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Philippians 1:18-26

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Today, I was scheduled to preach at Union Grove Baptist Church in Fulton, MS. I planned to preach on Philippians 1:18-26, but God had different plans. I do not know why, but I am sick today. Yesterday, I had terrible allergy/sinus problems and hoped that they would be gone so I could preach today. They weren’t gone, obviously, and in fact, when I woke up, they were worse. My left ear particularly pained me, and I can’t speak loudly nor clearly (and preaching requires both in varying degrees). And so, I am home as I type this, not attending church at all. It feels weird to miss a church service, to miss an opportunity of fellowshipping with the people of God and worshipping Him corporately. I’ve watched a service or two on the TV, but it’s not the same. Plus, they weren’t from my home church; they weren’t the believers I normally fellowship with. Wonderfully enough, Philippians 1:18-26 (which I will now preach at a later date) deals with the joys of Christian fellowship and why Christian fellowship is so important. Textually, Paul expresses joy in the glorification of Christ regardless of circumstances but then joy at the glorification of Christ because of circumstances. Philippians 1:18-26 (ESV, of course):

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live on in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”

In these verses, Paul expresses confidence that the Holy Spirit will deliver him both from his temporary imprisonment and also provide ultimate salvation. Paul would rather depart and be with Christ, “which is far better,” yet for the sake of the Philippians’ “progress and joy in the faith,” he will be delivered and reunited with them. In this passage, we see the importance of Christian fellowship. The Holy Spirit uses other believers’ prayers to help us. Therefore, we should pray for each other specifically. Christianity is communal—not individualistic and isolationist.

Also, like Paul, our attitude should be that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Our lives should be utterly consumed by Christ and overflowing from Him! Christ must be our primary passion—not Christ plus anything else! All too often, we say “to live is work, or dating, or self gratification, or any number of things.” But to live for us as Christians should be Christ! Christ should be our reason for living! His glorification should be our goal, just as it was the goal of Paul. And one of the most effective ways we can glorify Christ is to glorify Him as a body of believers, united in His Lordship and salvation. Notice particularly the emphasis that the Hebrew writer puts on Christian fellowship in Hebrews 10:23-25:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Just in the days of this epistle’s writing, some Christians still neglect to meet with other believers. However, it is when we meet together that we “stir up one another to love and good works.” In meeting together, we are also “encouraging one another,” and the Day of our Lord draws ever closer with each passing opportunity for us to meet together as a local body of believers.

My ailing health has prevented me from fellowshipping with believers of my home church today, but I hope that you have not neglected such fellowship if you are in good health. I look forward to hearing Seth’s sermon later today (hopefully); it will (presumably) be posted on Eastside Baptist’s podcast at some point. Please note that this is not my full sermon; this is just a bare-bones sampling of what Paul addresses in this passage. I do hope that you are blessed by this, though, and I look forward to preaching a sermon on this text at a later date. Remember, our purpose in life is to glorify God—and now you know, you have no excuse—and one of the best ways we can do that is by glorifying Him together when we meet together as believers.

God bless, and I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday afternoon. If your church offers services tonight, please go to them if you are physically able, for in so doing, you will be glorifying God, which is what we all should be doing anyway.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Today is officially Thanksgiving Day, even though every day for us as Christians should be a day of thanksgiving. Recall the words of David in Psalm 69:30-32—

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hooves. When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.”

Our thanksgiving is a form of praise; it is a form of witness. Our thanksgiving “magnif[ies]” the Lord. To magnify God is to cause Him “to be held in greater esteem or respect” (Merriam-Webster definition of “magnify”). Our thanksgiving pleases God more than any sacrifice. Thanksgiving is more pleasing to God because in thanksgiving, we humbly go to God and express our utter gratitude for everything He has blessed us with—in the knowledge that we deserve none of it. So today (and every day). let’s be thankful to God. In thanking God, we magnify Him, we praise Him, we please Him.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Together for the Gospel … and Rejoicing in Its Proclamation

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

This morning, I delivered a sermon entitled “Rejoicing in the Proclamation of the Gospel” on Philippians 1:12-18 at Union Grove Baptist Church in Fulton, MS. In these verses of Philippians, Paul anticipates and quells the Philippians’ concerns that his imprisonment in Rome (v. 7) has hindered the advancement of the gospel; on the contrary, his imprisonment has “really served to advance the gospel” (v. 12)! In fact, “most” of the Christians in Rome are “all the more bold to speak the word without fear” (14). Even members of the imperial household have been converted to Christ (4:22)!

That said, Paul then delivers some interesting news: some of these Christians preach Christ sincerely and some insincerely. Some preach Christ in Paul’s absence out of love for God and fellow people, but others preach Christ out of enmity toward Paul. Paul, however, rejoices that “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed” (v. 18). The same Paul who pronounces a curse on anyone proclaiming a false gospel (Galatians 1:9) here rejoices in the proclamation of the gospel even when people proclaim it with impure motives! This is a fine line to walk, but while we are (definitely are) supposed to denounce false gospels, we should rejoice in the proclamation of the gospel at the hands of people who are less-than-friendly toward us. Whatever our other differences with people are, if we agree with someone (namely, a Christian) about the gospel, we are to be united in that. The gospel leaves no room for pride; we are to be humble and love all fellow Christians—even if they don’t love us (Philippians 2:1-5; Luke 6:27-28).

At the end of my sermon, I gave Together for the Gospel (T4G) as an example of Christian unity in the gospel. T4G is an interdenominational conference that initially stemmed from the friendship of four pastors—from different denominations—who united in the gospel. They do not all agree about baptismal methods, nor do they all agree upon the nature of spiritual gifts, but instead of disputing and dividing over these differences, these four pastors rather united in their like faith in the gospel of Christ. Their example is excellent, truly representative of Paul’s attitude in Philippians 1:18—

What, then? Only that in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes and I will rejoice,”

Like Paul, we should always rejoice at the proclamation of the gospel. Like the pastors who head the T4G conference, we should unite with fellow believers who are grounded in the gospel (listen to my sermon for a more thorough treatment of what the gospel is and what it is not).

For more information about Together for the Gospel (the next conference will be held in April 2010), visit the T4G website.

“A price will be paid when you give yourself away.”

November 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Have you ever listened to a song over and over again, but then you listen to it just for fun one time and a line or two in the song suddenly knocks you down? If so, then you understand what I have recently felt. If you are familiar with Casting Crowns’ song “Slow Fade,” then you may recall the line “A price will be paid when you give yourself away.” I have heard this song many times before, but when I last heard this song just a few days ago, this line hit me like a ton of bricks (as the saying is). If you give yourself away, a price will be paid, namely your life. Ultimately, you will “fade” into nothingness under your sin. This theme of giving yourself into sin is found throughout the Bible and western literature. Adam and Eve gave themselves to sin by eating the forbidden fruit. Faust’s pact with the devil is now a literary archetype that symbolizes any giving oneself away to any vice. And on and on I could go. Instead, I will cut to the chase and come right out with it: when we give ourselves away to any sin, we begin to fade away. Recall Paul’s seemingly harsh language in Romans 14:23:

… For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Anything not done in faith is sin! Anything at all, even things that are “good” can be—rather, are—sin when we do not do them out of faith! Specifically, “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns deals with the sin of adultery (see their music video), a sexual sin. Their song deals with a father’s infidelity to his child’s mother (his wife). In this post, I will branch off for a moment to confront a sin that is in the lives of many young people and has even been a part of my own life in the past: the sin of “giving one’s heart away.” Or to put this in another way, as the Shulamite maiden (Solomon’s betrothed) says in Song of Solomon 3:5:

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem [though this exhortation applies to both men and women], by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.”

“Do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” What admonishing words. The modern dating experience is a joke. People are getting hurt over and over again—for what? A few nice dinners with an attractive person? To feel the exhilaration of “love” only to be thrown down into the deepest pits of despair? I say, enough is enough. I say, let’s stop being carried about by every passing attraction we feel toward another person—however admirable they may really be. I say, let’s give our hearts to God! Let us renew our commitment to Him! Let’s truly believe that He will provide that spouse in the future in His perfect timing. Is it wrong to be proactive in relationships? No, but don’t jump the gun. Am I going to say people need to get married right out of high school? No. Am I going to say people need to get married only after they’ve got a six-figure salary and loads of money in the bank? No. I’m going to say that we need to exercise Biblical wisdom in our lives—and our faith should carry into our “love lives.” Be patient; don’t worry about tomorrow (Matt. 6:34, 1 Pet. 5:6-7). We trust God for salvation, we should trust Him to provide a godly spouse—and to empower us to be godly spouses when the time comes. The world’s wares are fleeting; they do not last, and they are worthless. God, however, has what is best for you as His child in His mind. If he gives you a spouse tomorrow, praise God. If he gives you a spouse in ten years, praise God. If He never blesses you with a spouse, praise God; you are better able to devote more time to Him (1 Cor. 7:17, 10:31).

I am no expert on this subject, but I say these things not on my authority, but on the authority of the Bible, God’s Holy Word: “Do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” If you’re like me, though, it’s too late: you’ve done this before. But the glorious thing about God is that He forgives His people when they confess their sins (1 John 1:9). God’s Holy Spirit that indwells us enables us to repent and to be always reforming and conforming to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). When God first brought this sin to my attention a few months ago, I was appalled. Being impatient with this, as with any other aspect, shows a lack of trust in God, a lack of faith: sin. As Kevin DeYoung writes in Just Do Something:

Worry and anxiety … are sinful fruits that blossom from the root of unbelief.”

Rather than jumping the gun on love, let us exercise Scriptural wisdom. Let’s be patient; let’s trust God. Should we be proactive? Yes. Should we be preparing ourselves for future marriage? Unless God has called us to singleness (both singleness and marriage are ministries), then yes. But we should be doing so in whole dependence upon and faith in God. “A price will be paid when you give yourself away.” Remember, you are not your own; as a Christian, you are God’s.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

“Glorify God in your body.” Do not give yourself to someone who is not your spouse. You hurt not only yourself and your relationship with God, but sins—even forgiven sins—have consequences. God forgave David of committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband, Uriah, but David and Bathsheba’s son still died because of that sin. You will experience pain from giving your heart—even a part of it—away for any length of time. Sometimes, that pain will last. But joy and peace are found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Confessed sins are forgiven sins. Do not go away condemned, fellow Christian, go away renewed in your commitment to the Lord. Go away from this blog rejoicing that your sin is forgiven in Christ, and that by His grace you can do the impossible: by His grace, you (and I) can trust that the Lord will provide a spouse just as He has provided salvation. Jesus’ words on this are most helpful:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness [Christ; Jer. 23:6], and all these things [physical needs] will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow; for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” –Matthew 6:33-34

Wild Weather and Consistent Christians

November 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Weather in the South (especially in Alabama) is erratic at best. In mid-November, we are now having to use the heating at night and in the mornings and use the air conditioning in the afternoons. It’s hot, then it’s cold. The weather is constantly changing these days.

October was unusually wet; I’m glad to see the sun again for such long periods of time. I even like this cold-then-hot weather (all in the same day); I even like wearing a jacket in the mornings over a short-sleeve T-shirt only to take the jacket off in the afternoons. But thinking about this erratic Southern weather got me to thinking about “things that are above.” How often are we, as God’s people, hot-then-cold, or vice-versa? How consistent are we in our daily walk with the Lord? None of us are perfect, but if we were honest with ourselves, we would realize that we all need some amount of improvement in this area. As we go through the workweek, let us strive to be unilike the weather patterns we endure and rather be increasingly consistent Christians, daily conforming to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

We cannot do this on our own; we must humbly, wholly rely upon the grace of God. As many preachers have said before, so I will reiterate the great truth: What God commands, He provides for His people. Jesus, when He ascended to heaven, did not leave us as orphans, but sent the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the One who regenerates us, who gives us the life of God whereby we repent and believe unto salvation. We, as saved people, should continue in our salvation, we should see progress in our lives (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). Indeed, it is God’s will that we be sanctified; it is God’s will that we outwardly prove our inner salvation, which He has wrought in us!

Let us go through this week joyful (and thankful) that our God is not a distant, impersonal Deity but that He is a loving but sovereign God who has reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son Jesus Christ. And let us live, daily conforming to the image of Christ, in the light of this glorious truth.

Happy Veterans’ Day

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Today is Veterans’ Day, a day in which we honor all those who have sacrificed so much for their country. Not only have the veterans sacrificed much, but their families have, as well. Today, let us all thank the veterans we know in our lives, and let us not forget to thank God for giving our soldiers and their families the courage to persevere in adversity. It is because of our veterans that we have the freedom to worship God; it is because of our veterans that I can post this blog. And so, I thank you veterans, for being selfless and fighting for our wonderful freedoms. You are who make our country the greatest nation on earth.

The “Dividing Wall of Hostility” Broken Down

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

berlin wallTwenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall collapsed. For the first time in roughly forty years, people crossed from Soviet-controlled East Berlin into democratic West Berlin. Within three years, the entire Soviet Union fully dissolved. The physical embodiment of the metaphoric Iron Wall between democracy and communism was breached. Riotous celebration erupted in both East and West Berlin. People dismantled the wall individually, piece by piece, for souvenirs—more importantly, people individually tore down the wall to make a statement: peace is possible. Peace is preferred.

And Christ did the exact same thing for us—on an infinitely larger, spiritual scale—by His death on the Cross at Calvary.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the circumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:11-22

Before the death of Christ, only Jewish people were considered to be in the family of God. They were God’s chosen people. They were at enmity with the Jews, wholly separate. They had no hope for salvation under the Jewish Law (but as Romans 3:20 asserts, no one has hope of salvation in the law). That is why Christ died; He died for all kinds of people, from every part of the world, in all different time periods. His death brought Gentiles into the fold of the family of God. Christ reconciled Jews and non-Jews. In Christ, all Christians—regardless of ethnicity—are brothers and sisters.

More than reconciling born-again people to each other, Jesus Christ also reconciled His people to God by His death on the Cross.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Christ’s death did not make salvation possible; He redeemed all whoever would ever come to faith in Him on the Cross and purchased our redemption! Therefore, by reconciling “us both to God in one body through the cross,” Jesus brought His ethnically-diverse people into one body—His. We, the church, are Christ’s body, and He is our head. And upon the foundation of Christ, we grow into a holy temple in the Lord, corporately.

We do not only have corporate peace with each other and with God but also individual peace with each other and with God. Individually, we are to be unified with one another in the faith of Jesus Christ. There is no place for pride amongst Christians; neither is there any place for racism. Nor are we to judge one another as Christians; there are, however, overlapping issues of how to handle Christian discipline (whether even to practice loving discipline at all within the church) in this subject, which I will cover in a later post. More importantly than being reconciled to one another, though, we are individually reconciled to God by Christ’s finished work on the Cross. In fact, human reconciliation stems from divine reconciliation. Christ visibly broke down the wall separating us from God as recorded in Mark 15:33-38:

And when the sixth hour [noon] had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour [three in the afternoon]. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, He is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to Him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come and take Him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed His last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”

The “curtain of the temple” was the veil separating the Holy of Holies—where the presence of the Lord dwelled—from the rest of the temple. No one but the High Priest was allowed to enter—and he was allowed access only once per year, on the Day of Atonement. Christ, in providing the ultimate and full Atonement for God’s people, tore down the veil, both figuratively and literally. It tore from top to bottom—from heaven to earth, from God to mankind. Christ, in His death, gave us Christians all “access in one Spirit to the Father.”

Therefore, fellow Christians, since we are reconciled both to each other and to God, let us act as such. Let us be forgiving and loving, unified with one another. Let us boldly approach the throne of grace. Let us go to God in worshipful prayer, thanking Him for reconciling us to Himself through Christ. Let us live in the light of this truth daily, both in gratefully worshipping God and actively loving one another.

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