Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 2 Sermon October 7, 2018

Philippians 1:7-11

Are you still growing?  Physically we may stop growing, but we must never stop growing in our walk with the Lord

The Apostle Paul shared a special connection with the Christians in Philippi, and in verse 9, Paul writes that he is continually praying for them, but notice that Paul doesn’t pray for their prosperity, health, or protection from the Roman authorities, rather he prays for their spiritual growth (Philippians 1:9). We are frequently taught in the Bible that we experience God’s blessing as we advance and mature in our Christian walk (2 Peter 3:18).

Paul prays that their love may abound more and more, using the Greek word agape, which means the kind of love that seeks the highest good of the other person, preferring others over yourself. As a church community, we sometimes find that the little things that others do sometimes annoy us. One can list any number of things that cause frustration for each other in the church. But what it all boils down to is that we don’t love each other. When we take the time to get to know someone and really begin to love them, we find that those little things that create tension, don’t seem to bother us as much (1 Peter 4:8-9). Love for each other is a gift from God.

Paul continues in verse 9 and asks the Lord that they would grow in knowledge and discernment. Knowledge and discernment are what keep our relationships in community healthy, they are like the banks in a river that keep the water of our emotions from rushing outside of its boundaries.

Knowledge comes out of caring for each other. When we are frustrated with someone’s behavior, we quickly rush to judgment before we know all the facts. If we care enough to know, we will be able to use discernment and respond appropriately (1 John 4:7-8). The same applies in our relationship with the Lord, we must know God to love Him, and in the same way we must know God in order to love His children.

One of the key errors that many Christians make is when they attempt to have a Lord that they do not know. Knowledge is not simply an intellectual understanding, it is developed from a personal relationship, which only comes from spending time alone with God in personal times reading His word and hearing from Him, allowing Him to direct your life.

Discernment, like wisdom is the practical application of the knowledge we have. We are to be motivated and informed by love, but when we have all the facts presented to us, our love for each other is what drives our actions and our responses. Our church has many different cultures and ages represented, but in Christs church, the only dominant culture should be the culture of the Kingdom of God. If we are ever tempted to criticize someone because their behavior does not conform to our expectation, then we need to step back quickly and ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment to know the love of the Kingdom of God.

Paul begins verse ten with two words, “So that…” in light of his prayer he lists what are the criteria for a person of character. Excellence, purity, being blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness, all of these are Character traits of Holiness.

Excellence

The first characteristic of Holiness Paul lists is “approving what is excellent”, in other words, to test or to use discernment and focus on those things that really matter. Paul begins and ends this letter with the same exhortation (Philippians 4:8). As Christians we frequently settle for the good, when God offers us the excellent. We settle for coming to church on a Sunday twice a month, and barely spend 5 minutes each day in reading God’s word. But God offers us something excellent, not just in our relationship with Him, but also in our relationships with each other as we grow together in the church community.

Purity

The next character trait is purity. As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be people who don’t hide our imperfections, but rather we are sincere and honest in our interactions with people. How do we discover the imperfections in our lives? By allowing God’s word to penetrate deep into our hearts and bring about the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139).

Blameless

Paul prays that they would be blameless for the day of Christ. Now we know that as believers when it comes to the final judgment day, we are declared righteous because of the blood of Jesus, but that does not mean we can live as we please. We need to be people living with excellence, striving for purity and making daily decisions that would keep us blameless before our fellow man. To be blameless is to live as one who gives no offense to others, this is our outward witness, the character trait that people see in our lives (Titus 2:7-8).

Finally, in verse 11, we read that Paul prayed for the church to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

In Galatians 5:22-23, we read about the fruit of the Spirit, but what are the fruit of righteousness?

The fruit of the Spirit are primarily internal fruit, heart attitudes and thought patterns governed by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But the fruit of righteousness are outward displays of God’s presence in our lives. The fruit of righteousness come from our abiding in Christ (John 15).

The process of producing fruit is all about allowing Jesus to produce the fruit through us to the glory and praise of God alone.

Here are some examples of the fruit of righteousness.

  •  Evangelism – proverbs 11:30
  • Service – Colossians 1:10
  • Holiness – Romans 6:22

There are many more examples of the Fruit of Righteousness which all come from living in Christ, to the glory of God the Father (Matthew 5:16)

Are you growing in your walk with the Lord?

Are you living a life of excellence, purity, so that you can be blameless and produce much fruit through Jesus Christ to the glory of God?

Sermon April 29, 2018 Faith and Holiness

Galatians 3:1-14

In Galatians 3, Paul writing to the young church is extremely harsh in his letter. In the first 5 verses, it seems that Paul is interrogating them, as he asks them a series of rhetorical questions. Twice in the first three verses he calls them fools. False teachers had come into the church, teaching that in order to be saved the needed to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law in addition to their belief in Jesus. Why is Paul so harsh in his approach? I believe it is because Paul knows that eternity is at stake, he knows that the false teachers are not simply trying to add to their religious activity, these false teachers have been sent by Satan to destroy the church.

By asking these rhetorical questions Paul makes very clear that it is illogical for these Galatians to try to add to their Christian experience by adding works of the law (ch3:2). The key argument he makes is whether they received the Holy Spirit of God by the law or by faith? Three times in those first 5 verses he implies that they received the Holy Spirit only because of faith and not because of obedience to the law.

When you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you cannot add anything to your salvation by following a set of rules or regulations. The Holy Spirit which we receive when we make Jesus Lord of our lives, completes us. It is by the Spirit of God that miracles are done, it is by the Holy Spirit that we can communicate with God (1 Peter 1:3).

As a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ, you have everything you need because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the next few verses of Galatians 3, Paul refers to Abraham five times. What makes Abraham so significant to the issue of false teachers? The key is verse 6, just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Verse 6 is the continuation of the rhetorical question he began in verse 5, where he quotes Genesis 15:6.

Abraham simply believed God, he obeyed God and left his father’s home in Genesis 12, and in return God gave him great promises about being a blessing to the nations. Abraham knew that he would never see his home again, he would never see his father again, but he went in faith and obedience.

Abraham was promised many descendants by God, and God tests him once again to see if he would sacrifice the son of the promise. Abraham obeyed God and Isaac is miraculously spared.

Abraham was a man of incredible faith, but how did he become such a man of faith?

In Hebrews chapter 11, Abraham gets eight verses recognizing his faith. The key to faith is found in Hebrews 11:6, faith begins with knowing God. Faith, as a gift from God grows in us as we grow in our relationship with God.

The Gospel message, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is only good news if it is received by faith. The Gospel is not an academic pursuit or a following of the law, rather it is a celebration of faith in the provision of salvation through Jesus.

The key difference between faith and the law is relationship. Obedience to the law does not require relationship. Many people obey a set of rules, but they have no relationship with God and therefore they have no faith (Galatians 3:11). Many law abiding people will be in hell, because they chose to obey the law when a relationship was offered to them. The narrow road that Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13 is narrow because it is so hard for people trapped in humanism to walk by faith.

We have the ongoing challenge between law and relationship in our church on a weekly basis.

My mother’s generation would say, “you have to go to church”. A good principle but without relationship it is mere legalism.

We have seen this over and over throughout the generations, we force our children to go to church each Sunday, assuming the church will save them. But we don’t teach our children to love Jesus, and as soon as they can they leave the church because they do not see and encounter the living God. Our default condition is legalism, we think if we put enough rules around people they will turn out alright. However, if we invite them into a growing relationship with the living God, then and only then will they experience life change (John 14:15).

Notice Jesus didn’t say, obey my commands and then you will love me. No, the obedience is as a response to our love for Jesus, obedience is a direct response to our relationship with the living God.

What about tithing? We tithe ten percent of our income to the Lord as an act of worship, recognizing the reality of our relationship with God.

In Malachi 3:8-10 we read a challenging prophecy from God on giving to the Lord, which at first glance seems legalistic, but look a little deeper at verse 10, “and thereby put me to the test”. We test someone to learn something about them. Our children test us all the time, pushing the boundaries and testing our patience, why? It is natural for children to test their parents, because deep down there is one fundamental question every child wants to know, “do you love me?”.

There is no where else in the Bible where God invites us to test him. God is calling His people to a relationship with Him. He invites us to test him in the area of giving, for us to learn that He is able to provide. But not only is God able to provide, He is a good Father, a perfect Heavenly Father who we will only get to know as we grow in our faith.

Don’t regard faith as an academic pursuit, live a life of faith, and you will grow in your relationship with God.