Reading through Philippians it is not difficult to discover the theme. Paul’s rejoicing in Christ is seen in each of the four chapters of this Epistle.
The question all of us face in this troubled world is “How can I rejoice and stay strong and spiritually stable in the midst of these most trying times? How can I be calm and peaceful in times of confusion and difficulty?”
Ready for the answer? It has absolutely nothing to do with our circumstances. It has everything to do with our personal relationship with Christ. Repeatedly we are challenged to “Rejoice in the Lord”! It has everything to do with the choices we make.
Joshua challenged Israel, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Then he added his own testimony. ” As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15 This is a no-brainer choice.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO REJOICE?
It is a life of constant worship and praise of God; not just a rare occurrence when all is going well. Only the righteous in Christ and surrendered to Him can rejoice, that is, live a life of joy, Psalm 16:11 teaches us.
Rejoicing is a part of the Fruit of the Spirit which blossoms in those surrendered to Christ. Galatians 5:22
Rejoicing is the expression of a thankful heart. Philippians 1:3-4 and 4:10
It is the expression of confidence in the Lord. Philippians 1:4-6, 18-19
IN WHAT SHALL I REJOICE?
1. In the Lord Himself. Philippians 4:4
2. In our salvation. Isaiah 61:10, Luke 10:20, Acts 8:39, I Peter 1:3-8
3. In the presence, comfort and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
4. God’s protection. Psalm 91
5. Our privilege of prayer. Philippians 1:4, John 16:24
6. His inspired, infallible Word to us. Psalm 19:8, 119:14, Jeremiah 15:16
7. God’s blessings on us. Psalm 103
8. Even if He doesn’t bless me, I can still rejoice. Habakkuk 3:18
9. Being persecuted for Christ sake. Matthew 5:10-12
10. Every husband can rejoice in finding a good wife. Proverbs 18:22
11. Parents can rejoice in their children. Psalm 127
12. Love and harmony in our homes and churches. Philippians 4:1-3
13. The wealth God enables us to have. Deuteronomy 8:7-18.
14. Promotions and set-backs. James 1:9-10
15. When others are blessed. Romans 12:15
No wonder, we can always rejoice.
IF YOU CAN’T REJOICE PERHAPS
Your love for Christ has grown cold. Psalm 5:11
You’re not living in His presence. Psalm 16:11
You need revived, Psalm 85:6
HOW CAN I REJOICE?
Ask God for a humble, gracious acceptance of every difficulty and inequity, knowing that we are blessed far more than we deserve. Philippians 4:5
Instead of crying to God with your doubts and questions and blaming God for your circumstances, start praising Him with thanksgiving.
Be assured that He is quietly working out everything for your good and His glory.
Even when you don’t feel like it, offer God your sacrifice of praise. Hebrews 13:15
WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE TO A LIFE OF REJOICING?
A life of self-centeredness, hurt feelings, disappointment, distress,
dissatisfaction, discontent and depression, failure and regret.
The choice is yours.
Die to self and live for Christ, John 12:24-25, Philippians 1:21
Choose you this day whom you will serve. Joshua 24:14-15
Note, that the title of this message is standing and compromising; not standing or compromising. We must stand without compromise on God’s Word; but there is a time for compromising our preferences for the good of others. To compromise God’s Word is evil. To compromise our preferences for the good of others is good.
We live in an unstable world. In all my years, America has never been as politically unstable as we are presently (April 2010); and the Christian Church has never been as unstable as it is right now as it majors in seeking to attract a lost world and not offend by speaking the Truth and as it offers emotional worship experiences that make us feel good about ourselves and minors or even ignores Biblical, doctrinal preaching that makes us think and often feel uncomfortable and guilty.
LITE BEER, LITE SODAS, LITE CALORIC FOOD, LITE DOCTRINE
This is the age of lite beer, lite sodas, lite caloric foods and lite doctrine. Crowds do not flock to churches to hear about their sins and salvation through faith in the shed blood of Christ. They’re not interested in God’s Biblical, moral standards for Christians. They want lite, guilt-free preaching. Such churches are producing Biblically ignorant and spiritually unstable Christians with good self-images.
Many such Christians would brand Bible preaching as being “out-of-touch with this present generation”; however, this is not just a phenomenon of this generation. Bible preaching has been “out of touch with modern thinking” throughout my fifty-four years of ministry.
WE MUST STAND UNCOMPROMISINGLY ON GOD’S WORD
We can’t afford to compromise on Biblical truth and principles of right and wrong. To do so would destroy the heart and purpose of our church and make us totally ineffective and bring disgrace to the name of Jesus.
Oh, we might get larger crowds and help people feel good about themselves and give them feel-good experiences; but like the Laodicean Church of Revelation 3:14-22, we would make Christ sick and He would “spew us out of His mouth”.
We would be better off to close down our Church and Christian School, sell the property and give the money to the poor and needy.
We would be better off to quit talking about our Christianity, ignore God and the Bible, and go totally secular in our thinking and live as we please. That’s what Peter tells us in II Peter 2:20-22.
ONLY TWO STANDARDS
There are only two standards and ways of life. God and His Biblical standards vs. the Satan-dominated world system with her standards. There are no other choices and no middle ground.
THE BIBLE ON SEPARATION
Listen to God’s commands for separation from false doctrine and sin.
Sin and false doctrine ALWAYS go together. In fact, false doctrine and compromising preaching produces sinful living.
I’ll simply give you some references on separation. You can read and obey them or simply ignore them and take the consequences. It’s your choice.
II Corinthians 6:14-18
II Corinthians 11:1-4, 13-15
II Timothy 2:15-19
II Timothy 3:1-7
I Peter 5:8
II Peter 2:1-3, 9-22
II John 7-11
IS IT EVER RIGHT TO COMPROMISE?
Though it is never right to compromise in teaching and preaching the Word of God; compromise is essential for learning to get along with one another. That’s what Paul encouraged the two ladies, Euodias and Syntyche, to do in their relationship with one another and in their work together in the church. Philippians 4:2.
Certainly in marriage, compromise is essential as two individuals from two different families come together to live as one. Marriage and other interpersonal relationships will not survive without humble compromise, nor can a church work without it.
SPIRITUAL STABILITY, THE QUALITY WE ALL ADMIRE AND NEED
Spiritual stability is the ability to stand true, resolute and uncompromising on Biblical and moral issues. We can’t be bought, bribed or intimidated. How badly we need such men and women in the political arena as well as in our churches.
WHERE DO WE FIND THAT STABILITY?
Psalm 1 describes and contrasts the stable and the unstable man. The difference is found in his attitude towards the Word of God. Stability is found by being saturated in the Word of God. Instability is caused by ignoring God’s Word and going our own way,
STABLE CHRISTIANS DESCRIBED
They work out their differences peacefully and get along in love. Philippians 4:1-3
They maintain a spirit of joy. Philippians 4:4
They maintain a spirit of forbearance. Philippians 4:5
There is a sweet reasonableness about them.
They are gentle with the fragile feelings of people.
They are merciful towards those who fail and show the patience and graciousness of humility in spite of mistreatment.
They are not self-centered, nor do they demand their rights.
Remember, we and our rights and opinions are never the issue. God’s glory is the only issue.
Let us all adopt John the Baptist’s motto as found in John 3:20
“HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE.”
WHY SHOULD WE LIVE THIS WAY?
“The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5
That doesn’t just mean that death or Christ’s return is near.
It also means that He is with us constantly. He lives in our heart by His Holy Spirit. When we think a thought, He is near enough to read it.
When we breathe a prayer to Him, He is near enough to hear and answer.
God help us to learn to stand up uncompromisingly for the Word of God and to sit down and be willing to compromise when it comes to our opinions and preferences.
Stability is a quality we Christians expect and admire in our political and spiritual leaders and it’s a quality we desire for our own selves.
Spiritual stability is based, not on how we are affected by our circumstances; but on our relationship with Christ and with one another.
Spiritual stability, as well as humble accountability with one another, will help protect harmony and success in our homes and churches.
Spiritual stability and unity are reoccurring concerns in the Bible. In John 15 Jesus likens Himself to a grape vine and Christians as branches in that vine. He teaches that we, the branches, must live in spiritual union with Him to produce the Fruit of the Spirit, described in Galatians 5:22-23.
In John 17 we read Jesus’ final prayer for His disciples. His primary concern is that we His Church reflect the same love and unity for one another which God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit experience as a Trinity. That same unity ought to be the goal in every Christian marriage and every local church.
In Romans 12:3-10 and I Corinthians 12:12-27 Paul emphasizes the importance of the unity of His Church and likens that unity to the members of our body. Physical health is experienced as each member and organ of our body fulfill their functions together unhindered and in harmony. So spiritual health in a church is enjoyed when each member of that church is surrendered to Christ and living in love, joy and harmony with every other member; each bearing the Fruit of the Spirit and fulfilling their spiritual gifts. Such churches are equipped and are actively fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission.
Discord is deadly to a church, as is false doctrine. That’s why Jesus, as well as Paul, dealt with it often.
In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul kindly, but directly confronts two influential women in the church, Euodias and Syntyche; two women who had been of great help to Paul in the past. Now they were at odds with one another and were thus affecting the unity of the Body of Christ in Philippi. These two influential Christian ladies, no doubt, led opposing factions in the church.
The problem between them was not false doctrine. If that had been the case, the Apostle Paul would have taken sides by identifying the one promoting false doctrine and correcting her.
No, the problem between these women was not false doctrine. Rather, the problem was pride, selfishness and lack of humility. Each woman was insistent on having her own way, counting her opinion more important than the unity of Christ. The sad thing about this is that these two women had worked together with Paul in establishing the Philippian Church; but in their enthusiasm and sacrifice, they had locked horns over the best way to accomplish the Lord’s work. Their discord was beginning to affect the entire church.
HOW THEN CAN WE ENJOY HARMONY WITH BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST?
When Christians are in fellowship with Christ, they bear the fruit of the Spirit. Without a bitter, vicious judgmental spirit, they experience a personal, honest, loving involvement and humble accountability with one another, thus protecting the peace and harmony in their local church, Such churches, working together, can grow in spiritual stability and thus fulfill Christ’s Great Commission.
The Philippian Christians were faced with two dangers: two dangers that all Christians down through the ages have faced.
1. Paul warned them repeatedly of the Judaizers who taught that works must be added to faith in order to be saved. Phil. 3:2-3
2. He also warned them of the Libertines in Phil. 3:18-19 who taught that how they lived their lives after they were saved was not important. They taught the people that they were free to live as they please, since they were saved by grace through faith and not by works.
These two false, sinful extremes have plagued the Church these past 2000 years.
WHAT ARE YOUR VALUES?
The godly Christian is focused on God and eternal values.
The worldling, carnal Christian is focused on the cosmos, the fleeting values of this world system. His purpose in life is to squeeze from it all the fun and satisfaction it has to offer and have all his desires and needs met. He believes that when his desires and perceived needs are met, then he will be satisfied and happy. Deceived by Satan and living in a euphoric dream world, eventually he learns that nothing really satisfies. When it comes time to die, he comes to the realization with Solomon, that it was all vanity and worthless.
THE MESSAGE OF SELF WORTH
False teachers misuse the Bible to teach that our goal in life to be self- fulfilled and self-satisfied. Their gospel is the message of self worth, the good news of being significant and prosperous.
Instead of preaching the message of the crucified life, as found in Romans 6 and Galatians 2:20 and 6:14 and the mortification of the flesh nature, as taught in Colossians 3:1-5; they preach the message of the need to have a good self-image and a high opinion of one’s self-worth,
No, the ultimate goal is not self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment. The ultimate goal is that Christ be satisfied with me, that my life be centered in Christ, as Paul testified in Philippians 1:21. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE IS MORE THAN JUSTIFICATION
Some Christians get so focused on the wonderful truth of justification, that we are saved by grace alone and not by our works that they carry their liberty in Christ to a sinful extreme. They fall into the error of libertinism. They rightfully rejoice in Christ’s righteousness which makes them fit for Heaven. They rightfully rejoice in their freedom in Christ; but how they live their lives is their business and no one else’s. This is the careless, sinful attitude that since our spirit is saved and since we can’t lose our salvation, it doesn’t matter how we live. We can give in to our fleshly desires and live as we please because God sees only Christ’s righteousness when He looks at us.
They falsely brand preachers who preach holy living as legalists.
But the Christian life is more than simply our standing in Christ. It involves the pursuit of godliness, the pursuit of Christ-likeness. That’s the doctrine of sanctification, a very unpopular message with most Christians; and yet it is the only path to true self-fulfillment.
CHRISTIANS ARE SAINTS
As a king’s son is born a prince, so we are born again as saints; but as a young prince knows very little about being kingly, so we know very little of saintliness. It takes time in God’s Word to become saintly, just as it takes time and training for a prince to become kingly.
I John 2:6 challenges that if we are Christians, we are to learn to walk as Christ walked.
Paul travailed for young believers in Christ as he wrote in Galatians 4:19 that Christ would be formed in them.
Paul wrote in Romans 8:29 that our calling as Christian is to become conformed to the image of Christ. That’s perfection! We will never attain it in this life. If we think we have attained it, I John 1:8-10 informs us that we are deceiving ourselves and the Truth is not in us and we are calling God a liar. Nevertheless, though we will never attain it until we are in Heaven, it is to be our life-long goal to become more like Jesus.
Of course, only a genuine Christian can even begin that journey, for until we have come to the end of ourselves and put our trust in Christ; the Holy Spirit does not yet live in us. Only as He lives within us and we are surrendered to His leading, can we even begin that journey of sanctification.
SO HOW DO WE ATTAIN CHRIST-LIKENESS?
1.Through faith in Christ’s blood sacrifice on the cross, God not only frees us from the guilt and penalty of sin; but He imputes to our account the very righteousness of Jesus. But God has more for us beyond judicial righteousness. He wants to impart to us His practical righteousness that changes the way we think, the values we hold and the way we live.
2. We attain Christ-likeness by hungering and thirsting after His righteousness and feeding on His Word, the Bible, as Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:6
3. We attain that righteousness by submitting ourselves to the control of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, as Ephesians 5:18-21 teaches us.
As Christians, we are complete in Christ, Colossians 2:10 says. That is, we have all that is necessary to live the victorious Christian life.
Only in Christ can we as Christians find our self worth and purpose in life. All else is vanity and results in a wasted life, Solomon concluded in Ecclesiastes.
PRACTICALLY, HOW CAN WE ATTAIN CHRIST-LIKENESS?
I could tell you to follow the example of Jesus, but that seems so unattainable, After all, Jesus is God, and He is sinless. How can we possible follow His example? A more practical way of growing in godliness is to find someone who is living a godly life. Hopefully your parents or your pastor, or some other person who evidences Christian virtue.
That’s why Paul repeatedly challenged people to follow his example. Though imperfect, as he admitted in Philippians 3; yet he lived the Christian life with integrity. So it is safe to follow the example of another Christian just so long as they are living faithfully for Christ. Test your mentor by the plumb line of the Bible and follow him as long as he is true to the Word of God.
That is what church leadership is all about. Pastors, elder and deacons are not to boss you and command you, but we are to be examples of the believer to young Christians so they can safely follow our examples.
Understand that when we teach you to follow godly mentors, we are not teaching you to try to mimic their personalities. Christian are not to be clones of their pastor or other Christian leaders. How silly that would be. Be yourself. Express your own personality, but make sure it is under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Make sure that your walk is consistent with your talk, that your walk is integrated with your talk; that’s integrity!
What Biblical warnings are given to Christians concerning this carnal attitude?
Read these verses carefully. They show us that Christ is concerned about more than our justification.
Romans 16:17-18 Follow godly preachers. Their lives and examples are more important than their ability to communicate in the pulpit.
Galatians 5:13-26 Verse 13 is perhaps the most important passage in the Bible on the issue of libertinism.
Philippians 3:17-19 Faithful pastors, teachers, Mothers and Dads will not hesitate to encourage their children to follow their example. SHAME on the father who commands his children, “Do what I say. Don’t do as I do!” For example, watching R and X rated moves while at the same time forbidding your children to do so, or perhaps allowing your children to watch them with you.
I Timothy 6:3-6 Another solemn warning to avoid and flee from hypocritical pastors and teachers.
James 4:4 Stern language to Christians who love the world’s life-style, as exemplified in movies and television and in night clubs; more than Biblical preaching and godly Christian fellowship.
II Peter 2 Here Peter blasts selfish, carnal preachers who lead their congregations into sin through their vile sinful examples.
I John 2:15-17 Verses that you won’t hear preached in many churches today.
Jude 3-4 A warning to beware of preachers who in the name of Christian freedom, give their congregations license to sin.
WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION!
Rejoice in the wonderful salvation you received by the grace of God apart from any works of your own. You and I don’t add to our salvation by our works, but we work it out as Paul taught in Philippians 2:12-13, so that others can see it operating in our lives and can be drawn to our Saviour and God can be glorified.
Jesus summarizes it all in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:16. Read this, memorize it, meditate on it and let it soak into your heart and mind. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.
When a baby is born it begins to grow and mature. Actually it has been growing from conception, nine months earlier.
Why does a baby grow? Is it because it decides to grow? Of course not. It does not even understand the concept of growth. Because the baby is alive, it hungers for milk and later solid food. It has no awareness of growth as an infant, and yet it grows and develops and eventually comes to maturity.
So Christians grow; not because they decide to grow or help themselves grow. They grow spiritually because they hunger for and feed on the Word of God. Growth happens because we feed on God’s Word and obey what we understand.
What are evidences of spiritual maturity in any Christian?
The first evidence of spiritual maturity is found in Philippians 3:10-11. It’s an insatiable hunger to know God through reading and meditating on His Word. It’s not just an intellectual hunger to know Him. It’s far more than that. It’s a hunger to know the power of His resurrection in our lives. It’s a hunger for true holiness, even to the degree of being conformed to His image.
We’re thankful for His imputed righteousness through God’s act of justification. We know we stand perfect in His sight. But we want far more than that. We hunger for His imparted righteousness, the truth of sanctification. Yes, Christ is our sanctification, but we crave more than this intellectual understanding. We long to see it worked out in our lives. We long to love righteousness as Christ loves it. We long to hate sin as God hates it. As verse 11 states, we long to attain that practical holiness and perfection we will have when we rise from the dead. We can’t wait until we attain that perfection. We long for it now.
The second evidence of spiritual growth is found in Philippians 3:12-15. That second evidence always follows the first evidence. It is a holy dissatisfaction with our present attainments.
Yes, we’re satisfied with Christ and our righteousness in Him. But we’re not satisfied with ourselves nor our spiritual attainment. We trust Christ for what He is doing in us, but we don’t trust ourselves. We despise our sinful self-nature. As Philippians 3:3 teaches, we have no confidence in our self -nature. It is no sign of spiritual maturity to be self confident in our spiritual attainments. In fact, that is a danger sign. “Let him that thinks he stands beware lest he falls.” I Corinthians 10:12
Rather, we ought to have a holy dissatisfaction and hatred of our sinful self nature. Paul, one of the greatest and most victorious Christians who ever lived describes in Romans 7:12-24 his hatred and struggle with his sinful self nature.
That’s why Paul in Philippians 3 and the writer of Hebrews 12 describe the Christian life as a race. Every Christian is in this race. The finish line is the moment we enter Heaven. We have not yet reached the finish line in our present fleshly bodies on this earth. I’ve met and you will no doubt meet some Christians who think they have already crossed the finish line and have attained perfection in this life, but I John 1:8-10 makes it clear that they are deceiving themselves and making God a liar.
So to recap, the two evidences of spiritual maturity are:
1. An insatiable hunger for righteousness and to be like Jesus.
2. A clear understanding that we have not and will not attain that perfection until we are in Heaven.
Many churches today do not teach holy living. They may focus on evangelism and leading people to Christ. That is certainly a part of the Great Commission and a church is failing if that is ignored.
They may focus on teaching the doctrines of the Faith. That also is an essential responsibility of a church. But if a church is not modeling holiness and teaching it, they are failing as a church. If a pastor is simply known as a great Bible teacher, but is not modeling holiness nor teaching it, he is failing.
The spirit of this age is to despise such preaching, calling it legalism. Christians do not want to feel guilty. They want to feel good about themselves, as so they avoid any preacher or church that deals with their sins.
Why is spiritual growth so essential? Why must it be our goal?
1. Christ-likeness glorifies God. Ephesians 1:12 “That we should BE to the praise of His glory.
2. Christ-likeness evidences that we have been born again. Understand, that Christ-likeness is not the way to be saved. Faith in Christ alone saves, but Christ-likeness evidences that regenerated life. Remember, we are not talking about perfection here. That comes in Heaven. One can be Christ-like in this life and not be perfect.
3. Christ-likeness adorns the Gospel we preach. Titus 2:10 There is nothing so ugly as a preacher or a church that preaches the Gospel and lives like the devil. When we adorn the Gospel we preach, it makes it attractive to the lost. Christ-likeness enhances our witness to the lost and thus promotes true evangelism.
Remember, perfection is a goal and a pursuit; not an achievement in this life, though it is our position in Christ. The only option to spiritual growth is a defeated, wasted life. That should be an intolerable option to every true Christian.
Luke, in his account of Saul of Tarsus (Paul’s) conversion in Acts 9, gives us the external details of that conversion. Paul, in Philippians 3:4-9, shares the internal realities of his conversion. the change that took place in his heart, emotions, mind and will. He contrasts the surpassing value of knowing Christ with the vanity and emptiness and powerlessness of mere religion which he trashed as refuse and even excrement! His personal knowledge of Christ far surpassed what religion could do for him.
What did Paul gain when he put his trust in Christ and committed His life to Him?
1. The knowledge of Christ Philippians 3:8
We know God personally and intimately through our saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We see everything as loss in comparison to the knowledge of Christ. Any allegiance is nothing compared to Christ.
We know Christ experientially; not just facts about Him. In John 10:4 Jesus likens that personal knowledge to a sheep knowing his shepherds voice.
In His prayer in John 17:3 Jesus likened eternal life with knowing Christ. Salvation is the personal experience of knowing Christ. That knowledge is a personal loving knowledge of Christ much like that of a husband knowing His wife and a wife knowing her husband. “In Him” Paul uses that little phrase 164 times in His epistles. That knowledge and intimacy is as intimate as a branch being in a vine and bearing fruit. John 15
2. The righteousness of Christ. Philippians 3:9
All his lifetime Saul of Tarsus had worked to try to attain the righteousness of God through his worthless self effort. He gladly gave up his stinking self-righteousness which Isaiah had described as “filthy rags”. Isaiah 64:6 Later, Paul wrote in Romans 3:19, “By the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified.” Read Paul tearful burden for His own people, the Jews, in Romans 10:1-4
3. The power of His resurrection. Philippians 3:10
He had long forsaken any power in the Law or in his flesh. God’s Law could not save him. It could only show him he was a sinner. His flesh was too weak to save him.
Christ’s resurrection power working in Paul gave him power to conquer temptation, serve Christ effectively, overcome trials and be a witness for Christ. That power, Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:20, works in and through us.
4. The fellowship of His sufferings Phil. 3:10
When Paul experienced sufferings as a Christian, he knew he was simply sharing in the sufferings of Christ and he felt highly honored. He knew, as Hebrews 4:14-16 teaches us, that Christ knew, understood and cared, for He fully understands personal suffering.
The world goes to the psychologist, psychiatrist or the pharmacist to find relief. We find that blessed comfort and relief in our prayer closet with Christ. We learn to lean on Christ in every temptation and in every weakness for we know that ” He Knows, He Loves and He Cares”.
5. The knowledge of Christ also enables us to obtain His glory.
One day we will leave these weak bodies of flesh and be glorified in His presence. No more Satan to tempt and taunt us. No more failure and sin.
Is it worth giving up your trust in self and putting your trust in Christ for salvation to have:
Peace with God. Romans 5:1
Purpose in living. Philippians 1:21
Daily victory over sin. I Corinthians 15:57
And joy unspeakable and full of glory? I Peter 1:8
God’s plan of salvation is logical. Paul uses financial accounting terms in Philippians 3 to explain it. The historical details of his conversion are described in Acts 9 by Dr. Luke; but Paul shares his own personal testimony in Philippians 3.
Before Paul met Christ, his spiritual asset column was filled up with all his personal assets he was counting on to make him worthy of Heaven. But in a moment of time on that Damascus Rd. when confronted by the risen Christ; Paul experienced a radical transformation in his heart which extended to every area of his life. as he realized that all the things he considered spiritual assets were in fact his spiritual liabilities. Christ, his major liability became his most valued asset.
In fact, Christ became so surpassingly valuable to him that those things which were once his assets became not just liabilities. He described them in Philippians 3:8 as garbage, and yes, even excrement!
In two parables found in Matthew 13, Jesus taught the same thing about salvation. In verse 44 He describes salvation as a man finding a treasure in a field. The treasure was so valuable that the man sold everything he owned in order to buy the field and thus secure the treasure for himself.
In the same 13th chapter of Matthew in verse 45-46 Jesus relates another parable of a man selling all that he owned in order to purchase a pearl of great price. That treasure and that pearl in those parables are a picture of the salvation Christ offers us. Nothing we own or experience compares with the value of salvation. Your wealth, your women, your success in life is nothing in comparison with knowing Jesus as your Saviour.
Even your religion is excrement in comparison to knowing Jesus personally as your Lord and Saviour.
Fornication, adultery and sexual perversion are not the only vices in life. The worst vice in life is a Christless religion. That’s what Saul of Tarsus had before his conversion; a Christless religion. He hated, not only Jesus, but those who loved and followed Jesus.
But in a moment of time, described in Acts 9, Christ overcame him and he fell to the ground and surrendered to Christ as His Saviour and as His Lord, Immediately Saul, a proud Pharisaical Jew, turned his back on Judaism and became Paul, a fire brand for Christ. His personal knowledge of Christ far surpassed what his religion offered him.
Let’s look at his former asset column in which he had trusted to make himself acceptable before God.
1. His self-righteousness
Most of the world does not understand this. They count their self-righteousness among their top assets. Ask any unregenerate on what he is counting to attain Heaven. Nearly all will reply, “I think God will see my good deeds as outweighing the wrong I have done. I think that on that basis I will one day be in Heaven.”
And yet, the Bible thunders back in both the Old and New Testament that our self righteousness is less than worthless. Isaiah 64:6 describes our self-righteousness as filthy, stinking bloody rags. Both Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5-6 make it crystal clear that no one can attain Heaven by his own works of righteousness.
So if you are trusting your self righteousness for Heaven, I urge you to take it out of your asset column and place it in your liability column. Your good works can never save you.
2. His circumcision
Because Paul had been circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, according to God’s Old Testament Law, he gloried in that ceremony as he came to realize that of all the people on the face of the earth, he was one of the elite sons of Abraham. Surely that asset would see him into Heaven one day.
3. His position as a son of Israel
He was not only a son of Abraham and Isaac, but he was also a son of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. As an Israelite he inherited all the assets listed in Romans 9:4-5 that came with that family.
He did not yet understand the truth of I Peter 1:18-19, Having Godly parents does not insure our salvation. We cannot inherit salvation from them.
4. From the Tribe of Benjamin
Paul was not just an Israelite. He was an elite Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin. At the time of the division of Israel into Northern and Southern Kingdoms, Benjamin had joined with Judah in the southern Kingdom. From the tribe of Judah one day the Messiah would come. He was a blue-blood Jew. His tribe had kept pure by not intermarrying with others.
PK’s (Preacher’s Kids) and MK’s (Missionaries’ kids) though blessed if they have godly parents, have no in with God, apart from His grace. I as an MK had to recognize my lost condition and put my trust in Christ; otherwise, I as an MK would have spent eternity in Hell.
In Acts 26:4-5 in his defense before King Agrippa, he refers to his life as a strict Pharisee; but in I Peter 1:18-19 he admits the vanity and uselessness of tradition as a means of securing salvation.
6. Zeal and Sincerity
In Philippians 3:6 he speaks of his zeal. No religionist was more zealous nor sincere than Saul of Tarsus; but that zeal and sincerity was worthless as far as attaining salvation was concerned.
Not only was he zealous and sincere; but he saw himself as blameless, as far as God’s Law was concerned. He couldn’t think of a single sin in his life. He believed himself to be blameless of breaking any of God’s laws.
How blind he was and how blind and self-deceived is anyone who sees himself blameless before our holy God.
When we read the story of Paul we are reminded of the rich young ruler In Matthew 19:16-22 who came to Jesus and claimed perfection before God’s Law. God exposed his sins and we read that he turned away from God sorrowfully.
In contrast, Saul of Tarsus, the chief enemy of Christ and His Church, when confronted with his sins before God, bowed in saving faith and surrender and became an outstanding servant of God in the first century.
Both Saul of Tarsus and the rich young ruler considered themselves blameless before a holy God; but when they each met Christ, Saul (Paul) saw himself bankrupt morally before God and received Christ, whose righteousness was put to His account. The rich young ruler rejected Christ and His righteousness and went away lost, trusting in his own pitiful self righteousness which stunk as filthy rags in the nostrils of God.
How do you stand before our holy God? Do you dare to approach Him in your own filthy self-righteousness, or do you see your self-righteousness as a liability and cast yourself on God’s mercy and receive by His grace the asset of His righteousness credited to your account?
The triple overall theme of the New Testament includes:
1. The exaltation of Christ
2. The explanation of the Gospel
3. The warnings of false doctrine
We are repeatedly warned about false teachers and false doctrine, starting with Jesus’ warning in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:15-29. Paul repeatedly warns us, as well as John, James, Peter and Jude. Their Epistles are filled with warning against false teachers.
We’ve come now to Philippians 3 and in verse 2 Paul warns us against false teachers. Then in verse 3, he describes true Christians.
First he warns against false teachers. He describes them as dogs, evil workers and the concision. Though I am a dog lover, I am also aware that dogs love filth. They love to smell it, roll in it and even eat it. An unbelieving false teacher, though he may have a pleasant personality and great skill teaching, is spiritually as filthy as a dog. Proverbs 26:11 describes those who reject God’s Word as spiritual fools, who as dogs return to their vomit. Though we can be loving and patient with sinners, we cannot afford to give an inch to false teachers. They must be removed from their offices; whether deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers, pastors or seminary professors.
Secondly, false teachers are described as evil workers. False teachers, though seemingly nice people and even smart people, cannot be trusted nor condoned. They must be recognized as evil workers and removed from their teaching positions.
Thirdly, the false teacher is described as a member of the concision. That was another way of describing the Judaizers who were poisoning the young Gentile converts with the need to be circumcised. Circumcision is the surgical procedure on the male organ of a Jewish baby boy on the eighth day after his birth. Many gentile boys are also circumcised for health reasons. That is a decision between parents and their physician. It has nothing to do with our spiritual standing before God.
The Judaizers in Paul’s day were insisting the male gentile believers be circumcised and observe the Jewish Feast Days and sabbaths. Wherever Paul was preaching and leading people to Christ, these members of the concision followed to poison the young converts with requirements that had nothing to do with their salvation they had received as a gift of God’s grace.
Satan, the god of false religion, has always attempted to infiltrate God’s people to contaminate the Truth and weaken young Christians. Jesus referred to them as those who sow tares in a field of wheat. Paul referred to them as wolves who destroy the flock.
God has given us a way to recognize Truth from error. It’s found in Philippians 3:3. There Paul describes the true circumcision, those whose hearts have been circumcised by God who saves and cuts away sin in our lives. A true Christians is not simply one who has determined to cut sin out of his life and do right. Rather, he is one whose heart has been cleansed by the blood of Christ and his heart desires to please God. When the heart is right, the right actions will follow.
A DESCRIPTION OF TRUE CHRISTIANS
So Paul in Philippians 3:3 describes the true Christian as one who worships God in the spirit, who rejoices in Christ Jesus and who has no confidence in his flesh nature. That’s one of the most complete descriptions of a Christian in all of the Bible.
The True Christian Worships God in the Spirit.
True worship is totally internal in nature and character, but it works itself out in a changed life. A true Christian is one who adores and worships Christ in His heart. That worship is prompted by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
His worship is not prompted by tradition, so-called worship music, culture, guilt or fear.
Nor does he worship to be accepted by others.
Nor does he worship to work up emotional feelings and feel good about himself. True worship slays self-righteousness as we give all honor and glory to God for who He is and what He has done for us.
In fact, true worship will make us aware of sin in our own lives as it did for Isaiah as he worshipped God. Read of his worship experience in Isaiah 6. It not only caused him to seek cleansing from sin, but also resulted in a desire to serve the Lord in whatever way God could use him.
Any so-called worship experience that does not result in a desire to confess and turn from sin and yield ourselves for Christ’s service, is simply an empty emotional selfish feeling not worthy of the designation, worship.
He does not worship to solve problems nor to gain blessings.
He does not come to church to worship, for a true Christian can worship God 24/7 wherever he is
Rather, he comes to church to hear the preaching of God’s Word and as he hears the Word, he responds in corporate worship with other Christians, as well as private, secret worship too deep and too intimate to make a public show of piety. Such piety is vulgar, hypocritical and false
Worship is not just singing or saying words to God. It’s partly that, but it’s much more. It’s responding in praise and thanksgiving to God. True worship always results in obedience in service and in sacrifice to God.
The True Christian Rejoices in the Lord.
Christianity is a personal loving relationship with God based on an understanding and acceptance of the Gospel.
The Gospel is composed of objective facts. Jesus is God in human flesh. He was born of a virgin mother. He lived a sinless life and then went to the cross and willingly shed His blood and gave His life for our sins. Three days later, God the Father raised Him from the dead. He ascended back to Heaven. Those who trust Jesus and His blood sacrifice are forgiven, cleansed of their sins and made fit to live with God throughout eternity.
But salvation is more than receiving these objective facts. It is more than a mere intellectual understanding of the Gospel. That intellectual understanding results in a personal, subjective relationship with God. That personal relationship results in a life of rejoicing in Christ; just as a bride and groom who have given and received objective pledges from one another in their marriage vows are bound together in a new relationship with one another that results in a lifelong relationship of rejoicing in each other. That rejoicing in Christ is the theme of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. You’ll see that theme throughout the Epistle.
Notice, Paul is not telling us to be happy in our circumstances. Happiness has to do with our happenstances. Some happenings are good and some are bad. Some bring happiness and some bring sadness. God does not call you and me to be happy in our sad circumstances. Rather God calls us to rejoice in Christ, regardless of our circumstances. Such rejoicing acts as shock absorbers to cushion the difficult circumstances of life and to live a smooth, peaceful life, in spite of the bumpy experiences and emotions of life. As long as we are walking in fellowship with Christ and rejoicing in Him, the circumstances really don’t matter.
Horatio Spafford, a lawyer and real estate investor in Chicago, was an associate of D.L. Moody, evangelist and founder of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago,
After the Chicago fire of 1871 most of his real estate holdings lay in ashes. In November of 1873, many of the schools had not yet been rebuilt in Chicago, so he and his wife decided to travel to England and enroll their children in an English academy so they would not be held back in their education.
Just before they left America, a business development made it necessary for Horatio to stay in America and so he sent his wife and daughters to England on the ship, Villa de Havre. In mid ocean, they collided with another ship and their ship sank, taking the four daughters to the bottom of the ocean. Mrs. Spafford was able to cling to some floating wreckage and was saved from drowning. In England she telegraphed her husband, “SAVED ALONE.”
With his financial holdings gone and now his daughters gone, he penned the following words which became a song Christians find great comfort in singing.
It Is Well With My Soul
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this bless assurance control.
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul.
And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
What comfort these words have brought to countless hearts.
He Has No Confidence in the Flesh
A true Christian has no confidence in the flesh. By the flesh, we are speaking of our unredeemed humanness, our sinful self nature.
There is nothing wrong with our physical bodies. The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Though we are redeemed, if our trust is in Christ; yet our flesh or self nature is not yet redeemed. Romans 7 gives us the most information concerning our flesh nature.
Our self nature is basically selfish, proud and lustful. Paul, the spiritual giant, confesses that there’s not one good thing about our self nature. We are not to trust it nor feed it and our text, Philippians 3:3, warns us to have no confidence in it. In other words, if you are a Christian, don’t put yourself in a position where you could fall into sin. Many, many pastors and other Christian leaders have not heeded this warning, thinking themselves spiritually strong enough to avoid sin. In a moment of unexpected weakness they have allowed the flesh nature to lead them into sin.
May God help us as Christians to always be aware of dogs, evil workers and those who would lead us into religious bondage and may we worship God in Truth and in the Spirit. May we rejoice in Christ and in what He has done and is doing for us and may we have no confidence in our sinful flesh nature.
Although the theme of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians is that of joy, it is also a call to humility, according to Philippians 2:1-8. We are to live out our lives without pride if life goes well for us and without complaint if we are faced with difficulties. Joy and humility are usually found together. Outstanding examples of that truth are found in the person of Jesus, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus.
Joy and humility are also found in the great missionary heroes, such as Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, David Livingston, missionary to Africa, George Mueller who operated an orphanage in England in the 19th century or the five missionaries who were martyred by the Auca Indian tribe in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956.
That kind of sacrifice is rare in America today and rare is the Christian who is bubbling over with joy, for sacrifice and joy are usually found together.
Earlier in our study of Philippians 2:17-24, we looked at the joy of the Apostle Paul and his son in the Faith, Pastor Timothy. In this article we want to look at Epaphroditus in verses 25-30.
Epaphroditus was born into a heathen Greek culture. He was named after the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. As a young man, he was saved and became a trusted, faithful deacon or servant in the church of Philippi.
He was a common man who had nothing personal to gain by his sacrifice. The Church of Philippi had entrusted Epaphroditus with a gift of money to take to the imprisoned Apostle Paul in Rome.
How did Paul recognize Epaphroditus?
Paul recognized him as a brother in Christ and a faithful fellow worker who worked alongside of Paul to spread the Gospel. He also recognized him as a fellow soldier. Paul did not look down on Epaphroditus. He elevated him as his beloved co-worker.
He also recognized Epaphroditus as an apostle or sent one in 2:25.
Although there were only twelve Apostles chosen, trained and sent out by Jesus to establish the Church, I believe Paul was the twelfth Apostle who replaced Judas after he betrayed Jesus and hung himself, although I don’t question it could have been Matthias who was chosen by the Apostles by casting lots. The point is, there were only twelve Apostles. Those Apostles are referred to in Revelation 21:14 where we find their names written in the foundations of the Holy City in eternity.
But in addition to the twelve Apostles (which I spell with a capital A) to distinguish them, the early church also sent out apostles, (which I spell with a lower case a). In both cases, apostles were simply sent ones. Epaphroditus was an apostle or sent one by the Philippian church.
In both cases, the Apostles of Christ and the apostles of the local churches left their homes, their livelihood and self-interests to devote their lives for Christ.
Why was it necessary to sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi?
Philippians 2:25-26 informs us that Epaphroditus was distressed. Why was he distressed? Because they learned he was sick and close to dying, and because of their love and concern for him, they were distressed. Their distress became Epaphroditus’ distress.
Paul who needed Epaphroditus’ help, did not say to him, “Snap out of it. So what if the Philippian Church feels badly over your sickness. Let them get over it and YOU get over it also!” No, Paul did not talk or even think like that. Paul knew that relationships were more important than programs.
God had mercy on Epaphroditus. He recovered from his illness. He also showed mercy to Paul; otherwise, Paul’s sorrow might have been much worse. Paul already bore the daily burdens of all the churches, II Corinthians 11:28 reminds us.
We all have problems and burdens.
The Philippian Church had their problems and burdens. Philippians 1:29 speaks of their sufferings.
Paul had his problems.
Epaphroditus had his problems.
But no one was concerned for their own problems.
The Philippian church was concerned for the Apostle Paul and their apostle, Epaphroditus.
Paul was concerned for the Philippian Church and for Epaphroditus.
Epaphroditus was concerned for Paul and the Philippian Church.
All of them were concerned for one another, rather than themselves. They were as Galatians 6:2 teaches, bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ, which is love for one another. Therefore Paul sent Epaphroditus home to his church and wrote to the Philippian Church, “Receive Epaphroditus, welcome him in the Lord and hold him in high regard, for he came close to death for the work of Christ, even risking his life.
For what are we spending or risking our lives? For the cause of Christ, or for self-fulfillment?
For whom are we primarily concerned? Ourselves or for others?
God help us to so bear the burdens of others that our own burdens seem as nothing.
Preaching God’s Word is important, but preaching itself doesn’t help us live by God’s holy standards. The Christian life must be modeled by the preacher, the Sunday School teacher, the Bible class leader, the parent; or the teaching is worthless. It’s less than worthless. It’s damning!
We’ve already read and discussed in Philippians some very high standards by which to live: live humbly, without complaining, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, have the mind of Christ, look out, not just for yourself, but for the good of others, no grumbling nor complaining.
All of us find it easier to follow examples, than to simply follow precepts from God’s Word.
Christ was the perfect, sinless example; but most of us, realizing He was sinless, look elsewhere for our example. After all, who can follow the example of the sinless Son of God?
That’s why we look elsewhere for our example: to our parents, an older brother or sister, our Sunday School teacher, our preacher or someone else.
We look to redeemed sinners who live in this sinful world and who possess sinful natures. just as we do; but who live victoriously to show us it can be done. One who cannot provide the example to others, has no business attempting to teach others; until he has gotten right with God and taken some time out from teaching or preaching to prove that his repentance is genuine.
In some cases the damage of our sin can be so extensive that God may have to remove us from the position of influence we once had to a position of lesser influence. God still loves us and will use us if we are broken and surrendered to Him.
Timothy was a young man from the Lystra/Derbe area of Galatia who had a Greek father and a Jewish mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois. The mother and grandmother had led him to Christ and were godly influences in his life.
When Paul first met Timothy, he was impressed with his genuine testimony and Christian character and took on the responsibility of mentoring him for the ministry. Timothy made himself available for Paul as a faithful, trustworthy servant. When Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the Gospel, he would have returned to the church of Philippi, but could not; so sent Timothy in his place.
WHY WAS TIMOTHY SO VALUABLE TO PAUL?
1. He was a kindred spirit to Paul. He thought as Paul thought. He evaluated situations as Paul. His heart beat as Paul’s for the same burdens and concerns. Though Paul had a good number of friends, he said in Philippians 2:20 that he had no one like Timothy. A preacher is rich if at the end of his life he has even one protégé who thinks as he thinks and has the same values as he has and has the same heart beat for the ministry as he has.
2. As Paul, Timothy had the same genuine concerns for the Church of Philippi.
3. As Paul, Timothy was single-minded to the interests of Christ. He did not, as many preachers, dabble in a number of other business interests and time and money consuming hobbies. He said in Corinth as he could have said in any city, “I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus and Him crucified.”
4. In II Tim. 2:20 Paul wrote that Timothy was a proven servant. He had passed tests throughout his life. See the need for such testing in I Timothy 3:6, 10.
5. As Paul, Timothy lived a sacrificial life. There is no evidence he ever married and had children or owned a home or any possessions. He seemed to have no agenda of his own, but was always available to Paul and was willing to make any sacrifice for him, even when Paul was imprisoned. In fact, from Hebrews 13:22-23 it appears that Timothy was also imprisoned for the Gospel.
Timothy was human and imperfect. He, no doubt, had the same struggles to stay pure that all of us have, especially in our youth. That’s why Paul warned him in his last Epistle written before he was executed in II Timothy 2:20-26 to stay strong in his fight against these temptations.
The theme of Philippians is JOY. Three men: Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus, described in Philippians 2:12-18, illustrate the essential relationship of joy to humble sacrificial service. They stand out among Christians; not as grumblers and complainers, but as lights in the midst of a vile, sinful, crooked, perverse generation.
Paul refers to himself in Philippians 2:16-18, to Timothy in 2:19-24 and to Epaphroditus in 2:25-30; three men with the passion and zeal to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, with humility and without complaint, regardless of their circumstances.
By “working out our salvation” we mean that we are by God’s grace and strength, to work out the gracious Gift of salvation God has given us, a Gift given to us totally by the grace of God apart from any works on our part.
If you need more help in this confusing area of faith and works, go to category SALVATION and read OVERCOMERS.
Now of these three men I just mentioned, look first at Paul. By inspiration of God, he was willing to offer himself as an example of sacrificial service without any self-consciousness. Every pastor, church elder or deacon ought to be able to say to others without pride or self-consciousness, “Be followers of me.”
Certainly parents ought to be able to say that to their children. How hypocritical and wicked it is for a father to command his children, “Do as I say; not as I do!”
POURED OUT AS A DRINK OFFERING
Several times in his Epistles, Paul challenges Christians to “Be followers of me as I am of Christ.” In Philippians 2:17 Paul correctly understood that the animal sacrifices for sin in Old Testament times were types of Christ who was the final, perfect sacrifice for sin. However, he talks about himself being offered upon the sacrifice and service of the Philippian Church.
What is he talking about? He referring to the Drink Offerings of wine poured on the animal sacrifices, as explained in Exodus 29:38-42
As those Old Testament saints brought wine as a drink offering and poured it on the burning sacrifices and it vaporized and the aroma rose up to God, so Paul who trusted in the sacrifice of Christ alone as the atonement for sin, in grateful response rejoiced to pour out his life as that drink offering for the edification and blessing of the churches.
That sacrifice of Paul’s life had been from the moment of his salvation on the Road to Damascus when he recognized Christ as His Lord and surrendered for full time service from that very first day. His death would simply be the culmination of that sacrifice.
That’s the sacrifice Paul pleads with all believers in Romans 12:1-2 to present their lives to Christ as their reasonable service in the light of the great sacrifice Christ made for us on Calvary’s cross.
Paul and the Philippian Church were both making that drink offering sacrifice together. Paul’s sacrifice was being poured out on top of the sacrifice the Philippian Church was making for Christ. They were making that sacrifice of suffering together, as Paul had written earlier in Philippians 1:27-30.
NOT IN SPITE OF, BUT BECAUSE
Their rejoicing was not in spite of their sacrifice, but it was because of their privilege of sacrificing their lives together for Christ. Their’s and our sacrifice for God is the very reason for our joy. Read the following passages and note that our sacrifices for Christ are the very reasons for our joy. Act 5:41. Acts 20:22-24, Colossians 1:24, I Thessalonians 3:7-10,
There are two levels of joy. Earthly joy comes from possessions and passing selfish experiences.
Heavenly joy comes from serving Christ and sacrificing our lives for Him. Hebrews 12:1-3
We looked at Paul’s sacrifice. In the next two articles, we will look at Timothy and then Epaphroditus.
Our modern culture is breeding self-absorbed, complaining snobs. We complain about everything: including the weather, traffic, food, standing in lines, the temperature, as well as most everything else.
We Christians are being infected by the world as we blindly imbibe the world’s philosophy through its media. We have become “what’s in it for me” Christians.
The more indulged we are, the more sullen, complaining and self-absorbed we become. Next to pride, few sins are uglier to God and to all of us than complaining. The current over-emphasis on self esteem helps feed this sin.
It was the same in Paul’s day. That’s why in Philippians 2:14-16 he warns the Philippian Christians to beware of complaining and disputing. Those complaints and disputes are ultimately with God who controls our circumstances.
COMPLAIN AND GRIPING, A SIN FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME
Complaining and griping have been with the human race from the beginning of time. When Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, when confronted by God, he blamed Him. “The woman YOU gave me caused me to eat the forbidden fruit.”
When Cain was punished by God for bringing the wrong kind of sacrifice, he complained to God about his punishment. “My punishment is greater than I can bear.”
When God chose Moses to lead Israel out of their bondage of 400 years in Egypt, Israel complained against Moses repeatedly as they traveled through the wilderness. Miriam, Moses’ older sister, complained to Moses and was struck with leprosy. Patient Moses prayed for her and she was healed.
COMPLAING AND GRIPING ARE CONTAGIOUS
While traveling through the wilderness, three men: Korah, Dathan and Abiram complained against Moses and his leadership. God was furious with these three men and as they stood by their tents with their families, the earth opened up under them and these three men with their families and all they possessed were swallowed and buried alive. That put a stop to the complaining of Israel for awhile.
When Israel was about to enter their Promised Land of Canaan, they sent spies into the land to see if they could conquer it. Ten of twelve spies brought back an evil, pessimistic report. They led the people to complain against Moses and against God. God punished the older generation by allowing them to continue wandering in the wilderness for forty more years until all that generation had died. Then the younger generation led by Joshua entered and conquered the land.
NO GRIPING TOLERATED
That was the sign that greeted me over the door inside every dormitory room at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. when I came there as a Freshman student in the Fall of 1952. “No griping tolerated: Constructive suggestions appreciated.” I don’t know whether those signs were ever removed, but I know that if I had any thoughts of griping, that put a stop to it right there. With over three thousand students at that time, can you imagine how quickly griping could have spread through the entire student body if it got started? Since griping is a sin, that was a wise rule.
COMPLAINING AND GRIPING ARE UGLY SINS
In Romans 9 we learn the truth of God’s sovereign election. That is, He makes us with our strengths and weaknesses for His own divine purpose. In verse 20 we are warned against griping and complaining. “Nay, but O Man, who are you to reply against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, ‘Why hast Thou made me thus? Has not the potter the power and the right over the clay to make one vessel for honorable purposes and another for dishonorable purposes?” God can make a Billy Graham to preach before tens of millions and counsel with ten US presidents. He can make a Mal Bicker to preach to small congregations all his life. We have no right to question nor complain against His sovereign will.
HOW TO BE VICTORIOUS OVER COMPLAINING
In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul told us how to avoid a life of complaining and griping. We are to concentrate on working out the salvation that God worked in when we put our trust in Christ. Furthermore, in verse 14 we are shown the attitude with which we are to live our lives- without complaining and disputing. James 5:7-11 teaches the same truth and reminds us the Judge stands just outside the door. Remember as a kid when you use to complain to a brother or sister about something in the privacy of your bedroom and then you found Mom or Dad standing just outside the door listening to everything? That was a panicky feeling, was it not? Remember that the next time you complain. Christ, the Judge stands just outside the door about to return.
Don’t complain. Rather, remember the goodness of God. Psalm 77.
WHY WE SHOULD NOT COMPLAIN
1. We should not complain for our own sakes. Complaining Christians are not attractive. They are depressing to be around. People avoid them.
2. Titus 2:10 challenges us to adorn the Gospel of Christ and the reality of being Christians by our lives. Paul, in Philippians 2:14-15 writes, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings that ye may be blameless and harmless, the Son of God, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in a dark world.
3. Finally, Paul challenges the Philippian Christians to live such a positive, joyful life that even if he has to be sacrificed and martyred for preaching the Gospel, he may rejoice for the blessed privilege of helping them become joyful Christians. If you have such a pastor, bless him by not being a complainer, but a rejoicer and encourager.
As we attempt to understand Philippians 2:12-13 we come face to face with a great paradox of Scripture. There are several paradoxes in Scripture; statements that at first, appear to be contradictory; but on closer study give us the full-orbed truth on a topic.
For example there is the paradox of the incarnation of the Son of God who was born of a virgin as the baby Jesus. Though He never ceased being God, He lived and ministered on this earth and died on a cross as a man, shedding His blood as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The Bible is another example of a paradox. Though the work of many men who wrote over a period of centuries, using their own vocabularies; the Bible is as perfect as though God wrote it, for the human authors were inspired of God and protected so that they wrote without error the very words of God.
There is the paradox of salvation. Do we receive it by God’s choice or by our own choice? It is foolish to argue over this. Both are correct. God chose us to salvation from before the foundation of the world, according to Ephesians 1:4. But it is just as true that we each must choose to receive Christ or reject Him as the sacrifice for our sins. Repeatedly we are told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Those who reject Him are eternally condemned to Hell. See your choice in John 3:36, but understand that without God’s Spirit drawing you to Christ, you can’t even choose to be saved, John 6:44 teaches. The warning to you is that if the Holy Spirit is drawing you to Christ, don’t delay. Receive Christ NOW! II Corinthians 6:1-2
We are not saved by faith plus works. We are saved by faith alone; but that salvation results in a changed life of good works.
Why are we Bible believers so quick to choose sides and set our heels in the dirt and refuse to budge? Why are we so closed-minded and bull-headed on one point of doctrine that has two sides? Why are we so quick to try to put God in our own little theological box and brand anyone who doesn’t see it our way as a false teacher? How this must grieve the heart of Christ who prayed in John 17 for the unity of His own.
No wonder we have far too many denominations and factions and unnecessary divisions in Christendom. Paul shames the Corinthian Church for their sinful divisions over the “Preacheritis”, that is, choosing to follow certain preachers and their teachings and branding those in other camps as false teachers.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that there are fundamental truths upon which all true believers are called to stand and not compromise an inch. These are the well known Fundamentals of the Faith. The following are the two most foundational Fundamentals.
1. A true Christian believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God and the foundation for everything we believe about God and life.
2. A true Christian believes that Jesus is God come down in human flesh. We believe He was born of a virgin as prophesied. We believe He lived a sinless life and then willingly died on a cross to shed His blood as the only atonement for our sins. We believe He arose from the dead three days later and then ascended back to Heaven exalted and reigning in a glorified body. We believe He is returning for His own one day.
Anyone who denies either or both of these truths cannot be a Christian, for it is the Christ of the Bible that saves. Any other Christ is one of our own making and brands us as cultic and under God’s curse, according to Galatians 1.
All of this we dealt with in the previous messages on Philippians 2:5-11 as we dealt with Christ’s humiliation and His exaltation.
The paradox before us in Philippians 2:12-13 summarizes what is perhaps the greatest paradox in the Bible, the truth that we are saved by God’s grace and not by our works; and yet at the same time, the truth that genuine faith in Christ always results in a changed life of good works.
In other words, the Christian life is working out the faith that God has graciously worked into our hearts through faith in Christ.
Earlier in Philippians 2:5-8 we were confronted with Jesus’ steps down from His eternal Godhead in Heaven to being born in a manger as a human baby boy who grew up as a servant. (The Greek word is SLAVE) and offered Himself to pay the penalty for our sins by dying as a common criminal on a cross, the Roman instrument of torture. In all of this we are made aware of His amazing humiliation.
Now in Philippians 2:9-11 we see just the reverse of His humiliation. In these verses we see the steps of His exaltation. First God raised Him from the dead on the third day. Later He ascended back to Heaven where He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for His own.
The way to exaltation
We would all rather be exalted than humbled. Humiliation can be very painful. Exaltation is much to be preferred. Jesus not only embodies humility, but He teaches the path to exaltation. It’s always through humility.
Matthew 23:12 “Whosoever shalt exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” That is, accept the humbling experiences He brings into your life that He may exalt you in due season.
Pride has no place in the Christian’s life.
Proverbs 13:10 teaches, “Only by pride comes contention.” Keep this in mind always. Whenever there are two who are in contention, one or both of them are guilty of pride.
Nothing is more obnoxious and ugly than a proud Christian. It is so out of character for a true Christian who has been humbled by his sins and has cast himself on the mercy of God.
God provides salvation for us in such a way that we have to approach Him humbly as a sinner in order to be saved. There is no salvation available to proud, self-righteous people.
What is the full message of the Gospel?
The full message of salvation begins with Christ’s crucifixion and death for our sins. It continues with His burial, but it doesn’t stop there.
It includes His resurrection from the dead in His glorified body. If further includes His ascension back to Heaven. It goes even further.
It includes His position at the right hand of the Father in Heaven as our intercessor and advocate. But His exaltation goes even further.
It includes His coronation as our Sovereign Lord and King;
That’s the full message Paul preached in Acts 13:28-37.
According to Acts 7:56, that’s the way Stephen saw Jesus as he was about to be stoned to death for the Gospel.
That’s the way we must see Him. Not just Jesus hanging on a cross, but ascended and glorified and crowned as our Lord and King. I Peter 3:22
We will experience this resurrection and exaltation also.
As we are identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, as taught in Romans 6; so we will also experience His resurrection and exaltation with Him. Our ascension will occur at the rapture of the Church and our coronation will take place as we return with Him to reign on this earth with Him. II Timothy 2:12 says it all. “If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.”
Philippians 2:9 teaches us that The Father has given Jesus a name that is above every name.
That new name is LORD, according to verse 11. We don’t make Jesus Lord. God did that. We simply bow to Him and submit to Him as Lord. No Christian has any business confessing Jesus as Saviour and refusing to submit to Him as Lord. As it is unthinkable and foolish for anyone to reject Him as Saviour; so it is unspeakably evil for any Christian to stiffen his neck before Christ and refuse Him as Lord.
Philippians 2:10-11 teaches us that every tongue must ultimately confess Christ as Lord. No one will escape that. Doesn’t it make sense to settle this Lordship issue right now and not wait until the Bema Judgment Seat of Christ and have to give a reason to Him as to why you refused Him as Lord?
In Philippians 2:5-11 we read one of the most amazing and beautiful statements in the Bible on the incarnation of Christ and His humility shown in His incarnation. Yes, God the Son, Creator of the Heavens and the earth, without ceasing to be God, left the glories of Heaven to stoop in humility to walk among men as a human being, as a poor slave, (for that’s the meaning of the Greek word translated servant) and be tortured and executed on a Roman cross in order to pay the penalty for the sins of the world.
The first man, Adam, whom He had created out of the dust of the earth, had chosen to disobey God and experience spiritual death and later physical death. In order to redeem fallen humanity, God had to come down to this earth as a man Jesus, the Second Adam, and take the death that we deserved. Those who trust Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins are saved and are born into the family of God. Read the fifth chapter of Romans to better understand this truth.
For more details on the crucifixion go to my link JESUS and read a medical doctor’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Three days later God the Father raised Him from the dead and He ascended back to Heaven in a glorified body, the same body the witnesses of the Resurrection saw and touched. As He went up to Heaven in that body, so He is returning in that same body to rule on this earth for a thousand years. For more information on all of this go to the link Prophecy or Olivet Discourse.
The Incarnation, God becoming flesh, is the foundational bed rock truth of the Christian Faith. Believe that the Lord Jesus is God and that He died and rose again to save you from your sins and you will experience salvation and assurance that you are saved. See Romans 10:9-13. Deny this or confuse it and your “Christianity” evaporates into thin air.
Philippians 2:1 begins with Paul’s plea for humility and unity in the church. He uses the Lord Jesus Christ as the perfect model of this humility. Read with me verse 5-8. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Note that this passage begins by stating that Jesus was in the “form” of God. The Greek word for “form” is “morphee” the word that refers to His essential being. Jesus has always existed as God and will continue to exist as God for eternity.
Note the word “fashion” in verse 8. The Greek word for “fashion” is “skeema”, It refers to His appearance as people recognized Him. On earth, God was seen in the person of Jesus as a man. At the same time, throughout His short life on this earth, He never ceased to be God, although He voluntarily limited the use of His attributes as God. He claimed to be God repeatedly, as recorded in John 5:18, 10:33, and 14:9. His enemies were very much aware of that claim and it made them so furious, that they repeatedly tried to kill Him.
Note the word “equal” in Philippians 2:6. The Greek word is isos. It is the same prefix used in the English words isomorphic (having the same form), or isometric (having the same measurements) or isosceles triangle, (a triangle having two equal sides.
Even Jesus’ enemies understood that He claimed to be equal with God and that is what infuriated them and caused them to eventually crucify Him. Of course, God used their fury to carry out His own will. It was God’s plan for Jesus to be crucified, for only as He died and shed His blood as the full payment for our sins, could we have ever been saved.
After Jesus’ Resurrection, He appeared at least twice to His disciples. Depressed Thomas had missed His first appearance, telling the other disciples that unless he could put his hand in the wound in Jesus’ side and put his finger in the nail holes in Jesus’ hands He would not believe.
John 20 tells the moving story of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas when He returned to His disciples the following week. As He appeared in the room, He spoke directly to Thomas, inviting him to put his hand in Jesus side and his fingers in Jesus’ hands. Thomas did not have to do that. Instead he fell on his face before God and cried out in saving faith and I believe with tears, “My Lord and my God!” From that day forward, Thomas was a believer and a faithful witness of Christ.
If God had died when the Man Jesus died, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit would have also died, for the three persons are one God, If God had died, the universe would have imploded into nothingness, for Colossians 1:15-17 declares that the universe consists or is held together by the power of Christ. Because Jesus is God, the Man Jesus had to rise from the dead three days after His crucifixion, which He did.
This doctrine of the incarnation, God becoming man in the person of Jesus Christ, is the foundational bed rock truth of the Christian Faith, which Peter confessed in Matthew 16:15-19. Jesus responded to Peter, “Peter, you are (and the Greek says) a small stone. And upon this (and the Greek says) the bed rock of your confession, I will build My Church and all Hell cannot stop its progress.
What will you do with Jesus? Reject Him as God and as the One who died on a cross and rose again to pay for your sins, and you will continue in your lost condition and one day face Christ as your judge. See Revelation 20:11-15. Or Bow before Him today and receive Him by faith as your Saviour from sin, and He will save you from your sins. Through faith, you will be born again into the Family of God. Read John 1:12
Now, with your Bible, dig into this web site and learn some foundational truths to help you better understand what it means to be a Christian.
Although the Philippian Church was a model church in many respects; they, like most churches, had their minor personality clashes. Paul in chapter 4 verse 2 warns two factious women who were a threat to the unity and joy in the church, to try to work out their differences.
In chapter 2:1-4 of Philippians, Paul shows how unity is attained when each of us are humble and unselfish. Humility is simply putting the needs and concerns of others before our own. Only then can we experience true unity.
Motivation and power to be humble
Paul starts out in verses 3-4 of that 2nd chapter by giving us motivation and power to be united.
First, he shows us that when things aren’t going our way and we are tempted to feel slighted, we can find our consolation in our relationship with Christ. We also find comfort in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit as He binds our hearts together in love, regardless of our differences.
Paul also challenged the congregation to stay united for his sake as a founding pastor. That’s not the highest motivation for unity, but it is something to consider. If you love your pastor and don’t want to break his heart; do whatever you can to foster unity in your church. There is nothing that tears the heart out of a pastor than to see his church family torn apart by disunity. Of course, sometimes churches are torn asunder by self-centered, hireling pastors who have no heart for God nor for their flock.
Getting back to the need for humility to protect unity, Paul uses Christ as the perfect example of humility in Philippians 2:5-8 Look at the humility of Jesus who left the glories of Heaven to come down to this sin-cursed earth to live among us and die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. His humility was expressed in self-sacrifice, self-denial and in His self-giving love.
How can we learn the humility of Christ?
In Matthew 11:28-30 Christ, the Master Teacher, as well as our Saviour from sin, using the illustration of yoked oxen ploughing a field, invites us to be yoked with Him, as the strong ox. Yoked with Him, we learn His meekness and humility in service and are given the ability to accomplish work beyond our own strength and wisdom. As long as we walk in harmony with Him, allowing Him to lead us, we find the strength we need to accomplish whatever He asks of us. It’s only stubborn Christians who insist on going their own way, who find their stiff necks being rubbed raw by the yoke and being burned out in their Christian service.
Jesus also gives us another example of humility in service by washing the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper before His crucifixion. The story is told in John 13:13-15. Some see this story as simply instruction for us to wash one another’s feet in a church service. I see in the story something far more basic than ceremonial foot washing. Here Jesus gives us His example of humility by doing whatever He can to meet the needs of others, even to stooping to menial tasks to help others. If we stop and ask God to show us how to help the needy, He will bring them into our lives and we will have no lack of opportunity to show humility and love to others.
No, we cannot have Jesus deity nor His sinless perfection. We cannot have His miracle working power, nor can we redeem sinners by dying for them; but we can seek to have His humility to serve and help others.
Isaiah 6:1-4 is but one of many Biblical passages that describe the Holiness and awesome loftiness of Christ in Heaven. When Jesus came down to this earth as a baby to grow up and live among men, it was God in human flesh amazingly and graciously condescending to live among us, though He was rejected by those He came to save. What amazing humility!
We Christians have a high and holy calling through our relationship with Christ, to share a little of that glory of Christ, though we bear it in earthen vessels. From that high and holy calling mentioned in II Timothy 1:9, we must condescend (without having an ugly condescending attitude) to meet the needs of others around us as God opens doors of opportunity to us.
What did Jesus give up to come to this earth?
Though He did not give up His Deity, He gave up His Heavenly glory. He mentions that in His prayer in John 17:4-5. Because we are not God, we cannot begin to grasp His Heavenly glory, no more than a worm can grasp the glory of being human.
He gave up His independent authority as God. Coming down to this earth as a man, He lived in subjection to His Heavenly Father with whom He had been absolutely equal in power and authority in Heaven. Hebrews 5:8 tells us that He actually learned and experienced obedience to His Heavenly Father through His sufferings as a man.
He limited the exercise of His divine attributes as a man on this earth. Though He still had omnipotence and omniscience as God, He limited the exercise of those attributes as a man. For example, in Matthew 24:36 He said that He did not know when He was returning to this earth to reign. I believe He knows that information now, but He chose not to know it while He walked on this earth.
Though He owns the entire universe which He created, when He walked on this earth as a man, He lived in utter poverty without a home to call His own and without money. All He had materially was that which was loaned or given to Him by others. Read II Corinthians 8:9 to learn how though rich, He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich spiritually.
In His humility, through He recognized His rights and privileges as God Almighty, He did not clutch those rights. He willingly divested Himself of all His rights and came down as a slave. He did not just do the work of a slave. He became a slave in His heart, living out the life of a slave to serve others. He had a servant’s heart, as can we if we follow Him in His humility.
He gave up His relationship with His Heavenly Father. As He hung on the cross bearing the sins of the world, He cried out in despair, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Try to grasp this. Jesus became alienated on the cross from the very God with whom He was a part of the Trinity. Yes, He who knew no sin, as the Holy Son of God, became sin for us. That is, He became our sin-bearer, taking upon Himself the full wrath of God for our sins. Read II Corinthians 5:21 and rejoice in the wonderful salvation He offers you.
Humility goes as far as it must to meet a need.
“By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one for another.” John 13:35 In local churches and on mission fields a major problem is disunity among Christians. There is nothing that destroys a church’s testimony and effectiveness in reaching the lost and building up saints like disunity. Next to living and preaching the Truth, maintaining the unity of his church family is the main burden of a godly pastor.
Often that disunity is fomented by some “Diotrephes, who loving to have preeminence,” (III John 9-10) freezes out of the fellowship those who do not fall into line under his or her usurped leadership. Such churches seldom grow and are pathetic examples of what Christ meant His church to be.
In the light of what Christ has done for us, it is a shame and a disgrace for Christians to not endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit. Christ prayed for us in the Upper Room just before His crucifixion. His concern was “that we all would be one as Christ is one with His Heavenly Father.” John 17:21. That’s not the oneness of organization, but the oneness of an organism, the supernatural oneness of the Body of Christ. Not only does He pray for us, but He gives us the Gift of His Holy Spirit to unite us as one Body. That is the baptism of the Spirit spoken of in I Corinthians 12:13.
Understand that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an emotional experience to be sought and flaunted before the Church. Rather the baptism of the Spirit is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit whereby He unites us to the worldwide Body of Christ. Immediately a new Christian is aware that he is now a part of the family of God and he longs to be united and involved in fellowship, worship and service in a local expression of that Body.
For Christians to remain in a state of disunity is an abomination in the sight of God, as taught in Proverbs 6:16-18
Paul shows his concern for the possibility of disunity in the Philippians Church. This concern is seen throughout this Epistle in 1:5-19, 27. 4:1-2
The number one rule of church leadership according to I Peter 5:3 is to avoid attempting to lord it over others. Rather, pastors, elders, deacons and others in leadership positions are to lead by being examples of what a Christian ought to be and being encouragers with servant hearts.
Attempting to keep the unity of the Holy Spirit is a major concern for every church that is seeking to serve the Lord. The greater the zeal and enthusiasm, the greater the danger of disunity as we collide with one another in our efforts to serve Christ. Only as each member is filled and directed by the Holy Spirit, can we all work amiably together without ruffling feathers.
Disunity takes place when we allow Satan to make us feel miffed because things do not always go as we plan.
True unity is more than just being members in the same church. It is more than doctrinal agreement, though doctrinally agreement is very important. True unity is unity of heart and purpose.
Unlike the unity of a bag of marbles that can be destroyed by cutting the bag, our unity must be like that of metal filings united together by a magnet. If Christ is the magnet of our life and of our church, that produces the true unity that enables us to work together with one heart and purpose.
Because a spiritually united church cannot be stopped in its progress by Satan, it is essential that each of us endeavor to keep and protect the unity that the Holy Spirit has given us. That’s why Paul emphasizes our responsibility to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in Ephesians 4:3 and in other passages in I Corinthians 12 and 14.
Paul’s approach to the Philippian Church in Philippians 2:1-2 concerning the need to keep this unity is not threatening: rather, it is a three-fold approach of a loving pastor and his church family to do what is right
1. for Christ’s sake,
2. because of the unity that the Holy Spirit has already made available to us, and
3. because of our love for our pastor and our church.
United, nothing can stop us as we move forward in our assault against Satan’s strongholds. Divided, we are paralyzed and powerless to do any more than just “play church”.
Most dilemmas are stressful and difficult. Paul’s, description of his dilemma in Philippians 1:22-26, was not difficult; but joyful. There were two equally intense tugs at his heart. One was to stay alive and finish his ministry to the churches he had founded. The other tug was to be with Christ in Heaven. Paul was caught in this tension between these two equally attractive desires.
Early in our ministries, the tug is stronger to live and fulfill our ministries than it is to die and go to Heaven.
Paul’s desire to depart
As we come to old age, the tug to depart and be with Jesus begins to grow stronger. That was Paul’s desire in Philippians 1:23. The Greek word translated depart could be used to take down a tent and break camp. It could be used of a ship in dry dock sailing out to sea. Ships were not meant to stay in dry dock. They were made to sail in the ocean.
We are born eternal souls, made to live forever with God in Heaven. Our short life on this earth is the dry dock where we prepare to live in the ocean of eternity.
Paul’s desire to be with Jesus
The major consideration that prompted Paul’s desire was to be with Jesus. It wasn’t simply a desire to escape his problems and burdens of this life. Imagine being with Jesus forever! From the moment of death or the rapture, we are forever with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. What a blessed hope!
No waiting place of the dead, no soul sleep, no unscriptural purgatory. Rather, it is to depart and to be with Jesus. That was Stephen’s great desire as he was being stoned to death. He cried out in Acts 7:60, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” Then it says his body fell asleep. That’s the beauty of death for the Christian. It is as simple and as peaceful as falling asleep at night. Paul in I Thessalonians 5:10 wrote about it. Speaking of Jesus who died for us, “that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”
Job, speaking about death thousands of years earlier, spoke by inspiration of God in Job 19:25, “For I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth, and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, though my internal organs be consumed within me.” What a wonderful hope and assurance we Christians have, based on God infallible Word; that we will live again and for eternity in these bodies which will be glorified and perfect throughout eternity.
No wonder Paul desired to die and see Jesus. It’s not that he was suicidal, nor should we be. Rather we should live our lives totally devoted to His glory and then rest in the truth that when we die we are forever with Him.
Paul’s equal desire to remain alive on this earth
That was his concern in Philippians 1:24-25. This is the thinking of every godly person. As Paul, our equal desire is to remain alive on earth for as long as Christ needs us to serve Him and His Church. Both desires were utterly selfless. It was impossible for him to make the choice, as it is with each of us.
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the desire to serve Christ and His Church and 1 being the desire for material things and a desire to fulfill a career, to earn money, to gain prestige, power and fame; it was an easy no-brainer #10 choice for Paul. He would choose the desire to serve Christ and His Church any day over the paltry rewards of this world.
It wasn’t that Paul favored serving Christ and at the same time living for material success. His desire was Christ alone. Nothing else mattered. However, he left the choice of going to Heaven or remaining on earth to further the cause of Christ with God. It’s a choice that servants of Christ must leave with Him.
His impression from God
Though he left the choice with God, He was impressed in his spirit that God was going to leave him on this earth for a little while longer. That impression turned out to be accurate. He was left on this earth for about two more years to further the cause of Christ and to further their spiritual progress and increase their joy, it tells us in Philippians 1:26.
It’s impossible for us to make such a weighty decision. Thank God, He does not leave it for us to make. He decides when our work is finished and when it’s time to call us Home to Heaven. Christian friend, we have the best of both worlds. Living for Christ is the best thing in life. Nothing compares to it for joy and satisfaction. I can testify to that whole-heartedly. However, spending eternity with Christ is beyond our wildest dreams, as Paul said in I Corinthians 2:9.
May God help you to make the right decision in life by trusting Christ as your Saviour and surrendering to Him as Lord of your life. It’s the only right decision. It’s the best decision. Anything less than that is sheer stupidity and yes, wicked for a Christian. Read Romans 12:1-2 and keep reading it and meditating on it until you’ve made the right decision about your life.
Whatever the Apostle Paul did before and after his conversion, he did with all of his heart, soul and strength, whether it was persecuting Christians before his conversion or preaching the Gospel after his conversion.
Acts 9 records Saul’s conversion, who was then renamed Paul. It records that immediately he began to face rejection, opposition and persecution; not only by the lost, but by the young Church itself. As Jesus, His Saviour and Lord, Paul was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
He was beaten and imprisoned repeatedly for the Gospel.
He sorrowed constantly for His people, the Jews, who rejected Christ.
He sorrowed for his brethren, fellow preachers of the Gospel, who often turned against him, as recorded in II Corinthians 12:15, Philippians 1:14-16
and II Timothy 4:10-16. These preachers were envious of Paul’s spiritual power and success. They were attempting to compete with Paul, rather than recognizing themselves as his fellow-laborers.
His attitude towards all this garbage heaped upon him was, “So what?” “What then, notwithstanding”, he says in Philippians 1:18, “In every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached and I therein do rejoice and will continue to rejoice”
So it is for every faithful servant of God. We can rejoice, regardless of circumstances, whether we have bought a new home, or lost it, whether we have a job or have lost it, whether we are hospitalized or enjoying good health; whatever our circumstances; we can rejoice in Jesus, our Saviour and Life. As Romans 8:28 teaches, every circumstance, joyful or painful, is working together for our good.
Paul was confident of the supply of his needs through the provision of the indwelling Holy Spirit and that the supply of those needs would result in his salvation; that is, his sanctification, his full spiritual health. In other words, it was going to make him a stronger Christian.
Paul didn’t know what lay ahead for him; but he was confident that whether by life or death, that the Gospel he preached would succeed in doing its work. He was always aware that he was Christ’s chosen vessel. Anananias had shared that special message from God with him at the time of his conversion to Christ.
Persecution of Christ’s enemies and misunderstanding and meaness of fellow Christians did not deter him from preaching the Gospel.
Paul really didn’t care what happened to him. All that mattered to him was that the Gospel he once hated and fought against was furthered through his efforts. Though in chains in Rome, and though misunderstood and miserably treated by others, it really didn’t matter. Paul was thankful for every opportunity to preach the Gospel.
He was assured through his knowledge of God’s Word that whatever happened was going to work out for the spread of the Gospel and for his salvation from his imprisonment, whether by life or death. He knew the God of the Psalmist David who wrote repeatedly of how God delivered him.
He had witnessed Stephen’s stoning and death, and he never got over it. He had watched him die fearlessly and he knew God would give him that same faith and courage to face anything.
He didn’t care that there were mean-spirited, fellow preachers of the Gospel who hated and despised him and tried to make him look bad, even as they preached. He really didn’t care who got the credit for winning people to Christ. He was just glad the Gospel; was preached.
He was truly thankful for the faithful Christians who prayed for him and he was confident that through the provision of God, all his needs would be supplied.
In all his difficult circumstances and unfaithful “friends” who would gladly stab him in the back, no one could steal his joy that he had in knowing and serving Christ.
Does Christ and His Gospel consume you 24/7?
As John the Baptist’s motto in John 3:30 was “He must increase. I must decrease”; so his aim was “that Christ be magnified in his body.” His one purpose in life is summarized in Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is CHRIST. To die is gain” From the moment he was converted to Christ on the road to Damascus until the day he was executed, the Christ he once hated, was now the Christ he loved with a consuming passion. He was a one track man. Christ was everything to him. For Christ he was willing to suffer the loss of all things.
God doesn’t call every believer to be a preacher or a missionary, but He does call us all to that total dedication to Him, to use our strength and our resources to help spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, starting with your next door neighbor.
A key indicator of spiritual maturity is a deep abiding, unshakable joy, regardless of circumstances. Joy comes from living in the conscious presence of the Lord 24/7/365. We live in His presence as we read and digest His Word by meditating on it day and night. In Jeremiah 16:11 the prophet describes the source of joy as eating God’s Word. It was “the joy and rejoicing of his heart.”
When we lack the joy of the Lord, we tend to become unthankful, critical, sullen and bitter. These negative emotions rob us of His joy.
The real test of our Christianity is how we react to disappointments and differences of opinion with others. Joyless Christians are one of the major curses in churches. It’s one of the red flags that discourage visitors from returning to our churches. A joyful church is attractive to visitors. That joy must be genuine; not just a big grin behind a sour personality. It must be seen in the lives of the teens and children, as well as the adults.
Although some people seem to be born with a constant smile (and that is a wonderful quality) people need to see more than a smile. They need to observe the constant love, joy and peace that bubbles up from a Spirit-filled Christian, regardless of his circumstances. That is supernatural and cannot be worked up in the flesh. According to Galatians 5:22-23, joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit. That fruit is seen in the lives of those who are surrendered to Christ. When we are surrendered to Christ, His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, fills and controls us under every circumstance of life.
The Epistle to the Philippians repeatedly tells us to rejoice always. To rejoice is to live in a state of constant joy. That does not mean that we wear a constant smile; but one who rejoices can be recognized whether he smiles or weeps, whether he is a conversationalist or the silent type.
Only sin robs us of joy. That’s why David in his confession in Psalm 51 cries to God to restore the joy of his salvation.
Trouble comes to everyone: Christian and non-Christian. Jesus warned His own in John 16:33 “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” We’re taught in God’s Word to learn to rejoice in trouble.
Happy is the Christian who learns early in life that our joy is not related to our circumstances, to our possessions, nor to what we call success. Rather, joy is related to living for Christ and serving Him with all our hearts.
Paul was hounded by trouble from the moment he became a Christian. He writes about it on several occasions in his epistles. There’s no doubt that he experienced much more trouble than the average Christian. When he went into a town, he did not check out the motels, but the jails. That’s where he usually landed when he preached the Gospel.
TROUBLE BRINGS BLESSING
That’s what James teaches us in James 1:2-4. I can testify to the fact that most of my troubles in the ministry have been doorways into greater blessing. Paul wrote many of his Epistles from a jail cell. He wrote Philippians, this Epistle of joy chained to Roman guards twenty-four hours a day.
Troubles, including imprisonment, did not hinder his ministry in any way; nor did it dampen his joy. His troubles always resulted in the furtherance of the Gospel. Serving Christ was his passion and his source of joy. His joyful testimony for Christ resulted in many of his Roman guards coming to Christ and it was the talk of Caesar’s palace.
Can you imagine being chained to Roman guards 24 hours a day for two years? But, better yet, can you imagine a Roman guard being chained to the Apostle Paul for six hours stretches, day and night? No wonder, many received Christ as Saviour.
How about you, Christian friend? To whom or to what job are you chained each day? Are you doing your work as unto the Lord? Are you taking opportunities as they appear, to be a witness for Christ to those to whom you are chained through your job? I’m not asking you to ignore your job or disobey your employer, but if your life is shining for Christ, God is going to open up opportunities for you to be a witness. Be ready at all times to give an answer to those who ask you concerning the hope and joy that fills your heart.