Monday, December 21, 2009

Philippians 4:6-9 (Part 2) -- God meets the needs His people

Text: Philippians 4:6-9

The entire section of the first nine verses of Philippians is one cohesive unit. The individual thoughts within are interrelated. As mentioned in the previous section, these verses are a gold mine of Bible riches.

In this section, we see the needs of the people of God. First among those needs is a need for a "guard". We need our hearts and minds guarded (v. 7). The phrase "hearts and minds" describes a totality of man's thinking, emotion, reasonings, and doing.

Do we feel the need for a guard? Are we faced with the knowledge of our inadequacies? Do we live out this knowledge in day-by-day dependence on God? We are inadequate; we need a keeper.

We need a keeper for our spiritual selves. We must live with constant awareness of the dangers we face. We face dangers from outside in a wicked world that seeks to tear us down, and dangers inside from remaining sinful tendencies within us, such as pride and self-centeredness.

Also, we need a keeper for our physical selves. We are at risk from ailments, illnesses, and accidents.

Secondly, we need God to be with us. We know, intellectually, that God is with us at all times. We know "where two or three are gathered", God is in our midst. But we need more than just the head-knowledge that God is with us -- we need God's manifest presence, for God to speak to us in an undeniable manner.

Let us not take God's presence for granted! When we meet together for worship, let us be coming together in the earnest hope that He will be there, speaking to us through His word, enabling us to worship by His Spirit, changing our hearts and lives to make us more like Him.

Paul discusses prayer in this section: "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God." What is prayer, beyond just making requests to God? Real prayer involves entering into a oneness with God. If you have a relationship that allows you to go into the presence of God, that is prayer.

And the result of this communion is "the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension". It has been said that this peace is "felt by all the truly godly, but can be explained by none." Let us seek to enter more fully into this communion and be fuller partakers of this peace!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Philippians 4:1-9 (Part I) How to Live in Harmony: Rejoice Always!

Text: Philippians 4:1-9

This section in Philippians may be one of the most preached-upon in the Bible. This is a "goldmine" section of verses, full of deep riches to be discovered.

In the first verse, Paul encourages the Philippians to stand firm in the Lord. Paul's language demonstrates his deep love for these believers, his "joy and crown" and his "beloved". He would hate to hear that they had in any way slipped back.

The next two verses, (v. 2 and 3) are particularly interesting. Paul urges two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to live in harmony in the Lord. We know that these are fellow laborers in the gospel with Paul. True Christians and even effective workers for the gospel can and will have disagreements.

Beyond that, Paul urges the reader, his "true companion" to help these women. Our goal and priority among the body, the church, is to not allow divisions and strife. We must banish bad thoughts about one another. If we have disagreements, we need to go to each other. We should seek to be peacemakers, trying to facilitate reconciliation among the brethren, never spreading gossip and causing strife.

Verse four is extremely well known: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" Considered in the context of this passage, it seems as though Paul is saying, "I know there will be disagreements and differences, but this is how I want you to work them out: "Rejoice always!" You cannot maintain an attitude of bitterness and rejoice at the same time. This is so important to Paul, he says it a second time!

What does it mean to rejoice? What is the joy of a rejoicing Christian? It is "joy", not "happiness". The pursuit of happiness is what we see in the world around us, and it is an endless pursuit because this happiness is strictly external, based on our circumstances. Yes, we can change our situation, buy some new "stuff" and be happy... for a while. But the happiness wears off and then what? Or what if our situation, for whatever reasons, is not a "happy" one?

The Christian's "joy" is an inward thing. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) (and is not limited by "any law" - you can't rejoice too much!) Inner joy is a supernatural thing the Holy Spirit has given to all Christians.

Our joy as Christians is not affected by external situation. We rejoice because of what Christ has done as our High Priest to bring us into a relationship with Him. We rejoice because He preserves and keeps us -- we are not kept in relationship with Him through our own righteousness, but it is all of Christ; He continually keeps us. So we rejoice in being in Christ and being one with Him. This rejoicing is all through the Bible, in the Old Covenant as well as the New.

Is it possible for a Christian to have inward joy and not to show outward joy? How absurd! Christians should have outward joy more than all others; we should be known as people who are rejoicing no matter what our situation is!

Verse 5 continues on the theme of getting along: "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men." Other translations use the word "moderate" or "forbearing spirit". The meaning is clear: Christians should have a willingness to get along with, to agree with, their brothers and sisters in the Lord. We should live at peace with all men, gently bringing along the weakest of the brethren. We should show reasonableness, and not be unduly rigorous about secondary matters. Someone who always insists that his way is the only way, who always demands his "just due" is in violation of this principle.

We should remember that "the Lord is near". He is with us at all times, to help us and see us through. Is this just a theological truth to us, or are we experiencing it in our lives in a real way? The truths in this rich section are not to be merely known with the mind, but to be deeply experienced: God being near to us, the "peace that passes understanding".

More to come next week...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Philippians 3:13-17 -- Forgetting what lies behind and pressing on to what lies ahead.

Text: Philippians 3:13-17

In this section, Paul offers himself as an example for the Philippians to follow. As we saw in the previous passage in Philippians, Paul has no confidence in himself. Yet, he has confidence in the Lord to make him a worthy example to follow. He exhorts us to follow him, as he is following Christ.

Four observations can be made from Paul's exhortation to follow his example. First, observe that Paul calls his audience "brethren" (v.13). Paul - a man who wrote so many of the epistles in the New Testament - is not on a special plane above all other believers, and that is reflected in the way he addresses his readers. He is "just" another brother, one of us. He knows he hasn't reached perfection. He has been humbled by Christ. He still has no confidence in himself and knows he needs to be brought further along by the Lord.

Secondly, Paul is putting forth a great effort. He's not satisfied with where he is; he's pressing on towards the goal. And he is not dwelling on the past. We can fall into two main traps in dwelling on the past: excessive fondness for God's workings in the past, resulting in nostalgia and discouragement that things aren't as good as the old days. Or, brooding over past sins now forgiven to the point of discouragement and despair. Paul could have fallen victim to both of these tendencies - discouragement that he was now in prison after a vibrant missionary career, or depression over regrets for the sins he committed against the church as Saul. But he does neither -- he forgets all these things in the past and presses on. Likewise, we should leave behind forgiven sins, arguments, bitterness, strife, etc. -- all these things that so easily entangle us -- and press ahead to the goal.

The goal! That is the third point. Paul has his eyes fixed on the target! What is our goal? Hopefully, it is the same goal as Paul had: hearing his Master say "well done" at the end of his life. We know that we will not achieve perfection in this life, but we strive for it, being convinced that we will one day take on a renewed, glorified, sinless body.

A fourth observation concerns the nature of our goal. Paul says that he presses on "for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus." We are called to aim for this goal. We are not in panic mode, trying to possibly reach an uncertain goal. Rather, we are in a race that is certain. This is God's calling, and we can strive toward the goal with confidence of achieving it.

Verse 15 contains a very mild exhortation. Paul is essentially saying, "Those who are mature will be of a same mind. Pay no attention to those who have a different attitude (for example, that sinless perfection can be instantly achieved, or that Christians should just "let go and let God", rather than striving for holiness.) These people are just immature in the faith and Christian walk. God will eventually teach them."

A further exhortation is contained in verse 16 - we are called to keep living by the standard to which we have attained. Christians are called to live a thought-out, disciplined, and regulated lifestyle. Note that these are very general principles, not a Step A, B, C approach to godliness.

Some people may have a defeatist attitude towards striving for holiness. "Nobody's perfect," they say. Our mark is perfection, however. We are called to give a complete effort to live a disciplined life intent on on giving glory to God and pleasing Him in whatever we do.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Philippians 3:4-12 Paul's example of counting all things as loss in light of Christ

Text: Philippians 3:4-12

In this section of Philippians, Paul offers his own life experience as a personal example to the Philippians. First, in verses 4-6, he describes his life as Saul. He was a "Hebrew of the Hebrews". He was the ultimate specimen of law-keeping, of zeal, and proper heritage.

However, in verses 7 and 8, he states that all those things are as nothing compared to knowing Christ. Actually, he states that they are worse than nothing, as dung, in comparison.

The application of this can be made to our own lives. Like Paul, we may be thinking we are "doing the best we can". Like Paul, our best is not good enough to be made right with a holy God who can only be satisfied with perfection.

So why was Paul so enamored of Jesus? Why did gaining Christ make all his astonishing previous experience so repugnant to him? Three components of the answer can be found in the following verses.

First, in verse 9, Paul describes how he has received righteousness. He could not achieve righteousness through obedience of the Law, as hard as he tried. But Christ's righteousness - a righteousness from perfect obedience and submission to the Father - is imputed to those who have faith in Christ. This is justification, by grace through faith.

Secondly, in verse 10, Paul describes the great value of knowing Christ. For him and for us, knowing Christ involves much more than just mental assent. It includes a mental understanding and an application of that knowledge to our lives. And it includes an intimate personal relationship, a union with the thing that is known. This is sanctification, a growing understanding of God affecting our lives.

Paul had "resurrection power" (v.10) of the Holy Spirit empowering Him to live this new life. He experienced the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. This isn't referring to some means of earning favor with God through physical affliction. Rather, by experiencing sufferings (mental or physical), we can obtain a deeper understanding of Christ. It is a way He can only be known by those who follow Him.

Verse 10 mentions that Paul wished to be conformed to Christ's death. This is to be understood in a spiritual sense, rather than a physical one. We are conformed to Christ's death when we die to our own selves, our own ambitions and desires, and take on the trust in God that Christ displayed. His death was an utter emptying of Himself, a life of complete self-giving love.

Thirdly, Paul looks forward to His resurrection from the dead. He is saying that in whatever path God has ordained for his life, he will follow Christ, living with Him, dying with Him, and following Him to live in eternal glory. This is glorification.

Paul concludes in verse 12 by acknowledging that he is not perfect (although positionally he is perfect in Christ). His imputed righteousness is perfect, but his imparted righteousness is still being worked out. And Paul commits himself to pressing on vigorously. This is always the pattern; here, as we have seen previously, salvation is all of God, yet our proper response is to follow after him with all of our ability. We do not know all the specific purposes and services for which Christ has "laid hold" on us for this life. All we can do is follow after, like Paul. Then we can "lay hold" on the purposes He has for us in this life. We do know the ultimate purpose of Christ's laying hold on us, and that is so that we may be with him in glory. What a great calling!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Philippians 3:1-3 Marks of a True Christian

Text: Philippians 3:1-3

This passage begins with the word, "Finally". This gives us an indication that we are reading a summing-up and application of what we have read. So, we should "rejoice in the Lord". This is the conclusion of what we have read in the first two chapters.

Paul also delivers a hearty endorsement of repetition: "To write these same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard to you." This is an encouragement to preachers and teachers who feel that they seem to be constantly repeating the same things. Repetition is good! And, it is a safeguard. We should be especially wary of anyone who comes along proclaiming a new doctrine.

Hopefully, as hearers of the preached word, we do not grow weary hearing the same themes. If, for example, we are at a conference and we hear a speaker begin to teach from a well-worn passage, we should be careful not to tune out the message. God speaks to us through the preaching of His Word, even on familiar topics.

Verse two in this chapter contains a strong warning against false teachers. In this harsh warning, Paul is not speaking against mistaken or misguided brothers and sisters -- we remember from Chapter 1 that Paul said he would rejoice if Christ was preached whether in pretense or sincerity. His warning was against those who teach a particular wrong doctrine, the doctrine of "Christ - AND...". Salvation by Christ alone was not enough, they said, you needed to be circumcised; you needed Christ - AND observation of the traditional ceremonial law.

We need to be careful in our theology that we are not preaching "Christ - AND..." Even many of the Reformed denominations, though their motto is "Sola Christo," fail in this. They suggest that baptism is the "new" circumcision, and that the baptism of a child confers a spiritual benefit to him by joining him into the covenant.

The third verse here describes the marks of the true Christian. "We are the true circumcision", the "true seed" of Abraham who will inherit the promise. Three marks of the Christian are then given:

1. We worship God in the Spirit. Our worship is a spiritual worship, not one of repetition of forms. And our life, in all that we do, should be a life of living in the Holy Spirit. This is a life of worship.

2. We rejoice in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is our boast. We speak of Him and glory in Him. It's not enough to glory in what He has done; we also glory in who He is.

3. We put no confidence in the flesh. True Christians are humble and thankful people. We see our own inability to "work" our way into favor with God. Furthermore, we cannot have confidence in our own intellect - if we have arrived at a particular doctrinal truth, it is not because of our own mental capacity, it is because of God's grace in revealing the truth to us.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Philippians 2:17-30 Examples of Faithful Servants

Text: Philippians 2:17-30

This portion of Philippians shows Paul's appreciation for his fellow faithful servants of Christ. In verses 19-24, Paul discusses sending Timothy to the Philippians. From this passage, we can see that even in the early days of the church described here, it was difficult for Paul to find faithful men - he said he was unable to find any other kindred spirits besides Timothy; all others were seeking after their own interests. We would like to be found faithful as Timothy was!

Paul refers to his relationship with Timothy as "like a child swerving with his father". From this we see that Paul had a great fondness for Timothy, and we can see from this that he wasn't just a cold, dry theologian. There is a reality and depth in Christians' love for each other.

Verses 25-26 discuss Paul's sending of Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus was incredibly selfless. He literally wore himself out helping Paul, but he wasn't concerned about his own health. Instead, Epaphroditus was distressed because the Philippians had heard he was sick, and was concerned they would be worried about him! Epaphroditus is a great example of a Christian giving the best he can in service. He was deeply and emotionally invested in the work he was doing; he didn't see his service as merely an occupation.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places - A Summary, Part 7

This is the final posting in the series summarizing the booklet Looking for God in All the Wrong Places. If you would like to buy a copy, they are available from Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service

What about Music?

We should not reduce a discussion of corporate worship to a discussion about music. Many problems would be avoided if we begin by locating music within the category labeled "the ministry of God's Word". (Col. 3:16) Music is to be a tool for teaching and admonishing one another, thus making it functionally similar to preaching.

Church music must answer the questions we put to church sermons:

1.) Is it doctrinally true?

2.) Does it display Biblical content?

3.) Is it excessively shallow?

4.) Is it theocentric (centered on God)?

5.) Does it accurately represent the character of God?

6.) Is the tone or mood reverential?

Good songs perform the essential service of distilling profound truths into memorable phrases, thereby planting truths deep in our souls. Good hymns remind distracted worshippers of the appropriate things to say to God in worship.

Professors D.G. Hart and John R. Muether point out that the contrast between the church and the world should perhaps be most obvious when the church is worshipping.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places - A Summary, Part 6

The Protestant Reformation as a Reformation of Worship

The Roman Catholic church, with its architecture, and the Latin mass with all the rituals, was nothing if not regal, mystical and moving. The church thought it was this ceremony that mediated to them the presence of God. One of the main things the Reformers did was to bring the Scripture back to the worship meeting. Luther's work of translating the Bible was done so people could know God in His Word.
Word-based worship leads to simple worship. Why? Because worship in Spirit and in truth is inherently internal and spiritual. The Holy Spirit presses scriptural truth upon the heart, which provokes a soul-level response of worship. The enemy of inward spiritual worship then, is external distraction. Rituals, novelties and visual props usurp the Holy Spirit's role of triggering worship in the heart. Excessive sentimentality and casualness also distract. Timothy Keller says, "Both spectacle and sentimentality [or what Keller calls folksiness] work directly on people's emotions rather than trusting God's Spirit to bring truth home." J C Ryle: "Simplicity should be the grand characterisitic of New Testament worship.....because.....the inherent wickedness of human nature is such that our minds are only too ready to turn away from spiritual things to visible things."
Does the Holy Spirit use means to promote true worship? Yes, but He uses means that have been revealed to us in the Bible.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Poem by John Newton

I asked the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know;
And seek more earnestly His face.

Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair!

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He'd answer my request;
And by His love's constraining power,
Subdue my sins - and give me rest!

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part!

Yes more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe!
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds - and laid me low!

"Lord, why is this!" I trembling cried,
"Will you pursue your worm to death?"
"This is the way," the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and faith."

"These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set you free;
And break your schemes of earthly joy,
Thay you may seek your all in Me!"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Philippians 2:9-16 -- Working Out Our Salvation

Text: Philippians 2:9-16

This section of the text begins with a "Therefore," so it is wise to consider what was covered earlier. Christ humbled himself, leaving the glory of heaven and becoming a man, suffering and dying out of love for us and obedience to the Father. For this reason, Christ was highly exalted and given a "name above every other name". What does this mean? For one, we know that there is no other name given for men's salvation (Acts 4:12). Contrary to today's popular "get-along" philosophy, all religions are not many different paths all leading to the same place. Jesus holds the preeminent position of being the only Redeemer through whom sinful man may be reconciled to God.

Verse 10 expands further on Christ's exaltation. At His name, every knee will bow. God calls all men to repent - every knee, as in the KJV, should bow to Christ. But the natural man is not reasonable, and refuses. Yet one day, every man shall. (Interestingly, this promise - that all shall bow to Him, is same thing that Satan tempted Christ with in the wilderness. Christ was offered the glory without the suffering, and turned it down.)

This exaltation is God's response to what Christ has done. What is our response?

First, to be obedient (v. 12). This is not a new obedience, Paul notes: "just as you have always obeyed" - continue in the obedience that has marked your life. We are called to "work out our salvation". This is OUR OWN salvation. The state of our own hearts must be a high priority for us. What does it mean to "work it out"? This means to spend our energies, our mental abilities, our love, exploring and enjoying the salvation that is ours.

What is salvation? If we think of salvation only as escape from sin, we have a very shallow view of it. What is eternal life? To know God. As we work out our salvation, we begin to understand how the attributes of God work out in our own lives. We take possession of and explore more fully the outworking of the spiritual realities that are in Christ. Martyn Lloyd-Jones referred to this as the romanticism of the Christian life, of asking God "What are you teaching me now, and how will it work out in my life?"

This salvation should be worked out "with fear and trembling". With a dread of God? With a concern that we will lose this salvation? No, we are instead to work this salvation out with sensitivity...
  • to our own weakness. We are not self-sufficient and invincible. We fail and fall, and need constantly to call on God for help.
  • to the power of temptation. The powers of darkness are real and are constantly tempting us to sin, to do things our way instead of God's way, relying on Him.
  • to the possibility of offending God. We should be afraid of offending such a great God as we serve, concerned that sin might break our communion with Him and tarnish His name before unbelievers.
Verse 13 provides a great encouragement, on several fronts. First, it is God who is at work. He is the Master Workman, and He always accomplishes what He sets out to do. The outcome is guaranteed.

Secondly, He is at work in each of us. God isn't just at work in the super-Christians, or the extra-spiritual people, but rather He is at work in each of His children.

Furthermore, He is at work for us "both to will and to work". God first shows us what to do, then gives us a desire to do His will, then enables us to do it. It is all of grace; we claim no merit.

Finally, He is at work "for His good pleasure". It is a pleasure to God that we should enjoy him, know Him, and be used of Him. In another sense this means that we work as God is pleased for us to do so. He doesn't enable us to serve Him when we make enough progress, or when we show enough desire. Instead, He works freely and sovereignly according to His own choice and purposes.

We can rest and give thanks to God knowing that our salvation is all of Him. He gives faith, regenerates, and gives the Holy Spirit to enable us to serve Him. Why does He do all this for and in us? Because of His great love! Praise Him!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Philippians 2:1-8 - Following Christ's example, serving each other in unity

Text: Philippians 2:1-8
The first verses of this passage refer to unity and fellowship enjoyed by believers. The cry of many in this world is "can't we all get along?" Outside of Christ, we can't! Man's heart is naturally full of selfishness, strife, and factiousness.

In Christ, however there is and should be true brotherhood and fellowship. It's this kind of unity that made Paul's joy complete. And it's this joy and unity that Christians can and should demonstrate before the world. Furthermore, it's only after Christians are loving each other they can truly show love towards unbelievers.

Do we see this in the church today? Or are our brothers and sisters in need, while we pour our time and resources into the unbelieving world?

Verse 3 specifically condemns any selfishness, party spirit or "us-vs-them" mentality. The last thing Paul would want to see is a First Baptist Church of Philippi and a Second Baptist Church of Philippi. But Paul continually exhorted Christians to "stand firm in the gospel" - unity should not be obtained through compromising on the essentials of the gospel. Also, this verse speaks out against the "do it my way" spirit of "empty conceit" ("vainglory" in the King James Version). Instead, we should be willing to give of ourselves.

We are called in verse 4 to not merely look out for our own interests, but to look out for the interests of others. While we are looking out for others, we need be willing to be looked out for! The church is meant to be a unified group of believers taking care of each other, and if we are inapproachable or standoffish, this can't happen.

In verse 5, Paul offers an example for how we should live - and what an example it is! As we have seen throughout Philippians, Christ is presented as the example for how we should live. We are called to have the same mind as was in Christ.

Verses 6 through 8 explain what this means. Christ is God. Throughout eternity past, He experienced the oneness and total peace and harmony of the Trinity. But He did not regard this equality as something to be clung to, but "emptied himself". This emptying is described in the Greek as depriving something of its proper place or use. And that is what Christ did. He left that glory and all the experiences associated with that glory behind. He took on Himself the form of a servant and the likeness of a man.

Are we unwilling to humble ourselves in service to one another? Christ was willing to humble himself infinitely more in service. Do we struggle with our rights - "I don't want to do that"? Christ was totally obedient, following the revealed will of God all the way to death.

And not just death, but "death on a cross". "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" - Christ suffered the curse, the full cup of God's wrath, all that we might be saved and brought into this fellowship and the love that exists in the Trinity.

Sometimes when we obey Christ, our obedience works for our own benefit. We are happier when we are walking with Christ, and we avoid many of the inevitable painful consequences of sin. But we must go beyond the obedience that works for our benefit, and obey in ways that benefit others. That is where the real fullness of joy is. Also, when we serve one another, we serve Christ because He is living within us. "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places - A Summary, Part 5

Why do we not expect pulpit preaching to promote worship?

Two reasons are given. First, sermons have begun to be moral lessons, rather than expositions of God's Word. A God-centered, redemptive sermon will allow us to worship. A sermon of this kind will cause us to look heavenward and embrace by faith the God who redeemed us.

Secondly, we have become poor listeners with no expectation of seeing God. "Good listening requires good thinking and good thinking is a chore."

James Stewart: "If in a congregation one soul here and another there may be receiving, as the sermon proceeds, some vision of the majesty of God, some glimpse of the loveliness of Christ, some revelation of personal need beneath the searchlight of the Spirit, is the ministry of the Word to be minimized... Is not such preaching worship?"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Philippians, continued -- Living out a Christian Worldview

Text: Philippians 1:19-30

In this section of Philippians, Paul lays out a Christian worldview. This is not quite like the Christian worldview that we see espoused by so many today -- Paul does not expect that the world at large will, or ever can, conform to God's standard of holiness. Paul's Christian worldview can be summed in four points:

  1. Everything will come out for good to those who love Christ. Paul is confident (v. 19) that his imprisonment will be "to his salvation". Now, Paul is already saved. But the salvation he is refering to is that he will continue to bloom and be sustained. Note the role of prayer in this. Prayer is what God uses to sustain the believer.

  2. Regardless of what happens, Paul is living for the glorification of Christ. (v20, 21), that Christ would be magnified. This is what brings Paul satisfaction; this is his desire - that Christ would be glorified in him and that the world would see Christ in him.

  3. It is crucial for Christians to live this life in hope of seeing the Saviour face-to-face in glory. We hold this world loosely; it is not our home. We are looking forward to what the old saints called the "long home", where we will spend eternity living with the Lord.
    Paul says it is "very much better" to be with Christ; this could be translated, "far, far, far better".

  4. Paul, if he is to remain here in this life, is remaining here for the sake of others. (v 22-24) "yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake"

Based on this worldview, Paul offers an admonition: "Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." This might be intended to bring to mind the actions of Roman citizens who had been planted into Philippi to bring Rome into that province. These citizens were called to live out their Roman citizenship in Philippi, being examples of Rome to the natives. In such a way, we are to live out our heavenly citizenship here in the world.

Paul doesn't say, "Follow the rules I have laid out in my other epistles", or "obey the Law given to Moses". Rather he says to live "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ". Paul recognizes that he is speaking to reasonable, regenerate people who have the mind of Christ.

The crucial element of this admonition is the gospel. Your life will either adorn, or help, the gospel or clash with, or oppose it. Are you a new creature in Christ? Act like it! Do you hate sin because it nailed Christ to the cross? Then kill sin in your own life! Live out what you claim to be, what you are.

"With one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" Each of the members of the body is striving in unison to encourage and strengthen the whole.

(v28) Do not be afraid of your adversaries. The fact that they are opposing the gospel is a "sign of destruction" to them - a sure omen that they are under "perdition" - continual, eternal destruction. But for Christians, this adversity is a sure sign of our salvation.

(v29) Our belief and our suffering have been given to us by Christ. Our belief - salvation is all of Christ. Our suffering - what we suffer is from his hand and to further His purposes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places - A Summary, Part 4

How do worshippers experience God's presence?

The Scriptures mediate the presence of God to us -- the Bible not only teaches us, it produces spiritual effects when applied by the Holy Spirit. (Heb. 4:12, Acts 20:32, 1Cor. 1:18)

How does the Bible mediate God to us? -by creating, rekindling and promoting faith in us. (Rom.10:14,17, 1Thess. 2:13) Assurance and conviction grow from faith. (Heb. 11:1)

So then, the preached Word of God and the visible Word of God (displayed in the Lord's supper) are potentially electrifying corporate worship events. We can experience the spiritual presence of Christ and spiritual communion with God. These are realities, apprehended only by faith. Jonathan Edwards said God glorifies Himself before faith-filled men by "appearing to their understanding and communicating Himself to their hearts."

What is this "presence of God"? Remember, we walk by faith, not sight. (2Cor.5:7, Rom. 8:24-25, 1Cor. 13:12) We should not demand a full vision of now, but surely "God is more than just a logical deduction from Bible texts." We can expect God to speak (not audibly, but spiritually) when the Bible is proclaimed faithfully because we believe that the Bible is the supernatural and immediate revelation of God's mind to His people. The voice of God in the soul of man is the very essence of entering into God's presence. Albert Mohler: " the act through which the people of God direct all their attentiveness to hearing the one true and living God speak to His people and receive their praises."

Hearing God this way is actively offering Him worship. It is presenting to God a broken and submissive heart. It is honoring God with an expectant faith. It is reverencing God by displaying dependency. Intentional spiritual engagement like this is not a passive experience; it is the deliberate hungering for and hanging upon God's very words that marks Word-based worshippers (Matt. 4:4).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Necessity and Joy of Proclaiming Christ

After exhorting the church at Philippi to leave behind mediocrity and strive for excellency, Paul gives an example in his own life. He gives a testimony of how he has poured himself into the ministry, and how he has found great peace and joy in proclaiming Christ is whatever situation he is in.

Text: Philippians 2:12-18

Paul emphasizes three things as being essential to living a joyous, purposeful life of joy in Christ.

  1. Christ must be proclaimed
    It is fairly easy to talk about God and religion. But a true presentation of the gospel must include Jesus Christ. Talking about Jesus will invite scorn and ridicule - the gospel is foolishness to the natural man - but, it is the power of God for salvation. But we must not be afraid of a little scorn, and we cannot water down the message to make it more palatable. Are we so concerned about a little rejection that we are unable to share these glorious truths?

    The basic gospel word is all Christ. We have several good examples of a gospel presentation in Acts - chapters 2, 5, 10, 13, and 16 for example. This gospel word consists of presentation of Jesus as a historical fact - his life, death and resurrection - and also includes a call to believe on Him, and a warning for those who reject Him.

  2. God presents opportunities
    Paul presents his imprisonment as an example of how God creates opportunities to share the gospel in all circumstances. He was a prisoner, but his guards were the real "captive" audience! And the Word spread "throughout the whole praetorian guard".

    What are our opportunites in our circumstances? For parents, our children are an audience we should not neglect.

  3. Sharing the gospel of Christ brings peace and joy
    Paul rejoices in God's plan and prupose and states that he will rejoice! He as committed himself to do so. It is choice. So we know for a certainty that this life of proclaiming the gospel is a life of joy and rejoicing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Paul's Prayer for the Phillipians

Here are some notes from our sermon on October 4th.

Text: Philippians 1:9-11

Three observations about Paul's prayer for the Philippians in these verses:

  1. Paul prays (v.9) that their love would "abound still more and more". We know that love is more than emotion; "Love" is an action verb. Love motivates us toward some action for that thing that we love. We should have love towards God, our pastors, our brothers and sisters, and towards the lost.

    Paul prays for their love to abound still more and more. The picture here is like the waves of the sea, continually coming in one after another.

  2. Paul wants their love to be (v.8) bounded by "knowledge and discernment."
    NOT - in ignorance and insensitivity
    NOT - in stupidity and hamfistedness
    NOT - in sentimentalism and myopic nostalgia

    In knowledge - we know that which we love. And knowledge, in Biblical terms, encompasses a knowledge of the facts of the gospel, along with an experimental knowledge of the Christ of the gospel.

    In judgment - in insight, ability to discern the excellent thing, a moral perception across the gamut of life's experiences.

  3. Paul prays (v.10) that they would be able to "discern the things that are excellent". There are good things, better things, and the best things. We should press on to better and better things! For example: we have lots of ways we can use our money to further the kingdom. We can give it to a "good" cause. But we should seek to find the best use for the money (perhaps a more excellent missionary).

    Another example: our family devotions. We should seek not just to have good family devotions, but to pour ourselves into our family such that our devotions are excellent.

  4. Paul prays that they would be "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus" (v.11). This is a very New Covenant view of our sanctification! There is no mention of a moral code to look to. We are not to evaluate ourselves against a set of laws, and believe that we are righteous because we are measuring up pretty well. But we are to pursue excellence and holiness out of gratitude and love for Christ.

And this pursuit of excellence is the word for today. Being done with being satisfied with where we are today! Seeking to know more, experience more, of Him! Christ is at work within us -- there is no need to settle for mediocrity!

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places - A Summary, Part 3

"Sitting in the presence of the Holy One of Israel and engaging Him in the holy dialogue that we call worship should surely excite the worshipper's emotions." - (pg 6)

"Worship is an act of the understanding, applying itself to the knowledge of the excellency of God, and actual thoughts of His majesty. It is also an act of the will, whereby the soul adores and reverenceth His majesty, is ravished with His amiableness, embraceth His goodness, enters itself into an intimate communion with this most lovely Object, and pitcheth all his affections upon Him" - Stephen Charnook

One of the most-discussed elements of worship is the role of feelings and emotions. Surely, emotions are affected in our worship. "The problem comes when emotional stimulation is mistaken for true worship. This leads to emotional experiences being sought as ends in themselves, rather than Holy Spirit-inflamed emotions experienced as a by-product of God-directed worship." - (pg 7)

Healthy worship, in contrast, results in the Word of God arousing faith in the worshipper, in part by promoting confidence and certainty regarding things not seen. "That faith causes the believer to worship; he thanks God, praises God, prizes God, and adores God. Word-driven thanking, praising, prizing and adoring erupts from the heart and mobilizes the affections." - (pg 7)

What is the worshipper's ultimate goal? It should not be to achieve a feeling or emotional high, rather it should be to render unto God the glory due His name. "The worshipper worships as an end in itself, not as a means to the end of being emotionally happy." (pg 8)

The role of the Word of God in worship cannot be overstated. "The Holy Spirit normally works in conjunction with (and not independent of) God's Word. If we want the Holy Spirit to move in our worship services then we must have Word-saturated worship services. How do we quench the Spirit? By quenching the Word!" (Eph. 6:17; compare John 3:5-6 and 1Pet 1:23-25; compare Eph 5:18-19 and Col 3:16-17; compare John 14:16-17, 26, John 15:26, 16:13-14, 17:17, Ps 119:142, 160 and 2Tim 2:15) - (pgs 7-8)

"A consequence of Word-based worship is that we sometimes meet with God in surprising ways - it may not be a comfortable emotion - it may be conviction of sin before a holy God. When this does happen we will see that God's rod and staff do comfort us (Ps 23:4) and God's sin-exposing holiness posesses its own soul-arresting beauty (Ps 50:1-3)." - (pg 10)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places - A Summary, Part 2

What is true worship? Who is worship for? Worship is not something to be experienced, rather it is something to be offered. God is the object of worship; we present it to Him. (Psalm 95:6, 109:30,34:3)
Worshippers do the worshipping; God receives the worship. Worship is not about what we like but rather about giving God what He desires. Many people are looking for emotional stimulation and spiritual feelings, but these feelings are not necessarily evidence of the Holy Spirit's work.
The Holy Spirit's presence and activity is evidenced by conviction of sin, repentance, world-forsaking faith, doctrinal maturity, growth in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Regarding ourselves instead of God as the object of worship is scandalous and disastrous.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places - A Summary, Part 1

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places, An Appeal for Word-Based Corporate Worship, by Robert G. Spinney, is an excellent little booklet that summarizes much of what we believe about worship. The following few posts are a summary of this booklet put together by one of our members. Many of the phrases and sentences in this summary are taken directly from the author, and most are put in quotation marks, but there may be instances where a sentence was taken directly from the booklet and accidentally not put in quotation marks.


In the past 40 years Christians have begun separating praising and worshipping from preaching and teaching. Why?

There are two main reasons. The first reason is a growing sense that worship is exclusively emotional. Singing stirs the emotions, but preaching does not. The second main reason stems from the Word of God being deemphasized.

The author's main thesis is "to reclaim an approach to worship that could be called Word-based worship; this helps to create what could be called a Word-driven church; this calls for Word-based worshippers."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Perseverance of the Saints

The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, simply stated, says that all those whom God has chosen and for whom Christ died will persevere in their Christian walk until "the end", or until their earthly sojourn is over.
Every true believer will persevere, and that by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, preserving him by the inward workings on the heart and mind of the believer. It is inconceivable that God would elect a man, Christ would die for that same man, and yet we would finally fall away by returning to his unbelief.
It is not inconceivable, however, that a man might make a false profession, give some temporary evidence of conversion and finally return to his unbelieving condition. American, evangelical churches are full of such "Christians", and an unbiblical, unsound and largely unspoken belief system has developed among Amercian protestant churches to accomodate the presence of these "worldly Christians." Church policies and practices have been compromised to attract these "lukewarm" believers and the fruit of their position is usually the fact that they do not persevere, and sooner or later they abandon their faith altogether or become totally indifferent to any real Christian commitment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Irresistable Grace

The phrase "irresistable grace" simply tells us that the grace of God, when applied to the heart of a sinner, is irresistable; that is to say God draws the elect sinner to Himself without fail. "God is able" to quote the Saviour, "to turn stones into children of Abraham." (Luke 3:8) This He does with lovingkindness through conviction of sin, leading to regeneration, so that the sinner comes willingly and happily to the foot of the cross. As the old hymn says - "He does not compel them to go 'gainst their will, but He just makes them willing to go."

So God, through regeneration, lovingly draws men to the Saviour by the loving administration of the Holy Spirit through the application of the Holy Scriptures to the soul of poor helpless sinners, resulting in their inevitable conversion to Christ. God, who cannot fail in anything He determines to do, draws those whom He has chosen, to the foot of the cross.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Limited Atonement

We believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of His elect people. It was for them He came and for them He died.

Matthew 1:21 "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins."

John 17:6-9 "I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee. For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me. I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine."

John 16:13-14 "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you."

Now, no one is imagining that the value or worth of Christ's atonement is in any way limited. His death is sufficient to atone for all the sinners in 10,000 worlds. It is the intent of the atonement in the mind and purpose of the triune God that limits it. If Christ bore the sins of every man, then all men are free of their guilt. God will not require a second death, i.e. the sinner's death, to atone for a sin that is paid for by the death of the eternal Son of God. It is finished! What gross injustice to lay the sins of all mankind on the head of the Savior and then punish the sinner for sins that were already borne on Calvary!

In Romans 9:22, Scripture argues that "God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:" Apparently, God's justice is an important part of His divine nature and He is willing to display it on "vessels of wrath." God is altogether unlike the contemporary concept which elevates man and diminishes the very nature of God.

Some in our day quote 2 Peter 3:9 which says, ..."not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Their intent, of course, is to prove that God is not willing that any single person should perish, but that every person should come to repentance. Such an interpretation, however, does violence to both Scripture and to the nature of God. A close look at the context will tell you that Peter is talking to the elect, whom he calls "beloved" in verse 8. Again in verse 9, he says that God is longsuffering to us-ward, meaning to Peter and his fellow believers.

Equally damaging is the idea that God wants to save every one (universalism), but he is unable to for some imagined problem of violating the all-mighty human "free-will".

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unconditional Election

Although the words "elect" and/or "election" are found no less than 27 times in the Scriptures, the doctrine of Unconditional Election is denied, ignored or explained away by the vast majority of evangelical leaders in today's doctrinally bankrupt congregations. Simply stated, this doctrine says that God has chosen, or elected, a people for His own possession. (The word "chosen" is also abundant throughout the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament.)

The Scriptures also teach that these "elect" persons are chosen unconditionally - that is to say, they have done nothing, nor could they do anything to merit this election. God has chosen those whom He chooses for reasons which are hidden in the will and purposes of God. But this much we know - God set His love on a particular people before the world began and predestinated them to be His adopted children through Jesus Christ for his own glory. This is our only hope for our evangelism, our preaching, and our praying.

Ephesians 1:3-7 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Total Depravity

An examination of the doctrines we believe begins of necessity with the doctrine of "total depravity".

This doctrine of total depravity declares that men are dead in sin* and by inference means that mean can do nothing to please God, just as a dead corpse can do nothing or in any way cooperate with its surroundings.

The "total" aspect of the doctrine means simply that the depravity extends to every part of man's nature: his intellect, his emotions, and his will.

This does not mean that all men are equally bad, not that any man is as bad as he could be, not that any one is entirely without some virtue.

What it does mean is that since the fall, all mankind is under the curse of sin, and that they are wholly unable to love God or do anything to deserve salvation.

* Ephesians 2:1-3 "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."

John 3:19 "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

Romans 8:7,8 "Because the carnal [natural] mind is enmity [at war] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our Statement of Faith

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
Let all that you do be done in love.
I Corinthians 16:13-14

We believe the Bible to be the only inerrant Word of God; it is our only authoritative rule for faith and practice.

We believe that there is one God eternally existent in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is omnipotent, that is, He is all-powerful. He is omnipresent, that is, He is present throughout creation but not limited by it. He is omniscient, that is nothing is hidden from His sight. He is completely free and sovereign in the salvation of His people. We believe the God we serve is holy, righteous, good, severe, loving and full of mercy. He is the Creator, Sustainer, and Governor of everything that has been made.

We believe in the true deity and full humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father and in His personal return in power and glory.

We believe in the full deity of the Holy Spirit acknowledging Him together with the Father and the Son as Creator of the world in six 24-hour days and Redeemer of his people.

We believe that because of Adam’s sin all mankind is in rebellion against God. For the salvation of such lost and sinful men, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary and without it faith is impossible.

We believe that salvation is by grace through faith alone and that faith without works is dead.

We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.

We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost, those who are saved to the resurrection of life and those who are lost to the resurrection of damnation.

We believe in the spiritual unity of all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.