Biblical Guidelines for the Deacon Ministry at Kitwe Church


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I Timothy 3:8-13

The church is a living organism. The church is the body of Christ in whom the Spirit of the living God dwells! In the life of every organism there are growing pains, we welcome them because the goal of every living organism is growth.

The character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the quality of its leadership. People do not usually rise above their leaders! It has been said that ‘everything rises and falls on leadership.’  Failure to adhere to biblical standards for appointing those to serve the church has caused many of the problems in the church today.

In 1 Timothy Paul is writing to Timothy the young pastor at the church of Ephesus. Problems had arisen in this church because men who were unqualified had found their way into church leadership (1:3, 4:1-3). Some were women (2:12) others were guilty of sin and needed public rebuke (5:20). (Acts 20:29-30).

Paul is giving instructions for the local Church at Ephesus, instructions that apply to our church, Kitwe Church.

In the New Testament there are only two offices in the Church the office of Elder (v.1-7); and the office of Deacon (v.8-13)

The Office of Elder there are three terms used interchangeably for the same office:

  • Bishop – gr. Episkopos = Overseer, responsible for the spiritual well-being of the church (Phil 1:1, Titus 1:7)
  • Elder – gr. Presbuteros = Authority, to teach and rule (I Tim 5:17, Titus 1:5,7)
  • Pastor – gr. Poimen = Shepherd, to lead, guide, provide (I Pt 5:2, Acts 20:28)

The Office of Deacon – Deacon (gr. Diakonos) means minister, emphasizes the attitude of a servant. (12) A deacon is a servant – He is not in a position of authority, decision maker, preacher or teacher.

The Biblical qualification for deacons is found following that of the pastor. This shows the organizational structure of the New Testament church to be pastoral leadership through the support of faithful deacons.

For this reason deacons, as well as pastors, must meet certain qualifications before they can be allowed to serve in a position. In Acts 6 the qualifications were given in general to be “of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.”  In I Timothy 3 the qualifications are given in a specific way: “Deacons likewise must be:”

THE NEED FOR DEACONS

Our church is growing and there are genuine needs in the congregation that need to be met. The elders need help so that they can fulfill their primary role to lead in the spiritual life of the Church and to teach the Word of God.  To carry out this the pastors need time to prepare, time to meet with people to share the gospel, disciple, counsel, preach and teach. (Acts 6:1,4)

QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS

  1. He is dignified (8): – The term means: “serious, devout, honorable, and dignified; one who acts in a mature and tactful fashion.” This term normally refers to something that is honorable, respectable, esteemed, or worthy, and is closely related to “respectable,” which is given as a qualification for elders (1 Tim. 3:2).
  2. He is not Double Tongued (8): Those who are double-tongued say one thing to certain people but then say something else to others, or say one thing but mean another. They are two-faced and insincere. Their words cannot be trusted, so they lack credibility. (Prov. 8:7,12:22; Jas.5:12)
  3. He is not addicted to much wine (8): – This means that he is not to come under the influence. A man is disqualified for the office of deacon if he is addicted to wine or other strong drink. Such a person lacks the self-control and discipline to serve a deacon. Not given to excesses, a state of mind which is free from the excessive indulgence of passion, lust, or emotion. He is able to keep his head in all situations. Doesn’t loose his temper, and control of his tongue. William Hendriksen comments, “Such a person lives deeply. His pleasures are not primarily those of the senses, like the pleasures of a drunkard for instance, but those of the soul. He is filled with spiritual and moral earnestness. He is not given to excess, but is moderate, well-balanced, calm, careful, steady, and sane. This pertains to his physical, moral, and mental tastes and habits.”  At Kitwe Church we ask those serving as deacons to voluntarily abstain from beverage alcohol.
  4. He is not Greedy For Money (8): – There is to be no dishonesty in the getting of gain. This applies to unethical business practices, tax evasion, gambling, bribes, extortion, and covetousness. The servant’s attitude is to be “How can I meet the needs of others?” rather than “How can I get others to meet mine?” If a person is a lover of money, he is not qualified to be a deacon, especially since deacons often handle financial matters for the church. (1 Ti. 6:10; Ro.13:9)
  5. He is a man sound in faith and life (9): Paul also indicates that a deacon must “hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” The phrase “the mystery of the faith” is simply one way Paul speaks of the gospel (cf. 1 Tim. 3:16). Consequently, this statement refers to the need for deacons to hold firm to the true gospel without wavering.
    Yet this qualification does not merely involve one’s beliefs, for he must also hold these beliefs “with a clear conscience.” That is, the behavior of a deacon must be consistent with his beliefs. This would imply that he has first the absolute assurance of his own salvation, and that he is not ashamed to let others know that he is a Christian and seeks to win others to Christ.
  6. He must be blameless (v. 10): “Blameless” is a general term referring to a person’s overall character. There is nothing to accuse him of. If a malicious charge were to be made, to know his character would make the charge absolutely unbelievable. He is an example for the congregation to follow. (Phil. 3:17)
    Although Paul does not specify what type of testing is to take place, at a minimum, the candidate’s personal background, reputation, and theological positions should be examined. Moreover, the congregation should not only examine a potential deacon’s moral, spiritual, and doctrinal maturity, but should also consider the person’s track record of service in the church.
  7. He is the husband of one wife (v. 12): The literal meaning here is “a one-woman man.” There must be no other woman in his life to whom he relates in an intimate way either emotionally or physically. This would prohibit someone from serving as a deacon who was a polygamist or divorced.  It is also clear that the office of Deacon is reserved for men.
  8. He manages children and household well (12): A deacon must be the spiritual leader of his wife and children. Children are not perfect, but they are disciplined and respectful, according to the admonition of Ephesians 6:1,2; and his wife is submissive according to Ephesians 5:22-24.
  9. His wife is a godly woman (11) She must be “faithful in all things” (cf. 1 Tim. 5:10).
  10. Reverent – dignified or respectable.

    Not Slanderers – If you care for others you control the tongue, this means the deacon’s wife does not engage in destructive criticism of others or go around spreading gossip. Such action is so contrary to the ministry of caring for others that a man is disqualified from being a deacon if his wife has this attitude.

    Temperate – The term temperate means “not intoxicated, circumspect, and discreet.” She must be able to make good judgments and must not be involved in things that might hinder such judgment.

    Faithful – This is a general requirement which functions similarly to the requirement for elders to be “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) and for deacons to be “blameless” (1 Tim. 3:10). The wife of a deacon has a very important ministry. She must be loyal and dependable.

THE DUTIES OF DEACONS

Let’s be very clear, the biblical role of Deacon is not the role of spiritual teacher in the church.  There is no qualification listed that requires a deacon to be gifted in teaching the Word of God.

The office of Deacon is that of a servant. The tasks of the deacons is anything NOT related to the teaching and shepherding of the church. Deacons are charged with the physical & temporal concerns of the church, and the duties will vary from one congregation to another depending upon the needs.  Some possible examples of duties that may be attended to by a Deacon:

  • Facilities
  • Benevolence – visit the sick, dispense aid
  • Finances
  • Ushers
  • Logistics
  • Any other task that serves the church and frees the hands of the elders to focus on preaching, teaching, preparing, and praying.

CONCLUSION:

The Scriptural qualifications in this text conclude with a promised benefit:

“They that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

The meaning of good degree is “a stair or step up.” Most people would consider the position of servant to be a step down, but the priorities of God’s kingdom is different!  Jesus taught His disciples that those who are great in God’s estimation are those who serve.  He taught them that the way up is to go down, and that the last shall be first.  The office of deacon demonstrates the priorities of God’s kingdom!

A man will increase in faith by having served as a deacon. As God performs His work through the deacon, his confidence will increase in God’s ability to work through him.

Lest we think that God only requires these character qualities of Deacons, remember, God does not have a double standard he requires all disciples to live blameless lives.

In Desperate Pursuit of a Transformed Life


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As you know we recently returned from a visit back to America to present updates to our supporting churches.  This time was extremely valuable because it was a time for reflection on my life.  I saw what I was doing well and saw areas where I was worn out:  Mental stress, physical Health, Spiritual Stamina, and marital harmony. I knew that for the sake of us being able to liv and minister here in Zambia long-term there had a to be a change.  The more I reflected the deeper I saw that the issues ran.  I realized it was beyond my capability to fix it myself.  The more I evaluated it the more desperate I became to find the solution – to transform what was an area of concern into an area of joy and peace.

You know, every week as I greet people at Kitwe Church I’m always impressed by the reason’s I hear that people have come to church.  It isn’t merely a tradition or a habit.  There is a genuine desire in people’s hearts to know more, to be more, to experience God more.  This is awesome.  However, even with good motives like that it is easy to stop short of experiencing a true spiritual breakthrough.  You see, it isn’t enough to want to be an improved you, a better you, an inspired you, a respectable you.  No, what we all need is a truly transformed life. We need to not stop at just being religious or moral and instead go all the way and be committed to becoming a transformed you. (caterpillar & butterfly)

As I look around this room I see people very much like me even though we may be from very different locations and cultures.  I see people who face the same stresses and struggles and want to experience peace and joy.  I see people who are doing their very best and yet probably often feel like they are coming up short and the harder you try the farther out of reach that goal may seem.

Today, we are going to look at a woman who demonstrates what it means to pursue transformation in her life  – with desperate determination.  Let’s read Mark 5:25-34 and as you are turning there, let me tell you some important things about the context of this passage because if you don’t see what leads up to this event and what results from it.

In verse 22 Jesus came across the sea and a very important ruler of the synagogue names Jairus comes to him and asks Jesus to heal his daughter.  Synagogues were like churches to the Jews.  There was a temple in Jerusalem, which was the center of their worship, but in other cities and towns there was a synagogue where people could go to study the Old Testament Law and worship Jehovah.  The ruler of the synagogue was in charge of organizing and teaching the services there.  Usually, the ruler was a Pharisee and most of the Pharisees hated Jesus and felt that He was a threat to their power and position.

Well, it is within this story of the synagogue official that this woman shows up and we can learn so much from her experience.  The main idea I hope you leave here with today is this…

BIG IDEA: The dilemmas of our lives create a desperate desire for total life transformation that only Jesus can produce but that we must pursue with passion.

Now, let’s read and see what happens  (Read Mark 5:25-34).

So, this woman had problems! Problems that are very similar to yours and mine.  Let’s see what we can learn from this woman’s life.

  1. 1. Our Problems Are Interconnected and Far-Reaching in Extent v. 25-26
  • ¥ Physical Issues – bleeding for 12 years (as long as Lorelei has been alive).  You get physically weak from losing blood. Anemic
  • ¥ Financial Issues – vs. 26 says she spent all she had for medical treatments.  So she is a very poor woman who is in poor health.
  • ¥ Social Issues – In this day, when you shed blood you were viewed as unclean.  You were cut off from family, friends, and society.  According to OT law (Leviticus 15: 19-23, 25-28) anyone you touch while bleeding becomes unclean with you.  No one wanted that, so she was an outcast of society… for 12 years.  She couldn’t go into the temple section reserved for women.  She couldn’t go into public without making people aware of her condition.  I can’t imagine being cut off from society for that long!
  • ¥ Mental Issues – All of these other issues will mess with your mind.  They produce stress!  Who lives with no money and isn’t depressed? Who has sickness for 12 years and doesn’t get discouraged? Who faces social problems of being an outcast and isn’t affected emotionally?
  • ¥ Spiritual Issues – All of those issues lead to a huge problem.  Where is God when day after day, month after month, year after year everything goes wrong?  You know, we expect to go through problems every once in a while, but it is bad when your whole life is a problem.

Have you ever met such a person?  You see them coming and you go the other way because you know wherever they go, problems follow?  Well, that was this woman!  Her entire life was a mess.

Is there anyone here with problems today?  Of course there are.

2.  Dealing with Problems Often leads to a Dilemma v. 27

A dilemma is a situation where someone has to choose between two or more possible actions, either of which will bring difficulties.  So let’s learn from this woman’s experience.  We have seen the extent of her problems, but now let’s examine her dilemma.  She has a choice to make.  Here are her options:

First, she can choose to just give up on ever overcoming her problems. She could decide to just live with all these issues until the day she dies.  Now that is hopeless.  Maybe some of you have settled for that option in your life.

Second, she could choose to keep trying to find her own solutions like she had done for the past 12 years, but now she has no money so that doesn’t seem to be a good option.   Perhaps that is where some of you are with your problems.  That seems to be the default setting for many of us.  Just work harder.  Make a way!

Third, she could risk the public ridicule and venture out into public to be healed by Jesus.  This is a big risk for her.  Jesus is always in public.  She will never be able to find him in private.  She has to go out to find him knowing that others will look her at in judgmental ways because she is an outcast.  Perhaps, some of you risked ridicule from your family or friends just to come here today.  You came hoping to find answers at church, but people may mock you at work this week if they hear that you went to church.

Well, those were the options for this woman. Can you imagine her fears?  What if people won’t let her get near Jesus?  What if they cast her out of their presence as an unclean person?  What if Jesus treats her that way?  What if Jesus refuses to heal her?  What if Jesus is unable to heal her? Surely, she faced all these fears because she was in a spiritual battle that Satan did not want her to win.  What a dilemma. So what did she do?  She chose option 3.  She went to JESUS!

3.Desperation leads to Determination to Surrender to Jesus so He can Overcome Our Problems v. 27-28

This woman was determined to overcome her problems.  She faced her fears and headed into public.  She was probably hoping that when she found Jesus in the crowd that perhaps she could at least come to him quietly when things were calm. Can you imagine how disappointed she was to find Jesus right in the middle of a major community event?

He is helping Jairus, the rich, influential, religious, popular leader of the synagogue.  The Bible said that the crowd pressed in on Jesus at this point because everyone wanted to see what was going to happen at the house of the Big Bwana.  They all wanted to see what Jesus would do for this important man.  That is the scene that this woman discovers when she comes to Jesus for help.

She could have given up right there.  She could have turned and gone home.  She could have thought, who am I to interfere with all this.

Notice the distinctions between this woman and this man.

We know the man’s name – He is Jairus, but this woman is a nobody.  Even up to this very day we do not know her name.

This man had money, the woman had none.  This man was popular, this woman was an outcast.

So, this nobody comes to Jesus while he is on His way to help a somebody and now this woman’s blessing gets in the way of another person’s blessing.

Wow!  She was brave!  She was determined.  But really, what did she have to lose?  When you’ve tried all the doctors in town, when you’ve spent all your money, and no one will talk to you because you are ceremonially unclean it is not a bad idea to try Jesus.  I mean, when you have tried everything else and nothing else has worked, perhaps that is a hint that it is time to turn to Jesus.  No, perhaps that is where you should have started to begin with.

So here she is.  It is a turning point for her and she decides to go through with her plan, but notice how she does it.  She sees the crowd and thinks, maybe I can just blend in and no one will see me.  She came up behind Jesus.  Why?  Because she didn’t want to be seen.  She is unclean, she doesn’t want anyone to know she is there and cry out “Unclean, Unclean” as they point to her and the crowd disperses with judgment in their eyes and anger that she may have “infected” them with her uncleanness.  Perhaps this is one of her bleeding days and it could be an embarrassing moment if someone discovered her.  So, she is embarrassed, timid, and cautious.

So, she sneaks up behind him and the text tells us that she wants to touch his coat.  Why? Why would she touch his coat?  How it that going to help her?  You would think she would want to touch Jesus, not his coat. But the text tells us why.  She is thinking in her mind, “if I touch his garment I will be made clean.”  Why?  Well, actually there is some serious theological significance here.

You see, this story is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and each one gives us a slightly different perspective with details that the others might not give so as serious students of the Bible we need to compare them all – to harmonize the gospels.  When we do that we find an interesting detail.  In Luke 8: 44 we see that she didn’t want to just touch the coat, she wanted to touch the hem of this coat. You see, it was a full body length coat.  This garment went from his shoulders all the way to the ground.  There is theological significance here.

First, to touch the hem of anything, you have to get low.  She had to get on her knees.  She came in humility.  She had had to get low to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.

Second, according to the Jewish law as seen in Numbers chapter 14, the men were supposed to wear 4 tassels on the hem of their garments.  There were 2 tassels in the front and 2 in the back.  They were little extensions on the four corners of the garment.  Why did God tell the man to have their clothes made with such tassels?  It was theological!  This is stuff that you and I would never know without some serious study, but every Jewish person knew this from the training they got in their temples and synagogues at age 13.  When a Jewish person saw these tassels it was to remind them that they were a part of the covenant community of God that lives under the commandments of God. The tassels were a visible reminder that you don’t belong to you – you belong to God!  In other words, the hem of the garment was a theological reminder that you are my covenant people who live by virtue of my commandments. This Jewish woman knew these details well

Now, let’s see how this connects to this woman’s situation.  The text tells us that when she had lost everything – health, money, friends, family, emotional stability – she still had one thing.  She still had God.  So she said, let me get to that hem!

She believed that since the hem is God’s Commandment based on God’s Covenant and since God said in His covenant that if you come to me based on my commandments I will heal your sickness. She would come to Him in faith.  She believed that if she came to God based on his covenant that He would take the curse and flip it around to turn it into a blessing. She thinks, my whole life is a mess, but I believe that if I can get that close to Jesus, He can turn my life around.

Now, there is something else we need to think about.  How many Jewish men were in the crowd?  Many!!! They all had those 4 tassels on their robes as well. Why didn’t she just touch one of them?  No, she wanted to touch Jesus’ garment.  Why?  She knew who Jesus was!  (Read John 1:1 –  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word Was God). One of the names for Jesus found in the Bible is the Word of God.  He is the Living Word.  Nowe, She understood that the tassel represented the written Word of God (The Bible) and she understood that Jesus was the Living Word of God (John 1:1).  So, she thought, “If I can ever get the written word of God and the Living Word of God together at the same time I have everything I need for a totally transformed life.  Wow!  She was right.  The tassels represented the Covenant = the Bible = written word of God and the coat was on Jesus, the living word.  That was the whole word live and able to transform the whole situation.

And you know what, that same principle applies to use today.  Whenever you get this word (the Bible) and that Word (Jesus) you will have every word you need to face any situation.

So, let’s look at what the woman does.  She touches Jesus, despite the fact that Leviticus 15 says that if you have an issue of blood you should not touch anyone or you will make them unclean.  She defied the Jewish law!  That would be like a Zambian disregarding a sacred tribal tradition during a serious event like the birth of a child or death of a loved one.  This is a big deal!

Can you imagine what Jairus and the others must have thought?  How dare this woman bring her unclean self to the pure Son of God! How dare she defile him and trample on the OT law?  What made her think she could do such a thing?

It’s quite simple really.  She understood that in Jesus Christ, grace is greater than law!  She understood that law came by Moses, but grace came by Jesus.  The law said don’t touch, but Jesus said, “Come to me all who are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”  Jesus is greater than the law!

So, in an act of faith, the dirty, contaminated, poor, lonely, and anonymous woman touches Jesus.  She said, I believe He will heal me and as proof that I believe, I am going to get it.

4. God is Able to Deliver Us from Every Problem in this Sin-Cursed World v. 29 – 34

God does not always choose to remove all troubles in our lives, but He most certainly can and sometimes does.  If he leaves problems in our lives it is only because he still wants to teach us more through that problem.  The Apostle Paul would later discover this when he would pray for a problem that he called a “thorn in the flesh” to be removed.  God could have removed it, but said no.  My grace is sufficient for you, but that problem will remain.

However, In verse 29 we see that it was a different case for this women.  Here we are told “immediately the flow of her blood dried up.  What does that mean?  It means that it was actually flowing on this day! Talk about an embarrassing situation.  No wonder she went up behind him.

Now we see she immediately gets 2 blessings at once.

First, there was physical healing.  Her immediate problem was solved.  The bleeding stopped.

Second, her permanent problem was solved.  She felt in her body that her affliction – the cause of her bleeding – was healed.

How did she know she was healed?  There was this inner confirmation, an inner peace, that not only did Jesus dry you up, but he fixed you up.  This inner sense comes from the Holy Spirit. It is a peace that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will have in the times of your problems as well.

Now let’s notice as Jesus enters the picture.  He senses that something happened.  Someone stole something from Him.  Someone snatched some power from him.  So Jesus asks a question.

Now, I know you already know this, but let’s just remind ourselves that when Jesus asks a question in the Bible it is not because he is looking for answers that he is unaware of.  Jesus never asks a question to find out new information that he didn’t already know.  He would only ask questions to draw out a truth.  And he wants to teach an important lesson to this crowd right now.

He said, “Who touched me?”  Now, His disciples made themselves look foolish.  They should have known what Jesus was up to by this point in his ministry, but instead they say, “Look at this crowd around you.  How can you ask a question like who touched me?”  The better question might be “Who has not touched you?”

Now, here is an important life lesson.  Being part of the crowd, doesn’t mean that you are touching Jesus.  Just hanging on for the ride doesn’t mean you are touching Jesus.  You can be pressed near Jesus without touching him.  It says there was a multitude of people around him, but Jesus only felt one touch. These people thought numbers of people meant access to God, but just because you are in the vicinity of Jesus doesn’t mean you are getting the power from Jesus to deal with the issues of your life.  Too many churches are filled with a crowd, but no one is actually touching Jesus.  They might be talking about him, singing about him, but never experiencing a relationship with him that makes a difference in their life.

The question I have for you this morning is not, are you part of the crowd, bur are you the one at the hem of the garment because that is where the power is.  Are you kneeling humbly at the feet of Jesus today ready for him to change your life?

Well, the Bible says that Jesus looked to see the woman who touched him.  He knew who she was.  He didn’t have to search for her.  He knew where she was.

She was scared to death.  She came to him trembling!  Was her fear of humiliation about to happen?  She knew who Jesus was.  She recognized that she was in the presence of greatness.  Sadly, I’m afraid that we have many people coming to churches all over the world, week after week and they don’t know who they are dealing with.  I’m afraid that a lot of people who show up don’t know who they’re “worshipping.”  Jesus Christ is not some superman.  He is the eternal Son of God who is here to declare the purpose and the power of God to the people of God who are willing to stoop down and touch the hem of his garment.

So, this woman, scared to death comes trembling before Jesus and admits that she touched him.  She comes before him in spirit and in truth and she worships him.

Now we see why Jesus asked who touched him.  There are 4 clear reasons.

  1. 1. God never gives a blessing for which He does not want the glory.  He wanted an expression of gratitude.
  1. 2. He is not done blessing her yet.  She started this day as a nobody.  Now she is called “Daughter”.  When God touchs you, you know that you aren’t a nobody anymore.  He didn’t call Jairus, “Son,” but her calls her “daughter.”  Jesus doesn’t just know her by name, but also by relationship.   He calls her up in public and in doing so he changed her reputation in an instant.  She is no longer an outcast!
  1. 3. Now he wants to confirm a spiritual blessing.  He tells her to go in peace.  The Jewish word for peace is “Shalom.” It means to have a well-ordered life.  She started this day with her life being  a mess, now Jesus told her to go live a well ordered life.  He was going to fix her whole life, not just her health.  How?  Through spiritual salvation – the greek word in vs. 34 for “made you well” can mean both “heal” and “save.”  This day was not just the day of physical healing for her.  This was her day of being spiritually born again.  Jesus didn’t come just to heal the sick.  He came to seek and to save the lost.  Today, she had been found!

You see, Jesus asked who touched him so he could get all this out in the open so he could do the other things he also wanted to do for her and for others.

But Jesus isn’t done yet.  He still wants to reveal Himself more to the crowd. Remember how this all started.  Jesus is on the way to the house of Jairus to heal his daughter.  That brings us to our last point.

4.  When God is praised for blessing one of us it strengthens the faith of others who are desperate for transformation v. 35-43 (read)

Now, while Jesus is still speaking, the servants come and say to Jairus, your daughter has died.

Can you imagine the emotions that Jairus must have been feeling?  Most people would have responded with anger!  They would say, “Wait a minute Jesus.  I came to you first and now this outcast came up and you had to stop and talk to her.  If you would have just come with me, my daughter would be healed. But, instead you gave her a blessing and it caused me to miss out on mine.  While you helped her, my daughter died.”

You know, there are many of us who act that way.  God, why are you giving that person the job I wanted?  Why does that woman get a husband while I am still single?  Why can that woman get pregnant while I am still barren? Why does everyone else get the blessing while you leave me to suffer and things just seem to be getting worse?

Many of us struggle with thoughts like that, but not Jairus.  When he saw what Jesus did for the other woman his faith increased.  The same God that took care of that woman is capable of healing my daughter or even raising her from that dead! Do you see the power of a testimony?  This woman’s testimony increased the faith of a religious leader.

That is why it is so important to share a testimony. Others need to hear what God did for you so that their faith will be increased to know that God can meet their needs too.

Even when things seem worse, God is able – so keep believing.  Jesus may delay your blessing to help another person but he hasn’t forgotten you.  No, in this story, Jesus took his time so he could do the greater miracle.  After all, It is a greater miracle to raise a dead daughter than to heal a sick daughter.  God will do miracles in the lives of others, not to leave you out of it, but to prepare you for even greater things.

Some of you wonder why God is blessing everyone else but he hasn’t gotten to your house yet.  Don’t give up on Jesus Christ just because he hasn’t arrived yet.  He has something greater in store for you.  You just make sure you are where the woman was – at the hem of his garment.

You make sure that you are hanging on to the written word and the living Word because he is able to exceedingly, abundantly above all that you ask or imagine.

So, today we have seen that the dilemmas of our lives create a desperate desire for total life transformation that only Jesus can produce but that we must pursue with passion.

We are all here because we want to grow – to improve.  What if we begin to want the Healer more than the healing, the Deliverer more than the delivering, the Giver more than the giving?  What if we want God more than they wanted anything?  That is when transformation can really happen.

Are you ready to be transformed?  You can’t be satisfied with being a better “caterpillar you”.  You must submit to the process of God to make you the new “butterfly” you.

Download this message HERE

Would you like to discuss this?  Contact Pastor Jamie Smith at  zambiasmith@gmail.com

Standing Firm: Resolving Conflict As Kingdom Citizens


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On January 30th, 1945, Company B, 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry was attacked by a superior German force outside the city of Holdwihr, France.  Six tanks and 250 German infantry advanced on about 100 American soldiers.  The American force took heavy casualties, and First Lt. Audie Murphy ordered his troops to retreat to the nearby forest and take cover.  Murphy stood between his retreating troops and the German advance and emptied his machine gun.  Looking over he saw a 50 calibre machine gun on a burning tank, quickly he ran and jumped behind the 50 calibre and for the next hour laid down a withering barrage of fire that eventually pushed back the German advance.  For this heroic act, Audie Murphy was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest award for bravery.

Audie Murphy is remembered today, because in the face of overwhelming odds! In the midst of conflict he stood firm!

As we come to our text in Philippians 4:1-3, the church at Philippi is also under attack!  The church has three enemies: The world, the flesh and the devil himself.  We see throughout Paul’s letter the attack that this church is facing:

  • 1:28-30 – Persecution agains the church.
  • 2:2 – Disunity in the congregation
  • 3:18 – False teachers had slipped into the church.
  • 4:2-3 – And now there is a dispute between sisters in Christ that threatens the unity of the church!

Paul calls on the Philippians to Stand Firm in the middle of this spiritual warfare that raged around them and for them (I Cor 16:13, Eph. 6:11,13,14)!

Spiritual instability is a threat to every Christian because it leads to disappointment, doubt, discouragement and ineffective witness! This is a very real danger in Philippi and this is a very real danger here at Kitwe Church!

“Therefore” – Because we are citizens of heaven, pursuing Christlikeness we must Stand Firm!

Stand Firm!

  • Because you are a citizen of heaven (3:20)
  • Because He is coming back for His citizens (3:21)
  • Because His citizens should think like Christ – share the values of the Kingdom! (2:2,5)

So what does it look like to Stand Firm spiritually? Where do we find the power to Stand Firm in troubled times?

That is exactly what Paul is addressing in 4:1-9: “So stand fast in the Lord, Beloved.”   He exhorts believers to Stand Firm in the Lord:

  1. By living in harmony with your brothers and sisters in the Lord (2-3)
  2. By finding your joy in the Lord regardless of the present circumstances (4)
  3. By controlling your power to serve others – gentleness (5)
  4. By remembering that the Lord is always present (5b-6)
  5. By casting your burdens on the Lord with a thankful heart (6b)
  6. By guarding your mind with the peace of God (7)
  7. By saturating your mind with truth (2,8)

We will look at each of these seven instructions in the next couple of weeks, but today we want to focus in on the first one!  If we are to Stand Firm we must live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in the Lord!

THE PROBLEM of CONFLICT

Conflict happens among good people!

The identity of the people involved – Euodia & Syntche.

  • These ladies were church members, not outsiders. They were both serious Christians, they were sisters in Christ.
  • These ladies were not in conflict over a doctrinal matter or Paul would have corrected it and rebuked the one in error.
  • These ladies were prominent and well respected in the congregation.
  • Paul loved them both dearly – see his terms of endearment!
  • They both have faithfully served God
  • They both have been partners with Paul in gospel ministry.

Conflict is rooted in unbelief!

Conflict is rooted in a system of wrong beliefs. We assume that what we want is what we need and that it is up to us to defeat those who oppose us! This thinking is based on fear – but Apostle John tells us that “perfect love casts out fear!” (1Jn.4:18)

Conflict is fueled by pride. I read of a collision between two passenger ships in the Black Sea. In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like radar malfunction—or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.

Conflict has damaging implications!

When faced with conflict there are two basic types of responses: Attack or Avoid!  When bullets fly and bombs explode there is a lot of damage that must be cleaned up when the conflict is over. After the Iraq war the US spent over $60b in reconstruction, and still the people do not have adequate services.

When you are embroiled in conflict with a brother or sister in Christ:

  • It says that some difference of opinion or some wrong done to you is more important to you than the advance of the gospel (1:12).
  • It destroys your testimony of being controlled by the love of God (Jn. 13:35).
    3. It beings disrepute on the church of Jesus Christ before a watching world (1 Cor. 6:6).
    4. It is a tool Satan can use to divide the church as people take sides in the dispute. Don’t let Satan get access to the amazing thing that God is doing among us! (2 Cor. 2:10-11)

Some of you have ancient arguments and hurts with others in this town or in this church. Old hurts, unresolved sins or wrongs and now you are a growing Christian, and God says, “STOP IT!” Humble yourself and make things right because the gospel is at stake! This is what citizens of the kingdom do, they reconcile.

How much worse is the damage of the conflict when it is Sister Euodia this side and Sister Syntyche on this other side! You must remember:

  • God is completing His good work in you! (1:6)
  • Your love is to be overflowing more and more! (1:9)
  • You are to conduct yourselves in a manner consistent with the gospel that saved you! Forgiveness & Forgiving!
  • Follow the example of Christ in your humble self-sacrifice obedience – you walk in unity with other Christians not for their sake, but for Christ’s sake! (2:8)
  • Your enemy is not your sister (or your brother) Your enemy is false teaching! Keep your eye on the ball!

THE SOLUTION to CONFLICT

The Plea

Agree with one another – reconcile with each other.

Forgiveness focuses on the offense, reconciliation focuses on the relationship! 100% restoration to harmony!

Forgiveness takes place in an instant, reconciliation takes time and effort to restore the broken relationship.

The basis for agreement – in the Lord! Our biggest need is to get right with the LORD – then we will be right with one another!

Get along with one another – don’t be proud! (Ro. 12:16-18). Work at getting along with everyone. Live in harmony (1 Cor. 1:10)! There must be no divisions in the church: no favorite preachers, no favorite people (cliques), no divisions along the line of ethnic similarities.

Getting along with one another brings joy! It is so pleasant when brothers dwell together in unity! (Ps.138:1).

The Help

Get involved – help these two ladies reconcile. The gospel is at stake! Help them accomplish 1:27 “as citizens of heaven conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel” by fighting together for a greater mission/purpose/cause.  We are fighting together for the faith of the gospel! We are fighting together, not fighting one another!

These two Christian ladies needed the help of the church to resolve the matter because:

  • They were not agreeing and resolving the matter by themselves.
  • Because the seriousness of their disagreements was threatening the stability of the congregation.
  • Because their disagreement could easily bring reproach on the gospel and the testimony of the church!

This help is a mark of spirituality. “You who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…” (Gal.6:1) What is required if you are to help others reconcile?

  • Humility – willing to take a wrong for the greater cause!
  • Taking a risk – confronting in love, involvement for the purpose of reconciliation
  • Love – the same deep affection for others in the body of Christ! No one hates his own flesh! Assume the best! Be willing to forebear, It doesn’t have to be “my way.” (I Cor. 13:1-8)

The Motive

Their names are written in the Book of Life! You are eternally saved! You share the same life with the sister or brother who you are now in conflict with! God’s life! You will both share heaven one day because you are both citizens of His kingdom!

The Book of Life is important! Is your name written in it? (Rev. 20:12-15; Rev. 21:27)

So what now?

  1. Get involved – you who are spiritual get involved and help these folks to reconcile.
  2. Love fiercely – Paul loved these ladies and love this church family! Fervent love for others and Christ’s church will motivate you to get involved.
  3. Live in harmony in the Lord – Embrace the mind of Christ, and humbly obey Him in this matter! Get your focus off the offense and the offender and back onto the LORD!
    • Acknowledge the hurt
    • Forgive the offender
    • Reconcile the relationship – and do it for Christ’s sake!

The conflict between Euodia & Syntche reveals that even the most mature, faithful, and committed people can become so selfish and be embroiled in controversy if they are not diligent to maintain unity!  Living in unity in the fellowship of believers creates an environment of stability!

Stand Firm!

AN URGENT WARNING TO HEAVEN’S CITIZENS


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A person becomes an automatic citizen of a country by birth. Our first child born in Africa was Austin.  He was born in the Kalalushi Mine Hospital.  After Austin was born the hospital gave us a hospital report of birth.  We took that report to the Office of Births and Deaths in Lusaka and received a Zambian Certificate of Birth.  Those documents then went to the US Embassy in Lusaka were we were issued a Report of Consular Birth Abroad and a US Passport with Austin’s picture and details.  Austin was born in Zambia yet he possessed all the rights and responsibilities of a United States citizen even though for the first four years of his life, he did not step foot in that country.

This is an illustration of what Paul is writing about in our text in Philippians 3:17-21.  Philippi was a strategic Roman colony located in northern Greece along the land route to Asia Minor. Though far from Rome, this colony enjoyed all the rights and privileges of Rome.

Paul is making that case that this is true of us as Christians!  We are born-again abroad! But we are citizens of heaven – right now!  We are living as visitors, aliens in a foreign land because our citizenship is in heaven.

This being true, it is very important how we conduct ourselves!  We all look at people we know from other countries and take into account who they are, how they live, and what they do to give us a point of reference – right or wrong – to identify that country.

Citizens of heaven are responsible to live lives equal to their privilege and position. (Eph 2:4-6). Citizens of heaven are to live holy lives because of who they are and because of what they hope to be!

Paul here issues three instructions that carry with them a degree of warning for all Citizens of Heaven:

IDENTIFY THE DISCIPLES (17)

To identify disciples, you must identify the right pattern of living!   Paul instructs them to watch him life and example and then find others who believe and live like he does:

  • Paul was not trusting Inherited privileges or personal achievements rather than Christ (4-7).
  • Paul was not a proselyte from paganism,  he was circumcised on the 8th day – an 8-dayer. Paul was an insider by birth.
  • Paul was racially a pureblood of the People of Israel. He was of theTribe of Benjamin – only tribe to remain faithful to David, also the tribe that returned to the land after the captivity.
  • Paul was a “Hebrew of Hebrews” which simply meant he would have received the best education he spoke Hebrew and Aramaic.
  • Paul was a Pharisee, a separated one who voluntarily committed himself to keeping hundreds of commands from the oral law.
  • Paul was zealous! He led a terror campaign against the church, hunting down those he viewed as heretics, arresting them and seeing many of them executed.
  • Paul was blameless, he led an exemplary life according to Pharisaic traditions.

Paul was not trusting in His own righteousness (8-11).  He was not trying to make himself acceptable to God by the keeping of the law.  Rather he was trusting in the imputed righteousness that Jesus Christ gives.

Paul was passionately grasping after Christ (12-14). This speaks of an intentional straining toward the goal, a reaching out to grasp the thing that Christ grasped me for… (Ill: 4×100 relay). When we lean on His power (10), learn from His pain (10) and rest on His plan (12) we grow closer to Christ.

Watch for others who walk in the same way!

A call for discernment – note those who walk like Paul in relation to the gospel. Discernment – to tell the difference between two things. The sound judgment that takes possible the distinguishing of good from evil and the recognition of god’s right way for His people. (1 Ti.4:2)

  • Word – speech, how you used your tongue
  • Conduct – how you conduct yourself in your daily affairs – in your home, with your children, at work.
  • Love – selfless love that reflects the nature of God.
  • Spirit – the internal motivating force that controls the inner man.
  • Faith – how you respond to God in the midst of trials
  • Purity – holiness, living lives separate from the world.

Follow their teaching and example!  This is a call to fellowship – “join in following” and a call for evaluation – following my example.

So let’s apply what we have looked at so far:

  • Is your obsession Christ?
  • Are your friends those who are obsessed with Christ?
  • Have you discarded the rubbish in your life – desire for position, confidence in achievements, so that you can really know HIM? People who hug garbage are not considered normal by citizens.

IDENTIFY THE ENEMIES (18-19)

To get the full weight of what Paul is saying here we must understanding the severity of the term used:

  • He didn’t say they were nice guys, just confused theologically. He didn’t call them brothers in sin. He termed them enemies!
  • They are inwardly and overtly hostile to the cross – what the cross means, what it accomplished!
  • The word is directly associated with war!
  • Their hostilities are directed toward the very essence of all Christ is and what He accomplished! These people are at war with the cross! (1 Co 1:18 thus the power that brings us salvation, Gal 6:14 the power that gives us victory over the world, flesh and the devil.)

The warning is to be taken seriously!

They are many! The danger is so serious that the warning is repeated often!

Jesus

Mt. 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Mt.24;11 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.

Paul

2 Ti.2:16-18 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

Phil. 3:2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.

Col. 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Peter

2 Pt. 2:1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

John

1Jn.4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

I Jn.2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Jude

4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Identifying the enemies of the cross

Let’s consider them in reverse order: Paul begins with their end and moves down toward the root cause of them being enemies of the cross:

  1. Their mind is rooted in earthly things – all of their thoughts, desires, dreams, priorities and ambitions are earthly, fleshly. (19c)
  2. Because of this they glory in the things that they ought to be ashamed about (19b) – specifically sensual excesses especially sexual ones. They return to the immoral pagan practices of the their former life. (Rom. 1:32, Jude 18)
  3. Their god is their belly – bodily desires and sensual delights push out the Divine and takes his place as the god that they serve. The pursuit of comforts instead of pursuing Christ. Beware of any pleasure that stands in the way of your passionate pursuit of Christ!
  4. They end in destruction – the war that they wage will be lost, the cross will prevail and these will be eternally damned in the lake of fire, separated from God throughout all eternity – No wonder Paul’s throat got tight and tears welled up in His eyes! Weep my friends, weep! (Jude 14-15)

Their walk indicates that they are enemies of the cross. Their lifestyles deny the claim they once made as children of God. They view as foolish the passionate pursuit of Christ and cross-centered suffering. How can you say you love someone and not warn them?

Now note the CONTRAST between these enemies and the true citizens: “BUT”

LIVE LIKE CITIZENS (20-21)

Remember where your citizenship is located!

You belong to a place with a different ruler – serve a different master. The place where Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father.  You belong to a place with different laws, you are expected to live a different way. Defines the expectations of how we are to live. A place with different rights and privileges – The place where you enjoy all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of the homeland.

Remember you Savior Jesus Christ is coming for you! (1 Cor. 15:52)

We live in eager anticipation of the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is coming at any moment – imminent return of Christ. The dead will go first, then we who are alive and remain will be caught up to meet him in the clouds. (I Cor. 15:51)

Remember that your earthly body will be transformed into a glorious one!

His work on that day to transform our fallen, sin-prone bodies into glorious bodies like His!  No more sin, no more pain, no more death, no more temptation, no more crying, not more weakness, no more decay! We will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is!

I can’t wait for Jesus to come! O come Lord Jesus is the deep cry of my heart! The only reason why I would hesitate to plead for Him to come back today is that some of you are not yet citizens of heaven! When He comes it will be too late for you, and I love you and so much want you to be in heaven with me!

A final exhortation:

  • Beware of false teachers who afflict the church today!
  • Don’t be tempted to trust in some earthly or fleshly achievement for your salvation! This is a false hope and a false gospel!
  • Live like a citizen of heaven! Are you setting an example that others can follow?

Disciples, Fish & The Kitwe Church Music Ministry


The morning at practice I made mention of our service that we stand in and our responsibility as the Music Team of Kitwe Church.  I try to encourage all to understand our role to play in this and it took my mind back to the days that Jesus walked the earth and served everyone with His teachings around the sea of Galilee.  I would like to take you back to that and explain some of the circumstances and how it is relevant to our current Music Ministry.

Most of Jesus Teachings took place around the Sea of Galilee and He had all his Disciples with Him.  Today most of our time in music ministry would be in the church for congregation level of teachings and a smaller amount of outreach when we do special events outside the church walls, as we are to be disciples in our music ministry.

Disciples would serve the gathered for instance at the sea of Galilee, and try and organise the crowds and assist others to focus on Jesus.  We as the music team have similar responsibilities.  We gather the minds of those in the congregation to focus on the Word as from the onset when we start the service songs.  Our daily life need to be of such discipline to serve others, not to think of our needs but the needs of those out there.  The need that we essentially to cater for as the music team, is to direct everyone’s mind & heart to Jesus at time of the sermon.

As per Sunday morning discussion, remember the times the crowd have gathered to unexpected numbers and after they have spent time in listening to the teachings, they all were hungry and they collected the bread & the fish from the crowd.  They brought it to Jesus, he prayed and it was served to the people in multiplication and it fed all of them & they had left overs.

Our responsibility is to do what the disciples have done.  Gather the crowds to focus on Jesus (The Word of God) with our music.  In the beginning we have all the fellowship the gatherings in the church entrance & people happy to see each other.  There are excitement and laughter, just as in the days at Galilee.  Then the crowd gathered around and settled in.  For those days the people had a hunger for the Word of God, the Teaching of Jesus Himself.  Today we have all walks of life gathering, who also have the same hunger and it is not easy for each and every one to just shut down the doors of the world to concentrate on what is offered from the Word of God in the sermon.

This is where we as the music team need to lead the congregation to the place where they can focus on the Teaching to be offered.  We need to calm their thoughts and set their focus on Jesus with our music and singing.  You will note that our music would have a level of excitement and reflects similarities as to when the congregation settle’s in, talks around this I would think in Galilee at the time would have been on how great Jesus is, what they have learned & would like to receive more of His teachings.  We need to create this in our music and the flow of it has a number of similarities.

They would listen to the Teaching of Jesus, and the disciples then collected the bread & fish, gave it to Jesus, Jesus prayed and served the crowd.  We have to set the table for them to feast on the Word of God.  The Word to be presented is the bread & fish, for which we set the moods and the Pastor then will present it to the congregation.  Note that we also pray before the sermon.

A note that I make to myself:  Focus was on Jesus, disciples focus was on Jesus, disciples ushered & served the crowds, they didn’t get the glory, it all went to Jesus, for He has been the one feeding the crowds and they had left overs.  Today we sent leftovers after a meal home with friends or share with others.  You will not go empty handed, you will share in it all, but the Glory is to God.

A lot of times a song shared in the service would give people the connection to the Word and they would take it with them for the week ahead.  This would encourage them, strengthen them & lead them closer to Jesus through their own circumstances.  That is our music ministry.  The focus is not the stage, the time we can deliver/present the music, but rather we serve and stand in awe as He breaks the Word through the Pastor and we could send the congregation home with a connection to encourage them.

Derick Van Staden

Christ Our Greatest Treasure


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Today we find ourselves in the third chapter of Paul’s letter to this church in the city of Philippi. Throughout this letter of Philippians Paul has confronted these Christians with the need to embrace right thinking! Our thinking affects our living – what we believe, what our minds are occupied with will determine how we view life, and even our relationship with God.

What we value most will become the driving priority in our life – for some of us that may be fame, for others wealth, for others acceptance by the religious insiders of the day.  There were many in Jesus day who were His disciples secretly for fear of the Jews.

Since the time of Christ there have been many heresies promoted in the church. The word Heresy may be new to you, it simply refers to a belief or teaching contrary to orthodox biblical christianity. Many of these false teachings center upon the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Let me share a few examples of what I am talking about:

On the TrinityModalism, Sabellius (3rd century). What is it?  God is only one divine being, who plays different roles at different times. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct persons of the same essence, but different modes or expressions of a single person. Modalism naturally leads to Patripassianism—the belief that the Father literally suffered on the cross. Key text? Philippians 2:6: “. . . being in the form of God . . .”

Where does it show up today? Oneness Pentecostalism believes that God’s three modes of existence can act simultaneously, though God is still only one person.  Perhaps the most famous Modalist of our day is Bishop TD Jakes.

Subordinationism – Who taught it? Eusebius of Caesarea (263–339). What is it? The Son and the Spirit are divine persons, distinct from the Father but inferior to him. All three persons are truly God, but they exist in a hierarchy of power and authority. Key text? Matthew 26:39: “. . . not as I will, but as you will.”

Where does it show up today? According to a 2014 LifeWay Research study, 22 percent of evangelicals believe the Father is more divine than the Son.

On Jesus Christ – Arianism, Arius (c. 256–336). The Son as Word (Logos, in Greek) was created by God before time. He is not eternal or perfect like God, though he was God’s agent in creating everything else. Key Text? John 1:14: “The Word [is] the only Son, who came from the Father.”

Where does it show up today? Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is God’s only direct creation, and that everything else was created by Christ. Jesus died for our sins, but he is not equal with God, who is not part of a Trinity.

Paul battled a different Heresy in his day.  A group of people known as the Judaizers were on Paul’s heels corrupting the gospel by adding to salvation the requirement of circumcision. For hundreds and even thousands of years circumcision had been the cultural symbol of God’s separated people, the uncircumcised were those who were “heathen” outside the bounds of God’s gracious favor. It was unthinkable to these well-meaning Jewish people that converts to Christianity did not need to be circumcised to be accepted by Christ. So they followed Paul throughout his ministry suggesting to the Gentile converts that they needed faith in Jesus plus be circumcised according to the law of Moses. Paul blasts them in vs. 1-3.

We may be tempted to think in similar ways: I will be more accepted by God if I __________. We may feel as though we must perform or that some achievement will firm up our acceptance with Christ. We may feel that the ritual keeping of certain rules or conforming to certain criteria makes us righteous and therein we find our confidence.

In our text Paul is pointing to the fact that mature Christians realize that Christ is our greatest treasure – we love Him, we relate with Him, we live through Him, we have our all in all in Him alone!

Is Christ your greatest treasure?  Three statements to help you evaluate yourself:

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Christ is your greatest treasure when:

YOUR CONFIDENCE OF ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD IS NOT IN INHERITED POSITION, HUMAN ACHIEVEMENTS OR EXTERNAL RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES (2-7)

My confidence is not in human credentials or achievements to bring me close to God, or to make me spiritual, or to make me more accepted by Christ.

Note Paul’s list of inherited privileges (4-5)

  • Not proselyte from paganism – circumcision, he was an 8-dayer. Insider by birth.
  • Racially a pureblood – People of Israel.
  • Tribe of Benjamin – only tribe to remain faithful to David, also the tribe that returned to the land after the captivity.
  • Hebrew of Hebrews – best education, spoke Hebrew and Aramaic

Note Paul’s list of personal achievements

  • Pharisee – separated one, voluntarily committed to keeping hundreds of commands from the oral law.
  • Zeal – led a terror campaign against the church
  • Blameless – led an exemplary life according to Pharisaic traditions.

All human advantage that I may have achieved is a net loss in gaining acceptance with God (7)

All the above advantages equal zero on the accounting page. The only credit that I have is Christ. My all in all is Christ!

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EVERYTHING ELSE HAS THE VALUE OF RUBBISH IN COMPARISON TO HIM (8-11)

His righteousness is the only righteousness that I am concerned with obtaining. (9)

  • This righteousness is not found by keeping the law
  • This righteousness is found in Christ alone – when I get Christ I get everything!
  • This righteousness is appropriated by faith, not by inheritance or achievements like Paul listed above.
  • He is the treasure that I am willing to sell everything I have to obtain (Mt 13:44-45)!  Imagine renting a field to plant a garden and as you are turing the soil your hoe uncovers the queen’s diamond!  Quickly you cover the diamond and rush to home where you begin to sell everything you own, you house, your car, your appliances even your clothes so you can raise enough money to buy that field.  You wife thinks your are crazy, you friends can’t understand what you are doing, but you know that if you can just buy the field, the treasure is yours! Jesus is that treasure!

The road leading to the college where I work runs behind a local market.  Recently the city place a large dumpster along the road.  You can imagine the smell, flies and rotting food and garbage in that dumpster on these hot October days.  The other day as I drove past on my way home there was a man sitting on the edge of the dumpster with one leg inside leaning over and picking rotten pieces of food.   That is right where we are sometimes – sitting with one leg in the dumpster searching for for significance, acceptance and joy!  What are you doing? Why are you dumpster diving when in Christ you have it all?

My obsession is Christ (10-11)

  • That I may know Him – Christ Jesus my Lord! Speaks of personal, intimate knowledge of Christ not a casual acquaintance or knowledge about Him. (only time used this way by Paul)
  • That I may know His power – in the midst of my weakness.
  • That I may share in His sufferings – this identity carries with it opposition by those who reject Christ – what is meant by carrying the cross.

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ALL YOUR FOCUS AND ENERGIES ARE CONSUMED IN MAKING CHRIST AND HIS PURPOSES THE EXPERIENTIAL REALITY OF YOUR LIFE (12-16)

Passionate grasping after Christ – Lit. To take by force.

  • Forget the past – don’t look back, failures or successes
  • Focus on the goal – fixed eye on the finish line
  • Strain forward with all energy and effort to reach it

Why do some people fail to press on?

  • Diverted by the the world – confidence in the flesh
  • Discouraged by personal suffering – Paul’s sufferings, stresses could tempt him to quit, but instead he pressed on. (10, 2 Co. 11:18-29)
  • Deceived by misplaced confidences – (12a) I have achieved mentality. Paul affirms that after 30+ years of ministry he has not arrived. He was after all these years still straining to know Christ. (I Co 9:27)

Here is Paul’s conclusion: Mature believers think like Paul thinks! If you don’t think like this then we will trust God to reveal these truths to you. (15)

Is Christ your greatest treasure? If you have placed your confidence and hope of salvation in your family positon, your religion, law-keeping or your zealous good works – recognize this cannot produce righteousness for you. Righteousness comes only through faith in Christ alone.

If you have been striving to be accepted by God – realize that your acceptance is complete in Christ alone.

If you have been living as a Christian in pursuit of other things – pursue Christ alone for He is your greatest treasure! Don’t sift through the rubbish, embrace Christ alone as your greatest treasure.

Press on! Don’t go backward

May we all die running!

The People God Uses To Serve His Church


the-people-god-uses-jpg-001Today in our text Philippians 2:19-30, we see the people God uses to serve His church.

The context helps us understand the environment of the people Paul is writing to.  Paul is calling the Philippian Christians to behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27). Philippi was a Roman colony with a population of 10,000. It was considered a ‘Little Rome’ with allegience to the emperor. Philippi adopted Roman dress and spoke Latin. A Roman citizen took great care not to do anything that would bring shame to his ‘polis’ (city).  A citizen was one in good standing whose conduct brings honor to the political body to whom he belongs.

Paul’s point: If citizens of Philippi were so devoted to a human kingdom how much more should believers be devoted to a heavenly kingdom.

To live as worthy citizens is to live a life consistent with the revealed Word of God. To live a live consistent with the truth that Christians profess to believe, preach, teach and defend. The focus is the Gospel!

  • Live up to who you are!
  • Live up to who you represent!
  • Live up to the message your proclaim!

God is at work building His church. The church is the called-out assembly of New Testament believers. In the building of His Church God calls and uses people – people like you and me, and people like Timothy and Epaphroditus who we will meet in our text today.

What kind of people does God use to serve His church?

THEY ARE BROTHERS & SISTERS – Brother (19,25)

They individually have a relationship with God through saving faith. These were genuine Christians – they had come to recognize that they were a sinner, and they needed someone outside of themselves to deliver them from the guilt, and the power, and condemnation of God that sin brings

Let me illustrate this way: There is an organization called the FreeMasons – you may have heard of them? By joining this secret organization and going through the rites, you can move deeper into the brotherhood. Free Masonary calls “God “The Great Architect of the Universe.” This is the Freemason’s special name for God, because He is universal. He belongs to all men regardless of their religious persuasion. All wise men acknowledge His authority. In his private devotions a Mason will pray to Jehovah, Mohammed, Allah, Jesus, or the Deity of his choice. In a Masonic Lodge, however, the Mason will find the name of his Deity within the Great Architect of the Universe. Such syncretistic worship through prayer, coupled with specific teachings of salvation, is completely at odds with biblical Christianity.”

There is only one way that anyone and everyone can have a relationship with God – believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him for forgiveness! Jesus is the only way to God and no-one will come to heaven apart from coming through Him!

Because they share the same Spiritual Father (God) they have a relationship with one another
This was not a relationship based on physical similarities:  Paul was a Jew, former “Pharisee of Pharisees”, an OT scholar deeply trained in the Law of Moses (Torah) and the Talmud – the instruction book written by Hebrew scholars to guide people to not transgress the Torah. He was a bold, courageous pioneer for the gospel. (Acts 23:6, Phil. 3:5) Timothy was half-Jew. His mother had broken the Jewish culture and OT traditions by marrying a Gentile husband. This man was an unbeliever, he held to the pagan traditions of the day. His son Timothy was not circumcised, which to an orthodox OT believing Jew was a sign of being outside the covenant and condemned. His mother embraced genuine faith in Jesus, and eventually Timothy did as well. (Acts 16:1, 2 Ti. 1:4-5) Epaphroditus – only mentioned here in Philippians. His name is a common Greek name of the day. A Gentile believer in the church at Philippi. (25, 4:8)

The basis of this relationship is the fact that they shared the same nature as one another! The same Spirit of God dwelt inside them. The were obedient to the Father. God is their father, and they God’s children by faith in Christ thus they were brothers with one another! (2:3,7-8)

THEY ARE LABORERS – Co-Worker (25)

Gospel work is hard work! Hard, back-breaking labor! Sweat, attention, service, sacrifice! (Eph. 4:12, 2 Ti. 2:16)

Gospel work requires commitment and the willingness to sacrifice. Why would we give a deep level of effort and commitment to our own agenda, job, but fail to give God the same level of commitment?

Gospel work is shared work! It is not intended to be done by one! We are “laborers together with Christ” (4:2-3). Every member a minister – we all have a calling, not just the teaching pastor! Each of us have been granted gifts by God for the purpose of co-laboring, working together to accomplish God’s purposes.

THEY ARE WARRIORS – Fellow soldier (25)

We are engaged in a spiritual war. Our enemies: World, Flesh, Devil. Our warfare is spiritual not physical – “Stand against the wiles of the devil…” (Eph. 6:10-12)

  • We fight this battle together
  • We have each other’s back
  • We hold each other accountable
  • We hold each other up

THEY ARE PEOPLE OF CHARACTER (22)

Character is shaped by our relationship to Christ. Reputation is what you are supposed to be; Character is what you are. Your character is what God knows you to be. Your reputation is what men think you are. Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone; Character is what angels say about you before the throne of God.

Our lives must manifest the transforming power of Christ.

“When church leadership fails morally and are restored to leadership in the church, when members lie, steal, cheat, gossip and fight. When members seem to care little about hypocrisy in their midst, the world is repulsed by the claims to love and serve God.” MacArthur

Character is proved in crisis! Your Character was revealed in how you responded to your last crisis. How did you react when:

  • Your computer crashed and you lost the last 30 min of work
  • Your spouse gets defensive when you share what bothers you.
  • You received a letter or email criticizing you
  • When someone cut in front of you in line or the line stretches out the door and the teller is inattentive.

Timothy was a man of tested character and his character was visible and viewable. Will you do what is right even when everyone else is doing wrong?

THEY ARE CARING (20b-21)

They had genuine concern for others, especially the family of God. This is a care that is not hypocritical. To be genuine means to be real! Sometimes we care and we don’t have an opportunity to do anything, but when we do have opportunity we demonstrate loving care!

This care is a result of caring for what God cares about. The opposite is to be self-serving, seeking their own advancement.  “They do not seek the things of Christ” – Compassion, care.

THEY ARE LIKE-MINDED (20a)

Genuine agreement in the faith. This is the plea that Paul makes to the Philippians throughout the letter – be of one mind. (1:27, 2:2-3; Eph. 4:1-6). Our source of agreement is found in the Word of God as we “strive together for the gospel.”

THEY ARE SERVANTS (7,26)

We serve God by serving one another. This is love in action, the humbling of our selves to serve the least, the underserving. The love that we have for Jesus Christ constrains us to this service. Jesus having loved his own He loved them to the end, arising from supper he took the basin and the towel and washed their feet. This was done as an example that we should do as He has done. They honestly consider others better than themselves and seek to serve them.

The result of being this kind of person is you become a source for encouragement and joy to God’s people (28b,29a). The church honors those who serve in this way (29)

Are you this kind of man or woman?  What areas do you need to address this week?