Friday, September 02, 2011

Twin Lakes Picnic Scheduled for September 5

As you know our church wide Labor Day picnic is scheduled for this Monday, September 5th. Currently there is a tropical depression in the gulf projected to bring 70% chance of thunderstorms and wind to our area on Monday. Therefore, the decision has been made to cancel Monday's picnic.

We are sorry for any inconvenience.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


FPC Men’s Bible Study

Men, this Fall Rev. Josh Rieger will lead a weekly morning Bible study through a series on Covenant Theology. The study will include teaching, guided discussion, weekly reading assignments, and prayer. The Bible study will meet on Tuesday mornings from 6:30-7:45 a.m. in Miller Hall from September 6 through November 22. A full breakfast will be served each week for $6.00.

To sign up for this study, please contact Shannon Craft, Administrative Assistant of Discipleship, at or call 601-326-9243.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Content in Every Situation: Phil 4:10-20 (Part III)

We are rounding out this penultimate section of Philippians in which Paul is both thanking the Philippians for their faithful support of him and his ministry as well as exhorting them to contentment. Last week we saw how Paul described the nature of contentment, and how – very often – those who are most content in this life with their circumstances are prevented from having true contentment. We also said that those of us who are most discontent with this life, this was passage was written especially to encourage us. This week I want to begin by looking at what we might call the “secret of contentment.”

III. The secret of contentment.
Now, so what’s the secret? He tells you in verses 11-13 that his contentment doesn’t come from his circumstances; that they do not contribute to or detract from the gospel contentment that he enjoys. That’s still not the secret, but it sets you up to hear the secret.

It’s interesting, there are many forms of Buddhism all concerned that you cultivate contentment. One significant brand of Buddhism says the way you cultivate contentment is you lower your expectations. And Paul’s telling you at the outset, “Wrong! Not the source of contentment. Contentment doesn’t come from circumstances or your lowered expectations of those circumstances. Contentment, real, gospel contentment comes from someplace else.” Where? He tells you in verse 13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

In other words, the secret of contentment is God’s providence apprehended by your soul. It’s not just the doctrine of God’s providence, though you’ve got to understand the doctrine before you can experience contentment. It’s not just the doctrine of God’s providence taught to you, it is the God of providence embraced by your soul so that you believe it. Gospel contentment rests on a deep, personal embrace of God’s providence.

Paul is not saying you can do anything. In this verse God is saying to you, “anything that I ask you to do and anyplace where I put you, you can be content and thrive. Because I’m the one who strengthens you.”

It takes years to work that truth deep down into your bones so that it is your default setting, but that is the secret of contentment. The battle is of course getting it into the heart so that it dominates all of your circumstances.

IV. The song of contentment.
Now, contentment has a song. Contentment has a song, and the lyrics are written down in verse 19. Here’s the theme song of contentment:

“My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

The song of contentment is, ‘My God, I believe that Your supply of my needs is more real than the air that I’m breathing right now. I believe that Your supply of all my needs is more real than the food that I eat, more real than the skin that I’m in, more real, more lasting, than any circumstance that I’m in right now. That’s my theme song.’ And until the truth of God’s providence has worked deep down into our hearts so that it is the reflex reaction the minute that we’re in any difficult circumstances of life, we haven’t yet apprehended the secret of contentment in the way that we need to.

V. Contentment is grateful.
Now there’s one last thing: Contentment is grateful, and you see it in the doxology that Paul sings in verse 20:
“To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Contentment expresses itself in constant gratitude to God. God-glorifying gratefulness flows from the heart of the one who is content. Show me a content person in gospel contentment, I’ll show you a person who’s grateful to God. Put them in the worst circumstance of life, they’ll still praise God. Why? Because He has supplied all their needs and they know it. And they know that nobody else in the world can take away what He has supplied. The world can take everything else away, but they cannot take what He has supplied.

You may be a Christian who is discontent. That’s okay, and that’s not okay. It’s not okay because God wants you to live in contentment. It’s okay because you’re at the starting block if you’re there. If you’re content in yours circumstances, you’re not even in the game yet. But if you’re a Christian and you’re discontent, there is really good news waiting for you. Pick up the Bible and starting working through it.


Monday, August 01, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Content in Every Situation: Phil 4:10-20 (Part II)

We are nearing a close of this wonderful letter by the Apostle Paul. As he is closing and thanking them for their gift of financial support, Paul is urging his beloved Philippian congregation to be content in their situation. He points to how he has learned to be content and calls them, as he has done before, to imitate him.

Last week, we studied Paul’s gratitude for the gift of support that the impoverished Philippian congregation sent to him. In doing so, Paul teaches that he has learned to be contented in all things and the reason he can be so contented is because God desires for His people to be content. That is the foundation for us, it is possible to be content in one’s present situation because it is God’s desire for us, for those whom He has called in His son to be content.

This week, I want to look with you at the Nature of Contentment.

II. The nature of contentment.
It’s very important that you understand the nature of this contentment as well, because there are all sorts of theories about contentment out there and how you attain contentment; but Paul, in verse 11, tells you something else about the nature of the contentment. Look at what he says at the end of verse 11: “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Did you catch that? “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Isn’t that an encouragement?

But here’s what I want you to see, maybe more than anything else: You are more likely to find real contentment when you realize your lack of real contentment than if you are in a circumstance in life where your situation provides you with such comforts that you are not thinking about your lack of the real thing.

This is why Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Why? Because the rich man can mistake circumstantial contentment for gospel contentment. He can mistake a superficial temporal contentment with a deep and permanent and eternal contentment, and he cannot seek real contentment because he doesn’t sense his lack of real contentment, because he’s in circumstances that make him content.

If you’re out there reading this saying, “Yes, Ligon, I am deeply discontent,” I’ve got good news for you. You are more likely to seek real contentment and find it than someone who is content in his or her circumstances.

And this then why it is so deadly what the “health and wealth” preachers are saying around you? They’re saying, ‘Look, God wants you to be affluent. God wants you to have stuff.’

Very often it is precisely the stuff and the affluence that blinds us to the real thing, and so God in His kindness takes away the stuff and puts us in hard life circumstances and situations so that we realize, ‘You know, Lord, I really don’t have gospel contentment.’ And for the first time in our lives we’ll realize that we don’t have the real thing, and we’ll want it, and so we will accept no substitute.

That means, if you’re just not content, hating where you are, things just don’t leave you satisfied, and your discontented, then this is for you.

Maybe it’s your finances. Bill collectors are calling, and the bills aren’t adding up to the income. And month after month you feel like you’re just slipping deeper and deeper, and you’re deeply dissatisfied and discontent with where you are.

Maybe it’s your marriage. You don’t say it to your spouse, but in the dark of the night you look up to heaven and you say, ‘Lord, this is not where I thought I would be. This is not what I thought I was buying into. This is not the dream of my heart as a child for my marriage.’

Or maybe it’s just your life situation…

Whatever it is, you are poised for a great discovery, and that is that your contentment doesn’t come from those things, and those things cannot stop the contentment of God. Your contentment – and that’s what we’re going to learn next week – is non-circumstantial. If you are after God-contentment, if you are after gospel contentment, if you are after real contentment, the first thing you learn about it is it’s non-circumstantial.

You are more apt to seek real gospel contentment and find it if you don’t have it than if you are fat with the circumstantial contentment of this world. That is really, really good news. That’s what we must understand and learn that we can be content in every situation because it doesn’t come from our present situation.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Content in Every Situation: Phil 4:10-20 (Part I)

After a brief break last week, we have drawn almost to the end of this great letter. The amazing passage that we are in for the next few days contains three of the most well-known and beloved phrases or sentences in the whole letter, which focus in on one theme: the theme of contentment, which will be our subject for the rest of the week or so.

First in this section, Paul is expressing gratitude for the gift that the Philippian congregation sent him. Paul knows that this congregation is exceedingly poor and exceedingly generous at the same time, and it’s almost embarrassing to receive a gift from them.

At a short, first glance, the Apostle Paul may seem be saying to them that he doesn’t need their gift, but that’s not it at all; he’s trying to show how God has made him content in all things. When the Apostle Paul thanks them he really means it, because he knows this congregation: they are less able than any other congregation in Macedonia to give him support, and yet he’s going to say later on in this passage they have been the only congregation to stick by him throughout his ministry. Even when he was in Thessalonica with people that could have supported him more easily than the Philippians, it was the Philippians that were supporting his ministry in Thessalonica.

The second thing is that he wants to make sure that the Philippians don’t misunderstand is he’s not asking them to send some more. Have you ever gotten a thank-you letter from somebody that was really just a request for another gift? Paul wants to make it clear that he is not doing that.

Along with this, Paul wants to do a third thing here: He wants to teach the Philippians something vitally important about the Christian life, about contentment.

Are you content? Right where you are now, right in your life situation? Or are you one of those honest people who, in the quietness of your heart and in the solitariness of your room, you look in the mirror in the bathroom and you look at yourself and you say, “No, I’m not content. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. I’ve not arrived at contentment. I’m not living in contentment. I’m struggling in ‘the summer of my discontent’ right now”? Well, I’ve got good news for you: precisely because you are where you are, Paul has a word especially for you. In this passage he teaches us five things about gospel contentment. He teaches us about the need for contentment, about the nature of contentment, about the secret of contentment, about the song of contentment, and about the gratefulness of contentment. We will look today at God’s desire for His people’s contentment and in the coming weeks, we’ll examine those other aspects of Paul’s message.

I. God wants His people to be content.
God desires His people to live in a state of contentment, and so Paul is first, in verse 11, going to speak of the need for and the importance of gospel contentment. Paul says (verse 11): “Not that I am speaking of need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am …” [what?] “…to be content.” He is commending to the Philippians his state of contentment, and he is saying to them that he wants them to be content; that God wants them to live in a state of contentment. Paul is saying here Christians are to be content – and Paul talks about this all the time.

Think of II Corinthians 12:10, where he says, “For the sake of Christ then, I am content...” and these are the circumstances in which he says this: ‘I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.’ Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘Paul, you need to see a psychiatrist if you’re content with that!’ But for Paul it’s very important, and he follows up by saying, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” And in I Timothy 6:6-8, he says,

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world, but if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

Contentment is a big deal for Paul. He taught his student, the author of Hebrews this truth, and in Hebrews 13:5, the author says,

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”

Paul…the Bible…God is concerned for Christians to be content. It is a significant, important need for the Christian life.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Do as I Do: Phil 4.8-9 (Part II)

The Apostle Paul is back to his theme of helping Christians fight worldliness. Paul equips us to fight worldliness by dwelling on the Word of God, by thinking on excellent things, and by following godly examples. When we do those things, says Paul, we are attended by the God of peace.

I. The important of meditation in the Christian life.
Notice his words: “…think about these things” (end of verse 8). This is a call to Christian meditation. He’s saying you will not grow in the Christian life unless you are deliberately locked on to a pattern of mediating on and reflecting about and thinking deeply on the truths of God’s word, and things which are true and commendable.

The kind of meditation that Paul is calling you and me to is entirely different than the kind of meditation that you most frequently encounter. Almost all practitioners of meditation will tell you that it is vital to empty your mind. You will never find that instruction in Scripture!

Paul’s mediation is not about emptying the mind: it is about filling the mind up with God’s word and that which is true and commendable, and then working that around. The point of meditation, you understand, is so that we hear God’s word. Forms of mediation and even a prayer that tell us that we need to empty our minds, to wait, to listen for God to speak to us, are assuming that God has not already spoken to us.

The problem is not that God’s not spoken; the problem is that we’re not listening!

Meditation is the activity of calling to mind and thinking over and dwelling on and applying to yourself the various things that you know about the works and the ways and the purposes and promises of God, from God’s word. Meditation humbles, encourages, and reassures us. Meditation especially, connects the mind and the will – the head and the heart – so that the truth we know is worked deep down into our soul so that it begins to affect what we desire.

We are bombarded with stimuli 24/7 of various media, so if you do not deliberately plan to think on what is true and commendable, it’s not going to come knocking to your door. And without thinking on such things, you’re not going to grow.

II. The importance of cultivating godly affections and desires
He says: Think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

When you are bombarded by a powerful desire that is enticing you to focus on and enjoy something that is either wrong or trivial, you can’t fight something with nothing. The answer to fighting that powerful enticement to desiring something that is wrong or trivial is not to say “Stop it!” Chances are, if you are a Christian, you already know you ought to stop it. There has to be a desire that is opposite and greater than the desire that is enticing you to do wrong if you’re going to fight that desire. Meditating is so that you will begin to desire something better than that which is being offered to you.

The Puritans made it a practice of meditating on six great things from God’s word: the majesty of God; the severity of sin; the beauty of Christ; the certainty of death; the finality of judgment; and, the misery of hell. And those six things they thought were absolutely essential for cultivating heavenly-mindedness.

Paul is saying the same thing here, although he’s directing us to consider what is true and honorable, and just and pure, and lovely and commendable everywhere—not only in God’s word, but everywhere!

As Paul is giving these exhortations, we must remember he’s not giving us the gospel. He’s telling Christians who already have received the gospel how to live the Christian life. If you’re not a Christian, these exhortations are not how you become a Christian. They’re how you live, having already become a Christian.

III. The pattern of Christian discipleship
Paul gives us a four-part pattern for Christian discipleship: Meditation; Instruction; Direction; and, Application.

First, “think on these things.” Meditating on the word of God, deliberately reflecting upon, the content of God’s word and on what is true and honorable and just, and so on. So it begins with reflection. This is part of really, really listening.

Second, instruction. Notice that Paul does not think that our desires, that our affections, are innately right. They’re not innately set on the right things. Therefore we need our desires to be instructed. Our desires need to be directed in the right direction, and so he says, ‘What you learned and received from me, practice that.’

Third, direction. Paul emphasizes that truth cannot simply be conveyed by a television, or a radio, or a CD. You have to hear and see the truth lived out. They heard and saw the truth from Paul, they got direction from him.

And then there’s application: Put all this into practice.

IV. A promise.
This promise is even better than the promise that Paul gave in verse 7, “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” But the promise in verse 9 is even better. Follow these exhortations, and what does Paul say? “And the God of peace will be with you.”

In verse 7, he says follow these exhortations and the peace of God will be with you. In verse 9, he says follow these exhortations and the God of peace will be with you. The God of peace himself, the God who gives peace, the God who gives the peace of God will be with you. Practice these things and the God of peace will draw near to you, and you will know His presence and you will know His peace because He has drawn near to you as you obey His word.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Do as I Do: Phil 4.8-9 (Part I)

We said a little while ago that Paul was teaching us how to fight worldliness, and one way to fight worldliness was by carefully following the godly examples of believers around us.

Paul is back to that theme again today. You see it especially in verse 9, where he urges us to follow the practice that they have seen and heard from him as well as what he taught.

And you’ll also notice, as you look at verses 2-7 of Philippians 4, that a pattern emerges in which Paul gives exhortations and then follows that list of exhortations with a promise. In Philippians 4:2-7, he gives four exhortations that are meant to be part of our growth in grace in the Christian life, and he concludes them with a promise that the peace of God will surround and flood their understanding and desires.

Today, once again, Paul has a series of exhortations, and he’ll follow it with a promise – a promise very closely related to the promise that he has stated in verse 7. That promise comes at the end of verse 9. So the pattern again is exhortation followed by promise.

Before we delve into the text I want to ask you a question. How often do you think? I mean really think. How deeply do you reflect on the most important things of life? Are you so caught up in the hustle and bustle of every day that you find yourself, like I do, at the end of a long day filled up with all sorts of stuff, at about 10:30 at night wondering if you’ve thought about anything of eternal significance?

I had a professor in college in the history department, and I always enjoyed sitting outside his office waiting for my appointment because he had interesting cartoons and sayings on his door. One of the sayings that I still remember went something like this: “Some people would rather die than think. Many do.” I liked that saying; it made me think every once in a while!

But the pace and preoccupations of our lives, especially in our contemporary world, conspire together against deep thinking. They do that together by preoccupying us with the trivial so that we never get around to the profound and the permanent.

Well, in this passage the Apostle Paul makes it absolutely clear how important it is for our living of the Christian life to think deeply—to meditate, to reflect upon the truth of God’s word. In fact, he says it is absolutely of strategic importance to the Christian life that we do so.

If you remember what Paul said at 3:17, “Do as I do,” and you might have had the same thought that I did, “Paul, how in the world can I do what you do? How can I follow the one who saw Christ face to face? How can I emulate your example?” But, Paul in this passage lays out a pattern for us to emulate him. He’s going to teach us four huge truths about living the Christian life. Let me just outline them for you and point you to the parts in the passage where they come from.

First of all, he’s going to tell you the importance of meditation in the Christian life. You see that in the very last words of verse 8: “Think on these things.” What’s Paul talking about? He’s talking about Christian meditation.

Secondly, he’s going to tell you about the importance of cultivating godly affections and desires; that is, desires that are set on the right thing, desires that want the right thing, desires that admire the right thing, desires that are fixed on the right thing. You see that even in the list that he gives in verse 8: things that are true and honorable, and just and pure, and lovely and commendable, and excellent, and worthy of praise. What’s he doing there? He’s reminding you of how important it is for you to lock in on things that you ought to desire, because the world isn’t going to come knocking at your door offering you a list of things that you ought to desire. It’s going to come knocking at your door with a list of things to desire, but they won’t necessarily be the list of the things that you ought to desire.

Third, he’s going to show you the pattern of Christian discipleship in two verses. In two verses he’s going to tell you how it is that you grow in grace. And then, finally, he’s going to close with a promise.

So, he’s going to point to the importance of Christians meditating on God’s word and on things which are true and commendable; he’s going to talk about the importance of cultivating godly affections or desires; he’s going to show you the pattern of the Christian life; and, he’s going to point you to a promise.

On Thursday, we’ll look at those four items more in depth, but for now you have at least a taste of what Paul has said in this passage.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ The Shalom of God: Phil 4.2-7 (Part II)

Last week on Thursday we looked at the Apostle Paul's exhortation to two Christian women who have been disagreeing and he gives the Philippians - and us - exhortations for how to live in light of the gospel. We said last week that the two godly ladies who are disagreeing with one another should be reconciled in Christ. They are two leading Christian women in the church there, and yet somehow they have fallen out with one another and Paul calls on them to be reconciled.

Today we’ll look at the Apostle's three exhortations and the promise of peace of God that results when we live lives permeated by the gospel.

II. Rejoice always.
The second thing he says by way of exhortation you see in verse 4: "Rejoice always." We've said over and over there is nothing about the Philippian situation that would make them rejoice, but they rejoice in God and what He has done for them. It is no accident that Paul, right after talking about a church division, would turn around and say, Rejoice always.

III. Be reasonable.
Then he says in verse 5, “Be reasonable.” Paul gives a reason to be reasonable, because the Lord is at hand. In our dealings with one another we're to be kind and gentle and generous, and respectful and reasonable, because The Lord Jesus is coming back at any moment.

Have you ever been having a fight with your wife and a dear friend walks in? Ahem...things straighten up real quick, don't they?

So Paul's saying, 'If Jesus walked in the door, suddenly things would straighten up real, real quick!' Paul's saying the Lord could come back at any time, so conduct yourselves towards one another like it was Jesus who was getting ready to poke His head in the door, because He is!

IV. Don't worry. Pray instead.
And then he says don't worry, pray instead because God knows your needs. He's calling on us to show trust and confidence in God in all situations.

Now Paul is not saying that the Philippians don't have anything to worry about. There are lots of reasons why they could worry, but because they've got a God who's in charge who loves them and to whom they can pray, so they needn't worry.

Paul is giving this encouragement only to Christians, however. If you're not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you do have something to worry about. Because you’ve turned your back on the only One who can do anything about your situation. You haven't trusted Him, you really do have something to worry about.

But here's the good news. Instead of turning your back on Him, if you'll look Him in the face and you'll trust in Him, you'll rest in the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in Him for salvation as He is offered in the gospel, you too can know what it is like to live worry-free in a care-filled world, because you have a heavenly Father who has forgiven your sins, and you have a heavenly Father who has promised you in His Son Jesus Christ that He will provide for all your needs.
V. The promise.
Then comes the promise in verse 7. Paul says when you have been cultivating joy in your heart, joy in the Lord, joy that's not derived from your circumstances, but joy which is derived from the gospel grace that God has shown to you in Jesus Christ, when you have been seeking to live in gentleness and reasonableness with your brothers and sisters in Christ, when you have, instead of worrying 24/7, you have been entrusting yourself to God to provide for your needs, and then in your time of need, in your hour of plight and trial, God is going to give you a peace beyond your comprehension, so that when your circumstances are screaming to you, "Despair! Hopelessness!" you will have a hope in you didn't come from you and didn't come from your situation, it came from the Holy Spirit testifying to your spirit this: God's promise is true, despite everything in your circumstances.

The exhortations in verses 2-6 allow us to receive that promise. The promise is there for believers, every believer. But do you know what happens? If we won't pray, we won't experience the promise like God wants us to. If we don't cultivate reasonableness and gentleness with one another, we won't be ready to experience the promise the way the Lord wants us to. If we're not cultivating joy in the Lord in our hearts, we won't be ready to receive and experience the promise the way the Lord wants us to receive it.

We see here again that God never tells you to do something that isn't ultimately for your good! Each of the exhortations in this passage, including the exhortation to be reconciled, is so that in your hour of need, you're readied by your heeding of these exhortations to experience the peace that passes understanding.

We need that peace. But receiving that peace begins with our cultivating peace with one another, with our cultivating joy in our hearts, with our cultivating reasonableness and gentleness with one another, and with our praying and not worrying, because we have a God that we know loves and cares for us. And when we do that, the amazing thing is the Holy Spirit comes and gives a direct testimony to our souls that God's promise is true and will hold you up when there is nothing else in this world to hold you up.


Thursday, July 07, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ The Shalom of God: Phil 4.2-7 (Part I)

Have you ever wished that your name was in a Bible book? Well, if you did, you probably wanted your name mentioned in commendation, but you probably wouldn’t want your names mentioned in the way these two godly women’s names are mentioned here in Philippians 4:2 – that is, to rebuke you because you’re having a fight with one another! There is nothing unusual about the situation they’re going through, it happens in churches all over the world.

It just shows you, as beautiful as this passage is, this is a very practical passage. We’ll look at the passage in five parts.

In verses 2-3, the first part is where that personal exhortation is made to Euodia and Syntyche, and that personal exhortation is very simple: “Be reconciled.” Then if you look at verse 4, you’ll see the second part of the passage. It’s a second exhortation, a general exhortation to everyone, “Rejoice always.” Then, the third part comes in verse 5, a general exhortation to everyone: “Be reasonable.” Be gentle and reasonable in the way you deal with one another. The fourth part of the passage comes in verse 6, a fourth exhortation in the passage: “Don’t worry, pray instead.”

And then finally comes, not an exhortation, but a promise, and the promise we see in verse 7: God’s peace will surround and flood your understanding and desires. This whole passage is actually telling you how it is that you are enabled to experience that extraordinary supernatural peace of God which is beyond our comprehension.

We’ll consider Paul’s exhortation to reconciliation this week and then look at the other four parts next week.

I. Be reconciled.
In verses 2-3, Paul addresses these two godly women, Euodia and Syntyche, and he urges them in the strongest terms, he begs them to agree in the Lord, to be reconciled to one another. Whatever division has come in between them that has separated them in their friendship and in their co-working in the gospel, he wants that to be overcome.

Can you imagine, if your pastor had called you out by name on Sunday to be reconciled to another friend or family member with whom you were disagreeing? He might not live past the next hour if he did that! For Paul to do this though, shows his love and respect for these women, and theirs for him.

These women were part of the core group in Philippi. Paul indicates that Euodia and Syntyche, these godly women, had been part of working with him shoulder to shoulder to advance the gospel in this church from the very beginning, and yet somehow these godly women (and he does not question their godliness or their Christian credentials in the least, rather he says of all of the people mentioned in verses 2 and 3 their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. He’s not talking about people who turned their back on the gospel. He’s talking about real godly women who had worked shoulder to shoulder with one another and with him) have gotten crosswise with one another. And Paul is deeply concerned about that.

This exhortation is perennially relevant. Paul expects this kind of struggle and situation to exist in the church, but he refuses to take it lying down. He is deeply concerned to see reconciliation between those that are estranged in the context of the congregation.

And here’s the encouraging thing: gospel forgiveness and reconciliation cannot be manifested until there has been a break in a relationship which requires gospel forgiveness and reconciliation. So every estrangement that exists in a church is not simply something that burdens God’s heart that He longs to see corrected, but it is an opportunity for gospel forgiveness to be shown. You can’t show the gospel grace of forbearing a wrong against you and forgiving a brother or sister who has wounded you until they’ve wounded you, until they’ve wronged you. And so I simply want to say however deep your estrangement may be from a friend or from a family member, it is only then that the power of God’s grace in gospel forgiveness and reconciliation can be shown. And the Apostle Paul is saying at the very outset, “Be reconciled. Make it a priority to work for these kinds of reconciliations.

And do you notice how he calls on the rest of the congregation? He doesn’t just say, ‘Euodia and Syntyche, work it out. Come on, ladies. Just work it out. Bury the hatchet.’ He’s not; obviously this thing has gotten so deep that they’re beyond working it out between one another. They need help. And so he tells Epaphroditus, who’s delivering this book, and he tells Clement, who’s already there ministering in the congregation, and he tells other fellow workers, ‘Look, I need all of you to work together to bring these dear sisters in Christ back into fellowship with one another.’

Do you see what he’s saying? He’s saying that every member of the congregation has a part and a vested interest in the congregation’s forgiving and reconciling; and, therefore, every member of the congregation is to be praying towards and helping as you are able cultivate a culture of reconciliation in the church where forgiveness is offered and where relationships are restored. It’s that serious to the Apostle Paul, and it’s going to be connected, we’re going to see (in verse 7) to the experience of peace that passes understanding.

Next week, we’ll look at three more exhortations from the Apostle Paul and study the promise of God’s peace.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Two Ways to Live: Phil 3.17-4:1 (Part II)

Last week, we said that the Apostle Paul writes to the Philippians to encourage them how to live the Christian life. We also said that Paul writes this because they have already been saved and now he tells them how they are to live in light of that.

He’s cautioning them against those who, calling themselves Christians, are concerned about the things of this world instead of the things of God and Christ. He gives them four ways to fight against the things of this world.

On Thursday we said that the first was to imitate Paul. In verse 17, Paul invites us to follow his example—and, interestingly, the example of those who follow his example. Paul holds himself up as an example of one who is not yet perfect, but struggling through this life to keep worldliness from getting a grip on his soul. And so, Paul calls us to – by the grace of God – struggle against worldliness.

II. Worldliness kills.
Look at verses 18-19:
“For many of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”
He’s not talking about pagans, he is in tears because these are people who claim to love God, and yet they are so worldly that he can characterize them as enemies of the cross! Paul is saying they’re all wrapped up in this life. They want their praise here. They want their affirmation here. This is where they belong. This is where their reward is, and so their “end is destruction, their god is their belly, their glory is their shame, and their minds are set on earthly things.” They claim to be believers, but what they want most in life is here.

Now maybe you're thinking, this message here is all for somebody else, somebody really “worldly.” But, think for a moment about what your greatest cares are in this life, your greatest aspirations for this life are. And how might those differ from an unbeliever’s? And if you don’t have a real good answer for that right now, my guess is you may be struggling with worldliness. Because we ought to be different from people whose citizenship is here.

III. Homesickness helps.
Paul says to us all: ‘Christian, there ought to be in you a deep yearning and longing for home, and this ain’t home. You ought to be homesick for heaven. You ought to want to be in your Father’s arms. You’re to the point where you don’t care what this world says about you, you just want to hear your Father say, ‘Child, welcome home. Enter into the kingdom that I’ve been preparing for you from the foundation of the world.’

If you’re not heavenly-minded, if you’re not homesick for your home, if you’re not longing for something that this world can’t give you, you’re utterly vulnerable to worldliness. Because until that point you are vulnerable to believing that this world can actually give you something that can last.

IV. Therefore, stand fast.
Paul is saying the Christian’s resisting of worldliness does not just happen. It takes resolve. It takes a dogged refusal to abandon one’s citizenship, one’s calling, one’s standards, one’s identity, one’s belief. You don’t just resist worldliness by wishing to resist worldliness; it requires resolve.

And here’s Paul saying to you, ‘Friend, all that you have to do for worldliness to happen is nothing. You don’t have to go out and court worldliness, it’s looking for you. It knows where you live. It knows your street address. It knows your email, knows your cell phone, knows your heart. And unless you are resolved not to buy into the lie that’s all around you, you’ll be sucked in.

So how do you resist it?
You find a believer who’s acting like Paul, and you follow them. You remember that worldliness kills. It will put you in a box and cover you up with dirt, from which you will never recover. You cultivate that homesickness that this world is not my home, and so you live like this world is not your home. And then you stand fast. You strap yourself to the mast by God’s grace, and you say, “Lord, shut my ears; shut my eyes; shut my heart to all the things that the world wants to tell me will give me satisfaction, that will only make me value those things more than You.”

You know, it’s just like the garden, isn’t it? The serpent comes to the woman and says, ‘This piece of fruit…it’ll make you happy. It’ll do the trick. God won’t do the trick. This piece of fruit, it will do the trick.’ And worldliness does the same thing: ‘God won’t make you happy, but this? Oh, it’ll make you happy!’ And what happens? Does it make you happy? It brings you nothing but misery. And it causes your heart to grow dead to the only joy that has ever existed, and the only joy that will last.

And so Paul’s saying, ‘Dear, dear, Christian friend, don’t buy that bill of goods. Stand firm. Act like me, because this world is not your home.’


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Two Ways to Live: Phil 3.17-4:1 (Part I)

Article Text – Philippians 3:17-4:1
Suggested Article Title: “Two Ways to Live” Part 1
We close out this week in a section of this letter in which the Apostle Paul is pressing home to Christians how to live the Christian life. He’s saying, having been saved by grace through faith, this is how you live. Paul makes this clear by what he’s said in the passage previous to this.

If you’ll remember Tuesday, as looked at Philippians 3:12-16, we said that Paul almost summarized the Christian life in three mottoes, the first of which was “We’re not there yet”: We haven’t arrived at perfection.

The second motto was “We’re pressing on”: We’re not satisfied with being where we are, we want to be more like Christ.

And then, the third motto was “we’re reliant upon God’s grace.”

In this week’s passage Paul is warning the Philippians about a kind of professing believer and teacher that is in their midst influencing them in the wrong direction, and he says about them, “Their minds are set on earthly things.”

This is crucial, because worldliness is one of the great problems of evangelical Christianity in our time. Worldliness is a word that sometimes can strike us as a little bit quaint. If you’re my age or older, you know a definition of worldliness that goes like this: Worldliness means “drinkin’, smokin’, dancin’, and playin’ cards!” That’s worldliness, but that is not what Paul is talking about here!

Now let me say that some of those things do manifest worldliness, but worldliness is a matter of heart.

The Puritans were always so concerned not to be caught up in worldliness, so they had sayings to help us fight against worldliness such as, “Love the Lord, but use the world.” Their point was that what the believer really treasured was the Lord. The believer appreciated all the wonderful things that the Lord gives us in this world, but prefers the Lord over those things…so that they love the Lord and used the world. But the worldly person does what? Loves the world, and uses the Lord to get it.

Worldliness is soul-destroying and joy-robbing because it tricks our hearts into seeking satisfaction in what can never satisfy us, and thus it slowly strangles us of the experience of being fully alive to God.

Now, in the religion all around us we are actually being encouraged to be worldly. Do you understand that in 85% of the things that are on the Christian best-seller list are giving you this message: God can get you what you want better than anybody else: God can get you your best life now. What is being promoted on television and in Christian books and television is “Use the Lord to get the world.”

Now, that’s not Paul’s message. That’s not Jesus’ message. It’s not the Bible’s message. It’s not Christianity’s message. But that’s being pumped into our ears and our hearts by people that claim to be Christians all around us. And if you buy into it, it will destroy your soul.

But there’s another message that’s being pumped in, young people especially are vulnerable to this. Many young Christians are under enormous pressure to conform their faith to what the world says is valuable, to abandon right beliefs for simply doing right things. Now, it’s important to do right things, but those deeds must flow from right beliefs.

Paul tells you four things that you fight these ideas in this passage: Act like me; worldliness kills; homesickness helps; stand fast. What do I mean by that? I’ll explain the first one today and the rest next week on Tuesday (there won't be a post on Monday, July 4).

Notice that in those four things you’ve got two exhortations. The first and the fourth things are exhortations: Act like me, and stand fast. In between, the second and the third thing are actually explanations or reasons for why we ought to do what we do: Worldliness kills; homesickness helps.

He says that we fight against worldliness by carefully following godly examples, by recognizing worldliness when you see it and knowing that it kills, by remembering who you are and where you’re from.
I. Act like me.
Do you remember the basketball player, Michael Jordan? Gatorade had a whole advertising campaign built around Michael Jordan. It was called “Be like Mike.” They’d show Michael Jordan, dunking over the back of his head and this and that and the other, and then they’d try and sell you some Gatorade! Well, let me tell you what. All the Gatorade in the world wouldn’t have helped me be like Mike! And that’s why I love what Paul says here.

Paul’s not saying ‘Now you become endowed with the kind of gifting that I have’ because let me tell you what, we’re all going to fall short!

But Paul himself has emphasized in verses 12-16, ‘I am not perfect. I am struggling in this Christian life, too. Look at how I refuse to allow worldliness to get a grip in my soul.’ Paul says, ‘Look, Christian: You need to find examples of people who are not buying into the prevailing wind of worldliness around them and follow them.’

Paul is saying to you, ‘You open your eyes and you look around. You look at the people that are acting like me, and you act like them, because they’re showing you how a believer resists worldliness and thinks and wills and desires like a Christian.’ They’re not perfect and I’m not perfect, but by God’s grace, they’ve learned how to resist worldliness, so learn from them and you too resist worldliness, by His grace.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Pressing On Toward the Goal: Phil 3.12-16

Last week, the Apostle Paul reminded us that Christians should to desire to be like Jesus Christ and to, by the grace of God, be transformed in increasing holiness. Perfect holiness, however, only comes after the Last Day in Christ Jesus.

That is in the background of what he says in Philippians 3:12-16. Also, there are some people in the Philippian congregation who have fallen under the influence of a false teaching of perfectionism. “Perfectionism” is the view that a person can become sinless in this life.

Now in order to teach that, you have to either scale down what you mean by sin, or you have to scale down the requirements of holiness, or both. In Philippi some were teaching that the way to be complete, mature, perfect, was to not only believe in Jesus, but also to keep the Law of Moses with its ritual ordinances.

Contrary to that, Paul gives us here three key truths that guide us in our sanctification, our living of the Christian life, and help us in our growth in grace in the Christian life.

I. We are not yet there yet.
Notice what Paul says in verses 12-13:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect….”
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it [perfect holiness] my own.”

Paul is saying, ‘I have a zeal to become more like Jesus like you can’t believe! But I’m not there yet! I have not arrived at that perfection, and I will not arrive at that perfection until the final resurrection.’

Why, then, does he talk about the perfect in verse 15? I think Paul may be doing a little play on words. He’s saying, ‘For those of you who are ‘perfect’, you need to recognize that none of us are perfect yet. And we will not be until the day that we stand before His throne in glory. Until then, we’re on the way. Life is a pilgrimage, it’s not perfection.’ The church is not a place where perfect people gather.

Christians still struggle with sin. Perhaps you have encountered Christians who you believe are hypocrites because they’ve sinned. It is very important for you to understand that Christians do not believe that we have somehow become perfect. We do not excuse our own sin, we’re still responsible for our sin. In fact, there are very often Christians who have done really, really bad things who have subsequently come to faith in Christ, and they still have to pay for the consequences of their sin.

For believers: the fact that you are not perfect yet is your charter of hope in this life. You know, if I thought where I am now was as far as I was ever going to get, I’d give up today. But the fact that I’m not perfected yet gives me hope and comfort.
II. We press on.
Christians are always desirous and active in growing in holiness, in becoming more mature in Christ, in pursuing godliness. Notice the language that Paul uses in verses 12-14 and 16: “I press on...I strain forward… I forget what is behind… I strain forward to what is ahead… I hold true to what we have attained.” Paul’s pursuit of holiness is active and passionate.

Paul is not telling you that this is the way that you are saved. The way that you’re saved is by embracing the gospel. So when you hear Christians urging one another to press on, to strive to grow in holiness, they’re not talking about how they’re made right with God. They’re talking about having been made right with God by grace, how they become more like the Lord Jesus Christ who saved them by grace.

We must always press on, cultivating a holy dissatisfaction about our present state of growth. Paul is able to do that, but it doesn’t compromise his assurance. Paul knows that he is saved by grace alone and yet, he is utterly dissatisfied with his present state of godliness, because he wants to be more like Jesus.

III. We strive by grace.
Christians want to grow, not so that we will be accepted and embraced by Christ, but because we already have been accepted and embraced by Christ.

In verse 14 Paul tells you how He presses on: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God…in Christ Jesus.”

Paul pursues holiness in and from his union with Christ. How does the Holy Spirit change our hearts from the inside out? By uniting us to Jesus Christ, so that all that is His becomes ours. How are we united to Jesus Christ? By faith. So the Holy Spirit causes us to trust in Christ, and as we trust in Christ our sin is imputed to Him, His righteousness is imputed to us, and the power of His resurrection begins to work renovating us.

Unbelievers, if you want to change your life, it’s got to start with you realizing that you can’t change your life. Christianity is not offering you yet another program or package about how you can change your life. Jesus has to change you before you can change.

But believers, our security is not based upon how well we do in this pursuit of holiness. Our security is based on Jesus Christ having embraced us, on our union with Christ. But what that leads us to is not laziness, but energy and passion and zeal in the pursuit of godliness.

And those three truths that Paul lays out in this passage are life-transforming, if we’ll understand and practice them by His grace.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~What We Desire, How We Receive It, and How We Live: Phil 3.7-11

On Thursday last week, in looking at verses 7-11, we looked three things that those who gain Christ gain with Him:
Justification (9) – counted righteous in Christ.
Sanctification (10) – becoming like Christ by the power of His resurrection.
Glorification (11) – completely perfected in the final resurrection.

We said that the Apostle Paul is giving us the answer to three very important questions. The first question we looked at last week, “What is Paul’s treasure?” He makes it very clear that Jesus is his treasure. Jesus isn’t just a ticket, Jesus is his treasure. Today, I want to look at two related questions, How is it that I gain this treasure? and then, having gained that treasure, How then do I live?

I. How Paul receives it.
The staggering thing in this passage that Paul says is that the greatest treasure in this world is something that you don’t find; it finds you.

Paul spells it out so beautifully in this passage, Paul says, ‘I didn’t gain my treasure, I received it. I didn’t earn my treasure, I was given it. Jesus did something in order to give me my treasure. And my response to that is simply to receive it.

So here’s Paul’s message to you: ‘Here’s how I received the treasure. I didn’t go looking for it; it came looking for me. I didn’t find it, I was found by it.’ Paul’s own testimony bears this out: he was on the way to Damascus not to find Jesus, but to find Christians to kill, but Jesus finds him, and suddenly He who was not his treasure becomes his treasure.

And look at what Paul beautifully stresses this in verse 9. Notice three things that he says.

First, the treasure comes from God (v. 9). The righteousness that he needs in order to experience the greatest treasure (fellowship with God), does not come from Paul, it comes from God.

Second, it is a righteousness which comes through faith in Christ.

Third, the righteousness is not Paul’s own. It’s not your own. He says this explicitly: “I want to be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own….” This righteousness is not righteousness in you; this is not you cleaning yourself up a little bit and getting better. It’s a righteousness that has been accomplished in Jesus Christ, which is now being offered to you.

You see how radical this is. Could Paul make free grace any clearer than he does here?

If you are struggling with your assurance, start here in Philippians 3:9, because it simply tells you this: your hope, your confidence, your assurance is not based on anything in you at all. It’s based on something outside of you, in Jesus, which has been offered to you and which you simply receive by faith in Him. There’s no more glorious message in the world than this message.

II. How Paul lives.
But then Paul, having told us how we receive this treasure, tells us how we’re supposed to live. Paul is pursuing the prize now – not trying to earn it, because the treasure has been given to him – but he has not yet experienced the fullness of that treasure. It’s kind of like Hebrews 11, God has given them a city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. But, Hebrews 11 says, they haven’t occupied the city yet. Not until we occupy that city will we have tasted the prize in all its fullness. So now, Paul’s heart is now set on a treasure, which he cannot fully experience until the day of resurrection.

Paul pursues that prize by resurrection power. He needs pride-humbling, sin-conquering, Christ-exalting power at work in his life. That power comes from the power by which God raised Jesus from the dead: resurrection power. If someone has resurrection power at work within him, he cannot be comfortable in sin. The free grace of God has led Paul not to be lazy, but to be passionate, pursuing the prize in resurrection power because God is at work in him.

And then Paul says something absolutely shocking: he wants to know Jesus Christ and share in His sufferings. Christians have a radically different view of suffering because of the hope that is set before us. We know that a day is coming when suffering will be no more. We know that even in suffering God loves us and is near to us.

Paul is telling us that for the believer, suffering is part of God’s design to make us like Jesus. If Jesus, our great high priest, learned obedience through that which He suffered, then we also are made like Him through suffering.

Paul furthermore says “…if by any means possible I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Paul is never going to be satisfied in this life with what he is, he’s never going to reach perfection here, because he is looking for is something that’s never ever going to be completed in this life. It’s only going to be completed when we all stand before God on the Last Day.

Is that how you think about the Christian life? Paul says in verse 17 that he has been recounting all of this so that his readers can emulate him. Do you? Are you comfortable in your sin? Are you lazy in your growth? Are you surprised by suffering? Are you longing for the resurrection? Paul is never ever going to be satisfied with yesterday’s growth, because he’s waiting for the day when Jesus has eradicated all sin from him and there is a new world. Are you waiting for it?


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ The Christian’s Triple Gain: Phil 3:1-11

In this passage, Paul lays out these three benefits that every Christian has in Christ: as you trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel, you receive the benefit of justification, the benefit of sanctification, whereby the Spirit more and more makes you to be like Christ, and one day the fullness of perfection in glorification, when all sin is banished from you. And in your body you will see the glory of the Lord, and you will commune with the risen and ascended and reigning Lord Jesus Christ forever and ever.

This passage helps explains the gospel to us so that we understand and embrace it more deeply and tells us how we go about sharing the gospel with others.

This world thinks that religion – and all things – is simply a means to an end, to help us get what we want. That is not the gospel. This passage helps us understand just how radical and comprehensive the gospel is, and it will help us to share the gospel with a world that is not only confused about the way of salvation, but about the greatest treasure in life.

Sometimes when we are sharing the gospel, or preparing to share the gospel with someone, we think that people’s fundamental problem is that they are seeking the right thing in the wrong way. For instance, we may think that they’re seeking God, seeking heaven, but their problem is they’re seeking it by their own works and they need instead to seek it by grace, to seek it by faith. But the truth is, people are not seeking heaven or God, because they’re seeking their own pleasures and self. If we try to approach folks as if they’re seeking the right thing in the wrong way, we will miss how deep their problem is and how glorious the gospel is.

What’s your ultimate goal, what’s your end, what’s your purpose in life? Paul in this passage says it’s to - in the resurrected body - stand and see the Lord of glory with his own eyes, ruling and reigning and publicly acknowledged to be the king of the world, and fellowshipping with Him, knowing the Lord Jesus Christ.

And that’s not what the world is aiming for. But Paul shows you how to share the gospel with those types of folks.

Paul’s ultimate goal is to be raised again from the dead, so that in his body – body and spirit together – he is standing justified on the Last Day in order to gain Christ! Jesus is not just his ticket to get something else, Jesus is the thing that means more to Paul than everything that he has lost; the thing which is more valuable than everything in this world is Christ himself. Jesus is God’s provided means whereby Paul experiences the ultimate reason for his being created: that is, to be in face to face communion with the living God through Jesus Christ, in his own body.

To see God has been the hope of believers in all ages, but we cannot, and the reason we can’t see God is because we’re sinners, and God is too pure to dwell in the presence of sin, and sin cannot abide Him. Moses’ earnest desire was to see God’s glory, but he couldn’t because he’s a sinner. But there will be a day when sin will be purged from us.

Job says in Job 19, “Though worms destroy my body, yet in my flesh I will see God with these eyes, and not another.” Paul’s saying the same thing here: “I want to attain to the resurrection of the dead so that in a perfected body, my soul and body together, I will see the king of glory, see Him reigning; and I know Him, and I commune with Him, and I’m found in Him, and I gain Him, and I fellowship with Him. That’s my desire.

As Christians, Jesus is our treasure, and that’s one way that we distinguish the gospel that we’re preaching from what the world around us hears so often from people claiming the name of Jesus Christ. Those people hear those preachers say Jesus is your ticket to get what you already want. What you already want is more: more stuff…more pleasure in sin…more self…more of your own ambition.

That’s hardly a radical message, it’s simply taking worldly desires and plugging in Jesus as the means. That’s a worthless system. The world looks at that and says, ‘I can get all that without Jesus. What’s radical about the gospel?’

The gospel, however, is a radical message because, when you are down in the desolation and you’ve lost the things that are dearest to you, and you still stand up and you say, “It is well with my soul, because all these things you can take from me, but you can’t take Jesus! You can take everything away from me…you can take my life from me, but you cannot take Jesus from me, because when I was saved I was justified and sanctified, and I will be glorified, and in this body and with these eyes I will see Him. Because He’s not just my ticket, He’s my treasure.”

That’s how we can handle every heartache and loss, because, it was worth it to see God in glory, when finally He’s getting the glory due His name! And if that’s not what you’re hoping for, let me say this: If you will come to Jesus, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and trust in Him, He will give you rest.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ When Gain is Loss, and Loss Means Greater Gain: Phil 3.1-11

We’ve been looking at this passage for a little while now, and this week I want to direct you to how Paul describes and defines Christians in this passage. There are four phrases in particular, which characterize four ways that Paul talks about being a Christian: “to know,” “to gain,” “to be found,” and “power.”

I. To know Christ.
That is an incredibly intimate phrase, and it is utterly unique in all of Paul’s writings. Never again anywhere else in the New Testament do we find Paul using the phrase “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” In John 10, Jesus describes the difference between Him, the Good Shepherd, and those who were thieves and robbers and hirelings He said, ‘My sheep hear My voice. They know My voice, and when they hear My voice they follow Me. When the thief and the robber come, the sheep know they’re not the shepherd! But when My sheep hear My voice, they know it’s Me.’

When you turn to John 20 where John is describing the resurrection morning, and Mary going to the tomb to apply the precious myrrh and incense on Jesus’ body. But when she got there, He wasn’t there. And you remember Mary is deeply, deeply concerned about this, and she says to the ‘gardener,’ “Sir, where have they laid my Lord?” And you remember the interesting conversation. He asks her, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?” It’s a fascinating exchange, she doesn’t realize who it is who’s speaking to her. And finally, John says, He turned to her and He said, “Mary.” And immediately she knew the voice of her Lord. And you remember the first thing she says to Him? “My Master – Rabboni.” Not just a master; my Master, my Lord. Because…why? Jesus had said, “My sheep hear My voice and they know Me.” And here she is saying, “My Master, my Lord.”

This shouldn’t surprise you; Paul met Jesus in a very different circumstance than Mary in the garden. On the road to Damascus to kill Christians, and the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to Paul, blinding him with brilliant light. And Paul, on his face, groveling in the ground, heard the Lord Jesus speak to him and say, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?” Saul’s first words to Jesus are, “Who are You, Lord?” The first words out of the converted Saul’s mouth is an expression that Jesus is his Lord. This is why when people were baptized in the book of Acts and in I Corinthians the adults would confess what as their vow, “Jesus is Lord:” Christians know Christ Jesus as Lord.

And how do we express the lordship of Christ? We listen to His voice. He speaks to us by His Scriptures, and His followers – those who trust in Him – hear His voice speaking to them in the Scriptures, and therefore they don’t cut and paste. We listen when there are tender words of promise and we listen when He makes us uncomfortable with His commands, because it’s the voice of the Lord speaking to us.

II. To gain Christ.
Christians know two things. That everything that they had apart from Christ and before they had Christ is nothing in comparison to having Christ; and they know they want Christ even if they can’t have all those things. As William Guthrie said in The Christian’s Great Interest, “Less will not satisfy than Jesus, but more could not be desired than Jesus

Many of the church fathers speculated that Paul was the “rich young ruler,” because this passage looks like the mirror opposite of what happens when Jesus has the conversation with the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler was so rich that when Jesus says, ‘Sell everything that you have and come follow Me,’ what does he choose? He chooses all things, not Jesus. Paul has realized that everything he thought was worth living for was rubbish compared to gaining Christ.

III. To be found in Christ.
You remember that after Adam and Eve had rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden (in Genesis 3) that when the Lord came to walk in the garden to commune with them, they hid themselves and covered themselves with fig leaves But God still found them, and they had nothing to cover themselves in their shame and sin and disobedience.

Well, here’s the Apostle Paul thinking to himself, ‘How do I want God to find me on the Last Day? With my little fig leaf: I tried to be a good person, I tried to keep the Ten Commandments, I helped the poor??’

‘No,’ Paul says, ‘I want to be found wrapped in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, which I have gained not by my doing, but simply by faith.’

That’s a Christian. A Christian wants to be found in Christ and in His righteousness.

IV. To know Christ in His resurrection power.

He’s talking about the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and he’s saying that Christians long to see the power of the Spirit, the power of Jesus’ resurrection, at work in them…because before we knew Christ, apart from Him, we were dead in trespasses and sins. But now we are a new creation, and we are being renewed by the Holy Spirit by the power of the resurrection of Christ, and matured. Not just as forgiven people, but people in whom the power of sin is broken.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Put No Confidence in the Flesh: Phil 3.1-6

Paul is preparing to conclude his letter, but along the way he gives some important doctrinal exhortations and warnings about false teaching. False teaching undermines our assurance and robs us of the joy that we ought to have in the salvation given to us by Jesus Christ.

I. Be on guard against false teachers.
He calls the Philippians to think carefully about the teaching they’re receiving, and to be on guard for teaching which is not according to Paul’s teaching, which is according to what Jesus taught and told Paul to teach, and which is in accordance with all of the apostles’ teaching.

Paul is countering the claims of the Judaizers, followers of Jesus the Messiah who think that all Christians – especially Gentile Christians – are required, in addition to believing in Jesus as the Messiah to keep the Law’s ceremonial requirements if they are truly going to live as the people of God in this world. And Paul turns the tables on these teachers.

First, he calls them “dogs,” a common term in first century Palestine for Hebrews to use about Gentiles. Paul says to these circumcised Jewish followers of the Messiah who want to require of all Christians that they follow the ceremonial code, “You’re the dogs! You’re not part of the true circumcision!”

Second, he calls them “evildoers”. To go back to the Old Testament ceremonial law is to suggest that Jesus’ finished work is insufficient is evil, because it adds to something that’s already perfect. And to add to Jesus’ perfect work is to call into question its perfection, and anything that calls into question the perfection of Jesus’ work is sin. Even though they think that requiring Christians to fulfill these rituals is right and good, it is actually evil because it adds to Christ’s work.

Third he says, “those who mutilate the flesh.” Of course, one of the things that they wanted is for all male followers of Jesus the Messiah to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses. And Paul says, ‘You have turned circumcision into a pagan ritual. You’re just like the nations around you who practice circumcision. They’re mutilators of the flesh. You’re superstitious, pagan, ritual worshipers.’

Paul is directing his focus on these Judaizers, but what Paul says here applies to anyone who suggests that you do one of two things: either that you put your confidence anywhere else but Christ or put your confidence in Christ plus anything else.

This kind of teaching is all around us in the world. You can even hear this teaching in churches. Paul is pleading with us to recognize that false teaching will rob our joy! It will kill us, because God’s truth nourishes faith and humbles pride, and brings joy and exalts Christ and promotes assurance, and establishes grace. But false teaching kills! Look out for anyone who tells you “Believe in yourself,” or “Believe in something other than Jesus, because there are many ways to God,” or “Believe in Jesus plus something, and you can have hope and confidence and assurance.” This is why he goes into the doctrinal exhortation, because if you put your confidence in the flesh, it will kill joy.
II. Remember who you are.
The Judaisers were saying to the Philippians, ‘If you want to really be the people of God, it’s Jesus plus circumcision and ritual law.’ Paul counters by reminding the Philippians who they are.

Paul insists, first, ‘We are the true circumcision! Don’t you understand that? You are the recipients of God’s promises to Abraham in Christ alone! You’re already the recipients of those promises. You’re the people of God, you’re the true Israel as you trust in Christ alone.’

Second, We worship by the Spirit. This calls to mind John 4, Jesus is talking about a time is coming when the Temple will no longer be the place where God manifests His presence amongst His people, but wherever people gather in Jesus’ name they will worship God through Jesus in spirit and in truth. And the Apostle Paul is saying that we worship by the Spirit, not under the old ritual.

Third, We glory in Jesus Christ. If you say you need Jesus plus something, you’re not glorying in Jesus Christ. Paul says that all Christians glory in the fact that Jesus has paid it all.

Fourth, We put no confidence in the flesh because He is sole and sovereign and sufficient in His salvation.

And in those four phrases, Paul just describes what a Christian is: A Christian is the true Israel, who worships by the spirit, glories in Christ, and puts no confidence in the flesh.

III. Remember who I was.
If this stuff really worked that they’re trying to sell you, it would have worked for me!’ Paul recounts all the reasons that he had for confidence in the flesh, for reasons he should have had joy because of who he was, but that didn’t work for Paul. Paul gained no joy or salvation or glory from that confidence. Believers glory in Christ, and they put no confidence in the flesh, you can’t be a Christian and think that Jesus is not enough or that He’s unnecessary.

The Christian knows Jesus is more than enough. He’s sovereignly sufficient, and that is the foundation for a life of joy. Because they can take everything else from you, but they cannot take that from you, because He will not let them.


Ambrose' Prayer

Several of you have asked for a copy of the prayer I read before the morning services on Sunday (June 19, 2011). Here it is:
O Lord
teach me to seek you,
and reveal yourself to me
when I seek you.

For I cannot seek you unless
you first teach me,
nor find you unless
you first reveal yourself to me.

Let me seek you in longing,
and long for you in seeking.

Let me find you in love,
and love you in finding.

- Ambrose of Milan, c. 340 – 397 (HT: Trevin Wax)


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Rejoice in the Lord: Phil 3.1-11

Paul has been going through doctrine of the Christian life, and then he comes to this practical exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord.” He’s preparing to conclude his letter with a final exhortation to these hard-pressed, impoverished, persecuted Philippian Christians. Now what would you say to a group of Christians who are hard-pressed, impoverished, persecuted? Here’s what the Apostle Paul says to them: “Rejoice!” But that’s not all he says, is it? He says, “Rejoice in the Lord.” Paul is calling the Philippians, and us, to the delightful duty of joy in the Christian life.

Paul is not calling us to fake joy, where we smile our plastic smiles and pretend like our lives are not falling apart. He is not saying ‘Rejoice, because your trials aren’t real.’

There are a lot of people who want to give you the message “Rejoice,” by doing one of two things. Either they want you to pretend like your problems aren’t there, or they want you to rejoice because your problems aren’t that big.God never asks us to have that kind of unrealistic joy, because He knows personally what this world is like and He doesn’t want His people to have a fake joy that is based upon pretending their problems aren’t there.
I’m so glad that Paul is not looking out at this congregation of Philippians and saying, ‘Be happy! Nothing’s wrong. Rejoice! Everything’s fine.’ Instead, Paul is saying, ‘As real as your problems are, as deep as your heartbreaks are, as justified as your fears are, rejoice in the Lord because you are the recipient of a bigger truth than the truth of your problems, and you are the recipients of promises that are greater than the sum total of all your fears and heartaches.’ His message is “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Jesus and Paul just do this continually. They do not ask believers to have comfort in this world because things are hunky-dory, fine and dandy. They ask us to rejoice because there is bigger truth in God’s promises to us in the gospel than there are in the sufferings and sorrows and anxieties of this world.

Paul is telling you how you go about fighting for joy in the Christian life, you just don’t fall over on your sofa and have joy. It’s a fight for joy in the Christian life. Paul wants to give them weapons to fight for joy, so that when those losses and crosses and real anxieties and sorrows and trials come into their lives they can fight against them, not by saying ‘Oh, they’re not so bad,’ or, ‘Oh, that’s not happening to me. I won’t think about it,’ or by singing “Que sera, sera” and thinking about it tomorrow like Scarlett O’Hara.

Instead, you stack all your troubles up right at the foot of the cross, and you see a bigger truth that is a cause for joy than the greatest of your problems are cause for discouragement. It is not joy through denial, it is a joy through a greater truth, and that’s going to be Paul’s argument in this whole section. He wants us to behold that big truth and not just see it with our eyes, but believe it with our hearts, otherwise we are unarmed in this fight for joy.

In the rest of the passage, Paul will warn them of teachers that are going to come to the Philippians and tell them, to gain joy by confidence in their own works or by becoming a better person. And Paul is saying, ‘If you fight for joy that way, let me tell you what’s going to happen: You’re going to have no joy; put no confidence in the flesh! Only the shoulders of Jesus Christ and His free justification can hold you up under the burdens of this world filled with sin and misery.

If you are looking for joy by putting your confidence in yourself, not only will you not find it, but on the Judgment Day, you’re going to be in the line of people who are lining up to tell God that Jesus didn’t need to die for you, that you can handle this on your own.

But perhaps you are trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation and you’re not putting confidence in the flesh for your salvation, but you have not yet experienced and expressed in your life the joy that Paul knows, Jesus shed His blood for you to experience joy here just as much as He did shed His blood that your sins would be forgiven. What did the Lord Jesus say to His disciples? “I came so that your joy would be complete.” And Paul is saying to the Philippians that he’s not going to let off of pursuing them until by God’s grace they are experiencing in some measure that joy.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Knowing the Power of Christ’s Resurrection: Phil 3.1-11

We spent a little while studying the center of Philippians in which Paul urges us to live like Christians. In Philippians 2:18-30, he gave us personal examples of two godly men who live out Paul’s exhortation.

Today we see Paul summarizing the heart of his gospel teaching, in which he reminds them to rejoice in the Lord.

Paul explains in verses 1-11 how they are able to rejoice in Christ in their circumstances: when you embrace Christ, the joy of the Holy Spirit will flood your life, and though your sufferings, hardships, trials and even your poverty won’t go away, you’ll be able to rejoice in the Lord anyway, not only in spite of it, even because of it. This so because you know Christ savingly.

I. To know Christ savingly is more valuable than anything in this world.
I do not mean knowing about Christ, but to know Him personally, in your trusting Him, in your loving Him, in your delighting in Him, in your treasuring Him, and in your worshipping Him. To know Christ is to know Him in all His benefits and in all His work. And therefore, if you know Christ, you know how valuable He is and you count everything else in your life as rubbish.

II. To know Christ in the power of His resurrection
Paul there tells us that to know Christ savingly is to know him in the power of His resurrection. That means, first of all, to know the forgiveness of sins. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven, justified. By Christ’s perfect life and full obedience and by His death on the cross, God has judged and sentenced and condemned and punished all the sins of all those in this world who believe in and trust on Jesus Christ and credited Christ’s righteousness to them. The resurrection that displays this verdict of God: ‘not guilty,’ sins forgiven.

That’s not all Paul is saying. In this whole section, Paul is talking about sanctification. He’s talking about our being changed into becoming more like Jesus Christ. He is also pressing home the truth that to know the power of Christ’s resurrection is to know the power of new life in us. Look at what he says in verse 10—“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share His sufferings becoming like Him in his death.”

And this is what Paul is saying when he says that he wants to know the power of Christ’s resurrection: the saving, changing, maturing, growing effects of the Holy Spirit applying the power of Christ’s resurrection to his life so that the he is increasingly more like Christ.

Paul is also saying that this leads us to embrace the suffering and hardships of this world as God’s school of Christ-likeness. We are living in a fallen world, filled with sin, we're going to experience trials and troubles, tribulations and hardships, sorrows and suffering, but don’t look at the sufferings apart from the power of Christ in the gospel. God intends those sufferings to produce Christ-likeness.

Knowing Christ savingly in the power of his resurrection is to know forgiveness, growth in grace, and being ready even to face trials with a view to becoming more like Jesus Christ.

III. To know Christ savingly is to long for His power to be perfected in the day of His coming
The Apostle Paul is saying here is that he recognizes that in this life, despite the fact of the power of Christ’s resurrection is already at work changing him to make him more like Jesus, though that process is never ever going to be completed until the day of the resurrection when Jesus comes, but until that day he is going to continue to have to fight the fight of faith against sin in him.

Paul, just like Jesus and just like the Old Testament, makes it clear that there is going to be one general resurrection, but only those who know Christ savingly will be raised to glory. Those who do not know Christ savingly will be raised to judgment and condemnation.

If you don’t know Christ savingly in the forgiveness of your sins, in that you long more than anything else in this world to be like Him and you treasure Him more than anything else in this world, and the power of His resurrection even in your sufferings, then you are yet awaiting the resurrection to judgment. The only way to escape that judgment to come and to know the joy that Paul is teaching us about here is to know Christ, to treasure Him more than life, to put all of your hope in Him, and for all who trust in Him, there yet is a resurrection to glory and to hope and to joy.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Hold Fast to the Word of Life: Phil 2.19-30

Paul had been urging you to live in such a way that your life fits the gospel, and now he’s back to telling what’s been going on with him and about two men that the Philippians had sent to him. He draws attention to aspects their respective character and service as examples of what he has been exhorting us to do from 1:27 to 2:18. First, Timothy’s selflessness and focus on serving the interests of Jesus Christ in the church and then Epaphroditus’ bravery and his willingness to die for the sake of the gospel.

Even though he’s giving the Philippians a missionary report, he’s doing two other things at the same time. One, he’s letting them know how he is in order to set their hearts at ease. Two, he’s giving an example of living the life to which he’s exhorting the Philippians.

In the course of this missionary report, there are four very important truths about the Christian life.

I. Joy does not mean the absence of trial.
He is making it clear that the kind of gospel joy that he has and the kind of gospel joy that he wants the Philippians to have, he really does want it because he says, “I’m willing to stay here on earth rather than go to be with Jesus in glory in order that you might have joy.” He needs us to understand that this joy is not going to mean an absence of trial.

In verse 27, he’s telling you how glad he is that God spared Epaphroditus’ life. He doesn’t just say that he would have been sorry if Epaphroditus had died. It would have been sorrow upon sorrow.

In verse 28 he says he’s sending Epaphroditus back to them so that Epaphroditus can take them word of Paul, and so that word can be sent back to the Paul that the Philippians are doing “ok.” He’s worried about the petty divisions in the church about people in the church that are looking out for number one instead of being concerned for others in the congregation.

If you look back in verses 20 and 21 he talks about Christians who were there with him at the time of his imprisonment other than Timothy and Epaphroditus. He says that he couldn’t send any of them to the Philippians because they wouldn’t look out for the Philippians’ best interest, but only for their own!

Paul says these things and they are not inconsistent with his experience of gospel joy. Your experience of gospel joy does not mean that you enter in this life into a blissful state. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t hard things. And yet, trials and sorrows are no impediment to gospel joy. That’s a huge message to learn in the Christian life. Paul’s so realistic about this, he wants you to experience gospel joy, but he knows that troubles are not going away in this world, even in the church.

II. The Christian life is a life of companionship.
The Christian life was meant for company. God intended us to need, to depend upon one another, and to minister to one another as we walk through this world on the way to the new heavens and the new earth. The Christian life is a life of companionship.

Paul, who met Jesus face to face on the way to Damascus, whom Jesus personally taught, who was vested with all of the authority of Jesus so that he could raise people from the dead, could heal people, could prophesy by the Holy Spirit, could speak in tongues and interpret and give words of knowledge. And yet, here he is describing to the Philippians how he needed Timothy and Epaphroditus.

III. Christians always seek the interests of Christ.
Third, Paul draws your attention to Timothy who alone among the circle of disciples with Paul in his imprisonment, who alone of whom it can be said he did not seek his own interests but he sought the interests of Christ.

Do you think that way about the church? Can you think of a decision that you have made in a time when you thought, you know this would be good for me personally but I’m not sure it would be good for the church as a whole. Therefore, I’m not going to do it, I’m going to do what’s best for the church. Paul is commending Timothy to you as a person who did think that way.

IV. Christians are ready to die for Christ.
Paul commends Epaphroditus who was ill and nevertheless, risked his life for Paul’s sake and for the sake of the Philippian church because, he thought that his life was of less value than the work in the kingdom of Christ.

Are you ready to die in the work of Christ? That’s what Paul is holding before the Philippians and before us as an example of being like Jesus because Jesus Christ was not only ready, but He did die for us.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Hold Fast to the Word of Life: Phil 2.16-18

Paul has been exhorting us here saying, “Don’t just claim to be the sons of God. Live like you are the sons of God. Live out what it means to be the children of the living God.”

Jesus himself commands this to His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul is just picking up on that theme in with those three exhortations in verses 14-15 from last week.

In verses 16-18, he’s continuing the exhortations about Christian living telling us four things here following up on what he’s already said in verses 14-15.
I. Live the Bible…practice the truth.
This little phrase is actually completing a sentence that he started at the end of verse 15 “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life”.

Paul is saying, “Don’t just say that you believe the Bible, live the Bible.” He’s saying, “Don’t just honor God’s Word with your lips, honor it with your lives or you’re not honoring it at all.”

In Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales there are some hypocrites, but one of the characters that Chaucer clearly respected was the man that he calls “The Poor Parson.” He says this:

“He gave this noble example to his sheep that first he practiced and then he preached.”

And that’s exactly what Paul is exhorting the Philippians to do – practice what you preach. Practice the truth.
II. The principle of delayed gratification
He goes on to say in verse 16, “Do this so that in the day of Christ, I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

Paul is saying to the Philippians, “My mission will not have failed if you walk by faith and live by faith and grow in grace and bear a witness to the world. If you do that on the last day, I will not be put to shame, but the Lord Jesus will say, ‘Look, Paul, look at the fruit of your ministry in the life of these people.’”

Paul is saying, “I’m not living life for short term gains.” Paul is teaching the Philippians the principles of delayed gratification.

Delayed gratification means passing up a short term gain for a long term reward. Paul is teaching them that our real rewards await the coming of Jesus Christ. And so, he doesn’t particularly care that he’s in prison as long as they grow in grace because as they grow in grace and live the Christian life, on the last day the Lord Jesus will reward him saying, “Well, done good and faithful servant. Enter into the inheritance prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

What a huge message that is for us! Our society measures success by what happens in the next five minutes, but Paul is saying, “That’s not how it is with me, Philippians. I’m waiting for the final judgment and then my success will be measured.”
III. Sanctification is expensive.
He says, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I’m glad!”

Drink offerings were a part of the total sacrifice that would have been offered in either the Jewish temple or in a pagan temple. You would have slain an animal whose blood would be sprinkled on the altar and then the carcass of the animal would be consumed by the fire on the altar.

In other words, Paul is saying, “If my life simply becomes a component of your living to God for His glory, it will all have been worth it. And I’ll be more than happy, in fact, I’ll be rejoicing.” Paul is teaching the principle here of how expensive our sanctification is.

In order for us to grow in grace, God throws gifted and godly ministers and pastors and elders and Christians into the service of our growing in grace and they live and they bleed and they ache and they die all so that we’ll grow in grace.

Now, Paul didn’t contribute a thing to their being accepted by God. Christ did all of that, but Paul was part of God’s plan for them to mature them as disciples.

God cares about our growth in grace when He gives gifted and talented faithful ministers and elders and pastors and other Christians to us so that we will become more like Christ and causes them to live and bleed and die so that we will grow in grace.

Do you realize the cumulative investment that God has now made in your sanctification? He sent Augustine, Athanasius, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, John Murray and every other saint into the world for your sanctification.

He sent Jesus into the world for your justification. He sent Jesus into the world for your sanctification, too, but to that great work of the Lord Jesus Christ, He has gathered around a cloud of witnesses to urge you on in growing in grace.
IV. Learn to rejoice in the self-giving of others.
Paul wants you to rejoice and be glad with him.

Paul is saying, “If you don’t rejoice as I’m poured out like a drink offering and as my life ebbs away and as I’m executed on your behalf and for the sake of the gospel. If you don’t rejoice in my gospel self-sacrifice, you just don’t get it yet. You don’t realize how valuable what we have in Jesus Christ is and how that changes the whole of life.

We need to learn the importance of gospel rejoicing because when we rejoice in those kinds of sacrifices, it says to the world that we’re not here to delight in what you have to offer because you don’t have anything to offer to us. We have everything that we could possibly need or want in Jesus Christ and this world can take none of that away from us. And it can offer nothing to us to augment it.