THE RICH CAN BE ROTTEN – James 5:1-6

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INTRODUCTION:

As James writes this letter, it seems as though he has a stack of issues and complaints that have been brought to him for consideration and response.  Now he comes to an issue that is “written in bold letters and highlighted in red”!  He uses  some fiery language here in his response to the rich people among his readers and listeners.  If you are a wealthy person yourself, don’t take these words of his personally until you understand the context!  James is disappointed in them and he disapproves of their actions.  He is not condemning wealth, but he is condemning some of the ways that they have gained that wealth, and the ways they have misused it.

In order to understand what is going on, and why it is so wrong, we will have to leave our twenty-first century technology and see things through the minds of his first-century readers.  As we will soon see, technology has changed, but people haven’t!

It’s interesting to note that some Bible commentators skip this passage of Scripture, and some others just make a quick note of it and press on.  The passage doesn’t seem to fit well into the context of what James has said before it and after it.  Let’s proceed and see if we can make any sense out of it!

I.  WASTING THEIR WEALTH (verses 1-3)

In verse one of chapter 5, he addresses the “rich”.  These are the “filthy rich” – they have so many possessions that they can’t possibly use them all.  They had gained those riches unjustly and were using them selfishly.  James tells them to “weep”, “wail” (scream), now, in an attitude of true repentance before they are taken out of this world and will be weeping and wailing for eternity in Hell.  These rich people to whom James is making his appeal are not Christians.  Their actions in disobedience to God’s Word make their spiritual condition obvious.  That’s why the suffering and judgment he is referring to is eternal.  So I do not believe that James is condemning them.  He is condemning their actions and warning them of the eternal consequences.  The word translated “wail” or “howl” in verse one is the Greek word “ololuzontes”.  The word is called an onomatopoeia – a word that sounds like its meaning.  Try saying the word “ololuzontes” outloud yourself a couple of times.  Say it loud enough for a congregation of people to hear it clearly.  If somebody hears you, you may get the response, “What are you whining about?”  This is the only time that this particular word is used in the New Testament.  I believe James chose this word intentionally under the inspiration of God.  He wanted any “filthy rich” person who might be in the congregation, on the Sunday that his letter was read aloud, to hear what it would sound like if he didn’t let the Lord Jesus Christ have control of his life and his wealth.

In verse 2, James says to the rich, “your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.”  In this country, we measure wealth by dollars and cents, and by holdings that can be converted into dollars and cents.  Here, James is speaking of riches in grain and clothing.  For the poor in those times, food was a matter of life and death.  The prophet Micah said that the withholding of food from the poor was the equivalent of cannibalism (Micah 3:2-3).  For the poor, clothing was also a basic necessity.  However, for the rich it was a way of showing off their wealth.  Some of the rich had so many garments that many of them were never worn and became “food for the moths”.  I guess they didn’t have mothballs or use cedar chests back in those days!  The sad thing was that these rich people didn’t care!  They would rather have their food and clothing go bad than contribute to the needs of the poor!  They turned down the joy and blessing that they would have received from their generosity.  No wonder their lives were so empty and miserable!

You may have heard this illustration, but it may be useful to hear it again.  One day a certain old, rich man of a miserable disposition visited a rabbi, who took the rich man by the hand and led him to a window.  “Look out there.  What do you see?”, asked the rabbi.  “I see men, women, and children”, answered the rich man.  Again the rabbi took him by the hand and this time led him to a mirror.  “Now what do you see?”  “Now I see myself”, the rich man replied.  Then the rabbi said, “Behold, in the window there is glass, and in the mirror there is glass.  But the glass of the mirror is covered with a little silver, and no sooner is the silver added, than you cease to see others, but you see only yourself.”  The Lord Jesus called this phenomenon “the deceitfulness of riches” (Mark 4:19)

Citicorp Bank ran a series of billboards about money.  One said:  “Money changes hands – just don’t let it change the rest of you!  (DB August 2010)

Verse 3 reflects the words of Jesus in His Semon on the Mount:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21)

In verse 3, James says to his readers:  “Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire.  It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure.”  The  word translated “rusted” here, means “to rust down” or “to corrode”.  Gold and silver, wealth that we may consider to be indestructable, is going to be destroyed, and those who trust in them will be destroyed also.  Like rust or corrosion, your lust for riches will eat away at your souls!

I beiieve that James is not only giving them a graphic description of their riches, but he is also making an urgent plea to them.  “Take a good look at your possessions!  Observe the rotting grain in your storehouses; make note of the moth holes on the clothes in your closets; observe the rust or corrosion on your gold and silver!  It’s all plain to see!  They are a witness before your eyes, and they are a witness against you before the eyes of God also!  Take heed and repent of your selfishness and greed, and give the Lord Jesus Christ His rightful place as Ruler of your lives before it’s too late!  You can’t take it with you beyond the grave, but you will suffer for it throughout eternity because God is your witness, and it has all been written down!

“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne,and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. . . . And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”  (Revelation 20:12,15)

ii.  DEPRIVING LABORORS OF HARD-EARNED WAGES (verse 4)

 In verse 4, James gives further proof of their selfishness, this time in their dealings with the laborers who worked in their grain fields.  These were called “day laborers”.  They received their pay at the end of each day, and their pay was barely enough to meet their basic needs.  The wealthy landlords had the money to pay them.  Yet they knowingly and willfully disobeyed God’s Law, which says, “You shall not oppress the hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns.”  (Deuteronomy 24:14-15 NASB)

This next passage of Scripture is even more specific about paying the laborers:  “The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.”  (Leviticus 19:13 NASB).  In other words, they were to pay their laborers when the day’s work was done, and before those laborers went home for the day.

Have you ever been a “day laborer” – harvesting a crop?  If so, I’ll bet you have some stories to tell!  My brother and I got a taste of it, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience!  We were looking for work and saw a newspaper ad saying, “Grape-pickers wanted”.  We arrived at the address at daybreak, and saw an old bus pulling out and a large group of men standing around.  While we were walking over to them, another old bus arrived, full of men.  These were migrant farm-workers, brought in from tenement houses nearby, and the only one who spoke English was the foreman!  Large buckets were handed out and the work began!  These were wine grapes on high trellises, and there were miles of them . . . the dust, the heat, the flies, bees, wasps, and, worst of all, the spider webs and spiders!  At lunch-break my brother said “I’ve had enough!”, and I was quick to agree.  We talked to the foreman and he told us what time to return at the end of the day and pick up our pay.  We could afford to do that, but all those migrant workers needed the money to survive and feed their families.  They were paid by the bucket, not by the hour, so they had to work hard and fast to fill as many bucket-fulls of grapes as possible by the end of the day.  It was no “picnic”, believe me!  If you’ve ever read John Steinbeck’s book, “The Grapes of Wrath”, you would have an image of what it must have been like to be a “day laborer” moving from field to field during harvest season.

Here in verse 4, in order to get the grain harvested and put away, the laborers had to work from dawn til dusk.  The rich land-owners promised to pay their laborers a certain amount at the end of the day.  The tense of the verb “withheld” indicates that those laborers would probably never get their hard-earned wages.  There is a clear application for each of us in this verse.  We ought to pay our bills, and pay them on time!

James has more to say to these wealthy Jewish land-owners.  They think that they are going to get away with this unfairness, but James warns them that their day is going to come.  He uses a very familiar passage in the book of Genesis to get his point across to them.  When James says, “the pay . . . which has been withheld by you, cries out against you”, he is reminding them of God’s words to Cain after he had killed his brother Abel and then buried his body.  He must have thought that he had committed the “perfect crime”.  But God said to Cain:  “Where’s Abel your brother? . . . What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood cries to Me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:9-10)  Then God pronounced a curse on Cain.

James ends verse 4 by saying, “the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the Lord of Sabaoth.”  God is watching, and God is listening to the prayers of these laborers.  The phrase “Lord of Sabaoth” or “Lord of Hosts” pictures God as powerful, invincible, and the Leader of a great army.  Ladies  and gentlemen, there are no “perfect crimes”, at least not in God’s sight, and He will bring judgment in His time!

III.  THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES, AND YOU KNOW IT! (verse 5)

As James brings this rebuke and warning to the unrighteous rich people to a close in verses 5 and 6, I detect a note of sadness and sorrow in his words.  Do you?These wealthy land-owners know how to over-feed their chickens in order to get more breast-meat.  They know how to feed their cattle with the best grains, as much as they will eat, in order to get more steaks.  They are “preparing those animals for slaughter”!  James is saying, “Can’t you see that you are doing to yourselves the same thing that you are doing to your livestock?”

James wants them to take a good look at themselves.  They are living a life of luxury, satisfying their own desires and lusts.  They fit Ezekiel’s description of the city of Sodom in Ezekiel 16:49.  “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.”

IV.  YOUR ONLY HOPE (verse 6)

In verse 6 James brings his rebuke and warning to these wealthy, selfish, unbelieving Jews to a conclusion.  Throughout his epistle the apostle James has phrased his words in such a way as to bring to mind Old Testament passages of Scripture that would be familiar to his readers and listeners.  Remember that these rich Jews had also been taught the Scriptures by their parents when they were little children.  They faithfully attended the synagogues with their families, hearing the Scriptures being taught by the rabbis and other teachers of the Law.  Many of these sons of the wealthy may also have attended rabbinical schools for further training. Their parents wanted them to have the best education available at that time.

I can imagine that there were many rich Jews of all ages who hated the Lord Jesus Christ because He spoke many times publicly against the misuse of riches (eg. Mt. 19; Luke 6, 16).  His parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus must have set the hearts of many wealthy Jews against him.  It makes me wonder whether some of his rich listeners were also among those in Pilate’s courtyard yelling “Crucify, crucify Him” (Luke 23:21).  Here is the literal translation of James 5:6 from the Greek:  “You condemned, you murdered the righteous man.  He does not resist you.”  These words immediately bring to my mind the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).  These wealthy Jews knew this passage of Scripture.  They heard it at home, in the synagogue, and at the temple worship services, and they had studied it in school.  They also knew the last words of that chapter, which reads, “Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.”  I believe that many, if not all, of these selfish, wealthy Jews were standing at a distance, watching the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.  They wouldn’t want to miss this event!  If so, they probably heard, or were told about, this prayer that Jesus uttered on the cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

We don’t know for sure if this was James’ intent when he wrote the words of verse 6, but we do know that God always forgives those who truly repent of their sins, recognize that those sins were paid for by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, and let Him reign as Lord of their lives.  Whether rich, poor, or in-between, that is what brings meaning, purpose, and joy to one’s life.  Can you attest to the truth of those words in your own life?  I sincerely hope so!

 

 

 

 

 

UNDER CONSTRUCTION!   PROCEED WITH ENTHUSIASM!

Thanks for coming to this “construction site!  This particular site is almost complete.  The foundation, walls and roof are in place, The finishing work is almost over, and a couple of illustrations have been nailed to the inside walls.  It’s time to begin a new construction project at “the vacant lot next door”!   I’m  getting ready to study James 5, beginning at verse 7.  You and I are also a “work in progress”, and until we leave this earth, there will always be work to be done.  More will be added to this study piece-by-piece very soon.  I hope you will be studying along with me in James, Chapter 5.    If this is your first visit, please also read my post entitled “A WORK IN PROGRESS” to gain a better understanding of my reasons for using this approach.  Please also check out my ABOUT PAGE to find out more about me.  If you would like to leave a comment or ask a question, I would enjoy hearing from you.

THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT – Philippians 4:10-23

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INTRODUCTION:

A deacon in a church once said to his pastor:  “We Christians are either thermometers or thermostats”.  A thermometer doesn’t change anything around it.  It just tells the temperature.  It’s always going up and down.  But  a thermostat regulates the room or building it is in.  When you turn up the thermostat, the heater comes on and the room gets warmer.

The apostle Paul was a thermostat.   Instead of having spiritual ups and downs as his situation changed, Paul went right on, doing his work and serving the Lord Jesus Christ.  Here in Philippians 4:10-23, Paul gives the reasons for his contentment, and gives the glory to God.

I.  PAUL’S CONTENTMENT (verses 10-13)

In verse 10, the apostle Paul rejoices that the church at Philippi had become concerned about his needs.  He had been praying for them.  Now Paul rejoices at the way God had answered his prayers and provided an opportunity for them to be of service to him while he was in prison at Rome.  Then Paul says in verse 11, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”  The word “learned” means “learned by experience”  Paul had to go through many difficult experiences in life in order to learn how to be content.  When Paul wrote these words, he was deprived of almost everything – except contentment.

I may have shared this illustration with you before , but it’s so appropriate for this verse.  Leaning on his fence one day, a devout Quaker, who believed in simplicity of life, was watching a new neighbor move in next door.  After all kinds of modern appliances, electronic gadgets, and plush furnishings had been carried into the house, the Quaker called over to his new neighbor and said, “If you are lacking anything, neighbor, let  me know, and I’ll show you how to live  without it.”  That Quaker and the apostle Paul had at least one thing in common – they had learned the secret of contentment.  We may not always be able to choose our circumstances in life, but we can choose our attitude toward them.

The opposite of contentment is dissatisfaction or greed.  I’m sure we’ve all met greedy people, but people aren’t the only ones who are greedy.  An animal that is almost impossible to capture is the ring-tailed monkey of Africa.  But the Zulu people have a method that’s both simple and effective.  It’s based on this little creature’s love for a particular melon that grows on a vine.  The seeds are its favorite food.  Knowing this, the Zulus cut a small hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to put his hand inside to get the delicious morsels.  The little fellow reaches through the hole and grabs as many seeds as he can.  But pulling his clenched fist out of the melon is impossible because now it is larger than the hole.  He will pull and tug and scream and struggle to get free, but it’s no use.  As long as he holds on to his prized seeds, he is trapped by the melon – and the Zulus have captured one more ring-tailed monkey.

All too often we also become the victims of our own selfishness and greed.  Lured by the  attractiveness of material things, we strive to get more and more.  Then one day we realize  that what we have been living for is the cause of our frustration and unhappiness.  Our hand is in the “hole” and we can’t seem to get it out because we won’t let go!

Happy is the person, whether wealthy or poor, whose greatest satisfaction is in the Lord Jesus Christ!  That person can say with the apostle Paul, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”

Paul’s motto is found in verse 13:  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  A father found his little boy one day trying to lift a heavy stone.  The youngster pushed, pulled, and struggled to get the boulder to move.  Then, as he was just about to give up, his dad said, “Son, are you using all your strength?”  “Sure am”, he answered.  “No, you aren’t”, the father responded.  “I’ve been standing here all the time and you haven’t asked me for help!”  How often have we tried to do things without relying on God’s strength?  We use up all our energies, and then, because the task seems impossible, we’re tempted to throw up our hands and give up.  Remember, we are not using all our strength unless we are drawing upon the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in us.

II.  PAUL’S GRATITUDE (verses 14-18)

In verses 10-13, Paul expresses his gratitude to the church at Philippi for their many gifts, especially for their most recent gift.  In verse 15, Paul says “No church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone.”  They showed their devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, and their love for the apostle Paul, by giving sacrificially to Paul.  Let me share with you another example of sacrificial giving.  In about 1490, two friends, Albrecht Durer and Franz Knigstein were struggling to become artists.  They were very poor and a lot of training was involved.  So they decided that one would work and support both while the other pursued art classes.  They cast lots and Durer won.  Before leaving, he assured Franz that he would return and help him so that he could develop his talent.  He did come back to keep his promise, but to his surprise, he discovered the enormous price his friend paid.  Hard labor had caused his slender, sensitive fingers to become stiff and twisted.  They would never be able to perform the delicate brush strokes necessary in fine painting.  On one occasion Durer found Franz kneeling, his gnarled hands folded as he prayed for his companion.  Quickly the great artist sketched that scene, and from it he produced his masterpiece, “The Praying Hands”.  The world is richer because of Albrecht Durer, but much credit must also go to his faithful friend.

In verse 18, the apostle Paul thanks the Philippian church for their most recent gift.  He calls it “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.”  Thank you notes give us the opportunity to make permanent our feelings of gratitude for our friends or loved ones.  Paul sent a thank you note to the Christians at Philippi.  They were the only church that had supported him financially on his missionary journey, and Paul did more than just say thanks.  He told them specifically what good they had done by helping him.  Thank you notes work both ways.  They help the sender to express appreciation, and they help the receiver to know what he had done to assist.  Does someone you know deserve a note of thanks?

III.  PRAISE TO GOD (verses 19-20)

In verses 19 and 20, Paul gives praise and glory to God, and says, “You met my need, and God is going to meet your every need.”  A needy widow in Chicago lived by the motto:  “The Lord will provide.”  Even when severely tested, Mrs. Hokanson never lost her smile and her deep faith.  Casting all her cares on God, she found that He always took the burden and supplied the needs.

Mrs. Hokanson was the sole support for her mentally retarded son.  Eventually, chronic arthritis confined her to bed.  When a church  youth group went over to Mrs. Hokanson’s house to cheer her up,, they were amazed to discover that she was not depressed.  When she was asked, “What will you and Arthur do?” She gave her usual quiet, confident response, “The Lord will provide.”  When Mrs. Hokanson died, many people wondered what would happen to her son.  But when friends and neighbors went home with Arthur after the funeral, he proudly showed them his collection of stamps.  Instead of tearing the stamps off the envelopes, he had taken and kept over a hundred letters intended for his mother and left them unopened.  Many contained substantial gifts – enough to care for the boy for the rest of his life.

When we cast all our cares on the Lord, we’ll be amazed at the wondrous way He provides! Our needs can never exhaust God’s supply.

God’s promise to provide for our needs covers the little things as well as the big ones.  The same God who helped Elisha retrieve the borrowed axe head in II Kings 6, and who supplied flour and oil for a faithful widow in I Kings 17, will meet all our needs as well, not only the physical needs, but also the emotional, social, and spiritual needs.  We worship a God who is greater than any of our problems.

Have you learned the secret of contentment in your life?  If you are still searching and want answers, please go to my ABOUT PAGE, especially to the section entitled QUESTION.  If you have more questions or want to know more about a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, please leave a comment and I’ll respond to you.  Thank you for your attention, and may God give you the joy and contentment you desire as you respond to Him.

DEALING WITH WORRY – Philippians 4:1-7

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If anybody had an excuse for worrying, it was the apostle Paul. He had friends in Philippi who were disagreeing with each other, and he couldn’t be there to help them. There were also problems at the church in Rome. Paul also faced the possibility of his own death. Paul had many reasons to worry, but he did not! Instead, he takes time in his letter to explain the ways to have victory over worry. What is worry? The Greek word translated “anxious” or “careful” in verse 6 means “to be pulled in different directions”. Our hopes pull us in one direction; our fears pull us in the opposite direction; and we are being pulled apart! Worry can give us headaches, neck pain, ulcers, even back pain. It can affect our thinking about circumstances, people, and things. It is the greatest thief of joy. Telling others to quit worrying doesn’t work, does it? In the passage of Scripture we’re studying today, Philippians 4:1-7, the apostle Paul gives us part of the solution to worry.

I. AN EXPRESSION OF LOVE AND CONCERN (verse 1)

First of all, in verse l Paul lets the members of the church at Philippi know how special they are to him, and how concerned he is about their spiritual growth and victory in their daily lives.

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF HARMONY (verses 2-3)

Then in verse 2 Paul challenges two specific women to live in harmony. Euodia and Syntyche were not on speaking terms. They were both believers and members of the Philippian church, but they had a difference of opinion and the quarrel between them had become so serious that it reached the ears of Paul in his prison quarters in Rome. It grieved Paul greatly, and he pleads with them to resolve their differences and get along as Christians. If you have something against another Christian, you cannot solve it by not speaking to him or her. The very opposite is true. You should go to that other person and seek to get back into fellowship. If you refuse to speak, you injure yourself more than anyone else. This reminds me of a story of a certain farmer who lived on one side of a mountain, and he went to see his neighbor who lived on the other side of the mountain. Leaning on a rail fence, he watched his friend plowing with a mule. Finally he said, “I don’t want to butt in, but you could save yourself a lot of work by saying “gee” and “haw” instead of jerking on those lines to guide your mule.” The old timer mopped his brow with his red handkerchief and replied, “Yep, I know that; but this here mule kicked me six years ago and I ain’t spoken to him since!” This may sound foolish but the kick in the pants by a mule is no more foolish than many of our “spats” over little things. If you are not speaking to another brother or sister in Christ, what are you gaining by continuing to feud? Start with a smile, and follow it up with a gentle, kind remark, and then, forgetting your hurt feelings, be friends again!

In verse 3 Paul must be speaking to Epaphroditus, the man who brought Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. Paul asks him as well as Clement and the other church leaders to help these women resolve their differences. Instead of worrying, Paul went to work and did something about it, delegating the responsibility for meeting this need to others he trusted and respected.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF REJOICING (verses 4 and 5)

Verses 4 and 5 focus on the importance of rejoicing. The apostle Paul says in verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always”. “Always? But if you only knew what I am facing!” Yes, but what about the apostle Paul? He had been beaten repeatedly, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, and was often falsely accused by his enemies. But he didn’t complain or give up. He knew the secret of joy, and without boasting he could point to himself as an example for believers to follow.

We may not always feel like rejoicing, but we can and we must choose to rejoice. Even though circumstances may change, we have an unchanging God, and in Him we can always find cause for rejoicing. In verse 5 Paul says that we are to have a “forbearing spirit”. This means being satisfied with less than we feel we deserve in this life. Our joy is based on what God has for us in heaven, not on what we can get out of this life.

IV. THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER (verses 6 and 7 )

In verse 6 Paul is saying, “Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything”. The word “prayer” is a general word for making requests known to the Lord. It has the idea of adoration, devotion, and worship. Think about the goodness and majesty of God! We need time to remind ourselves in prayer that God is big enough to solve our problems. Too often we rush into God’s presence and hastily tell Him our needs, when we ought to approach His throne calmly and with deepest reverence and adoration.

The second form of prayer mentioned in verse 6 is supplication – sharing with God our needs and our problems, and confessing our sins to Him. Nothing is too small to bring before the Father’s throne. What a difference it would make in our day if we talked to God about every problem and concern. As the hymn writer said:
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

The last form of prayer mentioned here is thanksgiving. It’s not easy to have a thankful heart in every circumstance in life, is it? Yet the Scriptures say in I Thessalonians 5:18 and in other passages that we should give thanks in everything. There was a godly old preacher whose pastoral prayer was a source of great inspiration to the members of his congregation. Sunday after Sunday he would begin his prayer with praise and thanksgiving to God. Downhearted worshipers were often lifted by his positive spirit. One Lord’s Day, however, it seemed as if there was nothing that anyone could be happy about. The weather was cold and damp, only a few church members came to the service, and gloom was everywhere. The few who did show up that morning wondered what can the pastor be grateful for on a day like this? At the beginning of the service the pastor stood up and folded his hands in his usual manner. Then he began, “Thank you, Father, that every Lord’s Day morning is not like this one!”

Even if we can’t be grateful for what we receive, be grateful for what we escape. Yes, in everything God wants to hear us say, “Thank you, Father!”

The result is that the “peace of God” guards our hearts and our minds. This peace does not mean that the trials of life are gone, but it does mean that we have a confidence within us, regardless of circumstances, people, and things.

Daniel gives us a wonderful illustration of peace through prayer. When the king announced that none of his subjects was to pray to anyone except the king, Daniel “went to his room, opened his windows, and prayed as before”. You will find this story in Daniel 6:1-10. Note how Daniel prayed. He “prayed, and gave thanks” before his God in verse 10, and he made supplication in verse 11. Prayer – Supplication – thanksgiving. And the result was perfect peace in the midst of his difficulty. Daniel was able to spend the night with the lions in perfect peace, while the king in his palace could not sleep! We find this in verse 18.

Those who place themselves in the care of God experience the peace of God. Instead of being anxious about everything, you could be anxious about nothing. Instead of praying about little or nothing, you could be praying about everything. And, through prayer, your heavy load of worry would become God’s, and His gift of peace would become yours. You won’t find a better bargain than that in your Christian life!

If your life is filled with worry, and you have no peace with God and no evidence of lasting joy in your life, apply these principles of prayer to your life. Declare to God in prayer that He is a holy and righteous God who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for your sin. Acknowledge your own sinfulness; confess your sins to Him and ask for His forgiveness. Invite Jesus Christ to come into your life and be your Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-13, 27-30). Thank Him for His presence and His power in your life. Spend time daily in the Bible and in prayer. Get involved in a Bible-teaching church, receiving encouragement from other Christians and serving your loving Lord with all your heart. And don’t forget to tell others about what Jesus Christ has done for you.

TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS – Philippians 3:1-11

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Circumstances and people can rob us of joy, can’t they? But so can things. And it is this thief that Paul deals with in chapter three. It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in things, isn’t it? And not only the things we can see and touch, but also things like reputation, fame and achievement. Jesus warns us in Luke 12:15 that our lives do not consist in the abundance of things we possess. Quantity is no guarantee of quality. Many people who have the things money can buy have lost the things money cannot buy.

The key word in our passage of scripture for today, Philippians 3:1-11, is the word “count”. It means “to evaluate”, to “examine carefully”. Many people today are slaves of “things” because they’ve never sat down and seriously considered the values that control their decisions and actions, and this has robbed them of real joy. In the case of the apostle Paul, the “things” he was living for before he knew Christ seemed to be very noble: a righteous life, obedience to the Law of Moses, and the defense of the religion of his ancestors – the Jewish religion. But none of these satisfied him or made him feel acceptable to God. Paul had high enough morals to keep him out of trouble, but he didn’t have enough righteousness to get him into heaven! It was not bad things that kept Paul away from Jesus – it was good things! Paul had to lose his “religion” to find salvation. In this passage of Scripture we’re studying today, Paul explains that there are only two kinds of righteousness: righteousness based on works and righteousness based on faith, and only faith righteousness is acceptable to God.

I. RIGHTEOUSNESS BASED ON WORKS (verses 1-6)

In verse 1 Paul says, “Finally my brethren”. It doesn’t mean that Paul is about to end his letter, because he keeps on going. The word “finally” means “for the rest” or “for what remains”. Paul is changing his topic. He has warned the believers at Philippi before, but now he warns them again. “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision”. We have to go back to the beginning of the church to find out what Paul means. From the beginning, the gospel came “to the Jew first”. The first seven chapters of the book of Acts deal only with Jewish believers or Gentiles who had become Jewish converts. In Acts 8 the message went to the Samaritans, but this did not cause too much of a problem since the Samaritans were at least partly Jewish. But when Peter went to the Gentiles in Acts 10, this caused an uproar. Peter said that it was God who had directed him to preach to the Gentiles, and the problem seemed to be solved, but not for long. These strict Jewish believers told the apostle Paul that it was necessary for the Gentiles to obey the Jewish rules before they could be saved. They followed Paul wherever he went and tried to steal his converts and his churches. Paul uses three terms to describe them. He calls them “dogs” because they were following on Paul’s heels, viciously “barking” their false teachings. Secondly, Paul called them “evil workers” because these men taught that the sinner must be saved by doing the good works of the Law of Moses. Thirdly, Paul called them “the false circumcision” because they taught that circumcision was necessary for people to be saved. In contrast to these false Christians, Paul says in verse 3 that the true Christian is one who is directed by the Holy Spirit, boasts only in Jesus Christ, and puts no confidence in his sinful flesh.

In verses 4-6 Paul uses himself as an example. He was born into a pure Hebrew family, and was circumcised on the eighth day as required by Jewish law. He was descended from the tribe of Benjamin, the favorite and most faithful of all the tribes. Paul spoke the Hebrew language, and was a Pharisee, the strictest and most devout leaders of the Jewish nation. He was also a persecutor of the church, and was morally blameless. Paul had everything going for him.

II. RIGHTEOUSNESS BASED ON FAITH (verses 7-11)

But when Paul met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road in Acts 9, Paul believed and became a child of God. After this happened, Paul lost some things, but he gained much more than he lost. He recounts this here in verses 7-11. What did Paul lose? Verse 7 says that he lost his reputation as a Jewish scholar and religious leader. He also lost his religious achievements and his Jewish friends.

But what did Paul gain? Verse 8 tells us that Paul gained a personal, intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ. Verse 9 tells us that Paul gained the righteousness of Christ. When Paul trusted in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord, God put Christ’s righteousness into Paul’s account, and Paul’s sins were placed in Christ’s account. His sins were paid for in full by the blood of Christ on the cross. In verses 10 and 11, Paul experienced the fellowship of Christ in His suffering, death, and resurrection. This was Paul’s desire, his goal, and a source of strength and joy.

Paul gained far more than he lost. The things he had lost were like garbage in comparison to gaining Christ. No wonder Paul had joy! His life did not depend on the cheap “things” of the world but on the eternal values found in Christ.

When God asks us to surrender something of temporal worth, He does so for the purpose of replacing it with a prize of eternal value. Are you willing to trust Him and obey Him? Is the Lord calling you to sacrifice something you treasure in order to give you something of lasting worth? People who live for “things” are never really happy because they must constantly protect their earthly treasures and worry about whether they will lose their value.

Can you say, along with the apostle Paul, that to have Christ, and know His resurrection power in your life, is your greatest joy? And can we agree that the things we left behind have become so unimportant that we consider them “but garbage”? Consider and reflect on these words written by the missionary Jim Elliot before he was killed because of his faith in Jesus Christ: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.

TIMOTHY AND EPAPHRODITUS – Philippians 2:19-30

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A newspaper reporter in San Bernardino, California arranged for a man to lie in the gutter on a busy street. Hundreds of people passed by the man but not one stopped to help him or even show sympathy. Newspapers across the country several years ago told how 38 people watched a man stalk a young lady and finally attack her, and none of the spectators even picked up a phone to call the police.

Even in the apostle Paul’s day, concern for one another was not popular. The Christians in Rome were not very interested in the needs and problems at Philippi. Paul could not find one person among them who was willing to go to Philippi. Times have not changed much, have they?

Paul is still discussing humility and concern for the needs of others. He has given the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has also talked about his own experience and his own concern for others. Now Paul introduces us to two of his helpers in the ministry, Timothy and Epaphroditus, and he does this for a reason. He knows that the people reading his letter would think, “It’s impossible for us to follow examples like Christ and Paul. After all, Jesus was the Son of God, and Paul was an apostle who has had great spiritual experiences”. Therefore Paul introduces them to two ordinary Christians.

I. TIMOTHY (verses 19-24)

The first person Paul talks to the Philippians about is Timothy. Timothy’s name means: “one who fears or honors God”. Paul probably met Timothy when he traveled to Lystra and Derbe on his first missionary journey because, in I Corinthians 4:17, Paul later called Timothy his “beloved and faithful child in the Lord”. Timothy’s mother was a Jew and his father was a Greek. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we learn that Timothy’s mother and grandmother became Christians before he did. Paul left him there, encouraging him to become a part of the church fellowship in Derbe and Lystra, and it was in that fellowship that Timothy grew spiritually and learned to serve the Lord. When Paul returned to that area a few years later, he was happy to discover that young Timothy was “well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium”. We find this information in Acts 16:2. Paul saw in Timothy the qualities needed for missionary work and he asked Timothy to join him. In Philippians 2:22 Paul makes this wonderful statement about Timothy: “you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the Gospel like a child serving his father”. Timothy had the humble heart of a true servant of God.

A popular nightclub singer in Chicago many years ago visited a pastor and announced that he had been saved and wanted to serve the Lord. “What should I do next?”, he asked.

“Well, I’d suggest that you unite with a good church and start growing”, the pastor replied. “Is your wife a Christian?”

“No, she isn’t”, the musician replied. “I hope to win her. But do I have to wait? I mean, I’d like to do something right now.”

“No, you don’t have to wait to witness for the Lord”, explained the pastor. “Get busy in a church, and use your talents for Christ.”

“But you don’t know who I am!”, the man protested. I’m a big performer. I want to start my own organization, make records, and appear before big crowds!”

“If you go too far too fast”, warned the pastor, “you may hurt yourself and your testimony. The place to start winning people is right at home. God will open up places of service for you as He sees you are ready. Meanwhile, study the Bible and give yourself a chance to grow.”

The man did not take the pastor’s advice. Instead he set up a big organization and started off on his own. His “success” lasted less than a year. Not only did he lose his testimony because he was not strong enough to carry the heavy burdens, but his constant travelling destroyed his relationship with his wife and family. He disappeared from public ministry, a broken and bankrupt man.

“His branches went out farther than his roots were deep”, the pastor said. “When that happens, you eventually fall.”

Paul didn’t make that mistake with Timothy. He gave Timothy time to get his spiritual roots down deep, and then asked Timothy to work with him on his missionary journeys. Perhaps the greatest reward God gave to Timothy was to choose him to be Paul’s replacement while Paul was in prison in Rome. What an honor! Timothy became Paul’s substitute!

II.  EPAPHRODITUS (verses 25-30)

The other man that the apostle Paul mentions in this passage of Scripture is Epaphroditus. He was a Gentile who had become a Christian, and he was a member of the church at Philippi. Paul couldn’t say enough about this man. In chapter one, Paul calls Epaphroditus “my brother”, “my companion in labor”, and “my fellow-soldier”.

Epaphroditus was a balanced Christian. Like Timothy, Epaphroditus was concerned about both believers and non-believers. Balance is important in the Christian life. Some people emphasize “fellowship” so much that they forget the sharing of the Gospel message with the lost. Others are so involved in defending the Gospel that they neglect building fellowship with other Christians. It takes both to get the Lord’s work accomplished. Dr. H.A. Ironside, the great Bible teacher and preacher, used to tell the story about a group of believers who thought only of “fellowship”. They had little concern for reaching the lost or for defending the faith against its enemies. In front of their meeting place they hung a sign, which said: JESUS ONLY. But the wind blew away some of the letters, and the sign read US ONLY. It was a perfect description of a group of people who were not balanced Christians. Verse 25 tells us that Epaphroditus volunteered to make a dangerous trip to Rome in order to be with Paul and assist him while he was in prison. He also brought along with him a love offering from the church at Philippi. With Nero as emperor, Rome was a very dangerous place for Christians. In verses 26 and 27, Paul says that while Epaphroditus was visiting him, he became very sick and nearly died. Yet his greatest concern was not for himself but for the church in Philippi. He didn’t want them to be distressed about his illness. Epaphroditus knew the meaning of sacrifice and service, and Paul encourages the church at Philippi to honor him.

CONCLUSION:

In Hebrews 11:32-40, God’s Word tells us of many giants of the faith – some named, some anonymous. They are measured by their willingness to serve God and others. Their faithfulness makes them great. God is not looking for bigness or status. His giants are ordinary people who do their best at whatever God calls them to do because they love God.

So, in Philippians 2:19-30, we see in Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus, the secret of true contentment – the giving of themselves without feeling sorry for themselves. Do you want to be an encouraging Christian? Remember, the ultimate source of encouragement is not people, but God. Go to Him for fresh encouragement from fellowship with Him in His Word and in prayer; then go out and encourage others. Even if we have nothing else to give, we can always give encouragement. God is looking for ordinary people to do an extraordinary work for Him!

PRACTICING HUMILITY – Philippians 2:12-18

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The apostle Paul has presented the Lord Jesus Christ as the great example of humility. But how do we go about practicing it? How can we hope to be as humble as our Lord?

Paul isn’t asking us to “reach for the stars” by giving us a goal that is so awesome and difficult that it’s frustrating and hopeless. He is telling us that a humble, submissive attitude and lifestyle are a process, and that God wants to give us everything necessary to develop them in our lives.

I. ENCOURAGEMENT TO GROW (verses 12 and 13)

Paul begins by encouraging us to grow. The words “work out your salvation” in verse 12 don’t mean “work for your salvation”. The Greek word translated “work out” means to “work to full completion”. The word was used in Paul”s day for “working a mine shaft”, getting all the precious ore out of the mine that you possibly can. It was also used for “working a field” so that you could get the greatest possible harvest. God wants us to become Christlike. There will be problems along the way, but God wants to help us “work them out”. Our lives have tremendous potential. He wants to help us get all we can get out of our lives. God is a God of variety. No two flowers are exactly alike, no two snowflakes are the same, and no two fingerprints are identical. All of us are called to be like Christ, but we must also be ourselves.

II. ENCOURAGEMENT TO BE WITNESSES (verses 14-16)

In verses 14 and 15, Paul compares the life of the believer with the lives of those who live in the world. Many people think that Christians are always negative and fighting against something. That’s sad because we should be known as positive people who promote what is good and right. One newspaper columnist stated that he wondered if we Christians are really loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. Are we feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison? Jesus told us to do these things in Matthew chapter 5 in His Sermon on the Mount.

If we went through life each day without complaining, how would that affect others around us? They would enjoy being around us, wouldn’t they? We would be an encouragement to them and God would be able to shine through our lives. Two small children were seated on an airplane and they weren’t happy about it. Their cries of complaint filled the cabin of the airplane. Just before takeoff, a flight attendant stopped next to them and said with a big smile, “What is all that squawking up here?” After charming the fussy 3-year-old and his younger sister for a few minutes, the flight attendant bent down and whispered very seriously, “I must remind you, this is a non-squawking flight”. The little ones became unbelievably quiet. That made everybody feel better. It’s a long journey when you have to sit in the squawking section. I’m sure that God would like to remind us every morning that He wants this day to a non-squawking day.

This kind of problem happens in churches and among Christians also. A specialist was called in as a consultant by the board of a church that was having a lot of disagreement over a small issue. Two committees had given conflicting recommendations on how to redecorate the church building. One committee said that it should be painted white. The other committee insisted that yellow would make it look more attractive and up-to-date.
Both groups wouldn’t give in, and there were angry speeches and many harsh words. The specialist listened to their heated arguments until he finally said quietly, “Here’s my advice to you. Don’t paint it white; don’t paint it yellow; paint your church black! That would be an appropriate color for a church board that is having such a shameful quarrel!”
The members of the committees were put to shame. They now realized that their arguing and hateful comments had grieved the Holy Spirit. After some calm reflection and discussion, a peaceful agreement was reached.

In verses 15 and 16, Paul reminds us that we are God’s children and He wants us to shine as lights in this sinful world. Beatrice Tice tells of a tenement district in New York City where a boy in ragged clothes was seen with a small piece of broken mirror in his hand. Holding it high in the air he moved it slowly back and forth, watching the narrow slit of a window above him as he did so. “What are you doing?”, a man suddenly demanded as he shook the youngster roughly by the shoulder. “Like most boys in this neighborhood, you’re probably up to some mischief, aren’t you?” The boy looked up into the stern face of this man and said, “See that window up there? Well, I have a little brother who has a room on that floor. He’s a cripple. The only sunlight he ever sees is what I shine up to him with my mirror!” The man was ashamed that he had spoken to him so harshly, realizing that the boy was doing a kind deed by reflecting the sun’s rays to his lonesome brother in that dark tenement building.

We don’t have to be preachers or specially trained people to shine for Jesus. We can radiate His light to others by the thoughtful way we talk, live, and love. In verse 16 Paul tells us that if we follow these principles from God’s Word, then we’ll have the joy of knowing that our lives were not lived in vain, and our unselfish efforts will have eternal results.

III. A REASON TO REJOICE (verses 17 and 18)

In verses 17 and 18, the apostle Paul gives himself and the church at Philippi another reason to rejoice. Paul rejoices in spite of the fact that he is being “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith.” Paul established the Philippian church, and their growing faith has been the result of his sacrificial love for them and service to them.

The “drink offering” or “libation” that Paul speaks of was not an offering that was offered by itself or separately. It was an offering of wine which was poured on or around another offering. The wine represented Paul’s blood. Paul was writing this letter in a prison cell in Rome, and he knew that very soon he would be put to death because of his faith in Jesus Christ. But the main sacrifice for which he was being poured out as a drink offering was the Philippian church’s’ testimony and service to God that would continue on after his death. This was the source of Paul’s joy as he writes this letter to them, and he wants them to share in this joy together with him. Joy comes in this life from sacrifice and service to God, and from looking forward to the day when we’re promoted to glory.

JESUS CHRIST EXALTED – Philippians 2:9-11

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INTRODUCTION: The word “therefore” in verse 9 of Philippians, chapter 2, tells us that the story of Jesus doesn’t end with His birth, life, suffering and death, as described by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-8. There is much more to the story. And this story keeps getting better all the time!

When I first preached this message, my Scripture passage was Philippians 2:5-11. But verses 9-11 are so meaningful that I decided to devote a separate message to these three verses. As we study this passage of Scripture, we will be investigating the description of Jesus’ exaltation, the results of His exaltation, and the purpose of His exaltation.

THE DESCRIPTION OF JESUS’ EXALTATION (2:9)

Because of Jesus’ voluntary act of humility, when he laid aside His glory and the independent use of His attributes as God to become a man, so that He could sacrifice Himself to pay the price for our sins, God the Father exalted His Son to the highest possible degree. All that Jesus gave up or laid aside to become a man and pay the price for our sins was now given back by God the Father “with interest” so to speak. Jesus is now the God-man, and He will continue to have His earthly name and His sinless human nature for eternity.

In addition, God “bestowed”, or freely gave to Jesus the “name that is
above every name”. Notice that it doesn’t say, “the name Jesus”, but “the name of Jesus”. Jesus received His human name, “Jesus”, when an angel appeared to Mary in Matthew 1:2l, and in a dream to Joseph in Luke 1:31 and said, “you shall call His name Jesus”. But the exalted name given by the Father, to which every knee shall bow is the name “Lord”. The Greek word is “kurios”, which means “ruler”. It is equivalent to the Old Testament name for God: “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”.

So, when the Son of God humbled Himself, He was given the name “Jesus”. When He was exalted, He was given the name “Lord”. As you read through the Gospels you will notice that Jesus’ followers never called Him by His first name. They always called Him “Lord”. If you had the opportunity to speak to the President of these United States, you wouldn’t address him by his first name, would you? You would call him “Mr. President” out of respect for his office.

II. THE RESULTS OF HIS EXALTATION (vs. 10-11)

In verses 10 and 11 we are told the results of Jesus Christ’s exaltation. The apostle Paul says: “Every knee shall bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. That includes all the angels and saints in heaven, all those on earth during His thousand year reign, and all those who have rejected Him. All authority in heaven, on earth, and under the earth belongs to Him.

Is the Lord Jesus Christ your Lord? Is He ruling in your life right now? Is it obvious to those around you that the Lord Jesus is reigning in your life? To bow before Him now and confess that He is Lord means salvation. To bow before Him at the Great White Throne judgment means condemnation. Don’t put it off. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Your response will determine where you will spend eternity. In one of his crusades, Billy Graham said that a person once asked him if there was a Bible verse that says what it means to be a Christian. Dr. Graham’s immediate answer was Luke 9:23. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

III. THE PURPOSE OF HIS EXALTATION (verse 11)

At the end of verse 11, the apostle Paul tells us that the purpose for Christ’s humiliation and his exaltation was the glory of God. As Jesus faced the cross, He prayed, in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee”. If we’ve accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord, He has given that glory to us. And one day we are going to share it with Him in heaven. Let that be a source of joy to us. In the meantime, Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW – Philippians 2:5-8

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INTRODUCTION:

In Philippians 2:1-4 we studied what it means to be humble, to put others first, to look out for the interests and needs of others. We learned that true satisfaction and joy come from loving others and being unselfish toward others. Remember the motto that Dwight L. Moody gave to a graduating class at Moody Bible College? “Do all the good you can to all the people you can in all the ways you can for as long as you can.”

How do you teach humility? The only way is by example. This next passage of Scripture, Philippians 2:5-8, is one of the most profound and amazing passages of Scripture in the whole Bible. The apostle Paul uses the perfect illustration of humility – Jesus Christ Himself. Paul says in verse 5, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Our attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ’s because our attitude determines our actions. If our attitude is selfish, our actions are going to be selfish and destructive. In reviewing what the Son of God did to become the Son of man, we should be reminded that one who suffers little does not groan in the presence of one who suffers much. For instance, would it be appropriate to complain bitterly about chapped hands while visiting a person who recently had one of his hands amputated? Or what sensitive citizen would complain about having to pay taxes while standing at the graveside of one who had given his life for his country? When we think about the birth, life, and death of Christ, all our problems and inconveniences become insignificant.

I. HE THOUGHT OF OTHERS (verses 5-6)

Following Jesus’ example means humbly serving others. Verse 6 takes us back to eternity past. The phrase “form of God” has nothing to do with shape or size. God is spirit. The word “form” refers to Jesus’ inward nature. It means that in eternity past, Jesus Christ was God. But Jesus didn’t consider His equality with God as “something to hang on to.” Jesus didn’t think of Himself. He thought of others. Jesus’ attitude was: I can’t keep my privileges to myself. I must use them for others, and I’ll gladly pay whatever price is necessary. What a contrast to Lucifer. Most Bible scholars believe that Lucifer and Satan are the same person. Lucifer was the highest of the angels and was close to the throne of God, but he wanted to be “on” the throne of God. His pride cost him his place in heaven and he was cast into hell, along with his followers.

II. HE SERVED (verse 7)

In verse 7 Paul traces the steps in the humiliation of Christ. First. He emptied Himself, laying aside His majesty, and the independent use of His attributes as God. Secondly, He permanently became a human, in a sinless physical body. Thirdly, He used that body to be a servant. And fourthly, He took that body to the cross and willingly died. Have you noticed that as you read the four Gospels that it is Jesus who served others, not others who served Him, with only a couple of exceptions?

III. HE SACRIFICED (verse 8)

Have you ever talked to or heard about people who thought that they had finally achieved humility? One man wrote a book entitled “Humility and How I Attained It”. When a person thinks he has attained humility, he is actually far from it. Our desire and prayer should not be “Lord, keep me humble”, but “Lord, make me humble”.

Jesus chose the way He would come to this earth, and He chose a lowly birth. He was born in a stable. He chose lowly parents. His step-father, Joseph, was a lowly carpenter. He chose to be very plain looking. Isaiah 53:2 says, “He has no stately form or majesty, that we should look upon Him.” He chose to have no status or reputation. In Luke 22:27 Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves”. He chose to have no abilities. In John 5:30 Jesus said, “I can of mine own self do nothing”. He chose not to be independent. In Luke 22:42 Jesus said, “I seek not my own will, but the will of Him who sent me”. No wonder the apostle Paul encourages us to be like Christ.

The word “servant” in verse 7 is the Greek word “doulos”, which means “slave”. Under Roman law, a slave was greatly humiliated. A slave had no rights and no justice. A slave could be bought and sold, and could be tortured to the extreme. That description of a slave also describes the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Many people are willing to serve others if it doesn’t cost them anything. But if there is a price to pay, they suddenly lose interest. Jesus, however, “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. The person with a submissive mind does not avoid sacrifice. He lives for the glory of God and for the good of others. If paying the price will honor Christ and help others, he is willing to do it. A man by the name of Douglas Hyde was a communist for 20 years. In his book, “Dedication and Leadership” he says that communists never ask a person to do a small task. They always ask him to do something that will cost him. They make big demands, and they get a willing response. The “willingness to sacrifice” is one of the most important factors in the success of the communist movement. Even the young people in the movement are expected to study, serve, give, and obey, and that is what attracts them and keeps them going.

A church board met with their youth group as they planned the annual “youth Sunday program”, and one of the board members suggested that the teenagers could serve as ushers, lead in prayer, and bring special music. One of the teens stood up and said, “quite frankly, we’re tired of being asked to do little things. We’d like to do something different this year, and maybe keep it going all year long. We’ve talked and prayed about this, and we’d like to work with our trustees in remodeling that basement room so it can be used as a classroom, and we’d like to start visiting our elderly members each week and taking them cassettes of the services. And, if it’s OK we’d like to have a weekly witness on Sunday afternoons in the park. We hope this will be OK with you.” He sat down, and the new youth pastor smiled to himself. He had privately challenged these teenagers to do something that would cost them, and they enthusiastically responded to the challenge. He knew that sacrifice is necessary if there is going to be true growth and ministry.

The test of a submissive mind is not just how much we are willing to take in terms of suffering, but how much we are willing to give in terms of sacrifice. And in the Christian life, the more we give, the more we receive; the more we sacrifice, the more God blesses. The result is an inner joy. As we share in Christ’s sufferings we also share in His joy. Is it costing you anything to be a Christian?

CONCERN FOR OTHERS – Philippians 2:1-4

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INTRODUCTION:

In Philippians, chapter 1, we learned how to have joy in spite of circumstances in our lives. The secret is to have a single mind, putting Christ first in our lives and serving Him with all our hearts. In chapter 2, the apostle Paul tells us how to have joy in spite of people. The secret is to have a submissive mind, putting others second in our lives. In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 2, Paul gives the members of the church at Philippi something to think about, and then challenges them in verses 3 and 4.

I. THE REMINDER (verse 1)

The word “if” in verse 1 would be better translated as “because” or “since”.
Paul’s words in verse l are not expressions of uncertainty but statements of fact. Let’s ask ourselves if his statements are true in our lives. “Is there any encouragement in Christ?” Has Jesus Christ ever encouraged you to find solutions instead of taking sides? Has He encouraged you to be patient with others as He is with you? Has He ever encouraged you to be at peace with others and resolve your differences? “Is there any consolation in love?” Have you ever received comfort from God’s love for you, or your love for God, or from the love of other Christians? “Is there any fellowship of the Spirit?” Have you ever experienced a sense of oneness with God and with other Christians? “Is there any affection and compassion?” Has God, or have other Christians ever let you know how much you mean to them, and helped you when you’ve been down?

II. THE CHALLENGE (verse 2)
If so, Paul says, “make my joy complete” by being the same way yourselves, having the same love for others, the same oneness with other believers, and the same desire to help meet the needs of others.” Paul is already joyous and thankful for what he hears about the church at Philippi: their faithfulness to God’s Word, the certainty of their salvation, and their efforts to proclaim the Gospel. Now, Paul is saying, “what would make my joy complete” would be for them to humbly work together in unity to accomplish God’s goals for them. This topic of unity is so important that the apostle Paul brings it up in every one of his epistles to the Churches. This is because unity is so hard to develop and maintain.

III. PUTTING OTHERS FIRST (verse 3)

In verse 3 Paul hits on the problem. We live in a selfish society. Here’s a true example of selfishness. A farmer who was single decided that he wanted a wife. So he put an ad in the newspaper that read: “Man 35 wants woman about 25 with tractor. Send picture of tractor.”

The person who lets others go first is often considered to be weak. But if you forget yourself for the sake of others, others will not forget you, and your life will be filled with joy.

A rich baker sent for 20 of the poorest children in his town and said to them, “In this basket is a loaf of bread for each of you. Take one and come back every day and I’ll give you more.” Immediately the youngsters began quarreling about who would get the largest loaf. Snatching from the basket, they left without even thanking the baker. Gretchen, a poorly dressed little girl, patiently waited until the others had left. She then took the smallest loaf which remained in the basket, kissed the old man’s hand, and went home.
The next day the scene was repeated. But when Gretchen’s mother sliced this loaf, she found many shiny silver coins inside. When Gretchen took the money back to the baker, he said, “No, my child, it was not a mistake. I put them into the smallest loaf to reward you.” Are we willing to be unselfish for Jesus’ sake? Dwight L. Moody was a well-known pastor, evangelist, and founder of a Bible college which is now called Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He gave this motto to one of the graduating classes: “Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, in all the ways you can, for as long as you can.” What a wonderful reminder of how you and I can demonstrate our concern for others! Say that motto over again several times until you can quote it for memory. Then say it to yourself each morning, and ask God to give the ability to put it into practice with a spirit of joy. Each evening thank God for the ways He used you that day, and pray for the
individuals you had the privilege of serving.

IV. LOOKING OUT FOR OTHERS (verse 4)

Verse 4 tells us that there is a balance. God does not want us to neglect our own needs, nor does He want us to become a “doormat” for others to walk on and take advantage of. But Paul says, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Loving others can set us free from our own selfishness.

A mother took her young daughter shopping one day and grumbled about a disabled beggar who was partially blocking the sidewalk. He was sitting on a street corner trying to earn a few pennies selling pencils. “Mommy, let’s give that poor man something”, pleaded the little girl eagerly. “We’re in a hurry, darling”, replied the mother in a muffled voice. “And besides, he’s none of our business!” Tightening her grip on the child’s hand, she hastened past the beggar and went on to purchase two new hats she really didn’t need.
That night the youngster said her prayers as usual while her mother listened.
After repeating her “Now I lay me down to sleep”, she suddenly exclaimed, “Dear Jesus, please help that poor man we saw on the street today!” There was a short pause. Then she said, “Oh, I’m sorry, Jesus, I forgot. Mommy said ‘he’s none of our business’!” Convicted by her daughter’s words, the mother hung her head in shame.

Dr. Karl Menninger, the well-known psychiatrist, was asked at a forum what to do if one felt a nervous breakdown coming on. You would expect him to say, “See a psychiatrist”. Instead, he replied, “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for him.” That was good scriptural advice.

Let’s live unselfishly today, so that as we close our eyes in sleep tonight we can do so with the satisfaction and joy that comes from looking out for others.

ESSENTIALS FOR VICTORY – Philippians 1:27-30

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INTRODUCTION:  Several years ago a believer in Jesus Christ was walking past a tavern in the city of Philadelphia.  Looking in, he saw a man who claimed to be a Christian drinking and gambling.  He took a pencil and wrote a message on a slip of paper.  Seeing a young man standing near the door, he greeted him and said to him, “Would you do something for me?  Do you see that man over there playing cards?  Would you give him this note?”  The young man agreed to do it.  When the backslidden believer opened the note, he blushed, for it read, “Ye are my witnesses!”  Immediately he got up and left the tavern.  That note was used by the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to his heart.  He realized that he had not been true to Christ.  In the passage of Scripture we are studying today, Philippians 1:27-30, the apostle Paul gives us three essentials for victory as we strive to demonstrate our faith in Christ and in His Word.

I.  CONSISTENCY (1:27a)

The first essential is consistency.  In verse 27 Paul says, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.”  The Greek word translated “conduct yourself” is the word from which we get our word “politics”.  Paul is saying, “behave the way citizens are supposed to behave.”  Speaking to people about the Lord is important because the witness of our lives is not enough to save other people.  It’s the Word of God that contains the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  However, if our words are not backed up by living evidence, our words are empty.  Dr. Daniel Steele says, “All jurists in a court of law will tell you that one bit of authentic evidence is worth 10,000 words of pleading.”  Paul is implying that we Christians are the citizens of heaven, and while we’re on this earth we ought to behave like heaven’s citizens.  This argument of Paul’s was very meaningful to the people in Philippi because Philippi was a Roman colony, and its citizens were actually Roman citizens, protected by Roman law.  Similarly, the church of Jesus Christ is a colony of heaven on earth, and we ought to behave like citizens of heaven.

The word “worthy” means “to be of equal weight”.  Paul is saying, “Make sure your behavior as citizens adds up to, or is consistent with, the gospel message you present.  That’s our challenge today!

While the great French artist Dore was travelling in Southern Europe, he lost his passport.  When he came to the border of a particular country, a border guard asked him to show his papers. ” I’ve lost them”, Dore said, “but you can trust me.  I am Gustav Dore, the artist.  Please let me proceed.”  “Oh no!”, said the officer.  “many have tried to pass themselves off as important people”.  A lengthly conversation  followed, with both parties protesting.  Finally the officer said, “Here is a pencil and paper.  If you are the famous artist, prove it by drawing a picture!”  With a masterful hand Dore quickly sketched some of the features of the surrounding countryside.  “Now I’m perfectly sure of who you are!” exclaimed the officer.  “Only Dore could do that!”

In living the Christian life, an ounce of illustration is worth many pounds of talk.  There’s a well-known poem that goes like this:

You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do, by the words that you say.
Men read what you write, whether faithless or true.
Say, what is the gospel according to you?

II.  COOPERATION (verse 27b)

The second essential for victory, as we strive to represent Christ and obey His Word, is cooperation.  In the middle of verse 27, Paul speaks of “striving together for the faith of the gospel”.  The words “striving together” were used to refer to the teamwork of athletes. The key word is “together”.  The local body of believers is to be like a team of athletes.  Each of us has an assigned place and job, and if each one is doing his job, it helps all the others.  Not everyone can be captain or quarterback.  The team has to follow the rules, and the word of God is our “rule book”.  God doesn’t want any “glory hounds” in His church.  You know, the ones who always want to be in the spotlight and get all the praise.  We are called to be a team, and our goal is to make one Person look good and receive all the praise.  That person is our Lord Jesus Christ.  There is joy in our lives, even as we do battle with our enemy, Satan, if we live for Christ and practice “Christian teamwork”.  Remember, we are members of the same team and should work cooperatively.

III.  CONFIDENCE (verses 28-30)

The third essential for success as we face the enemy is confidence.  The apostle Paul says in verse 28:  “Don’t be alarmed by your opponents”.  This phrase was used by the Greeks to describe a horse shying away from battle.  There’s no reason for us to be afraid.  We are on the winning side because Satan was defeated when Christ died on the cross for our sins.  We have the victory when we trust in Christ’s power.

In verses 29 and 30 Paul gives us several reasons to be confident in the battle.  First, these battles prove that we are saved.  For some reason many Christians have the idea that trusting Christ means the end of their battles.  Actually, it means the beginning of new battles.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”  II Timothy 3:12 says, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Secondly, the presence of conflict is a privilege.  When we suffer for Christ or with Christ, it is an honor.  Thirdly, others are experiencing the same conflict.  Satan wants us to think that we are alone in the battle, that our difficulties are unique.  But this is not true.  Paul is reminding the Philippians that he’s going through the same difficulties they are experiencing.  Knowing that other believers are also engaged in the battle is an encouragement for us to keep going and to pray for them as well as for ourselves.

We all have our bad days when it seems like our whole world is against us.  Life isn’t always a picnic, is it?  But Paul is saying that he’s had many of those rough days, but he hasn’t let those days rob him of joy. Paul was faithful and persistent, in spite of his obstacles. That’s the kind of attitude Paul is looking for in the Philippians, and God is looking for in each of us.

Do you want to have joy today in spite of the circumstances you’re in, or may be facing?  Remember, you can be confident that you’re a citizen of heaven if Christ is your Savior and Lord, and He wants you to act like one.  Remember, we are all members of the same team, and God wants us to cooperate with each other and be concerned for each other.  Remember, we face the same enemy and need the confidence that only Christ can give us as we depend on Him.  Christianity was never meant to be dull, but exciting!