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Father’s Day Sermon (2012) June 17, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Family, Father's Day, Humililty, Paul's Life.
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LEAVING THE CHILDREN HOME
Acts 21:4-6

There is much more said in the Old Testament about being a wise believing father than there is in the New Testament. In fact Proverbs is the book about being a wise believing father and we need to spend more time in it than we do. Yet we do have glimpses of what it means to be a wise believing father and we have one of these glimpses here in Acts 21. This passage doesn’t exemplify everything we need to be wise believing fathers and husbands but it does show us a couple of things that we could implement into our lives.

A. A wise believing father ensures that his family is around good Christian leaders. These men wanted their wives and children around the Apostle Paul. You might argue that we don’t have any apostles but we do have spiritual leaders within our church and we need to make sure that our children are around these people so that they might learn from their example. You see, none of us can teach our sons everything that they need to know. It takes a church to raise wise believing children.

Is it worth it? “According to an ancient legend, the chessboard was originally invented in India. The wealthy ruler was so appreciative of the new game that he offered to reward the inventor and asked him what he wanted. His answer was simple. He asked for a single grain of rice to be placed on the first square of the board. Then he asked for twice as much on the second square, and that the ruler would continue doubling the rice on each square until the board was filled. It doesn’t sound like a lot for a new game, but when you do the math it takes over 4.8 billion metric tones of rice to fill the last square. That is more than eight times the current worldwide annual production of rice.” Is it worth investing our church in wise believing children?

The major objection to this is that the church is full of hypocrites. I don’t doubt that is true. My problem is how do you tell the hypocrites from the real person who is flawed. The twelve men following Jesus were guilty of many of the same sins of which Jesus accused the Pharisees. Neither group was really aware of their failures. That is why Jesus needed to point them out.

The church is the family of God and he has put us as fathers over his family. Mothers play a role. Grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews all play a role. It takes a church to raise wise believing children.

1. Good Christian leaders are those who have taken up their cross. While we are all to take up our cross and follow him, it is significant that Jesus chose twelve men, men who were to be leaders, and taught them how to take up their cross. Jesus related to these men as the Messiah but he also related to them as men to men, leaders to leaders. David Murrow wrote in Why Men Hate Going to Church (2005), “Men develop lasting friendships when they’ve suffered together. The bonds formed on a battlefield are enduring. One time I asked my father who his best friend was. He identified an old army buddy he’d hardly spoken to in thirty years. Men who have competed together, sweat together, bled together, and overcome adversity together are bonded for life.” That is what Jesus did with these men. Yes, the resurrection was crucial but without that preparation time before his crucifixion, that bond that Peter and John pointed back to in their second and first epistles would never have been formed.

2. Good Christian leaders are those who are humble. Again from David Murrow (2005), “There are certain churchgoers-I call them the humility police-who see it as their job to humble anyone who might get praise or credit.” They discourage hand-clapping after special music. They misunderstand that you can be great and be humble. God encourages greatness. He told Abraham and David, I will make your name great. Jesus said in Mark 10:43, “If you want to be great…” It is great to be great. The path to greatness as a wise believing man is found in accomplishing God’s will in humility. Again, Jesus said, “If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others…The Son of Man did not come to be a slave master, but a slave who will give his life to rescue many people.” Paul did not shirk from this responsibility. He said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

B. A wise believing father provides his family memorable religious and church experiences. “Come on, son. The Holy Spirit told me that Paul is going to suffer if he goes to Jerusalem. He is convinced, however, that God wants him to go there to suffer for the name of Jesus. He is sacrificing himself. I want you to come with me and see a man who is great, who stands for something.” This is the Christian education that we need to give our wives and our children. Our lives as men must be those that show our wives and children what it means to live and work as a platoon for fighting with our God against the forces of hell.

1. The emphasis of Christian education is not in knowing facts but rather in learning dependence on God. Knowing facts and going no further is a child’s activity. Knowing every batting average will not help you hit a fastball. Knowing the facts about every animal in the sea doesn’t make you an oceanographer. Knowing verses in the Bible alone will not make you dependent on God. When, however, you take those verses and learn through them and the experiences that God allows you to go through, when those verses become more than just facts, they become powerful and vital to your life. These men wanted their wives and children to see a man who was dependent on God.

2. The emphasis of Christian education does not separate the family from the church and gives to neither priority. While you need to have your family exposed to Christian leaders, they need to see you as a Christian leader. I’m not talking about being a pastor or a deacon. Your family needs to see you as someone who achieves something of importance in this church. If your kids are not home, your wife still needs to see you as a vital part of the platoon, someone who, if he is missing, gives an advantage to the enemy, the one who desires to destroy both your family and the church.

Men, we are going to make mistakes. Lee and Clark in Boys to Men (1995) tell how a grocer had worked side by side with his son in a neighborhood grocery store, teaching him what it means to be a man of integrity. Once while “restocking some shelves, he noticed [his son] running out the door, leaving the cash register unattended. When his son returned, [the father] gave him a mini-lecture about responsibility. When he finished, he asked [his son] why he had run from the store. ‘Well, that older lady who was just in here paying for her groceries dropped a twenty-dollar bill when she opened her purse, and I didn’t notice it on the floor until after she left. I was trying to catch her to give it back to her.’” Let that be the type of mistake we make.

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How to humble yourself in five easy lessons (Proverbs 30:18-33) February 25, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Character, Humililty, Pride, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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FIGHTING SELF-EXALTATION
(How to humble myself in five easy lessons)
Proverbs 30:18-33

Humility is a tough thing to get. The minute you think you got, you lose it. As Agur explains to his two young listeners about life, one of his themes is the danger of self-exaltation. As we finish this chapter today, I want us to apply Agur’s observations about life to ourselves, specifically in how we can fight self-exaltation.

A. I must take responsibility for my own sin (verses 18-20). Agur says that there are some things that he cannot understand. How can an eagle fly through the air and not leave a path behind him? How can a snake crawl on a rock without leaving, as the snail or the worm does, a hint of his path? How can a ship part the waves without leaving a permanent dent in them? How can a man be with a maiden and leave no hint of his past presence?

We might ask ourselves what this has to do with a life honoring to God so Agur gives us an explanation. This is what we try to do with our sin. We try to leave no hint of our sin behind, no proof of our deeds. He speaks specifically of adultery here but this certainly applies to many sins. We sin and then try to hide it so that we will not lose face before others or so that we will not be punished.

To hide our sin is evidence of our desire for self-exaltation. To not take responsibility for our own wrongdoing is proof of our pride.

a. To hide a sin does not eliminate its reality. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story called “The Cask of the Amontillado” in which the main character carries out the perfect crime. He chains his enemy in a wine cellar room and bricks him in to die. How much more would we sin if we though we could get away with it? I do not know but I do know that wiping the cookie crumbs off your lips does not erase the fact that you stole the cookies from the cookie jar. What sin are you hiding? What sin are you pretending does not exist in your life? If you are to humble yourself before God you must acknowledge the reality of your sin.

b. To deny a sin does not eliminate accountability. Do not forget that even if you leave no mark, God will hold you accountable for your sin. Agur has already mentioned this in verse 17. Sin will not go unpunished. Jesus Himself said that every word said in secret will be made public. Think of the most secret sin that you have ever committed, the one sin that you would be most horrified if anyone should find out about it. It is already known and you will be held accountable.

B. If I am to humble myself, I not only must take responsibility for my sin but I must act like God is God and I am not (verses 21-23). Charles Swindoll tells in Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (“No Place for Pride” on pages 62-65) how that a reporter asked Marian Anderson, the African-American concert soloist to name the greatest moment in her life. She had many great moments in her life. She was the first African-American in 1955 to sing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She had given private concerts at the White House with the President as well as the King and Queen of England present. She had sung one Easter Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial for a crowd of 75,000 people including most of our nation’s political leaders. “Which of those big moments did she choose? None of them. Miss Anderson quietly told the reporter that the greatest moment of her life was the day she went home and told her mother she wouldn’t have to take in washing anymore.” She did not forget who she was.

We on the other hand tend to forget who we are. We live as if we were God Himself, determining what we are going to do and when we are going to do it. We act as if we were the determiners of morality and truth. We forget that God is God and we are not.

Our text gives us several examples of people who are in a position that does not fit them. A servant is incapable of being a king. A wicked, fool does not deserve the blessings of God. What can a marriage can mean to a woman who is hated? The slave girl does not kick her mistress out of the house so that she can enjoy her finery. So is it when we act as if we were God.

a. God’s place in the universe is supreme. We need to understand that most of the people who we work with, talk to, and live with do not believe that God’s place in the universe is supreme. The evidence is clear. Every time we sin, we are with our actions denying that God is supreme. We make ourselves king when we sin. Sin is nothing more than an exaltation of man over God.

Is it not ludicrous when we act as if we were God? We are no different than the slave girl who kicks here mistress out of the house so she can take her place. She may sit in her mistress’ chair and eat her mistress’ food but she is still a slave girl. We may do things our way rather than God’s way but He remains God regardless of whether we live like it or not.

b. I am accountable to God because He created me. Will Metzger in “Tell the Truth” tells about asking people two questions on a beach in Florida during spring break. The first was, “Do you believe in God?” Most said, “Yes.” Then he asked, “Does sin separate you from God?” Here are some of their replies: “No, why should it?” or “I don’t believe in that kind of a God”, or “My concept of God is one who loves.” In other words, I am not accountable to God so why should I worry about sin.

We are, however, accountable to God. The writer of Hebrews points out that it is appointed to man once to die and after this, judgment. We, all of us, are accountable to God. Those who believe in Christ have Jesus as the one who takes responsibility for our sin. Those who do not trust Christ as the only way of salvation will stand alone and give an account to God.

C. In addition, if I am going to humble myself before God, I must do what is right, without regard for how insignificant that action or my position may appear (verses 24-28).

The wise man is like the ant, his significance is not found in his great power but rather in doing what he is supposed to do. Like the coney, his security is not found in his own power but in the Rock on which he lives. Like the locust, he does not wait from a mandate from a king but follows the way of God, even though He has never seen God. Like the lizard in the palace, he lives in a great place but not because of his greatness.

God is God and I am not. Therefore, I am accountable to Him. If I am wise, I will walk in His ways without regard for my own ambitions, strength, wisdom, or position. I will be His servant, His disciple. The problem is this. I cannot in my own strength please God. I am a sinner. None of these animals is very capable but outside of the natural order, they would be incapable of survival. When humankind left God’s natural order through the sin of Adam, we set ourselves up for spiritual extinction. That is why we need faith in Christ. He came and died for our sin and our salvation.

D. That is why I can (if I want to) battle self-exaltation, I can live confidently according to my position in Christ (verses 29-31). To be humble does not mean to feel inferior. True, we are not God but the believer in Christ does not need to go around with an inferiority complex.

Another story from Chuck Swindoll, this time from “Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back”: “A man paid a visit to his local psychologist. When the doctor asked him what had prompted the visit, the man said, “I’m suffering from an inferiority complex.” After a long battery of tests, “…the doctor called the man and asked him to return to the clinic. ‘I have some interesting news for you,’ the doctor began.
‘What’s that?’ asked the man.
‘It’s no complex,’ the psychologist retorted, ‘You are inferior.’”

We as believers in Christ, however, are not inferior because we are in Him through our faith in Christ.

a. I am exalted and worthy in Christ. Hebrews 2:9-10 says that Christ brought “…many sons to glory…” through His death for us on the cross. John 1:12 reminds us that we receive the right to become sons of God through faith in Christ. Look at Romans 8:16-17, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we also may be glorified together.” That is a wonderful position – to be a part of the royal family of the universe – heirs with Christ of God’s throne.

b. I can therefore live confidently because of my position. Like a lion, I can walk through the Serengeti of this world without fear because I belong to the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ. Like the royal greyhound, I can stick my chest out and proudly display the royal decorations that my Master has given me. Like the head goat of the flock, I can confidently walk among the flock because my Savior is my shepherd. When the battle rages, I can go forth as a king because His legions fight for me.

Are you a confident Christian? Not a boastful, proud Christian but a confident Christian? You can be because of your faith in Jesus Christ which has made you one of God’s children.

E. Finally, if I am to battle self-exaltation, if I am to learn humility, I must learn to control my tongue (verses 32-33). The tongue has many uses both positive and negative. No use of the tongue, however, is more evil or more dangerous than the self-exalting tongue.

a. My tongue reveals the pride and sinful foolishness of my heart. Now most of us do not go around telling people how great we are but we use words in many ways to build ourselves up. We are constantly critiquing others, their success or lack thereof, their looks, their children, their lifestyle choices. We need to put our hands over our mouths. We constantly talk about our own accomplishments, our own possessions, our own abilities. We need to put our hands over our mouths. We quote Scripture in a self-justifying way, pass down judgments, pass along gossip, defend our great sin and attack the little sins of others, we grumble and complain, we fuss and fight, all revealing how important we are to ourselves. We need to put our hand over our mouth.

b. My pride uses my tongue to sow discord. Just as the humble man is often a peacemaker, the proud man is a warmonger. The proud man when he is right in his argument will destroy people while the humble man may make a mistake in judgment but will even in his mistake seek to heal those whom he has hurt through his mistake.

Five easy steps to humility was intended tongue in cheek but the reality is this: we know how to become humble but we just do not want to do it. Time after time we refuse to take responsibility for our own sin. We act like we are not accountable to God. We refuse to control our tongue. We refuse to do what is right because it does not seem to matter. We forget that our exaltation is to be found in Christ alone.

You can begin right now to humble yourself. Go to God and confess your sin. You may need to go to someone and confess a sin. They probably already know the sin, you just need to admit to it and stop defending yourself.

You might need to begin controlling your tongue. You will probably need someone to help with this. Men, I recommend your wives. They know exactly what you are going to say before you do anyway.  Write down the ways in which you regularly sin with your tongue and put a stop to self-exalting speech.

Do what is right, no matter how small the matter is. Your deeds as a Christian are great because you are royalty not because they are impressive.

Finally, hold yourself accountable to God. The unbeliever needs Christ to settle the account of His sin. The believer needs to confess and forsake the sin for which Christ has already died.

Take action now. Humble yourself before God and He will lift you up!

Evaluating a Generation February 15, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Character, Contentment, Depravity, Family, Humililty, Hypocrisy, Judgment, Materialism, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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EVALUATING A GENERATION
Proverbs 30:10-17

Agur recognized that without dependence on God’s Word (verse 5) he was not only without answers to some of the most important questions of life (verses 2-4) but also that he was defenseless against temptation (verses 7-9). Although Agur prayed for God to protect him from temptation, he did not pray for God to isolate himself from temptation. What he did do, however, is look at the world around him and note those things about the world system of which he did not want to be a part.

Now we should evaluate the generation in which we live, the world system which is all around us but we should not stop there. When we look at the world, when we look at our generation, we must first evaluate ourselves. You see, the world is corrupt, the world sins, a generation becomes evil for the very same reason that we are susceptible to temptation. Our sinful flesh is corrupt and we sin. For that reason, we will evaluate our own hearts first before we look at the generations around us.

A. We can evaluate ourselves by how we treat those above us and below us (verses 9-10, 17). The importance of impartiality in our personal relationships cannot be overemphasized. James 2 says that we are to be impartial as God is impartial and that how we treat those above us and below us is an indication of the reality or the lack of reality to our faith in Christ. “All men are created equal” is not an American concept but rather a heavenly one.

In verse 10 we have a man who is slandering a slave. The slave is defenseless. The master will believe the other free man, not the slave. The slave will be punished unjustly. We all agree that this is unjust but how many times have we bullied someone, slandered someone, or laughed at someone who we feel is inferior to us. This is sin. The Bible points this out repeatedly and yet we continue to do it. Why? We have allowed our desire for importance to follow the way of the world around us.

One of the worst things about this type of sin is its contagiousness. Hans Finzel in his book on leadership, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Makes” puts it this way, “[It] can become like a chain reaction. The boss barks orders to the employee. The employee goes home and barks orders at his spouse. The spouse barks orders at the children. The children kick the dog, and the dog chases the neighborhood cat! (page 25)” It is the way of this generation.

a. Mistreatment, however, of those below us will not go unpunished (verse 9). The slave who is slandered as he goes to the whipping post curses the man who slandered him. There is nothing more that the slave can do. It appears that the free man will truly go free. Agur says, “You will be found guilty.” By whom? God Himself.

I know that it appears that we get off free but we should not forget that we will be repaid according to the deeds we have done in our body. Vengeance is the Lord’s. He will repay.

b. Disrespect for those above us will not go unpunished (verses 10, 17). Now specifically Agur is talking about children and their parents. This is so important that it was a part of the original Ten Commandments. It was the first commandment with a promised blessing. A child who knows this and disrespects their parents is described for us in verse 6. They are adding their own viewpoint to God’s Word. They will be exposed by God for what they are. Verse 17, describes for us more specifically the price they will pay for their disrespect. The eye that mocks, that despises, that disobeys the one in authority over them will be picked out by the birds and eaten. The picture here is of someone who is already dead and the ravens and the vultures, birds that primarily eat carrion, will feast on those who turn their back on God’s commandment and disobey their parents. Now this may not be fulfilled literally in your life but there will be a price paid by the one who disrespects authority.

Now it is easy for us as parents to stand up and shout, “Amen!” Are we any better? Do we show respect for those over us? Do we mock our boss at work or the policeman on the street? During the past year I have been greatly embarrassed by believers with whom I am personally acquainted who have taken great liberties in making fun of our President. The believer who makes mock at our President through watermelon jokes is not exempt from verse 17. I do not know how God will act but He will not tolerate such evil from us.

B. Not only can we evaluate ourselves by the way we treat those above us and below us, we can evaluate ourselves by our self-righteousness. Verse 12 says, “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness.” If ever there was a definition of self-righteousness, this is it. This is where religion and worldliness meet and breed sin. This where self-deception reaches its most dangerous.

When Jesus attacked the self-righteous, religious leaders of his day, he said to them, “…you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). He called them hypocrites not because they were pretending to be pure when they really were not but because they were truly convinced that they were pure although they were actually full of filth.

Now self-righteousness is a hard thing to evaluate. By its very nature, it avoids self-detection. There are, however, some attitudes and actions that might indicate you are self-righteous:

1. The self-righteous exalt themselves in external religious duties (Luke 18:11-12).
2. The self-righteous seek to justify their own sin (Luke 10:25-29).
3. The self-righteous are more interested in what man thinks of them than in what God thinks of them (Luke 16:113-15).
4. The self-righteous seek God’s righteousness through their own goodness rather than through faith in Christ (Romans 9:31-10:4; Proverbs 20:6, 9).
5. The self-righteous condemn the righteousness of others (Matthew 10:10-12; Luke 7:39).
6. The self-righteous despise and slander others (Luke 18:9-11; Proverbs 30:10).
7. The self-righteous walk in their own way (Isaiah 65:2-5; Proverbs 21:2; 30:6).

Self-righteousness is also contagious. In Luke 11:46 and 52, Jesus said to the self-righteous lawyers of religion, “…you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers…you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”

Will the self-righteous escape the awful justice described in verse 17? No, Jesus said to those same self-righteous lawyers, “…‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:49-51).

C. We can evaluate ourselves by our arrogance. Verse 13, “There is a generation-oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up.” Certainly, this is an extension of the previous verse. The emphasis here is on their pride rather than their self-deception.

Paul in Romans 12:1-2 begs believers to “…present [their] bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God…and [to] not be conformed to this world…” Is pride and arrogance an indication that someone is worldly? Absolutely! Paul commands the same believers in the next verse “…not to think of [themselves] more highly than [they] ought to think, but to think soberly…” Pride and arrogance are characteristic of worldliness. We, however, are not of this world and should think soberly, that is, in our right mind. At the end of Proverbs 30 in verse 32, Agur states this similarly but in a negative manner, “If you have been foolish in exalting yourself…put your hand on your mouth.” Now foolishness is not only an unwise type of thinking but in it is a sinful type of thinking. When I am arrogant and proud, I am foolish and sinful.

Many of us have quoted and almost all of us have heard Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Commonly, we soft-pedal the emphasis of this verse. We use this verse to mean that embarrassment will follow the proud person. That is not the emphasis of this proverb. Solomon is speaking of judgment. The proud will be judged. Our pride, our arrogance, our self-righteousness will not escape. We will be judged accordingly.

D. Finally, we can evaluate ourselves by the selfish destruction caused by our insatiable greed (verses 14-16). It is easy to read this and say, “Well, that isn’t me!” Are you sure? Let me ask the question this way, “What are you willing to do to get ahead?” “Who are you willing to hurt, so that you might reach your goals?” Certainly, economic greed is in view here but there are many other types of greed. Do you care more for your interests, your ways, and your ideals or do you care for others?

a. You see, greed does not care who it hurts (verse 14). James 4:1-4 describes the worldly attitude of those who in their greed for their own pleasure, for more money or power or prestige. They war and fight, they murder and covet, they are friends of the world and enemies of God.

b. Greed is never satisfied (verses 15-16). Agur uses five examples to show us the emptiness of greed and the futility of discontentment. The blood-sucking leech drinks and drinks and drinks. It does not concern itself for the health of its victim. It wants what it wants. It is never satisfied.

Then there is the grave. Death never fills its quote. It never takes a holiday. The grave never says, “I have enough.” It is never satisfied.

Then there is the barren womb. Some of you ladies know exactly what is being described here. The woman who cannot have a child will go to extreme lengths to have one. We have whole industries built on the yearning of women to bear or to have a child. Hannah’s husband said to his wife, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” The Bible does not tell us how she answered but what it does tell us is that she went to God and began to bargain with Him for a son. The answer apparently was, “No.”

Then there is the earth that is not satisfied with water. The earth needs rain every planting season in order to produce crops? If we have abundant rain this year and no rain next year, the rain of this year will not satisfy the need of the earth for water. It will become in one year without rain barren and desertlike.

Finally, there is fire. There are three things that a fire needs to burn: heat, air, and fuel. The thing about fuel is this. The fire never says, “I’ve got enough.” It is insatiable.

Is that a picture of your life? Are you driven by greed? Are you driven by your ego? Are you driven by the acclaim and recognition of men? If so, then you are an enemy of God and His enemies will be destroyed and left for the birds to pick over. That is the judgment of God against this generation and against every generation that follows the way of this world.

What then should we do? If you are believer, then obey James command in James 4:7-10, submit yourself to God. Humble yourself before your Lord. If you have not trusted Christ, the answer is found in Romans 5:8-10, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” You need to confess that you are God’s enemy, deserving of damnation, and you need to trust Christ as the only way to make things right between you and God.

When Is It Right For a Christian to Brag? March 1, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in False Teachers, Humililty, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons.
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“WHEN CAN YOU BOAST IN SUFFERING? (2 Corinthians 11:16-33)

Paul was an humble man. He does not like to boast. He finds boasting to be contrary to the word of God. He is familiar with what Proverbs 27:2 commands, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips.” His parents taught him that “to seek one’s own glory is not glory” (Proverbs 25:27). He understands that “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” Paul himself taught in an earlier epistle to the Galatians that humility is one of the fruit of the Spirit. Yet Paul on this occasion writes that he is forced to boast, to praise himself, to seek his own glory in defense of his position as apostleship and he does this by boasting in his suffering.

I. Why then does he feel that he needs to boast? Paul is convinced that he needs to differentiate himself from the false apostles, the false teachers, the charlatans who have come into the church in Corinth. In the same way, it is important that we differentiate ourselves from the charlatans of this age (verses 16-21). We live in an age with many options. All of them claim to have some measure of truth. The local church, however, according to 1 Timothy 3:15 is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” Fellowship Bible Church and other gospel preaching, Bible believing churches in the Castleton area are the supports of the truth in this area. We have a responsibility to call attention to the truth of the gospel of Christ. It is part of our commission from Christ to enlist followers of the truth of Christ. How then are we supposed to do that?

A. Well, normally we follow Christ’s example (verses 17, 21). Paul refers to this in 2 Corinthians 10:1 when he refers to the meekness and gentleness of Christ. This is the humility of which we spoke earlier. Jesus, as we referred to earlier during our celebration of the Lord’s Table came to this world in poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). He went to the cross in weakness (2 Corinthians 13:4) beginning with Palm Sunday when he entered into Jerusalem in the midst of great rejoicing but with no pomp but rather as the Old Testament predicted rode in lowliness on the colt of a donkey even to His actual death on the cross where he suffered in great weakness. Jesus did not show great strength on the cross but rather died relatively quickly. People sometimes lasted for a long period on the cross but Jesus succumbed to His suffering quite quickly. His death was not impressive. Spiritually, we find that he became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), the one thing that Jesus as God hates, that He became. In His life and in His death, both physically and spiritually, Jesus displayed the ultimate in humility, meekness, and gentleness.

Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:20-21 that this is our calling, to bear patiently with humility the suffering that we receive because of the good that we do. We are not to lash out, we are not to attack back, we are not to rebel, we are rather to suffer as Christ suffered, submitting ourselves to that persecution.

Paul points out that this is our normal manner of operations, humility and meekness and gentleness and patience even in the face of great persecution but Paul in verse 17 says that there is an occasion to depart from the normal path of humility. There is an occasion when it is proper to boast. That occasion is when we need to differentiate ourselves from those who are charlatans.

B. Normally the charlatan takes advantage of others (verse 20). In verse 19 Paul refers to these false teachers as fools but he sarcastically says, “You Corinthians are so wise that you can accept the fools who take advantage of you.”

They enslave you to their will.

They use you up to the fullest extent.

They take what belongs to you.

They put themselves up on a pedestal among you.

They punish anyone who may stand against them.

We find this hard to believe that anyone would stand for such a thing but cults are full of people who are enslaved by religious leaders who follow this pattern. We need to be aware that such groups exist out there and that this church itself is not impervious to the infiltration of such false teachers themselves.

II. So Paul says, “Because these people are infiltrating themselves among you, I need to differentiate myself from them. I must point out the ways in which I am superior to the false teachers.” Paul mentions that his passion for Christ and His gospel is different but he does not stop there. He also points specifically his personal sacrifices among the Corinthians themselves. Paul fears though that these people might be deceived by the charlatans and brings up his suffering as a characteristic that differentiates the true apostle from the false apostle and the true church from the charlatans (verses 22-33).

A. In many ways we are equal or interior to the charlatan (verses 21-22). Apparently it was expected that an apostle must be Jewish. These false teachers were claiming to be Jewish in every way. Ethnically, culturally, and religiously these false teachers were Jewish. Paul does not dispute that but rather points out that he takes a backseat to no one in his Jewishness. His pedigree all the way to Abraham was in the records of the temple in Jerusalem. Although he had been born outside of Palestine, he had been trained at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the leading teachers at that time in Jerusalem. Paul had been immersed in both the culture and the religion of the Jews and had come out a Pharisee. No one could question his Jewish credentials.

In the same way, the false prophets of our day try to demonstrate that they are from God by proclaiming loyalty to Jesus Christ, some even proclaiming that He is their Savior. We at Fellowship Bible Church our also loyal to Jesus Christ. The false prophets of our day talk about their faith and how God answers their prayers. This very building in which we are sitting is a testimony to how God answered the prayers of a small group of people who had no money, no land, no leadership, and no credit. Those people knew what a credit freeze was long before the rest of us found that out. The false prophets claim to base their beliefs on the Bible. Our very name testifies to the fact that we make much of the Word of God in this church. It is our authority for what we believe, for what we do, and for what we hope for in eternity. The false prophets are in no way superior to us in their claims.

B. In our attitude towards suffering, we, like Paul, should be superior to the charlatan (verses 23-33). Paul presents a pretty extensive list of hardships and trials which he had endured as proof that he was more of a minister of Christ than those false prophets who were attempting to deceive the church at Corinth.

He begins by pointing out that he has generally suffered more. Notice that he has not said that the false prophets have not suffered but than in comparison Paul has worked harder and longer and suffered in proportion to and because of the amount of work that he has done.

He says, “I have been beaten more often.” The list here is quite impressive: beaten by the Jews with thirty-nine stripes (which was one under the maximum allowed number under Jewish law) five times, beaten with rods (presumably by the Gentiles who apparently were not limited in the amount of blows they could offer) three times, and he was stoned once (Acts 14:19 records how that he was stoned and left for dead).

In addition, Paul did not choose the easy route of staying in a city and remaining there in safety but he traveled frequently despite the constant dangers that we a regular part of traveling in those days. This involved the danger of shipwreck, the danger of fording flooded rivers, the danger of highway robbers, and the danger from those who followed him from city to city spreading false rumors against him and inciting riots against him and those who worked with him. It is obvious that there was nowhere that was safe for Paul.

Finally, Paul mentions what was known to the Corinthians that he labored and lived in want. He did not get enough sleep; he did not get enough nourishment, in fact, sometimes he did not have any nourishment to speak of; and he did not have clothing to protect himself from the elements.

1. How does this prove that Paul is more a minister of Christ than the false prophets? His labors and suffering proved that the cares of this earth were unimportant to him. Paul’s safety was relatively unimportant to Paul. His health and welfare was a secondary thing. Paul was not working for retirement but rather for eternity.

Now none of us have suffered like Paul has. Should we? Is this the lesson that we should take from this? No! There is no reason for us to take a vow of poverty and sell everything we have and sick suffering so that we might become more spiritual. Verses 31-33 make it clear that to flee suffering is not necessarily wrong. The lesson we can take though and should take from Paul’s example is this. The cares of the earth should be unimportant to us (verses 23-27, 31-33)…

2. …because the cares of Christ’s body are of ultimate importance to us (verses 28-29). Again we see in Paul’s life that you cannot divide love of Christ from love of your brethren. This principle is taught over and over again. If you love God, you will love your brethren.

Notice first of all that Paul is not talking here about his evangelistic ministry but rather his responsibility for the spiritual growth of the churches. Paul worried about their welfare. Several times Paul mentions how that he prayed night and day for the churches. He wrote letters, he sent colleagues to help the churches, he visited the churches when he could, he gave his life for the churches.

When they suffered, he suffered. Although the word “weak” in the Bible can mean sin, Paul uses it to speak of our suffering, physical, financial, emotional, mental weaknesses which make our lives harder. Paul suffered with the churches. He was not distant from them but rather identified with them. He sympathized with them and did what he could to help them. This was an evidence that they were a priority to him.

When they began to stray, to stumble, Paul also showed he cared. In fact, this whole letter is evidence that Paul put Christ’s church ahead of the things of this world. If you wanted to make Paul mad, just try to introduce false doctrine or sin into the church. Paul fought for the purity of Christ’s church and the health of Christ’s church as if it was his very own.

Believer, do you love Christ’s church? Is it a priority in your life? How important to you are the people with which you share this room? Would you die for them? Would you live for them? Do you get angry when you see someone trying to cause them to stumble? This is our test as believers? This is the test the proves whether we are Christ’s disciples or whether we are just paying lip service?

NEXT WEEK: WEAK CREDENTIALS (2 Corinthians 12:1-13)

 

 

Boldness and Humility in Spiritual Warfare (2 Corinthians 10) February 15, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Boldness, Humililty, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Leadership, Spiritual Warfare.
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BOLDNESS AND HUMILITY IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE

(2 Corinthians 10:1-16)

INTRODUCTION: I remember the first time that I lost sleep because of the ministry. I felt like we had been dropped into the middle of a boiling pot of water with no way out. I had no answers. In fact, the situation over which I lost sleep that night continued for over two years and I never had any answers. I remember how that first night, my wife and I talked over the situation and talked over the situation and how that I looked into the pitch dark of our bedroom with not a sound stirring in the rural area where we lived at the time wondering, fretting, asking God what to do and not getting any advice from Him that I found useful.

It is good to know that others have been where we were at that night and not only survived but were victorious in their battle against Satan. We are going to look at one of those victors in battle, the Apostle Paul, for the next few weeks. I trust that his example will serve for each one of us as a wake up call to what serving Christ means.

There are many aspects to spiritual warfare but I would like for us to look at the attitudes that are necessary for successful spiritual warfare: boldness and humility.

I. Boldness is necessary to assault spiritual disobedience (verses 2-6). Perhaps this goes without saying but boldness is a necessary attitude of warfare of any kind. Paul is careful, however, to define the battle so that we can understand the reason for his boldness.

A. The battle is not personal (verses 2-3). Notice, I did not say physical or mental or emotional. There are definitely physical elements to spiritual warfare. In 2 Corinthians 7:5 Paul mentions his arrival in Macedonia, an area north and east of Achaia, the province where Corinth was located. He makes it clear that he was totally affected by the spiritual warfare in which he found himself. It seems likely that, at the time this verse talks about, Paul was clinically depressed. He was in a rough state of affairs.

We tend to view those who take medicine for depression as second-class Christians. Now I am sure that there are times when medicine would be unnecessary if people dealt with their spiritual needs properly. Let us not forget, though, that there is no shame in being troubled and there is also no shame in being physically affected by those troubles. James reminds us that Elijah was a man subject to the same troubles that we are. Our Lord Himself went through extreme physical and emotional weakness so that He might sympathize with our weakness.

This battle then is physical and emotional as well as spiritual but it is not personal. For that reason, spiritual victory is not dependent on an outward show of boldness.

Paul had a few enemies in Corinth who were accusing him, among other things, of being a wimp. They said, “Sure, he can write a mean letter but when he shows up, we will just walk all over him.” Paul admits in verse one that there is some truth to this accusation. He has a tendency to be strong with the pen and weak in presence. Paul says, however, that does not matter. This battle is not about me. It is not about my style, my abilities, or my methods.

If ever there was a lesson we need to learn, it is this one. How many times have we heard people say, if we could just get the right music style, the right atmosphere in the church service, we could see things happen. These things are important but they do not win spiritual battles. Others say, if we could just have some miracles for people to see or a powerful preacher or an excellent training program, then we could move our community for God. All of these things are fine and have there place but they do not win spiritual battles. Others say, if we could learn to pray like David Brainerd, sing like the Wesleys, preach like Luther, serve like Mother Teresa, organize like Billy Graham, and survey like Bill Hybels, we could have revival, we could win spiritual battles. Revival, however, does not depend on us, it does not depend on our methods, nor does it depend on our style of ministry. Spiritual warfare is not personal.

B. What is this spiritual warfare of which Paul speaks? This war is a spiritual assault with the Christ’s gospel against the stronghold’s of disobedience, the unbeliever and his or her way of thinking (verses 4-6).

In these verses, Paul mentions the goal of our battle (verses 4b-5), tearing down spiritual strongholds and bringing others to Christ. He does not, however, mention what our weapons might be. He simply says (in verse 4a) that our weapons are mighty in God. Paul is not saying that his weapons are superior but rather that his God is superior. Our weapons are mighty in God. Whatever the form that our earthly weapons may take, they are mighty in God (see Mark 14:36). In other words, spiritual warfare is dependent on God. Our warfare is only possible, our weapons are only effective if God is the might behind them. When we pray, if we are effective, it is of God. When we preach and teach, if we are effective, it is of God.

This is basic but we stray too easily from this truth. Paul said, my effectiveness is not dependent on me but on Christ (see also 2 Corinthians 2:14-16). George Morrison once preached, “Men who do their best always do more, though they be haunted by the sense of failure. Be good and true; be patient; be undaunted. Leave your usefulness to God to estimate. He will see to it that you do not live in vain.” We cannot evaluate our usefulness by the response of the world to our personality. Only God can evaluate our usefulness.

II. The second attitude that Paul found necessary seems to be the opposite of boldness. It is humility. Humility, however, is necessary to edify the body of Christ (verses 7-11).

A. Edification is for one’s own army not the enemy (verses 7-9). It is through edification that we are able to as an army rather than as individuals attack the spiritual stronghold’s. That is in some way or another, one of the main themes of almost all of Paul’s epistles. Jesus put it this way, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it.”

Paul intended to spiritually assault those teachings and those teachers who were preaching a false gospel. Paul speaks in verse 6 of punishing, literally, of taking vengeance on those who preach a different gospel. For those, however, who are Christ’s, that is, those who put their faith and trust in Christ, his goal is different. He is not interested in their destruction (verse 8b), he is not interested in pulling down their defenses. That is reserved for the enemy. Paul’s goal for his fellow-believers is not pulling down but building up.

In this Paul is following the example of Christ. Matthew 11:28-29 describes these characteristics in Jesus Christ, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus did not find it shameful to reach out to us as sinners but rather humbled Himself, made Himself lowly in order to save us. Paul says, my ministry is modeled after Christ. I am not ashamed to humble myself nor am I ashamed to boast. My goal is you edification.

B. God gives us authority to edify with humility one another (verses 8-11). “Why, Paul, do you humble yourself this way? You are an apostle! Why allow these people to treat you this way?” Paul might would answer, because my authority as an apostle is to build up the body and not to pull it down.

It would be easy for us to say at this point, “Sure, that is good for Paul but I have no authority, I have no responsibility, I have no ability to edify my brothers and sisters in Christ!” Let us see what the Scripture says.

Twice in Romans 14-15, Paul commands believers to get along with their brothers in the area of doubtful things so that we might edify one another.

Four times in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says let edification be the determining factor as to whether you use your spiritual gift or not. If your spiritual gift does not build believers up, then leave it at home.

Three times in Ephesians, Paul points out that the purpose of the church, of this church, and how we relate to one another, is that we might edify one another. You and I as believers are commanded to edify one another and this edification is necessary if we are going to grow in Christ. It is not just for the pastor or the teachers or the advisory board or the adults but everyone of us is responsible to build one another up in Christ.

III. Now boldness and humility come from the same source, the ministry of Christ’s gospel (verse 12-18, especially verses 17-18).

A. These spiritual traits do not come from our moral example (verse 12). This is really a repetition of what Paul wrote earlier but Paul wants to remind them that he is not his own standard. He is held to the standard of God. Those who spend their time setting themselves up as spiritual standards are fools. Certainly Paul set himself up as an example but not in the same way as these false teachers did. He said it this way in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” The danger of keeping rules is not that you may be too strict. The danger of setting yourself up as a moral example and standard is not that you might not reach your own standard. The danger of setting yourself up is that by doing so you miss the truth. Why do good, moral people go to hell? Because they do not understand that Jesus Christ is the standard. They are looking for ways to outweigh what is bad in their life. Jesus has an empty scale on the bad side of the scale. But when we make Christ our source of righteousness we have the source we need for boldness and humility in spiritual warfare (verses 14-15a). Why could Paul boast? He had the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16).

B. The goal of our boldness and humility, of pulling down the enemy and building up the brethren is the expansion of Christ’s gospel (verses 13-16).

You might ask, if Paul has all this boldness and humility from God, why does he keep laboring with these Corinthian believers. Are they not more trouble than they are worth? Paul would answer, “No, they are part of the goal, the boundaries, the sphere of work that God has set up for me.”

The goal of the body of Christ’s faithfulness, that is, Christian growth is the expansion of the gospel. Verse 15 shows us how this should work.

Opportunities are lost when we do not grow in faithfulness to Christ. Paul had been forced to give so much time to issues in Corinth he had not been able to enter some open doors. In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, he describes how the necessity of sending Titus to Corinth combined with his own emotional state prevented him from entering the open door in Troas. Even Paul could not go it alone but needed the aid and assistance of the body of Christ to be effective in the ministry of the gospel.

That may seem like a contradiction. Are we not dependent on God and not on man? The answer is yes. Let us not forget though that one of the main tools God uses is His church. We are His army responsible to pull down strongholds of disobedience. We are His body responsible to build one another up in mutual growth in Christ.

NEXT WEEK: THE FACE OF THE ENEMY (2 Corinthians 11:1-15)

The Price of Humility July 28, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Humililty, Philippians, Religion, Sermons.
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THE PRICE OF HUMILITY

Philippians 1:27-2:13

The Earthly Goal of Christian Character is the Advance of the Gospel (1:27-30). Paul introduces this section with the word “only”. If there is only one thing that we should do, it is to live a life that is consistent with our Christian character. Now this touches on a lot of subject but the one on which we are focusing today is the Christian character trait of humility.

Our Patriotic Duty is to Strive Together for the Advance of the Gospel (verse 27). Paul also refers to the strenuous effort of striving together in Philippians 4:3. The national interest of heaven is that we labor together for the advance of the gospel. This involves standing firm in one spirit. “The phrase ‘stand firm’ describes a Roman military formation in which the soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder and back to back with their shields up and their spears outward. It was the strongest possible defensive position” (Pritchard).

Our Opposition Identifies Who We Are (verse 28). Now Paul says this to encourage the Philippians. “Do not be afraid,” he says. “Satan and those under his control will not like the fact that you are passionate for the advance of the gospel. They are going to hell. You are not. Forward…march!”

God has Granted you the Privileges of a Citizen of Heaven (verse 29-30). Do Christians have any rights, any privileges that belong to them and to no one else in the world? They do.

They have been granted the privilege of faith. John 1:12, “But as many as have received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on His name.” Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, it (grace, salvation, and faith) is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Acts 14:27 says that God opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

That sounds great and wonderful but the next privilege is a bit more sobering. Believers in Christ have been granted the privilege of suffering on behalf of Christ. Now this is not suffering without a purpose. This suffering is for the advance of the gospel. There are other purposes for suffering that are mentioned elsewhere but it is our privilege to stand firm together, to strive together for the advance of the gospel of Christ and it is our privilege to suffer, to be counted worthy to suffer on behalf of Christ.

This is why it is important that we live as citizens of heaven. Our mission as soldiers of Christ demands it. The differences we have with our enemy demands it. And finally, the privileges we have as citizens of heaven demand it. As Paul says in verse 30, we are in a conflict and it is of upmost importance that we fight the good fight of the gospel of Christ Jesus.

The Price of Humility is to be Shared by Every Believer (1:27, 2:1-4). The last paragraph of chapter one underscores the importance of living in humility and displaying other Christian character traits by commanding us to do this if we do nothing else and then goes on to emphasize why. Beginning in chapter 2, he appeals to what Christ has done for each of us who have believed in Him. In this paragraph he focuses the humility aspect of the Christian life.

Has Christ been of any help to you in your life? Then humble yourself so that you might help others.

Have you experienced love in Christ? Then love others as your love yourself.

Do you feel any partnership or kinship with other believers? Then partner with them in whatever it is that is important to them.

Have you have experienced the mercy of Christ on a deeply emotional level? Then share from the depths of that experience with other believer, showing compassion and mercy to them also.

There is another difference in the last paragraph of the first chapter and the first paragraph of the second chapter. The one emphasizes that we strive together and the second points out that the only way to strive together is when we humble ourselves before each other. Lowliness of mind comes from a word that originally was very negative. In those times it was considered a cowardly character trait to submit yourself to others.

God though has exalted this character trait and said this is what a loving Christian is, one who is not focused on taking care of themselves first. We constantly hear that we must take care of ourselves before we can take care of others and certainly there is some practical truth to that but that is not the mantra by which God wants us to live. We are to live for others. Esteem their needs above our needs.

Now this is very difficult and that is why Paul uses an example to shows us how to do this. He uses Christ to Show Us How to Pay this Price (2:5-11).

Think Humbly (verses 5-7).

How is it possible to like Christ, think humbly? Philippians 2:6 gives us a hint. It says that Jesus did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. In other words, when Jesus considered the situation, when He looked at all the facts, when He evaluated Himself, he said, “Of course, I am God. Who else could I be?” He was willing, however, to lower Himself.

Look at Philippians 3:7-8. Paul says, when I considered my situation, all the things that mattered to me and made me somebody and then I looked at Christ and I evaluated all that was important to me and then considered Christ, I gave it all up for Christ. He says, “My reputation I have thrown away. My race means nothing to me. My zeal is a matter of shame to me. All these things are rubbish.”

“Paul, why can you not boast in those things?”

He would say, “I have considered Christ and I have considered myself. I have determined that to have and to serve Christ is superior to every want and desire and ambition that I might have. I have gained a new master and His name is Jesus.”

Act Sacrificially (verses 8). This sacrifice is both an obedient sacrifice and it is the ultimate sacrifice.

These are the characteristics that God demands from us. True humility is an act of obedience to God. It is not a spiritual gift except in the sense that we are all without exception commanded and empowered by the Holy Spirit to practice humility.

Humility is more than just a mindset about who were are but it demands definite action in our lives. This action of obedient humility will lead you to places of sacrifice of which you did not think possible of yourself, perhaps even to the ultimate sacrifice of physical death but certainly to the ultimate spiritual sacrifice in which you surrender yourself totally to God’s will and way.

Trust the Father’s Evaluation (verses 9-11). When did Christ give up His humility? When God exalted Him to His throne. Now there is coming a day when we will be exalted with Christ.

1Peter 5:6 talks about that day, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,”

The Result is a True Partnership with God and Each Other (2:12-13).

We are commanded to be accomplishing our salvation (verse 12). Now this verse picks up where Paul left off in verse four. This does not mean that we as a group save ourselves. It is clear that we accept Christ as individuals but the Bible is also very clear that we grow as a body. We do not and cannot grow as individuals. That is not our way of life. That is not the conduct. We are an army. We are a team. We are a body. We are a family. It is our duty as an army to stand firm together. It is our duty as a team to strive together for victory. It is our duty as a body to accomplish the task. It is our duty as a family to provide for each others spiritual needs.

This command is based on the effective working of Christ in us (verse 13). Our ability to progress as a body in the faith is based on God’s inner working. If there is no inner working, we cannot accomplish anything. If there is no inner working by God, then any outward signs of salvation that we may perform are in vain. You may put on a form of humility but if there is no inner spiritual connection made based on what God wills and what God does, it does not really mean much.

Obviously, we are not talking about the initial inward work of the Holy Spirit when we trust Christ as Savior but rather are talking about the continuation of that work, the application of that inward change in our hearts, the accomplishment of our salvation in the lives of the individual members. We need God in order to perform spiritually. Just as we need the Holy Spirit to bring us to the place where we will bow down before Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as our only Master, we need Him to help us to accomplish the love and humility that Paul demands from us. We are totally dependent on Him for both the will, the inward submission, and for the work in us that results in the outward service and labor that the outside world sees.

That is why Paul commands the Philippians to work out their own salvation and then tells them why they can do that, because God is working in them. The constant and consistent reminder to apply through the Holy Spirit your faith in Christ as the only way of salvation will accomplish great things in our lives. This is the partnership that we have with God.