Baptism at Singles Retreat - 147 Baptized!!!

*******************Baptism at Singles Retreat 147 Baptized!!! ***********************

* Sharing times in the Word and looking for growth. Let's Commune Together!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Possession does not equal ownership!

Philippians 3:3–14

I grew up with 3 brothers, the youngest was 10 years behind me. So my real life experience was with two older brothers. One of them was one of the most gifted guitarist in the land and was known by everyone in high school. The other was part of a high school gang that was known for drinking and fighting. For quite a few years I lived off the reputation of my brothers. All my friends would come asking me questions about music equipment and I would give them advice, even though I didn't know what I was talking about. They just assumed because my brother knew everything and played so well that I also would know. Because of my other brother, a lot of the older boys that normally would've smacked me because of my smart mouth did not, partly because they did not know if I was as tough as my brother…I was not, or they did not want my brother’s wrath down on them.

I was living off of something that was not mine. When it comes to this kind of nonsense, at best, it will turn out to be embarrassing when people find out that “you're not all that”. However, in other matters, like the one we will now discuss, the end will be disaster. Paul is going to discuss righteousness, let's learn from him:

9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

First, it's important to note that Paul makes it clear that he knows he belongs to God. Being “found in Him” is the issue of abiding with God, not entering into a relationship with Him. So everything that Paul is saying here applies to believers.

This opens the door for us to remember that there is a difference with how God sees us positionally versus practically. Everyone that is in a relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ, is seen by God completely righteous. This is who they are positionally because Christ has made them righteous and blameless. However, not all children “abide”. This is where we discover what it means to live with practical righteousness.

We must be careful here, because like works and salvation, it's a very fine line we are walking. Whenever a child of God lives righteously, outwardly that life will look much the same as every other believer. The danger is in the understanding that believer has as to the “source” of that righteousness. Most times believers that start to think that their righteousness comes from within themselves is because they lack a clear understanding of what the Scripture states about righteousness that is generated in the flesh from works of the law; especially those who lived very sinful lives before their salvation experience.

Consider what Scripture states about the deeds that we do that ARE righteous. Remember our comparison is with perfection, so in our fallen state…we don't stand a chance.

Isaiah 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Next, look at what the Scripture states of how God paid to secure our righteousness and how we are to receive that righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Romans 4:1–7 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,  just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered.

Lastly, consider what the Scripture states about what those, even with zeal in their heart, attain when it's their righteousness they are counting on.

Romans 10:1–4 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

In every case, anyone who tries to live a life that will be justified before God on that last day derived from their own righteousness will be greatly disappointed.

For the unbeliever, no matter how religious or devout they may have been, their own righteousness will leave them separated from their Creator forever.

For the child of God that was saved by grace through faith, but then endeavored to sanctify themselves through their own righteous deeds will find that in this life they became a Pharisee and much of their life is barren of God's fruit.

So how do we know if our practical righteousness is the kind that Paul is describing here? Shouldn't we feel good if we see that we're living righteously? The answer is of course; the question is what do we feel good about. Do I feel good because I see the evidence of the Holy Spirit producing righteous works in my life? Do I feel good because I know by yielding and believing that God will do a good work in me, and now I'm experiencing the evidence of that? Or, do I feel good because I think I have “arrived” spiritually? Do I feel good because I'm so much more righteous than most Christians I know?

The issue is never about feeling good; God wants us to feel good. But we should feel good about the partnership we have with our Father, not that we are so righteous that God needs us for His work. "Feeling good" that leads to thanksgiving and worship of our Lord is great. "Feeling good" that leads to pride and spiritual arrogance is a path toward destruction. The source of our righteousness is not ourselves, it is God. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Trophies may make you feel good, but what are they worth at a garage sale?

Philippians 3:3–14

When I was younger…at one time I was younger!  I spent all my life basically landlocked, but now I had moved to Hawaii. One of the things that I learned to do that I loved was to body surf. The learning curve was difficult and often painful. Having only encountered very small waves and almost nonexistent undertow of the East Coast, Waimea Bay and Sandy Beach were rude awakenings! The key is to “KNOW” what you’re doing. This does not mean to have the knowledge of how to swim and what is water. It means to understand the fullness of what body surfing is…Becoming one with the water, conforming to its movement and speed. If you under shoot the wave you will miss it. If you out swim the wave…Depending where you are; if at Waimea the wave can hold on the bottom of the sea for quite some time; if at Sandy Beach you can literally freefall and face plant in the sand…And even break your neck.  Before we can really appreciate something we need to “know” it.

As Paul has used himself as an example of why not to have confidence in the flesh, he is now going to exhort us to really “know” Christ...the whole picture, not just the enjoyable part.

8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

Paul begins by reiterating that all his fleshly accomplishments...and even more than that... “All things”, that means everything, not just his religiosities are a waste when it comes to what he possesses now. He is weighing all of that in comparison to the “surpassing value” of “knowing” Christ. “Surpassing,” means – that which is best, most important.  Paul uses the word “loss” several times in these verses. We established that it communicates the concept of something being a detriment, but we also need to see that in reality Paul really did lose all that he had, as far as position in society, respect of peers and friends, material wealth, and as he was writing this Epistle…his freedom. Now Paul gives us his perspective on all that he has lost. “Rubbish!” this is a strong word in the original and leaves no doubt as to Paul’s new value system.

Rubbish: σκύβαλον skúbalon; something thrown to the dogs, which is from kusí, dog, and bállō, to cast. That which is thrown to the dogs, dregs, refuse, what is thrown away as worthless. Spoken of the refuse of grain, chaff, or of a table, of slaughtered animals, of dung, and figuratively of the filth of the mind. In the NT, meaning refuse, things that are worthless[1]

Paul does not mince words concerning his heart in this matter. EVERYTHING is worth NOTHING in comparison to knowing Christ!

I have to stop here, because this passage demands a heart check! We read something like this and religiously it sounds so right…spiritually we know it is true…but in reality do we really believe it? If we do, it should show that in the way we live and in what matters most to us. I am a sinner and I have this struggle inside myself…I know whatever is of Christ is worth far more than anything that is of this world, yet my flesh at times craves what the world offers. I hate that, but it is the reality. What can we do to aid us in this battle? There are some things that I have found that keep me pursuing the mindset that Paul expresses here. It’s not a pill you take; it is not works on your part…yet it will require REAL sweat on your part. It’s called Yielding – allowing His strength to become your strength. You cannot “feel” your way here, this must become a truth that you believe in so much that when your sinful flesh tries to sway your emotions to taste sin…your mind & will take the applied knowledge (wisdom) you have before you and you give way to that truth, instead of giving way to that sinful drive. This is what I found aids in that yielding:

First: Constant communication between you and God; talk to Him all the time, throughout the day, while driving, while walking, during lunch break, while brushing your teeth, in the shower…everywhere. Living actively with Him keeps your mind alert to His presence.

Second: Meditating on Scriptures. Read the Word, yes. BUT each day take a verse or two and keep them before you. Write them on a piece of paper and carry it with you and read it 10-20 times in a day. I have a reminder on my iPhone that sends me the same scripture throughout the day. Each time it beeps I reread the Scripture. Call it your “text” from God! This fills your mind with His Word, which the flesh hates! It is not called the “Sword of the Spirit” for nothing. It can cut away the chains that sin is trying to attach to your flesh.

Third: Meditate on the truth of what Paul stated. Let me give you some examples.

* Why settle for the world’s love, which is conditional, when Christ’s love is unconditional?
* Why settle for the world’s success, which is based on you topping everyone else, when God’s idea of success is just being faithful to Him?
* Why run the world’s race, which demands you beat everyone else, when God’s race is for you alone and He just wants you to finish?
* Why strive for this world’s riches, which can change with just an election and is always temporary, when you can participate with God in producing His riches in you, which is Character fruit and is eternal, and leave the supply of the temporal stuff to Him?
* Why seek after the world’s pleasures, which are always built on self satisfaction and at best are momentary in delight – winning a “big” game – and at worst destroy you and others – drugs, illicit sex, etc. – when you can allow God to show you the pleasure He intended for all aspects of life and begin to move away from a life based on “happiness” (passing emotions) onto a life based on joy, peace and contentment?

I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. Take the time to evaluate what the world is offering and then compare that to what God is offering. If this becomes a habit, your mind & will can control your emotions and guide them to enjoy gaining Christ. Your body and emotions are great slaves…but terrible masters!

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The “Flu” of the Soul. Philippians 3:3–14

I love good comedy, and one of my favorites is a very proud inspector working for the French. He has great confidence in himself, in spite of how often he is humiliated. One of my favorite scenes is when he enters a hotel and sees a dog. He asks the man behind the front desk “does your dog bite?” The man replies “no.” He then bends over to pet the dog, and the dog viciously bites his hand. He stands up with a surprised look on his face, and states, “I thought you said your dog does not bite!” The man behind the desk looks at him and says “that is not my dog!”

Very funny scene, but it also carries a good point. When we become so full of ourselves and overconfident in what we  “think we know” the reality of truth may turnaround and bite us!

Paul has just defined what it means to be a Christian. He is now going to challenge the accepted concept of spirituality from the world’s perspective. Let’s learn from him.       

Philippians 3:3–14 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things  again  is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,

 4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:

What does Paul mean he could have confidence in his flesh? He means he could put his trust in it. If anyone had bragging rights when it comes to religiosity, the apostle Paul did. Let us also be very careful, because spiritual pride is highly contagious and easily caught. How many times have you been listening to a sermon and your main thought is “I sure wish so-and-so was here, they need to hear this.” I understand sometimes this is driven by concern, but far too many times, at least in my own sinful heart, I lost track of how I should be listening to the message… As if I don’t need it just as much as the person I’m thinking of does! Let’s be careful.

 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;

Still, just so we understand Paul’s heart and his point, let’s examine his pedigree:

* Circumcised the 8th day – this was the day God commanded for circumcision to take place. The Ishmaelites did their own thing and did it on the 13th day. So Paul is completely “kosher” when it comes to the sign of being an Israelite.

* Paul was an Israelite, which means he came from Jacob not Esau.

* Paul’s tribe was Jacob’s favorite – Benjamin. Remember Benjamin stood with David against Absalom and followed Judah into the southern kingdom, which stayed faithful to God long after the northern kingdom had been taken into captivity.

What does Paul mean by “Hebrew of Hebrews?” Consider his testimony in the book of Acts, notice he is speaking to them in Hebrew.

Acts 22:2–3 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he said, 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today.

* Spoke the holy language and was trained by one of the greatest teachers in Judaism.

* The fact that he was a Pharisee basically means he was a scholar of the Scriptures. This would be equivalent to a doctorate in theology today.

6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

* He points out that he actually persecuted the very message he’s now preaching; he thought he was defending his faith.

* Lastly, concerning righteousness, the statement Paul is making is not a claim that he was sinless. To be blameless would encompass two aspects of his life. First, there would be no legal charge that could be brought against him for breaking the law, and if he did sin, he had made the appropriate sacrifice to pay for that sin.

So as we can see, when it comes to being able to feel justified in our flesh, Paul need not take a backseat to anyone. Having made this point, he’s now going to make an astounding statement that is a “slap” in the face to our human pride.

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

How can Paul say this? Is he just trying to sound spiritual? Let’s remember where he’s come from; in his society he was already at the top of the spirituality pyramid! So what he is saying is not from a mindset of pride… On the contrary, he is full of God’s wisdom since the day he was humble enough to open his mind and heart to an all-loving God. Pride goes before destruction, humility precedes exultation; this, Paul now understands; so his statement comes from the perspective of how does God see what I used to consider gain. This is made clear by the word he chose to describe how he now sees what his pride considered "gain." The word “loss” is the Greek word:

ζημία zēmía;  Damage, loss, detriment [1]

Paul’s point is not that his gain (the pride of his flesh) was sacrificed for Christ, but was a detriment and damage to his life. How we all need to have this fresh perspective from the Holy Spirit in our own lives. Whatever accolades, applause or even admiration from others that might cause our pride to swell and make us more independent of our Lord should be viewed as a detriment. This includes our material success also, which many times lead’s us to great independence of our Lord. Perhaps we should take some wisdom from God’s book of Wisdom and make this our prayer.

Proverbs 30:8–9 Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, 9 That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.

Spend some time today asking the Lord to examine your heart and show you any seeds of pride that would lead to confidence in the flesh. There is more treasure in this passage, let’s look forward to discovering what the Word of God is speaking into our lives!

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.