have concern for others, is a very clear indication that a person is not in a right relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, what is the result of unity? In verse 2 we read that the first result of unity is joy. Paul was overjoyed by their response because he knew that as the Philippian church grew in unity, they would become more effective as a church, being used by God to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Paul was joyful because he knew that they would be like-minded. Unity is not a temporal goal, where we have a great meeting and then we experience some warm and fuzzies and then we hope to remain in unity. Not at all, we remain in unity, because the message of the Gospel is what binds us. We have a common message, we have the same Holy Spirit, thus we have unity.

This does not mean that we will never have disagreements. It is quite normal to expect differences of opinion on certain methods of church activity, but we never compromise on the essentials of our faith and the truth of the Word of God. And when we do have differences of opinion, the governing rule must be love, the preferential love that always seeks the highest good of others.

Verse 2 ends with two more descriptions of unity, “being in full accord and of one mind”.

These two descriptions are not simply tagged on by Paul, to be in full accord and of one mind means that the church knows their purpose and mission. At Grace Point we have the 4 pillars that we talk about; Worship, Word, Evangelism and Compassion, this is what we exist to do. The mission of the church always superseded our personal preferences, that is Holy Spirit unity.

As we come to verse 3, it seems that Paul really gets down to the heart of the matter, and he begins by launching into a list of things that they cannot do if they are to experience unity.

The first sin he attacks is selfish ambition, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit”, conceit is vain glory, this is the person who makes amazing claims about themselves and their ability, while at the same time putting others down (see Proverbs 27:2). Our culture teaches people to promote themselves, but this does little to create a platform for unity.

The verse continues, “but in Humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This is the culture of the Kingdom, Jesus put others first when he died on the cross for our sins. If we would display humility, we would see unity and love flourish in every relationship in our lives. Johnny Hunt said, “the Christian in right relationship with the Lord treats others as if they were his superiors” that is the key to this verse and the key to living as a part of the body of Christ (see Matthew 20:26-28).

In the final verse Paul explains humility, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” A follower of Jesus must be counter culture, they should stop looking at themselves, their comforts and their own self-interest and look out for the interest of others. This is the normal Christian life. Our social media culture has created a generation of people who only look at themselves. But the Kingdom of God tells us to look out for the interests of others, to have genuine concern for others, even promoting the interests of others (see John 13:35).

This is so much bigger than simply getting along in the church. This is spiritual warfare, we need to fight to prefer others, we need to wrestle with our flesh to look out for the interests of others.

Why is this spiritual warfare? Looking back to the original fall of Satan, his primary sin was pride. The sin of pride and self-seeking is the root of all sins. So, to walk in the opposite spirit of humility goes against the spirit of this world. But it is worth it, for the unity of the church and for the glory of God.

Sermon November 18, 2018 The Gift of Reconciliation

Text: Acts 17:22-31

In Acts 17 we read about Paul speaking to the people of Athens in the Areopagus, while he was on his second missionary journey. Seeing their many idols, Paul addresses them regarding their idol named for the “Unknown God”, and he proceeds to tell them about the God who created all things and sustains all things, the one true God.

In verse 26 he says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place”.

Paul made it clear to the Greeks that we are all descendants of one man. It is the lack of understanding of this fact that still creates untold pain and suffering in the world. God is the God of all people groups. The Greek word for nation that Paul uses is ethnos, that is people group and not national boundaries. In Genesis 1:27 we read that God created man and woman in His own image. That means that every human being is eternal and valuable because we are all created in the image of God. Every human being has an immortal soul in the image of God, everyone has a mind with unique reasoning abilities and everyone has the potential for a relationship with their creator God.

With that in mind, we must be so careful to avoid the sin of prejudice, we have no right to hate someone that Jesus died for, who was created uniquely in the image of God. Jesus came to the earth, he suffered and died to redeem people from every people group, and one day we will all sing together in his presence (see Revelation 5:9).

Then why is there so much hatred and strife in the world? The FBI recently announced that reported hate crimes in the United States increased by 17 percent in 2017. That marks the third consecutive year the number has gone up, and as you are well aware, it seems that our nation is becoming angrier and more divided every year. Hatred and racism is nothing new in the world, it has been around since the beginning of time. In 1 John 3:15 we read, Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Which begs the question, who is my brother? In Luke 10, the expert of the law asked Jesus this question, and Jesus tells a parable about a good Samaritan, that was so provocative at the time it must have made the Jews cringe. We are supposed to love all people groups, even those who despise and hate us. Because of what Jesus has done on the cross for us, we have no right to hate anyone else.

In this regard, sadly we know all too well that the church has been guilty of some of the worst racism. Christians today should be more aware than ever before that if we allow hate to remain in our hearts, it will eventually find its way out. Where all of this becomes most critical for Christians today is when we come to hate a culture that increasingly appears to hate us. We are told daily in our news media and culture, exactly who we are supposed to hate, but this is not a Biblical worldview.

As our culture turns further and further away from a Biblical worldview, we will find it harder and harder to love the lost the way Our Heavenly Father does. Do you have a love for the lost? Do you love those who hate you? That is tough. In a recent article, Anne Lamott wrote, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Hate is a real part of being human beings, but that does not make it less sinful, we hate because of sin in the world and because Satan has devised a way to divide humanity.

Here is a simple question to ask ourselves, “Does God hate the people you hate–or will you love the people he loves?” How you answer that question will go a long way toward determining your impact for the Kingdom of God and the culture today.

How do we see reconciliation in the nations? How is it possible for hatred to be overcome? It starts by realizing that as a human race, God has put a piece of His nature into all the various people groups, as we come together we see and experience more of the character of God.

At a recent conference I attended in Kosovo, Pastor Venco Nakov from Macedonia encouraged the attendees to pray for the nations on their borders. I was struck by this and wondered how often we as the American church pray for God to bless our neighbors? Pastor Venco said, “Blessing your neighbors doesn’t mean you don’t love your country, it means that you are more of a patriot than anyone else.” He went on to say that no one asks you where you would like to be born, rather God has chosen you and I to be born when and where He divinely appoints.

As Americans, God has chosen you and I to live in this land at this time, to be His representatives, to pray for peace, to bring reconciliation to point the way to Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel. May we be a people who are known for loving our neighbors irrespective of their race and national identity to the glory of God.