LIGHTS IN THE WORLD

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Phil. 2:12-18

NOT SO BRIEF A RECAP:

Paul has written this letter to a group of believers in Philippi whom he loves dearly. There is a fond affection from them, for him, as well. These believers participated in gospel work with Paul from day one (1:5). He says they are “partakers of grace’ with him (1:7). He calls them “brethren,” a term of endearment (1:12). “My beloved” another such term (2:12). He mentions there “proud confidence” in him (1:25). One cannot miss what he says about these folks in (4:1). He uses the terms “dearly beloved” twice, “brethren,” “longed for,” “my joy and crown (to Paul they were both a reward and a blessing).

From the first day, he says in 1:5, reflecting on his second missionary tour and first act on European soil, which we read about in (Acts 16: 12-40), they shared his interests, made his suffering their own, twice sent him money at Thessalonica (4:16), once at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:9) and now again at Rome (4:18). We read of their love for him (1:9), and that love was reciprocated in full measure (1:7,8).

We also took notice that “There was a pronounced lack of any doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was no doctrinal deviation. These folks had not gone astray in terms of theology. So, they didn’t need to be corrected. No immorality in the congregation is confronted in the epistle. So, what we saw, generally speaking, was that this is a quality group of people. They were a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.

But, despite all of that, there was hanging over that church a troubling cloud, and that cloud was dripping drops of disunity, discord, and conflict, within their fellowship, and Paul is greatly grieved over that.

This is what is burdening Paul; unity and the lack of it in this otherwise GOOD church. Let me remind you that Paul frames the letter with that issue in mind. For example, in the first chapter, he speaks of it, verse 27, when he says, “I want you to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In chapter 4, the last chapter, he speaks of it in verses 1 and 2 when he says, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. And I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”

So, in chapter 1, we see an urging toward one mind and one heart. In chapter 4, another urging toward one mind and one heart, And then in the middle is this second chapter, and the opening verses also deal with the issue of unity in the church. This is a plea for unity.

The following verses that we will be looking at follow the flow of the theme of unity begun in 1:27. The plea, based on the results of salvation in their own lives (2:1), the various elements involved in it, and the excellent example of Jesus for our atonement (Vv 5-11).

1. Obedience

2. Reverence

3. Self-less-ness

4. Sacrifice

5. Put sinners above Himself

6. Exaltation

We should take notice that these verses (12-18) begin with “so then,” or “wherefore.” In other words, Paul is saying, because of all that was just said, do this or conduct yourself in a particular manner. After verse 5, which is in the imperative or a command, Paul spoke in the indicative, relating facts or truths. But the facts or truths are to have repercussions in the Christian life. And that is what he is expressing in verses 12-16.

So, let’s jump in! 

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure.

FOCUS ONE:

Working out our salvation 

Paul begins by mentioning their obedience in spiritual things, not just when he was present but even MORE SO in his absence. In 1:5, he says their obedient,

faithful participation in the gospel from the very beginning. In 4:15, he mentions their obedience and faithfulness in supporting his ministry from day one while no other churches did!

This is a very commendable thing, obedience, isn’t it? As parents, we appreciate and praise God for such obedience in our children, don’t we? What a joy it is to our hearts to know that our children do what they are supposed to, EVEN when we are not there to oversee them. It is good they obey when we are there, but so much more pleasing when they follow our wishes when we are not. Amen.

So, with that strong accolade mentioned, Paul now exhorts them to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (vs. 12).”

Let me be clear. Paul does not mean that they have to work for salvation – Eph. 2:8-9. These people were already saved – Phil. 1:1. We see in verses 12 and 13 that there are two parts to this appeal, and we need to hold them in proper balance, or we can easily be deceived in our thinking on what sanctification is and how God uses it in our lives as Christians. In verse 12, we hear about our part, and then in verse 13, we read about God’s part.

So, this word, work in v. 12, means to bring to full completion, and along with the following verse, it also means that God gives us the energy to do His will. (We do not and cannot do it alone!) Paul is evident on that!

Our-part

Paul says, “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” Many Christians are busy trying to “work” out everyone else’s salvation. It’s that ole speck and log issue Jesus told the people about on the Mount back in Matthew 7:1-5. Christian, we cannot work out anybody else’s salvation—–BUT we must, according to the inspired word of God—work out OUR SALVATION!

At first glance, this doesn’t sound quite right. Let’s look at what Paul is saying a little more closely:

“…First, let’s take the phrase “your own salvation.” What a great possession! The only reason salvation is mine is because it was His first! He planned it! He purposed it! He pursued it! He paid it! And He pressed it upon my heart! Salvation became mine, and it became yours when we placed our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This salvation, when received, one writer says: “buries the past, changes the present and insures the future! What a great salvation we have in Jesus!”

Friends, we don’t work “for” our salvation, or “toward” it, or even “at” it, but we are to work “out” our salvation. Remember, Paul is writing to the Christian community, and he uses the plural pronoun for “you,” meaning he is addressing the entire church. This means that we are to live out what we know to be true.

Since we are saved, we must behave as believers, as “citizens of Heaven (3:20).”

The word “work” means to “work fully to the point of finishing the job.” The Romans used it for “working a mine” ultimately, getting out every piece of valuable stone. Likewise, we are to mine the depths of our rich redemption that was granted us by His grace.

God deposited a wealth of blessings into our lives; Paul mentioned some in verse 1(in his appeal), now we must go down deep to experience and enjoy what we’ve been given.

Charles Spurgeon explains it this way: “To will and to do, He gives the whole ability. It is by the grace of God which inclines the will to that which is good: and then enables us to perform it, and to act according to our principles. ‘You have wrought all our works in us,’ Isa. 26:12. Of His good pleasure, as there is no strength in us, so there is no merit in us. As we cannot act without God’s grace, so we cannot claim it, nor pretend to deserve it. God’s good will to us is the cause of His good work IN us…”

Application?

You and I cannot do righteous works without the aid of the Righteous one.

We have no strength, no will for holiness without God’s grace.

What you and I accomplish along these lines is solely in accordance with the kind intention of His will working within us.

We are to live out daily in our lives what we know to be true as God has revealed to us in His Holy Word, and He graciously provides the desire, will, and results!

FOCUS TWO:

Added to this warning is a qualifier, “with fear and trembling.”

The phrase “fear and trembling” helps us see that we must never take our faith lightly. One commentator says of this: “Fear” describes fright or terror and reverential awe. We must have such a reverence and respect for God that we will be afraid to sin, coupled with a strong desire to please Him.” That’s what Exodus 20:20 states: “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Friend, If you find yourself sinning all the time and not being bothered by it, it could be because you have lost your fear of God. The word “trembling” means “to quake with fear.” Isaiah 66:2 tells us that God wants us to have this kind of attitude when we approach Him: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Psalm 2:11 brings both fear and trembling together: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.”

We can revere God and rejoice in Him, “Believers should have a serious dread of sin and a yearning for what is right before God.”

After all, think about it for a moment. The Philippian believers, just like believers today, do not know, and cannot possibly know, all the sacrifices required of them in doing God’s will.

God’s will for the Philippians involved conflict (1:30), For Jesus, death (2:8), For Paul, imprisonment and possible martyrdom (2:17), for Timothy, costly sacrificial service (v. 20), and Epaphroditus, physical illness, near unto death (v.27).

When we contemplate our lostness, our deep depravity, and our inability to save ourselves, we can’t help but tremble at the thought of getting what we deserve.” We must get serious about our salvation, and as God’s redeemed, we must live responsibly and obediently for Christ.

So, Christian, are you living for and serving the Lord each day in fear and trembling? Or, have you noticed that those elements to your daily walk of faith have diminished or disappeared altogether?

THE MIND OF CHRIST

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Philippians 2: 5 “Have this attitude [a]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [b]grasped,but [c]emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death [d]on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Introduction:

In my last post, we were studying the first four verses of this chapter, chapter two. And I walked us through the letter and showed you how Paul felt about these people and why, so I won’t revisit that in this post. But as a reminder, we saw that all of Paul’s thoughts about this church were positive; his feelings toward them were warm. In 1:5, he is noting for us that they were genuine believers. Verse 7 speaks of their great courage because even in Paul’s imprisonment and “defense and confirmation of the gospel,” they stood with him as “partakers of grace.” But with all the positive things Paul said about them, we also noticed that. “There was a very obvious lack of doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was apparently no doctrinal deviation. These folks had not gone astray in terms of theology. They didn’t need to be corrected. There is no immorality in the congregation which is confronted in the epistle.” So, what we saw, generally speaking, was that this is a quality group of people. They were a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.

But, despite all of that, there was hanging over that church a troubling cloud, thickened with poisonous gases. And that problematic cloud is dripping drops of disunity, discord, and conflict within their fellowship, the likes of which have poisoned so many churches.

I remind you of all that because I think we are prone to assume that disunity and conflict wouldn’t be a problem in a strong church. That is not necessarily the case. One commentator made this point. I shared this with you last time:

“There is a sense in which this is the danger of every healthy church. You see, it is when people are really in earnest, when their beliefs really matter to them, when they are eager to carry out their own plans and their own schemes that they are most apt to get up against each other. The greater their enthusiasm, the greater the danger that they may collide” (William Barclay).

Paul is writing these words in chapter two, continuing the appeal he began in verses 27-30 of the previous chapter. He is building upon the theme of unity. Remember, he used the terms “standing firm in one spirit,” “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

In 2:2, he uses the same language. He says: “be of the same mind, maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Paul wants these believers he loves dearly to express (live-out) the power, influence, and fellowship of the Spirit (benefits of the gospel) they received at salvation within their local fellowship. Paul is very aware of the situation between Euodia and Syntyche, and he addresses it later (4:2).

Paul expressed his joy over their salvation and participation with him in the gospel (1:4). He rejoiced at being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith (2:17). BUT what would bring his joy to it fullness? What would thoroughly complete Paul in his ministry to this church — unity among their fellowship!

And so we saw in verses 2-4, two themes emerge:

1. Fellowship

2. Self-denial

Both are vitally important to have if there is ever to be true unity within a body.

Last time I was only able to give an overview of verses 5-11, and I promised we would return to these scriptures, so here we are. May God grant us through His Spirit, humility, wisdom, and obedience to His Word.

FOCUS ONE:

Read verses 5-11

Think like Christ 

Paul isn’t about to leave these people he loves dearly, thinking that unity and love, God-honoring fellowship, self-less-ness are things they can do on their own in the flesh. He is not about to move on in his letter continuing this appeal, leaving these beloved people contemplating his exhortation without giving them an example to follow.

So, to enforce the earnest exhortations he had just given as to lowliness of mind and unselfish consideration of the things of others, Paul sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme example of this. His voluntary self-abasement, His incarnation, His obedience even unto the death of the cross. The immediate connection is between the principle in Phil 2:4, of having regard to the condition and needs of others, and this sublime example of Christ.”

Paul begins to present before these believers the Lord Jesus Christ! He wants them to understand the mind and heart of Christ as it pertains to His coming to earth to redeem fallen humanity from their sin.

Would you please notice that Paul again uses the imperative voice in the original language in verse five? He used the imperative or “command” language earlier in verse two when he said, “make my joy complete, or fulfill my joy,” depending on your translation. Then, it was a general exhortation to begin something at that very moment. Begin, right now, living in harmony or unity with one another.

But here, Paul is using the imperative voice differently! Here it is in the “present active” voice, which means, my paraphrase here, “Beloved, take this example of Christ I am laying out before you, understand why he did what He did, and be like Him, think like Him, from this day forward.” Paul does something like this in Chapter 4, verse 8.

Paul wants his readers to understand that the mindset, or attitude he wants them to retain in themselves, it was also in Christ Jesus! These are the very things Christ Himself thought upon. These are the very things that led Him to humble Himself and take upon Himself the role of a servant, become a human being, honor the father, and redeem wretched sinners like all of us.

Dear Christian, what’s your mind thinking these days? Are your thoughts cased in humility or pride? Are you thinking in ways that will help you be obedient to Jesus or disobedient? Are you thinking along the lines of “how can God be glorified in this,” or “how can I be glorified in”. . . whatever it is you’re involved in?

Perhaps you are not a Christian and are reading this post. I am thankful that you are here. Are you beginning to understand the amazing love of Jesus toward you? A love that, as we will see in our following verses, led Him to voluntarily humble Himself and take upon Himself humanity so that He could rescue us, rescue you, from your worst nightmare. Facing Him as a holy, righteous judge, guilty of heinous crimes against Him.

His mindset was one of a humble disposition that led Him to Submit Himself to the father in obedience, even obedience that led to His death. The innocent, spotless lamb of God, put to death for guilty, blemished, vile, sinners – of which we all are.

FOCUS TWO:

 Live like Christ (6-8) 

Here Paul opens before us the mind of Christ. Here Paul explains what led to Jesus laying aside, temporarily, His divine privileges. “Jesus Christ, God the Son, decided not to continue enjoying or to “cling to” His heavenly existence. Jesus enjoyed the same divine lifestyle, if you will, in heaven that God enjoyed (because He is God). Even though the Son could have lawfully maintained this heavenly existence, HE DID NOT! Rather, He assumed or took upon Himself a servant’s role and appeared in the likeness of men.

That’s why Paul takes us to the deity (heavenly side) of Jesus first before he shows us His humility (human side). So that we might see His humility in the grandeur of who He is and realize that no matter how far we stoop in this life to serve, we will never even begin to approach the depth to which He has condescended to serve us!

And that ( Ligon Duncan writes)— “as humbling a thought as it is, is also a very encouraging thought, because it reminds us again of that grand truth that we have encountered so many times in the Bible: that God never asks us to do what He himself is not prepared to do, and in fact what He has not already done in greater degree and dimension in time than He asks us to do.”

Paul is NOT talking about Jesus dismantling, unloading, or disinheriting himself of deity in these verses: He couldn’t do it if he wanted to. So, the Apostle Paul underscores the fact that Christ has always been and He continues to be God by His very nature. But despite that fact, and even because of that fact, for our salvation, He does not insist upon the manifestation of that majesty of His deity.

There’s something else that Paul is saying in these verses as well (7-8). He’s saying that when Christ came into this world, He did not claim His privileges and prerogatives. How Jesus accomplished our salvation was not to stand on those things but to give them away, to forego them, to veil His majesty, and to deny himself the rightful privileges and prerogatives that were His.

Jesus, figuratively and literally, “bled” himself out for others as He took upon himself the role of a slave. He voluntarily set aside His rights for the salvation of His people for their eternal well-being. And the Apostle Paul is saying to the Philippian church and us Christian, that is how you ought to live, in a selfless, humble, others serving, God-honoring way within the body of Christ (His church).

Are you following the example of Christ in the way you live out your faith within your local church body? Is Christ’s selfless, humble, others serving, God-honoring mindset, example, yours? If not, what is it that keeps you from following in His footsteps?

LIFE IN THE CHURCH

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1 THESSALONIANS 5:14-15

Study 10

BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, we looked at some of Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians regarding those men who were spiritual leaders in the church. In verses 12-13, he instructed them to “recognize those who labor among you,” and to “esteem them highly, in love, for their works sake.” He then made the plea for there to be peace within their local congregation. We will focus on verses 14-15, where the Apostle expresses how these folks are to treat each other within their fellowship.

14 “We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the [a]unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”

FOCUS ONE: Paul’s list of appeals found in these two verses are:

  1. Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).
  2. Encourage the fainthearted.
  3. Help the weak.
  4. Be patient with all.
  5. Do not repay evil for evil.
  6. (But) always seek what is good for one another.

This is a list of continuing responsibilities that each one of us has toward one another. If your church has a church covenant, you will probably notice that these items are expressed, in some form, within it. 

So, let’s spend some time on each one, fleshing them out a bit, so we can become better equipped to love and serve one another as is fitting those who claim the name of Christ.

  1. Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).

I think that we can all agree that such people need mature, loving accountability. It appears that some of the people in this newly formed church were neglecting their daily duties. They quit work and were not providing for their families. Most likely because of their misunderstanding or misapplication of things that Paul had taught them regarding the Lord’s return when he was with them (1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 5:1-3). This problem even had to be addressed in the Apostle’s second letter (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12).

You may remember that earlier in this letter Paul encouraged them to lead a quiet life, attend to their own business, work with their own hands, and behave appropriately to those outside the church. It appears that some people were not listening to those commands and needed to be admonished.

His next appeal is to encourage the fainthearted. These are people within the local church body that tend to become discouraged and depressed more quickly than most others. Such Christians need someone to come alongside them and share encouraging words; to say and do things to encourage them and cheer them up. The idea seems to be one of attempting to stimulate such people into pressing on in the “good fight of faith,” in other words, encouraging them to persevere!

“help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

FOCUS TWO: Helping the weak is next on his list. Some within the church did not lean on or press into the Lord as much as they should’ve for their spiritual needs. Of course, it should go without saying, but I will say it anyway, we are all weak and need the support and strength that comes from other believers-but some Christians need it more than most. So Paul calls for a “supportive ministry” to help these people.

Paul’s concern is regarding moral and spiritual weakness, not physical weakness. In their case, it might have been issues related to a shrinking back from the persecution they were enduring (3:3-5). Or, it could have related to their giving into various temptations to immorality around them (4:3-8). Another possibility would be their weakness in exercising Christian liberty in doubtful areas; this happened in other churches (Romans 14:1-15). Quite possibly, it was not simply one over another, perhaps all of these things were happening. So, Paul urges those who are strong in the faith, actually, in these words, he expresses that such people within the congregation are responsible for supporting those among them who are weak.

Moving on, we find patience next on his list. “Be patient with all.” This statement actually could be viewed as a summation of the previous three. Dealing with unruly people, the fainthearted and weak among them, would not be easy. Sin is active in all of us and requires our utmost attention in combating it within ourselves. But now he tells them that they have to help others in their combat! And some people say that the Christian life is easy. Really?

It takes a particular disposition to deal with other people who may not like OR apply our help and counsel. You and I can easily fall into a spirit of anger and bitterness. The danger for those receiving patient love and counseling involves their lack of desire to receive and apply such help. Intentionally or unintentionally, a person may be leading those who seek to help into a spirit of resentment or bitterness. But this should not be the case among believers. We all need patient treatment from each other as we “grow up unto all things in Christ.”

15″ See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”

FOCUS THREE: When we are angered or disrespected, our natural inclination is to retaliate or inflict injury, in some way, on the one who hurt us. Paul understood this natural, fleshly tendency within human nature, even among Christians, so he exhorts these people who are immature in the faith, but growing, to “not repay evil for evil” (v. 15). In other words, do not retaliate or seek revenge on someone who wronged you. 

The desire will most likely be strong, but we must resist it. In those times when we feel like “getting even,” we must remember that our Lord spoke against it in Matthew 5:38-42, and so did the Apostle, in more detail, in Romans 12:17-21! 

“(BUT) always seek after that which is good. . .” After dealing with what is harmful or just so much against our nature, Paul gives them and us an alternative, a better way to expel our energy! The Apostle told the Philippian church to “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). We must remember that the offender’s welfare, or person in need, should be our prime objective. We should think of Jesus on the cross, not only for our encouragement but also for an example to follow. His selfless, sacrificial love for sinners, you and I included, is a fantastic example of self-denial that we need to be reminded of and strengthened with. This is true if we are going to be able to walk with such integrity and compassion among our brothers and sisters in Christ and those in the world around us.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. Does your church have a church covenant? If so, read through it and see how well it lines up with these scriptures and others you find during your personal study time.

2. How are you doing regarding caring for others within your local church? Do you receive instruction well? What might have to change in your heart?

3. How do you handle being wronged by someone? Do you harbor resentment or bitterness towards others? What other scriptures can you find that can help you in this area?

THE POWER OF GOD

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Extended reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

1 Corinthians 1:18 “for the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 

The idling of car engines stopped, and many people, including myself, left our vehicles to begin the one-mile hike to the cross. In a small town known as Paxinos, Pennsylvania, the Easter service at the cross is a big event. The 24 foot high cross, placed initially and maintained by the Boy Scouts, troop 250, sits high on top of a mountain, and the only access to it is by walking unless you are unable to walk, then a van will transport you to the top. 

Young and old alike come faithfully each year to sit beneath the cross and hear a sermon of power, hope, and love: the message of the cross! As the pastor preaches, we enjoy a fantastic panorama of the surrounding countryside. The view before us reminds us all that the forgiveness purchased by Christ Jesus on the cross is available to anyone who will turn to Him in faith! 

It’s easy to hear these words of Paul and become discouraged. After all, many people are perishing because they think that no one can die and return to life again. But we should be encouraged as we read these verses because God, in His wisdom, was pleased to use what seems foolish to some to save even the most hardened of sinners! 

Listening to the Easter message reminded me of the ongoing work of salvation that God is accomplishing through His Son, who came to seek out and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Let us encourage one another with these words.

Prayer: Blessed Lord Jesus, let our faith be fixed and unaltered, one that never grows weary or disheartened. Help us be pleased with what you are delighted with, always rejoicing in the hope and glory of Christ Jesus! Amen.

PORTRAIT OF A SAVIOR

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Hands once raised in supplication
Pierced with nails of cruelty
Knees that knelt before the Father
Rendered helpless on a tree 

Brow once knit in concentration
Wanting naught but Father’s will
Bleeding from a thorny crown
Bowed to love’s directive still 

Feet that walked on dusty pathways
Leading Him to destiny
Now wounded, torn and crippled
Stained with blood at Calvary 

This, a picture of my Savior
Forsaken and alone was He
Beaten, suffering, crushed and dying,
Jesus hung upon that tree 

Burden of all mankind’s sin
Held Him there in agony
Magnificent, His tender heart
Stilled by love for you and me 

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5, NIV

WRITTEN BY: CONNIE FAUST