13 March 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (3:15-3:16)

Last week we were finishing up our discussion of forgetting what is behind and looking forward to what is ahead. And I've been thinking about the song “Amazing Grace.” Because the words in that song give a wonderful illustration of that idea.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that SAVED a wretch like me
I one WAS lost, BUT NOW I'm found/WAS blind BUT NOW I see
Through many dangers, toils, and snares I HAVE ALREADY come
‘Twas grace that brought me safe THUS FAR/And grace SHALL lead me home
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise/Than when we’d first begun.

Do ya see that? He starts off singing about how he was lost but now he’s found, and ends up pointing towards an eternity where all we will do will be to worship the Lord our God. What do we remember about the human heart? It has its own what--its own pacemaker. But sometimes, there’s all those other little nerve cells that like to start firing. You go into Ventricular fibrillation—which is a fancy way of saying your heart is a quivering lump of Jell-O. So the doctor grabs the paddles. It stops the heart for a split second, all the little nerves stop firing, and what is the intended result? That the heart stops firing off all those weird, unwanted impulses, and starts beating in rhythm with the normal "pacemaker."

And the comparison to the church—the same thing happens with the church if we are looking for truth here and there and everywhere else but the source of truth. Sometimes the church starts going in this direction and that direction, and teaching all kinds of weird things. God doesn’t necessarily use a lightning bolt to get our attention. But He will get our attention and lead us back to the truth. Because if we know Him and love Him, we will have a desire to know the true truth. Deuteronomy 32:4For I proclaim the name of YHVH: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He. Psalm 25:4-5Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. But we also have to be humble enough to see that we are wrong and to accept the truth. There are some people out there that believe some pretty things that aren't quite right. And sometimes it’s hard for the truth to get through to them.

There is this paradox when it comes to truth.We must be mature in truth. 1st Corinthians 14:20Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. But by the same token we must be as children in that we must understand that we don’t always know everything there is to know about truth. Matthew 18:3“I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” We need to seek the truth, we need to know the truth.

So we start at Philippians 3:15--Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. If we are humble enough to let Him show us the truth, He will show us. Kinda reminds me of a quote from Charles Spurgeon: “Men will allow God to be everywhere but on his throne.” I love to study this book. I love to find these truths that sometimes just jump right off the page. I love to find truths that I have to discover. I love to share these truths and teach these truths, in case you haven’t noticed. But if you ever catch me saying that I know everything about this word, you better say so. Because this is not MY Word. And if I try to make this conform to my beliefs, then I am taking God off His throne. I'm saying that my beliefs are more important than God’s truth. God forbid!

If I am teaching something about this word, that is not correct, God will reveal it. He will show me, or He will show someone else, my error. He will set me on the right path, so that He can lead us all into the truth. He will not allow our ideas to be more important to us than His truth. In fact, no matter what kind of error someone may be teaching, we can eventually wear it down with a constant barrage of Scripture. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Then in Philippians 3:16--Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. There’s that “same mind” again. In this letter, Paul uses this concept of “unity of mind” SEVEN times. I think it might be important.

We have one Pacemaker. Did the apostles go around teaching their own doctrines? What did they teach? They taught the doctrines of Christ. Now, if the apostles taught Christ’s teachings, and if the early church continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42). So if the apostles’ doctrine was Christ’s doctrine, then whose doctrine were they following? What does that say that we should do? If A=B and B=C and C=D, then what does that say about A and D? Yeah, A=D.

Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained… Now, when someone gets saved, will they automatically know every bit of Scripture? Does each and every person have the same level of understanding of Scripture? We will probably know more Scripture than someone who picks this up for the first time. I'm not bragging. I can't brag. Because—are there men who know a whole lot more than I do? Oh, you better believe it. The person who gets saved this morning will not have as great an understanding of Scriptures as someone who has been studying all their lives. But that person will have a desire to know God’s word.

First they need to learn the fundamentals of Scripture. Who God is, Who Christ is, how to study the word. The apostle Peter calls these basic truths, “milk.” 1st Peter 2:2As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow. Did you know that every child is born with a reflex that causes them to nurse? It’s a reflex, it is born into them. But are you going to feed steak to a baby? As they get older, when they’re 4-5 years old, should they still be sucking on a bottle? Should they be eating solid food? Because if they don’t, what are they not going to do? They're not going to grow. We are to desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow. Then he says in 2nd Peter 3:18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In other words, take this word, and let it be your pacemaker. If you want truth, look in here. And keep reading, and keep studying, and keep growing in truth so that you don’t go chasing weird doctrines.

Trust me, there are some who can take a passage, and turn it and stretch it, and make it say something that looks nothing like what they started with. Have you ever seen someone making taffy? That’s what some people do with the Scriptures. I'll give you an example. There’s a fellow that comes on TV in the morning, named Arnold Murray. The name of his church is “Shepherd’s Chapel.” If you're flicking through, and you come across this guy—CHANGE THE CHANNEL QUICKLY!! Let me give you an example of their teachings. I am not making this up. Genesis 3:15--God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed.” Guess who they think the “seed of the serpent” was? Cain. They teach that Cain was literally the physical offspring of Satan and Eve. Beware anytime you hear someone preaching and they start talking about “the prophetic” or “God spoke to me in a vision” something really weird and off the wall. What do you think you should do? CHANGE THE CHANNEL!!!

The people they appeal to are usually people who haven’t grown up yet. People who usually got sucked in when they were very young in the faith, and it’s the only teaching they’ve ever known. Or they were never taught properly to begin with. And they get carried away by the guy talking the loudest and wearing the most expensive suit. Like the illustration of boiling the frog. Colossians 2:6-8As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith—rooted and built up IN HIM, established IN THE FAITH. Locked in tight to the solid ground of Christ, and built up like a fortress in the faith—as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men…and not according to Christ.

We need to learn. We need to grow. For two reasons. Number one, so that we can stay rooted and grounded in the truth. But second, and most important, so that we can teach others. I love to take in this word. And take it in and take it in. But if all I'm doing is taking in, who benefits from it? Me. How many am I? One. The writer of the book of Hebrews was scolding the people for grabbing a bottle of milk when they should have been at least eating a hamburger. Hebrews 5:12By this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. These were adults that were acting like children. The apostle Paul went through the same thing with the church at Corinth. 1st Corinthians 3:1-3I…could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. They were still walking around in their diapers hanging onto their bottles. Paul had to tell them, “Grow up!” These were people who didn’t want to go through the trouble of seeking the truth.

But for those who are seeking to know more of the truth, do you think God has taken steps to help them? What does He do? Ephesians 4:11-14And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. How many were apostles? Some. How many were prophets? Some. How many are evangelists? Some. How many are pastors and teachers? Some. Is everybody and apostle? Is everybody a prophet? Well, only those that have their own TV network. He gives gifts to all His children. And certain gifts to certain people. Each and every one of us has a calling, a service, a duty. People like you and me.

And why does He give us these gifts? Ephesians 4:12--for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry. To teach and to minister to others. There was a book that came out several years ago. It was called, “Life’s Little Instruction Manual.” This right here is “Life’s Original Instruction Manual.” And Christ has given people the ability to show others how to use this manual. So that those people can go out and show others how to use it. And those people can go out…I think you get the idea. And why do we minister to others? …for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. That word “edify” means “to build up.” Why does a child eat? Why did your mom teach you to eat your vegetables? “Eat your beans so you grow up to be big and strong!” Mom was right! We don’t just drink milk all our lives. We have to have some meat. We have to eat our broccoli. We have to eat our beans.

When it comes to growing in Christ, once we learn the basic truths, we keep taking in more, and we learn even more truth, so we can learn how to avoid lies and we can teach others how to avoid them. We make this word a part of our lives. Like Wheaties “is a part of this nutritious breakfast.” If you wanted to grow up to be like Bruce Jenner and win the decathlon, you ate your Wheaties. If you want to live like Christ in this world, you take in the solid food of Scripture. Acts 20:32And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. And how long is this work that we do?

Ephesians 4:13--Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. It doesn’t matter how “good” a person can be; we do not know how to grow into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ by ourselves. We cannot find our way to that measure unless we are led and guided by this word. And we must continue in His word. Colossians 1:28-29Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. That was the reason Paul went from city to city, going through every thing that he went through—to teach the truth to everyone that he could, so that the word of God could perfect each and every one.

Now, as we read this passage in Ephesians, we find that this is a single stream of thought, that Paul starts out over here, with:
Christ giving us gifts, for what? For the equipping of the saints.
Why the equipping of the saints? For the work of ministry.
Why the work of ministry? For the edifying of the church.
Why the edifying of the church? So we all come to the unity of the faith.
Why unity in the faith? So that we can all come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Why do we come to the stature of the fulness of Christ?

Ephesians 4:14--That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. How easy is it to steal a child if their parents aren't around? It used to be “Want some candy?” Now it’s “Can you help me find my dog?” If someone wants to commit a crime, is the human mind more than capable of hatching all kinds of schemes to make it happen? There are entire networks of perverts that get together and help each other come up with new ways to find and molest young children.

And in much the same way, there are entire TV networks that exist for one reason: to separate people from the truth of Scripture, and to separate people from their money. Sad but true. And if a person is not careful, it’s real easy to get sucked in. Why? Because these people sound so good. “They're reading from the Bible! How can it be wrong?” Matthew 4:5-7Then the devil took [Jesus] up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”

But wait a minute! Wasn’t Satan quoting Scripture? Didn’t he say what the Bible said? And if he was quoting Scripture, then who was Jesus to say anything back?

What was the problem with what Satan did? I can show you, in black and white, that the Bible says “there is no God.” It’s right there in the Psalms! Psalm 14:1There is no God. What’s the problem? Right. The fool says in his heart there is no God.

You mean we actually have to read things in their proper context? We can't just lift words off a page, stick them on the TV screen without knowing what it’s actually saying?

No we can't. But that is exactly what the Kenneth Copelands of the world do. They rip words off the page, stick them on a big-screen, and say, “Aha! See that!! The Bible says it!!” And people who won’t crack open their Bible and learn what it really says, believe it. Listen to the words Paul uses. We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. That the human heart would knowingly and willfully commit such blasphemy as to twist and pervert the word of God, and teach others to do the same shows how corrupt the human heart really is. For more on that, see Jeremiah 17:9.

Philippians 3:16--To the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Take this word that God has given us. Take the gift that Christ has given us. Use it for that one great purpose—to glorify God. If you know something about the Scriptures that someone else doesn’t—teach them. If you know that someone is following the teachings of someone who is committing blasphemy—teach them why. Stay true to this word so that we will be of the same mind, and we won’t all be teaching a different Jesus.

And we’ll finish up with this: Let us walk by the same rule. Suppose I’ve got a little 12” ruler. Richard has a yardstick. Steven has a 25’ tape measure. And we all have to measure how far it is from here to the end of the block. So I take out my little ruler, and I measure off 1 foot at a time, and I come up with 2500 feet. Richard takes out his yardstick—2500 feet. Steven takes his tape measure—2500 feet. How can that be? My ruler is only 1’ long. Richard’s yardstick is 3’. Steven’s tape measure is 25’. How did we all come up with the same number?

The ruler, the yardstick, the tape measure—all different lengths, but all based on the same measure. 6” on my 1’ ruler is the same as 6” on Richard’s 3’ yardstick is the same as 6” on Steven’s 25’ tape measure. 6” is 6” is 6”—if we are using the same measure. If my truth and another person’s truth, and a third person’s truth, all come from the same source of truth—then we are all measuring things according to the same truth. No matter how much truth we have, if it’s all from the same source, then it is all the same truth. We are walking by the same rule; we are of the same mind. Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.

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