Friday, November 30, 2012

Learning How to Count

Scripture: Philippians 3:1-11
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Insights: The first verse in this section of Philippians is truly the key.  It indicates the way one ought to respond to all situations.  For the Christ-follower joy and peace are the underlying realities of their existence.  There may be external attacks from outside of the body and divisions from within the body, but our ability to know Jesus and thus experience His joy is unhindered.  This joy is not some self-made fabrication of happiness as a result of obtaining self-righteousness.  Rather it is the joy of being made righteous by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary and it is actualized by faith.  This joy then grows as one begins to mature in Jesus and specifically in the four areas we discussed yesterday.  What a joy it is to learn how to count properly.  To count all of our self-works as rubbish, but the work of Christ as all that matters is the only satisfying place for a Christ-follower to reside.  Beloved, by faith count Jesus and know His joy!

  1. Are you able to keep your focus on what really matters in the midst of external conflict?
  2. Are you rejoicing in your knowledge of Jesus Christ?
Prayer: O Lord, the privilege to rejoice in knowing You is wonderful beyond description.  No matter what I face, I can enjoy the joy of knowing You.  Amen. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Contentment from Within Present

Scripture: Philippians 3:10
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Insights: Yesterday we learned how to count properly and with the singular objective of knowing Christ Jesus.  In today’s verses Paul takes us further into what he meant by knowing Jesus.  First, Paul wanted to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection.  Think about it this way: in medical days gone by they used paddles to resuscitate patients whose hearts had stopped.  That procedure is an amazing use of power, but for every one of those patients that were resuscitated there still remained a fate for them.  They were still going to die.  Yet, when God brings One back from the dead, He will never die again.  Jesus is forever alive and so will those of us who are born again.  Second, Paul wanted to know the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings.  Now most believers are really excited about the first part, but are less than thrilled with this second part, at least that is the case for me.  Yet, Paul had matured so much that he understood the value of suffering for Jesus.  I pray one day I will, like Paul, desire to truly learn obedience through suffering just as Jesus did.  Third, Paul wanted to be conformed to Jesus death.  In other words, Paul desired to leave this world and that was only going to happen in one of two ways.  One, he would have been resurrected in Jesus second coming.  Two, he would have had to die.  Too many of us are more in love with our life here on earth that we would rather not conform to Christ in His death.  This thought never entered Paul’s mind and why not?  The fourth way Paul desired to know Jesus is the answer.  Paul wanted to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  In other words, Paul wanted to go HOME!  If we have truly received salvation in Christ, then we ought to desire these same four things in terms of knowing Jesus.  Beloved, strive to know Christ Jesus and every aspect of who He is and you will find a great deal of contentment within yourself.  Let the peace of God reign in you from knowing Jesus fully.

  1. Are you experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection in your life?
  2. Do you desire to also know the fellowship of His suffering?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for only wanting the blessing of good from You and not the blessings of suffering.  Change my heart to desire Your will and Your will alone and my I rejoice in whatever situation You allow my pilgrimage to take.  Amen. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Counting from a Worshipful Perspective

Scripture: Philippians 3:7-9
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

Insights: Yesterday we saw how Paul counted from a worldly perspective.  Today, we see the Spirit’s working on Paul’s heart.  Notice how quickly Paul wrote the word “but”.  He has just finished this self-expression like a braggart and was prompted by the Spirit to remember the truth.  That truth being his righteousness was worthless and ineffectual.  We also must come to that same kind of truth.  So many “Christians” attempt to live a righteous life from the perspective of rules.  Notice, however, Paul stated his righteousness came from God on the basis of faith.  True righteousness is imputed into the believer based on faith, not by personal works.  Jesus’ work during Easter is all the work needed to receive righteousness.   When the Father looks down on a Christ-follower and sees his/her righteousness, it is not the righteousness of that individual, but that of Christ Jesus.  It is because Paul understood this truth so well that he calls all of his previous work and sufferings as rubbish or garbage.  Paul knew what the prophet Isaiah knew regarding the best works of a human being.  Isaiah wrote, “all our righteous acts are like filth rags (64:6).”  Our very, very, very best that we can offer God in our own strength, power, might and wisdom is nothing more than vile clothing.  It is for this reason we can never earn our salvation.  Salvation is a free gift from God received solely by faith and when we have received that precious gift we are made righteous by that very same faith.  And if we live our lives from this perspective, then we, like Paul, will have learned how to count properly as well.  Before, Paul counted one good act, two good deeds, three right positions, etc.  Now, however, Paul counted one One—Christ alone!  All he wanted was to know Christ Jesus his Lord.  Tomorrow, we are going to learn more about what Paul wanted to know about Jesus.  Beloved, we also ought to want to know Jesus, as Paul knew Him.

  1. Have you begun to count properly?
  2. Are you willing to give up personal prestige for Christ?
Prayer: Father, I so much desire to pray and live as Paul did.  Mold and shape my heart so I desire You and You alone.  Help me to count all things as nothing in comparison to You and Your great love. Amen. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Counting from a Worldly Perspective

Scripture: Philippians 3:4-6
although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

Insights: Have you ever had a situation occur in your life where you began to have conversations with yourself in your mind?  Were you ever the villain in your conversation or did you find creative ways to justify why you were right and the other person was wrong?  In some ways, that was exactly what Paul was doing in today’s verses.  He was frustrated and mad at the outside attacks the church of Philippi was experiencing.  So, he began to justify his authority and right to speak to the church about the truth.  We are no different.  The problem is all of this self-aggrandizement does nothing to solve the issues at hand.  I have shared the following many times in my church, though I did not this past Sunday, but I think it is helpful in stopping these imaginary conversations.  The following is a summary of Avery Willis’ MasterLife material on the ACTION steps.  Acknowledge the emotion you are presently experiencing (in our case, at the time you begin to have these mental conversations).  Consider what the root cause of that emotion really is.  Thank God He is greater than the emotion and that He is able to solve the problem at hand.  Investigate as to what the Bible says about your situation and your emotional state.  Obey what the Holy Spirit tells you which is going to be in line with what you just learned from the Scriptures.  Nurture the appropriate fruit of the Spirit.  In other words, one or more of the following fruits is the appropriate emotional response to your situation.  Those fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  If you will pause for a moment when you recognize you are in one of those mental conversations and work through the ACTION steps, you will be amazed at how much better you will feel.  You will also be in a much healthier position to proceed in solving the problem or situation from God’s standpoint.  As a teaser for tomorrows Thoughts by Scott, even Paul realized how foolish it was for him to count out the reasons he was justified in his words against the Judaizers.

  1. Do you find yourself having self-justifying conversations in your head?
  2. Are you willing to put a stop to them?
Prayer: Father, it is not productive or helpful to justify myself or my actions in mental conversations.  Help me to run to You immediately when life situations drive me to these unhealthy conversations.  You be my peace and rock, O Lord. Amen. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Conflict from Without Present

Scripture: Philippians 3:1-3
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,

Insights: As we enter into this third chapter I want to remind you this book of Philippians was actually a letter; a letter that would have been read in its entirety to the church at one setting.  Paul, like all of us, had some things about which he wanted to write to this church, but wrote some preliminary comments first.  It would be like the way we talk about sports, weather or the health of a family before we engage into the serious matter at hand.  That idea is what Paul has been doing in some ways.  Chapter one he writes about the theoretical concepts of joy.  Chapter two he writes about the practical examples of joyful living.  And why is Paul writing so much about joy, because this church is facing issues that potentially could be stealing their joy.  Knowing he is about to begin writing about what is really on his mind, he starts with verse one which is a reminder for them to live in joy.  What is the first real issue Paul has wanted to talk with them about?  The answer is religiously lost people, those on the outside of the body of Christ, who are attempting to muddy the waters for these new Christians in Philippi.  Three times Paul uses the word beware in regards to these people.  He calls them dogs, evil workers, and the false circumcision.  For a fuller explanation as to how these religiously lost Judaizers were persecuting the church, I recommend you read the book of Galatians.  Here is the point:  we may be living in a society where Christian persecution is not really dangerous.  There are countries in which one faces martyrdom for being a Christ-follower.  The unfortunate reality is that day of religious persecution is quickly coming our way.  After the election a few weeks back I quoted Kevin Castleberry and his thoughts regarding our country.  His words regarding our post-heritage American culture is a precursor to the religious persecution that will come as a result of this culture change in America.  Paul’s words for us to beware of such evil workers are just as true today.  Beware, as you live in joy!

  1. In what ways can you prepare for the external persecutions that will arise as the days of evil increase?
  2. Are you already experiencing trials for your faith from external sources?
Prayer: Father, there is obviously a spiritual war going on around us.  Open my eyes and equip me to be steadfast and true to the battles I am presently facing and the battles to come. Amen. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Epaphroditus was a Servant with No Regard for Himself

Scripture: Philippians 2:27-30
For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.

Insights: There was once a missionary speaking back in the states during his furlough and he said, “The problem in our churches is that we have too many spectators and not enough participants.”  That statement could not have been said of Epaphroditus.  He was not content simply to contribute to the offering taken up for Paul.  He gave himself to help carry the offering to Paul.  He risked his very life for the service of Christ Jesus.  We have crime in today’s society, but in many ways the risk of ambush and robbery during ones travels were much greater in the first century.  Epaphroditus was carrying a significant love offering with him on his treacherous journey to Rome.  That money represented Paul’s furtherance of the gospel in many ways.  Epaphroditus was willing to defend such a love offering.  Notice also that Epaphroditus also got gravely sick in his ministering to Paul.  It is highly probable that Epaphroditus got sick in the prison area in which Paul was being held.  Whether it was in the prison compounds, a house arrest situation, or just in the public arena does not really matter.  What is important is he got sick and almost died.  He gave and he gave and he gave until he had worked himself into sickness, possibly through exhaustion.  Beloved, we need to serve with total abandonment for God and the proclamation of the gospel.  Serve Him well!  Do not be a spectator, but rather be a participant like Epaphroditus.

  1. Does your personal safety and well-being come before your service to the Lord?
  2. If so, what is holding you back from being a fully committed follower of Christ Jesus?
Prayer: Father, forgive me when I put myself first and do not obey You.  I pray my heart becomes more like Epaphroditus and I am willing to risk it all for You and Your glory. Amen. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Epaphroditus was a Soldier with Responsibilities for His Church

Scripture: Philippians 2:25-26
But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.

Insights: Notice the versatility of Epaphroditus in these couple of verses.  Paul calls him his brother, his fellow worker and his fellow soldier.  He names two specific areas in which Epaphroditus ministered.  He served as a messenger for the church of Philippi and he also assisted Paul by ministering to his needs.  The Holy Spirit is the provider of our spiritual giftedness.  Now these statements I am mentioning regarding the versatility of Epaphroditus is in no ways to insinuate that every believer has all of the spiritual gifts mentioned throughout the Bible.  It is to say, however, that believers are given a multiplicity of gifts and are responsible in nurturing them as they grow in their relationship with Jesus.  Here is one of the reasons we need to grow in many areas of our Christian faith.  I have known Christians who are so militant in their giftedness that they forget to be fellow brothers and socialize through fellowship with their brothers and sisters.  At the same time they have been so evangelistic in their pursuits that they fail to serve in the local church through ministries designed for the discipline of the brothers.  At the same time, I have known believers that are so inwardly focused with fellowship and body edification that they never share the gospel with anyone.  These examples are all poor illustrations of what it means to be a Christian.  We are to be like Epaphroditus and be a brother or sister to the rest of God’s children.  We are to serve the body of Christ in service at the local church.  We are also supposed to be light in a dark world.  We need to be well rounded in our faith like Epaphroditus.

  1. In what ways do you serve the Lord in the Body of Christ?
  2. Are you versatile in your service?
Prayer: Father, I desire to honor You in all the ways in which You have called me to serve.  May You be please with my sacrifice.  Amen. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Timothy was a Chosen Protégé

Scripture: Philippians 2:23-24
Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly.

Insights: The short form of verses twenty-three and twenty-four is just as you read it.  Paul is sending Timothy to the church of Philippi as soon as he has confirmation that he himself will not be released.  Yet, Paul still holds hope in his eventual release and his desire to return to Philippi at that time.  I want to run a little different line with you today regarding these two verses.  I believe the implication I am proposing has been evident throughout verses twenty through twenty-four, but I wish to point them out now.  The reason Paul has confidence in sending Timothy to this church facing so many problems is because Timothy is Paul’s son in the faith.  We even mentioned that yesterday.  I think it appropriate to go a little further regarding that statement and idea.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul chose Timothy to be his protégé.  Paul invested and mentored Timothy and helped him grow into the spiritual leader he is at this point.  Twenty-four times Timothy is mentioned in Paul’s letters.  He was faithful in every assignment in which God placed him through Paul.  Timothy was not just thrown into this role of church revitalizer.  He was trained and disciplined along the way.  He was Paul’s disciple in the faith.  Beloved, this one point is possibly one of the greatest failings of the modern church.  If we go back to the great commission found in Matthew twenty eight.  We find Jesus telling us to make disciples of all nations, not just converts of all nations.  We ought to be about investing our lives into other people.  We need to grow them and mature them, even as we are growing a maturing.  Are we going to do it perfectly?  Absolutely not!  We are going to make mistakes with the individuals with whom God has entrusted us to mentor, but we are to mentor them none the less.  Are the individuals with whom we invest going to mess up and disappoint us?  Absolutely!  And in those moments we get the privilege of showing them the restorative grace in which the Lord frequently shows us.  Beloved, we must not falter at this point.  We must make disciples!  We must mentor people in the faith.  We must strengthen the Body of Christ as the Lord equips us to do so and if we are born again, we are called to make disciples.

  1. Who have been the men and women that have most influenced your spiritual pilgrimage?
  2. In whose life are you investing?
Prayer: Father, thank You so much for the men and women You have placed in my life to grow and mature me.  May I also know the joy of investing in others’ lives.  Amen. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Timothy was Convicted about Proclamation

Scripture: Philippians 2:22
But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.

Insights: Most sons can look back on their relationship with their father and can remember idolizing that man.  Even if the father was not the best father, most sons wanted to be like him.  The same can be said regarding mothers and daughters.  There is a natural desire within us to please our parents and to be like them, especially when one is a child.  Paul has called Timothy his son in the faith in other locations (1 Timothy 1:2 & 2 Timothy 1:2).  The point is Timothy, like a natural child, is trying to please his spiritual father in the faith.  What is Paul passionate about?  The answer is the proclamation of the gospel.  So, what is Timothy, Paul’s spiritual child, passionate about?  The answer is the proclamation of the gospel.  Paul even says that Timothy has proven his worth in regards to the furthering the gospel.  So, what does all of this information mean for us?  Let’s take the earthly spiritual father or mother picture and drop it for just a moment.  Let’s pick up the picture of whom our real spiritual Father is and that is God Himself.  What is God passionate about?  The answer is the saving of many lives.  It was God who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die a death to pay our penalty for sin.  His Son died for us while we were still enemies of God.  Yet, He desired for us to come to a saving relationship with Him.  So, we know that God’s passion is the saving of lost people.  If God’s passion is this reality, then ours, as His spiritual children, ought to be the same as well.  Our lives as believers ought to display our proven worth to the kingdom of God.  Our lives ought to be dedicated to the furtherance of the gospel.  We ought to serve with the hope of pleasing our real Father.  Beloved, if these statements are not true of your life, then repent and ask God to put a passion in your heart for the lost.  Pray that kind of prayer every day until the Lord answers.  He will answer such a prayer in the affirmative, because it is His nature to save the lost.  Proclaim the gospel, Beloved, and feel the convicting power of such a responsibility!

  1. Are intentional about sharing the gospel with the lost around you?
  2. Does your life show your proven worth to the kingdom of God?
Prayer: Father, increase my heartbeat for evangelism.  May I desire to see the lost come to the saving relationship with Your Son as much as You desire it.  Amen. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Timothy was Concerned about People

Scripture: Philippians 2:19-21
But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.

Insights: ABC has, or had, a television show titled, What Would You Do?  The show had hidden cameras and actors performing unethical deeds.  These actions were done in public and the show was capturing what ordinary people did in various situations.  For example, one episode, they had a blind man being mistreated and taken advantage of by a pastry employee.  Some people came to the blind man’s defense, while others did nothing.  In many ways this show is a modern day parable of the Good Samaritan.  I mention this show because of today’s verses.  The church of Philippi had lots of problems.  We have mentioned that they were being attacked from outside the church and there were divisions inside of the church.  Paul, unfortunately, is in jail in Rome and is unable to go visit them.  So, he inquires of the membership of First Church of Rome to see if any of them would be willing to take a missions trip to this struggling church at Philippi.  To Paul’s broken heart, he finds that none are willing to be a Good Samaritan to this struggling church.  Let’s relook at Paul’s words, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.”  The entire church of Rome had only concerns about themselves.  I wonder how many churches today are like this Roman church.  Timothy, however, was Paul’s protégé and when Paul asked him to go, Timothy was willing.  Timothy had a concern for the people of Philippi and was willing to make the difficult journey and minister to them in Paul’s absence.  I wonder what we would do if we were asked a similar question.

  1. Are you willing to be a Good Samaritan to someone in need?
  2. Do you seek after your own interests?
Prayer: Father, create in my heart a kindred spirit to Your Son’s.  May I serve His interests and not my own.  Lord, increase my concern for other people and open my eyes to see the needs around me.  Amen. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Paul's Example FOR You

Scripture: Philippians 2:17-18
But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

Insights: In the Old Testament there were drink offerings presented to the Lord.  When they were poured out on the alter it made a pleasing aroma to the Lord.  When such an offering was given they would pour out every last drop because it was ALL to be given to the Lord.  So, when Paul writes, “…I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice…,” he is alluding to his death.  Paul is describing the way he lives his life for God.  He wants every last drop of his life to be used for the glory of God.  If that last drop means a martyrs death, then he is willing to give his life for such an end.  If it means preaching until he dies a natural death, then he will preach until he can breathe no more.  Paul lives this way because he desires for God to be glorified.  At the exact same time, Paul is not unaware of the personal benefit he receives from such a life.  In fact, he points to it four times in these two verses today.  He uses the word “rejoice” two times and the word “joy” two times.  Both of these words are indicating the same thing.  When one’s life is full of joy and that joy overflows, the result is rejoicing.  Joy is the internal aspect and points us back to verses twelve and thirteen which we looked at earlier this week.  Rejoicing is the external aspect and points us back to verse fourteen through sixteen which we also looked at earlier this week.  Now, in today’s verses, Paul is bringing it all together.  It is as if he were saying to us, “Now here is my example of letting God work IN me and OUT OF me and I want to live that way until I die because I know I will experience unimaginable joy all of my days.”  Beloved, live your life as one being poured out for Jesus.  No matter what happens, you will be glad you did!

  1. Can your life be described as being poured out as a drink offering?
  2. Are you experiencing the joy of such a life?
Prayer: Father, my heart is so selfish at times.  Forgive me when I hold back and do not pour my life out for Your glory.  Continue Your work of grace in my life so I can identify with Paul’s words and be a drink offering for You.  Amen. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Work of God OUT OF You, Part 2

Scripture: Philippians 2:14-16
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

Insights: I want you to know notice the world in which we live out the fivefold process leading to joy.  The world is crooked and perverse.  Sunday was the first Sunday since our presidential election on November sixth.  I shared with our church a lengthy quote from Kevin Castleberry, pastor of Celebration Baptist Church in Semmes, Alabama.  I think it is captures the idea in twenty-first century America of a crooked and perverse generation.  I share with you today Kevin’s words.  He wrote, “Today, we are officially in a ‘Post-Heritage’ America. The electoral landscape of our nation confirms that we have a new culture in our nation. It is a culture that is different from the heritage that many envision as the traditional makeup of America. While there remains a sizeable portion of the country that maintains the flavor of that founding patriotism with the values that have given birth and rise to our country, a new ethic has become the majority. This is a change that is here to stay. As with any change, there is a sense of loss, and that is what many are feeling today. It is the realization that the America of yesteryear will not be the America that our children and grandchildren experience. There is a real grief process that is being experienced, and we need to acknowledge that. At the same time, as Christians, we are called to influence and lead this culture through the love of Christ. We are Americans but our prime citizenship is in heaven. We are God's ambassadors to represent His interests. It is our mandate to live in this new culture without being this new culture. By doing so, we can love those who are far from God while leading them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. Our country is not the same, but our call has not changed.  Pray ahead!”  As a Christian it is only going to get more difficult in the days ahead to represent Jesus, because the cultural landscape is crooked and perverse.  Yet as Kevin and Paul clearly announce, our mandate as lights in this world is still clear.  Proclaim Jesus!
  1. Are you experiencing the difficulties of life all around you?
  2. Are you able, like Paul, to count them part of your joy you have in Christ?
Prayer: Father, forgive me when I complain and belly ache over the difficulties of this world.  Rather, help my heart to be in a right relationship with You and let Your joy and peace reign in me.  Amen. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Work of God OUT OF You, Part 1

Scripture: Philippians 2:14-16
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

Insights: After God has done a work IN us, we are now able, in His power, to let God work OUT OF us in this world.  Paul starts off with some negative issues that were a part of the Philippian church.  They had a group of grumblers and disputers in their midst.  These individuals ran in vain seeking to have their own will and way.  So, Paul instructs us to not live that sort of life and proceeds to give us a fivefold method to live life out of joy.  Paul often times uses the technique found in these verses today.  He starts with the end product and leads us to the beginning point.  So, let me reverse the order and start where it begins and bring it to the proper conclusion.  Step one, hold fast to the world of life.  I know I sound like a broken record when it comes to this issue, but it is because the Bible itself is so dogmatic regarding it.  We absolutely must have time EVERY DAY in God’s Word.  If we don’t spend time in His Word, we are not able to do the rest of these four steps.  We need a hunger for God’s Word.  After we have received instruction from the Bible, we are able to do step two, live a life above reproach.  In other words, our actions, even when we are by ourselves match what we claim to believe.  Because we are living lives above reproach, we are then identified with the third step, which is our innocence.  We don’t have to experience sin first hand to know that something is sinful.  Because God’s Word tells us it is sinful and because we are living a life above reproach we can remain innocent of the sin by drawing near to God and refusing to sin.  When we do that we are living an innocent life, which leads to the fourth step, our blamelessness.  In other words, we are now, because of God’s work IN us, blameless before God.  From that standpoint we are now equipped to do the last step, living as lights in the world.

  1. Is your life characterized by the negative aspects of these verses?
  2. Does your life follow the cyclical pattern Paul described that leads to joy?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times in which I am a grumbler, disputer and one running in vain for the pleasures of my heart.  May my life be characterized by Your attributes and let me know perfect joy.  Amen. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Work of God IN You, Part 2

Scripture: Philippians 2:12-13
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Insights: Yesterday we looked at what salvation involves.  Today, we are going to explain what Paul is actually talking about when he wrote, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  The next part of that sentence is the key, “for it is God who is at work IN you.”  This working out of one’s salvation deals with the sanctification process God works IN us to bring about life change and spiritual maturity.  These disciplines we “work out” in our lives are: reading the Bible every day, praying and fasting, witnessing, tithing, serving and sacrificing, attending church services.  There are other spiritual disciplines, but if we will participate in this list to start, then we will experience spiritual growth.  In this growth we will then know God’s good pleasure for which He is working IN us to do.  Let me close today writing about the “fear and trembling” part of the verse.  F.B. Meyer gives a great illustration regarding this concept.  He said to image you were an artist and you got to spend the day with the person in history you considered to be the greatest artist of all times.  Knowing you were going to be given this opportunity would create in you a great deal of excitement and that excitement would be almost uncontainable.  You might actually have moments in which you physically shutter just thinking about spending time with this great artist.  As incredibly cool as that would be to spend the day with your hero, the reality is we get to spend every day with Jesus.  We have every opportunity to ask Him how He would handle the situations of our day.  We can observe His activity as He draws people to Himself.  We get to worship Him because He blows us away with His amazing grace.  We get to experience His restoration of our lives when we sin.  This listing of the daily joys we get to experience in Jesus is only a sampling of all the riches we get to encounter.  These moments ought to fill us with such awe that we are walking around in “fear and trembling.”  To God be the glory!

  1. Do you awaken each morning with the excitement of getting to spend the day with Jesus?
  2. Are you steadfast in pursuing the spiritual disciplines the Lord uses to purge us of our old self?
Prayer: Father, do not let me take for granted the joy of knowing I am in a relationship with You that changes every aspect of my life.  Do whatever is necessary as You work IN me to become the child of God You desire me to be.  Amen. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Work of God IN You, Part 1

Scripture: Philippians 2:12-13
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Insights: I want to express what salvation is because many erroneous ideas about salvation have sprung up because of verse twelve.  When Paul wrote, “work out your salvation…” he was not talking about our encounter with Jesus that justifies us before God and brings new life into us.  Tomorrow I will write about what Paul is talking about in this verse.  What is biblical salvation then?  First, is to know that grace is available to you.  God wants to give you a free gift of eternal life with Him and this gift can’t be earned or deserved.  Two, is recognizing that you are a sinner and that there is no way in which you will ever be able to save yourself in your own power, might, strength, speed, intellect, etc.  Three, God loves you and does not want to punish you, but He is at the same time just; and therefore, must punish your sin.  So, how does God solve this apparent contradiction?  Well the fourth step answers that question.  Four, Jesus is the infinite God-Man.  In other words, He is fully God and fully man at the very same time.  What Jesus did for us was to leave heaven and come to earth and live among us.  He taught us the way to live our lives and receive God through His work.  The follow was Jesus’ work: to die on a cross as a sacrifice for your sins and mine.  He bore the punishment that was rightfully ours and He took our sin in His death.  He was then buried, but on the third day God raised Him from the dead as victorious over sin and death.  Five, the final step is to receive by faith this gift for which Jesus paid.  You do that by faith.  Faith is not mere intellect, nor is it just temporary in nature.  Faith is confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. 

  1. Have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
  2. Are you willing to receive Him now?  If so, pray this prayer below and let me know.
Prayer: Father, I recognize I am a sinner and far from You and that I can’t save myself.  So, by faith I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that Your Son Jesus died for my sins and was buried, but You raised Him from the dead.  Your Son Jesus took my punishment for my sins and has given me eternal life.  I gratefully receive this gift right now and ask for Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.  Amen. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Jesus' Signal

Scripture: Philippians 2:9-11
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Insights: The bulk of the content in verses nine through eleven deals with God’s exaltation of Jesus, but that is not where I am going to spend our time today.  Our focus will be on the last phrase of verse eleven “to the glory of God the Father.”  This phrase wraps up the fourfold example of Jesus and the way He lived His life.  Paul admonished us back in verse five to have the same attitude of Christ Jesus.  So far, we have seen Jesus is selfless.  Jesus serves others.  Jesus sacrifices greatly.  Today, we see Jesus points others to God the Father and declares His glory.  Everything Jesus did was in order for God to be praised.  In John seventeen Jesus said, “Father the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee.”  Jesus’ example, Beloved, is the way we are supposed to live our lives.  If we are also selfless, serving others and sacrificing greatly, then God is going to be glorified in our lives.  And there is a benefit we receive as well for bring glory to the Father.  The benefit is what Paul alluded to back in verse two when he wrote, “make my joy complete.”  When we live life with the intent to bring glory to God, we will experience overflowing joy.  The process begins with selflessness.  In other words, we have to be willing to humble ourselves and repent of our sinful ways.  We are given a promise, however, in 1 John 1:9.  It states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  God the Father desires for us to live a life like His Son.  It is for this reason He is faithful and just to forgive us.  He knows only a heart in a proper love relationship with Him is going to be able to serve and sacrifice, which ultimately brings Him glory.  Beloved, point people to the Father and give Him the glory and praise He rightly deserves.  The joy you will experience is beyond compare.

  1. Are you purposefully directing praise to the Father?
  2. Do you need to repent and start the fourfold process of Jesus in order to declare God’s glory?
Prayer: Father, so often I steal Your glory.  Forgive me of such an odious offense.  May this day be a day in which I begin to purposefully point people to You and Your glory.  Amen. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Jesus' Sacrifice

Scripture: Philippians 2:8
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Insights: Just as selflessness in words alone is not sufficient, so is service alone not enough as well.  Many people are willing to serve others.  The problem is many of these same people will only serve others when it is convenient for them or if it costs them nothing.  As soon as it is inconvenient or costly these people bolt for the door going ninety-to-nothing.  Dr. J. H. Jowett said, “Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.  Jesus’ example was more costly than we can possibly fathom.  He, God in flesh, actually died.  This issue of sacrifice is one of the major problems in the church of America.  Let me illustrate this point using an often quoted passage of Scripture around election times, 2 Chronicles 7:14.  It reads, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  The first condition for God’s intervention is for His people to humble themselves.  It cost a significant amount to humble oneself of pride and ask another person for forgiveness.  Reconciliation is costly.  If we are not even willing to do this first basic step, then we are definitely not going to do the second, which is pray.  This kind of praying is not just the quick rote prayers so many pray every day.  This kind of praying is prolonged times of fervent intercession which often results in tears.  If we are not willing to pray like that, then we are definitely not going to seek God’s face.  This seeking consists of DAILY quiet times with God.  It means being involved in church for everything provided on a regular and consistent basis.  This seeking means walking in a manner worthy of the gospel.  This seeking means being transfixed on God and allowing nothing else to hinder that pursuit.  If we are not willing to seek God like this, then we are definitely not going to turn from our wicked ways.  This turning means to repent.  It is an active and perpetual course change.  We were heading in our own way of sin, but now we turn around and change our actions to line up with God.  To do these four steps is costly.  It will require sacrifice and because sacrifice is painful many avoid it at all costs.  It is for this reason I think the church of America is in the condition it presently finds itself.  Beloved, SACRIFICE!

  1. In what areas of your life are you sacrificing?
  2. What is your sacrifice accomplishing?
Prayer: Father, forgive me so often serving you only when it is convenient.  May my life truly be sacrificial in nature.  May I bring You glory as I sacrifice for You.  Amen. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Jesus' Service

Scripture: Philippians 2:7
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Insights: It would not have been enough for Jesus to have just stated, “I do not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”  In order for those words to be true, action had to accompany them.  In other words, we can say to people all day long phrases like, “I love you” or “I forgive you” or “I am not prejudice” or “witnessing to the lost is vital,” but if we do not put action to those words, then they are just not true of our lives.  Our great example, Jesus, did put action to His words.  This truth is what verse seven is all about.  Jesus emptied Himself of all He had in glory and took on the form of a bond-servant and became a human being.  This act of servanthood was not just some temporary identification with humanity.  Jesus became permanently and forevermore human in His incarnation.  Jesus was not just acting out a role as a servant, He actually was a servant.  Think for a moment of Jesus’ ministry.  He is the one who went to the crowds and taught them.  He is the one who when His disciples wanted to send the multitudes away said, “Let’s feed them.”  His own words in Matthew 20:28 are, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Even in His final night of earthly freedom, Jesus took up the towel and performed the role of house servant as He washed His disciples’ feet before the Passover Meal.  Virtually every time we see Jesus in the Gospel’s He is serving someone.  Paul has already told us to take Jesus’ example and model our lives after it.  So, if Jesus was selfless and He was a servant, then we are to be selfless and a servant.  Beloved, let us do all we can to live out our transformed life and bring glory to Jesus as we exemplify Him to this world.  To God be the glory!

  1. Are you a servant?
  2. Do your actions prove your words?
Prayer: Father, forgive me when my life does not reflect my words.  Mold me into a man whose convictions determine his actions.  Let my life be known as a servant.  Amen. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jesus' Selflessness

Scripture: Philippians 2:5-6
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

Insights: In verses one through four Paul has told us there is hope for unity and joy.  He then turned his direction and began to give four examples of what that kind of life looked like in the real world.  He started with Jesus.  At this point I am going to change verb tenses because all I am about to say regarding Jesus’ past is also true of Jesus present.  In other words, Jesus never changes.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He IS God.  His is one essence of the Triune community which comprises the ONE true God.  In principle these words are what the second phrase found in verses five and six is describing.  Jesus is God.  Before His incarnation, coming to earth in flesh as a baby, Jesus existed in the form of God.  Yet, the last phrase describes Jesus’ selflessness.  Even though He existed in the form of God, He did not grasp, strive, battle, manipulate, conspire, twist, or bully His way to equality with God.  Jesus knew He was God and was very comfortable with this reality.  At the same time, He was completely selfless and new He must leave eternity and come to earth in order to save His creation.  Think with me for a moment all Jesus gave up as He existed in the form of God in eternity.  His selflessness cost Him a perfect environment.  There were no hurricanes or blizzards and even if God did desire to create one, it had no devastating effects.  God and His heavenly creation would just enjoy the immense power found in God’s expression of creativity.  Jesus left perfect obedience.  Even in the Lord ’s Prayer, Jesus said, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  When Jesus gave a command in heaven it was perfectly obeyed right then and there.  Jesus left perfect bodies.  I am not saying Jesus had a body before His incarnation, but there were celestial beings who existed and they did not face sickness or death.  Jesus left perfect praise.  If your mind wonders even one second while you are worshipping God, then it is not perfect praise.  Yet, in eternity, Jesus experienced the worship of perfect praise being given to Him by the celestial creation.  Jesus did not find any of these perfect things worth grasping.  He selflessly left them all in order to come to earth to save humanity from their sins. Amen!

  1. Do you have this same selfless attitude in you that is in Christ Jesus?
  2. Are you still driven by recognition and accolades?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for my selfish behavior.  Let the attitude of Jesus become my attitude as well.  May I not grasp for power and position, but rather genuine humility.  Amen. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Your Situation

Scripture: Philippians 2:1-4
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Insights: Chapter one has been Paul’s theoretical expressions regarding joy in the body of Christ.  As he moves into chapter two, Paul gives us four practical examples of individuals who did live their lives out in joy.  He starts with the great example, Jesus, and we will be looking at Him throughout the remainder of this week.  Before we move on to Jesus, however, some foundational statements regarding this passage needs to be mentioned first.  Remember last week I mentioned Paul writes about unity sixteen times in this short letter.  The reason is because this little church of Philippi is being threatened by false teacher from without and divisions from within.  This church is in trouble.  So, Paul starts off with a “therefore if” introduction to Jesus.  In other words, if there is even the smallest measure of encouragement, love, fellowship, affection or compassion left in you, then it is not too late.  There is hope!  Jesus can change you and bring about the next part of Paul’s introduction to Jesus.  Paul says, “make my joy complete by being. . . .”  We are back to the theme of the book.  Paul knows that joy is going to be a byproduct of unity.  Because it is so important, let me state again, if there is a modicum of encouragement, love, fellowship, affection or compassion left in you, then unity can be experienced through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Let’s continue on with this thought.  Paul states his joy is going to be made complete when the church of Philippi begins to live with the “same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”  Beloved, this sentence is all about unity within the body of Christ.  Paul states the way we are able to find this joy through unity is by emptying our lives of personal pride.  In other words, humbling ourselves and looking to the interests of others before our own personal desires.  Beloved, let us humble ourselves before Christ and strive together for unity and allow God to be glorified as a result of such labor.

  1. Is there any smidgen of encouragement, love, fellowship, affection or compassion left in you?
  2. Are you willing to seek unity in the body of Christ?
Prayer: Father, make my joy complete just as Paul prayed by healing and uniting Your church.  May we be one just as you and the Son are one.  Amen. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Conflict of a Soldier: Longing for Home WILL BE Experienced Here

Scripture: Philippians 1:29-30
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Insights: Earlier this week I referenced Ephesians six and the spiritual war in which we find ourselves engaged.  In the sense of Ephesians six we are in a conflict and yet at the same time that war has already been won.  Christ Jesus was victorious over that war when He gave His life on Calvary and forevermore defeated sin and death when He rose again from the dead.  In no way do I wish to minimize the remaining skirmishes in which we find ourselves, but I do, however, wish to take this phrase “the same conflict which you saw in me” and run a different direction.  Back in verses twenty-two and twenty-three Paul shared with us his true conflict.  He was torn between remaining here on earth for the fruitful labor he would produce or in going home to Jesus.  If we look at this conflict within Paul as the same kind of conflict with which we are experiencing, then are we truly experiencing conflict?  I would answer in the negative.  What we are experiencing is home sickness.  As we reflect on our true home, we ought to experience great joy and contentment in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Another area in which we ought to experience joy is in the knowledge we are not facing this conflict alone.  Paul was presently experiencing that conflict when he wrote this letter.  He is encouraging these Philippian brothers and sisters to take comfort in the reality that all Christians are going to experience this conflict.  It is our faith, which we are defending as good soldiers, that keeps us grounded and steadfast in our course to bring honor and glory to Jesus.  Beloved, joy can and will be experienced in this war if we will just keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Let us indeed live and fight like good soldiers that and bring glory to our Savior!

  1. Are you longing for your true home?
  2. Does this reality of your real home produce joy in your life?
Prayer: Father, oh, how I long to be home with You.  To know that one day I will experience You in uninterrupted glory and will perpetually be wrapped in the warmth of Your love and joy.  May I, like Paul, rest in Your joy here while I strive to bring You glory as I share the gospel.  Amen. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Conflict of a Soldier: Suffering for Home WILL BE Experienced Here

Scripture: Philippians 1:29-30
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Insights: Paul instructed his son in the faith with these words, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).”  Read Warren Wiersbe’s words regarding these verses, “The presence of conflict is a privilege; we suffer ‘for His sake.’  In fact, Paul tells us that this conflict is ‘granted’ to us—it is a gift!  If we were suffering for ourselves, it would be no privilege; but because we are suffering for and with Christ, it is a high and holy honor.”  In light of these two quotes, it is perfectly appropriate to say, our battles help prove we are truly born again.  Many people have the wrong assumption that when they receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord that their problems will go away.  In reality according to these verses and the words Paul gave Timothy, our problems just begin at the point we receive Jesus’ gift.  If you think of your sufferings in this proper perspective, as a gift from God, then you can experience great joy in the battle.  Here is how it works:  Your suffering is as if God were saying to you, His child, “I love you so much and I trust you so much that I am going to allow you to experience this difficult time in your life in order to produce great joy in you and glory for Me.”  My problem, and I venture to say most peoples problem, is I don’t view my sufferings and battles in this perspective.  Beloved, the Lord is taking us through a sanctifying process and maturing us to the point and place we are able to live life from this vantage point.  I long for the day when I am able, like Paul, to give thanks in ALL circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

  1. In what ways are you suffering for Jesus?
  2. Are you viewing your suffering as a gift for God?
Prayer: Father, I am presently not at a spiritual maturity to receive my sufferings as joyful moments, but I do desire such a state of contentment in You.  Mature and change me by Your grace and presence to accept sufferings as a true gift.  Amen.