Category Archives: Growth

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?

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?

One Philosophy – To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain


One Philosophy

What is your philosophy of life? To what in life would you respond with the words, “Man! This is Living!”?

Everyone lives by a set of values – things you believe are important. These beliefs form your philosophy of life. Your philosophy of life determines how you view the world.  They shape how you view your purpose for living.

Philosophy = core beliefs (values) that guide your decisions and actions.  The world offers many philosophies of life:

1. Life is pleasure – Epicurian View – Person who takes pleasure in fine food and drink. Followers of Epicurius (341-270BC) a Greek Philosopher who promoted the theory of a material universe composed of indestructible atoms moving in a void, unregulated by Divine Providence.

This philosophy of life centers on living rather than life. Life to these people means one round of pleasures after another. They pursue entertainment and pleasure at huge cost and in it seek satisfaction. MTV/Hollywood, recreation, amusement park and holiday. Like a lady I heard of who who wanted to go on a cruise but did not have the money, so she sold her body to science.  After she dies the company gets her remains.  She takes the money she got for the sale of her body and went on a cruise!

This is the successful farmer in Luke 12:19 who after a successful harvest said, “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”  What he didn’t know was, that very night would be his last!

2. Life is pain – Stoic View – Life is something that has to be endured. Living means hard endurance in the midst of harshness, suffering and pain. In the midst of it all the stoic is determined to hold on till the end. These people find it hard to smile, no joy in life, they are bitter and cold. They have never learned that the joy of the Lord is strength.

There was an elderly lady I knew as a teenager, her name was Mrs. Morgan.  The thing you learned never to do at church was to say to Mrs. Morgan “how are you today?” because she would hold onto your hand and tell you! Before she launched into her list of aches, and difficulties she would say, “I’m doing pretty good under the circumstances.”

3. Life is hopeless – Cynics View – What is the use of anything? Nothing I do will make a difference anyway. What will be will be, so why try. They believe anyone is motivated by self-interests.

4. Life is people – Humanist View – Man is intrinsically good but in a bad environment. Humanist believes in the potential good in everyone and seeks human means to solve the problems of mankind. Ignorance, prejudice, social injustice, government policies are the evils that must be corrected through education, social programs, and pressure groups.  Christians ought to quickly realize that this is the exact opposite of that God says to be true.  We are depraved.

5. Life is religion – Religious View – Life is the performing religious duties, traditions. Mindlessly going through the motions.

6. Life is family – Average-Man’s View – Life is our family, our home, work, and the activities of life. These things are important but they often become the most important things in life and when they are taken away our life collapses.

The book of Philippians reveals the true Christian mind. In every chapter and every division in the book this word is found.(1.7,2.2,2.3,2.5,3.15,3.19,4.2,4.10.) Paul is literally saying through the Book of Philippians: “Here is how a Christian should think about these various matters.”

So how did Paul think about life and ministry? What were the guiding principles for Paul’s behavior? Paul made many statements throughout his life that offer insights into his thinking:

  1. Necessity is laid upon me, yea, woe to me if I do not preach the gospel. (1Cor. 9:16)
  2. I made it my aim not to preach where Christ was named (Ro. 15.20)
  3. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some. (I Cor. 9.22)
  4. Who are we but bond-servants through whom you believed (I Cor 3.5)
  5. Neither count I my life dear to myself. (Acts 20.24)

Today we are looking at Philippians 1:19-26. In our text we discover the foundational theme of Paul’s philosophy of life and ministry : “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (21)

I fear that if we are not intentional the philosophy statement of many Christians is the reverse of Paul’s; it goes something like this: “For to me, to live is gain, to die is Christ.”  We live for all that we can get out of this life, but we still have Christ as our heavenly insurance policy in the end.

I. THE VALUES THAT SHAPE HIS PHILOSOPHY (20-21a)

Paul what do you mean, “For to me to live is Christ”?

1. My highest affection, my deepest passion, my overriding ambition is Jesus Christ and Him alone. In Him alone I find fulfillment, happiness and joy unspeakable. My worth both personally and in ministry is found in Him alone – in His approval, His smile, His nod. (21a)

What are your priorities in life?

  • How do you spend your leisure time?
  • What do you read?
  • What do you think about?
  • Where do you spend your money?

2. My motive is for His will (20) – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Christ is my life and nothing else. His will is my chief concern (Ro. 12.1-2). My great concern is that His eternal purposes might be fulfilled in me and through me in the world. His goals are my goals, His desires are my desires. (20c)

3. My single aim in life is to glorify Christ. Christ lives in me and lives his life through me, thus God is glorified in my body which belongs to Him. (Gal 2.20, I Cor 6.19)

4. My singleness of purpose boils down to this central philosophy of life – To me to live is Christ!

  • • To know as much about Christ as is possible to know.
  • • To imitate Christ, to make Him the model of my life.
  • • To make the gospel of Christ known as far as possible and to as many people as possible in my lifetime.
  • To enjoy Him – to be comforted in trouble, to find my happiness in communion with Him!

5. For me to live is Christ simply means that Christ is the love of my life

Love is always thinking about the object of its love (Mt. 6.21). With Paul his love was Christ,

  • Love expresses the emotion and gives release to the desires within us. Paul’s desire was to know Christ better. (3.10)
  • Love translates into action – A reckless abandon to the object of his love. Paul has spent his time preaching Christ and he was not concerned what might happen to him because Christ was in control. (20b) Whether by life or by death.

2 Cor. 11:22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul, what do you mean, “To Die Is Gain”?

1. Death is gain (21b). To attain something greater, more profitable!

Heb. 11:9-10 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

2. Death is desirable (23)

  • To depart and be with Christ is far better than living on here.
  • I will however remain and fulfill my ministry because that is what is best for you (24-25)
  • My ultimate joy will be to see him face to face. To be in His physical presence never to depart.

II. THE MEANING OF THIS PHILOSOPHY IN MY LIFE

What will it mean to my life to live by this philosophy “to me to live is Christ”?

1. It means I will make all decisions in my life based upon God’s priorities. It means I will demonstrate my priorities consistently in such a way that it impacts my children. If you wish to see the priorities of Christian parents watch their offspring over time

  • For some, education is the highest priority – all else is willingly sacrificed at her altar. We teach our children it is fine to miss church, neglect godly responsibilities, ignore the call of God to service for the sake of education.
  • For some, the attainment of a good job, the securing of a career is all-important. “Of course I would be happy for your to serve God in ministry, but first you need to have a career to fall back on in case it does not work out.”
  • For some, it is the pursuing of worldly comfort and pleasure. We need the latest fashion, the newest upgrade, the surrounding of our lives with every comfort and ease we can find.
  • Little of the conversation in our Christian homes centers around the character of God, a Christian world-view. Is it any wonder that we are producing a self-centered, self-serving generation of young people who have no interest in serving God with their lives?

2. It means I will gladly sacrifice my all and even my life if required in order to glorify God’s great name!

“People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives … and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.” — Nate Saint, missionary martyr, 1956

What will it mean to my life to live by this philosophy “to die is gain”?

1. It means I must develop an eternal perspective. This life is not the end but merely the path to the greater. To die is gain! (21)

2Cor. 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2. It means I unwaveringly press toward the mark (20) – earnest expectation = intense desire, anticipation! We have a goal and continually evaluate to determine if what we are doing moves us toward that mark. We must focus on “this one thing.” Shed off the many good things that hinder us from achieving that ‘one thing’. I count all things as dung – in comparison to Christ all the things that can be achieved or acquired are refuse. (Phil 3.7-8)

3. It means I “become all things to all men.” – Willing to step outside our comfort zone for the sake of His name among the lost of the world. (I Co. 9.22)

4. It means I am willing to take risks for God. “Neither count I my life dear.” (Acts 20.24)

5. It means I desire that Christ be magnified above all else at all costs. This means that I am willing for Christ to be magnified at my own expense – by life which is Christ’s or by death only that Christ is glorified. The choice rests with Him. (20). I am willing for God to build His kingdom at my expense?

  • “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” – Tertullian of Carthage
  • According to “Christians in Crisis” there have been 43 million Christians martyred in the last 2000 years – 50% of those in the last century.

III. THE MANIFESTATION OF THIS PHILOSOPHY IN MY LIFE

Great courage – Boldness, confidence before God and man.

On 12/28/1852 David Livingstone wrote: “Am I on my way to die in Sibituane’s country? Have I seen the last of my wife and children? The breaking up of all my connections with earth, leaving this fair and beautiful world and yet knowing so little of it? O Jesus, fill me with Thy love now, and I beseech Thee accept me and use me a little for Thy glory. I have done nothing for Thee yet, and I would like to do something. O do, do I beseech Thee, accept me and my service and take Thou all the glory…”

On 4/4/1853: “If God has accepted my service then my life is charmed till my work is done. And though I pass through many dangers unscathed while working the work given me to do… Death is a glorious event to one going to Jesus… There is something sublime in passing into the second stage of our immortal lives if washed from our sins.”

Magnification of Christ (20c)

1. Chief purpose of man is to glorify God and worship Him forever

Jer. 9: 23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD.

2. Suffering and even death become the verification that we believe what we proclaim.

Mal. 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.

On December 6, 1943, John Stam wrote: “Dear Brethren, My wife, baby and myself are today in the hands of the Communists, in the city of Tsingteh. Their demand is twenty thousand dollars for our release. All our possessions and stores are in their hands, but we praise God for peace in our hearts and a meal tonight. God grant you wisdom in what you do, and us fortitude, courage and peace of heart. He is able – and a wonderful friend in such a time… The Lord bless and guide you, and as for us, May God be glorified whether by life or by death.”

The next day John and Betty Stam were marched to another city stripped of their clothes and paraded through the streets before being shot. Their three-month old baby, Helen, was found in an abandoned in a house thirty hours after the execution. A Chinese evangelist delivered her in a rice basket to a missionary family hundreds of miles away.

Desire to be with Him – To die is gain! (23)

To depart is something desirable, something far better  To die is gain because we depart to receive the full inheritance and eternal reward of heaven. Yet we are willing to stay and faithfully serve God’s people while longing to depart and be with Christ.

When death comes we can say: (II Tim. 4.6-8)

  • I have fought a good fight
  • I have finished my race
  • I have kept the faith.

What is your philosophy of life?

For to me to live is gain and to die is Christ?

Or can you say like the Apostle Paul:

“For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain!”

Note: I am indebted to Martyn Lloyd-Jones for his insights into this text.

One Fellowship – The Fellowship of the Gospel


One Fellowship.001
Our text is taken today from Philippians 1:3-8.

We all live for something, each of us have a purpose in our life. Whether or not you could articulate what you are living for right now or not, doesn’t change the fact that it exists. When people share a common goal, there is a very high level of sacrifice, and a minimizing of self-centeredness… and in that moment, there is a camaraderie and joy that is inescapable!

My boys have a favorite movie: The Lord of the Rings.  This movie is based on the book by JRR Tolkien. In The Fellowship of the Ring, nine of the most unlikely characters come together bound by a single great mission to defeat the forces of darkness and save middle earth. Four hobbits led by Frodo Baggins, two warriors from Gondor, Gandalf the wizard, Legolas came from the race of elves and a dwarf named Gimili. In the end they gave themselves for one another and became honored friends.

Such earthly fellowship can happen when the conditions are right, but our text speaks of a depth of fellowship that exceeds any earthly fellowship.

We have been called dedicated our lives to Jesus Christ, abandoned to His glorious purposes among men! The proclamation of the gospel! We are engaged in what Bunyan called a “holy war” we march to the tune of a different drummer, we answer to the call of a different master. We are a band of brothers, consecrated to the grandest and noblest of causes – the carrying out of God’s eternal purposes in our world. We are ministers of the new covenant, proclaimers of freedom to those in bondage, soldiers of the cross! We will be opposed, we will suffer hardship, we will be required to give our all and for some of us very lives!

But brothers and sisters, it is worth it! In the midst of spiritual conflict there is a glorious fellowship to be enjoyed! In suffering and deprivation and hard work and opposition, there is a deep, blessed fellowship that cannot be understood by the world.

The world seeks to manufacture this wonder, but it cannot be reproduced in the disco house or the football stadium. The world longs to experience just a taste of this wonderful gift of fellowship, but they seek it in all the wrong places. We find that this fellowship can only be found as passionate disciples of Christ abandon themselves in partnerships of sacrifice and service to the gospel.

WHAT IS THE THE GOSPEL?

(http://www.lifein6words.com/connect-with-god/)

  • GOD CREATED US FOR FELLOWSHIP WITH HIM
  • OUR SINS SEPARATE US FROM GOD
  • SIN CANNOT BE REMOVED BY GOOD DEEDS
  • PAYING THE PRICE FOR SIN JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN
  • EVERYONE WHO TRUSTS IN JESUS ALONE HAS ETERNAL LIFE
  • LIFE WITH JESUS STARTS NOW AND LASTS FOREVER

It is in the context of this “partnership of the gospel” that we experience joy, love and overwhelming thankfulness!  Notice how Paul describes this fellowship! Notice how this gospel ministry will affect our lives and our relationships with those we minister?

Verses 1-2: The Context

  • Preachers – Paul & Timothy- Paul is in prison in Rome awaiting trial.
  • Position – bondservants
  • People – saints / Bishops & Deacons
  • Place – Philippi. City in Europe, Roman colony. City of about 10,000. Paul had established the first church on the continent of Europe in @50AD. Now 10 years late he is writing this letter
  • Pronouncement – Grace & Peace, from God.

THIS IS A FELLOWSHIP THAT RESULTS IN A HEART OVERFLOWING WITH THANKSGIVING (3-4)

His Thankfulness For Them (3)

His thankfulness is stirred by his memory of them. In this personal letter Paul begins by telling them that every time he thinks of them from his prison cell he is filled with joyful thanksgiving to God that naturally translates into prayer for them. (3-4)

  • Paul remembers the first time he arrived in this city (Acts 16:7-10).
  • He recalls meeting outside the city walls by the river with a handful of gentile women who met there to worship God. He rejoiced in the conversion of Lydia and her household. (16:11-15)
  • He remembered the grief he felt when the demon-possessed girl prophesied that they were representatives of the true God and he cast the demon out of the girl. He recalled the uproar that occurred there in the Agora when her masters dragged them to the authorities and they were arrested and beaten and thrown in prison. (16:16-24)
  • Oh that glorious night – hearts aflame with love for God they loudly sang praises to God in the hearing of all the prisoners and God moved in to release them from their chains. The conversion of the jailer and his family! (16:25-34).
  • He thinks of these people who are now part of the persecuted church in Philippi and his heart is filled with joy and thankfulness to God!

His thankfulness is coupled with JOY (4)

Their joy (15x in the letter) was in the midst of affliction – (2 Cor. 8:1-2), and Paul’s joy was while in prison!. Joy is not based upon happenings (happiness) it is grounded internally.

The first lesson in this for us is this:  Joy is an attitude of the heart, not an emotion or a feeling. And the second lesson is: This joy is found outside yourself! Note that Paul points to the Lord as the source, Rejoice in the LORD (3:1, 4:4)

His thankfulness is expressed in PRAYER (4)

Paul rarely thanks God for stuff/things, he thanks God for people! Paul was a people person. He was not glorying in an achievement, a building or a program but in a people who were called by God’s name!

How much of your praying is giving thanks and how much is complaining

The Joy & Thankfulness that Paul is talking about is a direct result of receiving “grace and peace” from God (2).  If you have not partaken of His grace then you do not have peace with God.  If you do not have peace with God you cannot know this thankfulness and joy!

A FELLOWSHIP THAT IS CENTERED IN THE GOSPEL

Thankful for their Fellowship in the Gospel (5,7)

They were partners with Paul in the gospel! Fellowship (koinon) – lasting, committed fellowship. “From the first day until now.

“For your fellowship in the gospel.” This is a committed, lasting fellowship! It is the idea of people of very different cultures, Ideas, families, places in the world etc., having an indestructible bond, a oneness and unity that cannot be shaken. In all of our diversity we have one common goal, one common agenda, one common purpose, one common motivator… the Gospel of Grace (7b, (2 Cor 8:2-5)

  • They were committed to the evangelization of the Gentile world, to sharing the gospel with everyone who would listen.
  • They were committed to suffering and poverty for the sake of the gospel!
  • They were committed to giving selflessly to the cause of Jesus Christ!

The Philippians identified with him in his imprisonment for the gospel. This at a time of persecution when others fled from Him (7a).They also identified with him in his defense of the gospel (apologia). Apologetics refers to speech in defense of the gospel. (7b). And they identified with him in a positive confirmation of the truth of the gospel. (7c)

Their fellowship was:

  • A fellowship of Grace (7)

1John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

  • A fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2:1)
  • A fellowship of suffering (3:10)
  • A fellowship of Sacrifice (4:14-15)

This kind of fellowship is experienced as we serve God together. Last month many of us here at Kitwe Church came together to sing Christmas carols at the Mukuba Mall and to give out gospel tracts and New Testaments.  Remember the joy we had serving God together?  Remember the testimonies that many of you gave about what a blessing this was? We experience fellowship as we give ourselves to the gospel here and around the world!

The world seeks to find a means of experiencing this kind of fellowship – but they fail. This fellowship is for a cause that is greater than any selfish ambition, it is the emptying of self, the giving over of my dreams and aspirations for a common cause – the sake of the gospel. It is an absolute abandonment of brothers who partner together for the sake of His name to carry the glorious gospel to the shores of Morroco, the deserts of Somalia, the swamp villages of Sudan, the remote peoples of western Kenya, the villages of Northern province, the working class people of Kitwe, Zambia.

Confident in God’s Faithfulness (6)

Paul has a rock solid confidence in God. He who began it will complete it! What began with the acceptance of the gospel message preached by Paul in Philippi, continued until the present will be completed in the future. (“from the first day until now…”).

God will complete in every Christian what He has begun! (Acts 16:24) Nothing will prevent Him from completing His Work. He began a work of Grace at salvation, He will complete His work of Grace until the Day He comes again.

Don’t grow discouraged at your failures, Don’t forget that God will bring to reality the work of perfecting us, conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ.

I don’t have to control, I don’t have to worry and fret, I can confidently, joyfully, thankfully commit my ministry and those with whom I serve to Him who will finish what He has started! Ministry is not about YOU, it is not about ME! We are God’s chosen vessels to carry the gospel, to faithfully proclaim it, to plead with men to surrender their wills to the Savior. But it is all of GRACE! He calls them, He opens hearts, He saves men and women, boys and girls, and the One who calls and saves them will keep and complete them! OH JOY! What a cause for thanksgiving!

So what should you do now?
Will you commit to the “fellowship of the gospel” by joining in sacrificial service for God through the ministry of this church? Does not the grace of God lead you to such fellowship?

As you commit to God’s purposes you will know the thankful joy and love this fellowship brings.

Are you experiencing real joy – based upon your relationship to Jesus Christ and your fellowship in Him? Will you partake of the gospel today? You can be saved from your sin! You can have new life in Jesus Christ!

God As The Refiner


The RefinerMalachi 3:3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. Background of Malachi:  Malachi was written to the Levites or to the priests because they had lost their respect for God in their worship (see ch. 1:6).  That was manifested by their offerings to God. They chose to dishonor God.  God, in His love for them, knew this was not good for them, so He purified them. By the end of Malachi we find that the refining did its work. The priests listened to God and obeyed and they were able to offer offerings in righteousness.” The next verse says, “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD.” In I Peter 2:5 it talks about NT believers being a “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” We have the same position as the priests in the OT did. The values God wanted to see in the lives of the priests in Malachi, He is looking for in us today. God puts trials in our lives for different reasons.

  • For Learning (Job 23:10 – When I am tried I shall come forth as gold.) God put him through a trial because there were things about God that he needed to learn.
  • For Chastening (Malachi)  There was sin in the way the Priests worshiped God. God got their attention.
  • For Teaching Others (Jn 9:3) The man blind from birth was created for the purpose of showing God’s power.  “Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

All of us go through testing and trials in our lives. I would like us to focus on trusting God because of His love that is shown through His presence, purification, and purpose in trials. First of all we will see that …

God’s Love is shown by His Presence.

He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; We see God here pictured as a refiner of gold and silver as well as the refining process (vs2). When a refiner puts his gold in a pot on the fire he never, ever leaves the gold for any reason. He values that gold and wants to see that fire bring up the dross or the impurities in the gold. When God puts us as His children on the fire He doesn’t leave us there by ourselves. He stays right there beside us watching to be sure that the fire or the trial does what He wants it to. The work in progress has His full attention.

God Cares

God knows our limitations and will not put any trial in our path that He does not give the strength for. 1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. There were two men in Rome long ago that were sentenced to be burned at the stake for being Christians. One of the men was an older more mature Christian and the other was a young man newly saved. As the two men were put in their cell they looked out the back window into the arena where their stakes were being prepared for them to be burned the next day. The young man nervously tried to light a candle and in the process he burned his finger badly. He turned to the older man and said, “If I have this much pain over a burn on my finger how will I stand it tomorrow when my whole body is engulfed in flame?”  The older Christian said, “Young man, God did not ask you to burn you finger so you do not have the grace to endure the pain. Tomorrow God has asked us to go out and burn for His honor and glory.”  And the next day the two men went into the arena and burned with songs of praise to God on their lips. God gives us the grace to endure what we need endure so that we will learn what God would have us to learn so that we can to offer to God an offering in Righteousness – serving Him with our lives. That does not mean that when we go through a trial that it will be easy. No, when silver gets purged it gets very hot and melts, and our trials are to melt us. But God will give the strength to go through it. “Don’t pray for lighter burdens, pray for stronger shoulders” –unknown author

God Comforts

God has promised us directly that He will be with us.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

We don’t have to be afraid of what we are going through right now because we know that God will give us the strength and He will always be with us. There was a train traveling through the mountain passes late one night. There was a bad storm raging and the water was starting to rise along the tracks. The passengers started panicking until one older man noticed a little girl sitting with a quiet smile on her face. He made his way over to her and asked her why she wasn’t afraid. She looked up at him and said, “My father is the engineer.” Whatever “storms” are going on outside or whatever mountains we are facing, we can have complete assurance that nothing will happen to us that God does not allow as long as we allow Him to “direct” our life. If verses like Isaiah 41:10 do not provide comfort, we do not know our “Engineer” very well.

God’s Love is shown by His Purification.

He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, God had a reason for the trials that the Levites went through. That was to purify them. To make them serve God with the respect that they were supposed to have. God has a reason for every trial that we go through.    Heb 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

God uses every circumstance for good.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Well, whose definition of “good” are we following? Our understanding of “good” will set our expectations of God’s promise. Our definition of good often includes saying, “Well things will just turn out right and everything will be comfortable again.” God’s definition of good comes in the very next verse. In Rom 8:29, God shows us that His best plan for us, the greatest good in the light of heavenly values, is for us “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God takes all the seemingly bad things and all the seemingly good things and brings them together and it works out for good. We will be more like Christ.  So, if we know that the good and the bad work together for good then we can conclude that

God controls our trials.

“He shall sit” Nothing is going to happen to us that surprises God or that He is not ready for. When we are in a fiery trial we don’t get knocked over into the fire or the fire does not consume us. Consider Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You find their story in Daniel chapter

Trials do not destroy.

The three Hebrews were thrown into the fire but they came out without harm. We may go through great times of testing, but they are designed to teach us something, not destroy us.

Trials free from sin.

The three Hebrews were cast into the fire with cords binding their hands. When we are in a trial often God uses it to show us the sin that weighs us down.  Hebrews 12:1 let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Trials make God’s presence real.

When the three Hebrew boys were in what seemed to be the toughest part of their trial, it was then that Christ walked with them and they were the closest to God. When our trials get the toughest, it is at that time that we draw the closest to God.

God’s Love is shown in His Purpose.

That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. God brought the Levites back to a place doing what was right in a right way. He kept the heat on until the dross was dealt with. A man walked into a silversmiths shop long ago and went to the back of the shop to talk with the silversmith. He found the silversmith bending over a pot of molten silver skimming the dross off the top. The man asked the silversmith how he knew when the silver was ready to be used. The silversmith said, “Do you see how I am bending over the pot looking into it?” The man said, “Yes.”  The silversmith said, “When I can see my reflection in the silver then I know it is done.” When God puts us on the fire, He sits there with us cleaning the dross off the top of our lives. When God can look at us and see the reflected image of His Son Jesus Christ shining back, then He knows that the trial has accomplished its purpose in that area of our life. Romans 8:29 says that we are “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God puts people through different trials so that they can be in a position to do something for God that He will be pleased with. Look at Joseph. He was first betrayed by his brothers, and then he was falsely accused and sent to prison, and then was forgotten by friends. He went through all this so that he could be in a position to be of service for God at the right time. Think of what Hannah had to go through in order to be willing to give Samuel to God’s service. Think of Ruth leaving her country to live with her mother-in-law. She went to a new country where she was a Gentile in a Jewish country. All so she could help Naomi and God used her to be part of the line of Christ.

God’s purpose is to change us.

Our lives need to be a worthy sacrifice for God.

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Our lives need to be holy and acceptable to God. This means that if we are living for ourselves, if there is sin in our lives, or if we are resisting God’s will that anything we do for God will not be acceptable. God values obedience over any service we do for Him. If we serve God with the wrong attitude or motive than we are doing what the priests did in Malachi.

I Sam. 15:22 Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

We cannot come to God with the attitude that God owes us something. We need to realize that God owes us nothing and we owe God everything. God is in charge of our lives and He is in control of what happens in our lives. Let us serve Him with the realization that God is doing a work in each of our lives and we need to trust Him and learn what He is teaching us. God will be able to use more and more of our life as we yield it to Him. God’s purpose in trials is so that He can shape us and mold us to serve Him in the best way possible. That is an offering in righteousness.

God’s purpose is to make our sacrifice acceptable.

When our service is done with our efforts, our strength, our wisdom, our understanding, we contaminate God’s work. The work must be what God is doing in us and through us. There is nothing left for us to boast about. He is Lord, He is King, He deserves all the praise!

Proverbs 3:5–6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

How To Walk Worthy of Your Calling


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In our series on Discovering the Church we have looked at four pictures of the church. We have seen the church as a family and the goal is maturity.  We also saw the church as a field – the goal being the quantity of our fruitfulness. We have seen the church as a building the temple in which God dwells and the goal here is quality! Last week we saw the church as a body and the goal is unity.

The church is a called out assembly (ecclessia) of people who share one thing in common – faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls. Those of us who are in the church are there because God sought us and called us out! So how do we live up to our calling as the body of Christ and walk in unity?  This brings us to our text for today, Ephesians 4:16:

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

  • The Person – I. He is the founder of the church
  • The Promise – Will
  • The Process – Build
  • The Possession – My. Jesus is the owner of the church, he is the Head of the Church.
  • The Product – Church
  • The Power – the gates of hell will not overcome the church!

The book of Ephesians is about what the Father is doing: In the Heavenlies – Through the Church – In Christ – By His Spirit – For His glory – forever (3.21)

What He is doing through the church is calling and redeeming a group of people and:
• Forming them into a Body for His Son to lead (1.22-23)
• Building them into a Temple for Himself (2.21-22)

So that by the Church which is His body and temple, He can:

• Display His grace, kindness, power and wisdom
• Dwell in her fully in such a way that all of this results in the praise of His glory!

In Chapters 1-3 Paul explains what we must “know” about what God is doing in through the church. Now in Chapters 4-6 he explains what we must do based upon what we know!

In Chapter 4.1 Paul beseeches us to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”

  • Walk – speaks of our way of life, conduct. A constant and consistent manner of living
  • Worthy – corresponding to. This word is used of the balance beam on a scale. Put something on one side, put something on the other side that will equal or balance it.

Let me be abundantly clear at this point: Conduct does not precede conversion!

Phil. 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

This morning we want to consider how we can walk worthy of our calling in the church. The main thought of this section is found in v1 & 3:

“Walk worthy of the calling (1.1,3-6,11,2.5-6) with which you were called… endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

A walk worthy of our calling in the church is one that maintains the unity of the Spirit. In our text Paul gives three ways to walk worthy of our calling in unity in the church.

YOU WALK WORTHY WHEN YOU REFLECT THE CHARACTER OF GOD IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE. (2)

Forbearance

To endure, to kindly tolerate. William Barclay describes this attitude as what you would see in an old dog being pestered by a smaller, younger puppy.

Romans 2:4  Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

We express this when we are wronged, when others have an unreasonable complaint or grievance or quarrel with us:

  • We are to put up with those who complain against us
  • We are to put up with those who irritate us
  • We are to put up with those who argue against us.
  • We are to put up with those who sometimes attack us.
  • We do all this because God has rooted and grounded us in love! (3.17)
  • We will have to love one another enough to put up with each other when we are irritated by someone else in the body!

Long-suffering

Long-suffering means to bear under for a long time, to delay wrath, to not break forth with angry words or violent deeds.

1 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

We are to patiently endure these difficult people in the way God patiently and graciously endures wicked rebellious men over a long period of time. (Ga5:22)

We must respond to those who irritate us with long-suffering, we do not respond with resentment or retaliation.

Gentleness

Reluctance to avenge wrongs. To suffer long will require that we develop a gentle and controlled response at all times toward others.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Lowliness

This gentleness requires that we think biblically about ourselves this is the essence of humility.  Lowliness was a degrading term in Greek culture used to refer to a groveling servant.  This term was taken by Christians to represent a distinctly Christian virtue.

Two examples:

  • Jesus – I did not come to be served but to serve…
  • Paul – “a bondslave of Jesus Christ…

To rightly esteem other people in the body and their opinions and ideas as more important than your own.  All this because we love them!

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

YOU WALK WORTHY WHEN YOU BELIEVE IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE (4-6)

This “one body” – the visible church (1.23) has a theological foundation. It is founded upon spiritual truth – doctrine!

One Spirit (4)

It is the Holy Spirit that gives life to the body. That Spirit is the soul of the body without Whom the body cannot exist.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

The Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance (1.14)

One Lord (5)

One Jesus Christ – to whom all true Christians owe allegiance.  There is one faith in one Lord unites all believers. There is one baptism by water is the external seal of incorporation into Christ’s body

This includes all people of every race, color, language, background, both Jew and Gentile.

Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

One Father (6)

There are not many gods but one true God and Father of all – all speaking of His paternal relationship through creation (1Co.8:5-6).

  • Above all – He reigns over all
  • Through all – In His creative activity
  •  In you all – He is everywhere present. Specifically he dwells in those who have trusted Him through His Spirit.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.

YOU WALK WORTHY WHEN YOU ARE DOING THE WORK OF MINISTRY (7-16)

People – Equipping by gifted men (7-12a)

  • Apostles and prophets – laid the foundation of the church (2.20).  A foundation is laid only one time.  Jesus is the cornerstone for that foundation.
  • Evangelists are the missionaries who pioneer outreach in areas where the gospel has not yet been proclaimed.
  • Pastor-Teachers are the shepherds of the flock, teachers of the Word. Speaks of local church ministry.

Process (12)

Pastors perfect > Saints serve > Body builds

Product (12c-16)

Equipping results in spiritual maturity (12c-13,15)

The body of Christ is built up (12c). Each one comes to the Unity of the faith – This is a goal to be reached

The depth of a church is determined by the quality of worship and instruction. The breadth of a church is determined by its commitment to fellowship and evangelism.

This unity will come with an increasing knowledge of Christ. In this way the church comes to maturity. Individualism is seen as a mark of immaturity. “Perfect man” – manhood.  To the full measure of perfection found in Christ. When a baby is born the head is unusually large in comparison to the rest of the body, as it develops the body grows in due proportion to the head.

Spiritual Maturity produces spiritual stability (14-15)

We are to abandon childish attitudes. We are to grow out of childish instability in what we believe. We no longer are tossed around by every wind and wave of doctrine. We are no longer susceptible to the deceit and craftiness of false prophets. We understand there is no unity in compromise, there is no unity in false teaching. The church cannot allow falsehood to go uncorrected yet the truth is vindicated in accents of love (15)

Spiritual stability results in spiritual service (16,12b)

The aim of these ministries is the equipping of all God’s people for service. (12b) Christ is the One out of whom all Christians grow. As each part works properly the whole body is supported in the way it needs. We must be what we are in the body, not for ourselves but for the benefit of the other members of the body.

“Half-hearted Christians are the most miserable people of all. They know enough about God to feel guilty, but they haven’t gone far enough with Christ to be happy.” – Ortland

It is time to grow to maturity!

Each of us would do us well to place ourselves on God’s scale to see if we are walking worthy of our calling. May we “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This means we must collectively work hard and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Do you need to commit to growing up spiritually – to maturing in the body of Christ so that you do your part in supporting the other members of the body.

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