Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ The Song of Christ: Phil 2.5-11 (Part II)

Tuesday we started to outline this passage. There’s the exhortation to have this mind among yourselves: Humility. What’s that mind of humility look like? Christ, in His humiliation. What happens if we live like this? Exaltation! Glory! Joy! He wants us to experience the joy that God has intended for us, even in this fallen world, together in the congregation of God’s people. He says ‘You go the way of humility, and I’ll show you real joy.’ And should that surprise us? Today we’ll outline what Paul says about Christ’s exaltation and next week we’ll look more closely this passage, in greater detail.

III. Christ’s exaltation.
Paul asks, “what are the consequences of Christ’s humiliation and living with the mindset of Christ?

Paul is laying it down in front of you. He’s saying, ‘You want to know joy in this life? Go down. You want to know joy in this life? Go the way of humility. Go the way of the cross and it will lead to joy, glory, and exaltation!

And Paul in verses 9-11 is saying, ‘Let me show you what this looks like,’ and he tells you five things.

First, there is going to be hyper-exaltation of Jesus Christ. God is going to proclaim Him as above and before and over all. You remember Paul in Ephesians 1:10 tells you that the whole purpose of God’s grand work of redemption is that the whole of everything would be brought under the headship of Jesus Christ; and here Paul is picturing for you the day when that comes, when He is exalted above everything.

Secondly,you see the final coronation of Christ pointed to in verse 9.

There are two really amazing things going on here. One is we see here the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram. Paul is saying here is that Jesus himself has fulfilled all of the obligations of the covenant of grace that God has made with Abraham, and God has given Him not only a great name, but the greatest name, so that He has fulfilled the purposes of God in the covenant of grace promised to Abraham eons ago.

But there’s another really interesting thing going on with that, as well, because every good Hebrew listening to this knew that God’s name is above every other name! Paul announces that Jesus has the name which is above every name, what is that but a testimony to the sheer divinity of Christ and His equality with the heavenly Father?

Thirdly, global adoration. So, not only hyper-exaltation and final coronation, but global adoration from sea to shining sea, “from earth’s wide bound to ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,” so that “at the name of Jesus Christ, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth.” That’s Paul’s way of saying there are no knees left that aren’t bowing to Jesus! Here Paul’s saying every knee is going to bow; every knee is going to confess, everyone is going to worship Jesus, because He’s God!

Fourthly, there’s universal confession that every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that has Psalm 2:6-8 in its background. ‘Kiss the feet of My Son, lest His anger come upon you. Kiss, acknowledge, do homage to Him. Kiss His feet. Confess Him, because I am exalting Him above everyone.’ Paul says there will be an absolutely universal confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Fifth, paternal glorification. All that He does will be for the glory of His heavenly Father, and His enthronement, His exaltation, His being given the name which is above every name will only glorify His Father.

I want to close with two thoughts as we look to next week when we study this text in more detail.

First, this passage reminds us why truth is for life. Paul, when he wants to exhort you to be unified, to be humble, to be mutually helpful, he doesn’t tell a cute story, he tells you truth about Jesus! When he wants Christians to live in humility and unity and mutual helpfulness, he doesn’t call for a pep rally! He tells you truth about Jesus! And there are so many churches today that think that Christianity is a pep rally, but Paul is saying the gathering of the church is for God to speak truth into your lives.

But not only that; it’s not just that truth is for life. Notice this it’s that the biggest truth is for the simplest important practical thing in the Christian life.

Paul wants these Christians to get along. He wants them to be humble, united, selfless, and helpful. That’s the kind of stuff that you’re working on with your kindergarten age kids. So what kind of truth would be appropriate for that? Paul thought the pre-existence of Christ, the incarnation of the Son, the humiliation of the cross, the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God fit the bill. Those are simple, practical truths to talk with them about this important, mundane thing that they’re supposed to do in their common everyday Christian life.

You see what Paul is doing, he is showing you the applicability of the profoundest truths of the Bible to everything you’re called to in the Christian life.

And so the Apostle Paul is not only teaching you that truth is for life, and that doctrine is for practice, he’s teaching you that the most profound truth in all the Scripture is the most practical thing that you could possibly consider, so that every truth of Scripture is designed for your everlasting good and for God’s glory.


Gleanings in Philippians ~ The Song of Christ: Phil 2.5-11 (Part I)

We come to one of the greatest passages in all of the writings of the Apostle Paul, one of the great passages in all of Scripture. It will take us a long time to peer into the depth and the richness of this passage.

In verse 5, we have an exhortation; in verses 6-8, a display of Christ’s humiliation; and in verses 9-11, we see Christ’s exaltation. We’ll look at exaltation on Thursday.

Paul has been exhorting these Philippian Christians, and you and me, about how to face the oppositions and persecutions that always come in a fallen world. Paul has been exhorting them to gospel unity, gospel humility, and gospel helpfulness.

Now he gives an example in order to exhort them to that end, in order that they would be able to stand fast against the opposition and live in gospel joy. Paul holds up before them as an example is Jesus. And you’ll already see that in essence the exhortation (in Philippians 2:5) is “Be like Jesus.”

Now, it’s very important to know: “Be like Jesus” is not the gospel. Because nobody can be enough like Jesus to be accepted with God. Paul is not saying be like Jesus and you will be saved.

Paul is talking to believers who have realized their sinfulness, and turned in faith to Christ and said, ‘Lord Christ, forgive me, because I’m not like You. Forgive me because I’ve not lived like God wants me to live.’ He is giving this exhortation to be like Jesus to those who are trusting in Christ, not in themselves, in order that they might experience the joy, unity, and fellowship God intends believers to experience in the world together, facing all kinds of opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

It will take the grace of the Holy Spirit to be like Christ, and his message to us, “Be like Jesus,” is not the way of justification, it’s the way of sanctification.
Paul is writing to a congregation that he loves, but is manifesting fairly common, routine, mundane problems in their relationships to one another.

There isn’t a congregation that hasn’t faced these kinds of problems before. We are sinners – and you put a bunch of sinners together and you ask them to live with one another, and they’re going to hurt one another’s feelings. Some are going to be self-centered, some are not going to be sufficiently concerned about unity, some are going to be prideful; and, thus, they are going to lack a proper humility which is necessary for unity in the congregation. Paul attacks the everyday problems with a lack of unity, humility, and helpfulness, with this massive theology of Christ in Philippians 2:5-11.

I. Exhortation.
It boils down to this: Embrace the outlook of Christ. The mindset of Christ, the outlook of Christ, the attitude of Christ is humility.
II. Christ’s humiliation.
In verses 6-8, he says you see it in six ways.

First of all you see the humility of Christ in realizing who He is. He is divine, so you understand the reality of Christ’s humility only when you understand His supreme divine status. Look at what he says in verse 6: “Christ Jesus was in the form of God” He was the exact representation of God. He is pointing to the divinity of Christ, and he’s saying you will not understand Jesus’ humility until you understand who He was as He humbled himself. He’s not just a poor man, an outsider, a wise prophet speaking against the power structures of His day. Paul is saying if that’s all you think Jesus is, you’ll never understand how humble He was. The man I’m about to talk about is God.

The second manifestation of Jesus’ humility is His refusal to stand on His own right and demand to be treated as He deserves. He could have made the whole world prostrate before Him, but He didn’t.

The third is, He abased himself. He not only refuses to stand on His rights and prerogatives, but He abases himself and He empties himself.

And especially, fourthly, we see that He does that in His own voluntary servitude “He took the form of a servant.” Now the word “servant” is saying that Jesus became a “bondslave.” This is what Paul is saying that Jesus has done. He has willingly taken up servitude for you. His humility is seen in that He is divine and has emptied himself, and taken upon Himself the role of a slave for the well-being of His people.

Fifthly, His condescension in becoming man. Jesus has become man. Now, being born a person is not an act of condescension by you and me, but for the living God to be made manifest in humanity, to take upon Himself the fullness of humanity and to live in our flesh and blood – that is an act of condescension!

Sixthly, He endures ultimate humiliation and shame: “He humbled himself by become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” His humiliation culminates in His embrace of the ultimate shame.

We really need to take this in. The Heavenly Father pouring out His wrath on His Son in such a way that His Son bears ultimate shame and humiliation, treating His Son as if His Son has rebelled against Him. He bears the humiliation that we ought to have borne in our place.

The Apostle Paul says, ‘Christian, look at your Savior. See what He has done for your redemption. Now, as you live the Christian life towards one another, be like Him.’


Monday, April 25, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Complete My Joy -- with Helpfulness: Phil 2.1-4

Paul is writing to the Philippians urging them to live out the Christian life with unity, humility, and now helpfulness. All along the way, Paul has given encouragements to do what he is writing for them to do. Today, we’re going to look at that final thing that Paul has exhorted us to.

Do you know what the true obstacle to unity is in the church?

For many years there have been people who said the real obstacle to unity is doctrine. We’ve got so many doctrines. There’s such a long list of doctrines that we can’t be unified, because we’ve got all these doctrinal differences. If we just got rid of doctrine, we’d have unity.

That’s not what Paul says. You know what the real obstacle to unity in the church is? It’s not legitimate differences of opinion. You can live in unity with someone with a legitimate difference of opinion. The true obstacle to unity in the Christian life is self-centeredness, selfishness, me-first. And Paul is out to blow that apart in this passage.

He’s first called us to unity; he’s told us that humility is going to be absolutely essential to unity; and now he tells us about a third thing: helpfulness, mutuality. He’s saying that one of the first principles of the Christian life is that we are here on this planet to serve one another and in order to serve and help one another, we have to submit ourselves to one another.

And so there are five things that we can learn from the Apostle Paul about helping one another from this passage we’ve just studied, and the first thing is this:

First, we are to have built into our very outlook an orientation to the Church.
Paul’s concerns for unity, humility, and helpfulness are all congregationally focused. We live in a self-centered world, sociologically and by philosophy. There is stuff that tempts us to self-centeredness that we don’t even realize is tempting us to self-centeredness. But Paul says, ‘Thing Number 1 is this: the world is not centered around you. God’s world, God’s plan for your life, God’s blessings on your life, and the deepest desires of your life are experienced congregationally, so that the center of the universe is not you. It’s the whole people of God.’

Secondly, we are to have the well-being of others and the whole congregation as a part of our basic outlook.
So not only are we to have an outlook oriented towards the body, the church, but we also have the well-being of others and the whole congregation as a part of our basic outlook and orientation in life.

Just like mothers don’t get their children out of their minds in any of their waking moments (they’re always back there somewhere), so also we ought never to get out of our minds the well-being of others in the congregation.

Thirdly – and this hurts! –we are to seek the well-being of others in the congregation not from the standpoint of voluntary service, but from loving servitude.
This is pretty radical. He’s saying your service to one another is not to be something that you view as something that you decide to do whenever you want to do it, giving a little bit of left over of your time and resources to help somebody else. No. Actually, you don’t have any time and resources, you’re a servant. All of your time and resources belong to Jesus. And He has said what you’re supposed to be doing in life is helping one another. Paul says that we are to be ready to seek the well-being of others in the congregation not from the standpoint of voluntary service, but of loving servitude.

Fourth, that means that we are to be ready to set aside our personal checklist in order to serve others, and the body as a whole.
If you really view yourself as a servant of Christ, your personal checklist has to take Level B in comparison to the service of the Church. It’s just like when a father is really, really busy at work, but his son needs his time…now. The schedule has to change. If we’re going to help one another, if we’ve going to serve one another, if we’re going to mutually commit ourselves to helpfulness, then we have to set aside our personal checklist in order to serve others, and the body as a whole.

Finally, we are to live in mutual helpfulness and servitude because of the gospel, and in imitation of Jesus Christ.
It is amazing how often this teaching comes up in Paul, it is not just here in Philippians 2:4. This is not a thought that just popped into Paul’s mind while writing from prison to the Philippians. He wants Christians to live in mutual helpfulness, service and servitude.

This also is the exact opposite of the world. All around us we have self-centered people. Paul is saying be other-focused. Be Christ-directed, but be other-focused, caring for them, especially in the family and in the congregation of faith. (And certainly to our neighbors and to all men as well, but fundamentally in those inner circles we’re to be living in an outwardly focused way) But you’re not to be directed by others. You’re directed by Christ. You’re His servant.

Elsewhere when Paul is talking about this, he talks about our serving one another in the fear of Christ, out of awe and reverence for Jesus Christ. Paul is saying that we’re to live in this mutual helpfulness and servitude because of the gospel and in imitating Christ. And that is what Philippians 2:5-11 is about. It’s about us having the same mind, the same outlook, the same orientation that Jesus had. And that’s what we’re going to study tomorrow, God willing.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Complete My Joy -- with Humility: Phil 2.1-3

In this passage, already we’ve seen Paul gives an earnest plea for Christian unity. He’s asking us to acknowledge the unity that Christ has created. God has made us to be one in Jesus Christ. As we rest and trust in Him and are united to Him, he is saying to us: “maintain that unity.” Don’t do things to disrupt that unity, and on the contrary, do things to foster that spiritual unity.

As he has called our attention to this unity in verse 2, he also said there will be no shared experience of gospel unity in the local church apart from humility. Humility is the key to that unity.

John Stott said, “In every aspect of the Christian life, pride is our greatest foe and humility our greatest ally.”

No matter what we are doing, pride is always an enemy to us, and humility is always an ally for us. That alone reminds us of how important it is to cultivate humility, but here Paul gives two motivations to our humility.

First, “Count others more significant than yourselves.” As he urges us to humility, he refuses to leave humility as some sort of an abstract idea in your mind. He gives you something concrete.

Then, in verses 5-11, he says, ‘Consider Christ.’ Let me show you your Savior, who spoke the world into being, to whom all the peoples of the world owe the obedience of Lordship, because He is their maker, who humbled Himself, dying at the hands of those He came to save, that they might share with Him the glorious presence and communion with the living God forever and ever.’ He says, ‘Behold humility.’

Pride is a master sin and all of us struggle with it, pride gets us a thousand ways. Pride attacks one through conceit, the other through rivalry or through envy, or through jealousy.

How do you cultivate humility? How do you fight against pride?

One, reflect on the wonder of the cross. Gospel humility only comes at the foot of the cross. If you’re not amazed by that wonder, amazed by the wonder of His love, amazed by the wonder of His grace, you will not be able to combat pride in your life. Staying by the cross is the greatest weapon that the Christian has against pride.

Second, use the means of grace. If you want to slay pride and grow in humility, use the means of grace. Recognize that God’s word, the sacraments, and prayers are altogether designed to kill pride. When we come and we hear God’s word read, we’re being reminded, ‘Oh, yeah…I’m supposed to live life according to the way that God said, not the way I want to do it.”

When you come to the church on the Lord’s Day to worship God, remember that one of the things that will be happening is you are drinking in the means of grace: word and sacrament and prayer. Pride will be being slain, and you will be being reinforced for the fight against pride all week long.

Third, study God. Jim Packer taught us many years ago that the secret to soul-satisfying Bible study is not asking first the question, ‘What does this passage mean for me in my daily life?’ but asking first the question, ‘What does this passage teach me about my God?’ because that puts everything else in perspective. The Bible is fundamentally about God, and when I study God, I don’t look so great.

Fourth, study grace. How can you be prideful if you believe in grace? Grace says you’re a sinner, you need help.

Fifth, study sin. Especially your own sin. Not the sins of others. Study sin. In the end this is not depressing, but leads to joy, humility, and delight in God’s grace. But it hurts along the way.

Sixth, identify graces in others. Do you celebrate humility when you see it in others? Do you look around you and see examples of humility and service and rejoice in them? And then say, ‘Lord, I want to be like that. I want to be like people like that.’

Seventh, encourage and serve others daily. Not only identify graces in others, but encourage and serve others every day.

Eighth, (this is really hard) invite and pursue and welcome correction. I hate to repent. C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is actually quite a cheerful thing, once you get past the initial shock.” And that is exactly how I feel about repentance. It is hard, because in repentance I have to see what I really am, and I don’t like to see that. I like to think of myself as a nicer person than that.

Lastly, every day, deliberately acknowledge your dependence on and need for God. Acknowledge when you get up in the morning that you need God for every step that you’re going to take; that any success that you’re going to have during the day, comes from Him and is because of Him, and is not because of your own innate ability.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “Most of our unhappiness in life is because we listen to ourselves, rather than talk to ourselves.” He means that we sit around and we grumble and we murmur. We listen to ourselves grumble and murmur instead of saying, “Self, God will take care of you. Self, cast your cares upon the Lord, and He will care for you. Self, God is in control.” Instead of preaching to ourselves, we listen to ourselves. Do you get up in the morning and preach to yourself, “Today I am going to believe in the sovereign care of God”? And, having announced that, can you be proud about that? Not unless you’re deluded.

We need every weapon we can find against pride, because the joy and unity that God intends us to experience is inseparably connected to humility. And our witness to the world is inseparably connected to our humility.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Complete My Joy -- with Unity: Phil 2.1-2 (Part I)

We have been studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians and read his exhortations to live the Christian life. Yesterday and last week, we saw how Paul urged the Philippians to do so in order to complete his joy, not that they had never given him joy, but to make the joy that they had given him complete.

In coming days, we’ll look at four motivations for living the Christian life: the encouragement that we have in Christ; the comfort that we have in His love; the fellowship that we have in the Holy Spirit; and the tender affection and sympathy that we have in Christ. Paul piles up encouragement for us to live the Christian life. And then he says, “In light of those things…” (verse 2) “… complete my joy” by “…Pursuing unity (verse 3) …Humility; (verse 4)…helpfulness.
Do you think about God’s big purposes of unity in the Christian life? We stressed that Paul’s message to us is never “create unity amongst yourselves,” but that only God creates gospel unity. God has created us, made us in Christ Jesus to be one people, one family, one house, one temple. Everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ is united to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit and also united to everyone else who is united to Jesus Christ. God has made that unity a reality, but do you think much in your Christian life about how you need to cultivate, manifest, and maintain that unity that God has already given us in Jesus Christ?

We will look at verse 2 today in which Paul asks us to have the same mind, the same love, and the same purpose.

Paul exhorts us to complete his joy by doing three things and the first is by having the same mind, being like-minded. He’s talking about having the mind of Christ.

When he calls on you to have the same mind, he doesn’t mean that you always have to think about everything in the same way. He’s going to describe that mind for you in Philippians 2:5-11. But what he’s saying here is that he wants us to have the same disposition, mindset, and outlook that Jesus had.

What was that outlook? The outlook Jesus himself had in the prayer that He prayed for you. In the middle of that prayer He says, ‘Lord, I do not pray for these only, but for all who come to know You through their ministry.’ It’s in John 17. It’s the night He was betrayed. We call it “the high priestly prayer.” And do you know what one of the things that He prayed was? ‘Lord, let them be one, like You and I are one.’ And so Jesus is deeply concerned for the church to manifest the unity that the gospel has given us; not to be little robots that all think the same way about everything, but who have a deep unity in the truth of God’s word, who have a deep unity in love to the one true God.

Then he says that he wants you to love one another with the same kind of love that Christ has loved you with. Now again, that is just an exhortation based on something that Jesus said on the night that He was betrayed. In John 13, Jesus turns to His disciples and says, “A new commandment I have for you that you love one another as I have loved you.” Paul is saying, ‘Philippians, complete my joy. Live the Christian life; walk worthy of the gospel by having the same mind and having the same love—the love of Christ for you displayed in your love for one another.’

Thirdly, he says, he wants you to have the same purpose. He wants (in the graphic language of verse 2) he wants you with your whole being to be set on the same thing. God is bringing everything in this world under the Lordship of Christ, and He is uniting all who trust in Christ into one family, one body, one people, one temple, so that Christ is given the name which is above every name, and so that as we are in Him, so we are exalted with Him.

Now what are the obstacles to that in a local church? He’s talking about the total unity of all the people of God in all ages, but that’s especially expressed in the local congregation. It’s easy to think nice thoughts about folks that you don’t have to hang around with for very long, but live with them for a little while, and unity gets to be a more difficult thing. So we want to especially think about this in the local church, and there are a lot of things that can destroy unity in the local church.

There are failures in communication that can totally, though unintentionally, bring division in a church.

Disagreements – legitimate disagreements – can bring division in a church.

Different agendas can divide a church. You know, somebody who says, “I don’t think the church ought to be doing this; I think the church ought to be doing that.” Or “I don’t think the church ought to be focused on this; I think the church ought to be focused on that.” That can divide a church.

And then there’s sin. Selfishness can divide a congregation. Nothing can divide a congregation more than looking out for “Number One.”

False teaching can divide a church. And you know…the list could go on.

The Apostle Paul is saying, ‘Christians, complete my joy. It is a big-ticket item on my agenda for you. It is a deep desire for me. I want you to have deep gospel unity. I want you to have the same outlook: the mindset of Christ. I want you to have the same love for one another, so you are loving one another in light of the gospel. And I want you to have the same purpose in life. I want it burning within you. And only then will you experience the joy that God intends you to experience in Christ Jesus.’


Friday, April 15, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Complete My Joy: Phil 2.1-2 (Part II)

Last week we looked at the outline of this passage, and we said that the first four verses of this chapter are one sentence, centered around the phrase, “complete my joy.” That is the organizing idea of this passage. Now we’ll look at some encouragements of Paul toward the accomplishment of that idea.

What encourages you to live the Christian life even in the hardest places? Where do you go when you are looking for help or encouragement in those hardest places that God calls you to live life in a manner worthy of the gospel?
Paul is giving the Philippians incentives, motivations, and encouragements in order to deal with fairly common problems in the Christian church. Paul is addressing pride in the Christian church, which has brought some division amongst the Philippians, harming their joy. Paul is not satisfied to over look this common church problem. He is fighting for their joy, he says, ‘Philippians, we’re taking that sin on!’ Because over and over the Scriptures make clear that it is Christ’s intention that our joy would be made full in the Christian life. Not that there would be an absence of trials; in I Corinthians, Paul says that when the Holy Spirit comes with poverty increases, afflictions increase, but joy abounds! The opposite of the “health and wealth” gospels. The Christian life doesn’t mean that all your other problems go away, and therefore you’re happy. It means that in the midst of all your problems, joy increases.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad congregation! They’re young Christians, and they are ready to be persecuted for Christ. This is a young congregation, but they are a Christ-loving congregation. They deeply value the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are awash with the sense of the glory of God’s love shown to them! They are a Bible-believing congregation. They didn’t grow up in good Hebrew homes learning their catechisms and memorizing Scriptures, but they have devoured the Bible from the preaching of Paul and his comrades in the gospel ministry. They care deeply about people coming to faith in Christ, and they’re ready to send people to the ends of the earth in order that people would come to faith in Christ. And they’re a generous, giving congregation, even though they’re poor. But they’ve got some problems, which bring division. And the root problem they have is pride.

The Bible says that pride is a master sin. It leads to all other kinds of sin, and as best as I can tell from Scripture, there is no sin that God hates more than pride.

Paul is in a fight for their joy and it entails a fight against sin, against pride. Later, Paul is going to tell us what they key to a life of gospel joy is: a God-centered, gospel-based, grace-enabled shifting of our attention away from ourselves and onto others. This week we will look at what Paul wants gives in verse 1: four incentives for seeking, experiencing, and expressing that joy in your Christian life.

First, Paul says that every Christian experiences encouragement because of union with Christ. Our union with Christ is an encouragement to live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. It is an encouragement to seek, to experience, and to express this dangerous gospel joy that Paul is speaking about here.

Secondly, Paul asks if you have experienced consolation, comfort from the love of God in Christ. If there is any comfort in the love of God in Christ [and there is!], then shouldn’t you comfort your fellow believers with the same comfort you’ve received? Every Christian has received consolation that flows to him from the love of God, and we ought to be expressing that consolation to others.

By the way, in saying these two things, the Apostle Paul has already told us two other things:

First, God never asks you to give something that He has not already given. He asks you to do that because He’s already given you a comfort that’s greater than any void of comfort in human relationship in His comfort.

Second, God never tells you to do what He himself has not already done.
Third point: Paul says that every Christian knows a fellowship, a shared life that is created by the Spirit’s work of the new creation. He’s asking the Philippians if there is any participation in the Spirit, if there is any fellowship, if there is any family belonging that results from the Spirit’s work in you [and there is], then ought you not to be promoting fellowship in the body of Christ in the same way that the Spirit worked to bring you into His family?

Final point: Paul says that every Christian has experienced the love and compassion that is freely and divinely given to those who are in Christ, and so he asks if there is any affection and sympathy, if you have experienced the affection, the love, the tender mercy and compassion of Christ, then shouldn’t you respond to God’s love and mercy by showing the same love and mercy to your fellow Christians? Forgiving when you’ve been wounded? Loving when you have not been loved? Serving when you have not been served? Responding with kindness when you have been dealt with in bitterness and anger? Dispensing mercy when you have been dealt with unmercifully? Giving justice when you’ve not been given a fair shake?

Paul is asking you to stand back and realize what God has already given to you. And when you’re asked to give in hard places, Paul is asking you to go back and realize the treasures that God has already given to you. May God grant that we live in joy, in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ because of the encouragement that God has given us in His love, the comfort that He has given to us in His salvation, the fellowship that He has given to us in His Sprit, and the mercy that He has shown us in His Son.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Complete My Joy: Phil 2.1-2 (Part I)

Tuesday we pondered what it meant that God had granted suffering, that He had given this gift of suffering.

In Philippians 2:1, Paul is taking us back to the main point: what it means to live like a follower of Jesus Christ; what it means to live in a way that fits a life that has been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Through the letter, Paul is encouraging us to live the Christian life – to live in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Or, to put it in his striking phrase, “…to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” We’ll look at five things before we even get into the passage. Let me just give you a framework for this glorious passage.

First, Have you noticed here that Paul is giving you four specific encouragements, or motivations, or incentives to live the Christian life?

And isn’t that glorious? Have you ever noticed that in the Bible God encourages you to do what He requires you to do? Have you ever noticed that in the Bible God doesn’t just say “Do it!” but that He encourages you? He gives you motivations and incentives to do what you ought to do. Paul does not say here, “Be joyful! Now!” He says ‘Let me give you four encouragements as to why you ought to embrace this life of dangerous joy that I’m talking about.’ Because Paul knows that life is hard, and joy doesn’t come easily. And because we have a kind and tender and loving heavenly Father, even when He’s telling you what you ought to do anyway, He gives you reasons for it. Is that not glorious? He’s not treating you as slaves; He’s treating you as His precious children. It’s never “Do this now!” but ‘Let me give you some reasons why you ought to glorify and enjoy Me forever. Let me give you some encouragements, some motivations, some stimulations to doing what I’ve called you to do.’ Isn’t it kind that God does that? And that’s what Paul’s doing here.

Second, Paul is encouraging you here to live life in a way that is worthy of the gospel of Christ, and in so doing he is resuming his original discussion.

Paul knows that we may be so overwhelmed by what he’s just told us about suffering being a gift, that our minds may still be spinning about whether we want that gift of suffering or not! And so Paul is drawing our attention right back to his original concern: that we live lives worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Third, Paul is fighting for the Philippians’ joy. He is fighting for your joy in this passage.

Again, not superficial joy, not shallow joy, but deep gospel joy; a greater joy than can be experienced by any worldling; a greater joy than any good gift that the Father can give us in family, or in vocation, or in esteem, or in status, or in position, or in power and influence, or anything else in this world. A greater, deeper, more lasting joy…he wants you to experience more of that. After all, Jesus said to His disciples, “I have come that your joy may be made full.” And Paul is serious about that! He’s chained up in prison in order to convey that kind of joy to you, and he wants to experience the joy of seeing the Philippians’ joy—and your and my joy. Paul knows that in living as becomes Christians, as living in light of the gospel, we experience joy. That’s why he’s speaking to us in this passage.

Fourth, Paul has in this passage three specific things that he wants to urge on the Philippians.

Paul is deeply concerned for the Philippians’ unity, humility, and mutual helpfulness to one another. His concern for these things is why he gives these four encouragements in verse 1. We will look at those four encouragements next week. Those encouragements are there because he’s headed to an exhortation that we would be united, humble, and mutually helpful. He knows that unity, humility, and mutual helpfulness do not happen automatically in the Christian life, even in the best of us. Even in the most selfless of us, even in the most mature of us, we need encouragements if we’re going to be united, humble, and helpful. And that’s why Paul’s piling up these encouragements in verse 1.

Finally, verses 1-4 are all one sentence, and there is only one main clause in that big sentence that covers four verses: “Complete my joy.” That’s the main clause. Everything else that is going on in that big complex sentence is related to and circling around and emanating out from that main clause, “complete my joy.” Verse 1 leads up to it, gives encouragement, prepares for it. Verse 2 announces it. Then he explains it, then he elaborates it. That’s what’s going on in that marvelous sentence. It’s all one sentence, but the main clause is “complete my joy.”

Notice, by the way, that even in the very careful words that Paul chooses here, he indicates that the Philippians were already a joy to him. When he says “complete my joy” he’s not saying, “Come on, give me some joy here!” He’s acknowledging that these people have already given him deep joy as he has seen the gospel at work in them, but he is not satisfied with the joy that they are experiencing; and as they increase their enjoyment of the joy that God has intended for them, it is going to fulfill, fill out, complete the joy that he already takes in them. No wonder they call this “the letter of joy.”


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~The Gift of Suffering for Christ’s Sake: Phil. 1.29-30 (Part II)

Yesterday we began to look at some encouragements Paul gives for the Philippians as they are about to suffer. He first of all tells us that suffering is a gift of all. Now, I want to look at suffering in scripture.

II. Suffering in the Scripture
Suffering for Christ is not the only kind of suffering that the Bible speaks about. There are different ways we could enumerate it, here are seven different kinds of suffering that are spoken about in the Scriptures.

There is the suffering of justice – when people get what they deserve – like when the children of Israel rebel against God in the wilderness, and 14,700 of them die of the plague.

It’s not the only kind of suffering in this world, but it does exist. The problem with Job’s friends was that they thought that Job was suffering because of his sin and disobedience. They failed to recognize that there are other kinds of suffering in the Bible.

Secondly, there’s the suffering of discipline, as when the Lord says in Hebrews 12:5,6, that “whom the Lord loves, He disciplines.”

And then there’s the suffering of fellowship – empathetic suffering, where one person’s grief affects another, like in Isaiah 63:9, where the Lord says, “All of your afflictions are mine.”

Then there’s the suffering of witness. It’s the kind of suffering that we see in the story of Job, where Job’s suffering was going to witness to some grand truth about God and His glory and was going to teach millions and millions and even billions of people truths about God. There is a lesson hidden there as you evaluate your own suffering in this life.

Then, fifthly, there is final and eternal suffering in the Bible; that is, the suffering that comes at the end of this age. Though it is final suffering, it never ends.

Sixth, there is the suffering of substitution – vicarious suffering, suffering in another person’s place. It is the kind of suffering that the Lord did on the cross. It was not a suffering He deserved, but He willingly, voluntarily, took the suffering in your place so that you would never have to experience the suffering of the full and unmitigated wrath of God’s just judgment poured out on you. He suffered as a substitute.

And then there is the suffering of discipleship, mentioned here in Philippians 1:29: suffering for Christ’s sake, as when the Christian has the privilege of enduring the rejection and trials and persecution because of loyalty to Christ.

There are many different kinds of suffering in this world, so Paul wants us to understand that suffering for Christ’s sake is a gift of God; second, that suffering for Christ is not the only kind of suffering in the Christian life; but the third: Christians should expect and prepare to suffer for Christ’s sake.
III. Christians should expect and prepare to suffer for Christ’s sake.
Christians should expect and prepare to suffer for Christ’s sake. We need to be ready to identify with Him when His person and cause are despised. Are you ready for, are you prepared to suffer for Christ? Perhaps not everyone will face a direct threat on his life because of his confession of faith, but most persecution in the Christian world in the first three centuries under the rule of Rome was not like that, it was much more subtle and it may be that “subtle” kind of persecution that you or I will face too.

Perhaps you will have the opportunity to lose your job because of your faithfulness to Christ. President Bush nominated a new Surgeon General who was a member of the United Methodist Church and had been on a panel in which that church was dealing with homosexuality, and he had recommended against the practice of homosexual ordination. When he came to be examined by the Senate, that did not sit well with his examiners. He lost a job because of his fidelity to the truth. You may have the opportunity to lose a job soon because of your fidelity to Christ and to Scripture.

But I want to say one other thing, too. What about our other suffering? What about suffering that is not explicitly and directly because of persecution against us for the faith of Christ? Well, John Piper has some very wise words that I want to share with you:
In choosing to follow Christ in the way He directs, we choose all that this path includes under His sovereign providence. Thus, all suffering that comes in the path of obedience is suffering with Christ and for Christ. Whether it’s cancer or conflict, all experiences of suffering in the path of Christian obedience, whether it’s from persecution or sickness or accident, have this in common: they all threaten our faith in the goodness of God, and they tempt us to leave the path of obedience. Therefore, every triumph of faith and all perseverance and obedience are testimonies to the goodness of God and the preciousness of Christ, whether the enemy is sickness, Satan, sin, or sabotage.”
Do you see what Piper is saying? When the job is lost and you’re tempted to say, “Lord, You’ve abandoned me”…when you’re tempted to lose faith, and you say, “Lord, I will magnify Your name. I will believe in You”…when you stay in a marriage and you’re facing impossible situations, and you say, “Lord, I will do this for Your glory”…when you’ve gotten the terminal diagnosis, and you say, instead of ‘Lord, You don’t care about me,’ but rather, “Lord, I want You to get the glory in this, and I want this to be a witness to my children and to my grandchildren, and to all of my friends,” that general suffering is being offered up as a sweet smelling aroma to Christ: “Lord, take this and be glorified by it.”


Monday, April 11, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ The Gift of Suffering for Christ’s Sake: Phil 1:29-30

In Philippians 1:29, Paul is talking about two gifts, faith and - perhaps surprisingly to you - the gift of suffering for Christ.

The Philippians are worried. The Philippians themselves face enormous opposition and they are discouraged, and so in verse 28, Paul has urged them not to be threatened, discouraged, or overwhelmed by their situation.

In verses 29-30, Paul encourages them with a reason why they should not be overwhelmed by the sufferings. He tells them to remember that not only did the Lord give them the gift of faith for the sake of Christ, but that He gave them the gift of suffering for Christ.

Paul wants the Philippians to see that not only is faith a gift, but suffering for Christ is a gift. It’s not a sign that God has abandoned them, it is not a sign of their lack of faith; rather, their suffering for Christ’s sake is an enormous privilege. It is a blessing from God. It is a gift from Him, under His complete control.

That encouragement that He gives to the Philippians ought to force us to think together about at least two things. The first thing is, “What does it mean for us to suffer for Christ’s sake?”

Secondly, this verse asks us to think hard about the general meaning of suffering in our lives: how God uses it; what it is for. We live in a day that sees the avoidance of suffering at all costs as a wise course of action. We live in a day in which when suffering happens, God is immediately called on the carpet, because we assume that suffering is inherently wrong and shouldn’t happen.

Within the Christian world there are people who say, ‘If you really trust in Christ, you won’t suffer. God wants you to be blessed, happy all the time. He doesn’t want you to have trials. If you are experiencing suffering, it is because you do not have enough faith.’ It is taught everywhere, and Christians today are very confused as to what to do or think or say about suffering.

Our forebears were not so unwise. They were not surprised when they encountered suffering for the sake of Christ, they went to work in prayer seeking what lessons God would have them learn in that.

The Philippians are confused about the suffering that they are experiencing, and God has a word for them through Paul as to how they are to view suffering, and suffering for Christ.

There are three things to look at in this, but I only want to look at the first with you today: One: the issue of suffering for Christ in God’s sovereignty; two: the Bible teaches that there is more than one kind of suffering; three: our preparation for and embrace of suffering for Christ and suffering in general.

I. Suffering for Christ’s sake is a gift from God.
In the midst of their experience of being opposed and threatened and persecuted by their contemporaries, being deeply discouraged by that circumstance, they are not adequately responding to the truth that God is in control and in charge of that suffering, Paul says to them point blank, ‘Don’t you understand that just like your faith was a gift from God, so also this suffering that you are experiencing is a gift to you from God? This is not a mistake. It’s not something that God didn’t see coming. It’s something that God has in view in His good and perfect plan for you.’ Now when Paul says this he is not speaking as some kind of dry-land sailor who doesn’t know anything about suffering.

To understand why he knows suffering is a gift from God, you have to turn back to Acts 9. Before Paul was “Paul,” he was Saul of Tarsus, the leader of the group that was designed to stamp out Christianity. He was on his way up to Damascus to cause Christians to suffer, and something funny happened on the way to Damascus. Jesus met him. And he lost his sight, he was blinded. And then the men who were with him took him on to Damascus and left him in the home of a man named Judas. And then Jesus rang up Ananias and said, ‘Ananias, I want you to find a man named Saul of Tarsus, I want you to take him in, minister to him.’ And Ananias says, ‘Ah, Lord, I’ve…ah…I’ve heard of this guy, and he was coming to Damascus to look for me. You’re saying you want me to go look for him?’ ‘Yes, Ananias.’

And then Jesus gives Ananias two encouragements. First He says, ‘Ananias, go find Saul, because he is praying. Saul is prostrate, blinded, utterly dependent upon Me. I have humbled him to the dust. He knows He needs Me. He’s in such deep need right now, he doesn’t know what to do. He’s waiting for a word from Me, and I’m going to give that word to Him through you.’ And then the second thing that He says to Ananias is, ‘I am going to show Saul how much he will suffer for Me.’ So the very first thing that Saul hears from this Christian who is the first person given to disciple him is, ‘You know, the Lord Jesus has told me how much you are going to suffer for Him.’ And Paul’s response to that is, ‘You mean I get to suffer for the One whom I caused so much suffering? What a privilege! Because I am less than the least of the apostles, and yet God has counted it His will to give me the privilege to suffer for Christ.’

And Paul now says to the Philippians, ‘You get to enter into that same privilege, too, because you’re Christians.’ God is in control even of your suffering at the hands of His enemies, and He has purposes in view even in that suffering. Be encouraged. This is not a mistake, this is not an accident, this is part of God’s plan.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Not Only to Believe, But to Suffer: Phil. 1.29-30

We’ve been working through Paul’s letter to the Philippians and in verse 27, Paul’s big point is that we live a life that fits the gospel. And from 1:27 to 2:18, Paul exhorts you to live that life. It’s the central part of this letter.

We could call this section “a quest for godliness.” Paul has taught us some important things about that growth in grace. When Paul says in Philippians 1:28, “I don’t want you to be frightened in anything by your opponents,” he is connecting that with what he gets ready to say in verses 29-30. Verses 29-30 are designed to provide the encouragement, so that you can do what he said in verse 28. In the following verses we are encouraged because every time God says “Don’t be afraid…frightened…discouraged,” He is reminding us that He knows that you struggle with being frightened sometimes. And God wants to comfort His people and give them reasons why, despite the fact that they do have reasons that they could be discouraged, they have greater reasons why they should not be discouraged.

Paul is stunningly teaching that faith in Christ and suffering for Christ are gifts from God. Now, we’re going to look at suffering for Christ next week, and simply introduce that subject today that will get you interested in the truth that suffering for Christ is a gift from God.

Today, we’re going to focus on the first part of what Paul intends to be an encouragement to the Philippians and to us: that is, that faith is a gift from God.

I. Faith is a gift.
Paul teaches here explicitly, expressly, unambiguously, utterly clearly that faith is God’s gift to believers. The Bible everywhere it addresses the issue of the source of faith tells us that God gives the gift of faith.

Not only do we have the passage that says, “To you it has been [what?] granted to [what?] believe.” Yes, God has given you the gift of faith. This is not the only time that Paul says this, consider to Ephesians 2:8 for example.

In Ephesians 2:8 also Paul says that salvation, including our faith (which is the instrument whereby we receive all the other manifold mercy and grace of God) is a gift to us from God. That’s why in Galatians 5:22, Paul will list faith as a fruit of the Spirit’s work in the believer. The Apostle John says the same thing in I John 5:1.

Now many people stumble on this truth, this gospel paradox that man must believe – a person must believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved – and that believing on Jesus Christ is a gift from God. Though some stumble on that, remember that our final authority is not our own understanding, it is the word of God; and this truth is crystal clear in the word of God.

II. Faith is a responsibility – we are commanded to believe.
Now that leads me into the second thing: The Bible, tells us three very important things about faith. The Bible teaches us that faith is a responsibility. You are responsible to believe. Secondly, the Bible teaches that faith is necessary. It’s indispensable. And, thirdly, the Bible teaches that faith is a gift.

The Bible teaches that faith is a responsibility. Jesus was talking to His disciples the night of His betrayal, the night before His crucifixion, in John 14 He’s exhorting them to believe in God, believe in Him, because faith is a responsibility.
And faith is necessary. We must believe or perish. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

But the Bible also teaches that faith is a gift of God. God must grant us the gift of trust. That’s what Paul is saying: God has granted you to believe. (Philippians 1:29).

III. Well, so what?
There are three ways that that truth helps me get out of the bed in the morning: Knowing the truth that faith is a gift leads us to assurance, dependence, and responsibility.

Knowing that faith is a gift is an enormous gospel encouragement, and it gives us assurance. When you realize that long before you had faith in Christ that God had set His love on you, and your very first impulses of trust in Him were simply the answer of your soul to the prior work of the Holy Spirit in your heart, it changes everything.

And it is only when your salvation – all of it – is resting on the strong shoulders of the living God that you will ever walk through this world with encouragement and comfort and assurance, because I can question the quality and the soundness of my faith all day long, and so if my salvation only at that one point rests on me, then I have no hope.

Knowing that faith is a gift leads to dependence. It means that whatever we’re doing, we know that we have to depend upon the Lord.

As we work for Christ we must do it in utter dependence upon God, and what a freedom that is to know that ultimately God is responsible for the return. I can’t make anybody come to Christ, but the Holy Spirit always gets His man. And it’s my joy to watch the Spirit do that! I’m to be faithful, yes; I’m to go to the ends of the earth, yes; but it’s God who reaps the harvest.

And, finally, knowing that faith is a gift leads us to responsibility. That is a tiny little picture of the whole of the Christian life, which is always utterly dependent upon God and His grace in the gospel, but is always, as Paul says here, working out our salvation with fear and trembling; striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. There is dependence upon God, and there’s grace-enabled effort and responsibility on our part.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Living In a Manner Worthy of the Gospel: Phil 1:27-28 (Part III)

Monday we didn’t get past the first phrase in verse 27, as we spelled out the meaning of Paul’s exhortation, he calling on the Philippians, and on you and me, to live lives worthy of the gospel.
There are two things that Paul wants the Philippians and you and me to get from this one-phrase exhortation: He wants us to see that we are to live as citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and second, that we are to live in consistency with the gospel.

I. Live as citizens of heaven.
When Paul says, “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,” he is actually bringing to the Philippians’ minds the category of citizenship. You remember from yesterday that “conduct yourself” is a term that would have been commonly used when a civil leader would have said to the people, “Remember that you’re a citizen of Rome, and act accordingly. Realize your privileges and your responsibilities.” And Paul is deliberately using this terminology because he wants them to remember that they are actually citizens of a greater state and empire than Rome. He says, “You are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and you have the greatest privileges and responsibilities in the world.”

And you see how that directly applies to us. Paul is reminding us that we may have great privileges as American citizens, but that we in fact are at the same time citizens of a greater kingdom – a heavenly kingdom – and it is from that kingdom that we ought to get our marching orders.

The challenge is: will we live in such a way which is consistent with being citizens of this heavenly kingdom, or will we be conformed to the world around us? Paul is reminding us here that we as Christians have a permanent responsibility to a joint struggle that produces unanimity in the body of believers as we together struggle, battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and seek to walk in accordance with the gospel of grace.

That battle is with us 24/7. Do you realize how different the call of the kingdom of God is to our prevailing culture? Whether it’s in the realm of sexual purity…whether you will be sexually faithful in your marriage, whether you will be modest in the way you dress or in the way you encourage your children to dress, whether you will be careful when you are alone at your computer. It can even come up when we’re talking with friends over a cup of coffee, and the conversation turns to gossip. Will we conform ourselves to the ways of this world in order to fit in, or will we be different?

II. Live in the light of the gospel.
Notice his words: “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” That reminds me of Romans 12, when Paul is transitioning from that glorious doctrinal section in the book of Romans, and then he’s getting ready to exhort you to live as Christians:
“Brothers, I implore you [I plead with you, I exhort you] in accordance with the mercies of Christ that you will live in this way.”

Paul’s doing the same thing here. He’s calling you to live life in light of the gospel of Christ, which means at least four things: Undeserved mercy; Unwavering; Unity; and, Unfrightened.

Undeserved mercy; the Apostle Paul is calling us here to remember that the gospel is not about what we have done. The gospel is about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ that we would not and could not do for ourselves. The gospel is about a mercy given to us that we have not deserved by our own deeds. And that must have a controlling effect on our conduct.
Secondly, to live in unwavering commitment to the gospel of Christ. The gospel is our only hope, and so Paul makes it very clear in this passage we are to cling with it with tenacity.

Look again at verse 27. He says that whether he comes and sees them or whether he remains absent, he wants to know, “that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Paul wants to hear that they are absolutely unwilling to part with the gospel or to see it compromised.

Thirdly, notice Paul’s concern for unity. One of Paul’s themes in this larger section was that gospel humility creates a gospel unity in a local congregation. In the very phrase we are studying, that they are to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together. The gospel has united us to one body and to one warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil and for gospel truth and blessing.

Finally, the Apostle Paul says, and he says this especially in verse 28, that we’re to be unfrightened. They were going to face people coming in who claimed to know more than the Apostle Paul did about God’s word and God’s plan and God’s gospel, but also they were actually going to be opposed by Romans as well.

Paul reminds them that their opponents oppose them because they oppose the gospel, which is a sign of their opponents’ ultimate destruction, and it’s also a sign of the Philippians’ salvation because they are clinging to the one hope that sinful men and women have – the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so Paul in this passage calls us to live like citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and to live in accordance with the gospel of Christ. May the Lord help us to do so.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Living In a Manner Worthy of the Gospel: Phil 1:27-28 (Part II)

We began the main section of Paul’s letter last week, where he exhorts us to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. Paul is saying your motivation for living this way should not be that he’s coming, or anything else, but in the gospel itself, and he gives three motivations and encouragements as well.

I. Christians have a new citizenship.
We are encouraged even in the word that Paul uses to exhort, it is progressive:
Continue to exercise your citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

The little word that Paul uses that sometimes is translated “walk”, or sometimes translated “live,” sometimes translated “conduct yourselves” is a word that was closely associated to the practice of good citizens in the Roman Empire.

And with citizenship came privileges and obligations. So that word that Paul used here was often used to exhort Roman citizens to live up to the privileges and responsibilities that they had as citizens, and because in this passage Paul keeps bringing in ideas about the kingdom of heaven and you being a citizen of that kingdom of heaven, it may well be that in saying this phrase – conduct yourself like this, live like this, walk like this – he means that we ought to live like citizens of God’s kingdom, live like we are blood-bought, grace-granted citizens of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s almost like Paul is saying the kingdom of God is within you; let it shine before one another and before the watching world in Philippi. You have been granted citizenship not in the empire of Rome, but in the empire of God through Jesus Christ, and it has brought with it for you phenomenal privileges – and corresponding responsibilities. And so he is inviting you to go into a long meditation about the privileges and responsibilities that you have as a citizen of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then to work out the implications of that for how you live.

II. Christians should live in light of the gospel.
In light of the gospel…that’s pretty daunting, isn’t it? That’s good. Keeps you where you need to be – humble! And that’s what this whole thing is going to be about. But in the midst of the humbling of the gospel, there’s also a lot of encouraging, too.

The gospel call begins when God, out of His free love and grace, gives you a gift of incalculable value that you not only do not deserve and could not earn, but you positively don’t deserve because of who you are and what you’ve done, and it cost Him His own Son to give it to you, and He gives it to you anyway. And that is a very encouraging thought. And Paul now wants you to proceed to live the Christian life in light of that incalculable gift. He’s saying, ‘Don’t you ever forget the gospel of Christ, because it didn’t just get you in the kingdom: it’s how you live…how you live over and over again.’ Those who profess the gospel live their lives according to the gospel. Our lives are called to be suitable to the gospel, to bear the marks of the gospel, to be a complement to the gospel, so that those who believe gospel truths submit to gospel commands, depend on gospel promises, and live out gospel lives. Paul is saying adorn your profession of faith with a life of grace, according to the gospel.

III. Christians must understand the gospel.
If we are going to live in light of the gospel, then we need to know what the gospel is. If we’re going to understand the implications of the gospel, then we’ve got to understand the gospel itself.
The gospel is not simply “God loves you.” It’s better than that. The gospel, to begin to inch toward a short one-sentence statement of it, is not simply that God loves you; it’s that God loves you at the cost of His Son. Despite your sin, God loves you at the cost of His Son. There’s nothing like it. You can truck up and down all the world’s religions, and I defy you to find a message like that.

The Apostle Paul is urging us, you see, even when he says live, conduct yourself, behave like a citizen in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, he’s urging you to know what the gospel of Christ is. If someone were to say to us, “Quick! Fifteen seconds! Give me the gospel!” it should be so deep in our hearts, bones, and marrow that it just comes out. It’s altering the way we think, altering the way we live, it’s altering our value system, it’s causing a tension between what we now are and believe and the way we want to live with the way of the world around us—the way it thinks and what it values and how it behaves and how it wants to live.

It is so worthwhile to understand those things. I’ll tell you why it is to me. As I see more of myself, it’s not always a pretty sight, and especially in my habitual sins. I find myself constantly saying, “Lord, I need something big to help me on this, because I’ve tried all the little stuff and it’s not working. I need something really big to help me on this.”

Paul is coming with something big to help. Paul comes with those big things because he knows that you’re a big sinner who needs big grace, which requires a big Savior, and big truth. So you know what Paul is coming with? He’s coming with a big Savior and big truth…a Savior and truth that’s bigger than your sins, because we need it.


Barbara Porter's Parenting Notes

Since Sunday morning, I've been asked numerous times for a copy of the quote I read from Barbara Porter's Monthly Report. Barbara has kindly agreed to share them. Since we don't have space in the First Epistle this week, I am posting them here now.

Some Basic Parenting Principles for Rearing Christian Disciples Barbara Porter

Times have changed, but certain basic parenting principles have - and will always remain the same. These principles are essential in the rearing of Christian disciples.

1. Make sure that you are guarding, nourishing, and focusing on your own spiritual condition. Are you putting Christ first? Do you make time to worship, fellowship with other Christians, read the Word of God, and pray?

2. The example that you set as parents is crucial to rearing Christian disciples. Do you realize the importance of living out your Christian faith every day in front of your children? Do they see that Christ is first in your life and that you seek to glorify Him in everything that you do?

3. Demonstrate to your children that your relationship with your spouse is the most important human relationship that you have. Prove this by showing respect for your spouse and displaying sacrificial love and physical affection for him/her.

4. Show and tell your children that you love them…every day! Work diligently at building a relationship with them. Take time from their earliest days to communicate with them about deep and important things.

5. Read the Word of God with your child and pray with and for your child - every day.

6. Give your child responsibilities. Do whatever it takes to create within him/her a godly work ethic. Do not do for your children what they are capable of doing for themselves. Those who hate work are among the most unhappy and unfulfilled people in this world. Adam and Eve had responsibilities to fulfill in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the picture. Work is truly a great gift from the Lord!

7. Do not bail your children out of the consequences that arise because of their own actions/choices. It is essential for them to learn from their earliest days that sin has consequences. You will not always be there to "enable" or "rescue" them.

8. Teach by example that Christ expects us to be presenting our bodies to Him as "living sacrifices." The world teaches that it is all about us, breeding those who love themselves first and best. Give them opportunities from their earliest years to serve others, those inside and outside of the church. Take them on a short-term mission trip so that they can see the extent of their own blessings and the extent of others' deprivation.

9. Teach them respect for others. Show them by example that it is the soul of another person that they should value and not that person's outer "shell." Part of showing respect for others involves (on their part) modest dress, inclusion, encouragement, forgiveness, praise, and setting a godly example.

10. Impress upon your children the brevity of this earthly life. God compared it to a vapor….Analyze your desire to accumulate THINGS. We must demonstrate to our children by our actions and priorities that material things will never be enough and will never satisfy. One day we will all give an account of our lives to our Creator. "Only one life…will soon be past…Only what is done for Christ will last." Help your children to understand that this earth is not our home. Therefore, we should not treat it as such.

11. Demand and command respect from your children. If they do not respect you whom they can see, how will they ever be able to respect God whom they cannot see? Do you live in such a way that you are worthy of their respect? Do you say one thing and do another? Even a young child can spot a hypocrite!

12. Teach your children that pleasing God is their ultimate goal. To do this means sometimes being alienated from the crowd. Pray with your child for one friend who is godly and true. God will provide this friend!!

13. Make sure your discipline is consistent and abounding in mercy. It is in the home where a child should experience his/her first understanding of the absolute beauty of the word mercy.