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Preparing our hearts for Communion October 27, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Communion, Covenant, Lord's Table, Philippians, Religion.
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This Sunday, as we do every first Sunday, we will again celebrate Communion. It is clear that Communion is to remind us of what the Lord did for us when He established through the shedding of His blood the new covenant, by which we are forgiven and become God’s children. Yet there is also a sense in which the celebration of Communion should be a renewal of our part in that covenant. It is true that the covenant was established by Christ alone without any aid from man but we enter that covenant through faith. Should we not renew our faith in Christ when we celebrate Communion? I do not mean be born again again 🙂 Rather, that through the celebration and recognition of what Christ has done for me, renew my discipleship to Him.

I think something like that is what Paul is describing in Philippians 3:8-12, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss…that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death, if, by any mean, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”

The Hardest Lesson to Learn (Philippians 4:10-23) August 30, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Contentment, Philippians, Religion, Sermons.
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THE HARDEST LESSON TO LEARN (Philippians 4:10-23)

The weather is a very revealing thing. Every time the weather changes, we reveal how discontented we are. We have had a wonderful, beautiful summer with plenty of rain and we have spent most of that summer complaining about the rain, forgetting that it is God who gives us our weather. You see the weather in a small way reveals how discontented we often really are with our lot in life. It is a hard lesson to learn but it is a necessary one for the believer in Christ.

The lesson to be learned is contentment in Christ (4:10-12). Contentment is not automatic, it has to be learned. Now there was a group called the Stoics in that day who preached contentment. They taught that you should come to the point of indifference. They were like little Pierre in the children’s book who replied to everything with the phrase, “I don’t care.” That is, until he was swallowed by a lion. When they finally got him out of the lion, his first words were, “I care.” It was said of the Stoics that they made the heart a desert and called it peace. Obviously that it is not what Paul believed. He writes with thanksgiving and rejoices when the Philippians help him out in his time of need. As we go through this epistle, we see that Paul cared, he cared very much. He was an emotional man who went through high times and low times but in this roller coaster that we call life, he had learned to be content in Christ.

The classroom is life (4:11-12). Contentment is not learned during the good times but rather during the rough times, when we are not getting what we need or want. I saw a wonderful example early in the summer of learning contentment. We have a couple of suet feeders in our backyard. There were a number of different birds who nested and were feeding at our feeders. One of these was a family of starlings or blackbirds. The mother starling would fly to one of the feeders with one of her babies which was as big as the mother, the only difference being it still had its gray baby feathers. It appeared to be just a strong as its mother also. It had no more trouble holding onto the feeder and appeared to be able to fly just as fast. Yet the baby would hang onto the feeder with the food inches away from its beak and wait for its mother to peck out a seed and put it down its throat. The baby starling had it good. It received everything from its mother’s mouth to its own. There came a day, though, when Momma said “No.” You are on your own. The baby bird is not happy with the situation but he has a choice. He can bellyache and beg or he can learn to be content with eating on his own. Why? Because that is what is best for young birds.

This is the secret of life we must learn (4:12). There is no situation in which God is not doing what is best. That is why in each and every circumstance of life we are initiated into the secret of what life is all about: God is in control, I am not, and what He is doing is what is best. God does not play cruel jokes on people. What happens is that we refuse to accept that what God is doing in our life is what is best.

This is exemplified by his attitude towards the lack of giving by the Philippians (verse 10). He recognized that they had not had opportunity. It does seem strange that God had not allowed the Philippians to help Paul during the ten years since he had started the church, but God had not and Paul said with a quiet confidence, “God knows what is best.”

This is exemplified by his attitude towards their gift (verse 11). He says, I did not really need your gift. I am content in Christ, whether you give or not. I am not losing sleep over the fact that the gifts are few and far between. I just tighten up my belt and remember, “God knows what is best.”

This is also exemplified by his independence of circumstances (verse 12). He says, it just does not matter whether things are going well or rotten, “God knows what is best.

The lesson learned strengthens and empowers us (4:13). Now this verse does not say you can climb every mountain and ford every stream. It does not say dream big and you can accomplish big things. It is not a mantra to excuse foolishness or ambition. What then is the “all things” in verse 13 that we can do. The answer is in verse 12. In every circumstance of life, wherever I may be, I have the strength and the power to be content in prosperity and in poverty.

Now where does this strength and power come from? God. We ask ourselves so often, Lord where can I get faith, peace, contentment, power, love, joy, patience, all the virtues that the Bible tells me I need and that I think I want. The answer is “from God.” The power of positive thinking and the strength of a stiff upper lip will not bring virtue in our life. God, however, can and does by teaching us these things (as we talked about last week) through His people, through prayer, and through His Word.

To seek the abundance of others (4:14-18). You see contentment and seeking the abundance of others go hand in hand. You will never be content as long as you are looking out for your own abundance because self is never satisfied. When your needs are met, you will focus on your wants, and when your wants are met, you will focus on the things that others say you need, and on and on and on… Why? Because the desires of man are never satisfied. If, however, you are seeking the abundance of others, there is contentment to be found.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to talk a lot about commitment and giving. I want you to understand, when we ask you for a commitment of time or money or labor or attitude, we are not asking you to keep this work going. God does that. Our motivation must be this, that your heavenly treasure chest will overflow, that your sacrifice will be seen by God as pleasing.

Now it is important that you understand that when you give to the abundance of others, that is worship. When you give so that others might have, you have submitted yourself to God, falling on your spiritual face and said to God that what you have is His.

This involves the giving of money but it also involves the giving of time, strength, priorities, and whatever else that you may have. If you sing to your hearts content and rejoice in the singing and the music but do not give your all for the abundance of others, you have not worshiped but, rather, have simply had an emotional experience. What pleases God is those things that cost us something.

To depend on Him for our needs (4:19). Biblical contentment is more than being happy with what you have. Rather it is an active confidence that what God gives you is what you need at that moment.


“The comedy film Cool Runnings is about the first Jamaican bobsled team to go to the Winter Olympics. John Candy plays a former American gold medallist who becomes a coach for the Jamaican team. The players grow to like the American coach and affectionately dub him “Sled-god.” Late in the story the coach’s dark history comes out. In an Olympics following his gold medal performance, he broke the rules by weighting the U.S. sled, bringing disgrace on himself and his team. One of the Jamaican bobsledders could not understand why anyone who had already won a gold medal would cheat. Finally he nervously asked Candy to explain.

“I thought I had to win,” said the coach. “But I learned something. If you are not happy without a gold medal, you won’t be happy with it, either” (With thanks to Ray Pritchard

Do you want the secret of life? The choice is very easy. If you want to live for yourself, you will never know the secret of contentment. But it is there all around you, if you are willing to learn it.

Next Week:


Exodus 12:12-37 What Do We Mean By This Service?

Philippians 4:2-9 “Spiritual Mind Melding” August 24, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Philippians, Religion, Sermons.
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Philippians 4:2-9

Recently there was a commercial for one of the big box stores in which a man goes in and asks one of the associates what type of product he needs to purchase. The associate places her hand on the man’s forehead and they go into what Star Trek fans know as the Vulcan Mind Meld. After a few moments, she releases his forehead, repeats the information that she has gleaned from his mind and tells him what he needs to buy. As she is walking away, he, obviously impressed, asks her how many children he is going to have and she tells him.

Now that is an impressive ability that no one really has, however, in Philippians, Paul tells us about a spiritual mind melding, a meeting of the minds, that is possible for us as believers to have and which we are commanded to practice.

This spiritual mind melding has two aspects.

Our minds are to meld with each other in the Lord (4:2). We are always to be of the same mind in the Lord (see Philippians 2:2 for the definition of what it means to be of the same mind). This exhortation to these two women is a practical application of the truth of Philippians 3:14-16. There are a couple of things that we know about these ladies. We know that they were not getting along. We also know that they were members of the church at Philippi. Paul recognized that these ladies were under the authority of the church. Now certainly this is a spiritual authority but it was also a geographical authority.

We are to be actively engaged as a church in seeking one mind in the Lord (4:3).

Notice who all is involved, his yokefellow with Clement and with the rest of his fellow workers. Although the primary command is to the yokefellow, the implication seems to be that the whole team is involved and to be involved. Paul uses this word, “fellow workers”, thirteen times. Paul recognized that we are not to labor in isolation but to labor together. That is why I encourage people to get a partner in their ministry, whatever that ministry may be. Normally, God does not want you working alone. Why? Because those who work alone do not last. They get tired. They get discouraged. They get grumpy. They burn out.

Notice what they are to do. They are to be helping. They not supposed to just mention one time that there is a problem and they need to get it taken care of. They are to take hold of this problem and to not let it go until they reach a solution. This is the word that describes a posse going out in the wild to find the criminal. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, this is the word the gospel writers used, obviously in a negative sense. Paul is commanding this yokefellow and others who are close to these two women to pursue peace, the same mind, between these two women as if they were chasing down and dangerous criminal and stay at it until these women are of the same mind in Christ.

Philippians 1:27-28 commands this as an essential part of walking in accordance to the kingdom of heaven. Our fellowship with each other is more than just a fringe benefit. It is our strength as believers. Hebrews 10 talks about the church being the entity that keeps people from falling away from Christ. First John makes it clear that our fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ is one of the primary proofs of our salvation. The quality of my relationship to Christ is seen in the quality of my relationship with other believers. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:23-24) that if the fellowship with your brother is not right then your worship is worthless. Worship, of course, is simply submission to God shown through outward acts. If I do not have a relationship with my brother and sister in Christ, there is a legitimate question about my submission to God.

We do this through the attitude of joy and gentleness knowing that the Lord is soon coming (4:4-5).

Philippians is known as the epistle of joy. Now there are many things over which we should rejoice and all of our rejoicing is in the Lord but one of the key areas that Paul points out should be an area of rejoicing for us is in each other. In fact, based on Philippians 2:17-18 we are commanded to rejoice in our fellow believers in Christ in the same sacrificial way that Paul rejoiced in the Philippians. Our joy is directly connected to other believers (Philippians 2:28 for another example). We are to rejoice in and for and with each other. Philippians 1:4, Paul rejoiced in praying for the Philippians. Philippians 1:25, Paul points out that his purpose on the earth was to increase the joy of other believers. Now what is going on in this letter? Look at Philippians 2:2. Paul is saying to this church, “You have people problems. Take care of those problems and you will cause me to rejoice fully.” At the beginning of chapters 3 and 4 Paul commands these believers to rejoice. Why? On what basis? Because they are in the Lord and they are a part of one another. The reason that many believers are miserable and joyless is because they do not rejoice in each other. It works like this: Paul says, “If you rejoice in each other, you will be able to solve your interpersonal problems and if you solve your interpersonal problems, you will be able to rejoice as you should.”

Not only is our attitude to be one of joy but also of gentleness. Almost every translation translates this word differently. It is found five times in the New Testament and it is never directly explained. However, in the context of Philippians I think we can explain it this way. Gentleness is the way of living that results from a heart that is content to live for others and not for itself.

Why can we do this? Because our Lord is coming. Verse 3 points out that as believers our names are all together in the book of life. The reason I can rejoice in others and the reason that I can live gently, content to live for others and not for myself is because I know that our names are together in the book of life and that the Lord is coming at any moment to take us to be with Him for all eternity. I am content not to be in the “Who’s Who” book because we are together in the book of life. I am content to suffer here in this world because I know that when He comes, our joint-suffering will be our glory. I do not know if there is a literal book but based on the force of this passage, I imagine that we might not be listed in the book individually but rather that there could be one page entitled, “my fellow workers at Fellowship Bible Church.”

Our minds are to meld with God’s (4:5). We are not to focus our minds on this world (Matthew 6) but rather on others (Cf. 2:20 with 1 Cor. 12:25).

We refocus through prayer (4:6-7) guarding our inner being through prayer (Compare 4:7 with Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2). When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked his disciples to watch with him in prayer but they could not. Instead they fell asleep. Jesus warned them that if they did not refocus in prayer, they would open themselves up to sin through temptation. Peter, one of the sleeping disciples, learned that lesson as we can see in 1 Peter 4:7. He said, Christ is coming, you need to be serious and watchful in your prayers. Jude 20-21 indicates that prayer is one of the activities that allows us to keep ourselves in the love of God.

He describes prayer as supplication (Philippians 1:4, 19). Ephesians 6:18 talks about prayer and supplication being a guard around the camp.

He describes prayer as thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 brings out the point that thanksgiving is as much a part of watchful prayer as making requests is a part of watchful prayer.

He describes prayer as God listening to our requests. The emphasis in this verse is not on us making requests but on God hearing requests.

We train our minds through meditation on the truth of God (4:8-9). Verse 7 makes it clear that the battlefield is our mind. Verses 8-9 tell us how to win that battle. This involves learning from the Scriptures and learning from other believers. This list of things that we are to think on are all things that are found primarily in God’s Word. There is actually no better description of the character of God’s Word than this list. Paul says, these are the things that you have learned and received from me, that you have heard from and seen in me. Go and do the same.

We need to change the way we think. We do this in three ways.

Through fellowship with other believers: working and praying and worshiping and encouraging one another. Some things are easier caught than taught. Yes, we are to listen and learn but there is a reason why people usually do not grow very much through radio and TV ministries without the support of the local church. There is no fellowship. There are no examples of how to put into practice what one is learning. There is no one to encourage when another stumble. There is no one who really cares about the personal battles. Through fellowship, however, Paul says in Philippians that to the extent that believers invest their lives into each other, their thinking is changed because their minds meld into one in Christ.

Through prayer: There is an old saying that said prayer changes things. On the authority of the Scriptures, prayer changes me. Too long we have said, tell me what I can do to solve my problems and do not tell me to pray. Well, I am not going to do that. Jesus said that there are some things that happen only through prayer and fasting.

Through God’s Word: From God’s Word we learn God’s perspective. We see the world and our lives from a heavenly perspective. We see how things fit together in this world. We are able to discern and judge what is important. We need God’s perspective about work, money, pleasure, suffering, good, evil, family, church, the times we live in, and a host of other important issues. That perspective is found in God’s Word.

What will happen when we change the way we think?

When we do these things we will have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. According to Colossians 3:12-17, we are called to the peace of God in one body. You see, the peace of God is inseparable from fellowship, prayer, and the truth of the Word of God. Remember, the peace of God is not confidence that we are making right decisions. The peace of God is living in a right attitude towards the world and towards other believers.

We have already mentioned protection. What do you fear? What should you fear? Whatever Satan may throw against you, whatever the world may throw against you, whatever your own heart may throw against you, you can combat when you change the way you think. “Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

We will be able to handle trials that are thrown against us. These people were suffering persecution but Paul made it clear to them that they could stand fast together in the Lord if they would bring their thoughts in line with God’s thoughts (Philippians 1:27-31). I have had people tell how difficult it is in the workplace to live the Christian life. Some of these same people have told me how that they leave church on Sunday morning, encouraged ready to go but when they get to work, all hell seems to break loose against them. Yet some of these same people neglected the fellowship with other believers. They have time for work and for family and for vacations but they do not have time for the body of Christ and find it difficult to maintain time alone with God in Bible reading and prayer. The very things they need to strengthen themselves so that they stand fast in the Lord are the very things they neglect.

What do we need to change? The way we think. How are we going to change it? Through fellowship with other believers, through prayer with and for each other, and through learning and obeying the Word of God.

How do you learn to live the Christian life? Philippians 3:17-4:1 August 17, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Philippians, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Leadership.
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Philippians 3:17-4:1


Sometimes I am asked a certain type of question. “How do you overcome fear?” How do you learn to develop faith?” “How do you conquer sin and bad habits in your life?” “How do you gain assurance of salvation?” “How do I get filled with the Holy Spirit?”

There are a variety ways to go about answering that type of question but Paul gives us through three different commands, some often ignored keys that will help us to answer these questions and any other question that comes under the category of “How do you learn to live the Christian life?”

Imitation Together (verse 17). Six different times in the New Testament Paul says, “Follow me.”

“But of all mere men, no one is so often particularly set forth in the Scripture, as a pattern for Christians to follow, as the apostle Paul. Our observing his holy conversation as our example, is not only insisted on in the text, but also 1 Cor. 4:16, ‘Wherefore I beseech you, be followers of me’ [to be fools for Christ’s sake, verse 10]. And chap. 11:1, ‘Be ye followers of me as I also am of Christ’ [in that I seek the salvation of other people, 12:33]. And 1 Thes. 1:6. Where the apostle commends the Christian Thessalonians for imitating his example; ‘and ye became followers of us’ [because of the way we lived before you]. And 2 Thes. 3:7, he insists on this as their duty, ‘For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us’ [in that we worked rather than taking advantage of you financially] (Jonathan Edwards).”

This command is to the church not to individuals. This command is to the church as a body because Paul wanted them to function as a body. They were a good church that Paul loved but they were some who had problems accepting others because they were overvaluing themselves and devaluing other (2:2-4). There were friendships that were suffering (4:2). For this reason, Paul reminds them repeatedly that they are fellow-workers, that they are to be of one mind and one accord. They are to “join in following” Paul, they are fellow imitators.

Now this brings up a very important part to learning to live the Christian life: “…the Christian life involves more than just believing – it also includes belonging [to Christ and each other as the body of Christ]” (Rick Warren, emphases are his).

Paul was an example to them specifically in the areas of…

…suffering to advance the gospel (1:29-30).

…humility to advance other believers (2:17-18).

…focusing to advance His knowledge of Christ (3:12-16). Paul in his command to follow him was not intimating that he was perfect. He was intimating that he was on the right path and that if you followed the path on which he was traveling, you would end up at the right destination.

Result – the God of peace will be with you (compare Philippians 4:9 with Psalm 37:7-8). Now they needed peace in two areas. Peace among themselves and they needed peace in the midst of persecution. Paul makes it clear to them that if they imitate him, they will have the God of peace with them. They will be able to be rejoice because their suffering is advancing the gospel, advancing the growth of other believers, and advancing their knowledge of Christ.

Paying Attention (verses 18-21): Paul is not commanding blind or slavish imitation but rather thoughtful imitation. This is the same word that is used in Philippians 2:4, which is translated “look out…for the interests of others.”

The Negative Examples (verses 18-19): the reasons their example is negative (verses 18-21). Paul is contrasting these people with those who we are to follow. He does not explain exactly who they are except to say that they are enemies of the cross of Christ. He does not explain because he had repeatedly in the past warned them and was still repeatedly warning them against these people. He does, however, underline some specific characteristics of these people, generally they set their mind on earthly things as opposed to setting their mind on Christ (verses 15-16).

They serve the wrong god, their belly, glorying in their own shame (see also Jude 1:13), raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame. Now the picture is not necessarily of a glutton, although that certainly could be part of it. Paul may have been thinking of a Cyclops in Euripedes who says, “My flocks which I sacrifice to no one but myself, and not to the gods, and to this my belly, the greatest of the gods: for to each and drink each day, and to give one’s self no trouble, this is the god of the wise men” (with thanks to Wuest). In other words living for one’s self.

They have the wrong end, destruction, as opposed to transformation. Now Paul does not explain here why their end is destruction but there are two similar passages of Scripture that help us to understand why they end the way the do. The first is 2 Corinthians 11:15 where it talks about Satan’s ministers transforming their outward appearance into ministers of righteousness but that their end is according to their works. The second is Hebrews 6:6-8 where it talks about the apostates who fall away from Christ by rejecting Him. The writer says they are like thorns and briars, whose end is to be burned.

The Positive Examples (compare verse 18 with Philippians 2:20-30, especially verses 20-22 and 29; and with 1 Timothy 4:12): the reason their example is positive (compare verses 14 with verse 18 and 1 Thessalonians 1-2). They were like-minded with Paul. Their lives corresponded to their gospel.

Now it is important that we as leaders in the church be examples to be imitated. Not that it is preferable or that it is positive. It is essential for leaders to be examples. According to Titus 2:6-8, if we are examples of good works, our young men will learn how to think wisely and the unbeliever will have nothing to say against us. According to Hebrews 13:7, our people should follow our faith because it is obvious what the outcome of our conduct will be, eternal life.

Determination (4:1). This determination like the imitation is a group effort (See Philippians 1:27). God wants us to stand together.

Determined based on our current and future position (3:20-21).

We do not serve our belly but rather are citizens of heaven (see again Philippians 1:27). We stand together for God and against evil and we continue to stand together because we are Christian patriots. We are the body of Christ. We are on this earth for the advance of the gospel and for the advance of spiritual growth in our fellow solders and for the knowledge of Christ. For that reason we can stand and we do stand.

We do not have destruction as our end but rather the coming of Christ and the transformation of our body. There are two kinds of transformations. The one is transformation where what is new comes out of what was old. This is a metamorphosis, what a caterpillar undergoes when it becomes a butterfly. On the inside it was a butterfly the whole time. This, however, is a different meaning for transformation. It is more like taking an earthworm and transforming him into a butterfly. Although the two have some minor similarities, the difference is so great that it is obvious that the only way to get from an earthworm to a butterfly is through a miraculous transformation, the working (the energy) of the capabilities of God in our lives. The authority that allows God to control the earth is what will bring His purpose in our lives to fruition. This is our whole purpose, that we would be conformed to Christ (Romans 8:29) and because that is His purpose for us, we stand gladly together firm for Him because we know the glory that He has predestined us, for it is the glorious image of the Son of God Himself.

Determined to imitate together and to pay attention (3:17). Paul uses one little word to tie these commands together. In English it is translated “so”. Imitate me and so, in the same manner, pay attention to others who imitate me and imitate them also and so, in the same manner stand firm with us in the Lord.

What are you following and who is following you?

Next Week: Philippians 4:2-9; Mind Melding


From Perfection to Imperfection back to Perfection from Philippians 3:1-16 August 10, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Philippians, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Goals.
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Philippians 3:1-16

INTRODUCTION: It is popular today to describe the Christian life as a spiritual journey. In fact, one of the characteristics of the new century in which we are living is the idea that the journey is more important than the destination. I do not believe that Paul would have agreed with that philosophy. In fact he might would describe his journey with the words of our title, “From Perfection to Imperfection back to Perfection.”

Now Paul is describing his spiritual journey as an example for us. He wants us to understand his spiritual journey and to copy that journey. More importantly though, Paul wants us to focus on the destination, the goal of that journey.

This is in fact, how Paul begins this section of our letter. He makes it clear that in our Christian lives we need certainty (verses 1-3). Compare with Hebrews 6:18-19a, “…that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”

There is the danger of dependency on our flesh (verses 2 and 3a). In fact Paul is warning them of those who are like wild dogs, roaming through the streets, ready to attack for a scrap of food. This describes their character. He the says that they work to produce evil. Then he describes this evil as mutilation. Now why are they so dangerous? They depend on the flesh. They depend on the ability to do good works to come to God. Paul describes these people as dangerous dogs who will harm those who follow them.

Certainty for the believer is based on the knowledge of an inward change, a spiritual circumcision (verse 3).

Notice Paul in verse 3 says, “we … are the circumcision…” He means that true believers have been circumcised in their hearts through faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t need what he terms in verse two a mutilation because we’ve had a spiritual circumcision, a new birth.

De 10:16 “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff–necked no longer.” It is not the outward actions that must first bow to Christ but the inward self-sufficiency or striving for spiritual self-sufficiency.

Obviously, I am talking about the initial inward change when we trust Christ as Savior but I am also talking about application of that inward change in our hearts. That is why Paul begins this chapter with the command to rejoice and then tells them why they should do that, because they have been changed. The constant and consistent reminder of a changed life through the Holy Spirit in that you believe on Jesus as the only way of salvation will transform you. That is the beginning of the spiritual journey that reaches a good destination.

In our Christian lives we all have areas of confidence (verses 3-6). Now this might appear to be a good thing, but Paul goes to great lengths to show us by his own example that the areas in which we have confidence in our perfection are actually disadvantageous to us.

Paul says that he has reason to be confident in the flesh. Not that he had in the past reason to be confident in flesh. He says, I have reason right now. He says, if someone (these dogs, these evil workers, these mutilators) can point to their past and say that they now have confidence in their flesh, I can top anything they have to offer (see also Romans 2:28-29; 2 Corinthians 11:18; Galatians 6:13-14).

Paul says, “I can have confidence because I have come from God’s chosen people, the Jews.” He could prove it of course, there were papers at that time in the temple that traced his ancestry all the way back to Benjamin, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. He was a spiritual blueblood.

Paul says, “I can have confidence because I was zealous.” He could prove that also. He belonged to the sect of the Pharisees. These were men of religious zeal who were willing to lose their lives for their beliefs. In addition, the outer robes he held while Stephen was being stone spoke to his zeal. The dungeons of Jerusalem could testify to the zeal Paul had for his Jewish religion.

Paul says, “I can have confidence because I have kept the Ten Commandments.” He could prove it because he was blameless, undeserving of criticism. In fact, he was still undeserving of criticism. Repeatedly in the book of Acts as his accusers attempted to show that his life was lacking in respect to the law of God, he successfully defended himself. In fact, the reason he was now in prison was because no one had been able to find fault with him but because he was in danger of becoming a political sacrifice to his enemies, Paul had appealed to Caesar and was now in Rome awaiting his release, for their was no reason to hold him. He had broken no law.

Humanly speaking, Paul was perfect. He was one to whom we could look to as an example and say that is someone to emulate, to copy, to imitate.

As believers in Christ we have chosen what is better, counting our perfection as imperfection (verses 3, 7-9) and glorying (rejoicing, boasting) in Jesus Christ alone (verse 3).

I counted what I had as loss in exchange for Christ and my decision is final (verse 7).

Jesus illustrated this in Mt 13:44-46 with two short parables, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Paul not says I have counted all as loss and my decision is final but I am still in a practical sense counting what I had and have as loss in exchange.

Why is it important to continue to count all things as loss? What is it that we receive in exchange for our loss? For the purpose of gaining Christ (verse 8) and for the purpose of being found (or confirmed) righteous in Him, that is, justification (verse 9).

Gaining Christ is the only way to truly know Christ (verses 8 and 10). You do not get to know Christ by dabbling in Him. To know Christ demands a total commitment.

Counting all things loss to gain Christ confirms our justification in Christ (verse 9).

How is this possible? Through faith in Christ and not in my self-sufficiency to satisfy some standard.

Now we are on the road to true perfection (verses 10-16).

True perfection defined (verses 10-11). It is defined in verses 10-11 as “being conformed to His death and attaining to His resurrection.” The power of His resurrection speaks of our transformation both now in the spirit and in the future in the body. It is the second part of true perfection that I want to focus on. How can we be conformed to His death? Fortunately, Paul has already answered this question for us in a very practical way. Look in Philippians 2:5-8. You see being conformed to the sufferings of Christ is not limited to physical suffering. It includes the humility of Christ that we are to imitate in our lives by living for others. In other words, knowing Christ produces two things in our life, hope and humility.

True perfection desired (verses 12-14).

We need to be dissatisfied with our spiritual condition.

Now we are not talking about guilt. Most of us feel guilty when we are found out. As long as God allows us to keep our good face toward men, we do okay. We are not talking about guilt but about a deep sense of our sinfulness. There is a huge difference.

John Piper put it this way once, “People who are depressed and immobilized and angry because their behavior has injured the glory of God are very, very rare. But people who are depressed and immobilized and angry because their behavior has prevented them from having a reputation of being cool and competent are very, very common.”

This week, I was exposed to this failure in my own life. I was talking to someone and they mentioned something that someone had said that was very inappropriate. I recognized it as inappropriate, the person who I was speaking to recognized it as inappropriate, and I said all the proper things that should be said about the inappropriateness of that persons behavior, perhaps even with a little pride that I would not be caught making such an inappropriate statement. Later speaking with the same person, they mentioned something that perhaps was inappropriate but was certainly not on the same level. But this time I got hopping mad because it was a criticism of myself.

What we need is to be dissatisfied with our spiritual condition. We need to recognize how weak and sinful we really are.

We need to disregard our spiritual past. Paul brings us back to all of those things that he had reason to be proud of and says again, “They do not matter!” You see this attitude is important not just for salvation but for reaching the perfection that God has set before us.

We need to discipline ourselves to the stretching point. The Olympic games in Beijing have just begun. There are thousands of athletes there who all have one thing in common, they have disciplined themselves in order to reach the goal. For some the goal is to make it to the games, others have a medal as their goal, the best among them have multiple gold medals as their goal. The sacrifice though is the same. They have stretched themselves.

True perfection applied (verses 15-16). The mature need to apply this truth, depending on God to reveal to them their faults, leading all others in the application of this same truth. There are two things commanded here. First, change the way you think. Second, let us march together to this perfection.

Conclusion: Today is the day in which we recognized those who have memorized two Psalms during the summer. Those people have said, I am going to change the way I think through the Word of God. Do you need to change the way you are thinking? You cannot march in step until you think in step with God. Eleven times in Philippians, thinking is mentioned. What do you spend most of your time thinking about? Should you not think like Christ and on Christ? What is it believer that you love so much that you have no room for Christ in your thoughts. Count it loss!

If you have not counted everything as loss for Christ alone, you have yet to begin the spiritual journey to perfection. Begin that journey today. Put away your good works and your bad works. Put away anything and everything that is of importance to you and trust in Christ alone.

God’s Goal Is Our Goal (Philippians 2:14-30) August 3, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Philippians, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Goals.
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Philippians 2:14-29

John MacArthur once said that there are three ways to fail in life. You can be lazy and do nothing and fail in life. Or you can try to do a bit of everything and not focus on anything and also fail in life. Or you can set a goal, work hard to accomplish that goal and then find out at the end that the goal was the wrong goal and was not worth the trouble you gave to that goal.

What we want to do is focus on God’s goals for our life and make them our goals. In our Scripture today we see one of God’s goals for our life commanded and we see one exemplified.

Goal #1 is commanded – God’s goal is for us to become blameless and harmless (verses 14-18).

There are at least three different meanings for the word “blameless.”

One of them is “without blemish,” what we would call sinlessly perfect. This is what Jesus is. Blameless in every way.

There is another word which means perfect but in a specific action. A baseball pitcher can throw a perfect game in which every batter gets out but no pitcher throws a perfect game every time.

The concept “blameless” can also be described by the phrase “does not deserve criticism.” This is the meaning that we are considering today. Philippians 2:14-15 tells us that if we do all things without complaining and disputing, we will become blameless (undeserving of criticism). This does not mean sinless but it does mean that no one will be able to criticize us.

This word is never used of Jesus. Jesus was unblemished but he was often criticized. Even today, there are those who say that Jesus as man must have sinned. It is not true but this accusation is sometimes made. This word is, however, used of people on earth (Luke 1:6 of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist; Paul said of himself in Philippians 3:6 that he was blameless in keeping the law).

Part of God’s goal for our life is that we be blameless. Paul points this out earlier in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 where he writes to the new believers in Thessalonica, “…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”

In other words, it is God’s goal for us to live in such a way that we are undeserving of criticism, that is, that we have a blameless reputation and if we do that we will be in comparison to the people around us “without fault,” again “undeserving of criticism.” This what we as believers are to strive for in this world.

God’s goal in our lives is not only to be blameless but also harmless. Jesus describes what this word means in Matthew 10:16 when he commands the disciples to be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. The picture is this: a serpent is a dangerous animal which hunts by stealth and wisdom and we should be wise but not deceitful, not manipulative, not the type who would hurt others to accomplish our means, not the type who acts from ulterior and unknown motives.

Now how are we to accomplish this? How do we live in such a way that the ungodly world will have no justifiable reason to criticize us or to suspect our motives? By not complaining and disputing.

I like the sound of the German translation of this word, “murmeln”. Mumbling and grumbling, you can almost hear someone quietly belly aching about having to get out of bed to go to work, leave a enjoyable past time to go to church. Complaining you see is a quiet sin. It sometimes goes on a long time before you see it blow up but it is no less deadly because of its quietness. What is talked about here is not the loudmouth, belligerent jerk but the quiet behind the scenes mumbling and grumbling, the thoughts that are perhaps never expressed by words but it is that type of thing that if we stay away from it will result in a good reputation in the midst of this crooked and perverted world in which we live.

The second word is disputing. This has as much to do with our thoughts as with our words. It is often translated “doubtful.” When Paul talks in Romans 14 about the doubtful things that people argue about and get puffed up about, this is the word he uses. There are number of examples of these things in the Scriptures but I think one of the clearest examples is to be found in Luke 9:43-50 where we find the disciples disputing as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Now this goal God has for our lives will have two results. According to verse 15, it will make our witness to this world, our efforts to advance the gospel more effective. Secondly, according to verses 16-18, when Christ comes there will be rejoicing in those who have invested their lives in our spiritual welfare. This leads into the second goal that God has for us.

Goal #2 is exemplified – God’s goal is for us to seek the things (or work) of Christ in others (verses 16-29).

The example of Paul (verses 16-19, 24-25a): He was a sacrifice for the faith of others (verse 17). Notice the imagery, he is being poured out. The burnt sacrifice has been made and then the drink offering is poured on the burning coals and the steam rises up to God. Paul says that is my life. Not his death. Paul has already written that he is confident that he is going to escape prison. Paul is saying in this verse that the Philippians were being sacrificed as a burnt offering and that he was participating in that offering through the total surrender of his life for the advance of their faith and that he rejoiced because of that suffering. Not in spite of that suffering. Not even in or during that suffering but because of that suffering.

Last week I met with Pastor Robertson of Cornerstone Bible Church in Fort Ann. We were talking about all kinds of things and somehow the subject came up of some Iranians that we had worked with in Berlin. As I began to relate how God had worked in their lives and how that God had allowed us to be a small part, a drink offering on their sacrifice of faith, I felt the original joy and excitement all over again, how that God had used us to be a part of their spiritual new birth and growth. That, I think is the joy, that Paul is referring to here in this verse.

The example of Timothy (verses 19-23): He was a slave (verse 22) for the profit of others in Christ (verses 20-21). Now it was not true that Timothy was different than Paul. According to verse 20, they were “one-souled”, they were kindred spirits. Whatever we say about Paul’s character and lifestyle was true of Timothy and whatever was true of Timothy was also true of Paul.

“Wanted: Understudy for well-traveled but trouble-prone missionary. Must be able to suffer illness and hardship without complaining; to travel to distant countries and be separated from your loved ones for long periods of time; to teach and be taught; to evangelize, organize, and be flexible when nothing goes right. Must put up with low pay, long hours, high stress levels, and intense opposition. Often attacked, occasionally stoned, beaten weekly, frequently arrested. Interested applicants should contact the Apostle Paul” (from Ray Pritchard). Timothy was a single-minded slave of Jesus Christ who showed his loyalty to Christ by caring for others.

What made Timothy so special in ministry was his single-minded slavery. While everybody else had a lot of interests, he had only interest in the things of Christ Jesus.

Much of the weakness of the American church is not that we are involved in gross sin but rather that we divided in our minds, in our loyalty, in our service. We try to serve two masters but we fail and when we fail it is almost always Christ who gets the short end of the stick.

John Calvin wrote, “Involved in their own private affairs, people are the more negligent to promote the church, for it must necessarily be that one or other of two dispositions rules us. Either that overlooking ourselves we are devoted to Christ and the things that are Christ’s, or that too intent on our own advantage we serve Christ perfunctorily,”

The example of Epaphroditus (verses 25-30): He was sent (verse 25) for the service of others (verses 25b and 30). Epaphroditus is an example of what it means to minister, that is, one who does the work of Christ.

Like Timothy, Epaphroditus was cut of the same cloth as Timothy. Verse 17 tells us that Paul was poured out not only for the sacrifice but also for the service, that is, the ministry of their faith. Twice we find that Epaphroditus shared this same characteristic. He was a minister. This word for “minister” means “one who performs public service” with the connotation that he does this willingly, perhaps even at his own expense. There are a number of outward acts of service that we can perform for God. The picture is one of serving others as the primary way we have to do the work of Christ. How much work do you do for your Lord? Your answer depends on how much you serve others.

Believer, have you made God’s goals for your life, your goal? Are you striving for a blameless and harmless life or are you just doing the best you can? Are you focused on living a life that is free from grumbling and complaining? Are you trying to live in such a way that it exposes the crookedness of the world? Are you focused on submitting yourself as a sacrifice, as a slave, as a servant to the body of Christ? We should never wait until the Lord’s Table to evaluate our lives to see if we are blameless. We should enter those doors submitting ourselves to Christ, ready to work at serving others with our lives. We should wake up in the morning acknowledging that we will seek what is His and only what is His. Bow before Him now in your heart and submit yourself and everything and everyone you have totally to Him.

Next Week: Philippians 3:1-16 From Perfection to Imperfection Back to Perfection


The Price of Humility July 28, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Humililty, Philippians, Religion, Sermons.
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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.

Cat’s Have Nine Lives, Christians Only Two July 20, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Evangelism, Philippians, Religion, Sermons.
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Philippians 1:12-26

When googling “cats nine lives”, I came across a number of interesting facts, quotes, and tidbits of information. For example:

“Most are surprised to learn that a cat stands a greater chance of survival if it falls from a higher place than from a lower place. New York veterinarians gathered data from their feline patients, which clearly supports this fact. Ten percent of their patients died after falling from 2-6 stories, while only five percent of the fatalities occurred when their patients fell from 7-32 stories

Laws of physics explain why these survival rates vary. All falling bodies, regardless or their masses, accelerate by 22 miles per hour per second of their falls. The falling object, after traveling a certain distance through the air reaches a final speed, or “terminal velocity,” because the object’s friction with the air slows the fall. The smaller the object’s mass, and the greater its area, the more it will slow.

A cat falling from a higher floor, after it stops accelerating, spreads its legs into an umbrella shape, which increases the area against which the air must push and increases the friction, thus slowing the cat’s fall. Through the cats highly developed sense of balance, he buys more time to maneuver his body in preparation for landing on all fours. A cat falling from a lower height does not have the opportunity to increase its body’s area, slow its fall, or position his body to land on all four feet.”

From http://www.coolquiz.com/trivia/explain/docs/cats2.asp


Certainly there would be an advantage in having nine lives. “After all, a creature with nine lives can afford to take risks” (Justine Hankins from http://www.moggies.co.uk/html/9_lives.html).

However, we know that this is just a superstition. Our passage today teaches that we as believers in Christ have two lives and it also makes clear that as believers in Christ we a second life in hand, can afford to take risks but they are not risks without a purpose.

Our first lives have a unique purpose (verses 12-18, 24-26)?

Our present lives are for the progress (furtherance) of the gospel (verses 12-18).

“The word “advanced” is a military term that refers to the movement of an army into enemy territory. As the soldiers move forward, they clear the obstacles, open the roads, drain the swamps, and build pontoon bridges so that the whole army can advance unhindered. Paul means to say that his imprisonment—which seemed to be a setback—actually served to advance the gospel in Rome” (Ray Pritchard).

There are basically two types of standards to evaluate military success. One is to destroy the enemy army. Occupation is not the goal, destruction is the goal. That is Satan’s strategy. Although he desires to control territory, more important to him is that he destroys God, Christ, and all who follow Christ. Now there is coming a day when God will resort to this strategy also, when he will fight against and destroy all who are in rebellion against Him but that is not His strategy at the present. His strategy is advancement, the furtherance of the gospel. God, however, has a different strategy. His strategy is for the gospel to advance into new territory, to be proclaimed in new areas, for people who have yet to hear the gospel of Christ to finally hear this good news of salvation and forgiveness of sins through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The advance of the gospel has two characteristics that are emphasized in this passage. It is tough (verses 12-13) and it is a group effort (verses 14-17).

Our present lives are for the progress (edification) of other believers (verses 22, 24-26).

Paul makes it clear that he wants to have fruit. Now there are many different kinds of spiritual fruit mentioned in the Scriptures. Earlier in this chapter, Paul mentions that he is praying for the Philippians that they might be filled with the fruit of righteousness in their lives (verse 11). At the end of the book in 4:17 he seems to be emphasizing the furtherance of the gospel of which we have just spoken. Verses 24-26, however, seem to indicate that the fruit that he is speaking of here is spiritual progress in the lives of the Philippians. We wants them to be built up, to grow. If evangelism is an advance into the devil’s territory, then spiritual growth is an advance into the areas of our hearts and lives that continue to be stronghold’s for the old man. This progress, however, is not just for the purpose of removing the enemy within but the replacement of our old ways with joy that comes from faith in Christ.

Ultimately, however, our present lives are for the magnification of Christ (verses 20-21).

“But in fact for thousands of people and pastors the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship. We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; we “worship” to recruit workers; we “worship” to improve church morale. We “worship” to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; we “worship” to teach our children the way of righteousness; we “worship” to help marriages stay together; we “worship” to evangelize the lost among us; we “worship” to motivate people for service projects; we “worship” to give our churches a family feeling, etc., etc” (John Piper).

Now all of these things are good and we could easily argue that all of them are necessary but we need to remember that all of these things are primarily for the magnification of Christ. That is our purpose now in this life.

Our lives hereafter have a unique purpose (verses 19-23)?

The opportunity for the gospel to progress (to further the gospel) is past.

The opportunity for us as individuals to progress (to edify other believers) is past.

There are some other things that are past. In his sermon on this text Alexander MacLaren gives the following answers:

We lose everything we don’t need—We lose the world, the flesh, and the devil. We lose our trials, our troubles, our tears, our fears, and our weaknesses.

We keep everything that matters—We keep our personality, our identity, and our knowledge of all that is good.

We gain what we never had before—We gain heaven, the saints, the angels, the presence of God, and Jesus himself.

Our death can and our lives hereafter will continue to magnify Christ. There is no end to the progression of magnifying an infinite God.

The earnest expectation (verse 20): Paul was eagerly looking for the day when He would see Christ. He was like a young man, looking out the window of the train, to see the his family waiting for him at the train station. He cannot get off the train yet, it has yet to stop but he cannot wait and he is looking forward, looking for the station, looking among the crowds of people for those who he loves. That is the type of expectation and hope that Paul is expressing here for his future. He is looking forward to magnifying Christ for all eternity.

To die is gain (verse 21). Why did Paul count dying as gain? Why did he feel it was better for him to depart?

It was not because of his circumstances there in prison. He was confident that through the prayers of the Philippians and the supply of the Holy Spirit that he would soon be out of prison.

He does not mention his physical health as the reason for his departure. Most feel that Paul was never a strong man but he does not mention the desire for a glorified body in this particular passage.

He does not mention the loved ones who had gone on before him. Paul had been serving for many years and there was no doubt he looked forward to seeing them again but that was not what caused him to desire to depart this earth.

His reason? Christ. You see, to Paul, trusting Christ was like cashing in a bond. When you buy a bond, that bond gains interest. When you cash in that bond you receive both principal and interest. Paul is saying that to die is to cash in “…both principal and interest and so to have more of Christ than when living” (Robertson).

INVITATION: It will be a wonderful life, our second life, our new life, when we will be able to concentrate ourselves on magnifying Christ. I trust you are looking forward to that day. Right now though, we are in a war. A war to advance the gospel into our area and a war to advance the fruit of joy in our hearts. These are two of the main battlegrounds between God and Satan.

Concerning this first battleground I am only addressing those believers who regularly attend this church. There is no doubt in my mind that God wants every person in Castleton and Fair Haven and the surrounding area to hear of Christ. That is our mission. We are doing a lot of skirmishing but we need to take some territory for Christ. What are you doing as a believer to advance the gospel of Christ?

Concerning the second battleground, my question for every person, believer and unbeliever is this, “Who are you going to bow down to and who are you going to serve?” Matthew 4:8-10 says, “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” That is the way to true joy.

This not about religion or religious practices. Religion without Christ is dangerous. This is about an inward change. Millions of people today are trusting in something that they or some other man can boast about. John 3 teaches that religion without being born again will send you to hell. One preacher said it this way, “You can say your prayers five times a day…you can listen to Billy Graham, you can take the Lord’s Supper, you can light the Advent candle, you can even drop a million bucks in the offering plate, and if you don’t know Jesus, it won’t do you a bit of good.” (Ray Pritchard)


Jesus came that you might know true joy. It is not based on a place or a religious direction. It is based on trust in Jesus Christ alone, buying the bond; and then magnifying Christ in your life. He died for you and rose again, that you might magnify Him. Trust Christ as your Savior from sin today. Let us show you from the Bible how to be saved, how to accept this message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Believer, did you magnify Christ this morning or did you just enjoy yourself? Did you focus on advancing against the enemy within and submitting yourself to Christ this morning? We should never wait until the invitation. We should enter those doors submitting ourselves to Christ, ready to advance against the old man within us and replace him with the joy that is found only in faith in Christ. Bow before Him now in your heart and submit yourself and everything and everyone you have totally to Him.

Next Week: THE PRICE OF HUMILITY, Philippians 1:27-2:13


Beginning a Weekly Series through Philippians – Praying for One Another July 13, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Philippians, Prayer, Religion, Sermons.
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Philippians 1:1-11

Whether or not we pray says something about our confidence in God. More telling, however, is what we pray for when we pray. As we look at Paul’s prayer for the Philippians, there are two questions I would like for us to ask ourselves. Our answers to these two questions will reveal much about us.


Are we thankful for each other (verses 3-8)?

Our thankfulness is based on our knowledge of each other (verse 3). Now the word here is “remembrance” but Paul is not saying, “As I run through my prayer list and I look at your name, I am thankful for you. The basis of his thanksgiving is much deeper than that. He knows where God brought them from. He remembers the young maiden, who was demon possessed and God miraculously cast the demon out of her. He remembers Lydia and her faithfulness to worship God and how that she and other devout women embraced Christ as he preached to them by the riverside. He remembers the Philippian jailor jumping into his cell and asking, “What must I do to be saved?” Over the years he has kept up with these people. He has seen them grow in grace. He has labored together with many of them. He knows what obstacles they have overcome and what victories Christ has won through them. That is the basis of His thanksgiving.

Our thankfulness is based on our partnership in the gospel (verse 4-7).

Their partnership included financial giving.

Their partnership went beyond financial giving. In Philippians 2:25 we find that they sent one of their own, Epaphroditus, to aid Paul in his missionary work.

In 1:29-30 we find that their partnership in the gospel of Christ had even resulted in persecution.

Our thankfulness for each other corresponds to the deep love Christ has for us (verse 8).

Their partnership went beyond the task of reaching the world with the gospel, although that was an integral part of their task.

It even went beyond the natural love that was felt between Paul and the Philippian believers.

Paul’s thankfulness was rooted in the love of Christ. He was obedient to Jesus commandment recorded in John 13:34-35, “…love one another; as I have loved you…” Now Paul was convinced that there was no higher calling than to boast in Jesus Christ. Look at Philippians 1:20. That word “magnify” means to make someone or something large, to build up so that everyone will recognize and respect. There are a lot of ways to magnify Jesus Christ but there is no greater way than to reflect His love toward us to our partners in Christ and to a lost world that is greatly in need of the gospel.


What is the goal of our requests for each other (verses 9-11)?

“Often we simply don’t know what to say when we pray. I’m thinking especially of those moments when we begin to pray for others beyond our most intimate circle. What do you do when faced with a prayer list of friends, loved ones, neighbors, co-workers, missionaries, and others whom you hardly know at all? Our usual response is to pray like this: “Lord, uh … uh … uh … bless Sally.” Then we go to the next name: “Lord, uh … uh … uh … please bless Bill.” Then we go to the next name: “Lord, uh … uh … uh … I ask you to really bless our missionaries in Ghana.” And on it goes. As one man remarked, if you took the word “bless” out of our prayer vocabularies, most of us would never pray again.” From Ray Pritchard.

An abounding love that is governed by discernment (verses 9-10a). Many of Paul’s prayers include a request for love in the lives of the believers for whom He is praying.

1 Thessalonians 3:12, “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you,” (See also Ephesians 3:17-19).

Love, however, without discernment “…is blind..” Love without discernment will not look beneath the surface and see the danger that is lurking there. Love without discernment will not see that are some good things that I may love that should be sacrificed for the sake of better things. This passage, however, points out specifically that we need to recognize and discern the best things in life. We as believers in Christ love many of the things that are better but do we recognize and love what is best for us. That brings us to Paul’s second request. What are the best things in life?

A discerning life that is filled with the best things (verses 10b-11).

The best things in life are sincere, that is, pure. Those things that when they are brought out into the sunlight look just as clean and pure as they do in a dimly lit room. In those days, when potter wanted to show that his wares were without cracks, he would hold them up in the sunlight to show the perfection of his pottery. That is the life that we need to be praying for in each other. Another word for this is blamelessness. Purity and blamelessness are not a goal for heaven but for this life.

Paul admits in chapter 3 that he himself had not fully attained all the best things in life but it is imperative that we strive now for those best things. If we do not, then the next description of the best things in life will not be true of our lives. The best things in life do not cause others to stumble. The best things in life are profitable to others and remain profitable to others until Christ comes. There are some who start well but then they choose the good and the better things over the best things and prove to be a hindrance to others. That is what Paul is referring to when he says that all things are lawful but not all things are helpful. Paul’s life was governed by the recognition that he was a conduit of the gospel and that the best way to get the gospel to the world was to get rid of even the good things and the better things that might keep him from accomplishing the best things in his life.

The best things in life are abundantly fruitful. Now all believers in Christ bear fruit. In God’s kingdom there is no such thing as a tree not bearing fruit. Evil trees bear bad fruit and good tree bear good fruit. There is no mixing of the two from God’s perspective. However, not every good tree bears fruit abundantly. It is disappointing to have an apple tree with four or five apples. What we want from an apple tree is an abundance of good fruit. Now those four or five apples may be fine apples but the purpose of an apple tree is an abundance of apples, an abundance of fruit. Now there are many types of spiritual fruit, fruits of righteousness and Paul does not bother to tell us what they are but it is clear in the context that He is talking about our character in Christ.

The best things in life enhance God’s reputation in the world.

Next Week: Philippians 1:12-30 Cats Have Nine Lives; Christians Only Two

Christmas and Communion (From December 2005) November 26, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Lord's Table, Philippians, Religion.
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The Lord’s Table

I would like before we partake of the Lord’s Table to read this morning from the book of Philippians a passage that ties Christmas and the Crucifixion together and applies them to our daily lives – Philippians 2:5-11. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When Jesus introduced the Lord’s Supper, He made reference to the purpose for which He was born, to save people from their sin. There is a sense, in which we could say that the New Testament did not begin with Christmas but with the Crucifixion. This New Testament or Covenant that God offers to man is made available to man by faith through His blood and bodily sacrifice for our sins.  If you have put your faith in Christ, then you may partake of the Lord’s Supper with joy knowing that your eternal destiny is sealed in Jesus Christ and that your place with God in heaven is guaranteed.

 If you have yet to trust Christ as your Savior you should understand that God in His grace sent Jesus to die for your sins and that this forgiveness is available.

 For a believer, it doesn’t stop with faith. That is why we should let the mind of Christ be in us. Without the mind of Christ, we cannot drink of this cup worthily, even though we have accepted Christ as our Savior through faith. Believer, do you have the mind of Christ? To have the mind of Christ means to esteem others better than yourself. That will not save you but it is an important evidence that you are saved.  

“Our dear, gracious Father. We thank you that your Son lowered Himself for our sake and that through His blood forgiveness and salvation is provided, we need only to believe it. We come to you, asking you to cleanse us of all sin.  In Jesus name we pray. Amen!


Luke 22:17-19  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; “for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”