Friday, August 26, 2011

Work Out Your Own Salvation

The Search for Joy
Work Out Your Own Salvation
Philippians 2:12-13
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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.  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Paul was undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of Christ-likeness for anyone to follow and was leading the Philippians to mirror Christ. The Philippians were addressed in this second chapter as, my beloved, appealing to their affection for Paul as well as his love for them. He exhorted them for being obedient to Christ while in his presence and now much more, in his absence. Paul was setting up for all believers, the divine pattern of living that God wants to accomplish in and through every Christian as they cultivate an obedient heart towards Christ.
Work out your own salvation: means to work continually to bring something to fulfillment or completion. Working out your salvation pertains to personal conduct, to being a faithful obedient child of God in your daily walk––to cleanse yourself from all sin and renounce or “put off” any unrighteousness replacing it with virtuous thinking and living. This statement made by Paul does not refer to salvation by works, for we know Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. 
The purpose that God wants to achieve in your life is conformity to His image. Christian, Christ must work in you before He can work through you. This principle is seen throughout Scripture in the lives of many great men of God. Moses was on the backside of the desert for 40 years tending sheep while God was working in him. God was preparing Moses to be a strong and exceptional leader for the children of Israel––to bring them out of bondage. 
Sometimes, in our Christian life, we have a tendency to want to please men and to only obey when those men are watching. We cannot build our lives upon others and what they think or see us do. Paul was teaching the Philippians that they need to serve Christ whether or not he, Paul, was around because there would come a day when Paul would not be around. The power that works in us is the power of the Holy Spirit which gives us strength and wisdom and empowers us to do the work that God has purposed us to do. (John 14:16-17) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;  Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:26)  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Thought: God wants to use us in this world and He has provided us with distinct tools that will help us in this work. The Lord has given us His Word to teach, inspire, encourage and empower us with all truth for His work. We are bestowed with the right to come before God and are exhorted to come boldly before the throne of grace to bring our needs before Him. (Hebrews 4:16) Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. We are assured that if we live godly in this world, we will also suffer for His sake. (1 Peter 4:12-19) Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?  And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
What more could we ask for in working out our own salvation than––His precious Word, the wonderful power of prayer and the privilege of suffering for His sake. How magnificent is His purpose when we view Him as our Perfect Example.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Christ Our Example

The Search for Joy
Christ Our Example
Philippians 2:5-11
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paul, in writing to the Philippians, begins chapter 2 and verse 5 by exhorting Christians to think like Christ in their hearts and minds. The believer’s thoughts, actions, and attitudes, should be of the same mind as Christ when He faced His most severe act of humiliation and death. When we are tempted to promote ourselves or defend our rights before man, remember Christ, being God, didn’t use His divine attributes, which was His rightful claim, but put them aside to become a servant in the form of a man. He made Himself of no reputation and emptied Himself of any privileges that He had with the Father completely submitting to the Father’s will. (Matthew 26:39) And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (John 5:30) I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (Hebrews 5:8) Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; Christ submitted Himself fully to divine direction. Jesus became obedient to the death of the cross and died as a criminal subjecting Himself to humiliation and the excruciating torture of death by crucifixion––the cruelest of all deaths and the most degrading form of death ever devised. 
Wherefore God also, or, for this reason, Christ’s humiliation and death, God highly exalted Him. God exalted Him with a new identity––the God-Man and with that new identity, came new privileges as the interceding High-Priest. His name would be above every name as “Lord,”  the New Testament equivalent for the Old Testament description of God, ADONAI, as supreme Ruler. (Isaiah 45:21-23) Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.  I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. (Romans 14:11) For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 
All creation will bow the knee to Jesus, whoever or wherever they are. It will not matter whether or not man believes God to be sovereign while on this earth, because, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, “to declare or confess openly with praise and thanksgiving,” that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Revelation 5:13) And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 

Thought: The test of a Christ-like mind is not how much you are willing to suffer for Christ alone but how much you are willing to sacrifice for the sake of others as well. This kind of mind leads to a heart of joy because it is submissive like Christ’s. Sometimes we are willing to serve others, if it doesn’t cost us anything, but when there is a price to pay, suddenly we are not interested. Christ willingly laid down His life for us, not in death as a martyr but in death as a Saviour.  Christ is and always will be our example, in His humility, sacrifice, service and a mind submissive to the will of His Father. For this reason, we will bow the knee before Him in praise and honor for who He is, for what He has done, for all eternity, because––He is LORD!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Encouragement in Christ

The Search for Joy
Encouragement in Christ
Philippians 2:1-4
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,  Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Divisiveness, selfishness, and sewing discord among the brethren is usually generated by only a few people in the church––destroying unity between believers and fracturing the congregation.  So, when Paul wrote, “ If there be therefore any consolation in Christ,” he was saying, “If there be any encouragement in Christ, any help, counsel, exhortation, or coming along side to be another helper,” then do this. “ If any comfort of love,” portrays Christ coming to the believer with gentle, tender guidance, in loving compassion. Spiritual unity brings “fellowship of the Spirit,” or a partnership among true believers because the hope of eternal life draws Christians together. God has extended to every believer His great affection and mercy which in the end, should result in oneness and harmony in Christ. Now days, as well as in the days of the Apostle Paul, Christians were rising up against other Christians, how does this promote unity among believers? You’re right!  It doesn’t!
Paul wrote, “ Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind,” which communicates, “make my joy complete by thinking the same way that I do in loving all believers justly, compassionately, and affectionately as Christ has shown to us. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;” speaks of the pride that causes people to push for their own ways in empty conceit and self ambition having no proper honor for others through humility and lowliness of mind. “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (I Peter 2:15-17).
Selfishness is an all consuming and destructive sin in the life of a believer. Selfishness breeds anger, resentment and jealousy and is often clothed in a cloak of piety promoting ones own spiritual abilities, “all for the cause of Christ.” Discord and division of the brethren is inevitable when people focus on their own agendas and disregard fellow believers in sinful indifferences that produce jealousy, strife, contention and in the end, disunity. Paul’s heart was to bring oneness to believers, true joy, fellowship, love for one another, esteeming one another in the compassion and mercy of Christ.

Thoughts:  If it hurts my heart that Christians disregard and neglect other Christians, what do you think it does to the heart of God?  Are you esteeming others before yourself? Is your agenda first place in your life or are the needs of another Christians more important? True unity comes from a heart that cares for others more than caring for oneself. My Christian friend, encourage unity among other believers and put aside indifferences that produce strife, conflict, division and opposition.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Suffering for His Sake

The Search for Joy
Suffering for His Sake
Philippians 1:27-30
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.  For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
Paul is encouraging the people to conduct their lives as citizens of heaven, realizing that the world around them only sees the Gospel by what they perceive or view in their lives. The word conversation, does not mean how we talk but the way in which we walk. We are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. The most powerful weapon against the enemy of Christ is not a stirring message or some book written about Jesus; but in the consistent life of the believer living out the Gospel day after day. “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Let the world see Christ in your life, then you will be able to share the Gospel with them because of the conversation of your life has been transformed by the Gospel.
The sufferings of the Philippian and Macedonian Christians were mentioned more than once by Paul in his writings. “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2). With the privilege of knowing Christ as personal Savior, it is also a privilege to suffer for His sake. “ For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;” If we suffer for Christ’s sake reproach and loss, we are to consider it a gift from Him. We are to strive together for the Gospel’s sake, not strive one against another. We are to be of one spirit and one mind, standing fast against any opposition of the Gospel the adversary may bring. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). 
Thought: Paul is encouraging believers that when they stand fast for the sake of the Gospel, they will suffer persecution. He instructs them to be consistent in living their lives as becomes the Gospel and in the end they will receive a great reward. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:” ( II Timothy 2:12.) Paul instructs the people that there is a enemy that wants to steal this treasure from them and cripple the ministry of the Gospel; but God gives the grace we need to go through any trial and enables us to have joy in the midst of every battle.