Friday, July 29, 2011

The Furtherance of the Gospel

The Search for Joy
The Furtherance of the Gospel

Philippians 1:12-26

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;  So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;  And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:  The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:  But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.  What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I there in do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.  For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,  According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.  For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:  Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.  And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;  That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

Through Paul’s letters to the Philippians, his imprisonment in Rome appears to be very evident, it was for the furtherance of the gospel. In spite of the obstacles, dangers, and many disadvantages Paul experienced in prison, there was no hinderance to the spreading of the message of salvation. Those around Paul realized that he was not a criminal but that his imprisonment was due to his zealous preaching of the gospel. Paul found true joy in preaching the gospel and winning souls to Christ. Being shackled to a prison guard was not a negative situation to Paul but an opportunity to minister to those in need of Christ.
Paul certainly experienced much sorrow and tears in his journeys with Christ but proved to be unwavering in his devotion to the Lord in writing; “that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The chains he wore were meant to cause discomfort, pain and suffering but Paul perceived those bonds of iron as a tighter grip of salvation’s joy. Paul’s reason for being was summed up in this one verse, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 

Paul spoke of being in a strait betwixt two, which pictures a traveler on a narrow road with walls on either side leaving him no other choice than to walk the straight path before him. He understood that if he died he would gain heaven having complete and joyous fellowship with Christ but, the greatest need was to stay and continue in the furtherance of the church and their joy of faith. Paul lived a fruitful life encouraging the Philippian people to live joyfully, overflowing in the confidence that Jesus Christ was working in their lives, not in Paul’s personal abilities, but in Christ alone.
Thought: Where did Paul find such joy that would sustain him through the burden of being chained and imprisoned? How could the furtherance of the gospel be his sustaining joy? The real question might be in asking, “In what or in whom do you obtain your joy?” If your joy is not found in the person of Jesus Christ and what He has done for you on the cross, then you are men and women most miserable. My dear friend, you cannot be unhappy knowing God has revealed Himself to you personally through salvation and has caused you to see Him as a Faithful Friend, a Helper of the helpless, the Lover of you soul and not have a continual source of abundant Joy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

God's Fruit of Righteousness

The Search for Joy
God’s Fruit of Righteousness

Philippians 1:1-11

Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.  And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.  

If we were to search for joy, we probably would not go to prison to find our source of joy there. Yet, Paul, while imprisoned, writes this wonderful letter about having true joy and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord. Paul speaks of a warm and intimate relationship he and Timothy had with the church at Philippi and describes them both as, “servants of Jesus Christ,” which literally means, “slaves” of Jesus Christ. Being noted as a servant, bondservant or slave to Jesus Christ indicated a true willingness to be identified with Him having strong allegiance and loyalty.
As Paul awaits his trial in Rome, he has others on his mind, not himself. Paul is especially thankful for the saints in Philippi expressing his heart felt love for them and his longing to see them all again. Paul’s memory of Philippi could have brought great sorrow to mind for he had been illegally arrested, beaten and publicly humiliated before the people. A great lie and deception from Satan is that we cannot enjoy our lives in the midst of unpleasant circumstances. Paul found joy in remembering his friends and bringing them before the Throne of Grace in prayer. Paul’s prayer for his fellow believers in Philippi was that they may abound in love and mature in their Christian character, being sincere and without offence til the day of Christ. 
Paul speaks of being filled with the fruits of righteousness which means when a person is truly filled with the Spirit of God this fruit brings praise and glory to God. Bearing fruit is leading the souls of men to the righteousness of God,  And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3) and to give joyful praise to God with thankful hearts. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Hebrews 13:15).

Thought:  As we reflect on the first eleven verses of Philippians, let us focus on verse 6 which reads, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” a perfect work of salvation. Paul writes these first few verses because of his great love for Christ, his over abounding love for the people of Philippi and the perfect work of salvation continuing in his own life. God’s redeeming and renewing work of salvation in the life of a believer continues until the glorious day of Jesus Christ. He who has began the work of redemption will continue to perform it until the return of our Lord to earth. What faithfulness God shows here to the redeemed and Paul establishes his unshakable confidence in the work of God in the lives of the people of Philippi as well as in himself. Paul is encouraging the Philippians that He that has begun this perfect work of salvation in them will continue to supernaturally transform them into the image of Christ and work in them until He comes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Introduction to the Book of Philippians

Introduction to the Book of Philippians
Short History Behind the Book 

The author of Philippians is unanimous with the early Christians that started the church, Paul wrote the book of Philippians. The writing of the epistle was during his first imprisonment in the city of Rome, the capitol of the Roman Empire where he was guarded by Roman soldiers. And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him (Acts 28:16). No better place for the spreading of the Gospel than in Rome where he was imprisoned and awaiting a verdict on his case. His charge, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ the long awaited Messiah who came and was crucified as promised by the Prophets. 
 (Acts 28:17-20)  And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.  Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.  But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto C├Žsar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.  For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. 

Paul felt that he was being misrepresented by certain members of the Sanhedrin accusing him of being an apostate Pharisee or a traitor to his country. His only crime was his firm faith in God’s spiritual deliverance of the Jews through the Messiah. The discussions were long and rather stormy in which the unbelieving Jews were severely warned by Paul, before leaving the meetings, that if they did not accept “truth,” they would be blinded by their own rejection of Christ’s salvation and God would send the salvation of the Lord unto the Gentiles. Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. (Acts 28:26-28)

Philippi was a Roman colony and the first church founded by Paul in Europe. There was a very small Jewish population in the city of Philippi with no synagogue to worship in being the requirement to form a synagogue was ten Jewish men who were heads of a household. Some devout women of the city met for prayer along side the Gangites River and there they met Paul. The call of God had brought him to Philippi where he preached the Gospel and Lydia became a believer.  Most likely, the Philippian church initially began meeting in Lydia’s spacious home for she was a wealthy merchant dealing in expensive purple dyed goods.  And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there.  And she constrained us. (Acts 16:14-15)

Thought: This epistle, written so long ago, should be read often with long meditation following it’s reading. The book of Philippians provides spiritual healing to the believer in a world so afflicted by unbelief, secularism and deteriorated faith. It is a triumphant book of a triumphant Savior overflowing with spiritual power and joy. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Jesus, Our High Priest and Final Sacrifice

Jesus, Our High Priest and Final Sacrifice
Leviticus 1:3-5

 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.  And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Only the high priest could sacrifice the animals brought into the tabernacle. God commanded that each animal was to be clean without blemish or defect and that the person bringing the animal into the courtyard would place his hand on the animal’s head as a picture of his sin and guilt being moved from him to the animal. The high priest would then sacrifice the animal and sprinkle the blood before the veil of the Holy Place. The offering would be burned and the rest of the blood would be poured into the bottom of the altar.  For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)  
The brazen altar was situated right inside the courtyard upon entering the gate to the tabernacle. “To slay” or “slaughter” comes from the Hebrew root word for altar. The Latin word alta means “high.” The altar was raised up on a mound of earth higher than the other surrounding furniture in the tabernacle courtyard making the altar a “high place for sacrifice/slaughter.”  The Bible says that our Lord would be high and lifted up as our atoning sacrifice for sin and that His altar would be the cross, erected outside the city, on a hill called Golgotha. Although the children of Israel were forgiven for their sins by the shedding of blood and sacrificing the animal, they had to come year after year to perform the sacrifices for they were not freed permanently from a guilty conscience. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, came as the ultimate and last sacrifice for the sins of man when He offered up His life. As Isaiah prophesied, But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:5-7)

Jesus has become our High Priest and with the shedding of His own precious blood paid sin’s debt for all eternity. (I Peter 1:18-19) Jesus provides all that we need to be fully and wholly cleansed from sin and the wrath to come. Never again will we have to perform the burnt offering, the drink offering, the meal offering or any other offering or sacrifice for sin. He is our sin offering, for He bore our sins on His own body. (I Peter 2:24)
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:12-14)

Thought:  The horns of animals were placed on the four corners of the altar, which in Bible times, symbolized power and strength. When the sacrifice was made by the high priest, blood was dabbed on the horns of the altar, signifying the power of the blood to atone for sins. There is absolute, complete, and marvelous power in the blood of Christ to forgive sin and save sinners. Jesus is called  “the horn of my salvation” (Psalm 18:2, Luke 1:69). He is the power and strength of our salvation now and forever more. Amen!

Friday, July 1, 2011

God's Wisdom

God’s Wisdom
Romans 11:33-34

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Infinite Wisdom
God is infinite in wisdom. He always knows what is best for us, and He knows the best way to bring it to pass: “His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). God’s infinite wisdom is shown in bringing good out of evil, beauty out of ashes and molding us into His image. He not only knows what we need but when we need it and how best to bring it about in our lives. Most godly character traits can only be developed through trials in our lives, or what we call, adversity.
Have you ever felt that your prayers seemed to go unanswered while you‘re experiencing the greatest adversity in your life? Have you ask? “Is all that I am going through really good for me and will I be able to thank Him for all that He has brought into my life in the end?” I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us that we are to give thanks for all things in our lives: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. God, in His infinite wisdom, wills what is best for us because His Word says, “... My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9) Whether we see or experience beneficial results in this life or not, we are still called upon to trust God. In His love, He wills what is best for us and in His wisdom He knows how to bring all things together for our good.
Finite Wisdom
There are times when we question God’s ability to cause all things to come together for our best and reason within ourselves that these circumstances just can’t be profitable. Have we missed the point in all that God has allowed? Have we missed the leaning possess that God desires to grow us through? Each circumstance in our life, whether we think it good or bad, is for the purpose of gaining knowledge, acquiring understanding and obtaining wisdom in the Word of God as well as in the ways of God. In God’s providential care for us, He orchestrates everything in life to accomplish His will even through suffering and pain. 
Thought:  The New Testament draws a line between the natural mind of man with all of his worldly wisdom and knowledge and the spiritual mind that has been guided by the wisdom of God’s divine truth. The whole conclusion to this matter is God’s wisdom is fathomless and cannot be comprehended by the finite mind of man. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?” (Romans 11:34) Trust God to care for you through every circumstance, relying on His Word to guide you and His great wisdom to accomplish what is the divine will of God for you.