13 August 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:8, Part 4)

Philippians 4:8Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy --- meditate on these things. Last week we were talking about always thinking on those things that are “lovely”—that are, literally, “toward brotherly love.” And we talked about how it is the love that we have for each other—and for those who don’t know Christ—that shows the world that we belong to our Lord Jesus. And we got started talking about those things that are “of good report”—literally, something that “declares good things” or that “makes good things famous.” That it’s not a matter of “Everybody likes this book—let’s read it.” But rather, “This book teaches things that point to Christ—let’s read this!”

A good example of this difference is a book called “The Shack.” Should be called “The Outhouse” because of what it's full of. People looove this book—but it teaches things that are flat-out heresy. On the other hand, there is a book called “The Truth War” by John MacArthur, that shows us how we can know the truth in this day and age where the truth is being assaulted on every front. And we’re gonna pick up where we left off last week by talking about these things that are of good report—things that make good things famous. One of the most underestimated sources of encouragement for the body of Christ is the testimony of the believer. When we hear the stories of lives that are changed by our Lord Jesus Christ. And it doesn’t have to be somebody that was a crack dealer, or a crack addict; doesn’t have to be someone who watched pornography, or made it. Some of the most powerful testimonies are from people who thought they were saved.

The most powerful weapon Satan has in his arsenal is deception. More specifically, deceiving people into thinking they're saved. Which is why the church in America is one of the largest mission fields in the world. Because every parent in America who takes their kids to church on Sunday—is saved. Just ask them, they’ll tell you. “Of course I'm going to Heaven—I go to church don’t I?” But then when that person sees the truth, they give God the glory, and they become one of these things that Paul says is of good report. Because this person finally sees that it wasn’t their “goodness” that saved them—because they finally understand that they had no real goodness to begin with! And it is these testimonies that show the world that our life in Christ is the greatest triumph in the history of all the world!

2nd Corinthians 2:14-16 (NASB)Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. You’ve seen those wooden sticks you put in the oil, they fill the whole room with that fragrance? That’s us. Everywhere we go, everything we do, we should have Christ pouring out of us. There are four “audiences” to whom we are the “fragrance of Christ.”

First, we saw last week that we are the “fragrance of Christ” to a lost and dying world. If we are saved, and if we say that Christ Jesus is our Lord, then our lives should display Christ. A person could worship Buddha, they could worship Allah. They could even worship the rocks and trees, and the world will say, “Oh, they're such a spiritual person.” So many people fall all over themselves for the Dali Lama. But tell people that we worship the Lord Jesus Christ—see what kind of reaction you get. Because we’re not like them. If we are preaching Christ to people who don’t know Christ—and who don’t want to know Christ—we are showing them that they are dead in their sins. John 15:19“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.”

Second, we are the “fragrance of Christ” to God. If we are saved, God no longer turns up His nose at the stench that comes from “this body of death.” Romans 7:24-25—O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! We have, in fact, been conformed to the image of Christ. Romans 8:29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. And when God gets a whiff of us, instead of being abominable to Him—we are a “sweet aroma” that actually pleases Him. All the sacrifices and offerings in the OT Law pointed to Christ’s sacrifice. And if you read from a KJV the passages in Exodus and Leviticus that talk about those offerings being a “sweet savour” unto the LORD—the word “savour” means “aroma” or “odour.” Now, listen to Ephesians 5:2And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Christ’s sacrifice was a “sweet aroma to God.” And if we are in Christ, our life is a “sweet aroma” to God. Not only that, but those things we do in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ are also a “sweet aroma” to God. Philippians 4:18I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

We should also be the “fragrance of Christ” to ourselves. HUH?? That is, we should continue to remind ourselves that God has accepted Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. Because there are times when, even though we know we are saved, and even though we know that we have turned our back on sin and we seek to walk with Christ every day—who is it that doesn’t want us to remember who we are now? Who wants us to think that we are still the slave of sin and Satan and our own flesh? Yeah! Satan would love nothing more than for us to think we still belong to him! Satan would love for us to think we still carry the stain of our old sins on our body—but guess what? If we are in Christ, if we have had our sins forgiven, then we no longer carry the odor of our old sins—we are the fragrance of Christ! Ephesians 1:6To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

But sometimes we forget that. When we are in a kind of a funk, and we don’t feel too good about ourselves, we think that God must feel that way about us as well. But who is it that is telling us that? Thing is, that could not be any farther from the truth! In fact, Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians to remind them—and us—about who we are if we are indeed saved. And when we begin to think of who we are now, and we remember that if we are indeed saved, we are accepted by God in Christ. Then, we will begin to think on things that we should, we will walk the way we should, and we will do those good works that Paul said in Ephesians 2:10God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. And those good works that we do because we are saved—not that our works save us, because they don’t—those works will act as a spotlight that puts Jesus on display for a world that does not know Him. Matthew 5:14-16“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Philippians 1:20My 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. That’s why it is important that we remember who we are in Christ!

Finally, we should be the “fragrance of Christ” to our brothers and sisters in Christ. I think one reason that the apostle Peter was so intent in his epistles on telling us Christians to always remember the kind of person we were and to always be looking to Christ for our hope is because of what kind of man he was at one time. 2nd Peter 1:10-15 (NASB)Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things—the things he lists a few verses before, like adding to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love…as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind. And what reminder will that be? His letters, which lead one into truth and honor and righteousness and purity and brotherly love and which declare good things.

Hebrews 10:23-25Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. When we meet on Sunday mornings, is it just so we can have coffee and donuts and chit-chat about our week? I would hope not. When the church comes together, it should have one singular focus—to glorify God. And how do we bring glory to God? A few minutes ago, we read Matthew 5:16“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We don’t do good works for us to be seen—but for God to be glorified. We are to be a lampstand. God is the light. God is to shine out from us, so that the light people see is Christ in us.

And during those times when things aren't going too well in our lives, when we think we’re all alone—is that the time for us to be alone? But isn't that usually the time most people stop coming to church? And that is just the opposite of how it is supposed to be. Look at what it says in Hebrews—And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. We come together, we come along side one another, and we help one another get through those rough times. 1st Corinthians 12:26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Galatians 6:2Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Among those who are lost, we are the light they want to hide from. To God, our lives are a “sweet aroma.” To ourselves, we look in His word and remember that “Hey you know what? God has already forgiven me! And He has called me ‘Loved’!” Among those who are saved, we stir up the love of Christ, Who was merciful to us when we were still sinners.

All the powers that oppose God—He defeated them on the cross and He showed them off as the defeated enemy they are! Look at what it says: He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. He said to the world, “All of the powers that you could bring against Me? I defeated them all on the cross!” Here’s another thing: those captives of the Roman Empire—they were being led to their death. But if we are captives of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are trophies of His power and His might and His triumph over death and Hell and the grave! And if we are His captives, He will lead us to eternal life!

Jesus Christ is Lord.

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