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Are You Called by God? August 17, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Election, First Thessalonians, Grace Bible Church, Sanctification, Second Thessalonians, Sermons, Spiritual Goals, Spiritual Growth.
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1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Sometimes you hear people say, I do not believe in predestination. A strange thing to say if you are a Bible-believer since the word occurs in the New Testament a half-dozen times. To believe in Christ and not believe in predestination would be like walking in the forest and not believing in trees. Basic to everything we believe is that God is in control. That includes the weather and the financial markets but it also includes God’s great plan for eternity. That bothers us because on some level we all would like to think that God called us to salvation because of something we are or something that we did but it is not so. God’s show of grace and mercy to us through Jesus Christ was part of his plan from the very beginning.

It is clear though that not everyone will be saved, not everyone has been called by God. Now it might seem that you could know whether you yourself have been called by God but can you know about others? Paul certainly thinks so. He says in 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 4, “We give thanks to God always for you all…knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God…” How did Paul know that these people had been called by God (1 Thessalonians 1:2-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13)? They had believed the gospel of Christ.

Remember who these people were. They were Jews and YWHW-fearing Gentiles who worshiped at the synagogue. Paul and Silas came and preached from the Old Testament Scripture the necessity of the Messiah’s death and resurrection and that Jesus is that Messiah. Before these people had believed that they were the elect of God because of God’s covenant with Israel but now they have come to understand that the elect of God are those who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. That was how Paul determined that they were part of the elect. They trusted Jesus.

Now God was not surprised. Second Thessalonians tells us that “God from the beginning chose you for salvation…to which He called you by our gospel…” From the beginning of what? From the beginning of God’s plan for the universe.

For the persecuted church in Thessalonica, it is easy to see how that would be a comfort but how is that going to help us? We are rich! We can go days without praying! We don’t need God!

“We are a lot like Joseph Stalin. He was short-five feet; four inches tall…a childhood accident left his left arm stiff and his hand slightly misshapen. When the dictator commissioned his portrait, he instructed the artist to paint him form his best angle-from below, a perspective that made Stalin seem to tower over the artist. To add to the image, Stalin folded his hands over his stomach, making them appear firm and powerful- like the name he had chosen for himself: Stalin means “man of steel. We put ourselves in the best possible light but simply adjusting the angel of view does not change reality. God’s Word is a mirror that shows our true condition” (Leadership Magazine).

Oh, He knows the truth. We are poor and blind and naked, but He loves us. He is knocking at the door, calling. When we see ourselves as we really are, not evaluating ourselves by earthly blessings but by spiritual needs, then we can answer the call. It is then that we can be identified as one of the elect from the very beginning.

If elected by God also means called by God through the gospel of Christ, what are we when we respond to the call (1 Thessalonians 4:7; 5:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:14)? We are sanctified. Now I am throwing out a lot of big words so let’s see if we can clarify what Paul means.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7 Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality…that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother…For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” You see God called us out of sin and made us saints. That is what we are and that is how we should live.

That doesn’t mean that we are completely holy. Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” In other words, until Christ returns, we need His help to overcome the selfish desires of our heart but He will do it.

How does God accomplish this? Second Thessalonians 2:13-14 tells us how, “…through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth…for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These verses tell us how and why. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to make us saints so that we might share in the glory of Jesus Christ at His coming.

The Holy Spirit works like this: “If our church copier broke down, I might call the repair shop to see if they could tell me what the problem was and if I could do anything about it. I might discover, however that I don’t even know how to describe what is broken. I don’t know the names of the parts or what they are specifically supposed to do. Perhaps I can’t even describe what is wrong. I just know that the copier won’t work. So the repair shop sends out a technician. While working he calls the shop, just like I did but he or she knows how to describe what was needed. That is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. He uses the Word of God to sanctify us and to complete that sanctification for we cannot do it ourselves” (Leadership Magazine).

If we are sanctified by the plan of God, by faith in Christ, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, what makes us worthy of our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)? Living up to our calling.

That is why we need spiritual mentors according to 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12. Although we are saints and God is working in us; God uses the church around us (and Paul considered himself the spiritual father of this church) to guide us in the right path. In 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, we see that Paul is praying for them to be worthy of the calling. In other words, it is possible to live worthy, appropriately to the calling we have received.

How should you respond to the call of God?
(1) You need to open the door to Jesus Christ. “[In] 1991, 90 year-old Harvey Penick showed a red spiral notebook to a local writer and asked if he thought it was worth publishing. The man read it and told him yes. He left word with Penick’s wife the next evening that Simon & Schuster had agreed to an advance of $90,000. When the writer saw Penick later, the old man seemed troubled…With all his medical bills, he said, there was no way he could advance Simon & Schuster that much money. The writer had to explain that Penick would be the one to receive the $90,000” (Leadership Magazine). What must you do? Open the door. You are poor, blind, and naked before God but Jesus is knocking at the door. Let Him in. Trust Him. Believe on Him for salvation from the wrath to come.

(2) You need to learn to live worthy of the calling. Does your life correspond to your profession? Are you living blamelessly before God? Does your sanctified position reveal itself in your everyday life?
Next week: Looking for the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 1:1-3:4)

The Filling with the Spirit as seen in the book of Acts January 3, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Evangelism, Filling with the Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Religion, Sermons, Signs and Wonders, Spiritual Goals, Spiritual Power, Tongues, Witnessing.
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Acts 2:1-39

People often pray that I would be filled with the Spirit and I need to be. I need the filling of the Spirit so that I might have the capability to witness of Christ. I need that capability in my preaching, my praying, in my ministry. The mother, however, who is trying to teach her children the ways of Christ also needs the filling of the Holy Spirit to enable her, otherwise her efforts will be powerless. She will not be able to pass on to her children the witness of Christ. The ladies who keep our nursery and teach our preschoolers need this filling. Our teenagers need this filling. Our retirees need this filling. We all need this filling so that we might witness of Christ.

A. It is clear from the book of Acts that people can be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13). Now the word “with” can be used a couple of different ways.

In Ephesians 5:18 we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the context of Ephesians, it seems that the Holy Spirit is the filler. I am normally the one who makes the coffee in our house. There are specific things that I must do to make coffee. One of those things is to place the coffee filter into the coffee maker and then I fill the coffee filter “with” a plastic scoop “with” ground coffee. To fill a coffee filter “with” a plastic scoop is a much different meaning than to fill a coffee filter “with” ground coffee. Ephesians 5:18 seems to be indicating that the Holy Spirit is the means, “the plastic scoop”, by which we are filled. Now this is a subject for a different sermon but if you want to know with what the Holy Spirit fills us, Ephesians 3:19 indicates that it is the fullness of God with which the Holy Spirit fills us.

1. Luke, however, both in his gospel and in the book of Acts uses the phrase “filled with the Spirit” differently. The Holy Spirit is the content (the ground coffee) of the filling (compare 2:2, 4). If you look at verse 2 we have an example of a filling. It says a sound like a rushing mighty wind filled the whole house. Now we are all familiar with the way in which the sound of a blowing wind can drown out all other sounds. It is not that the other sounds do not exist but the sound waves do not go very far. They are overwhelmed by the sound of the wind. On that day, no matter where in that house you were, you could hear that sound. You could not get away from it. In fact, according to verse 6, I think you could have heard the sound outside of the house also. The people who Luke interviewed for his book were in the house, perhaps in different parts of the house but wherever they were in the house the sound like a rushing mighty wind was to be heard. It filled the house.

That is what Luke means when he says that these people were filled with the Spirit. He was in them and there was not a part of their being in which He was not.

2. His filling results in action from the ones who were filled (2:4-11). In this particular case, they were given the ability to speak in tongues, that is, in other languages. Now we need to be careful and not try to become “monkey-see, monkey-do Christians.” The filling with the Spirit is real but it does not always result in tongues speaking. In Acts 4:8, 13, 31 we see that the filling of the Spirit resulted in boldly proclaiming the gospel of Christ. That was also the main characteristic of Stephen in chapters 6-7, a man filled with the Spirit and bold to speak the gospel of Christ. After Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 9:18-25, we find him boldly preaching Jesus as the Christ.

In this chapter we find that boldness to preach the wonderful works of God also accompanied those who spoke in tongues. Miracles may or may not occur but the filling of the Spirit of God resulted in action, most often bold speaking of the gospel of Christ.

Now these actions are not always understood. On the day of Pentecost, it was assumed by some that these men were drunk. In Acts 4:13, the rulers recognized that these men had been with Jesus. In Thessalonica, the people saw Paul and Silas and Timothy and became followers of them and of Christ to such an extent that their enemies claimed that these men had turned the world upside down. It is clear that these men and women acted because of the filling with the Spirit in their lives.

B. People then can be filled with the Holy Spirit but generally it is only God’s people who are filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14-21, 38-39). This is really the point of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. It is not just that people can be filled with the Holy Spirit but that God’s people are the ones now filled with the Holy Spirit and that you can become part of God’s people only through faith in Jesus as the Christ.

Peter is here making it clear that the outpouring of the Spirit on God’s people had been prophesied (2:14-18) and was to a certain extent being fulfilled before their eyes. Obviously, not everything that Joel predicted was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. That fulfillment is still to come when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom. What was fulfilled though was the filling of all God’s people with the Spirit of God, young and old, free and slave, man and woman and that the purpose of this fulfillment was to call people to turn to Christ as the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

At the top of your bulletin insert there is an outline from Ray Pritchard covering what the Bible teaches about the filling of the Holy Spirit.
“What Moses wished for (Numbers 11),
What Joel predicted (Joel 2:28-29),
What Peter explained (Acts 2:16-20),
Is now available to every believer (Acts 2:21).”
I might also add that this filling of the Spirit will reach it zenith when Christ comes to set up His kingdom on this earth.

It is important that we recognize that these people, although God’s people, were simply people. Peter continued to have problems with prejudice and cowardice despite experiencing the filling with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit enables you to minister effectively but it does not take you permanently to a higher spiritual plane that insulates you from sinful and selfish behavior.

Being filled with the Spirit also did not hinder Paul and Barnabas from disagreeing with one another so vehemently that they parted ways because of a difference of opinion. People wonder how it is that people who appear to be filled with the Spirit can strongly disagree with one another. It is as if they assume that being filled with the Spirit removes all hints of my own personality from my actions, opinions, and decision making. That is just not so. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 14, “The spirit of a prophet is subject to that prophet.” So being filled with the Spirit does not make me a mindless automaton incapable of controlling my own actions but rather it takes my being and empowers me, enables me, emboldens me to do consciously as God would have me to do.

C. The filling with the Holy Spirit is through Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-36). As I mentioned earlier, this is the point of Peter’s sermon. The key to being filled with the Spirit of God is faith in Christ.

1. Our witness of Christ is the reason for the filling (2:32-33). This is easily overlooked but is clearly stated in these verses. We have already seen how that in this case, the ability to prophesy or to speak in tongues was the immediate method God used to testify of the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11). God has not always used these methods and in fact, I believe, does not use these methods anymore because they are no longer needed. We have the completed written Word of God. The significance, however, is not in the method God chooses to use but rather in the message that He is revealing to men and women through our witness.

We have also seen that this boldness to witness is really the primary earmark in Acts of someone who is filled with the Spirit. You see, the Spirit’s main concern is that people know Christ. If your main concern is for people to know Christ, if you have a passion for presenting Christ to a world on its way to hell, then it is likely that you as a believer are while presenting Christ filled with the Spirit. The filling with the Spirit is not identified by passionate feelings but by Spirit-enabled actions of witnessing of Christ and bringing others to discipleship of Christ.

After almost forty years in the faith, I find it relatively easy to determine when I am filled with the Spirit because during those times when I am filled with the Spirit there is great boldness to speak the gospel of Christ. When I am more concerned about what others think of my witness than of being Christ’s witness, I am not filled with the Spirit. I want to be a pastor who is filled with the Spirit. I want to be a father and husband who is filled with the Spirit. I want my wife and my children to be filled with the Spirit. I want this church to be filled with the Spirit. I want us to be bold in our witness for Christ.

2. Not only is Jesus the reason for the filling but He is also the provider of this filling with the Holy Spirit. He receives for us from the Father what we cannot obtain for ourselves (2:33).

“…the Spirit on the day of Pentecost came to these people in answer to the prayer of Jesus, not in answer to their praying…but entirely and absolutely in answer to the request…of Christ Himself (G. Campbell Morgan)” (see John 14:16). This waiting was evidence of their faith and trust in the promise of the Father and the prayer of Christ.

The believer can receive directly from the Father through Christ just as Christ Himself has received from the Father (John 14:12-14). This is why we pray. Jesus Christ has taken the place of authority by sitting on the right hand of His Father. When I pray to the Father, based on my faith in Christ, Christ is saying that the Father will answer my prayers in the same way that He gave to Jesus. The reason He does this, though, is because of Jesus Christ and not because of anything which I may bring before the throne of God. I cannot do anything in my prayers that will guarantee that they are answered. You see, Jesus is my access to the Father. He is the guarantee to answered prayer. That is what it means to pray in Jesus’ name.

Now I typically end my prayers with some variation of “in Jesus’ name.” That phrase though is not what guarantees that God answers my prayers. Prayer is not about phraseology. It is about access. I have access to God not because of the way I pray but because I trust for my salvation, Jesus Christ. So it is appropriate to pray for the filling of the Spirit but remember it is because of Christ and not because of you that the filling comes.

Are you filled with the Spirit? If you are, it is because of Jesus Christ and it will be evident to the world because you will have power to tell others about Jesus Christ and your faith in Him.

This, however, cannot be forced. LeRoy Eims tells in his book “The Lost Art of Disciple Making” of being “…asked to develop a summer training program for some high school and college students…” He writes, “During the course, my associates and I kept them on a daily schedule of tough spiritual discipline. We demanded they have a quiet time. We required them to memorize a certain number of Bible verses each day. We forced them to do a daily Bible study. We jammed it down their throats. It was mind over matter; we didn’t mind and they didn’t matter. The whole thing had the air of a Marine Corps boot camp. After the program was over, many of the young people left the camp disillusioned with these things. We had not yet learned that faithfulness and consistency (and I might add, power through the filling with the Holy Spirit) are the result of the promptings of the Holy Spirit within, not human efforts from outside.”

That does not mean that there is nothing we can do though. In Acts 2:42 we find out what the disciples did that allowed the early church to be consistently filled with the Holy Spirit. These were not new things but simply extensions of what the original disciples were already practicing before the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (See Acts 1).

1. They learned and obeyed God’s word together (doctrine).
2. They partnered with one another (fellowship) by meeting together for communion and prayer.

We can learn from this pattern. Some of you need to start going to Sunday School and Bible studies so that you can learn the Word of God and be filled with the knowledge of Christ. Others of you need to partner, fellowship, with other believers, in some cases, with this church, with the body of Christ. Your communion with Christ needs to be communion with His body. Some of you need to start praying with us on Wednesday night or if you cannot do that then begin praying with other believers in Christ. These are simple things that we all can do that will help us in our devotion to Christ and will make us available to be filled with the Spirit. Will you do them?

Next Week: Resisting the Holy Spirit

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