15 June 2010

Verse-by-Verse through Philippians (4:2-4:4)

Got a question for you. Which of the following does more harm to a local church congregation:

A) Being surrounded by beer joints and strip clubs?

Or

B) Having an unresolved dispute going on between two members?

We can get a bar closed down. We can go to whatever board it is and say, “There are always fights at this bar, people getting shot and stabbed.” And the board can decide to close the place down. But then what happens? Another one pops up to take its place. You see, as long as we live in this world of wickedness and sin we are always going to be surrounded by wickedness and sin. BUT, the Lord Jesus Christ commands all those who belong to Him, to be united—to be of the same mind, of one accord—one body. Romans 12:4-5For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. We will always be surrounded by evil. That is to be expected. And evil will always try and find its way into the church and drag us away.

That’s what evil does. It creeps in, from the outside, and it drags us away. But sometimes a disagreement comes up within the church—and don’t get me wrong, we’re not always going to agree 100% all of the time with every single person—but when we start fussing with one another—when we just simply don’t like someone or what that someone is doing—and we lash out, in whatever way, at that person, who are we letting in the door? Satan! Because when we act in such a way—what is causing us to act that way? Five letters, starts with a ‘P’. Rhymes with "pride." What does God think about pride? James 4:6God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

We’re going to see today that no matter what our quarrel is with someone, we need to let it go. Because it ain't about us. I don’t stand up here, Richard doesn’t stand up here, we don’t do this just to hear our own voice. The church does not come together and meet just to have something to do on a Sunday morning. When we come together we should have only one focus—and if we have that one focus, we should be guiding people to focus on that same focus. And that’s what we will see this morning. Your translation may be different, your mileage may vary.

Philippians 4:2-32 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

Anybody here ever heard of MRSA? Staph infection? Here’s the funny thing about MRSA. You’ve got it. The person next to you has it. I have it. We all have MRSA. It is part of the natural bacteria we all have on our skin. So if it’s one of the normal bacteria that live on our skin and we are surrounded by it, how do we get infected with it? I'm glad you asked! You get a cut. You pull a hangnail. It gets underneath the skin, and it grows. You see where I'm going with this? Pride is all around us. But if we give pride an opening—same thing’s gonna happen. We’re gonna be infected. Is it gonna be our physical body that gets infected? No. It will be our mind, our soul, our spirit. And when it happens in the church, whose body are we ultimately infecting? Christ’s!

Verse 2. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. These were two ladies in the Philippian church. They were having a dispute that was coming between them. And what was that dispute? What do you mean it doesn’t say what the dispute was? Oh, maybe that’s the point. This is one of those times where it shows that God Himself spoke these words to Paul. Why do I say that? I'm glad you asked! There are places where the writer is addressing some issue in one particular congregation. And we could be sore tempted to simply skip over those passages. Romans 16 is a good example. “They're just salutations; they're not that important.” If God thought enough to have those words written down—do you think it might be important? Those are places you have to study. Just like those words that didn’t exist in the Greek at the time, so Paul had to stick this prefix on this word to express himself properly. And as we get to this little blurb about Euodia and Syntyche, Paul really says a whole lot—by not saying a whole lot.

Again, we don’t know the cause of the conflict here. And there’s a reason why we don’t know—what might that reason be? Yeah, it doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter what it was about! The fact of the matter was, these two women were butting heads with each other and causing division within the body of Christ. That little MRSA organism doesn’t care what kind of opening it gets. If it sees a break in the skin—it’s in! Just like pride. Pride does not care how it gets into the members of the body of Christ—just so long as it finds it way in. Richard, what is it that Pastor Phil says all the time about church fusses? Satan would rather start ONE church fuss than open up 100 beer joints and strip clubs. And why? Because the people that go into the beer joints and strip clubs already belong to Satan.

Besides:
• How many churches have split because of a new beer joint opening up down the street?
• How many churches split because they built a new strip club on the other side of town?
• How many churches have split because somebody decided to put up a new liquor store?

Now, how many churches have split because of pride? Hebrews 12:14-15Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. Satan is always looking to take away members from the body of Christ. Question is, are you going to join him?

When the church is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, does that make front-page news? No. When do you see the church in the news? Now, does Satan care what kind of fuss he starts? NO! He is going to use whatever makes people puffed up. Just so long as he can stir up strife in the body of Christ—he’s happy! And that’s why we don’t know the details here. Paul is simply telling these women, “Look, whatever it is—knock it off!” Steve, stop me if you’ve heard your kids tell you this when you break up an argument: “He started it!” And you say? “I don’t care who started it—I'm gonna finish it!” Here’s an example of “letting it go” from back in the 1600’s. George Whitefield and John Wesley—two men who had some very different opinions on certain doctrines. One day someone asked, “Mr. Whitefield, do you think that we will see John Wesley in heaven?” Whitefield responded, “No, I doubt we will see Mr. Wesley in heaven. He will be so close to the throne of God that we will be fortunate to even catch a glimpse of his back.” Be of one mind in the Lord.

Verse 3. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Let’s talk a little about the Book of Life. And believe me, I do not consider myself an expert by any means on this subject. I am confident in what I believe, but as with other doctrines, there are men who know a whole lot more than I do, and they could probably articulate a little better than I could. But here goes. The “Book of Life” contains the names of all those who belong to Christ—those who are living on earth now, those who have already “fallen asleep” and those who have not yet been born.

Now, just as there are names which are written in the Book of Life, there are names which are NOT written in the Book of Life. In the 13th chapter of Revelation, when the apostle John is warning us about the Beast who will rule upon the earth during the Great Tribulation, he says, Revelation 13:8All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Those who will worship the Beast—their names have not been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Their names are not in there. Never were. Never will be. God never wrote their names in the Book of Life. Because the Book of life ONLY contains the names of Christians. The only names in there are the names of those who followed Christ, who are following Christ, and who will follow Christ. There will never be a name in there that does not belong.

Because this is a record that was written before even the creation of the heavens and the earth. Revelation 17:8“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world.” And it is that Book of Life that will be the final piece of evidence that God will use to render an eternal verdict of “GUILTY” upon sinners. Revelation 20:11-15Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it…And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books…Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. It will not matter how “good” a person was. It will not matter whether that person volunteered at a homeless shelter. It will not matter if that person sat in church their whole life. If that person does not turn away from sin; if that person does not acknowledge the fact that Jesus Christ is LORD; if that person tries to make themselves righteous by their vile human works, then on that Day when the books are opened, and the Book of Life is opened, they will be judged by their works, they will be found lacking, they will be cast into Hell for all eternity.

Question: somebody dies, and let’s say they were an unrepentant homosexual. They spent all their years going from one relationship to another. And, as so often happens, they wind up with AIDS. They spend the next five years going through all kinds of treatments, but eventually their body can't fight off the infections anymore, and they die a very slow, very painful death. All their friends gather around after the person dies, and they all comfort themselves by telling each other…what? “He’s in a better place!” Not necessarily. You see, it doesn’t matter how a person dies. All that matters is they died. If their name is not in the Book of Life—they're not going to Heaven. Revelation 21:7-8“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” There’s not a whole lot of wiggle room there.

A little later on in the same chapter, John sees the holy city—New Jerusalem—descending from the clouds. And he sees who enters into it—and who doesn’t. Revelation 21:24, 27And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light…But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. A person could die the most horrific, terrifying, painful death you could ever imagine—but if their name is not in the Book of Life, they will face an eternity that will make the way they died seem almost bearable.

BUT!! You can't know how good the good news is until you know how bad the bad news is, right? IF we do turn away from sin; if we do acknowledge the fact that Jesus Christ is LORD; if we do know that there is no way/no how that we could ever make ourselves righteous by our vile human works, that our righteousness is filthy rags and that true righteousness is from God by faith (Philippians 3:9)—then on that Day, when the books are opened, and the Book of Life is opened, we will NOT be judged by our works, but we will be found sinless because our life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3), and because Christ has become sin for us that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him (2nd Corinthians 5:21), and we will live for all of eternity in the presence of Almighty God and the Lamb. And if our name is in the Book of Life, and IF we endure to the end, and IF we keep pressing toward the mark, and IF we keep fighting the good fight of faith, then God hasn’t put it in there using pencil—He used a big, fat, Sharpie® permanent marker! It’s painted there, chiseled in stone, and it ain't coming out! Revelation 3:5He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

This is an assurance from Christ that those who love Him and worship Him and obey Him will always and forever have their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Let me give you a little background on this verse, because there are some who read that verse and say, “Well, if Christ says He will not blot out the names of those who overcome, then that must mean He will blot out the names of those who don’t overcome.” That is not what He’s saying. John 1:12-13--But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. We did not bring about our own new birth--if we are in Christ, we were born from above--not by our own will, but by the will of God. 1st John 5:4-5--For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? In other words, if a person has been truly born of God, that person WILL overcome the world. It's not a case of "If you do everything you can, you might be able to be saved"--it's a case of "If God has saved you--you WILL be saved to the uttermost." That is, if your name has been written in the Book of Life, it ain't gonna be taken out!!

In Revelation, Jesus told the apostle John to write those words to the church in a city called Sardis, another Roman colony much like Philippi. And in Roman cities—same as in any other culture at the time—they would have a roll which contained the names of all the citizens living there. And what would happen to the name of a citizen of such an area when they died? “Well, Marcus Maximus just died—take his name off the tax roll.” But when a person “falls asleep”—that is, their body ceases to function—does that person cease to exist? Now, if such a person was truly “in Christ”—if they had repented from sin, loved Christ and obeyed Christ until the very end—will their names be taken off of that roll call? Of course not!

Keep in mind the whole “citizenship” issue. We saw a couple weeks ago that Paul said in Philippians 3:20For our citizenship is in heaven. Where are our names written? And in Heaven, our names are written in that Book of Life. If we are citizens of Heaven, and our name is written in that registry up there, and if we continue to imitate those who imitate Christ—will our names be removed from that roll? No. That is the point Christ is making. He’s saying that if our name is on that roll it ain't gonna come off!

Because it was written there before even the first spark of creation. And who wrote our name in that Book of Life? It was God Himself. Jesus reaffirms this idea in Luke 10:20--"Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." Not "will be written" or "may be written at a later date." But our names ARE written in Heaven, in the Lamb's Book of Life--never to be taken out!!

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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