Saturday, November 29, 2014

141130 Knowing Christ

Philippians 3:1-11 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

The Apostle shows us very clearly the contrast between having confidence in the flesh and having confidence in knowing Christ. As far as the flesh was concerned Paul was born a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin who was trained as a Pharisee. He was a persecutor of the church and, so far as the law was concerned, he was blameless. Very few people could claim that they have such a high standard. We all need to have the same attitude that the Apostle Paul had. Even though he was very religious, and completely committed to the faith of his fathers, after he met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus his entire life focus changed. From that point on everything changed!

Paul had worked very hard on becoming a leading Pharisee. He lived and breathed the Old Testament law and the rabbis’ interpretation of it. If any man could think of himself as having arrived there were none better than Paul. Yet in spite of all that…

Paul counted all his achievements worthless. We are told almost nothing about the apostle before he came to Christ. The only blood family members we know anything about is a sister, and a nephew, who is unnamed. Yet, I can imagine that Paul was very special to his family. He was born in the city of Tarsus and probably grew to manhood there. Tarsus would have been a very cosmopolitan city. Anyone born in Tarsus was automatically Roman citizen. It was the capital city of a region called Cilicia. I can imagine that he was chosen by his parents to be the Rabbi in the family. We do know, from his own statement, that Paul came to Jerusalem to study under Gamaliel, a leading Rabbi. Apparently, Paul’s sister and her family lived in Jerusalem where Paul was held by the Romans. When a plot was devised to take Paul and kill him his nephew heard of it and warned the Romans.

Paul was a rising star in Jewish society but he…

Exchanged his credentials for knowing Christ. Turn with me to Jeremiah 9:23-24. Paul would certainly have been familiar with this teaching in Jeremiah. In fact, Paul might have been directly influenced by passages like this in the Old Testament. Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

Paul had written to the Corinthians to say that he had decided to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2-3) He did not come to them with eloquence and human wisdom. He said that he came to them in fleshly weakness but spiritual power. He gave up all his credentials in order…

To be found in Christ. Turn with me to Ephesians 1:3-14.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

This is a long passage of Scripture but “in Him” occurs several times. We have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Before the world was created, God chose us in Him. God predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ. In Him we have redemption through his blood. In Christ the Father has a plan to unite all things in heaven and on earth. I pray that he soon will come again to earth and establish that unity. In Him we have already obtained an inheritance. In Him we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Our inheritance is part of that unity found in Him.

We could go on and on citing passages of Scripture that talk about what we have in Christ Jesus. Among the most important things to have is…

To have the righteousness that comes through faith. Turn with me to Romans 1:16-17. Here we find the theme of the book of Romans.  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul gave up all his worldly, as well as religous, human achievements after he met Jesus on the Damascus road. Having come to know Christ I am sure he began to restudy the Scripture that were so familiar to him. Now he approached the Bible with a new understanding of what it was all about.

The good news of Jesus Christ that had come to him with such force confirmed to him the words of Habakkuk, “The righteous shall live by faith.” He knew, of course, the words of Isaiah, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6) So he understood that in order to know Christ in that special sense of “knowing” that he desired he had to have the righteousness that comes through faith. It is important for us to note that Paul was not urging us to try harder to be righteous in our own strength but instead was urging us to come to a righteousness from God that depends on faith.

It is by grace that we have been saved through faith and that is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8-9) We have just observed Thanksgiving. High on our list of things to thank God for should be the fact that he has given us the faith to believe in Him and release His grace in our life. We cannot earn our salvation and we cannot work up any kind of acceptable “righteousness”. We have to receive it from God. In Christ Jesus we have a righteousness that is approved by God. A part of the work that God is doing in our life should spur our desire…

To know the power of His resurrection. Turn with me to 1 Peter 1:3-5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ Christianity would be meaningless. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that our faith is futile if Christ has not been raised. (1 Corinthians 15:17) Throughout the New Testament it is affirmed again and again that the power of the resurrection is the key to our salvation. Peter has confirmed that our new birth is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3) The primary theme of the preaching of the apostles was giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Paul had put aside everything in his life in order to know Christ. Not just to know about Him but to “know Him”. He knew and understood that nothing he could do in his own strength would give him the joyous relationship that he had acquired by the grace of God.

God had given to Paul the faith to believe and that caused him to be spiritually hungry for the righteousness of God. It is absolutely essential that all of us, along with Paul, experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus had stated that in the world we would have trouble but, He assured us that He had overcome the world. (John 16:33) In order to know his resurrection we will need…

To share His suffering. Turn with me to James 1:2-4. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

One thing for sure — we will face trials and tribulation. This is, in a way, sharing in Jesus’ suffering. After all, we are part of his body here on earth. When a Christian is persecuted for his faith it is Christ who is being persecuted.

When Paul was on the road to Damascus, as reported in Acts 9, he was on his way to arrest everyone there who claimed the name of Christ. He was going after the followers of Jesus.

But Jesus did not ask him why he was persecuting them he said to him, “Saul, Saul why you persecuting ME?” To persecute the church is to persecute Jesus. Across the world today governments and individuals are persecuting Christians. They may think of themselves as dealing with one individual or a group of people but God sees them as persecuting His Son.

The persecutors are on the wrong side of the issue. They are not just hurting believers they are calling God out. The power that raised Christ from the dead and that stopped Paul on the road to Damascus is the power that will confront the opponents of Christ today.

There are many examples throughout history of efforts to wipe out the Christians only to find that there were more, and more of them. It will be true today also! There will be many new believers in Christ Jesus in the world of Islam. In exactly the same way, there became more and more Christians in the Communist dictatorships. I often cite China for example.

Starting in the 1930s the Communist Party began to rise to power. One of the things they did was to attack missionaries and Chinese believers wherever they went. When the entire country fell under the control of the Communists in 1949 it is estimated that there were about 5 million Christians in China. 30 years later, after severe persecution, the Western world was allowed to look behind the “Bamboo Curtain”, as it was called, to the amazement of almost everyone the number of Christians had increased to 50 million or more. The current growth rate of the Christian church in China will cause that country to have more believers than any other country in the world in a few more years.

Today it is the Islamic countries that are trying to destroy the Christian church. In the short term they seem to be winning because everything is being measured by human standards. But we need to remember to factor in the power of the resurrection of Christ released in the world. In the long run God will raise up believers everywhere they are being killed today.

The Voice of the Martyrs reports on things that are happening in Syria today. In one situation the militants entered the church buildings and destroy everything in sight. They burned Bibles, hymnals, and prayer books. They tore down the crosses on the steeples and used the church buildings as sniper positions.

Although the church buildings were severely damaged many Syrian Christians remain hopeful. They know that the church is not a building but rather consists of all who belong to the body of Christ.

One pastor, who has remained there, fatefully travels each week to nearby villages to conduct services for the Christians there. The other church leaders that were there have either been killed or driven out by the Islamic State militants. This pastor’s wife recently said, “Our family is in danger, but we serve a mighty God.” There are many Christians who have remained behind and continue to bear witness to the Muslim neighbors. One Muslim, in Syria, was heard to say, “If this is what Islam is I don’t want to be a Muslim.” When he observed the Islamists and their cruelty.

Paul was wanting to gain Christ, and be found in Christ’s righteousness, and come to know the power of his resurrection. He came to know that such knowledge would result in…

Becoming like Him in His death. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 4:8-11. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Paul is not talking about our being crucified like Jesus was. He’s talking about us following Christ into deadly persecution. I can hardly imagine what the Apostle Paul’s body looked like by the time he came to the end of his life. Use your imagination. In 2 Corinthians 11:23, and following, we find Paul saying he had been beaten so many times he couldn’t count them. He was often near death. Five times he was beaten with 39 lashes of a whip. Three times he was beaten with rods. One time he was stoned. And the list goes on and on!

When one of His people is afflicted it is Christ who is being afflicted. We need to understand that being united to Jesus means that we are always carrying in our body the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus takes away our wrongdoing and releases life in us. In order for us to be comforted, and therefore qualified to comfort others, we have to first be afflicted. And when we are afflicted we share in His suffering and when that is carried to the extreme we become like Him in his death!

Most of us will never go through the kind of suffering that Paul did. But we need to be ready — the day may come, even here. When we gain Christ we get an entire package that includes suffering and also comfort. Praise God we also gain resurrection power over sin!

Above all things we need to be found in Christ Jesus. Our faith in Him should cause us to value everything in comparison to Christ. Nothing we have in our possession, nothing we have earned by the world’s system, no relationship that we have on earth, is of more value than Jesus Christ. It is absolutely essential that we have His opinion on every part of our life. If Jesus is your Lord then He has the right to direct us in our actions and decisions. Remember, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you have made that kind of commitment you need to follow through with baptism and church membership. This could be your day. 

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

141123 Cooperative Sanctification

Philippians 2:12-18 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
 The Apostle continues his counsel to the Philippian church, and to us. He has a goal for them, and for us, that we should be blameless, innocent, children of God without blemish. We need to maintain that condition in the midst of a crooked and twisted world. We shine as lights in the world. Jesus had said that those who dwell in him are the light of the world and we are to let our light shine. Throughout the New Testament we are taught to cooperate with God in His work in our life. His goal for us is that we be like Christ Jesus by becoming more and more free from sin in our actual lives.
First, let me make one thing clear. When Paul writes, “work out your own salvation”, he certainly does not mean that we can somehow earn our salvation. The Scripture is very clear. We are saved by grace, through faith, which is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8-9) We are not saved by any works of righteousness that we have done. He saved us according to his own mercy. (Titus 3:5)  Once salvation is ours then we have the responsibility to do good works which God has prepared for us.
Just as a baker kneads the dough so the yeast is spread all through the bread, so we are to spread salvation through our life. That process is called sanctification. Now, let’s get into the sermon.
The new birth gives us power not to continue in sin. Turn with me to Romans 6:11-14. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
The Christian life is absolutely impossible for a son or daughter of Adam and Eve to live out. Just as when Nicodemus came to Jesus, we must be born again! (John 3) Becoming no longer children of Adam but now children of God. That new birth puts a new dynamic in our lives. Yet, at the same time we have a responsibility to accept God’s proclamation and consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. That condition is absolutely impossible until one is in Christ Jesus. The power of God comes to live in the believer making one able to prevent the rule of sin. We have the ability to NOT let sin reign. We are to give ourselves up to God to become tools for righteousness in the world we live in.
And, so far as I’m concerned, verse fourteen holds one of the greatest promises in all the Bible. “… Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Yes, we may fall back into sin again and again. But God’s promise to us is that sin will not be able to rule over us forever. We will be dead to sin and alive to God “in Christ Jesus”.
We have the ability, and responsibility, to cooperate with God in resisting sin in our mortal body. I am not talking about “sinless perfection”. I am saying that God has come into our lives through the Holy Spirit and has given us the power to live a life that honors and glorifies Him.
In Christ Jesus we are dead to sin and for that reason we are baptized by being immersed in water (buried with Him) and raised up out of that water to walk a new life. (Romans 6:3-4) We have died to sin…
Yet, we can never say we are completely free from sin. Turn with me to 1 John 1:7-10.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
We believe that when John wrote this little letter he was the last living apostle of Jesus Christ. He may have been nearing one hundred years old. He had walked with Jesus, had seen many miracles and was with Him to the end. John had lived out his life close to the Lord Jesus Christ and was filled with the Holy Spirit.
With all of that going for him, John still has to say, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” “We”, “ourselves”, and “us” are inclusive pronouns! John the apostle admits to the presence of sin in his body. He also states clearly that he has to continue to confess his sin so that God will forgive and cleanse. I submit to you that if John had to do this we certainly must also do it! We can never say that we are completely free from sin but…
We do not, on the other hand, keep on sinning. Let’s look further into John’s little letter and read 1 John 3:6-10. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
Remember the promise? “Sin will not rule over us because we are not under law but under grace.” We can never say that we are completely free of sin because inherited Sin lives in our body and, though we are in the process, our sanctification will never be completed in our lifetime. On the other hand we should never say that a particular sin has defeated us and we cannot rise above it.
When a person comes to faith in Christ confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord they are born again to a new kind of life. A process begins then that changes our desires so that we no longer love sin. We were formally slaves to sin but are enslaved no longer. Sanctification begins at salvation and continues throughout our Christian lives. We are no longer to yield our body to unrighteousness and impurity. We are now to yield our body to righteousness, for sanctification. We are in the process of being changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. So that when He returns we shall be like him. (1 John 3:2) My hope for a long life rests on the fact that I must be changed into the image of Jesus and I am now far from that.
We have a primary responsibility to develop sanctification in our own lives but…
Sanctification is first of all God’s work. Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Though we have a responsibility to live a godly life yet it is God Himself who does the work. These are words of great encouragement. If we are, in our own strength, to somehow “sanctify” our whole spirit and soul and body and remain “blameless” at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ we have no hope! Instead, it is God Himself who will “sanctify” us completely! Our whole spirit and soul and yes even our body will be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Remember, he who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. You see…
God disciplines us. Turn with me to Hebrews 12:5-11. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
     “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
The process of sanctification is not always easy and fun. If we are children of God then He will treat us like children! Just as our earthly father disciplined us when we did wrong, our Heavenly Father will also discipline us. Much of the process of sanctification is God dealing with our old habits and lifestyle. In fact, if you can sin and get away with it you are probably not a child of God. I am not talking about the ability to commit sin I’m talking about a changed attitude towards sin.
One thing that I have noted is that when a person truly comes to faith in Christ he or she begins to notice that their feelings have changed. Things they did and said in the past now suddenly become things that make them uncomfortable. There is definitely a move in the life of the believer away from the past and into the future.
God’s discipline, when it happens, seems painful but later it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Salvation cannot be earned and neither can sanctification…
In Christ Jesus we have sanctification. Sanctification is a gift of God just as faith is. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 1:30. And because of him (God the Father) you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
Because of God’s work in our lives we are “in Christ Jesus” and, as such, Jesus gifts us with the things we do not have. We certainly did not have wisdom before we were saved. Oh, there is a certain amount of wisdom in the world but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about God’s kind of wisdom. Only after coming to faith in Christ do we begin to realize God’s wisdom is working itself out in us. We have no righteousness of our own, all our righteousness is like filthy rags! (Isaiah 64:5) That being true, He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Being in Christ Jesus gives us God’s righteousness! Along with that God gives us sanctification and redemption. We need to cooperate with God in the process of sanctification but it is God Himself who does the work in our lives and Christ Himself who is our sanctification. Praise God! Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together to sanctify our lives. God chose His people and sent the Son to work our salvation on the cross and…
The Holy Spirit releases fruit in our lives. Turn with me to Galatians 5:22-26. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Once a person is born again through the confession of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord, the Holy Spirit begins to work in that person’s life changing him, or her, into the image of Jesus. The Holy Spirit produces in us “the fruit of the Spirit ”. That fruit expresses itself in character traits that are part of our growth in sanctification. Part of the process of our salvation is subduing the flesh with its passions and desires and living by the Spirit. On a day-to-day basis we need to learn how to “keep in step with the Spirit”. This is all a part of the process of working out our salvation. Not earning our salvation but working it out into all the parts of our lives.
Recently, someone posted an image on Facebook of a church building with the words, “God wants full custody of His children. Not just weekend visits.” God wants to penetrate all of our lives. Christianity is not just a Sunday morning event it is a day-to-day walk with Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit releases fruit in our life and also…
The Holy Spirit allows us to grow in sanctification. Thank God we are not limited to who we are at salvation. As Peter wrote we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18) Sanctification is not an event, it is a process. Turn with me to Romans 8:13-17. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
This passage shows the active part we play in our sanctification. We are told that we are to “put to death the deeds the body”. Granted, we do that by the Spirit, but it is not a passive waiting on the Spirit to do the work in our life. It is an active process that we do in obedience to Him. This is a working out of our own salvation and it is to be done with fear and trembling. We have received the Spirit of adoption as sons. Since we are sons we are subject to our Fathers discipline. Throughout the New Testament we are taught to strive for holiness; abstain from immorality; obey the will of God and purify ourselves. We are to continually build up patterns or new habits of holiness. In order for this process to work well…
We need each other. Real Christianity is a group process. Turn with me to Hebrews 10:24-25. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
“Let us consider” speaks of working out a plan, or thinking through a process. It is not just a private process for me to grow or for you to grow. It is a group process. We are to stir up one another. As Paul said to the Ephesians we are to speak truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) Here in Hebrews we are to stir up one another to love and good works. We are instructed to meet together — to encourage one another to love and good works.
The Bible teaches us that sanctification will have a positive effect on everything about us. We have put on a new nature that is being renewed in knowledge. Our love for others can grow as we work out our salvation. We will grow in wisdom and knowledge as we cooperate with God. More and more we will be able to abstain from the wrong and grow towards that which is right. We will be able to work out our lives according to God’s will. As we grow in the Lord we will cleanse ourselves from everything that is wrong and we will apply ourselves to being holy in body and spirit. Sanctification will even affect our bodies. As we grasp the truth that sin shall not rule in our bodies we will be able to be healthier in every way. As we cooperate with God we will recognize that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we will glorify God in our spirit and soul and body.
Have you committed your life to the Lord Jesus Christ? Today is the day of salvation.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

141116 Have This Mind in You

Philippians 2:1-11 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The apostle is ministering to the church in Philippi. He had a love relationship with the Philippian church. He wants them to grow in grace in order to more effectively minister to those around them. Paul says, “… complete my joy by being of the same mind,…” Here he is not talking about some kind of church unity but instead he’s talking about a love like that of Jesus. Jesus himself said that we must love one another just as he has loved us. We live in a self-centered world that does not comfort people as much as it confronts people.
The world around us is in great need of the love of God that is shown to us in Christ Jesus. Such love will manifest itself in encouragement, comfort, and sympathy. Moreover, such love will be seen in a selfless life that will call the person who has it to a life of humility enabling the possessor of such love to be able to lift others up.
If there is…
Encouragement. Looking at the example of Christ Jesus we will see the encouragement that he gave. Turn with me to Romans 15:1-7. We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
The spiritually mature person has a responsibility before God to be patient with those who have not “arrived” and are considered to be weak. You see, our place in the kingdom is to be able to lift others up not to push them down. In fact, we are to do everything we possibly can to build up those around us. Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world instead He came to save the world. He did not come to exercise His own will but instead to do the will of the Father.
Many times I have heard believers say that they “sense” the presence of Christ in others at the very first meeting. Since we believe that Christ is in us all we must also recognize that we are all equal – in a spiritual sense. We must never consider ourselves to be better than anyone else. If we recognize the presence of Christ in other people we will find that it’s possible for us to live in harmony with one another. When that day comes God will be glorified in our lives and the world will know that we are His disciples.
If there is any encouragement in Christ there will be…
Comfort. And such comfort will enable us to encourage others with the encouragement Christ. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
None of the other world religions offer a compassionate Savior who gives comfort to his followers enabling them to use that comfort to comfort others. This is one of the most encouraging passages of Scripture. God is portrayed here as the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. In order for us to comfort others we must have also experienced comfort. If we have experienced comfort from God we have the responsibility to comfort others with that same comfort we have received. In order to be comforted we must first have suffered but I suppose that’s not a problem since all of us, in one way or another, have suffered affliction.
The kind of comfort we have received from Christ’s encouragement will always lead to…
Love. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This is probably one of the best-known passages of Scripture. It speaks to us about the kind of love that God has for us and we are able to have for others. Listen while I read. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
A love that is encouraging and comforting will be, by its very nature, patient and kind. That love will not be self-centered and filled with envy. Even though the person who has such love might have reason to boast he, or she, will not boast. That person will not be arrogant or rude. He, or she, will never insist on having their own way, as opposed to the desires of other people. That person will never rejoice at wrongdoing. Yet, such rejoicing seems to be a common part of our culture today.
The kind of love reflected here and in Philippians chapter 2 is nothing less than the love of God. We have a beautiful description of such love in the hymn/poem entitled, The Love of God. The first verse and chorus go like this.
The love of God is greater far then tongue or pen can ever tell; it goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell; the guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win; His erring child He reconciled, and pardoned from his sin.
O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure the saints’ and angels’ song!
The encouragement we receive in Christ and comfort found in love will always give us the ability to have…
Sympathy. Turn with me to 1 Peter 3:8-12. Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Peter would agree with Paul about the need for unity in the body of Christ. The love of Christ always will lead to sympathy. Here, Peter quotes from Psalm 34. In order for one to enjoy the Christian life and experience good days there needs to be a guard placed on our mouth. We must turn away from evil and do good. That’s called “repentance” and should fill our hearts and minds. God is looking for people who are willing, and ready, for His to love draw them into unity and brotherly love. We are never to “get even” with any other person. Instead, we are to let God take care of the problem. God promises that He will repay the wrongdoer on our behalf. Please, leave the revenge to God He knows far better what needs to happen. Instead, we should look on those around us with sympathy. When we see someone spiritually in need the first thing we should say is, “But for the grace of God, there go I”. Then we need to make an effort to bring to them the encouragement of Christ, the comfort we have received from the love of God.
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any unity of purpose then we will…
Avoid selfishness. Turn with me to James 2:8-9. If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
The passage of Scripture that James quotes here comes from Leviticus. It teaches us to love others rather than to focus on ourselves. Now, I recognize that we must have a certain amount of “self-love” in order for this to work. You see, we are to love others as much as we love ourselves. Many people today who have been put down and abused all their life have a hard time loving themselves. But that’s really a selfishness that is hard to defeat. We are to put others forward and love them but we are to also honor and respect what Christ is doing in our own lives. Without Christ our life would be empty. Mylon LeFevre wrote a song about it. Part of it goes like this:
Without Him I could do nothing. Without Him I'd surely fail. Without Him I would be drifting Like a ship without a sail.
Without Him I would be dying. Without Him I'd be enslaved. Without Him life would be worthless But with Jesus thank God I'm saved.
We have nothing to be selfish about. Without Jesus we would be “nothing”!
Since there is encouragement in Christ and we do have comfort from love we are able to avoid selfishness and…
Cultivate humility. Turn with me to Colossians 3:12-17.  Paul is writing to the Colossian church to instruct them in what they are able to do as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen while I read. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Take note that these qualities are something we can “put on”! We are to be compassionate, kind, humble, meek and patient. A truly humble person will be able to put up with others that they have a complaint against because they will forgive that person before he, or she, asks. With that kind of humility we will…
Lift up others. Turn with me to Romans 12:9-18. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Wow, that’s quite a list of qualities we are called to allow in our life! Many times in our Christian walk it just seems impossible for us to do things, emotionally, that we are called upon to do. As you think over that passage I have just read remember that we are able to…
Exercise the mind of Christ. There are two passages of Scripture that tell us without question that we are able to do this. First, turn with me to. 1 Corinthians 2:16. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Here, Paul tells the Corinthians that we have the mind of Christ. Not that we should have the mind of Christ but we do have the mind of Christ! Now turn with me to 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Since we have the mind of Christ we are able to take every thought captive to obey Christ. Salvation means that Christ has come to live in us. By one Spirit we have all been baptized into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13). Since the Spirit of God has come to live in us, and we have the encouragement that comes from Christ, we are able to destroy everything in our life that is raised up against the knowledge of God! Our enemy will try to push us down so we cannot lift others up but we have the mind of Christ in us? We need to exercise it and our viewpoint will change completely!
The words that Paul gives to the Philippian church very much apply to us today. We greatly need the encouragement of Christ and we need it coming from each other. There needs to be genuine love guided by the Holy Spirit. Self-centeredness needs to be put aside. We need to serve one another and in order to serve one another we must know one another! The encouragement we have received should comfort us and strengthen our love for one another. We must remember that when the Spirit of God came to live in us our body and brain remained the same but our mind has been invaded by the Holy Spirit who has released in us the mind of Christ and we can be guided to a life of obedience and peace. Have you surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you obeyed Him and are you willing to follow Him in baptism and church membership? This could be the day for you!
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.