WALK WITH WISDOM (2)

BRIEF INTRO:

In our previous study, we looked at positive, godly influences that a believer needs to have in their life. People like this live in “a manner worthy of our Lord,” indifferent to the circumstances of the day. Such people stand out in our congregations, and it is such people Paul urges us to look for and follow their example.

In this study, we will be looking at the opposite of godly influences, enemies of the cross!

18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their [a]appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things. 20 For our [b]citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21 who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with [c]His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, [d]whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

FOCUS ONE:

Unworthy examples (18-19)

Some people live their lives as “enemies of the cross.” The Apostle is weeping as he writes those words. Brothers and sisters, does such rebellion in the lives of those around you cause you to cry? Does it cause you a-n-y distress of soul? Paul is not speaking of believers who stumbled into sin or who may be facing tough challenges in life and are dealing with doubts, depression, or things like that which they will inevitably work through. No, he is speaking about non-Christians.

These non-believers can be found inside a church, just as well as outside it. These were people who were adding works to their faith for salvation (2,3). Christ isn’t enough, they say, so they are constantly pursuing some form of fleshly merit to gain righteousness. Another group Paul may have been speaking about would be the “antinomians.” These were people who were a law unto themselves. They confessed Christ with their lips but denied Him with their lives. They practiced loose living; they were religious but denied the cross, loved the world, and lived for their flesh.

These are examples we are to turn away from, even call them out!

Such lives patterned after the flesh, living for this world and then adding religion to it, are lives that are destined to destruction (v.19). 

                       But, it is not likely that all these people Paul is speaking about are out-and-out pagans. 

One commentator says: “In all probability they were “professing” Christians, but whose lives were so profligate (recklessly extravagant, wasteful and amoral), that it was clear to Paul that they had never been regenerated, probably not even members of the Philippians church. Think about it. This entire letter would have been much different if “many” such people were in that church. These were people in the Christian community as a whole and therefore posed a danger to every church.”

But dear Christian, we have been changed, have we not? We have been transformed by the renewing of our minds and therefore ought to have nothing to do with the ways of this world. To do so is nothing short of compromise!

Our God has graciously saved us from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40). We now have the mind of Christ, so we can think, act and behave like Him (1 John 2:6). God has given us a new spiritual and moral capability, which continues and matures throughout our lives- as we obey His will, His word, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We are eagerly awaiting our savior to return for us. This expectancy should spur us on to a higher and holier manner of conduct as we await His return. 

This is the goal, the prize that we are to be running the race for, as we will see in our next point!

FOCUS TWO:

The goal and prize (20-21)

 Dear Christian, our citizenship is in Heaven. 

  As citizens of heaven, longing to see our king, King Jesus, we are eagerly waiting for Him to return for us, because as Paul wrote the Corinthians, “he shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8). This is what Paul meant when he wrote back at the beginning of this letter that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6). This is our goal; Christ is our prize! “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28).

“In these early days of the church the doctrine of the last things had three great points of focus,” Boice comments: “The return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the body and the final judgement. Of the three the most significant was Jesus Christ’s return, This was the blessed hope of the Christians; it was for this they prayed. With this thought they comforted one another in the face of sorrow, persecutions death and martyrdom. We can imagine that as they lay in prison, suffering and tormented, often near death, they looked for His coming and thought that perhaps- – – in an instant – – – -and without warning – – – -Jesus would appear and call them home.” 

“As they entered the arena to face lions or looked up to the face of their Executioner, many would have thought with joy in their hearts, “perhaps this is the moment in which Jesus will return; even now, before the beasts can spring or the ax can fall, I shall be caught up to meet him.” 

But this is not the only place in our Bible that teaches us of this blessed doctrine of our Lord’s return. The return of Jesus is mentioned in every NT book except Galatians and the much shorter books of 2nd and 3rd John and Philemon. 

Peter called it “our living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Paul called it our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). John wrote, “look, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him” (Rev. 1:7).

Such truth ought to impact our lives in profound ways and be manifest in the ways we relate to the world around us and the things and people in this world. Christian, are you honestly expecting the Lord’s return? Is that evident in the way you are living?

“If you are motivated by prejudice against others, black, white, rich, poor or whatever, than the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you. If you are contemplating some sin, perhaps a dishonest act in business, sex outside of your marriage, cheating on a test or tax return, or whatever, then the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you.” 

John wrote, “dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, Just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

Perhaps you are reading these words, and you are not “eagerly” awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. You think that you are a pretty good person. After all, you haven’t killed anybody, YET! You give money to charity, attend church sometimes, and are better than many people around you. So, you may be thinking, why do I need a savior? Why do I need this, Jesus?

Let me share this illustration with you from Ray Comfort because it is very telling:

“What if I were to offer you a handful of $1 000 bills or a glass of water, which would you choose? The $1,000 bills, of course—anyone in his right mind would. But, what if you were crawling through a desert, dying of thirst, and you were offered a glass of water or a handful of $1,000 bills, which would you take? The water, of course—anyone in his right mind would. We call that “circumstantial priorities.” Your priorities change according to your circumstances.

Friend, If there were a way to find forgiveness of sin and life everlasting, would you want to know about it? The answer is “yes,” of course it is—anyone in his right mind would. The Bible speaks of riches beyond our wildest dreams—the riches of “everlasting life”—and they are offered in the form of cool, clear water: “Let Him that is thirsty come, and whoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).” 

Right now, you may not be interested in the offer, but if you reject it, on judgment day, your circumstances will radically change, then it will be too late.”

So, please, turn to Christ Jesus; he is the wellspring of living water!

Can you see the importance of this doctrine? One commentator has said that: “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a bit like a clothesline that supports the clean wash. If the line falls, the doctrines of the faith fall. Where the resurrection stands, everything else stands with it” (Boice Com. Pg. 221).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves all the essential teachings of Christianity. 

1. It proves the deity of our Lord (Romans 1:4)

2. It proves our justification before God (Romans 4:25)

3. It proves that the believer in Christ can have a supernatural victory over sin in this life (Hebrews 7:25; Jude 24).

And dear Christian, it is also the un-shakeable evidence for our resurrection!! Because He lives, we too shall live! That is the testimony of Jesus Himself (John 14:19)!

This is why Paul says what he does in this scripture in our text. The truth is, there is an encouragement to press on despite the many obstacles in our way:

1. Jesus is living

2. Because He lives, we shall live

3. And take note: because He was transformed, we shall be transformed! (21)

Jesus is going to transform this body, your body, “in its humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” (21)

This should encourage those folks to press on and comfort them and anyone who has lost loved ones that were believers.  Death is a scary thing. Attached to the thoughts of it are thoughts of wasting away in sickness, the terror of a sudden accident, its connection to our sinfulness.

But friends, in none of those horrific thoughts, in none of those circumstances, does death have the final word, Amen? That is not the end of the story for those who are in Christ! 

Here and in many other places in our bibles, we are taught that we will meet again in the presence of our savior, Jesus Christ. We will meet in transformed bodies— and sin, sickness, sorrow, and the like will all fade away— and be no more in light of the renewing, holy work of Christ on our behalf.

Jesus said: “I am the way the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6)

What an encouragement for these believers in Philippi. What a powerful exhortation to “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Phil. 3:14)

So, because of these things, Paul says: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, whom I long to see, my joy and my crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” (4:1)

We have a glorious savior, the aid of the Holy Spirit to grant us spiritual victory in this life and ultimately the one to come. And, we have a fantastic future with Christ! 

So let us walk with wisdom. Wisdom from the word of God, as we pursue the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

WALK WITH WISDOM

                        Philippians 3:17- 4:1

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BRIEF INTRO: 

Scripture often warns us to avoid harmful influences. Regardless of our age or spiritual maturity. Because over time, those unwise influences will negatively affect our walk with the Lord. Our enemy, Satan, is determined to pull us into sin and wreck our lives, and he often uses bad influences to accomplish his goal. Paul had warned the Corinthian believers of this deception when he wrote them his first letter. In it, He said: “do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15: 33).”

As we have been working through this letter, Paul, we observed earlier, has exhorted these believers to pursue Christ and Christ-like-ness (along with) His righteousness above anything else. Now the Apostle is encouraging these believers to be observant in their daily walk and to follow, imitate people who are pursuing these goals themselves, and not follow the examples of people who are not. One path leads to the goal of vs. 20-21, the other to destruction!

But, how do we know when someone else’s example is to be imitated or not? What “pattern” of behavior are we looking for in other believers that may encourage and strengthen us in our daily lives as we pursue Christ? Does Paul, the “inspired” writer of this letter, desire to lead us away from looking to Christ to now look to men? May it never be! Everything in this chapter previous to these words says otherwise. And so too, his letters to other churches. So, what does the Apostle want his readers to understand, to do? Let’s read vv. 17-4:1 together.

17 Brothers and sisters, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose God is their [a]appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things. 20 For our [b]citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21 who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with [c]His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, [d]whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

FOCUS ONE:

Worthy examples (17)

I think we can break down this verse into two parts. The first: following Paul’s example and the second, observing others who walk according to that pattern of living.

So, let’s begin with this man, the author of this letter and an Apostle of Christ, Paul. The first question we need to ask ourselves is: Is he truly a worthy example for us? After all, he persecuted Christians; he is not perfect. Do you remember what he said to the Romans (Romans 7:18-21)? How can he say things like this, what we read here and in (4:9)? “those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard and seen in me do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” 

Maybe you think Paul is a bit arrogant or perhaps misguided.

After all, this is not the first time he made statements like this: “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” (1 Corinthians 4:16). To those at Thessalonica, he said: “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you. . . . Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).

But, in no way is Paul arrogant or misguided. He considered himself “the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle.” That he told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:9), later he called himself “less than the least of all saints,” in his words to the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:8), and finally, he told Timothy, his “son in the faith,” that he was even the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). All of these realizations came throughout many years of a faithful walk with Christ!

Paul knew that his converts needed examples to see, as well as precepts to learn and obey. The Lord Jesus Christ, of course, is our most excellent example (1 Peter 2:21; Philippians 2:5-11). But by living a life patterned after Christ, Paul could say: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He could be a material example of what regeneration accomplishes in a sinner and a visible representation of what obedience to Christ looks like in application!

Paul lived a life of selflessness, sacrifice, and love. He suffered at the hands of men in many and varied ways. He was a humble, faithful witness, compassionate leader, bold preacher, and faithful to His Lord come- what- may. The Apostle is saying here that we need to see Christ in the lives of our Christian leaders, in the lives of one another!

AND by the grace of God, we also need to live as Christ did so that when people follow our example, they also will be following Christ. That’s what Jesus meant, at least in part, when He said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

I view Paul here with these words, standing out as a representative of leaders in the church, not just him. I think he is including Timothy and Epaphroditus as well. Men in which he earlier claimed, are living lives that are an imitation of Christ’s. So, if there are any Elders, Deacons, or leaders in the church reading this post, are your lives being lived in such a way that you can say, along with Paul, “brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine?”

      Pastors should be godly examples to follow 1 Peter 5:1-3:

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over [a]those allotted to your charge, but [b]proving to be examples to the flock. 4

But it’s not just the spiritual leaders who are under fire here. Notice part two of this verse in our text, “observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” This part is about the rest of us, the congregation of the saints.

FOCUS TWO:

When we as believers read our bibles and pray, as we sit under the sound teaching of the Word of God, as we live and move and build relationships among others of “like precious faith,” we are to be observant. We are to be looking for godly examples around us and learn from them. 

Godly people exhibit godly fruit. Things like sacrificial love, heavenly joy, peace, patience, unwavering faith, self-control, etc. Godly examples are pursuing a deeper relationship with their Lord, fighting the flesh, are humble servants of Christ, they’re not worldly, and they glory in Christ.

People like this live in “a manner worthy of our Lord,” indifferent to the circumstances of the day. Such people stand out in our congregations, and it is such people Paul urges us to look for and follow their example.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

The writer of Hebrews said: “therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

If you are a runner, you keep your eyes on the people in the race ahead of you. Not only to know where they are at physically in the race but for encouragement. They are in the race like you are, they have sacrificed much to get here, they are dealing with various stresses and trials as they run like you are— AND THEY KEEP RUNNING THE RACE!! They are not giving up, and they are not breaking the rules; they “press on for the prize.” 

Such an example during our race is as encouraging as it is instructive and helps us keep the proper perspective. Paul uses the analogy of a race to describe the Christian life of faith- and good examples in our walk of faith are encouraging, instructive, and help us to keep a proper biblical perspective as we “press on for the prize.” Christ Himself!

We are not to be, “imitators of evil, but what is good (3 John 11).

Dear reader, are you living a life that is an example for others to follow? I am not talking about perfection. I am talking about a life lived in faithful, humble, obedient service to Christ. Is your life a pattern of Christ’s? Are you “fixing your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith?” (Hebrews 12:2)?

But, sadly, verses 18-19 remind us that bad examples, unworthy examples, exist in the church, and they are not the examples we are to follow.

We will spend time on that next week!

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