EARTHLY WISDOM – James 3:15-16

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In my previous study on verse 14, James gave a warning to his readers at that time, and the warning applies to us today:  “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.”

In verse 15, James gives a name to the kind of wisdom he has just described.  He calls it “earthly wisdom”.  This kind of wisdom does not “come down from above”.  In other words, God does not give this kind of wisdom.  James also uses two more words to describe this wisdom, and with each word the description seems to become worse and worse. Not only is it “earthly” wisdom (wisdom that does not come from God), but it is also “natural” wisdom.  The Greek word suggests that this wisdom has to do with the body and the soul or emotions, but not with the spirit.  So this wisdom James speaks of is not only not from God, it has nothing to do with God.    When you think it can’t get any worse than that, it does.  James goes on to say that this wisdom is demonic.  Satan and his demons evidenced this kind of wisdom when they became filled with envy and rebelled against God.  Therefore a person with this kind of wisdom is easily influenced by Satan.

Earthly wisdom is an end in itself.  People strive for it so that they might boast about it, and so that others might tell them how wise or smart they are, and pass the word on to still others.  On the other hand, godly wisdom is not an end in itself but a means to an end.  King Solomon in the Old Testament is considered to be one of the wisest men who ever lived.  Let’s take a look at how Solomon received that wisdom, and why he received such wisdom from God.  In I Kings 3 we read that King Solomon loved the Lord and walked in obedience to Him.  And while Solomon was at Gibeon, after he had offered sacrifices there on the altar, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him to ask for whatever he wanted.  That’s quite an offer!  In verses seven and eight of I Kings 3 Solomon says, “And now, O Lord my God, Thou hast made Thy servant King in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child;  I do not know how to go out and come in.  And Thy servant is in the midst of a people which Thou hast chosen, a great people who cannot be numbered or counted for multitude.  So give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil.  For who is able to judge this great people of Thine.”  God answered Solomon’s request and gave him far more than he asked for.

In contrast, we see in the Scriptures what human wisdom has acccomplished.  It began with Adam and Eve’s removal from the Garden of Eden and the affects of their sin upon our world.  Earthly wisdom has also resulted in wars, discrimination, poverty, and pollution of our environment to name a few.  In our churches human wisdom has led to church fights, church splits, and churches closing their doors, among other issues.

In verse 16 James sums up the effects of earthly wisdom.  He says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”  When Christians act in this way it also leaves a bad impression on others.  As one Christian put it:  “Self is spiritual BO!”

A prime example of jealousy and selfish ambition in the Bible is found in the OId Testament book of Esther.  Haman the Agagite, in Esther, chapter 7, constructs a gallows on which he intends to hang Mordecai the Jew in order to satisfy his own selfish desires and demonstrate his power.  However, his plan backfires!  Queen Esther learns of his plot and intervenes.  As a result, the king orders that Haman be hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai the Jew.  Not only that but all of Haman’s ten sons are killed also.  That’s a very high price to pay for his selfish motives and actions!

As in the case of Haman, pride and selfishness can have harmful or tragic side effects on innocent people.  Let me give you another case in point.  Other examples may come to your mind.

In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea, causing a tragic loss of life.  The news of the disaster was further darkened, however, when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident, which hurled hundreds of passengers into the icy waters.  The tragedy was not traced to some major problem like a breakdown in radar or thick fog.  The blame was attributed to human stubbornness.  Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence.  Both could have taken evasive action to avert the collision.  But according to news reports, neither wanted to give way to the other.  It seems that each was too proud to yield and make the first move.  By the time they saw the error of their ways, it was too late.

There’s been a lot of talk about pride, envy, and boasting in this sermon so far.  How about you?  Does life seem unfair sometimes?  Are others better off than yourself?  Do others seem to get all the “lucky breaks” in life?  Do others seem to get away with things that aren’t right?  Are you tired of listening to all the boasting that’s being done by others?  We’ve all had those thoughts and feelings before, haven’t we?  I have!  Even the psalmist expresses those feelings in Psalm 73:3.  He says, “I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness”.

When this happens, we’ve lost our perspective and have begun to fall into the habit pattern of using “earthly wisdom”.  God wants us to look at life from the perspective of eternity.  If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ;  if you’ve repented of your sins and invited Him to reign as Lord in your life, then you’re going to spend eternity with Him in heaven and your joy will be unending.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

Doesn’t our envy seem to be a waste of time in comparison to what’s already ours for eternity?  Shouldn’t it be reminding us to pray for those who have this world’s wisdom and this world’s goods, yet will forfeit their souls?  When envious thoughts begin to fill our minds, let’s spend time alone with God in His Word and in prayer, and ask Him to put things back into their proper perspective.

This section is still under construction.  Thought you might like to see how it’s coming along.  It’s still a “work in progress”, and so am I (and so are you)!

 

THE PROFILE OF A LEADER – II Timothy 2:1-7

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INTRODUCTION:

William Sangster, a popular preacher and writer of the 1950’s, said this:  “The church is painfully in need of leaders.”  In the Scriptures God is frequently described as searching for a man of a certain type;  not “men”,  but “a man”;  not a group, but an individual.             I Samuel 13:14 says, “The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart.”  In Ezekiel 22:30 God says, “I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap . . . but I found no one.”  Are you such a person?  What kind of a person is it that God is looking for?  In II Timothy 2:1-7,  the apostle Paul, after telling Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”, describes such a person by using four images:

I.  A TEACHER (verse 2)

In verse 2, the first image Paul uses to describe the Christian leader is that of a teacher.  A college student was having difficulty with his studies so he finally decided to talk to his professor.  He complained, “I’m studying hard.  I’m doing my best, but I just can’t retain what I read or try to memorize.  Do you think it would help if I hired a tutor?”

Clearly understanding the young man’s problem, the instructor replied, “No, I wouldn’t recommend that at all.  You don’t need a teacher, you need a pupil!”  He knew that learning is increased when we share our knowledge with others.

This professor’s advice reminds us of believers who know many Bible facts but still have a poor understanding of scriptural truths.  They attend church every Sunday, listen faithfully to religious broadcasts, and study the Scriptures personally;  yet they seem to lack a working knowledge of the Bible.  What’s the problem?  They never do anything with that information!  They don”t need to be taught more;  they need to tell others what they have learned.  As they put it into practice, they will begin to understand it more fully.  That is what Paul said to Timothy in verse 2.  The things Paul said were confirmed by many witnesses as being the truth of God.  There are many teachers today who compromise the Scriptures so that they are acceptable to the mentality of this age in which we live.  Paul is telling Timothy to “entrust” the things he’s learned from him to faithful men.  The word “entrust” gives the picture of a precious treasure being placed in the safekeeping of another person.  We each have things that we treasure, either because they are expensive or because they have sentimental value.  If you were going on a trip, would you hand these items over to a total stranger?  No!  You would give them to a trusted friend with information on how to care for and protect them.  The Gospel is a precious treasure and should be given to “faithful men” who won’t misuse it or abandon it.

The teacher is described in verse 2 as equipping others to teach, not satisfied with just communicating the message.  The nature of the Gospel message demands that it be propagated or reproduced in the lives of others.  The ultimate goal of the teacher is to see God’s Word passed on to others, and through them to still others.  That is the key to reaching this world for the Lord Jesus Christ.

II.  A SOLDIER (verses 3-4)

The second image that Paul uses is that of a soldier.  You could say that if any apostle was an authority on soldiers, it was the apostle Paul.  He had been in prison and chained to soldiers during much of his Christian life.  What comes to your minds when you think of a soldier’s life?  In verse 3, Paul describes a soldier as one who is willing to suffer hardship.  The apostle Paul was a good soldier of Jesus Christ because he suffered for the cause of Christ, and had the scars to prove it.  There was a popular saying during World War II:   people would often say to each other, “there’s a war on!”  It was a reminder to them that hardships were to be expected and accepted.

Fellow Christians, there IS a war on!  We, as Christians, are in a war against the world, against our own sinful flesh, and against Satan.  Are we willing to accept all the hardship that comes as a result of identifying with the cause of Christ?  As modern-day believers, we may not all experience great persecution for our faith, but we do face hardships and trials.  Our faith in Christ is not an escape from them, but it does give us the strength to endure them.

In verse 4, Paul says that a soldier is obedient and loyal.  The words “on active duty” describe the life of a soldier of Christ as a constant battle.  There are no “furloughs” or “vacations” from the Christian life.  Constant and complete dedication is needed.  A soldier  also does not “entangle himself in the affairs of everyday life”.  A Roman soldier was forbidden to engage in civilian occupations and was told to avoid becoming overly involved in the affairs of the market-place.  He was a soldier first and his loyalty was to be to his commander.

The Christian is also to be single-minded.  This may mean laying aside certain habits, amusements, pursuits, and maybe even certain relationships, not necessarily because they may be wrong in themselves, but because they may be an entanglement, keeping us from performing our primary responsibilities as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.

III.  AN ATHLETE (verse 5)

In verse 5, Paul uses the image of an athlete to describe the Christian.  The word “competes” comes from two Greek words which were used together to describe a “professional” as opposed to an “amateur” athlete.  It was a full-time dedication of one’s life to excellence in the athletic event or events he had chosen.  Paul says that the goal of the athlete is to win the prize by “competing according to the rules”.  Several athletes in the 1976 olympic games were discovered to have taken prohibited drugs.  Their medals were taken away from them.  All those years of preparation and hard work were for nothing!

As a Christian leader, the standard is God’s Word, and we have several umpires observing what we do and how we do it.  We have the divine umpire, and He doesn’t miss a thing.  But we also have the Christians and non-Christians around us.  I’ve personally found that some non-Christians will tempt you, test you, argue with you, and antagonize you, but inwardly many of them want you to succeed, to pass their tests, because they want something worth believing, and worth giving themselves to.  God is looking for faithful Christians, faithful to Him and to His Word,  whatever the cost.  And some day we will win the prize when God rewards our faithfulness to Him.

IV.  THE FARMER (verses 6 and 7)

The fourth image that Paul uses to describe the Christian leader is that of the farmer.  In verse 6, he describes the farmer as being “hardworking”.  The word means working to the point of weariness and exhaustion.  As a kid, I remember spending a week with a friend on his parents’ farm.  We went to bed early every night and got up really early every morning.  His mother made the biggest breakfasts that I have ever seen!  There were eggs, pancakes, potatoes, meat, rolls, fruit, and hot cereal.  I soon found out why there was so much food.  We worked hard after breakfast gathering the eggs, feeding the chickens, cows, horses, and pigs, spraying the weeds, and picking the ripe fruit and vegetables.  By lunch time, and also at supper time, I was famished and ate lots of food.  After the week was over, I can remember coming home exhausted.  Now I knew why their son liked to spend a week with us once in a while!

The farmer must be content to keep working hard,  and also to keep waiting.  More than any other worker, the farmer has to learn that there is no such thing as quick results.  It takes months after the seed is sown and the ground is continually watered and cultivated, that the fruit, vegetables, and grain finally begin to ripen and can be harvested.  But all that hard work will finally pay off.

The Christian life is also hard work  The Christian too must learn to work hard and also to wait.  Often he will sow the seed of God’s Word into the hearts of others and see no immediate results.  Sometimes it takes years of sowing and watering before some people respond to the Gospel message and are saved.  But we must, like the farmer, keep on working and waiting.  The pastor and author, John R.W. Stott, said:  “This notion that Christian service is hard work is so unpopular in some happy-go-lucky Christian circles  today.”

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION:

Let me summarize the qualities of a good Chrtistian leader.  As a teacher, he should be characterized by faithfulness to uphold the truth of God’s Word, and a zeal to see it reproduced in the lives of faithful people, and then passed on to others.  As a soldier, he is to be undistracted from his calling and willing to endure anything for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As an athlete, he is to be above reproach in his actions, attitudes, and methods, both before the eyes of the world and the eyes of God.  And as a farmer, he is to work long and hard, trusting God for the harvest to come.

Will you be such a person:  the kind of person that God and His church seeks after;  the kind of person that this world needs?  Will you be able to say confidently to those you are teaching and helping to grow spiritually, what the apostle Paul said in verse 7:  “Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything”?

 

 

THE RIGHT KIND OF FAITH – James 2:14-26

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INTRODUCTION:

Someone has said that faith is not “believing in spite of the evidence, but obeying in spite of the consequences”.  When we read Hebrews 11, we meet men and women who acted upon God’s Word, no matter what the price they had to pay.  Faith is not some kind of feeling that we work up, but a confidence that God’s Word is true, and that obeying it will bring God’s blessing.  What kind of faith really saves a person?  Is it necessary to perform good works in order to be saved?  How can a person tell whether or not he is exercising true saving faith?  James answers these questions by explaining to us that there are three kinds of faith, and only one of them is true saving faith.

I.  DEAD FAITH (verses 14-17)

In verses 14-17, James talks about dead faith.  People with dead faith substitute words for actions.  They know all the right words to say during times of prayer and testimony, and can even quote the right verses from the Bible, but their actions do not measure up to their talk.

James gives a simple illustration:  a poor believer came into a fellowship without proper clothing and in need of food.  The person with dead faith noticed the visitor and saw his needs, but he did not do anything to meet those needs.  All he did was say a few pious words:  “Go in peace, be warm and be filled.”  But the visitor went out just as hungry and unclothed as he came in!

In verse 14, James is saying, “Can that kind of faith save him?”  What kind?  The kind of faith that is never seen in practical works.  The answer is “No”!  Any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life and good works is a false declaration.  What kind of faith is dead faith?  In verse 17, James says “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”  True saving faith can never be by itself.  It always brings life, and life produces good works.

In a Decision Magazine article, missionary Patrick Harris tells of his son David, who was brain-damaged.  When David was very young and his family was home on furlough, many people told them, “We are praying for David.”  Patrick and his wife were grateful.  But one woman said, “I have Wednesday off.  Give me the privilege of taking David out that day to relieve you.”  Harris said, “That was what was needed – not only prayer but practical help!”  An important part of praying is a willingness to be part of the answer.

II.  DEMONIC FAITH (verses 18-19)

Only God can see “faith” in the heart of a person.  People see our faith only by our works. Faith is like a seed planted in the ground.  It is hidden from view, but if it is a living seed it will soon manifest itself by pushing its stalk up through the soil for all to see.  Out of the war comes a story of faith in action.  A godly chaplain in the army found a dying soldier on the battlefield, and being anxious about his salvation, he took out his Bible and said, “Shall I read a portion of Scripture for you?”  But the soldier replied, “No sir, I am thirsty and need a drink of water.”  At the risk of his own life, amid bursting shells, the chaplain went in search of water, and having found some, gave it to the wounded man.  Then he asked again, “Shall I read some Scripture to you?”  But the man replied, “No thank you, I am so cold.  I am almost freezing,”  The chaplain removed his own coat and wrapped it around about him, and once more asked with shivering and chattering teeth, “Now may I read to you?”  Again the reply was, “No sir, I am too uncomfortable on this rough ground.”  The chaplain gently lifted him up and placed him across his knees with his head in his arms and once more asked the same question.  “Yes sir”, he replied, “for if what you are going to read can make a man willing to risk his own life like this to ease a dying stranger, I want to hear about it!”  And there on the battlefield he was told about Jesus who died that he might live.  This is the gospel in action!  This is what the world is looking for today!

Then James says in verse 19, “the demons also believe and shudder.”  It comes as a shock to many people that demons have faith!  What do they believe?  For one thing, they believe in the existence of God.  They are not atheists.  They also believe in the deity of Christ.  Whenever they met Christ when He was on this earth, they bore witness that He was the Son of God.  They also believe in the existence of a place of punishment.  They live there!  Not only that, but they also recognize Jesus Christ as the Judge, and they submit to the power of His Word.  Yet, knowing all that, they still rebelled against God and were condemned to hell.

In verse 19, the word “shudder” or “tremble” meant to be “rough on the surface”, “to bristle”.  It has the idea of making your hair stand on end and goose bumps to appear. That’s the way the demons respond to God and to His Son, Jesus Christ!

III.  GENUINE FAITH (verses 20-26)

Dead faith touches only the mind; demonic faith involves both the mind and the emotions; but genuine faith also involves the will.  The whole person plays a part in true saving faith. The mind understands the truth, the emotions desire the truth, and the will acts upon the truth.  Faith and works go together.

Pastor John MacArthur says it very clearly in his sermon entitled “Living Faith” (www.gty.org/resources/sermons/59-16/living-faith).  Preaching about James 2:21-26, Pastor MacArthur says:  “There is a faith in God, there is a faith in Christ, there is a belief of Scripture, there is a belief of the gospel that does not save from hell. . . . It is possible to believe in God, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to even believe that what Christ did He actually did, to affirm the cross and the resurrection and never be delivered from sin and never be given eternal life.  This is what James would call ‘dead faith’.”  That’s what he called it in verse 17, and now he says it again in verse 20 and again in verse 26.

In verse 20, James responds to the unwillingness of his readers to recognize the connection between faith and works.  He says:  “You foolish fellow”.  The Greek word can be translated “empty” in the sense that they are “without spiritual life”.  James goes on to say, “Can’t you see that faith without works is useless”?  The Greek word “arge” means “barren”, “unproductive”.  Faith that fails to produce genuine works motivated by willing obedience from the heart is a dead faith.  It demonstrates that it has never been alive because there has been no external evidence sufficient to remove any doubt.  Righteous behavior is an inevitable result of genuine faith.

In verses 21-25 James proves his point by giving two examples of true living faith from the Old Testament:  Abraham and Rahab, described as “our father” and “the harlot”.  The evidence for Abraham’s genuine faith was his willing obedience to God’s command to offer up his own son, Isaac, on the altar.  Because of his obedience, Galatians, chapter 3, teaches that Abraham is the spiritual father of all true believers..

James 2:22 reads, “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected.”  The Berkeley version says it this way:  “You see how his faith cooperated with his works and how faith reached its supreme expression through his works.”  Abraham’s works made his faith complete.  In verse 23 Abraham  is called “the friend of God”

On the opposite end of the social and moral spectrum, James now chooses Rahab as an example of true living faith.  Even though Rahab was a Gentile and a prostitute, James says “Likewise also”, telling us that the illustration of Rahab teaches the same lesson about faith as the illustration of Abraham:  “God saves, not because of one’s righteousness, but because of one’s faith.”  Remember:  only God can actually see our faith.  We see genuine saving faith only by works.   Rahab demonstrated her saving faith by her words to the spies in Joshua 2 saying, “… the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth below”, and by her willingness to hide the spies at the risk of her own life and the lives of her family members.  Joshua 6:25 and Matthew 1:5  tell us how God blessed Rahab.  She was grafted into the nation of Israel, became the wife of Salmon, and was an ancestor in the line of David and the Lord Jesus Christ.  She is also mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a woman of faith.

CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

In verse 25, the apostle James states his conclusion one more time:  “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead”  Do you have living faith? Do you have saving faith?  Is it evident to those around you?  Is it evident to you?  You may have been baptized, you may have made a public or private profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  You may be attending a church at the present time.  You may be in the choir or teaching a Sunday School Class.  You may be on the deacon or elder board.  You could even be a pastor and not have a saving faith that manifests itself in a deepening walk with Jesus Christ and increasing joy in serving Him and obeying his Word.  I’m not saying this to point the finger at anyone or embarrass anyone.   I just want you to be sure if there might be any doubt.  Good works are the proof that Jesus Christ is living and reigning in your life.  As Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “And why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

May our faith be genuine and evident to the world around us, and may we enjoy the privilege of being children of God through faith evidenced by works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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!