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."