RIGHT LIVING AND THE GOSPEL (PART 2)

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Philippians 1:27-28

Study 6

BRIEF INTRO: As we continue with our study, take notice that Paul writes to them: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” This ONE thing was so important for Paul to get across to them.

Remember, Paul just finished sharing with them how much he loves them, prays for them, is thankful for their participation in the work of the gospel. He just shared with them what was going on in prison so that they would be encouraged and trust the Lord more fully. He just let them know of the uncertainty he had regarding whether or not he would die in prison and go to be with their Lord or remain on and serve them for their further progress in the faith. And this is what concerns Paul, this is his first instruction to these believers in this letter, and it is the foundation for all other teachings that he will deliver to them.

FOCUS ONE:

So, what are some ways “in a manner worthy of the gospel” would play out in their/our lives?

1. Faithfulness

2. Obedience to the word of God

3. Walking in love, unity 4. Forgiving others

5. Pursuing godliness

6. Evangelizing, etc., etc.

The gospels’ influence in our lives, dear Christian, doesn’t end at salvation. The gospel saves us, but it also is what we are to be living (in) light of and (for) as we sojourn through this place.

So how in Paul’s mind does that play out for these believers? He goes on to write that: “Standing firm (one spirit, one mind).”

Now, this verb “standing firm” that you see there means “to be stationary.” It means “not to be pushed around,” “not to be moved around.” The idea is that you are anchored in a place, and there is no reverse gear in you. You have taken your stand, and you are immovable because of your convictions in the gospel, and you are standing firm.

It is a military term, actually, and it pictures a soldier’s duty in the battle to hold his position. He has been assigned a place on the front lines. And wherever there is a breakdown, the enemy can slip through. The enemy is always looking for the weakest soldier in the army. And if they can defeat the weakest soldier, it becomes the entry point to break the ranks, and to penetrate, and to infiltrate, and to be able to bring about a devastating defeat.

Take notice of those two qualifiers in that sentence? One Spirit, one mind. Paul is writing to “all the saints at Philippi,” not one solitary individual. He is speaking about these believers being “unified,” having unity among themselves. If there is a weak link among them, you can be sure, disunity and strife will enter their local fellowship.

They needed this warning. Already in this church, we have two ladies who are not getting along, and it never stops there, does it? Two ladies bickering among themselves then become two husbands arguing among themselves. That then becomes two families and then adds all the friends of the families taking sides, and on and on the disunity and strife grows.

If we are, as we will learn later in Philippians, seeking to have the “mind of Christ,” the whole body pursuing Christ-like-ness, disunity and strife would not be able to disrupt or destroy our fellowship. It would not be able to weaken or destroy our witness for Christ. It would have no place!

Dear Christian, are you pursuing unity with your church family? Are you seeking to esteem them more important than yourself? Are you actively practicing forgiveness rather than harboring bitterness and unforgiveness?

FOCUS TWO:

Paul also uses the word “striving.” Striving together (for the faith of the gospel)!

Striving together is just one word in the original language. And it is a primary root word with a prefix put at the beginning. The primary root is athleo; from that, we get our English words “athlete,” “athletics.” And the idea is to compete in a contest, and specifically, commentators tell us that it is the contest of wrestling.

And then, the prefix “with” is put at the front, meaning that we are to be

wrestling together. We are to be contending together. We are to be competing together. And the idea is we are on the same team. We are not wrestling against one another. We are wrestling on one team in trying to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ (Dustin Benge). One body, one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism… one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4: 4-6) A team under the banner of Christ!

Christians, we have a robust gospel that saves sinners from God’s wrath and judgment. We have a beautiful gospel that reminds us of the grace and kindness of God toward mankind. The good news that: God made you and me and wants to have a relationship with us. But mankind fell into sin in the garden of Eden, and that sin has been imputed to all of us ever since. We are by our very nature children of wrath. Our sin separates us from God who is holy by His very nature. But God sent forth His only begotten son, Jesus, and He took the punishment our sins deserved on the cross. He died, was buried, and rose again, God the Father accepting His son’s sacrifice in our place. So, if you, with repentant faith, trust in him for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified, and accepted freely by His grace and indwelt with his Spirit and one day will be with Him for all eternity.

This is the message that we are to be “striving” together to promote, live out, model, teach, preach, proclaim.

Fellow Christians, are we contending together for the “faith of the gospel? Are you, dear brother, dear sister, a part of the team, competing together for the sake of the gospel with the rest of the family of God? Now, all these things may seem daunting to you right now, but take courage Christian, God is working in us to do and be what He desires us to do and be, Amen!

FOCUS THREE:

Now take notice of some pretty incredible results of our obedience and unity within the church, the body of Christ.

Not alarmed by your opponents (the affect of such living) (28)

Paul continues in his thoughts about unity and perseverance in the gospel. He says if the Philippian believers would be of one mind and one Spirit, contending together for the faith of this amazing gospel, they would “in no way” be alarmed by their opponents.

In other words, he is saying, using powerful language here, that he does not want them to be frightened. KJV uses the word terrified in any respect by their opponents. Fear would prevent effort. Fear of the enemy would stifle gospel witness and hinder the very unity Paul was calling for.

Rather than fear, the church’s failure to be intimidated by its enemies is a sign of the ultimate failure of the enemies of God! Unity in the gospel, striving together, standing firm in the body, leaves no “weak link,” no way for the enemy to break through the ranks. And so that is a sign to them of at least two things: (28)

1. Sign of destruction for their enemies

2. Sign of salvation for you

What Paul probably means here when he says “a sign of salvation for you,” is the fact “that believers have been granted courage from God to stand firm in their struggles and in doing so are demonstrating their salvation.” These words from Paul would have been very convicting (considering what is going on in their local fellowship) but, I think, encouraging as well, especially when they read the following verses.

Paul says that two things have been “granted” them. (29)

1. To believe in Him (Salvation)

2. To suffer for His sake

It has been “granted” them, or we could say graciously given to them their salvation. That we understand, right? Nobody should have a problem understanding how gracious God is in granting vile sinners forgiveness and newness of life. But they are graciously given suffering from Him as well? That’s a harder nut to chew.

According to one commentator: “suffering for Christ was not to be considered accidental or a divine punishment. Paul referred to a kind of suffering that was really a sign of God’s favor. The Greek word translated “granted” is derived from a word which means grace or favor. Believing on Christ and suffering for Him are both associated with God’s grace.” (Lightner)

James says that we are to count it all joy when encountering various trials, knowing that there is a God-ordained, just, and good reason behind it. We can trust Him in the hard times! Brothers and sisters, I would guess that we don’t count our sufferings as God’s favor upon us. I would also think that we do not count them a joy when we encounter them, and I would also guess that for these Philippians to be experiencing the same conflicts Paul was, it was pretty challenging for them.

But what we have to remember is that just as they shared a similar struggle as Paul, Paul encouraged them, just like they did him. They wanted to know how he was doing in prison, and so he told them all those things to encourage them as they faced hardships. So, as Paul calls for unity and perseverance within the body of Christ amidst opposition, so do I:

Will we behave like the citizens of Heaven that we are?

Will we be found to stand firm in one Spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel?

Will each of us stand firm to not give a foothold to the enemy without, and will we be at peace with one another so as not to let division begin within?

Will we trust God to lead us, aid us, empower us and work in and through us?

Things worthy of our prayerful meditation

A VOICE

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Tomorrow, he faithfully promised
tomorrow for revival I’ll pray,
tomorrow I’ll plead as I ought to,
I’m too busy today.

Tomorrow I’ll spend in my closet,
Tomorrow I’ll humbly bow,
Yet ever a voice was whispering,
“But the church is languishing now.”

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow,
The delay e’er repeated went on,
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow,
Till the years and the Voice were gone.

Till the church its God had forgotten,
Till the land was covered with sin,
till millions had hopelessly perished,
And eternity was ushered in.

Oh members of the body of Christ,
Oh ye church of the living God,
Oh editors, and leaders, and pastors,
Oh saints, where our fathers trod.

The Voice still insistently whispers,
Answer not, “tomorrow I’ll pray,”
The Voice is one of authority,
The church needs reviving today.

Author unknown

SAVED, BUT. . .

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I am saved, but is self buried?

Is my one, my only aim,

Just to honor Christ my savior, Just to glorify His name?

I am saved, but is my home life

What the Lord would have it be?

Is it seen in every action,

Jesus has control of me?

I am saved, but am I doing,

Everything that I can do,

That the dying souls around me,

May be brought to Jesus, too?

I am saved, but could I gladly,

Lord, leave and follow thee;

If thou calmest can I answer,

Here and I, send me, send me?

Author unknown

THE GOSPEL PREACHED

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                              Philippians 1:12-26

Study 3 

BRIEF INTRO:

I want to focus on the word “trust,” as we begin because even if you’re not a pilot or a skydiver, trust is something that every one of us has to exercise every day. We exercise it by getting into our cars to drive to work each morning. We exercised it by sitting down in our chairs at the kitchen table this morning, trusting they would hold us up. Trust is at the core of what it means to please God and to follow Jesus. The Bible says we are to: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5).

Have you ever thought about what it means to trust in God? The words “trust,” “faith,” and “believe in” are all synonyms. When the Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), it’s another way of saying, “Trust in the Lord.”

Trust is an integral part of a living, ongoing relationship. Trust means knowing someone well enough that you can count on that person and then acting in accordance with that trust. Believing, having faith, trusting are the fundamentals of life with God. Trust, however, does not come naturally for most of us.

Today we’re going to look at a time in Paul’s life and ministry where his faith in God was tested beyond its normal limits and how “faith” was worked out and matured through his temporary afflictions.

By way of reminder, Paul is writing this Epistle (letter) to a group of people in Philippi, a group of people he had not seen for about five years. Paul founded this church in Philippi about ten years earlier (50 AD). Their love for him and participation with him in the gospel fostered a profoundly loving relationship between them.

Paul is writing with much joy and love in his heart for these people. And in his salutation, what we meditated on the last time we were together, we found Paul, with this frame of mind and heart, expressing his love and joy for them. He wants them to be encouraged that God is a completer!

And now, Paul begins to explain his prison circumstances to these beloved people, not to cause worry or fear, but to give them greater encouragement to persevere in the faith, or as he says in verse 27, so they may “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.”

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my [a]imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the [b]praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brothers and sisters, [c]trusting in the Lord because of my [d]imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

FOCUS ONE:

1.  God is sovereign over our afflictions 

To understand this rightly, we must first understand what it means to be sovereign. 

This is part of what it means to be God. For God to be sovereign means: “There are no limits to His rule. He is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. And in Christ, God’s awesome, sovereign providence is the place we as Believers should feel most reverent, most secure, most free.”

This is undoubtedly on Paul’s mind as he writes this letter. The thread that entwines this whole letter together is Christ and His Gospel. In chapter one alone, Paul mentions Christ and His gospel or some aspect to either nine times! And in these first verses, we are looking at we see this evident even in Paul’s prison sentence.

Paul is in prison because of the “cause of Christ,” as he puts it. He is not there because of violence, thievery, embezzlement, murder, or any crime that would warrant such a penalty. He is there because he is obedient to Jesus Christ.

“That which should distinguish the suffering of believers from unbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God. Our suffering has meaning and purpose in God’s eternal plan, and He brings or allows to come into our lives only that which is for His glory and our good.” 

― Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts

But, take notice of what he tells his readers about his situation, he says it: “turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” He wrote that not only the reality of him serving jail time was well known (quickly passed through the grapevine) throughout the whole governor’s palace but also the reason he was in prison!

Now that is not so unusual in our day. Cell phones, the internet, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like make for gossip and essential news to travel extremely fast, but that is a fascinating point in his day.

And what was the result? Notice verse 14 again, many people came to faith in Christ DUE TO his being in prison! And not only that, they had “Far more courage” to speak the word of God without fear! Not what we anticipate would happen if we were to be thrown in jail.

Do you trust in the sovereignty of God over ALL your circumstances, even the scary, fear-filled ones? Have you considered that He can use your “God appointed” afflictions to work out for the “greater progress of the gospel” in the lives of those around you?

Dear unbelieving friend, I want you to see that no matter where you are, no matter how bad you have been, no matter what your circumstances, God sends His people to those places to reveal Christ to you! He has, and still does, give his children gospel ministry in even the darkest and most hopeless places. So, grab hold of Him as many people around Paul did.

15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even [a]from envy and strife, but some also [b]from goodwill; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition [c]rather than from pure motives, thinking that they are causing me distress in my [d]imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice.

FOCUS TWO:

God is sovereign over the gospel

Now, even though the gospel was progressing amidst Paul’s hardship, strife was ever-present. 

Take notice of the two motives Paul mentions for the gospel going forward.

A. Envy and strife

B. Goodwill

“He rejoices that Christ is proclaimed. But some of the proclaimers are sinning as they proclaim, trying to afflict Paul by making him feel jealous that they are free while he is in prison. What is more astonishing is that this sinful behavior is just the opposite of the way the gospel itself would incline a person to act. So, they are hypocrites. They preach the gospel and then contradict in their very motives the gospel they are preaching.”

The one response that of envy and strife is a hypocritical approach to sharing the gospel. Paul says these people were doing it “out of selfish ambition,” not out of love for Christ and appreciation of the salvation He graciously bestowed upon them. 

Their goal was to cause him distress, believe it or not, upon the grief he was already facing being imprisoned and limited in his freedoms. But the others, those of goodwill, shared Christ out of love. Love for Paul, love for their savior!

Brothers and sisters, we should be cautious to keep our motives in check in regards to our serving Christ and sharing His gospel. Are your motivations pure for telling others the gospel message, or are they hypocritical? 

Are you sharing the gospel because you genuinely want to be obedient to Christ? Because you love Him and those other sinners He came to redeem, or are you sharing the gospel, participating in an evangelism ministry, because you are worried about what other Christians might think about you if you didn’t?

The only pure motivation for sharing the gospel is a love for Jesus Christ and what He willingly and joyfully accomplished for you and me at the cross. 

Now don’t miss this fantastic fact that Paul tells his readers in verse 18:

“No matter what, in pretense (for show) or in truth, the gospel went forward, Christ was proclaimed!”

How can that be? How can the gospel be effective in such a place under such circumstances? The short but accurate answer–God is sovereign over His gospel!

19 for I know that this will turn out for my [a]deliverance through your [b]prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my eager expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 [c]But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know [d]which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sakes. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy [e]in the faith, 26 so that your pride in Christ Jesus may be abundant because of me by my coming to you again.

FOCUS THREE:

God is sovereign over our lives

God’s providence concerning his being in prison and the gospel being proclaimed there, “for show or in truth.” In verses 19-21, Paul is expressing his faith in the providence of God. Notice he says that it is his “earnest expectation and hope,” That even in those circumstances, Christ, as always, would be exalted in his body whether by life or by death.”

How can a faithful minister of the gospel, in prison, have such confidence? How can he trust (that word we talked about when I started this post) that God would use him and be exalted by using him even if it means his demise? Well, that has to do with rightly understanding the “providence” of God.

What is the providence of God? Here is the answer of the Heidelberg Catechism (Question 27): It is:

“The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were, by his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.”

And why is that important for us to grasp? Why was that critical for Paul to believe? What good will it do? Here is the answer to question 28.

“That we may be (patient) in adversity, (thankful)l in prosperity, and for what is future have (good confidence) in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move.”

What joy, dear Christian, how God is sovereign over our afflictions, sovereign over His gospel, and here in these verses (22-26) Paul reveals how He is in control of our lives.

a. Hard pressed from both directions/competing desires

b. Be with Christ (death) or remain on here (life, ministry)

c. Remaining will be “fruitful labor,” (22)

d. Remaining is more necessary for the Philippians (24)

e. To be with Christ is “very much better.” (23)

f. Paul’s love for these people is evident in these verses.

Well, Verse 22 is a clear follow-up to verse 21. Paul is picking up on his first clause (to live is Christ), Paul is assessing what its outcome will mean for him in the body (literally “flesh”), namely, fruitful labor. An opportunity to bear more fruit through ministry. But, it would be a physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually costly process–and the prospect of leaving the battlefront and going home was appealing indeed. 

But rather than follow that up with a similar sentence (“if it means death”), he jumps ahead to reflect on what he might do (if he, in fact had a real choice in the matter.) “I simply cannot say,” “I don’t know which to choose.” he says; indeed, I am torn between the two, since it means Christ in either case.” (Gordon Fee, amended)

Paul says that he is “hard pressed,” the Greek word used there is “sun-echo” means to be hemmed in on both sides and was used of a traveler in a narrow passage or gorge, with a wall of rock on either side, hemmed in, unable to turn aside and able only to go straight.  

And so, Paul expands upon the options of life or death. One commentator puts it this way: “If he continues his sojourn on earth–“But if I live on in the flesh”–then he sees it as an opportunity to bear more fruit through ministry. Again we see Paul’s strict single-mindedness (the mind of Christ)–he saw himself as an instrument for the unleashing of God’s glory as long as time permitted (cf Acts 9:15). However, this unleashing would be a costly process–and the prospect of leaving the battlefront and going home was appealing indeed. So appealing that he adds, “yet what I shall choose, I cannot tell (lit.–I do not know).”

Paul’s point seems to be that he had not yet decided which to choose because the Lord had not yet made it known to him which to choose. Because he was not sure of the Lord’s will in the matter, he was not sure of his own.

Have you ever felt that way, Christian? Do you think that way right now? Have you come to a place where you have lost your zeal, your faith is waning, the conflicts all around you are seemingly impossible, and you want to -if-you-haven’t-yet, cried out, “Lord, take me home, I am more than ready.”

I want to encourage you with this quote:

“If God has done what you think he should do, trust him. If God doesn’t do what you think he should do, trust him. If you pray and believe God for a miracle and he does it, trust him. If your worst nightmare comes true, believe he is sovereign. Believe he is good.” 

― Craig Groeschel, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist

Don’t give up; trust Him and wait for His will to be revealed to you.

TEACH ME TO PRAY

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I often say my prayers

But do I always pray?

Or do the wishes of my heart

Go with the words I say?

I may as well kneel down

And worship gods of stone,

As offer to the living God

A prayer of words alone.

For words without the heart

The Lord will never hear,

Nor will He to that child attend

Whose prayers are not sincere.

Lord, show me what I need

And teach me how to pray,

And help me when I seek thy grace

To mean the words I say.

Author unknown

A COMPLETING GOD (part two)

STUDY TWO

Philippians 1:1-11

BRIEF INTRO:

Our previous study began to look at and meditate on the first 11 verses of this epistle. Towards the end, however, we focused on the “good work” (v.6) that began in each new believer in Jesus Christ. A work that is not only agreeable but is excellent and honorable! Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). Paul told the Corinthians this: “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). But, we ended that post without hearing all Paul had to say, so, let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?

FOCUS ONE

Paul also says (v.6) that God will complete (perform) this good work “until the day of Christ.” I like the Holman Christian Standard translation: “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.” In other words, God has started something in a new believer. God has begun something in you and I, Christian, that He will progressively work at until He brings that believer home to be with Him! Paul wrote in Romans 8:29 that, “for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become (conformed to the image of His Son). . . .” You see, the “end game,” if you will, of what He began in a sinner redeemed by His grace is to make every child of God increasingly more like His Son!

The Theological term for this work is called “sanctification.” That means to be set apart or setting apart. This is a process, a result of the Holy Spirit as He is working to make the believer holy (set apart) and more reflective of the character of God.

There are, however, some basics about sanctification that we need to get ahold of before we move forward. There are three aspects to being sanctified:

1. Positional sanctification (Believer forgiven and set apart to God at conversion) 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (Divine side)

“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you [a]from the beginning for salvation [b]through sanctification [c]by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”

2. Experiential sanctification (believer daily, constantly “being” set apart by the means of grace: Preaching of the Word, prayer and the sacraments) Gal. 2:20 (Human side)

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and [a]the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

3. Complete sanctification (at death, or the Rapture, when our spirit is reunited with our resurrection body and behold Christ) Rev. 21

That is something weighing on Paul’s mind as he writes this epistle. He speaks of God’s work being completed on the day of Christ. And that the Philippians would be shown to be sincere and blameless in the day of Christ so that He would have cause to joy (over them) in the day of Christ.

So, dear reader, even though it is true that we are positionally set apart to God as His dear Children at salvation, and even though it is equally valid that we, one day, yet future, will be wholly set apart to Him with no more sin to ensnare us– this one truth remains: there is something for us to do while we await final and complete sanctification. Not for our salvation, but because of our salvation and new position in Christ! We understand the first, struggle with the second, and patiently await the third. 

FOCUS TWO

There must be an effort, on our part, using the means of grace graciously given, to become more like Christ, to be clothed with Christ and conformed more into His image. Scripture tells us in Ephesians 6 that there is a battle, and it is spiritual in nature with principalities and powers.

So, we are given the whole armor of God to fight in the battle. We are told it involves:

Trials and tribulations

Temptations to evil

False teaching

Bad Governments

And myriads of other things

These struggles are things we face in our lives, and God uses them to do “His completing” work in us. James wrote: “Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing (1:2- 4).”

Paul told the Philippians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling (2:12). In other words, they are to actively carry it out (this new life in Christ) to its logical conclusion. This would be manifested in their daily lives. He said, “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I will not be disqualified.” He is speaking of Siscipline and godliness, so he would not be disqualified from ministry or disobedient to Christ and His word.

We are told throughout the New Testament how we are to live, especially in Titus 2:12-13: 

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. Instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present world.”

Does that sound like an impossible mission Christian? Do you find yourself overwhelmed at times walking this weary way, struggling with temptations, trials, sins of others, your own sins? Does it seem impossible to be more like Christ?

Brothers and sisters, He did not leave us defenseless:

He gave us:

His Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13) Sealed at conversion, Produces fruit in us (Eph. 6:11)

His word (Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16)

His promise/His heart (John 14:1-3; 17:20-24 prayer)

This begs the question: So, we know that His Spirit seals us at salvation, and we know that He has given us a Bible to read and hear preached as well as taught to us. We know His heart is for us to “make it through.” BUT how do we correctly utilize the Armor of God? How do we do that?

FOCUS THREE

Each piece of that armor is a characteristic of Jesus Christ. To sum up the armor, it is Christ-likeness. To put on Christ-likeness is to say, “How am I to reflect Christ in this situation? Once we implement the answer to that question, we are armored. It is a reflection of our spiritual relationship with the Savior. As we grow in that relationship and put it into action, we are arming ourselves for battle” (Billy Graham).

Our lives, brothers and sisters, should be lives that seek to glorify our Savior.

Suppose you are paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed to be done. How could you glorify this friend if a stranger came to see you?

Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?

And so, your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind, faithful and good. You glorify your friend by needing him, and by asking him for help, and counting on him” (desiring God).

Dear Christian, God has graciously redeemed us unto Himself and that work, as great as it is, setting us apart unto Himself, giving us newness of life and a new position before Him, makes us a “work in progress.” God continues to work in our lives to make us more like His son Jesus!

And Just as Paul “is confident of this very thing”———so should we be. God is a completer. He will finish what He has started to the praise of His glory and grace, amen

A PREACHER ON THE FENCE

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From out of the millions of the earth

God often calls a man

To preach His Word, and for the truth

To take a loyal stand.

It’s sad to see him shun the cross,

Nor stand in its defense

Between the fields of right and wrong

A preacher on the fence.

Before him are the souls of men

Destined for heaven or hell;

An open Bible in his hand, and yet he dare not tell

Them all the truth as written there;

He fears the consequence-

The shame of heaven, the joy of hell-

A preacher on the fence.

Most surely God has called that man

To battle for the right,

Tis his to ferret out the wrong

And turn on us the light.

He standeth not for right or wrong,

He feareth an offense,

Great God, deliver us from him

That preacher on the fence.

If he should stand up for the wrong,

The right he’d not befriend;

If he should boldly stand for right,

The wrong he would offend.

His mouth is closed, he dare not speak

For freedom or against.

The most disgusting thing on earth

A preacher on the fence.

His better judgement, common sense,

They pull him to the right;

Behold him grip that topmost rail,

And hold with all his might;

His love of praise, it holds him fast,

Keeps him from going hence,

Poor man! How fearful will be his plight

A preacher on the fence.

Author unknown

TRANQUILITY

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I am sitting in my new yard enjoying all the beauty around me; the trees, flowers, birds, and the blue sky. What a choice moment in time; to meditate on the Lord’s goodness, faithfulness, and patience. I say “new yard,” because I have just relocated to Indiana from Pennsylvania. The planning, packing, traveling, and unpacking are all behind us, but the lessons learned, the wise reminders, and the constant faithfulness of my Father in heaven are now the things that flood my mind and fill my heart

One would think that after being a Christian for many years, I would not need God’s reminders, that I should be “rock solid” in my confidence in Him, that He will supply all my needs. I wish that were so, but it isn’t. Through this whole process of selling one home and purchasing another, I often found myself anxious about almost everything! House showings, finances, and interstate moving of all I own in one 26′ u-haul! I know that may not seem like a lot, but you pack it up in a truck, it quickly becomes overwhelming.

Why do we worry so much about everything? The insignificant as well as the vital matters of life. Indeed, one answer to the question would be that we’re human, and as such, are finite beings who do not know with certainty what the future holds. I think another answer could be that we are not very good at applying past lessons learned in our new experiences.

I have been thinking about the latter for some time. How often do we find ourselves in a predicament; decisions need to be made; life changes require us to seek God’s face and trust His will. You can add many other scenarios to this as well, and the point I am making becomes apparent; at least it should be evident.

These particular situations are new to us, they are not the same situations we faced last week or even last year, BUT they require the same trust in God and the same commitment to follow His will, wherever that may lead us! I often find that I am constantly re-learning this truth each-and-every time I face some new trial, some new situation that requires me to make choices when I do not have all the answers.

Lessons such as: 

  1. 1. Not to worry about the essentials: what I will eat or drink or wear because our Father in heaven knows our needs and provides for them (Matthew 6:25-34).
  2. 2. To take “one day at a time,” because tomorrow will care for itself (Matthew 6:34).
  3. Rather than give sway to our anxietieswe should PRAY! Prayer is the antidote to fear!
  4. 3. Remember that we are not alone in our daily walk. God has given us (believers) His Holy Spirit as a pledge because he cares for us. Rather than act in fear and pride, we need to humble ourselves under His mighty hand (Philippians 4:6-7)!
  5. 4. Our anxieties have ALWAYS proven to be a heavy weight to bear. (Proverbs 12:25), BUT casting these cares upon Him will give our hearts peace and life to our bodies (Proverbs 14:30)!

I know this. I have been taught these things. I had these struggles between worry and faith, pride and humility, and impatience and patience many times over in my life, and yet, when a new “unknown” befalls me, I become a student of His grace once again.

Some “Christian” authors write articles or books about “the secret of tranquility.” But it is no secret. God wants us to know how to experience true and lasting tranquility in this life, so He explained it to us in His holy Word!

The Psalmist tells us (Psalm 37:3-7) that we can experience true and lasting tranquility by being obedient to the Lord in these ways:

  1. v.3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
  2. v.4 Delight yourself in the Lord.
  3. v.5 Commit your way to the Lord.
  4. v.7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

As much of a challenge that all these life changes have been for me, I have happily found that I am doing better in casting my anxieties upon Him, but still have much room for growth!

.

IN THE CLOUDS

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I often look into the sky
Each and every day,
Wondering what I might see
As clouds pass by my way.

Sometimes the clouds are sparse;
Not many to behold,
But other times, they’re thick and full
Rolled out much like a scroll.

So many things are in those clouds;
Bewildering my mind,
Oftentimes I can spend hours,
Musing at things I find.

Look, there’s a horse
And over here’s a dog;
It’s crazy what I see.
You might think I’m nuts,
But I know it’s not only me

You might say it’s a waste of time;
Looking into the sky,
But If we don’t something important
Might possibly pass us by.

What might be that important,
You question as you sigh.
Oh, dear friend, the Lord Himself,
For our redemption draweth nigh!

By: Larry Stump Jr.

THE SPIRIT OF TRUE WITNESSING

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EXTENDED READING: ACTS 5: 12-32

DEVOTIONAL VERSE: Verse 32

” And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

When you have the opportunity to be a witness for Christ and share the Gospel with someone, who do you think is the “soul winner?” I ask this question because there has only been one soul winner in all of history, contrary to some modern-day teaching, and it isn’t you or I. It is and always has been the Holy Spirit.

Ray Stedman said it well, “we are not salesman for God, with a mandate to talk people into buying something. . . No salesperson is dependent upon a person working within him to do the job properly. Yet that is who we are as witnesses for Christ.”

“Our witness as a believer is vitally related to the Holy Spirit. Jesus had said that the Holy Spirit would be a witness and that the apostles would be witnesses. He had shown them how the Holy Spirit would not testify of Himself but Christ. 

In this verse, the fulfillment of that promise is evident. The apostles were conscious that the Holy Spirit of God indwelled them. They recognized that they were instruments of God to the degree that that Spirit possessed them.

There is a tremendous lesson here for every believer. No one can be a witness for Christ and a herald of the Gospel by individual initiative. It is only as one follows the direction of the True Witness that he can communicate to others the divine testimony.”

Empowerment for witnessing comes from Him.

PRAYER: Father, help us trust that your Spirit within us is the only one who can save sinners. Grant to us encouragement to witness for Christ and boldness to speak the truth in love to those who desperately need to hear it. Amen.

*Adapted from the Topical Chain Study Bible