Category Archives: Spiritual Growth

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?

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?

WORKING OUT YOUR SALVATION


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When light comes in, darkness scurries away. Light and darkness are mortal enemies, they cannot stay together in one place. Just as east is opposite of west, so light and darkness are mutually exclusive.

Darkness is nothingness. Darkness is the absence of light.

You once lived in darkness… maybe you still do. You lived in darkness and feared the light, though it had a strange attraction to you at times. You loved darkness instead of light, because your works were evil. You ran from light because you did not want those evil activities, thoughts, intentions, motives to be revealed to others, but especially you did not want them revealed to God. We were all like cockroaches that scurried madly for the darkness when the light was flipped on.

All of that changed when you were rescued! As you were sinking in the thick slime of sin, lost in absolute darkness, unable to escape, terrified the Rescuer came looking for you! He searched for you in the darkness by shining a light and He found you. He lifted you up, and He set your feet on the rock, and he cleaned you, and he clothed you with His righteousness, and he gave you a new heart instead of the dead one, and he opened your blind eyes! He saved you, rescued you from destruction and suddenly you could see the beauty of your Rescuer!  You had passed from death to life, from darkness to light!

Now what?

Paul is going to answer that question in our text today.

“Therefore”(12) – in light of the exaltation of Christ as LORD to whom every knee will bow and every tongue admit/confess that He is Sovereign Lord… In light of His example of humility and exaltation, there is something that you must do! There is a response that is required from everyone who sees the exalted Christ! What is that response? Obedience!

What Paul is about to share with them is based upon His relationship with them, and their relationship to truth (12).

  • Relationship of love – “Beloved.” (12) Paul’s instructions and exhortation are based upon his genuine care for them. He wants them to experience God’s best!
  • Relationship of obedience – “obeyed.” They had always obeyed when Paul was around, now the call is to continue to obey though Paul is not around!

Application: How often do you obey only when someone is looking? Are you the same Monday as you are Sunday morning? Were you the same this past Friday night at 9pm as you are right now?  Consistent obedience to Christ and the gospel is a mark of spiritual life and spiritual growth.

This is hard! It is a battle everyday against the lusts of my flesh, the lust of my eyes, and the pride of life! Through the power of the Holy Spirit I must put to death the deeds of my sinful nature (Ro.8:13)

THE ABILITY TO WORK OUT OUR SALVATION – REGENERATION

God’s work in you is all grace!

He saves us by grace – For it is by grace that you have been saved by faith… (Eph.2:8) We were slaves of sin, now we are set free to be slaves of Christ. (Ro.6:19-22)

He sanctifies us by grace! Sanctification is the process of making something holy. In the life of a Christian it is the work of the Spirit to make us holy, like Jesus Christ. (Ro.15:16, I Co.6:11, 1Pt.1:2)  The work of the Spirit using the Word of God as a tool to shape us to be like Christ. (2Thes.2;13)

God’s work in you produces three outcomes (13)

  1. To want to do His will – your desire to know and do God’s will is proof that God is working in you!
  2. To have the ability to do His will – desire and ability are not the same thing! It is God who imparts supernatural power in you do actually do it! (1Thes.4:1-7)
  3. To have the right motive and attitude in doing His will – His good pleasure! Our pride wants to do the will of God and get the glory for it! We exist for His will, for His pleasure! Remember the “bow and tongue confess that He is LORD” bit? (Lk.17:7-10)

THE ATTITUDE AS WE WORK OUT OUR SALVATION – REVERENCE

Attitude of fear

Who among us would not be in awe if we met Queen Elizabeth of England? Reverence and awe in the presence of deity. (Rev.1:10-17)

Attitude of trembling

To shake with fear – He is King! He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah! Don’t mess with Aslan, he is not a tame lion! We work out our salvation with a healthy understanding of who it is we are obeying! This is a reaction born from deep respect and love.

THE ACTION IN WORKING OUT OUR SALVATION – REJECT

Reject a complaining spirit

Stop it! Whatever you are facing, whatever you are going through, stop complaining! Grumbling dissatisfaction at disappointed expectations. Grumbling about whatever – this is the opposite of thankfulness. ILL: Often those who have the most, grumble the loudest.

Reject disputing

Disputing means to argue,  to have an argumentative spirit. Some of you like a fight! You argue with your husband or you argue with your wife – Stop it!

Application: Some of you have long-standing arguments with others and it continues because you know you are right and the are wrong!… and the fact that you are not humble!

CONCLUSION:

What are the outcomes of this process?

You become like Christ (15a)

  • Blameless children – if others say something about you, it cannot stick to you because there is nothing there for it to adhere to. (1Ti.3:2,10; 5:7; 6:14)
  • Harmless children – no ability to retaliate.
  • Faultless children – without blemish! Without reproach.

You shine as lights (15b)

  • Context – This is taking place in an environment that is darkness, where men who love evil deeds hate light, and you break in as a light shining brightly.
  • Contrast – it is a crooked environment – they don’t do anything straight. It is a perverse environment – morally, ethically.

You experience great joy (16-18)

  • Paul’s joy – the bottom line evaluation of ministry is, are people living out their calling? It is not the profession (lips) it is the living it out (life).
  • Their joy! There is deep lasting abiding joy in being God’s child!

You might be a Christian here this morning asking the question: How does all this happen for me this week?

Hold fast the word of God! (16a) Make God’s word your authority. Determine that you will humble yourself and obey whatever He tells you in His word! In every and any situation that you may face – you will obey Him!

You cannot become like Jesus Christ apart from the Word of God. Cling to the Word as though your life depends upon it… because it does!

This is what it means to work out your salvation!  Working out of salvation is something worth giving your life for! Paul was being “poured out as a drink offering” on the alter of their faith and obedience. (17a) Are you giving your life in this way? Are you living in such a way that you are working out the salvation that God put within you in the context of this body of believers?

You can listen or download free audio of the sermon preached at Kitwe Church here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?m=t&s=918161054141

ONE PLEA – Glorify God With Your Life


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We have all been guilty of offering habitual prayers, or even casual prayers. You know, the kind of thoughtless prayers like “Lord bless all the missionaries today.”

I will never forget the night Carman was born. It was 9:30 in the evening on April 8, 2002 when Lori said that she thought it was time. Having been through this routine with four other babies I was not in a big hurry.  When Lori was expecting Cherith I remember at the first sign of labor I bolted into motion, grabbed our gear and wisked Lori into the car and raced to the hospital at breakneck speed only to  wait another 12 hours before the baby was born.  Lori came back a few minutes later and said it was urgent that we go now!  We got to the clinic here in Kitwe and at 11:30pm Lori gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who we named Carman.

Carman was a cord birth.  I watched the midwife work frantically and finally get the cord off the baby’s neck.  She was a deep purple color, but slowly gained a more normal shade.  After things had settled down I went back to an empty room to sleep.  After a time, I felt a hand on my shoulder, it was Lori.  She said, you must come quick, the baby is in distress.  I ran back to the room and Carman was taking short little gasps of air.  Each time she exhaled bubbles came out of her nose. She was now an ashen grey color, drowning from the amnionic fluid she ingested during birth.  I grabbed Lori’s hand and began to pray. I remember that prayer, it came from deep in my heart, a cry for God to be merciful and intervene and spare her life.

This is the kind of prayer that we find in our text Philippians 1:9-11.  Paul is laying out his passionate prayer to God for the Philippians. He has spoken of his deep affection for them, “I have you in my heart” he says in v 7.  “I greatly long for you all with affection” he says in v 8. Now he shares with them his prayer.

Passionate prayer is praying from the overflow of a burdened heart with a sense of our own inability. It is the pursuit of God by one man on behalf of another.

“And this I pray!” (9) Here is the content of Paul’s prayer: He longs for them to glorify God with their life, to be the means by which praise and glory is rendered to God!

In these three short verses Paul lays out the essentials for a life that glorifies God! This is essentially a plea to glorify God with your life!

Glorifying God With My Life Begins With A Love That Is Constantly Growing (9a)

How does this happen?

We grow in knowledge of God through His Word.

As we know him our love increases but this overflowing love is more than just a head full of facts about God and His Word, it is the basis for obedience. (John 14:15,21,23)

Love and obedience are not the same thing. You can obey with the wrong attitude. You can obey without love, but you cannot love without obeying. Obedience is the natural expression of love.

The reason that so many Christians are indifferent and careless toward God is that they are in love with the wrong thing. We are prone to love the gifts God gives instead of loving Him!  We love the creation instead of the Creator! (Rom 1:21,25).  We love money, education, our occupation, sports, or entertainment but we do not passionately pursue Christ as greatest end.

The question for you today is not, do you know about Jesus, the question is do you know Him The question is not, “Do you love Jesus?” but, “Do you love Jesus more than anything else in this world?” (Lk. 14:26).

This growing love is the product of a growing knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ! It is not only a knowledge of facts but an experiential knowledge gained by walking with Him day by day.

What does this growth look like? How does a growing knowledge of God flesh out in everyday life?

We grow in discernment

Discernment is the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.  This is not a legalistic list of regulations and checklists used to evaluate spirituality, nor is it is it license to do whatever you want. This discernment is based upon a deep heart desire to please the object of our love. It is genuine holiness based upon a deepening knowledge of God through His Word. It is a life in balance, able to discern what is appropriate, what is helpful.

We are called to embrace the knowledge of God that produces holy living! The ability to make proper judgements for everyday living in line with the nature and character of God. The practical application of our knowledge of God to the realities of every-day life!

1Thessalonians 5:21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
1Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Glorifying God With My Life Means That I Choose What Is Best Over What Is Merely Acceptable! (10a)

Approve what is excellent

This is not to determine good and evil but to determine what is of real value so that you don’t waste your life!  Determine what is best! Live for what matters most! There are many things that can fill your time each day. There are opportunities that come in life that are not necessarily sinful. Paul is saying that the life that glorifies God evaluates each opportunity to determine what has real value!

Don’t waste your life on rubbish.

Choose the real thing!  A couple years back I was on safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana.  We spent the morning on the Chobe River viewing abundant wildlife.  After a wonderful lunch at the lodge we climbed into the open safari vehicles in search of big cats.  As we moved through the bush the drive suddenly slammed the brakes and pointed.  I missed it at first, but then I saw what the guide was pointing at.  Crossing the trail in front of us was a Dung Beetle. It’s front feet were down in the sand and the back legs were up on a ball of elephant dung.  It was pushing that ball back to wherever it lives.  A dung beetle spends his whole life pushing a ball of animal feces. Dung beetles will attack one another to steal the ball of dung!  As we continued our drive I sat back and prayed, “God, don’t let that be the parable of my life!”  What a tragedy to get to heaven one day and see our Christian life from heaven’s perspective only to realize that we did little more than push around balls of dung!

And Paul was concerned about this very thing! Notice what he writes in Philippians 3:3-8!!

For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as dung, that I may gain Christ

Paul had reached the pinnacle of success in Hebrew culture. He had a stellar pedigree, a Hebrew of the Hebrews.  He was religious and full of zeal.  In the eyes of his contemporaries Paul was to be admired!  But all of this he viewed as dung, compared to the excellencies of having Christ!

What really matters in life is serving God and living a life that brings Him glory. To live a life that is worthy of the gospel. (1:27)

As I come to know Christ, I see Him hanging on the cross in agony, I view His glorious character in the Word, I experience his grace in my life and my perspective changes. I no longer see ugly, unloveable people, I see people who Christ loves. I no longer see thieves and prostitutes and drunkards and rapists I see men and women who God loves and sacrificed His own Son on the cross to save!  When I know Christ my perspective changes. I no longer view people in light of how they affect me, or their impact on my life.  I view them through the eyes of the One who loved them and gave Himself for them! When Jesus saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion because they were wandering like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt. 9:36)

So what is best? Christ Himself! In Him alone the Christian finds satisfaction, fulfillment, love, and joy unspeakable and full of glory! Pursue Christ not for what He can give but for who He is!
Don’t waste your life on rubbish!

Glorifying God With My Life Means That My Life Is Characterized By Integrity. (10b)

Be sincere

Sincerely is to be without hypocrisy. Christ’s most scathing rebukes were reserved for the self-righteous, (Matthew 23:13-15, 23,25,27-28) those who appeared one way but inside they were something totally different.

When life turns up the heat, when your goals and plans begin to crumble, when trials or afflictions come, when people begin to falsely accuse you, you are suddenly presented an opportunity to demonstrate your sincerity. What you really believe about God, his love, his faithfulness and his goodness is actually lived out in the midst of the fiery trial.

Be blameless

To be blameless is to be a person of Christlike character. This is the extent and goal of integrity. (2:14-15). We were chosen by God to be blameless Eph. 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
Blamelessness is not only requirement for every pastor and deacon – it is the standard for every child of God. (I Tim 3:2,10)

Glorifying God With My Life Means That My Life Produces Good Works. (11a)

Christ produces in my life “fruits of righteousness.”

This is the external fruit of our internal love for God! This is seen in my response to suffering, in my graciousness when attacked, in my courage when threatened, my ability to suffer and even die if need be for the sake of Jesus Christ. The world is not at all impressed with our business success, with the size of our bank accounts, with our beautiful houses. What impacts the world is our response to suffering, pain, death, bankruptcy, or how we handle the death of our child. A dear friend who recently lost her daughter said to Lori at the funeral, “It hurts so much, but I know God is good!”  This is the genuine fruit that is produced by an overflowing love for God!

Don’t waste your life!

Several years ago someone gave me John Piper’s book entitled “Don’t waste your life!” Let me to borrow those words to press home the urgency of living for the glory of God!

  • Don’t waste your money
  • Don’t waste your influence
  • Don’t waste your education – use it to establish a beachhead for the gospel in some restricted access country in the 10/40 window.
  • Don’t waste your robberies
  • Don’t waste your dis-functional family upbringing
  • Don’t waste your death.  The first Administrator of Faith Children’s Village, Joe Mbewe, lost his wife in tragic circumstances.  I will never forget his testimony at the funeral of his wife. With his two year old daughter in his arms, he gave testimony of his faith and the confidence that he would see her again.  Joe then sang his wife’s favorite song, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”  This is what it means to not waste your death!

Jesus spoke of Peter’s death and then these words, “signifying by what death he should glorify God!” (Jn 21:19)

As God orchestrates the dark valleys and deep trials in your life, Don’t waste them!  Don’t waste these opportunities to magnify Christ (1:20)!  Allow His life to so saturate you that your very presence permeates Christ to the world around you. Whether in life or in death – glorify Christ!

Here is the culmination of Paul’s prayer! (11b) Paul’s passionate plea to God on their behalf all crescendos to this as its highest end: “to the glory and praise of God!”

Paul prayed that the Philippians’ love would increase through a growing knowledge of God that would result in the discernment to spend their lives for what really matters by living as men and women of integrity so that the righteousness of Christ might bear abundant fruit in them to the glory and praise of God.

Are you wasting your life or spending your life for what will count for eternity? Is your life bringing glory and praise to God?

What a tragedy it would be to get to heaven and suddenly realize that all you did was push around balls of dung your entire Christian existence!

Download the audio of this sermon

Building A Life of Stewardship


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What do you own that you did not receive?  You might respond, “But I have worked hard to gain what I now possess!”  Where did you get the ability to learn what you now know that allows you to work hard?  Where did you get the health and strength to carry out the tasks? Luck? Chance – is this whole thing one big crap-shoot like the evolutionist would have us believe?  Is is Karma – a little good a little bad just happens?

Listen to what God says:

To the Israelites God says, “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deut 8:18)

To those who where trying to find some some leg-up advantage over other people based upon their identification with a prominent preacher God says,

For who makes you to differ from one another? And what do you have that you did not receive?… (1 Cor. 4:7)

Ever wonder why there are those who serve God who prosper, but there are also those who despise God who also prosper in this life?  Listen to Jesus:

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who cures you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecutor you, that you may be sons of your Father in heave; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matt. 5:44-45)

All of life is entrusted to us as a stewardship:  Our time, our world (creation), our bodies, our families, gifts & talents, knowledge, possessions and money, and the gospel. There is nothing that we have that was not given to us by God

CLARIFYING OUR TERMS:

  • A steward is a servant entrusted with the responsibility of managing someone else’s property. He is expected to discharge his duties in the owners best interest.
  • He has been given the resources and authority to discharge his duties.

CONTEXT:

The gospel of Luke was written so we would know what Jesus was really like.  It is a historical orderly account of Jesus life and ministry. (Lk1:1-4)

Jesus is telling a parable (11). A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. There are two reasons that Christ told this story:

  1. He was going up to he was going up to Jerusalem – triumphal entry.
  2. Jews thought the kingdom would immediately be established

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO THIS PARABLE:

There is an important bit of history behind this parable that would have been fresh in the minds of the people listening to Jesus. Herod the Great was king when Jesus was born. Archelaus the son of Herod the Great was appointed by his father to be King over Judea four days before his death in 4BC.

Archelaus was a sensual vain man notorious for not keeping his word.  Once when the Pharisees demanded the removal of the Saduccean High Priest, Archelaus agreed but said only after his kingship had been confirmed by Augustus.  The Pharisees pushed the issue and the day before Passover troops were sent into the court of the temple and 3000 Jews were massacred.

Soon after the massacre Archelaus traveled to Rome to be confirmed by Caesar.  A delegation of 50 Jews from Judea followed him to Rome to petition for the exclusion of the Herodians from government.  These men were joined by 8,000 Jews living in Rome at the time.  Cesar Augustus confirmed Archelaus anyway. When Archelaus returned to Jerusalem he killed all those who had complained against him.

You can see why this parable would have grabbed the attention of the Jews listening to Jesus.

THE COMMAND IS CLEAR (12-13)

The command was given by the proper authority. (12)

Nobleman was going away to get a kingdom.  He had the right to give his servants instructions about what He wanted them to do!  As King, he had the absolute right to rule over his subjects.  the King gave them a job to do before his return.

The command was given to the right people (13)

They are identified as “his” servants.  They belonged to him, and they had pledged their allegiance to him to serve him.  These servants in v13 were different from the “citizens” in v 14.

The word servants is the Greek word doulos.  This was a servant whose life was completely at the disposal of the master.  He owned them.  It speaks of a person who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will altogether consumed in the will of the master.  He has no rights, no will of his own, he is completely given over to the will of another. this is not referring to a hired servant.

In the New Testament there are two Greek words translated Servant:

  • Diakonos – A hired servant, not a slave. The main emphasis of this word is on the service.
  • Doulos – A bondservant, one who is a slave.  The main reference in the use of this word is the relationship to the master and a state of servitude.

NOTE:  The difference in focus of the two words:  service vs. standing.  WHAT we are doing vs. WHO we are doing it for.

For the Jews hearing Jesus refer to a doulos, they would have naturally thought of the law of the Bond-slave found in Exodus 21:5-6.

In the OT there was a common practice of self-sale into slavery.  If the bond-slave was a Hebrew he was to serve six years and then be released.  All slaves were to be released with their families every 50th year – the year of Liberty  (Deut. 15:16).  If however, when the time came to grant the bond-slave his freedom he willingly requested to serve his master for life; he would submit to having a hole bored through the cartilage in his ear.  This was a permanent mark of identification as a slave.  Older people with holes in the ear to identify tribe.

The command was very specific

  1. They each were given the same amount. Received one Mina = 3 months wages.
  2. They were each given the same command – “Do business on my behalf until I get back.”
  3. They each were under the same obligation – This was not optional, if they felt like it or not, if it was convenient or not – he expected complete compliance

Lesson 1 – God is the owner of all assets (13)

Lesson 2 – God entrust us to accomplish His purposes on His behalf. (13)

THE CONTEXT IS CHALLENGING (14)

The Citizens Hate The King 

The citizens absolutely detested the king. In a similar way the world deeply hates Christ.  Jesus said to his disciples:

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

The Citizens Rebel Against The King’s rule

“We will not have” they rebelled, completely refused his rule.  This speaks of an act of violence or open resistance to an established government or ruler. Hatred and rebellion go together!

“Rule” speaks of structure, laws, authority.  They did not want him telling them what to do!

We are commissioned to make disciples by “Teaching them to obey all things that I have commanded you.” (Mt. 28.18-20).  You see we are happy to bow to a host of gods other than the Lord!

“What other gods could we have besides the Lord? Plenty. For Israel there were the Canaanite Baals, those jolly nature gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution. For us there are still the great gods Sex, Shekels, and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god: self), and the other enslaving trio, Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as “The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Football, the Firm, and Family are also gods for some. Indeed the list of other gods is endless, for anything that anyone allows to run his life becomes his god and the claimants for this prerogative are legion. In the matter of life’s basic loyalty, temptation is a many-headed monster.” – JI Packer

Principle 3: Principle of Perseverance – God must be obeyed in spite of circumstances, obstacles or distractions.

HIS RETURN IS CERTAIN (15-21)

Evaluation of the Faithful Servants (15-19)

The hatred of the world has no power over the return of the king… He is coming back! (15a) When he comes there will be a reckoning. Servants will be called to give account of their stewardship.  These servants presented what they had done for the King.  The first 1,000% return the second 500% return (15b-16,18).

Each servant received the same commendation by the King.  “Well done good and faithful servant” (17,19).  They each were reward for their faithfulness (17,19).

Application: Faithful service results in greater opportunity and responsibility in the service of the King!

Lesson 4 – God expects us to be resourceful with what He has given us.

Lesson 5 – God will require that we give an account.

Lesson 6 – God will give greater responsibilities to those who have been faithful in smaller matters.

Evaluation of the Wicked Servant (20-21)

“Another kind of servant” (20)(Estes – another of a different kind.)  He refused to do business for the King  and returned the Mina.

Reasons: Because I feared you. This is from the word we get phobia.  This is a severe fear that is not in keeping with reality.  This servant had a wrong view of God, a wrong attitude toward God which led him to wrong conclusions about God and wrong actions toward God’s commands.

He accused the Master of greed: “you collect what you did not deposit” (21).  Charged him with taking what he did not work for.

THE JUDGE IS SOVEREIGN (22-27)

Wicked servants suffer loss (22-26)

The judge rules with sovereign authority.

The mouth reveals the heart (22). This servant did not live up to what he knew about the Master.  Jesus said, “Out of your mouth I will judge you.” (22)

It is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Lk. 6.45).  If God were to judge you according to what has come out of your mouth this past week how would you fare?  What do you talk about?  What you talk about reveals what you think about!

God called him a wicked servant (22b) Why?  Something is expected of servants they are expected to obey what they have been told!

  • He knew the command – understood
  • He had the resources for the task
  • He had the ability to perform the task

King takes away his Mina and gives it to the one with ten. (24-26)

Lesson 7 – Use God’s resources rightly or loose everything!

Rebellious citizens will be destroyed (27)

  • Complete destruction of those who would not have Him rule over them.
  • Don’t live your life for Material goods that will perish – live your life for the Master!

 

What is required of God’s servants?

1Co.4:1-2 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.)

If Christ returns today will He find you faithful?  How are you using your talents, time and money?

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.