14 July 2009

Philippians 1: review (part 2)

Last week we left off at Philippians 1:6, where Paul said that whatever God has started, He will carry it on until it is perfected. That if God perfects it, we cannot unperfect it. So we’re gonna skip down to verse 9. One of the problems that is growing rapidly in the church today is this idea that we should just all focus on loving one another, that we shouldn’t get all caught up in doctrine. The battle cry of this movement is “Doctrine divides, Christ unites.” That’s not necessarily true. If someone were to ask Jesus, “Good Teacher, I hear that you have come to bring peace on earth!” What would He say? “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man's enemies will be those of his own household.’”

If we are going to know Christ, we need to have some sort of doctrine—or, set of teaching—concerning just who He is. Laurie and I had a couple of young ladies come knocking on our door this past week, claiming to have the restored gospel that God the Father revealed to a 14-year old boy. And if I were undiscerning, and I didn’t care about doctrine—if I thought as they do, that, “We let people worship in their own way” and even went so far as to claim that Muslims worship the God of Abraham—which they don’t. and if I were to get sucked into that I would be on my way to Hell. Period, paragraph.

But those people who claim that “doctrine divides” are right in one sense—it does divide those who know the truth from those who don’t. And in Philippians 1:9-11, Paul tells this church he loves so dearly that his desire is that they know the truth. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. He’s saying that yes, the people should love one another, but in knowledge and discernment. Knowledge—knowing stuff.

Discernment means separating fact from fiction. Or, as one famous preacher once put it, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It’s knowing the difference between right and almost right.” You have to know the facts. If a person never hears about Christ, then they can't call upon His name for salvation. Romans 10:14How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?

So a person needs to have knowledge about Christ. But, is that all? Is it enough to believe that Jesus Christ existed and died and rose again? James 2:19Even the demons believe and tremble. Another thing we need to keep in mind when someone says they believe in Jesus is, “Which Jesus?” The Mormon Jesus; the Jehovah's Witnesses Jesus; the Muslim Jesus; the Buddhist Jesus; the liberal church Jesus? There are so many false Christs out there that you could talk to 100 people and hear 100 different Christs. And some will say, “Well, now, there’s only ONE Christ.” And this is true. But there are countless counterfeits of Christ. 2nd Corinthians 11:4For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached...you may well put up with it! And what will happen to that person who preaches a false gospel? Galatians 1:8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. I'm all the time railing against these guys on TV. Calling them down, and I will even go so far as to call them heretics. Why? Because they are preaching a false gospel. So this is what Paul is warning the Philippians about here—to not simply accept someone into the church just because they claim to worship Christ, but to have knowledge and discernment, that they may bear the fruits of righteousness in Christ.

Next we come to verses 12-14. Paul writing about being imprisoned by the Roman authorities. He was not in a happy place—or so one would think. Here’s a man who could go out, go walking around, doing whatever he wanted to—he was kept under guard, day and night, always in the presence of a Roman soldier. Yet listen to what he writes in Philippians 1:12-13But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ. The Roman government may have had him in physical custody, but his spirit, indeed his life, belonged to Christ. And he says that it has become evident to the palace guard—in other words, the soldiers, the guards, the captains, the centurions, what have you, all these people have seen that yeah, they may have seen what he had gone through, what he was going through, and even though Rome may have his body in chains, they know that he belongs to God. There are so many people who call themselves Christian, who are walking around free as a bird, can go anywhere they want, and you could not tell by the way they act, the way they talk, the way they live, that they belong to Christ.

And how did that effect the other believers? Did they go around saying, “Oh no, Paul’s in jail! We have to be quiet! Don’t tell anyone about Jesus!” That was the exact opposite of what they said! Many of these people, who had been frightened of what the Roman government may do if they were caught speaking the name of Christ—and in fact, one fellow who had been an employee of Rome, namely keeping the jail—and if these people were caught leading people to worship Christ instead of worshipping the Caesar—now they were saying, “Look at Paul! They’ve arrested him, they’ve imprisoned him. And yet if it wasn’t for him being arrested, the gospel may have never made it to Rome. We must take the gospel where it needs to go, even if it means we will be arrested.” Don’t think that won’t happen in this country some time soon.

Then we see Philippians 1:14-18and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. When the brethren in the Lord had learned that Paul was in prison—again—they heard that even while he was chained to a Roman guard he was preaching the gospel, and that gave them confidence to go out and do the same. But evidently these people fell into one of two categories: those who preached Christ and Him crucified out of a pure desire to make known the name of Jesus and to glorify God. The other group of people saw this as simply a chance to grab the spotlight. This was their time to shine. They were gonna go out and show—“We’ll show ya how to preach!” They may have been at odds with Paul about something, we don’t know what.

But from verse 14 we can see that these were Christians, and even those who were preaching Christ from selfish ambition were none the less preaching Christ. There are a lot of people who try and use this verse as an excuse to teach whatever they want to, simply because they tack Jesus on there like a Post-It™ note. I do a lot of dialoging online, pointing out the many false teachings that have crept into the church. Trying to help people avoid falling into heresies like Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholicism. And I have heard the sentiment, that by pointing out heresies—showing the truth about people like Kenneth Copeland, and TBN and TD Jakes—people will say that I’m causing “division” and that I should be more concerned with “unity in the body” etc etc. These people bring up this verse and say, “See? Paul said that wherever Christ is preached he rejoiced!” Paul was very clear in every one of his letters that we are to avoid false teachings. Christ was very clear in His teachings; John, Peter, James, these were all very clear in warning us to avoid false teachings. Paul was saying that wherever the truth of Christ, and the TRUE Christ was being preached, then he would rejoice. Because the TRUE Christ brings life. False Christs bring death. We are not to rejoice in false teaching. We are not to sit back and let heresies grow until the whole church is filled with destruction. That’s no reason to rejoice.

Philippians 1:20-21For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Here’s something you don’t hear a lot these days. That Christ would be magnified in us through our death. We hear all the time about how God wants to shower us with physical health, and with material prosperity—that’s blessing! Really. How many times did Jesus say, “Blessed are ye wealthy!” He didn’t? Well, He must have said something like, “Blessed are you when you are in good health!” No. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are the meek…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…Blessed are the pure in heart…Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake…Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” Not a word about health or prosperity being a blessing, in fact, what did the apostle Paul say about riches? 1st Timothy 6:9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. Our truest blessings are not found in stuff. They are found in following Christ, and living Christ.

And that’s what he’s talking about in verse 21to live is Christ, to die is gain. When we belong to Christ, we look at things—not according to whether we like them or not, but we step back, and we look at things and we take an extra second or two and ask—we don’t ask ourselves, because we’ll always get the wrong answer—we ask the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us if we have indeed been born again—“Should I do this?” The things we enjoy will change. We used to enjoy doing all kinds of sinful things—but now, we hate those things and we love the things of God. Which is what Jesus meant when He told His disciples in Luke 9:23“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” We hear people say “I guess that’s just a cross I have to bear.” Well…… Not quite.

When Jesus told us to take up our cross, He meant that we should be ready to say goodbye to the life we know—even to the point of being ready for physical death if that’s what it takes. That’s what Paul is saying in this verse here. That if he’s going to live, then his life is going to be consumed by living Christ. Luke 9:61-62another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” If we belong to Christ, we should tend to look at this world a little less affectionately. A lot of people who claim to be Christians—they want to say, “Oh, I believe in Christ! Oh, I'm saved!” They’ve put their hand on the plow, but they're looking over their shoulder at the world they should be leaving behind. That brings us to the last verses.

Philippians 1:25-30And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again. Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

I want to focus on that one section where he says, Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation. When a person comes to accept Christ as Savior and Lord, there will be people who doubt, who want to tear them down first chance they get. They don’t want to have to admit that people can change—because they themselves don’t want to change. When your old friends stop coming around because you aren't the same person you used to be, it’s not just because they don’t like you—they don’t like who you belong to. They don’t just hate you for changing—they hate God for changing you. John 15:18-22"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

Whenever we hear about a rock coming to know Christ—Alice Cooper, who is now a devout Christian, has been since the ‘80’s; Brian Welch from the band Korn (and if you knew what kind of music they did, you would know how powerful a transformation that was). A lot of former pro wrestlers have been saved over the last few years. Sting, and Ted DiBiase—men who lived a life filled with money and partying and women and fame and stardom. And they realized just how empty their life was, and God opened their eyes to find the truth. 1st Peter 4:3-4For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of excess… And if they stand in the righteousness of Christ, it proof of their salvation—that their life has been changed by the power of God. And it is proof of the destruction of others—that they are fallen, sinful creatures, who have no excuse.

No comments: