23 October 2008

Verse by verse through Philippians (1:6-1:9)

We are finishing up Philippians 1:6 today, and we will look at verses 7-9 as well. Last time I mentioned that there were a couple illustrations I wanted to get to concerning the completion of our salvation by Jesus Christ. One verse many people use, of course, is Hebrews 13:5, which tells us that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Which is absolutely true. When He leads us we have to know that He will not take us part of the way and just dump us off. God is faithful. We are not. 1st Corinthians 10:13God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. That verse alone gives us assurance that God will protect what He has purchased with the blood of His Son. Jesus told us in John 14:17-18, “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” The Spirit of God dwells within us when we become His children. That is not a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2nd Timothy 1:7). It is not the spirit of bondage again to fear; but…the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

Those who are in Christ have God for a Father—and no longer as an enemy. 2nd Corinthians 6:18“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,” says the LORD Almighty. 1st John 3:1What manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called sons of God. Listen to what the word of God says about Him being our Father. Matthew 7:7-11“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” And that verse we read last week, He who has begun the good work in you will complete it—perfect it, accomplish it, finish it—until the day of Jesus Christ. Let’s look at a couple illustrations.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “Once Saved Always Saved.” Most of the time it’s people who went to VBS when they were a kid, and they said, “Wow, I had a good time this week! I want to come to this church, what do I have to do?” Someone will tell them to say a little prayer, “OK! Jesus come into my heart and save me. Yay, I’m saved!” And now their life is filled with all kinds of ungodly things. And they’ll say, “Once Saved Always Saved.” And that’s why, although I certainly agree with the sentiment of that saying, I don’t like to use it because that’s what people think when they hear it. That’s why so many people—even, I dare say, the vast majority of people even in the true church—don’t understand salvation. It’s not saying a little prayer and asking Jesus into your heart—and if I hear that phrase one more time I’m gonna scream. Salvation means seeing yourself for who you are and turning your back on that person, running away from that person, dying to that person, and seeking to please God. It’s “not so easy a caveman can do it.” And yes, there are stupid t-shirts out there that say that. It’s not something that takes 5 minutes. You literally sacrifice your desires, your wants, to follow Christ.

And when you do…turn a few pages back, to Ephesians 4:30. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Many times when I’m talking about what we call “eternal security,” I use this illustration: My wife and I were married on July 16, 2005. Our brother in Christ who performed the ceremony is an ordained minister, and he is legally permitted to perform marriage ceremonies. In other words, when he pronounced us husband and wife, Laurie and I were legally joined—sealed—together. And it would take an action from someone with more legal authority than him to break that bond—to break that seal. Ya with me so far? Suppose, instead of our brother Steve, suppose we went down to Market Square, and found a guy juggling bowling pins, and we asked him to perform the ceremony. Would there be any question about breaking any kind of seal? No. Why? Bingo! We would not be sealed to one another to begin with. There would be no breaking the bonds of matrimony, because that bond never existed.

Flip a few more pages back, to Ephesians chapter 1, 13-14. …having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. There are two words I want to look at real quick. First, there is the word “sealed.” What I was talking about a moment ago, with Laurie and I and the guy juggling bowling pins. A seal was, if a government official was sending an official document, they would close the envelope flap, and drip wax on it, then press their ring in the warm wax—making a seal. Only another official of equal or higher authority could break that seal.

We are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are sealed by God. Is there any authority equal to or higher than God? If we are truly sealed by God to God, then that seal will not be broken until the day of redemption. In other words, our life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). 2nd Timothy 2:19Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

Finally, the word “guarantee.” The KJV translates it the earnest of our inheritance. That is more fitting of what Paul is talking about. When we think of the word “earnest,” we usually think of…well, Ernest Borgnine. No, we think of sincerity, integrity. But that’s not all that word means, especially not in this context. An “earnest” was money or some other token that was given as a promise that the purchase would be fulfilled. One lexicon calls it, “money which…is given as a pledge or down payment that the full amount will subsequently be paid.” Do we have all of our inheritance from God…now? We have the promise, but we do not actually see it with our eyes (Romans 8:24). But what we do have is the gift of the Holy Spirit—who was given to us as a promise, as a guide to lead us until the day of redemption—which puts the responsibility of fulfilling the purchase on God. If He gives us the Holy Spirit as an earnest (guarantee) then He has bound Himself by that pledge to complete the transaction. Can we trust Him to do that? Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not trying to sound like the prosperity preachers who say that “God’s word says you're supposed to be rich! Now you need to demand that God give you a Benz!!” What I’m saying is this: that God has given us His sure word that if you belong to Him He will in no way cast you off!

2nd Corinthians 1:20For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. If the Holy Spirit dwells within a person, that person has a promise from God Himself that they will be with Him forever. Let me just give you one more passage then we can turn back to Philippians. Hebrews 6:13-19For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast… Those aren't my words—that’s the word of God. That’s my witness! That’s my witness to the fact that if God begins the work in you, He will complete it—accomplish, finish, perfect it—until the day of Jesus Christ.

OK, back to Philippians. Let’s look at today's text, chapter 1, verses 7-9. 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment… When Paul wrote this, he was in prison in Rome. He could not see these people. He could not go anywhere; he was limited in who could come see him. Yet he told these people I have you in my heart. You know that phrase “Out of sight, out of mind?” That should not be the case with the church.

What kind of attitude did Paul express back in verse 3? He was always thinking about these people. Wherever he went, whatever the situation—his present condition was not his top priority. Contrary to what you might hear on TBN, our comfort is the last thing God is concerned with. Will He provide for us? Yes. Does He guarantee us all a comfortable life? These people who say that God gurantees us a comfortable life are calling Jesus a liar, because He said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). See, the reason that we are to turn our back on the things of this world is it is so easy to allow the things of earth to cloud our vision—not only of Heaven, but also our duties here on earth. But what about that song we sing?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death (Proverbs 11:4). Many people seek after wealth and fame and glory in this lifetime. Watch any of these “Hollywood Entertainment Insider” whatever shows—I’m not recommending you watch them, I’m speaking more hypothetically—you will see people who are celebrated, glamorized, worshipped for being as ungodly and as filthy and as vile as they can be. People long for the things of this world, when they should be longing for God, and for one another. If some washed-up actor wants to et back in the spotlight, what's the easiest way for him to do it? Get arrested! Go into rehab! Get arrested or go into rehab and you will be back in the spotlight, back on the magazine covers, and Hollywood will love you! Right, Charlie Sheen? Right, Robert Downey Jr.? The focus of man is always himself. And without the Holy Spirit dwelling in a person, their focus will always be themselves. They will not be bothered with holiness, or purity, because the only thing that will matter to them is getting more.

Verse 8. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. Friends, if you call God as your witness, you better be sure that what you are about to say is the truth! How much did Christ love the church? Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. Could you ever give your life for someone who despised you? Someone who made jokes about you? Used your name as a cuss word? Would we be willing to die for someone who slapped us in the face every day? Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. That’s how much He loves His church. And He gave us a command to love others the same way. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). How should we love one another? As Christ loves us. 1st Peter 1:22love one another fervently with a pure heart.

Anybody remember that old song “The Greatest Love of All?” According to that song, what is “The Greatest Love of All?” Learning to love yourself! Welcome to the world’s philosophy! Love yourself first, give yourself all the love you can—then if you want to think about other people that would be great.

I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow
If I fail if I succeed at least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me they can't take away my dignity.

Dignity there is code for "pride." Vanity. Me, me, me, me, me. And may I say, that people that love themselves are some of the most undignified people in the world. They think the world revolves around them and their needs. And if their “felt needs” aren't met, they're gonna stomp and fume and fuss and cuss until somebody hears them. If they're miserable—by golly, they’ll make everybody else miserable too!

What IS THE greatest love of all? “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37). I don’t see anything about loving yourself in there. In fact, you will not find one verse that says anything about us loving ourselves. But to the world—it sounds good. Kinda like “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s one of those phrases that ain't in the Bible. Sounds like it’s in the Bible, people will declare in no uncertain terms that it is in the Bible--but it’s not. Or “To thine own self be true.” Shakespeare. The love we are to have for one another—it goes back to what I talked about at the beginning last week, we should try and be ready to do good for others—as much as we can. Again, the love of Christ—Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end (John 13:1). “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Let’s take a quick look at verse 9. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment. If we say we love someone, is that what Jesus is calling for? If we had two coats, would we give one to someone who doesn’t have any? Luke 3:10-11, John the Baptist told the people, the people asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?" He answered and said to them, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." If we have the ability to help someone, would we do it? 1st John 3:16-17By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? James 2:14-16What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. It’s there, but it’s useless. You believe, but you do nothing for the glory of God. The love we are to have—HAVE—for one another is to be shown in our actions. And this love is not to just sit their and ferment. Look at what Paul says this love is to be like. It is to “abound.”—“To be abundantly furnished with, to have in abundance; to furnish richly so that he has abundance; to make abundant or excellent; to abound, overflow.” Sound about right?

This love that is to abound, to flourish, to grow and grow—it comes from God. It does not come from inside us. It is not in us. Paul said at the end of Romans 7, No good thing dwells in me. If we have love for one another, it’s because God gave it to us. So let’s ask God for more love. Let’s let that love abound more and more. He said the same thing to the Thessalonians. 1st Thessalonians 3:12-13And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. We’ll look at the end of verse 9 next week.

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