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

Philippians 3:12-14

click the picture below to watch the video of the sermon

 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 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.